A local veteran of Bomber Command has urged the people of North Devon to remember the air crews who lost their lives in this area during World War Two.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery and memorial at Heanton Punchardon. Picture: Commonwealth War Graves CommissionThe Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery and memorial at Heanton Punchardon. Picture: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

On Sunday, November 11, the annual remembrance service will be held at the war memorial in Heanton Punchardon, in memory of the dozens of airmen from RAF Chivenor who died during the war.

Dick Raymond, 94, from Brayford, has been helping to organise the event for years, alongside retired group captain Ian Worby.

With the numbers of veterans dwindling, they hope as many people as possible will attend the service and help keep the memory of their sacrifice alive.

Mr Raymond said: “There are between 30 and 40 buried at Heanton, mostly British but also Americans and Canadians, some polish and one Czech.

Dick Raymond (right) wiht his air crew in 1943, including pilot and good friend Ken Lane (fourth from left). Picture: Dick RaymondDick Raymond (right) wiht his air crew in 1943, including pilot and good friend Ken Lane (fourth from left). Picture: Dick Raymond

“As the numbers have diminished I know I am the only World War Two veteran left locally who saw active service in the air.

“Between Ian and I we have been trying very hard to keep this service going.”

People are welcome to gather at the memorial at 10.45am for a traditional remembrance service, followed by a service in the church if they should so wish.

Marines from RMB Chivenor will lay a wreath, as will Mr Raymond, plus a wreath will be laid on behalf of the Canadian dead.

Dick Raymond, and pictured as a Flight Sergeant in 1943, is calling on people to support the RAF memorial at Heanton Punchardon on November 11. Picture: Tony Gussin/Dick RaymondDick Raymond, and pictured as a Flight Sergeant in 1943, is calling on people to support the RAF memorial at Heanton Punchardon on November 11. Picture: Tony Gussin/Dick Raymond

Mr Raymond added: “I think it is the only war graves cemetery in the whole of Devon which is maintained by the War Graves Commission and kept in immaculate condition.

“The people of North Devon don’t know it exists and I think more people should be made aware of it.”

Mr Raymond, who ran Raymond’s Bakers in Barnstaple, joined the RAF in 1942 and was on operations by 1943.

He was injured when a plane fully laden with bombs blew up on the runway, but returned to active duty and teamed up with pilot Kenneth Albert Lane, becoming best friends for life and best men at each other’s weddings.

They were sent into Berlin, ‘night after night’ and their luck eventually ran out when their plane was shot down, killing several of the crew. The rest spent the rest of the war as prisoners.

In 1945 their captors marched them on an ‘appalling’ 200 mile march in the depths of winter to avoid them being liberated by the Russians. Mr Raymond and some others slipped away one night and walked another 60 miles before being picked up by the Americans.