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Imperial War Museum Duxford Press Release

Meet the Veterans, Hear their personal stories of war

Sunday 26, Tuesday 28, Wednesday 29 and Thursday 30 October
11am to 1pm
AirSpace exhibition

95 year-old John Lowe worked as a sign writer in screen printing and advertising for J. Walter Thompson in Berkeley Square, London before the Second World War.

In April 1939, he joined the 138 (City of London) Field Regiment as a gunner. Of his training, John says it was “ludicrous, both before the war and subsequently…we were funnier than Dad’s Army.”

Several times, he applied to be a Lance Bombardier but was always turned down: “because I looked too young! It was suggested, often, that I grew a moustache. I hate moustaches, so remained a gunner until I joined the 5th Forward Regiment R.A, a regular unit in Nowshera, North West Frontier, India, where I was posted to the Headquarters and made Acting Unpaid Lance Bombardier.”

“I acted as a sort of go-between for Colonel Jephson and Adjutant Windy Forbes. They were both inept and had enjoyed a cushy time in India for too long.”

Artistically gifted, John gave accordion recitals for his comrades. He also made theatre scenery and produced a play.

John was a Prisoner of War from February 1942 to August 1945. He was interned in Prisoner of War camp No.6 in Taiwan, where he played the accordion and lettered the crosses for burials and made diaries by sewing together small pieces of airmail paper, covered with pocket material cut from the breeches of Japanese officers.

He was released and returned to Great Britain in November 1945. After the war, he studied at the Sir John School of Art in London, gaining diplomas in painting and sculpture. He married in 1951 and taught art in Germany and Malta. He became Director of Strove Theatre in Street, Somerset, followed by Head of Art at Millfield School, Somerset. He celebrated his retirement at the age of 60, in 1979, with a parachute jump.

After his retirement, John and his wife moved to Southern Spain, where, sadly, she died. From there, John moved to France and then back to the United Kingdom. At the age of nearly 80, he started ballet and tap classes, which he has continued ever since.

You can meet John, and hear his fascinating story, at the Meet the Veterans sessions on Tuesday 28 October and Thursday 30 October.

Meet the Veterans is a fascinating opportunity to meet and chat with people who’ve experienced a wide range of conflicts, from the Second World War and the Cold War to global contemporary conflicts, including Northern Ireland, the Falklands War, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Veterans in attendance cover a wide range of ages, backgrounds and experiences. They range from members of the Royal Air Force, Army and Royal Navy to National Service conscripts and civilians who experienced the Second World War Home Front as children, playing on the wartime bomb sites and enduring air raids, rationing and evacuation.

Veterans chatting about their personal memories of war and conflict include:

Sunday 26 October

Robin Buttle

Robin was a pilot in the RAF between 1963 and 1971, during the Cold War. He was a squadron pilot on Vulcans. He became an instructor and trained other pilots in the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm. After he left the RAF, he flew commercial airliners until he retired.

Fred Henley

Fred was a Petty Officer in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. He served in the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean and with Russian Convoys on motor gun boats and on submarines.

Les Keen

Les was evacuated during the Second World War and can tell you what it was like to be a child on the Home Front during the 1940s. He served in the Royal Navy after the war ended.

David Armstrong

David was a Captain in the Intelligence Corps from 1966 to 1997. He was particularly involved with air reconnaissance work in Ireland, Hong Kong and Germany.

Ian Willams

Ian was a medic in the RAF between 1991 and 2001. His role was to provide emergency and aviation medical support. He was stationed at RAF bases around the UK.

George Evans

George served in the Grenadier Guards from 1971 to 1993. He served in Northern Ireland and was in the Gulf War in 1991. He was then recalled to his unit during the war in Iraq in 2005 and was recalled to Afghanistan in 2007.

Tuesday 28 October

Robin Buttle

Robin was a pilot in the RAF between 1963 and 1971, during the Cold War. He was a squadron pilot on Vulcans. He became an instructor and trained other pilots in the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm. After he left the RAF, he flew commercial airliners until he retired.

John Lowe

John was a gunner with the Royal Artillery during the Second World War. He served in India, Changi, Taiwan and Japan. He was a prisoner in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

Les Keen

Les was evacuated during the Second World War and can tell you what it was like to be a child on the Home Front during the 1940s. He served in the Royal Navy after the war ended.

Tony Leonard

Tony was a Corporal in the RAF Regiment from 1979 to 1991. He served in Belize, Cyprus, Germany and Northern Ireland, where he completed six tours. Tony was also involved in the first Gulf War.

Ivan Potter

Ivan was a member of the British Resistance Organisation (Churchill’s Secret Army) from 1940 until 1943, when he joined the RAF. He was a Flight Sergeant until 1947.

Ian Williams

Ian was a medic in the RAF between 1991 and 2001. His role was to provide emergency and aviation medical support. He was stationed at RAF bases around the UK.

David Armstrong

David was a Captain in the Intelligence Corps from 1966 to 1997. He was particularly involved with air reconnaissance work in Ireland, Hong Kong and Germany.

Bob Thomas

Bob was on National Service in the RAF from 1950 until 1952. He was awarded a National Service commission. During that time, he trained as a pilot. In 1952, he joined the RAF on a regular commission which lasted until 1964. He mainly flew Hastings, Lincolns and Shackletons.

James o’Brien

James was an Able Seaman in the Royal Navy. During the war, he was an information broadcaster, a depth charge releaser, a forward supply party member and a boatswain’s mate. He was stationed in Portsmouth.

George Evans

George served in the Grenadier Guards from 1971 to 1993. He served in Northern Ireland and was in the Gulf War in 1991. He was then recalled to his unit during the war in Iraq in 2005 and was recalled to Afghanistan in 2007.

