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Remember A Charity: Remembering the few – and supporting them

Dennis Wiltshire
Dennis Wiltshire

The RAF has a long and proud history in this part of the world and the role RAF Kinloss and RAF Lossiemouth played during World War II was enormous.

In 1940 Bomber Command was detached to RAF Kinloss for operations with Coastal Command.

Now in his 90s, Dennis Wiltshire was one of the young men sent to serve with Bomber Command to defend Britain from Hitler. He was just 18 years old.


Some 55,573 young airmen lost their lives, while thousands like Dennis were injured, but survived.

Here, he tells his story and asks for you to consider leaving something in your will to the RAF Benevolent Fund.

“If that period is as real to you as it still is to me, you will know how much horror there was in that war,” said Dennis.

“But even if you were only a child then, or you learned about it at school, you may know that afterwards, those who served in Bomber Command were rarely talked about, unlike those who took part in the Battle of Britain.

“Perhaps this was due to the pictures that emerged afterwards of flattened cities.

“They were dreadful to behold, I know.

“Perhaps it was due to an almighty disagreement between Winston Churchill and ‘Bomber Harris’, the head of the RAF, about strategy and tactics. I don’t know.

“What I do know is that we were all so young.

“And so many of my friends did not come back from those missions to try to stop the war.

“That is why I was pleased to see the unveiling of a memorial in London to remember those killed in the RAF, and in Germany, and help young people know a little more about Bomber Command.”

The RAF was an important part of the story of Dennis’ life, so too was the RAF’s charity, the RAF Benevolent Fund.

“Why does the RAF Benevolent Fund mean so much to me?“ said Dennis.

“Let me take you back to the incident that, many years later, led to me needing their assistance.

“I can still smell the odour in our Lancaster Bomber.

“A mixture of 100 octane fuel fumes, new rubber,
exhaust gases and hot engine oil, accompanied by constant shaking and shuddering, engines roaring.

“My fifth mission, over Cologne, was my last.

“As we approached, we could see a pale orange glow ahead turning to red.

“My stomach was in knots. I felt terribly sick and longed to be going home.

“I kept trying to repeat The Lord’s Prayer but it was difficult.

“As we released our bombs, it was like Dante’s Inferno below.

“It was only after our plane was hit, my crewmate killed, and I was in hospital suffering from what would now be called post-traumatic stress disorder, that I thought for the first time about what was happening to people on the ground in those German cities.

“It took me four years before I was well enough to look for a job after the war.

“Nobody wanted to know. I had been discharged with ‘neurasthenia’, which meant that nobody could see my injuries. They were to my mind.

“Those injuries caught up with me 20 years later when I had a breakdown, and was advised to retire.

“Yet, because my injuries were invisible, I wasn’t entitled to a war services pension. Many of us weren’t,” said Dennis.

And that is how he came into contact with the RAF Benevolent Fund.

“They gave me a monthly grant to help with the basics,” said Dennis.

“It was a lifesaver.

“More recently, they’ve helped again, this time with a wonderful electric wheelchair.

“I’ve had one hip replaced but being in my 90s the doctors don’t think I’d come through a second op!

“Now I can go to the shops again. I can get out in the fresh air. I can keep going.

“Everyone has their own reason for putting a gift in their will to the RAF Benevolent Fund.

“For me it’s to help someone else in the RAF family, veteran or serving, as I have been helped.

“For others, it is to mark a formative period serving in the RAF, or to say thanks to the men and women of the RAF who defended Britain in World War II.

“It is on their behalf that I am writing.

“If either has been important to you – because you witnessed or admired the RAF defending Britain, or you served yourself – I have an opportunity I would like to put before you.

“It is to say thank you to the RAF with a gift in your will to the RAF Benevolent Fund.

“I am doing it myself.


“Because the RAF Benevolent Fund is looking after World War II RAF veterans who find themselves in difficulty today, while also assisting younger ex-RAF and serving personnel whose lives have taken a hard turn.

“You can leave a little or a lot, or something in between, whatever feels right for you.”

RAF Benevolent Fund

RAF Lossiemouth is one of many RAF Stations where the RAF Benevolent Fund supports serving members of the RAF family, including its Airplay programme — a project supporting children and young people growing up on RAF stations.

In 2013, £94,225 was spent on serving personnel and family members at RAF Lossiemouth.

This money was used on a host of items ranging from support with housing and emergency grants, to grants to charities including, Combat Stress.

Money was also spent on play parks for RAF children while Relate, which offers relationships counselling sessions also benefited.

The charity currently supports more than 300 ex-serving personnel across Scotland, including those living in Moray, Aberdeenshire, Argyll, plus the Highlands and Islands.

The RAF Benevolent Fund is an independent charity and receives no
government funding.

It relies entirely on public support to continue its work and works hard to keep overheads low — 88p in every pound donated goes directly to support the RAF family.

You can support it by leaving a gift in your will, something that will make a difference for future generations.