Blue plaque honour for village's RAF hero

Andrew Robinson HIS life story is the stuff of Boys' Own, with bombing raids over Germany and the loss of a limb in a brush with a 4,000lb bomb.

Ninety-four years after he was born in Yorkshire, the exploits of George Augustus Walker – later Sir Gus Walker – are being remembered in his home village of Garforth, near Leeds, with the placing of a special plaque in his honour.

The prestigious Blue Plaque was unveiled at the house in Lidgett Lane where he spent his childhood before leaving for Cambridge University and a life in the Royal Air Force.

The plaque marked his contribution to the war effort and the many bombing raids he survived, including attacking the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenhau in Brest harbour.

Accidents in 1937 and 1942 came close to claiming his life. In the first he crashed an overloaded plane into an aerial mast, flipping it over and smashing his face so badly his nose had to be rebuilt with bone from his hip.

In 1942 he and Wing Commander Guy Gibson were watching loaded bombers taxiing when a bomb fell from a Lancaster. As Walker ran over to warn the crew to get out, a massive 4,000lb bomb exploded, destroying the plane and throwing him 200 yards, a chunk of metal taking off his right arm at the elbow.

He picked himself up and walked to the ambulance and then asked Guy Gibson to find his arm and retrieve the new glove. Then he asked Gibson to ring his boss to ask if he would take on a one-armed station commander in two months' time. Exactly two months later he was back.

Just before the outbreak of war Walker twice played rugby for England at Twickenham and he also played for Yorkshire. He was a keen golfer, a hobby he shared with his father, whom he helped build a nine hole golf course in Garforth in 1936/37.

At the outbreak of war Walker was a Squadron Leader but was soon promoted to Wing Commander and took command of 50 Squadron at Lindholme, South Yorkshire.

He took part in the bombing of the Scharnhorst and Gneisenhau in July 1941 and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Distinguished Flying Cross.

He was then promoted to Group Captain and took command RAF North Luffenham in Rutland.

Aged only 30 he became an Air Commodore and continued to fly, using an artificial arm with leather loops that wrapped around the control column.

In 1954 he became Commandant of the RAF's flying college at Manby in Lincolnshire, using the time to convert to jets and later on he learned to fly helicopters as an Air Vice-Marshal, going solo after five days.

In 1964 Air Marshal Sir Augustus Walker became the Inspector General of the RAF and finally Air Chief Marshal in 1967 when he accepted the NATO appointment of Deputy Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces in Europe. He made his last log entry on 1970 when he retired aged 57.

In retirement he took up a wide range of interests including the formation of the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington, near York, being one of its first patrons.

He died in 1986, aged 74.

The plaque reads: "Air Chief Marshal Sir Augustus Walker was born in Garforth and brought up in this house. Serving in the RAF he rose to its highest ranks. An inspirational figure, he led daring raids with 50 Sqn on industrial targets in Germany and commanded a series of bomber stations during World War Two."

Ron Sudderdean, from the Garforth Historical Society said: "The entire funds for the plaque and ceremony supporting the unveiling were raised by the Garforth Historical Society which wanted to celebrate one of its sons who became a war hero, received horrific injuries and then rose to the highest ranks within the Royal Air Force.

"We raised the 600 needed mainly through sales of books we wrote about Garforth's history. It's money well spent."

The plaque was unveiled by Group Captain Andrew Sudlow, station commander at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, and was attended by Sir Gus's son Raymond Walker.

andrew.robinson@ypn.co.uk