Honour for wartime bomber Pathfinder Sydney, aged 91
06:30 22 February 2014
MoD Crown Copyright 2014
A veteran of an elite wartime bomber force has collected an honour for his service 70 years later.
Sydney Butler, from North Walsham, flew nearly 60 sorties with the legendary Pathfinder Force, which pinpointed enemy targets and dropped bright incendiary markers to guide the main bomber force behind.
Mr Butler, who is 91, enlisted in the RAF at the end of 1940 at the age of 18 and trained as an engine fitter.
After volunteering in 1942 to be part of the newly formed Bomber Command, he joined the Pathfinders as a Flight Sergeant air engineer on the Halifaxes based at at RAF Wyton.
His missions included operations over Peenemunde, Cologne, Berlin, Nuremberg, Hamburg and Essen, and he event spent 21st birthday in air action.
On a return to see Wyton’s heritage centre he was given a surprise presentation of the new Bomber Command Clasp to recognise the crew’s contribution to the war effort.
Daughter Christine, who applied for the honour, said: “It was wonderful to see his face. He didn’t speak much about what he had done in the war when I was younger but his six grandchildren and 17 great grandchildren have asked lots of questions and we are all very proud of the role he played”.
Mr Butler was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross during his RAF career, which, post-war, also took him to Gibraltar and India before leaving in 1947 as an officer. The war claimed the life of his elder brother Robert, who was a Lancaster pilot.
Mr Butler, who ran a laundry company after the war, was moved by the clasp presentation saying: “I don’t consider myself brave, just extremely lucky. I always seemed to be getting into trouble but I always managed to get out of it and get home.
Wing Commander Ola Fashade, presenting the award in his first official engagement as base commanding officer, said it was a “huge honour and privilege”.
Mr Butler’s granddaughter Louise who travelled to the ceremony said: “This all helps to put into perspective the stories my grandfather has told me over the years. I love him to bits and am so proud to see him receiving the clasp today.”
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