Flight of fancy becomes a reality for former airman
ALMOST 60 years have gone by since former Royal Air Force chums Brian Giles and George Mills last saw each other, but that is to be set to rights next month when they meet for a long overdue reunion.
Brian, 77, of Pebsham Lane, Bexhill, shed a tear at the prospect of meeting the man who was once “closer than a brother” when he came in to the Bexhill Observer office last week to tell his remarkable story.
He and George, 75, who now lives in North Petherton, near Bridgwater, Somerset, became mates when both were called up for National Service in the early 1950s.
At first with Fighter Command, based at RAF Chivenor, Devon, the adventurous pair decided to volunteer for a task force going to Adelaide in Australia preparatory to atom and hydrogen bomb tests in the Pacific Ocean.
It meant a switch to 542 Squadron at RAF Westonzoyland, near Bridgwater, but then the two senior aircraftsmen heard they wouldn’t be going abroad after all, despite already having had 28 days’ embarkation leave and being issued with tropical kit.
Both were eventually demobbed and lost touch, not least because their intended mission was branded top secret and it meant much of any information about them was classified.
Decades passed, and George married and remarried, while Brian also took a wife, Brenda. He returned to his home town of Hastings and found work as a foreman carpenter and later a coach driver.
But he never forgot his old mucker, originally from Newbury, and earlier this year he and his wife took their caravan down to the West Country and began inquiring about George Mills around their old base.
An article seeking information in the Bridgwater Mercury led to Brian getting in contact with local genealogist, Ursula Martin, who used her expertise to locate George.
Brian said: “The upshot was that we had a long and emotional chat on the phone, and have now agreed to meet at the Castle Club, formerly the Royal Brittish Legion, in Bridgwater on August 4.”
It is hoped another contemporary from 542 Squadron, Ron Trump, will also be present.
Brian said: “I haven’t seen or heard of George in 58 years. I can hardly believe we’re going to meet again at last.”
While on his West Country odyssey, Brian visited the church once used by RAF personnel in Westonzoyland, and discovered lots more about his old and now disbanded squadron from memorials in the chancel. Also displayed was an old squadron badge.
The unit flew high-altitude Canberra B Mark II bombers fitted with long-range fuel tanks and specialist sampling devices, and its motto was “Above All”.
Brian said: “I just know George and I are going to have so much to talk about. We were once closer than brothers and it is going to be tremendous to see him again, even though we’re both no longer young men.
“It’s been such a lucky thing to be back in touch, and we owe a big thank you to Ursula and all the people who have helped us cut through the red tape and secrecy surrounding our old squadron to become reunited again.”
PICTURED: Brian Giles
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Weather for Bexhill-on-Sea
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 5 C to 12 C
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Wind direction: North west