THE Royal Air Force has brought some Christmas cheer to a 98-year-old Second World War Spitfire pilot after learning that thieves had stolen from his home a cherished photo of him flying the iconic aircraft.
Dr Edmund James, the last surviving pilot of his Squadron was moved to tears as Wing Commander (Wg Cdr) Marshall Kinnear, Station Commander of RAF St Mawgan in Newquay, presented him with an almost identical framed photo signed with a very personal message from the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston KCB CBE ADC.
Reflecting on the treasured photo, Dr James said:
“This is such a wonderful surprise, I can’t tell you how much it means to have this photo back on my wall next to my medals. The photo was given to me on my wedding day as present from my Squadron colleagues when I was just 19 years old.”
Unfortunately, the signatures of his fellow airmen on the original photo, many of whom died in combat, cannot be replaced. Delivering the framed photograph, Wg Cdr Kinnear said:
“It’s a real honour to be able to deliver this photo to such a valued member of our RAF family, particularly as its just before Christmas, and knowing how much it meant to him”.
After hearing from a family member and that the picture had been stolen from his home in Falmouth in October this year, the RAF were able to track down a sequence of 16 photos from the Air Historical Branch taken only seconds apart, finding an almost identical match of the aerial shot that took pride of place on Dr James wall.
The Air Historical Branch were also able to confirm Dr James’ Service Records as having flown the iconic Spitfire over Germany and France during the Second World War with No.288 Squadron between 1940 and 1946.
Also presented to Dr James was a personal letter from Johnny Mercer MP, Minister for Defence People and Veterans, who said:
“I was deeply saddened to hear that Dr James’ much-loved Spitfire picture had been stolen.
“Dr James has treasured the memento since his service in the Second World War.
“While something so special can never be replaced, we hope that our gift – a picture of the same Spitfire – will bring him some joy this Christmas”.
Credit: Cpl Andrew Morris RAF / UK MOD