Published 11th November 2022
As we observe Remembrance Day, it can be easy to feel distant from the people whose bravery and service we are commemorating.
Both today and on Sunday, we will honour those who have served our country and those who are still serving.
Last week, I met with the Spitfire AA810 Project who are working to commemorate the work of the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit who risked and gave their lives during the Second World War.
Flying deep into enemy territory, mostly unarmed and devoid of protection of any sort, these men photographed the movements of enemy supplies, men, ships and planes to gain the vital intelligence for Allied Commanders to plot the strategy of the war.
I learnt from them about a local hero from Fleur- De- Lys – John Reid, who served in the RAF as a pilot during the Second World War.
John was selected to join the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit due to his twin engine aircraft experience. At the time, the unit was performing top secret work within France with just two Spitfires and a converted Hudson aircraft.
In 1940, returning from a training mission, John’s aircraft triggered London’s nervous anti-aircraft defences, who started firing at it.
Despite sending out flares to alert they were non-hostile, John’s plane was still shot down. The blast threw John from the aircraft. Luckily, he deployed his parachute and landed in a farmer’s field.
Despite suffering burns, shock and the grief of losing a fellow pilot, John continued to serve throughout the war. He died on February 20, 1990, in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, at the age of 72.
In remembrance to John and all the pilots who lost their lives serving in the PRU, I am working with the Spitfire AA810 Project to inspire the next generation of pilots.
It is important to remember stories like John’s because they remind us of the human stories behind remembrance and connect us to the generation which fought so we could now be free.
Russian’s war in Ukraine is a stark reminder to us all that war in Europe is not consigned to the history books. Peace is hard won, and we should always be grateful to the men and women of our Armed forces who keep us safe.
This remembrance I will be thinking about veterans like John and those who serve us today.