Family overwhelmed as tribute planned for RAF veteran

Servicemen and women will provide a guard of honour for a Second World War veteran's funeral after an astonishing response to a social media appeal.

Mr Dawson while in the RAF
Mr Dawson while in the RAF

The plea for people to attend the funeral of Wilfred Dawson, 99, has resulted in members of the RAF Association, local cadets, and other service personnel all planning to turn out and line the route – along with a bugler to perform the Last Post.

Mr Dawson's funeral will be taking place on Saturday at 10.30am at Telford Crematorium – on the same day the RAF veteran would have turned 100.

Mr Dawson's granddaughter, Susie Phillips, who lives in Shifnal, said they had been overwhelmed with the response.

Mr Dawson, who was born in Smethwick, had served as a wireless operator and air gunner with RAF Bomber Command during the Second World War.

He had been based in Egypt and Malta and flew on Lancaster and Wellington planes.

Mr Dawson was married to Winifred, who also died at the age of 99. Mrs Dawson was originally from Oldbury and served with the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), and they met while they were both posted in Lincoln.

Mrs Phillips, 40, said her grandfather, who she described as 'her hero', would be humbled by the response to the appeal.

She said: "Granddad would not believe it. He would be very humbled and just wouldn't believe it was for him. He would be totally bemused by it."

Wilfred Dawson and his granddaughter Susie Phillips in front of a Lancaster at a museum in East Kirkby
Mr Dawson looking through some of his old pictures
Wilfred and Winifred Dawson who married after meeting while serving in the RAF and the Women's Auxiliary Air Force in Lincoln

Mrs Phillips said the family had been 'overwhelmed' by the reaction from local services personnel.

She said: "Having them lined up outside will be so wonderful and fitting for him and so nice as a thank you to everyone who has served and who will serve in the future."

Mrs Phillips said her grandfather did not talk about his time in the RAF, but had opened up in recent years as she asked him about his service.

He had moved to the Willows Care Home in Codsall to be closer to his family about four years ago.

Mrs Phillips said that while staying there they had visited RAF Cosford where he had been given a private tour of the museum – including a plane he would have flown on during the war.

She said: "He was a humble and unassuming man and he didn't talk about it. I started pestering him as a teenager and he started to talk about it. In the last five years he really started to open up about it. Looking through his albums and talking us through it – especially while he was at the Willows, who were wonderful.

"We took him to the museum at RAF Cosford and they catalogued his stuff and gave him a private tour – there is a Wellington there which he flew his missions on, which was really interesting."

Alistair Park, chairman of Wrekin & Wellington RAF Association, said that there would be members of the association lining the route to the crematorium.

He said the Royal British Legion would also be present, along with the standard bearer from his association, and two squadrons of local air cadets.

Mr Park said: "When it is someone like Wilfred, who has served in the Second World War Bomber Command, on what would have been his 100th birthday, we decided we wanted to pull all the stops out and make sure his service is not forgotten."

He added: "We hope to have a lot of veterans there to line the roads to mark his service."

Mrs Phillips has also started a fundraiser for the The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund in her grandfather's memory, and anyone who wishes to support the cause can do so at justgiving.com/fundraising/susie-phillips5.

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