Paying tribute to the fallen heroes of war

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AN air force veteran has told of one of his proudest moments after a plaque was unveiled to his fallen colleagues.

Wally Stewart, 71, is a former flight sergeant and dad-of-two from Seaton Carew, who is a volunteer at the Heugh Gun Battery.

He was the man who, two years ago, helped to bring a 1950s Bofors 40-70 gun to the Battery on Hartlepool’s Headland.

Now, after a poignant ceremony held at the weekend, a plaque stands by the anti-aircraft gun in permanent tribute. It reads: “This gun is dedicated to the memorial of all members of the RAF regiment who paid the supreme sacrifice, and all members who have since passed on.”

Wally originally helped to bring the gun to the museum from RAF Spadeadam, in Cumbria, in November 2011.

This time, he arranged and part funded the plaque to stand next to it and proudly watched as Wing Commander Tony Milsom, from RAF Leeming performed the unveiling ceremony.

Also there were a number of serving members of the regiment as well as veterans.

Wally was in the Royal Air Force Regiment and worked on one of the guns which would have been a low-level air defence weapon, firing four rounds a second.

Mr Stewart used a similar gun in 1974 in Cyprus when the Turks invaded the Mediterranean country.

He said: “I am very proud. Everyone talks about doing something for their regiment, perhaps something like a trophy but to have a plaque unveiled as a war memorial, I am over the moon with that.

“It is something that will be there forever and I am chuffed to bits with that. It is the honour of getting a memorial for the regiment.”

One of Wally’s hopes is that there can be an annual ceremony at the memorial, possibly on February 1 which is the anniversary of the Royal Air Force regiment.

John Southcott, the chairman of the Heugh Gun Battery Trust, said it was he and Wally who first brought the Bofors 40-70 gun to Hartlepool.

“We pulled it out of a swamp in Cumbria where it had been derelict for 20 years along with a lot of others.”

He said the gun was now an excellent working model again and a “fine example of the last anti-aircraft gun of its type. It is a permanent part in what is possibly the largest collection of anti-aircraft in the country”.