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RAF flyover is dream come true for Morecambe man

Two RAF Chinook helicopters make a special flyover over St John's Hospice, Lancaster, especially for patient Bob Pickles of Morecambe who is an ex-RAF chef.
Two RAF Chinook helicopters make a special flyover over St John's Hospice, Lancaster, especially for patient Bob Pickles of Morecambe who is an ex-RAF chef.

An ex-military chef from Morecambe was treated to a special flyover by two RAF Chinooks on Tuesday after a chance meeting with an employee at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI).

Bob Pickles, who is currently a patient at St John’s Hospice, but is due to return home soon, was at the hospital with his wife and daughter earlier this week, when he got talking to Stuart Hosking-Durn, the RLI’s head of resilience and patient flow.

Bob Pickles

Bob Pickles

The chance encounter and conversation moved onto Bob’s time as a chef in the RAF during the Second World War.

As they reminisced, Bob said how much he would love to feel part of the RAF again.

The comment got Stuart thinking about how, with some of his social media contacts, he might be able to transform such a thought into a reality for Bob.

Stuart said: “It was lovely to meet Bob and his family and after I left them I got to thinking about what I could do to help in a small way.

An RAF Chinook helicopter flies over St John's Hospice, Lancaster, especially for patient Bob Pickles of Morecambe.

An RAF Chinook helicopter flies over St John's Hospice, Lancaster, especially for patient Bob Pickles of Morecambe.

“I appealed to a few groups on social media to see if anything could be done.

“I never expected the amazing response from all corners of the RAF community, past and present.”

At 1.45pm on Tuesday, July 31, the skies began to thunder as two RAF Chinook helicopters made a special flyover, just for Bob, over St John’s Hospice, as a result of the request from Stuart.

Hospice staff, volunteers and patients gathered outside and cheered as the huge aircraft passed by overhead.

Sue McGraw, chief executive as St John’s Hospice, said: “What an honour to be involved in something like this. You could see how much it meant to Bob and his family. It is a great example of what hospice care looks like, nothing is too much for our patients and people routinely go the extra mile to make wishes like Bob’s come true.”

It has also been arranged for a serving RAF Flying Officer to visit Bob in his home with some RAF souvenirs, as well as two airmen making a special trip to talk to Bob in the coming days.

Bob’s wife Mary and daughter Eloise have been at Bob’s side while he has been staying at the hospice.

Eloise said: “After meeting Stuart, I messaged him just to thank him for spending that time with Dad, I never expected it would end with something as wonderful as this.

“It is quite overwhelming and such a lovely surprise, I can’t quite believe it.

“Everyone at the hospice has been great and now Dad is coming home for some well-earned rest.”

And as for Bob, worn out after all the excitement and flag waving, he just had one word that summed it all up: “Terrific”.

There has also been a great response from the Lancaster and Morecambe branch of the RAF Association.

“Welfare Officer David Hodgson said: “The RAF Association is all about friendship, and once you have served in the RAF you are a friend for life. We knew a Flying Officer was coming to visit Bob this evening, but we were asked if anyone could go and spend some time with him at the hospice before he goes home. I was delighted to oblige and I have spent the morning getting to know Bob and his family and watched the flyover with them, and it was an absolute honour and a privilege.”