Dannis Mason, Bomber Command airman

Dennis Mason was an RAF gunner whose wartime exploits as a teenager captivated a younger generation, when his stories were serialised in the Yorkshire Evening Post back in the 1970s.

Bomber Command crewman Dennis Mason
Bomber Command crewman Dennis Mason

Five years ago, at the long-awaited unveiling of a memorial to Bomber Command by the Queen in London, recalled the 66 missions he flew, some of them as far as Italy.

At last, he said, people would be able to appreciate just what Bomber Command had done for them and the contribution it made to defeating Hitler.

Mr Mason, who died at 95 in York Hospital, was born and raised in Harehills, Leeds, educated at Roundhay School, and joined the RAF in 1940, at 18.

By 21 he had flown scores of missions in Wellingtons and Lancasters over Germany and occupied France with 149 Squadron and 9 Squadron as a front gunner, bomb aimer and bombing leader.

He recalled later: “A man is a fool if he says he wasn’t afraid. But there was so much going on during a mission it was impossible to get too frightened.

“As you approach your target, that’s when the enemy anti-aircraft guns would start – and most missions you’d come back with your aircraft full of holes.

“Then you’d drop your bombs, climb and circle back to head for home. And the most lovely sight of all was the white cliffs of Dover.”

His son-in-law, Rev Ralph Hudspeth, said the number of missions he had flown was nothing short of remarkable.

“Most of his friends survived only five or six,” he said.

Yet Mr Mason was seriously injured only once, in a forced landing in 1942.

He said of that experience: “I was seated next to the pilot in a Lancaster, the hydraulics were shot up and we were flying home on one engine.

“The navigator had found us an aerodrome near Oxfordshire to set down on when the other engine conked out completely.

“Coming down, we hit the top of a concrete block, which took off the bottom of the plane and I was left with nothing beneath me. We skidded along the runway and I was left in a crumpled heap on the floor.”

Mr Mason ended his RAF career in 1946 and for many years chose not to speak of his exploits.

He immersed himself instead in the family business, the insurance brokerage Smithson Mason, located above the old post office on The Headrow in Leeds.

He was also a keen craftsman, building furniture, go-karts and even a canoe for his children, and took a keen interest in wildlife.

In retirement, he spent 17 years in Mahon, Menorca, where he and his wife, Yvonne, took an active role with the local English church.

His roll of honour included becoming was the first former Air Cadet to receive the Distinguished Flying Medal. He was also awarded the Aircrew Europe Star, the Defence Medal and the Victory Medal. His final accolade, in 2013, was the Bomber Command clasp, presented at RAF Linton-On-Ouse.

The youngest of three brothers, he is survived by Yvonne, daughter Jean, grandson Peter and two great-grandchildren. His son, Robert, predeceased him.

The funeral will be on Tuesday at All Saint’s Parish Church, Sherburn-in-Elmet.