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Wartime RAF hero, 97, inundated with visitors after appeal to beat loneliness

PUBLISHED: 08:10 12 September 2019 | UPDATED: 13:43 12 September 2019

Sydney 'Stevie' Stevens is finding life a little lonely after moving into a care home. His neighbour Clair Ling has appealed for people to come and talk.
 Picture: Sonya Duncan

Sydney 'Stevie' Stevens is finding life a little lonely after moving into a care home. His neighbour Clair Ling has appealed for people to come and talk. Picture: Sonya Duncan

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A 97-year-old Second World War bomber hero has been inundated with new visitors after an online appeal for more people to visit him and hear his amazing wartime stories.

Former RAF pilot officer Sydney 'Stevie' Stevens, who flew 29 Lancaster bomber missions and received the Distinguished Flying Cross in November 1943 for bravery, lives at Saxlingham Hall Nursing Home and wanted to have more people to visit.

Now following the appeal organised by his former next door neighbour, Clair Ling, he has had requests from across Norfolk and Lincolnshire and has gained new pen pals in America and the Netherlands.

"I come to visit Stevie about five times a week in the evening and take him out for Sunday lunch but whenever I leave I always think that he has probably been waiting for my visit all day," said Clair.

Sydney 'Stevie' Stevens with Clair Ling at Saxlingham Hall Nursing Home.
 Picture: Sonya DuncanSydney 'Stevie' Stevens with Clair Ling at Saxlingham Hall Nursing Home. Picture: Sonya Duncan

"The nurses here are brilliant but obviously they have 35 other residents to care for as well so he can get a bit lonely during the day. He has so many stories to tell and not just about the war. He has had such an amazing life in general and he loves to chat."

Mr Stevens previously lived at Coleburn Road in Norwich with his wife Maureen, known as Maud, a former wartime Women's Auxiliary Air Force volunteer radio operator at RAF Scampton. The couple met in 1943 after she guided his aircraft safely to land following a raid in Germany.

Mrs Stevens died aged 97 in 2017, the day before their 74th wedding anniversary. The couple's son Adrian, 75, lives in London.

Stevie Stevens with his late wife Maud, a radio operator in the war, and their young son Adrian. Picture: Stevie StevensStevie Stevens with his late wife Maud, a radio operator in the war, and their young son Adrian. Picture: Stevie Stevens

The online appeal for visitors was first launched in April. Many who have answered have links to the RAF but others remember Mr Stevens from his later career as a maths teacher at Earlham School during the 1960s and 70s.

"Every time I pick my phone up there is another message," said Clair. "I don't know how many messages I have had from ex-pupils."

Mr Stevens said: "It has been wonderful that I have had new people kind enough to visit me. I have even had some grandparents who have brought their grandchildren, which was rather nice.

Sydney 'Stevie' Stevens is finding life a little lonely after moving into a care home. His neighbour Clair Ling has appealed for people to come and talk with the Second World War bomber hero.
 Picture: Sonya DuncanSydney 'Stevie' Stevens is finding life a little lonely after moving into a care home. His neighbour Clair Ling has appealed for people to come and talk with the Second World War bomber hero. Picture: Sonya Duncan

"It is quite astonishing really and quite interesting to see how many people are still interested in the war. I flew Lancasters which was a dangerous occupation, especially when we were flying over Berlin."

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