Skip to main content

John hegley

He was proud to join the ground forces in the RAF



RAF Family

Throughout November, we are collecting and sharing stories of loved ones lost as part of our Month to Remember. In this guest blog, performance poet, comedian, and musician John Hegley explains how his family's connection the Royal Air Force.

My dad had a French mother and an English father. He was a refugee from his native France to England in 1915. At the age of 34 in the Second World War, he was proud to join the ground forces in the RAF, serving as an aircrafthand and batman.

We do not have the full details but do know that he was honourably discharged after an attack on the airfield where he was serving. Throughout both situations my father was sustained in his Christian faith.

John wrote the following poem, Upheld, about his father's service.


Something Stronger than I compelled me to go down on my knees.

Simone Weil at the Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli.

In nineteen-fifteen, you came, as a lad,

to keep you out of harming's way, I guess.

You only spoke a bit about it, Daddy,

your native land of France under a siege 

and your evacuee distress.

With your single roller skate and mother tongue

you went to school with children down in Bow.

I think it stung a bit

to be among them with their, 'come on Frenchie

give us a few more of all your funny sounding words

that we don't know!'

And then again in England, twenty-five years on 

you had a bit of trouble with the post-traumatic stressfulness,

erratic in your attic

but, you always had a window 

on to blessedness.

You were upheld.

and, so you kept on soldiering forward,

with the indelible bit in the stick of rock

down from your top to your toenail.

You enlisted, as a Christian soldier

the same as you enlisted with the 'kid'

who kept on kidding in Bow -

an airman, with a scare

but there was always something caring below -

you were upheld,

Through both these awkward episodes you came.


The brilliance.

The flame.

At the heart of you

a part of you

the same throughout the all of it,

forever at the call of it

whatever circumstances would throw at you.

You were upheld.

And so, you kept on soldiering forwards.

Hold me up, hold me up on your shoulders.

Allez-oop, allez-oop, allez-oopla.

Allez-oop, allez-oop,off we go

Allez-oop, allez-oop, Daddy-oh.

This November, we are calling on members of the public to share their loved ones' stories as part of our Month to Remember. To pay tribute to your family members, friends, or colleagues, please go to