Re: Re: Saluting Veterans 11/11-11/18

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My Auntie’s Sweetheart

Captain Harry Leicester, born October 20, 1914, died May 16, 1944

He died on a mission over the British Channel helping to prepare for the Normandy Invasion as far as we know. Auntie Claire said they met at the air force base in Stanstead, England. He was 28 and she was 26. Harry was posted with the Eighth which had taken over the base after the Americans had decided to get involved in the war late in ‘42 and Claire was a ferry pilot with the ATA. Claire was a “spinster” as it was known then, she cared for nothing but flying and she had been practising for years before the war. Claire had joined the WAAF and from the WAAF had ended up in the ATA ferrying all manner of planes from the factories and repair bases. One day Claire was sent out to pick up a B-26 Marauder which due to its bad reputation was nicknamed “Widow Maker” and “Flying Coffin.” The bomber had been in for repairs and was due back at Stanstead for the American flyers. It was a miserable almost stereotypical day in Essex. Fog was rolling in steadily and the base was socked in. A group of pilots were crossing the field to get to the mess when they heard this rumbling in the skies above.
“Holy crap boys it’s a bomber, there is no way they are going to make it down safely in this weather, come on let’s get some lights out there”.
The pilots raced over to a jeep into which they jumped and quickly headed out for the runways. When they reached the area the saw several other pilots and assorted base folks laying out a runaway of lit torches. The rumbling of the engines grew closer and closer and it sounded like the pilot was doing a quickly reccy overhead. The pea soup fog was closing in almost to the deck and then they saw the lights of the plane coming in. None of the boys figured the plane was going to make it but smooth as silk the Marauder came floating down. A massive cheer went up from the audience as the plane ground to a shuddering halt. The doors swung open and out climbed Claire patting her hair and asking “where does a girl get a drink around here”. The boys whooped it up on the ground and gleefully carted Claire off to the mess for a round of some good scotch and twenty questions.
In the mess Harry handed Claire a healthy shot of the Macallan (no ice) and they toasted the safe landing. Harry and Claire were inseparable from that moment to the very minute before he left on his mission over the Channel. Claire died in 2004 she had never married but continued to fly planes as long as she could.