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War hero Bill Shepherd saluted at RAF Lossiemouth air display


By Alistair Whitfield

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Bill Shepherd with station commander Jim Lee.
Bill Shepherd with station commander Jim Lee.

A 99-year-old from Forres who was the sole survivor when his plane exploded during the Second World War was the guest of honour at a Moray air display.

Bill Shepherd was invited to RAF Lossiemouth’s friends and families day on Saturday, where he came face to face with the modern equivalent of the aircraft in which he once flew.

The military veteran was involved in 40 missions over Germany during the conflict.

Once his aircraft was shot at over France, then exploded after landing at its Cambridgeshire base, killing everyone on board except him.

On his last wartime mission the plane’s oxygen system failed.

Single-handedly he managed to revive the rest of the crew, including the pilot, while also defending the aircraft from an oncoming enemy fighter.

He was subsequently awarded the George Medal.

Saturday's air display over RAF Lossiemouth.
Saturday's air display over RAF Lossiemouth.

On Saturday, the former warrant officer witnessed an air display by an F-35, a precision bomber similar to the Lancaster he had flown in as a member of No 156 Squadron.

He also took a salute from the RAF Falcons Display Team as they landed.

Mr Shepherd said: "I’ve had such a wonderful day. The RAF has changed a lot but there are still things that are recognisable to me, and it has been nice to see how much the station has grown since I was here during the war.

"It was wonderful to see the F-35 and the Typhoon flying displays – they both move very differently to a Lancaster."

Having heard he had lost his original George Medal, the RAF presented him with a replica in a special ceremony earlier in the week, when he was also given honorary membership of the Warrant Officers’ and Sergeants’ Mess.

The famous Red Arrows display team.
The famous Red Arrows display team.

Mr Shepherd, who went on to work in agricultural sales, has lived in Forres for the last 15 years.

His story came to light after he befriended SAS veteran Tommy McLeod, who informed RAF Lossiemouth of his achievements.

Group Captain Jim Lee, the station commander, paid tribute to Mr Shepherd and his generation.

He said: "The RAF of today, and the nation, owe a great deal of gratitude to the men and women of Bill’s generation.

"The technology has changed but the most important thing of all is our people. That’s why Bill’s exploits in the air continue to inspire us and are as relevant today as they were 80 years ago.

"It was RAF Lossiemouth’s honour to have him here."

Saturday's friends and family day at RAF Lossiemouth
Saturday's friends and family day at RAF Lossiemouth

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