Final farewell for Doncaster wartime RAF hero

The funeral of Doncaster WW2 Bomber Command hero Flt Lt Eric Clarke who died at age of 102 took place on Thursday at Rose Hill Crematorium in Doncaster.
The funeral of Doncaster WW2 Bomber Command hero Flt Lt Eric Clarke who died at age of 102 took place on Thursday at Rose Hill Crematorium in Doncaster.
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Cadets lined the street as Doncaster said farewell to one of its last bomber heroes of World War Two.

Youngsters from the Air Training Corps raised their squadrons’ flags as the coffin of former Lancaster bomber air crew member Flight Lieutenant Eric Clarke was driven past in a hearse through the gates of Rose Hill Cemetery.

The funeral of Doncaster WW2 Bomber Command hero Flt Lt Eric Clarke who died at age of 102 took place on Thursday at Rose Hill Crematorium in Doncaster.

The funeral of Doncaster WW2 Bomber Command hero Flt Lt Eric Clarke who died at age of 102 took place on Thursday at Rose Hill Crematorium in Doncaster.

They, along with civic dignitaries from the borough, were at the site to pay their last respects to the veteran, who died this month aged 102.

His coffin was draped with an RAF flag as it was carried into the building.

Flt Lt Clarke was part of the world famous Bomber Command during the 1939-45 conflict and was believed to be one of the town’s oldest surviving WW2 veterans as well as one of the nation’s oldest.

He died at Owston View residential home where he had been living for only a few years on November 2.

The funeral of Doncaster WW2 Bomber Command hero Flt Lt Eric Clarke who died at age of 102 took place on Thursday at Rose Hill Crematorium in Doncaster.

The funeral of Doncaster WW2 Bomber Command hero Flt Lt Eric Clarke who died at age of 102 took place on Thursday at Rose Hill Crematorium in Doncaster.

Family flowers were requested, but donations may be made in aid of the Doncaster branch of the Royal Air Force Association and 49 Squadron RAF Association.

In an interview in 2012, Mr Clarke said: “We had to deal with fatalities and tragedies on a daily basis, sadly. I returned safely - and I consider myself very lucky.”

As war loomed on the horizon, newly married office worker Mr Clarke, who had become accustomed to seeing military aircraft in the skies over Doncaster following the opening of Finningley air base, signed up.

He offered his services as navigator but as he didn’t have a grammar school education, he was offered a role as wireless operator and air gunner - a role he would successfully carry out on 26 bombing raids across the Channel over 15 months from 1941-42.

The funeral of Doncaster WW2 Bomber Command hero Flt Lt Eric Clarke who died at age of 102 took place on Thursday at Rose Hill Crematorium in Doncaster.

The funeral of Doncaster WW2 Bomber Command hero Flt Lt Eric Clarke who died at age of 102 took place on Thursday at Rose Hill Crematorium in Doncaster.

His early sorties were aboard the “very cramped” Hampdens, then he moved onto Manchester bombers before carrying out his last 12 missions aboard the legendary Lancasters. Most air crew survived little more than 7-8 weeks at that time.

During the latter years of the war, he became an instructor and following his demobbing, began a successful career in local government in Doncaster, rising from the rank of temporary clerk up to the post of Deputy Chief Financial and Rating Officer, a post which he retired from in 1978.

He was a member of the Bomber Command Association, was involved in the RAF Association for 70 years and regularly met up with his one-time comrades at reunions and service events across the country.

In April 2013, Mr Clarke was given a Lancaster bomber flypast at the Mansion House to mark his 100th birthday.

The funeral of Doncaster WW2 Bomber Command hero Flt Lt Eric Clarke who died at age of 102 took place on Thursday at Rose Hill Crematorium in Doncaster.

The funeral of Doncaster WW2 Bomber Command hero Flt Lt Eric Clarke who died at age of 102 took place on Thursday at Rose Hill Crematorium in Doncaster.

Crowds gathered and applauded as the iconic aircraft buzzed over the town centre to toast his milestone.

In an interview at the time he said: “It was truly heartwarming to see so many people coming out.

“I had absolutely no indication of what had been arranged for me and it has been an absolutely wonderful afternoon with so many surprises. I have always looked for sincerity and respect in life and I am very grateful to all the sincerity shown to me today.”

More than 120 guests had earlier packed the ballroom of the Mansion House for a birthday tea for Mr Clarke on his 100th birthday where he was also presented with the new Bomber Clasp honour by Air Marshall Sir Dusty Miller, President of the RAF Association, at the celebration, which also marked the 70th anniversary of the association.

The funeral of Doncaster WW2 Bomber Command hero Flt Lt Eric Clarke who died at age of 102 took place on Thursday at Rose Hill Crematorium in Doncaster.

The funeral of Doncaster WW2 Bomber Command hero Flt Lt Eric Clarke who died at age of 102 took place on Thursday at Rose Hill Crematorium in Doncaster.