At 92, Jack Warner is one of the last Bomber Command boys standing.
Today his memory is as sharp as ever and he’s keeping the memory of the RAF Bomber Command alive through painting.
The Almondbury widower has had several of his oil paintings – many of the Halifax bombers he flew – accepted for the forthcoming International Bomber Command Centre museum.
The museum, which is set to open near Lincoln next year, commemorates the achievements and the losses of the RAF Bomber Command which operated between 1936 and 1968.
As one of the last living World War Two bombers, keeping the memories of the courageous servicemen alive is important to Jack.
The grandfather-of-two volunteered at 17 and received training at 18.
By 19, he was a co-pilot aboard a Handley Page Halifax carrying out bombing raids on Nazi targets.
As part of a seven-man Royal Canadian Air Force Crew he took part in raids over Germany as well as Nazi-occupied France and Norway in 1943 and 1944. The RAF Bomber Command suffered much heavier losses than the Fighter Command, which took part in the Battle of Britain.
Flying a colossal aircraft in a straight line so the bomb aimer could make sure the payload hit its target was an extremely risky business.
Jack said: “We must have been easy meat for the guns so you were really glad when the bomb was dropped.
“Then you could get out of the stream of bombers and fighters and go home.”
Most missions were ‘just a job’ to Jack and his seven-strong crew, led by Canadian pilot John Sinclair.
But on one mission over Oslo nearly went catastrophically wrong.
Their Halifax was tasked with dropping sea mines to pen the German navy in the Norwegian fjords.
But on their bombing run one of the Halifax’s four engines was hit and the bomb doors jammed.
The crew, however, wasn’t leaving without dropping the mine and so Sinclair went for another pass.
Jack said: “The inner port engine had been hit and I heard: ‘round again’ through the intercom.
“I thought: ‘bloody hell!’
“But John managed to the feather the engine (rotate the propellor blades parallel to the airflow to reduce drag) and we went round to do the bombing run on three engines.
“We managed to drop the mine right where it should have been dropped.
“We got out of the vicinity of the guns and came back to base no problem.”
But Jack saw some horrendous things.
One aircraft flying behind them over Coutances, in June 1944, was hit in the bomb bay causing the device – and the aircraft – to explode.
And being ‘coned’ – when the enemy fixes its searchlights on your plane – meant almost certain death.
But it happened to Jack’s Halifax.
He said: “Being coned was the worst thing.
“If you could come out of cone you were lucky.
“You didn’t escape a cone unless you pulled did some violent manoeuvres.
“We did it twice only because of John Sinclair’s great manoeuvres.”
But not everyone was as lucky as Jack who saw a fair few of his comrades perish.
The next day in the mess hall their absence would be conspicuous.
But Jack and his crew remained stoic thanks to some mental training Jack calls ‘brainwashing.’
He said: “You just took it as you saw it.
“You just thought: ‘poor b****r’.
“I should have cared but I was 19 and I didn’t.”
Jack added: “Nobody thought about getting hit and dying.
“Other people did get hit – but we didn’t and we got away with it!”
Jack flew his last bombing mission of the war over Brest, Brittany, on June 10, 1944.
He trained others pilots at RAF Wymeswold, Leicestershire, before he was demobbed.
Jack returned to Huddersfield and continued working at Brook Motors.
He later worked as a sales manager and sold plants from his back garden in Almondbury before retiring.
Aged 25, he married Margaret who died 12 years ago.
Jack kept in touch with his former crew which included a trip to Vancouver, Canada, to see John Sinclair.
He remains the last surviving member of his crew after gunner George Pratt died more recently.
Jack was approached by a representative from the International Bomber Command Centre who visits him every six weeks.
As a prolific painter, Jack is more than happy to donate his war inspired works to the museum, which he hopes to be able to visit next year.