At the grand age of 100, Wally Lashbrook MBE DFC AFC DFM, who lives in Ayr, has been honoured with the award of a clasp to recognise his war time service as a pilot with Bomber Command.
With the incredible account of his escape through Belgium, France and finally back to the UK via Spain, Wally's memoirs of his exploits during World War II reads like a boy’s exciting book of war time heroes.
Wally originally joined the RAF as an apprentice fitter in 1929 and worked closely with another airman by the name of Shaw who became known as Lawrence of Arabia. Wally graduated as a pilot in 1937 and joined Bomber Command as the war clouds built up over Europe.
By 1941 he had already completed his first tour of 25 missions. He flew on the same squadron as other well known RAF personalities including Leonard Cheshire VC and he was a very close friend of Willie Tait of Tirpitz fame. Wally joined 102 (Ceylon) Squadron but only served on that unit for seven days, as he was shot down following a daring raid on the Skoda works in Czechoslovakia.
Having successfully destroyed this strategic target his aircraft was attacked by an ME 110 over the Belgian-French border and Wally along with another member of the crew managed to parachute to safety. There followed an amazing escape and evasion route through Belgium, Northern France and finally to freedom through Spain some three months later, masterminded by the Resistance. Wally visited some of these people after the war although many of those who had helped him on his hazardous journey to freedom had disappeared or killed.
Having experienced the Resistance route down the ‘Comet Line’ as it was known, he could not fly again over enemy territory in case he landed in enemy hands. He completed the war as a test pilot and thereafter became an airline pilot and worked closely with the cadet movement in Scotland for which he was awarded the MBE.
Group Captain Bob Kemp, Director Scotland of the RAF Benevolent Fund, presented Wally with his Bomber Command Clasp and tie in Berelands Care home in Prestwick in front of his many friends and two daughters, Jessica and Dianne (who had travelled from her home in Florida to be with her father on this special day).
Bob said, "I have huge admiration for what Wally has achieved in his life. The pace of operations for crews in Bomber Command was relentless but instrumental in our winning the war. I am delighted that their fortitude, courage and valour have been fully recognised with the long awaited award of the Bomber Command Clasp.
"As the guardian of the Bomber Command Memorial, the RAF Benevolent Fund is committed to preserving the Memorial for future generations, so that the noble sacrifice of the young men who lost their lives while serving in Bomber Command will always be remembered."
Wally, who celebrated his 100th birthday in January said: "I am very proud to accept and wear this clasp. I am also delighted that we now have an impressive Bomber Command Memorial in London to remember those 55,573 airmen who were killed on operations. We will remember them."