A former RAF pilot who suffers from dementia was granted his Christmas wish to fly again with a ‘priceless’ gift from a fellow veteran.
Michael Hollings was only 17 when he joined the RAF at the outbreak of the Second World War, having lied about his age.
He flew Lancaster bombers during the conflict and was a captain of a Wellington bomber at age 19, according to his records at Green Willow Residential Care Home in East Preston.
Now 93, Mr Hollings’ Christmas wish was to fly a Lancaster again – so his carers at the home wrote it on a card and put it on the tree they decorated for the village Christmas tree festival.
Run by St Mary’s Church, the building was filled by 40 trees decorated by groups and organisations for the event.
But it was Mr Hollings’ wish that caught the eye of organiser James Douglas, who was an engineer officer in the RAF from 1968 until 1988.
If we speak about it now, sometimes he remembers and sometimes he doesn’t but at the time he was right there, and that’s all that matters. It was utterly pricelessDiane Denyer
The 67-year-old said: “The thing that hit me most about the note was that he missed the camaraderie, so I thought I could help him and perhaps bring back some memories.
“Although I spent 20 years in the RAF, my father was also a bomber pilot during the war, and if he had still been alive, he would certainly have liked to share experiences with Mike.”
Mr Douglas said that there are only two working Lancasters left in the world, so he got the next best thing: a video of one of them flying over the German dams that were damaged in the famous 1943 raids.
He visited Mr Hollings at the home and showed him the footage.
Mr Douglas said he enjoyed the footage, and commented ‘what lovely Merlins’, referring to the aircraft’s engines.
Care home manager Diane Denyer said the gesture was ‘utterly priceless’.
“He was animated – he knew what he was looking at – and he was listening to James when he was talking and responded with what he did during the war.
“It was fabulous because as he watched the video you knew he was remembering how happy he was when he was flying.
“If we speak about it now, sometimes he remembers and sometimes he doesn’t but at the time he was right there, and that’s all that matters. It was utterly priceless.”
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.
1) Make our website your homepage
2) Like our Facebook page
3) Follow us on Twitter
4) Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!
Always the first with your local news.
Be part of it.