Personnel from RAF Valley gathered in Chester recently to pay their respects to former RAF Flight Sergeant Les Homard, one of the last survivors of Stalag Luft III, the notorious world war two prisoner of war camp immortalised by the film “The Great Escape”.
Flight Sergeant Homard, who has died aged 97, was born in London and joined the RAF in 1939 as war broke out. He was trained as a wireless operator / air gunner and was posted to 12 Squadron at RAF Benson to fly the Handley Page Hampden, a twin engined bomber. On February 4th 1941, his aircraft was shot down by ground fire over the Netherlands. Flight Sergeant Homard was able to bale out sucessfully and was captured by German troops after 24 hours on the run with his crew mates.
For the next four and a half years, Les was held in PoW camps in Germany, Poland and Lithuania. In 1942 he was transferred to Stalag Luft III at Sagan in Lower Silesia, a camp that the Germans claimed was “escape proof”. His role in the Great Escape was to keep a look out for guards and to dispose of tunnel spoil, having found digging too claustrophobic. Les later took part in the infamous “long march” where the PoW’s were force marched westwards as the Germans retreated from Russian forces. The 200 km march was undertaken in freezing conditions - with little or no food – and the PoW’s were often mistaken by allied aircraft for enemy troops and subjected to air attack.
Les and his fellow PoW’s were liberated by the Royal Dragoons on 2nd
May 1945. He returned home to take up his pre-war job with Priest Marians,
importers of fine glass wear and china, and to marry his fiance Veronica. Les
ended up as Managing Director of the firm, retiring at the age of 81! He then
moved to North Wales to be nearer his son, Ian and his family.
Son Ian said: “My dad was a naturally modest man – although many have described him as a hero, he would never have contemplated describing himself in this way. In fact, his experiences in the RAF and as a prisoner of war were something he rarely talked about. When pressed about it, he would say that he was only ‘doing his duty’ and that he was luckier than many of his colleagues who were lost in combat or did not survive the POW camps”
“We know that he was immensely proud to have served his country in the RAF and that if he was looking down at events on Wednesday, he would probably be looking around to see who it was for, because he would not think for one minute that it was for him. That was the nature of my Dad! In fact, he probably would say he did not deserve ‘all that fuss’, but he does”
“The dressing of the coffin by Warrant Officer Kevin Beattie, the presence of the guard of honour and the flypast are more than we ever expected as a response from the RAF and I am exceptionally thankful to RAF Valley for recognising his achievements, his fortitude and his quiet passion for his country by honouring him in this way”
RAF Valley Station Commander, Group Captain Brian Braid said: “We were saddened to hear of the death of Flight Sergeant Homard, but honoured that we had the opportunity to pay our respects to a comrade. We should all feel endebted to men like Les Homard, who with great modesty and dignity served their country with bravery and fortitude at such a pivotal time in our history”
Editor: Sqn Ldr Williams
Photographs: Cpl Devine
Flt Sgt Homard.
Flt Sgt Homard (right) and his crew.
Personnel from RAF Valley gathered in Chester to pay their respects to former RAF Flight Sergeant Les Homard.
Flt Sgt Homard (second right) in PoW Camp.
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