A new lunch club for RAF veterans and their families has been described as ‘heaven-sent’ and ‘wonderful’.
Backed by the Aged Veterans Fund, the RAF Benevolent Fund’s new daily club is open to veterans and their partners at the charity’s Princess Marina House, in Seafield Road, Rustington.
The club includes a three-course meal and afternoon entertainment followed by tea and cake, and offers those attending the chance to meet with old friends and others while enjoying a day by the seaside.
Attending the opening last week were a number of veterans, including members of RAF Bomber Command David Fellowes, 92, and George Dunn, 93, who both served in the Second World War.
Mr Fellowes, from Haywards Heath, was a rear gunner for the 460 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, and was part of a mid-air collision with an Avro Lancaster.
He said: “I thought that was nearly it. But our pilot managed to keep our plane in the air while the other went down.
“I made 33 trips over Germany over the course of my service. We will never forget it. The worst part is when we came back from a mission to have a meal in the mess hall, and we saw the empty tables. And we knew they weren’t coming back.”
Mr Dunn, from Saltdean, was a pilot in the 76 Squadron Halifax, and flew planes over Hamburg between 1942-43.
He said: “I wouldn’t say we were scared, but we were apprehensive. We always thought it would be the chap next door.”
Another guest at the launch, Marion Hipwell, 90, who served as a wireless mechanic in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, explained how the service will benefit her life.
She said: “I have only just lost my husband and I moved to Littlehampton, which I was not expecting to do. The lunch club is going to be a heaven-sent thing to me. I have had to start my life again so to me, to be able to come somewhere where there is fantastic people that I can get on with is wonderful.”
Shirley Steeples, general manager at the house, said: “The launch of our RAF Veterans’ Lunch Club is one of those services that aims at tackling issues such as loneliness and isolation for veterans still living independently. The club is for anyone who was in the RAF or their widows who are from the area, and we are looking to give them a new opportunity.”
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