Doncaster school welcomes Dambuster veteran

A Dambuster veteran has returned to his former school in the Doncaster town where he was evacuated over 79 years ago to talk to a group of GCSE history students.

Wednesday, 1st May 2019, 12:14 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st May 2019, 12:20 pm
Bernard with his family and friends outside Ash Hill Academy, Hatfield

Bernard Atkinson, a 90-year-old veteran was invited to Ash Hill Academy – formerly known as Hatfield Modern Secondary School – to meet students and staff after being surprised with a visit to the area by his family and friends.

Originally from Hull, Bernard was evacuated in 1940 after the area was heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe and sent to Hatfield where he was taken in by colliery owner Mr Samuel Bunting and his wife.

Bernard pictured with Year 9 GCSE history students and staff

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Year 9 GCSE history students and staff gathered to welcome the World War 2 veteran to the school, and after a meet and greet, Bernard began to inform them of his life’s highs, including serving with the RAF.

Bernard had been based at RAF Scampton with the famous 617 Squadron, known as the Dambusters, and is proud to have served with the distinguished company.

Students, who have been studying the impact of warfare in medicine, listened and took notes from their conversations and are planning to make a presentation to others at the academy.

Bernard with the memorial plaque for former Ash Hill Academy student Liam Maughan

Perhaps fitting, the session was held in the Liam Maughan Learning Resource Centre, named in memory of former Ash Hill Academy student who lost his life while serving with the British Army.

As a mark of respect, Bernard stopped and saluted Liam’s plaque as he entered the centre.

Speaking of the day, John Higgins, the Principal of the Academy, said: “It was an absolute pleasure to have such a special visitor at Ash Hill Academy. It was a delight to meet Bernard and give him and his family the opportunity to see how the school has developed since his tenure here over 70 years ago.

“Staff and students alike were privileged to be part of such a special event.’ As a memento from his visit, Bernard was presented with a painting of the school as it looked when he attended it, as well as a number of photographs of the area at the time of his stay.”

Bernard has been involved with the Doncaster Airgunners who have worked hard to keep a tradition alive and build a bond of friendship and reconciliation with their former adversaries, The German Luftwaffe veterans.

Bernard also enthused about his biggest passion, the Royal Air Force Amateur Radio Society, of which he still runs the East Yorkshire Branch and is a first class talent in Morse Code.

He has promised to return to Ash Hill Academy, next time accompanied by his good friend, a 95-year-old former Luftwaffe pilot who he met through his association with the ‘Flightpath of Friendship’ organisation, the group who aim to connect former World War 2 veterans with their German counterparts.