Grimsby Evening Telegraph:
Phillip Norton

A mixture of tearful remembrance and pride was clear to see when members of 550 Squadron were reunited at North Killingholme.

A service was held at the memorial stone on the site of the former airbase to remember crew members who never returned during the Second World War. A flypast by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was a fitting salute to the Lancaster crews who flew from the North Lincolnshire base between January 1944 and October 1945.

A Lancaster bomber, Spitfire and Hurricane made three low passes over the site before the Rev Michael Page-Chestney led a service.

He told the congregation - a mixture of veterans, surviving family members and local residents - about the need to remember the dedication of the crews.

He said: "We are gathered here today to remember, in the presence of God, those of our gallant comrades, serving in 550 Squadron, who flew from this airfield on operational missions against the enemy and did not return."

One of those present was Charles Whitters (78) who was an airgunner at the airfield.

Originally from Lanarkshire, Scotland, Mr Whitters flew 30 missions from North Killingholme on the Lancasters based there. It was his first and only tour of duty, and amazingly, he was never forced to fire his weapons in anger.

He spoke about his memories of his first mission.

"I remember it quite well," he said.

"I remember skirting the Alps all the way down to Augsburg, near Munich, and seeing the target in flames.

"We were about the third or fourth wave of attack. It was very good bombing."

Mr Whitters remembered his feelings onboard the aircraft during the mission.

"I was one of those people who it did not register with at the time what we were doing.

"We had a job to do and that is what we were doing. We had been trained for it.

"We didn't see an awful lot, but landing back here safely was very good."

His missions did not always go to plan. He clearly remembers one incident from his days in the area.

"I was in the mid upper turret and we were taking off with our first bombload," he said.

"We ran off the end of the runway, and at North Killingholme, if you ran off the end of the runway, you just sank and got bogged down.

"The plane had to be pulled out, was checked over and sent out again on the next raid."

After the war, Mr Whitters worked as an engineering clerk with the Yorkshire Electricity Board, based in Leeds.

He now lives in Guildford, Surrey, and although his Scottish accent is still noticable, he admits he has not returned to his native land much since moving to Lincolnshire with the RAF for the war.

"It is still a sentimental journey coming back here to North Killingholme," he said.

"It is wonderful to remember lost comrades - I think of them all a lot.

"There is a limit to what we can do and how long we can remember them for, though. There are very few of us left really. If we see the 60th anniversary next year, I think that will be it."