Benjamin Pearce

Ben Pearce

Ben Pearce

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BENJAMIN Pearce, who helped save a Swordfish naval aircraft for restoration with the help of Leeds City Council, has died aged 93.

As president of Leeds Air Gunners Association he was the driving force behind a campaign to raise £50,000 to save the Fairey Swordfish Mk.I W5856, which had been built by Blackburn Aircraft at Sherburn-in-Elmet and first flew in 1941.

She was bought by British Aerospace for presentation to the Swordfish Heritage Trust, and the partly-restored airframe went to BAe Brough for complete restoration to flying condition, the work being completed in 1993.

She was adopted by Leeds in 1996 and renamed the City of Leeds, wearing the coat of arms and name on her port side.

Mr Pearce was born in Morley, the middle of three children of Mr Noel Pearce and his wife, who died when the children were young.

After leaving school he worked in local textile mills until the outbreak of the Second World War when he joined the Fleet Air Arm as an air gunner serving in the Atlantic, North Africa, Gibraltar convoys and Burma before being shot down over the Pacific.

He was mentioned in dispatches following an unsuccessful attempt to save the life of the aircraft’s observer after they were shot down.

After the war he returned to work in the mills, and it was at Jowetts of Pudsey where he met June Binns who was to become his wife and with whom he had two children.

For a time they moved to Lossiemouth, in Scotland where he worked in the woollen mills but eventually returned to Leeds to work.

Mr Pearce was also a well respected official of the local branch of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, earning two certificates of distinction and a silver medal for his work.

Mr Pearce had a number of interests, including playing football, from being a young man until he was 50, representing a number of clubs including Farsley Celtic.

He had also been an extra in a number of Yorkshire Television productions, among them A Touch of Frost.

He is survived by his wife June, son David and daughter Maxine, a grandson and two granddaughters.

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