THE funerals of two WW2 veterans who did not have families underlines the need for a new befriending service, according to the RAF charity behind its launch.
The RAF Association is launching the new service just ahead of the funeral of Derrick Allaway, 95, who died last month, having apparently outlived the rest of his family.
An appeal by the Hull branch of the Royal British Legion has ensured that there will not only a good turn-out at his funeral at Haltemprice Crematorium on Monday, but eight standard bearers and a flypast by the RAF.
Mr Allaway, who spent his last years in a care home at Hornsea, has served as ground crew with RAF Bomber Command during the Second World War.
Last year hundreds turned out to attend the funeral in Rotherham of “forgotten” veteran former RAF flyer George Thompson, 96, after an appeal by the RAF Association.
People round the country spread the word, and in the end so many people turned up, that many had to stand outside.
The RAF Association’s new Befriending scheme is being piloted in Lincolnshire - home of many past and current RAF airfields - but is due to launch nationwide in March. It is appealing for volunteers to help it to succeed.
Rory O’Connor, Director of Welfare, said: “It is at times like this that the Association is uniquely placed to drive an appeal to the wider RAF family and to the civilian community, to show their appreciation of the service and sacrifice of men like Derrick.
“There are few surviving veterans of World War II but we need to make sure those who remain are not alone, and we also realise that increasing numbers of members of the RAF family are encountering loneliness and isolation in old age.
“Like Derrick, they gave so much when they were young, and we should be there for them in their later years. We need volunteers to ensure its success, whether they help in practical ways such as doing the shopping or just sharing a cup of tea and a chat.”
Mr Allaway served with RAF Bomber Command after volunteering in June 1939 as war was looming.
He served as ground crew and specialised in fitting wheels and tyres to bombers, initially working on Fairey Battle light bombers at RAF Hucknall before postings to Canada and to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire.
After his death retired Squadron Leader Richard James, a historian with his former 9 Squadron, was unable to find any surviving relatives and turned to the RBL
Branch secretary Ken Simmonds said: “9 Squadron Association came to us and we have coordinated it all. There will be a flypast at 12.29am.
“We have a great deal of respect for these people and he is one of the last. There are not that many people left from that era and we owe them a very big debt of gratitude.
“It is sad that it got to this stage, but we don’t know the circumstances. He could have outlived all his relatives.
“But I am proud of the way people have responded and we will have a good crowd there and Derrick will get the send off he deserves.”
Mr O’Connor added: “Befriending volunteers do not need to be existing members of the RAF family, and a one-day training course will be provided along with continuing support. Befrienders will help to ensure that men and women like Derrick remain a part of the RAF family and are not alone in their later years.” See www.rafa.org.uk/volunteer or call 0116 266 5224.