Control tower owner's tribute to 'exceptional' veteran

WWII veteran Bernie How stands on top of the North Creake Control Tower. Behind Mr How is the former

Bernie How on top of the North Creake Control Tower, where behind him is the former site of the RAF North Creake runway - Credit: IAN BURT

More tributes have been paid to one of the last veterans who was part of a D-Day mission to bring an end to the Second World War.

At 9.38pm on June 5, 1944, Bernie How took off from the former airfield at North Creake, near Fakenham, in one of 16 Stirling Bomber planes.

The mission involved flying over to France ahead of D-Day and dropping the strips which tricked the enemy into believing the invasion was heading to Calais.

Bernie How sits in front of the North Creake memorial

Bernie How sits in front of the North Creake memorial - Credit: SUPPLED/CONTROL TOWER B&B

He was the only man from his team of seven who returned, while a further 73 of his comrades never came home.

Almost eight decades later, Mr How, nicknamed 'Bun', returned to the former airfield to unveil a memorial to those who served there.

Nigel Morter and Claire Nugent, who own the nearby Control Tower Bed and Breakfast in Egmere, fundraised from 2017 to build the memorial.

The couple, who first met Mr How in 2014, paid tribute to him during the 97-year-old's funeral on November 23 at All Saints Church, Worlington, Suffolk.

Mr Morter said: “In October 2011, my wife Claire and I bought the control tower at former RAF North Creake, a station where Bernie served during the Second World War.  

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“At the time we had hope, but little expectation of ever meeting a veteran from this station. However, in 2014, we met Bernie when we were invited to an event, organised by the Stirling Society, to celebrate the Stirling Bomber. At first, we thought we were mistaken when we heard this chap say he’d served at RAF North Creake.  

“Explaining that we lived in the Control Tower at North Creake, we quickly hatched a plan for Bernie to visit after the event. When first at the tower, Bernie seemed reluctant to reveal more than his name, rank and number, preferring to discuss the nature of our building works, however, when on the roof, I think the tide of memories became too much to resist.  

"Bernie volunteered for the RAF in late 1942. All aircrew for Bomber Command were volunteers and it’s always surprised me that they did volunteer for such a dangerous occupation.

“Nearly 45pc of those who served in aircrew in Bomber Command would die. The worst survival record of any British fighting force in modern history.

“But Bernie did survive.

“Through the course of the eight years we knew Bernie, he helped us understand RAF life for aircrew in a way we could have never understood without his experience. But it was the man Bernie was meant that he became to mean the world to us, and when we first started our fundraising programme to raise a memorial at RAF North Creake it was, of course, Bernie we asked to cut the ribbon.  

WWII veteran Bernie How in 1944. Picture: Ian Burt

Veteran Bernie How in 1944 - Credit: IAN BURT

“Bernie became our ‘go to’ veteran, particularly at fundraising events, so much so that we would worry a little that he felt ill-used. But I think Bernie actually liked the attention, he was justly proud of his and his comrades' war record. But he held no truck with the discourse of heroes – 'ordinary blokes in extraordinary times' he would say.

“I think he was probably right, but nonetheless; Bernie and his comrades defeated the most evil regime ever devised by a human brain and they have saved us from another world war for the last 76 years.  

“That’s what makes him, and his like, exceptional. It is why we’ll never forget and it’s why ‘we will remember them’.”

Mr How, who lived in Worlingham, died earlier this month following a stroke on his 97th birthday. As well as his two sons, Mr How leaves behind his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  

To pay tribute to a loved one, email norfolktributes@archant.co.uk

To read all obituaries and tributes join the Facebook group Norfolk's Loved & Lost.
 

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