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Headcorn Aerodrome to welcome Second World War veteran back 75 years after crash landing

A Second World War veteran is returning to Headcorn for the first time in 75 years after his crew crash-landed their Lancaster bomber plane at the site.

Dick Raymond is the last surviving member of the seven-man 'Lashenden Lancaster' crew and served in the RAF for six years from 1942 to 1948.

He will be making the long journey from his home in North Devon on Sunday to Headcorn Aerodrome, formerly known as Lashenden Airfield, to see the site and speak to visitors.

Avro Lancaster ND467 OL-B of 83 Squadron. Dick Raymond on the right
Avro Lancaster ND467 OL-B of 83 Squadron. Dick Raymond on the right

The children of Dick's fellow crew member, Ken Lane, got in touch with Dick to get him involved with the event after they visited the site.

He said: "It will be strange. I don't know what to expect from the day. It came out of the blue."

The 95-year-old was an RAF Flight Sergeant and flight engineer on Avro Lancaster ND467 OL-B of 83 squadron when it landed at Lashenden Airfield.

On the night of April 25, 1944, the engineer and six other crew members dropped 1,650 incendiary bombs on the German city of Munich from 16,000ft.

During the raid, the aircraft came under fire and a number of their engines were damaged.

Pilot, Ken Lanes, log book entry the day of the landing
Pilot, Ken Lanes, log book entry the day of the landing

As the flight engineer, Dick, who was only 19 at the time, was able to restart one of the engines but only two remained in full working order.

In a bid to maintain height, the crew were forced to throw any unnecessary equipment, such as guns and ammunition, out of the aircraft.

Running out of fuel, several engines down and travelling at around 300mph, the pilot, Warrant Officer Ken Lane, made a successful landing at the airfield.

"Every time you climbed into the aircraft you didn't know what was going to happen, there were so many things that could go wrong.

"People often say 'Oh how brave to jump out of a plane' but there was nothing brave about it. You didn't hesitate, you just did it."

83 squadron Lancaster at Lashenden following an emergency landing
83 squadron Lancaster at Lashenden following an emergency landing

To celebrate his impressive landing success, Ken was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, which is given to officers for "acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy".

Thanks to Ken, the crew of the 'Lashenden Lancaster' survived the ordeal and returned to their base at Coningsby, Lincolnshire, the next day.

In May 1944, just a month after Lashenden, the crew were shot down in another Lancaster over the Dutch/German border.

Dick said: "As I fell out the plane, I felt it explode. I thought Ken had died but to my delight, he set off his parachute and it threw him through the roof.

"The only bad thing that happened to him was his flying boots fell off.

Pilot, Ken Lanes, log book
Pilot, Ken Lanes, log book

Three members of the crew were killed in the attack and the rest became Prisoners of War in Stalag Luft 7, Upper Silesia, with Dick later walking the Death March towards Berlin during one of the coldest European winters in the 20th century.

Dick went on to have a wonderful life after the war, serving the last few years with the RAF in Africa as a photographer on top of a host of other jobs.

Despite his advancing years, he is still driving and keeps himself busy visiting friends and attributes his good health to all the exercise he did in his younger years, especially golf, which he used to play up to three times a week.

The crew members went on to be brilliant friends after their shared experience in April 1944, with Ken and Dick being each other's best men at their weddings.

Ken died aged 97 but Dick said: "When you go through things like that together you become close.

"He was a lovely chap and he would have loved to attend the event on Sunday.

"He was very modest and didn't like a lot of fuss."

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