A World War Two hero was given an emotional flypast by the legendary Lancaster bomber to mark his 100th birthday yesterday.
Crowds gathered and applauded as the iconic aircraft buzzed over the Mansion House to mark the milestone birthday of Bomber Command veteran Flight Lieutenant Eric Clarke.
And a delighted Mr Clarke admitted that he had been “flabbergasted” by the tribute which has taken months of planning by friends.
Mr Clarke of Carcroft 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 - who successfully carried out 26 bombing raids across the Channel over 15 months from 1941 to 1942 - with the centrepiece a huge RAF cake created especially for the occasion by cake designer Anne Dixon.
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 association, of which Mr Clarke, was a founder member, spent more than six months organising the flypast which drew gasps from the crowd of onlookers who had gathered on the pavement below.
Doncaster branch president Bob Hayward said: “He has been asking a few awkward questions for a few months, but we’ve somehow managed to keep it a surprise. He had no idea until he walked up the stairs of the Mansion House and saw all those people there for him.”
Flt Lt Clarke, who served as a wireless operator and was mentioned in dispatches, is believed to be one of the oldest surviving Bomber Command veterans and was one of scores of veterans to attend the unveiling of a huge sculpture in London’s Green Park last year to honour the 55,573 lives lost from the unit.
After his demobbing, he enjoyed a a successful career in local government in Doncaster.
The iconic aircraft with a place in the history books
The Avro Lancaster went into active service with RAF Bomber Command in 1942. The Lanc, as it was affectionately known, became the most famous and most successful of the Second World War bombers, delivering 608,612 tons of bombs in 156,000 sorties.
The aircraft, an evolution of the Avro Manchester, was designed by Roy Chadwick and was powered by four Rolls-Royce Merlins engines and was modified to carry the Barnes Wallis designed “bouncing bomb” for the famed Dambusters raids.
There are 17 known largely complete Avro Lancasters remaining in the world with just two airworthy - one based in the UK and operated by The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.