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"I'm supporting the Great British Sunday Lunch in memory of my dad"

For Jo Halden, the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund's Great British Sunday Lunch fundraiser on 2 April will be a day to honour the memory of the dad she tragically never met.

Flying Officer Ian 'Mongo' Halden was 25 years old and looking forward to the upcoming birth of his new baby daughter when, on October 30th 1991, he was killed during a training mission near the Falkland Islands.

Jo Halden in her kithcne with her daughter Ella

F-4 Phantom pilot Ian and his navigator, Flight Lieutenant Chris 'CJ' Weightman, both from 19 (F) Squadron, disappeared in to cloud cover that day and were never seen again. A five day search recovered only small amounts of wreckage in the South Atlantic.

Based at RAF Wildenrath in Germany at the time of the accident, Jo's devastated mother, Louise, gave birth to her daughter just four weeks after the tragedy and would soon be looking to relocate back to the UK with baby Jo to cope with the devastating loss of her husband amongst family and friends.

"That was when the RAF Benevolent Fund first helped to support my family," Jo explains. "They helped mum find a new house near to Bournemouth and she was able to raise me close to family and friends who could all be there for us after we lost dad."

As she grew older, the RAF Benevolent Fund also helped Jo with her education, supporting the costs of her fees at Christ's Hospital School in Horsham, a place close to her dad's heart.

"My dad and his brother both went to Christ's Hospital when they were younger and dad always said to my mum that when they had children, it was his dream for them to be educated there too."

With the support of the RAF Benevolent Fund, Jo attended Christ's Hospital between 2003-08 and went on to become a behavioural support specialist within education.

Now aged 25 and living in Walkford, Dorset, Jo and her partner Lee celebrated the birth of their first child, Ella, in December 2016.

"The support we received from the RAF Benevolent Fund was life changing for my mum and I and we will never be able to thank them enough."

On Sunday 2 April though, Jo and her family will be giving something back to the RAF Benevolent Fund by taking part in the charity's national fundraising campaign - the Great British Sunday Lunch.

"I love a traditional roast dinner and think the Great British Sunday Lunch fundraiser is a wonderful excuse for family and friends to get together over a meal and raise some money for an amazing charity," she said.

"We’ve reserved a big table at The Crown Inn in Bransgore and will be joined by my mum and our relatives to say thank you to the RAF Benevolent Fund for everything they've done, to celebrate the birth of our beautiful daughter Ella, and to honour the memory of my dad."

Air Commodore Paul Hughesdon, Director of Welfare and Policy at the RAF Benevolent Fund said:

"It is heart-warming to hear that Jo and her mum are supporting the RAF Benevolent Fund after all these years and we are extremely grateful to them and everyone else taking part in this year's Great British Sunday Lunch. The vital funds raised will help us to continue to support people like Jo and thousands of RAF families each year."

The Great British Sunday Lunch is the RAF Benevolent Fund's national fundraising campaign and calls upon people up and down the country to gather together over the nation's much cherished Sunday lunch to raise funds for the charity, while celebrating the RAF. This year's GBSL will be a truly global affair, with lunches set to be held in Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Malta, Cyprus, France and the USA.

Find out more and sign up to host your own Great British Sunday Lunch.

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