Len Bloomfield

Len was a Sergeant in the Royal Marines during the Second World War. One of his roles was to provide bombardment support to the Land Forces at major landings. He was also involved with the convoys in Malta and in the North Atlantic ocean.

Wednesday 29 October

Les Keen

Les was evacuated during the Second World War and can tell you what it was like to be a child on the Home Front during the 1940s. He served in the Royal Navy after the war ended.

Pat Whiley

Pat served in the Royal Navy and the Anglian Regiment TA between 1956 and 1994. He served in Cyprus, Malaya and Borneo.

Bob Knights

Bob was in the Royal Navy from 1952 to 1964. He served on a variety of ships as a Leading Radio Operator. In 1957, Bob witnessed H-bomb testing near Christmas Island in the South Pacific.

Fred Fitch

At the beginning of the Second World War, aged only 14 years old, Fred was a messenger boy dodging the bombs in the London Blitz. He later joined the Royal Navy. Just after his 19th birthday, working in a combined operation with American sailors of the 7th Fleet Pacific, Fred was part of the first wave on Sword Beach in the Normandy Landings on D-Day.

Tony Leonard

Tony was a Corporal in the RAF Regiment from 1979 to 1991. He served in Belize, Cyprus, Germany and Northern Ireland, where he completed six tours. Tony was also involved in the first Gulf War.

David Armstrong

David was a Captain in the Intelligence Corps from 1966 to 1997. He was particularly involved with air reconnaissance work in Ireland, Hong Kong and Germany.

Peter Lawrence

Peter Lawrence was a Squadron Leader in the RAF. He served from 1971 until 2007. In the 1970s he was involved in the Dhorfar Campaign in Oman – now known as the secret war. He had numerous tours in Northern Ireland and in the 1980s was attached to the US Air Force. In the 1990s and 2000s Peter was seconded to the United Nations and lived with local families in Croatia, Sarajevo and Georgia as an Unarmed Military Observer.

Ian Williams

Ian was a medic in the RAF between 1991 and 2001. His role was to provide emergency and aviation medical support. He was stationed at RAF bases around the UK.

Bob Barker BEM

Bob began his National Service in October 1950. He served in Trieste before going to fight in the Korean War, in July 1951, with the Royal Norfolk Regiment. He was shot while on patrol in 1952 and evacuated to a MASH unit before being sent home to recover. He was discharged in October 1952.

George Evans

George served in the Grenadier Guards from 1971 to 1993. He served in Northern Ireland and was in the Gulf War in 1991. He was then recalled to his unit during the war in Iraq in 2005 and was recalled to Afghanistan in 2007.

Keith Norgan

Keith served in the RAF from 1961 until 1997. He was a Squadron Leader. He worked both in air crew as an Air Electronics Officer and in ground crew as an Engineer and Staff Officer. He flew during the Cold War, on Vulcans and Victors and later worked on various aircraft including Phantoms and Tornados.

Len Bloomfield

Len was a Sergeant in the Royal Marines during the Second World War. One of his roles was to provide bombardment support to the Land Forces at major landings. He was also involved with the convoys in Malta and in the North Atlantic ocean.

Thursday 30 October

Phyl and Jim Longstaff

Phyl Longstaff was evacuated from her home in Middlesborough during the Second World War and can recall what it was like to be evacuated.

Jim Longstaff was a small child during the Second World War. He remembers playing and having fun on the bomb sites. After the war, he joined the RAF.

Tony Leonard

Tony was a Corporal in the RAF Regiment from 1979 to 1991. He served in Belize, Cyprus, Germany and Northern Ireland, where he completed six tours. Tony was also involved in the first Gulf War.

Ivan Potter

Ivan was a member of the British Resistance Organisation (Churchill’s Secret Army) from 1940 until 1943, when he joined the RAF. He was a Flight Sergeant until 1947.

David Armstrong

David was a Captain in the Intelligence Corps from 1966 to 1997. He was particularly involved with air reconnaissance work in Ireland, Hong Kong and Germany.

Peter Lawrence

Peter Lawrence was a Squadron Leader in the RAF. He served from 1971 until 2007. In the 1970s he was involved in the Dhorfar Campaign in Oman – now known as the secret war. He had numerous tours in Northern Ireland and in the 1980s was attached to the US Air Force. In the 1990s and 2000s Peter was seconded to the United Nations and lived with local families in Croatia, Sarajevo and Georgia as an Unarmed Military Observer.

Ian Williams

Ian was a medic in the RAF between 1991 and 2001. His role was to provide emergency and aviation medical support. He was stationed at RAF bases around the UK.

Vaughan Limmer

Vaughan was a Royal Marine who served between 1978 and 1982. He was in 41 Commando and did a tour of duty with the United Nations in Cyprus in 1979. In 1980, he served in the border town of Crossmaglen in Northern Ireland.

Bob Thomas

Bob was on National Service in the RAF from 1950 until 1952. He was awarded a National Service commission. During that time, he trained as a pilot. In 1952, he joined the RAF on a regular commission which lasted until 1964. He mainly flew Hastings, Lincolns and Shackletons.

John Lowe

John was a gunner with the Royal Artillery during the Second World War. He served in India, Changi, Taiwan and Japan. He was a prisoner in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

Alan McKay

A school boy during the Second World War, Alan became a craftsman (CFN) for the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) for his National Service from 1958-1960. He served in Cyprus.

Robert Johnson

Robert served as a signal man in the Royal Corps of Signals for his National Service from 1954-1956. He was stationed in Egypt, Iraq and Cyprus.

Len Bloomfield

Len was a Sergeant in the Royal Marines during the Second World War. One of his roles was to provide bombardment support to the Land Forces at major landings. He was also involved with the convoys in Malta and in the North Atlantic ocean.


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