Flypast marks Spitfire hero’s memorial service

THE life of a former Spitfire pilot from Ponteland was honoured with an RAF flypast, writes Muriel Sobo.

Tom Hughes was recalled with great admiration and affection at a Memorial Service held last week in St Mary’s Church.

The church was packed and many people were standing at the rear, with a number of people travelling long distances to say farewell to a well-loved man of diverse talents who died, aged 89, on the last day of 2010. The Reverend Peter Barham took the service and nephew Peter Jackson in his tribute recalled the conjuring tricks performed by his uncle when he was a teenager.

Another nephew read a poem by Kahlil Gibran and a colleague from his RAF days, Rodney Scrase DFC, paid tribute to Tom’s flying ability and portrayed a man of integrity but not afraid to have a tilt at authority when called for.

Tom was a Spitfire pilot engaged in the build up to the invasion of Sicily during World War II and then the battle for Monte Cassino where he was shot down, badly burned and lucky to survive.

The Germans transferred him to a military hospital where he was held as a POW for more than a year before coming home in early 1945 as part of a prisoner exchange.

Tom’s former RAF squadron 72R, based at Linton-on-Ouse in Lincolnshire, mounted a colour party with Flight Lieutenant Chris McCann carrying the colours into the church. Tom’s widow Joan was accompanied by family members.

The flypast was carried out by two twin-seat prop trainers, Tucanos, from Linton-on-Ouse and they flew east to west over Coates Green after everyone came out of the church.