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Squadron Leader Larry Lewis DFM, DFC

Born: October 25th 1918 in Bristol. Died: May 12th 2014. Age 95.

Squadron Leader Larry Lewis, earned the DFM as an air gunner before training as a pilot after picking up air crash survivors from behind Japanese-held lines in Siam, he was awarded the DFC.

On May 29th 1945 Japanese fighters shot down a Liberator bomber of 358 Squadron over Siam (Thailand) during a flight to drop supplies and US Special Forces to the ‘Seri Thai’ (Free Thailand) Resistance movement. 

Some of the crew and passengers survived the crash landing and were sheltered by natives and loyal police.

Once SOE in India had been alerted to the plight of the survivors, a rescue mission was mounted. 

On June 14 Lewis took off in his Dakota and flew at very low level to a remote airstrip at Pukio in Siam. 

He found the short runway adequate but the aircraft became bogged down at the end of the landing run. Within an hour, however, it had been recovered with the aid of Siamese workers and Lewis took off with seven passengers, including some of the crew of the crashed Liberator.

The citation to his DFC concluded, ‘he successfully completed a mission well into enemy territory, in daylight. 

The results obtained are an excellent tribute to his outstanding ability.’

One of seven children, Laurence ‘Larry’ Godfrey Lewis was born in Bristol on October 25 1918 and educated at Bristol Grammar School. 

He won a Pelaquin Scholarship but had to leave school at 15 to help support his family .

He joined the Auxiliary Air Force as a metal rigger in May 1939 and served with No 501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron. 

Equipped with Hurricane fighters, and based in the south of England, the squadron was heavily involved during the Battle of Britain.

Lewis volunteered for pilot training but was selected to be an air gunner, commencing his training in late 1940. 

At the end of the year he was posted to No 12 Squadron equipped with the Wellington bomber. 

During a daylight attack on Brest, his aircraft was attacked by a German fighter, which he engaged and probably shot down. 

He completed 33 operations over enemy territory as a rear gunner including the three ‘Thousand Bomber Raids’ in the spring of 1942. 

He was awarded the DFM for his ‘outstanding keenness, reliability and devotion to duty’.

Lewis was finally selected for pilot training, which he completed in Canada where he converted to the Dakota. 

He arrived in the Far East in January 1945 and joined No 357 (Special Duties) Squadron at Jessore near Calcutta.

Over the next six months he completed 42 operations dropping supplies and agents over Burma and Siam. Some of these long-range missions involved flying over enemy territory for many hours and in extreme weather conditions to find small clearings marked by flares and cloth panels. 

Some areas were so small that as many as eight or nine runs were necessary before all the loads could be dropped, sometimes from heights of 100 feet.

After the capture of Rangoon, flights were mounted from advanced airfields when sorties could be mounted deep into Siam, Indo-China and Malaya in support of clandestine forces. 

Lewis flew his final sortie on August 3 1945 when he made eleven runs to drop his ‘packages’ over a clearing in southern Burma.

After serving at Air HQ Burma in a plans appointment, Lewis was released form the RAF in March 1946. 

He received the Air Efficiency Award.

After running a number of businesses in Ireland, he returned to London to establish his own company, Mailing and Mechanisation. 

He was later appointed President of the Business Equipment Trade Association.

He and his wife were very involved in village life at Green Street Green, including at St Mary’s Church, the Horticultural Society and, in particular, Sevenoaks Golf Club where Lewis was a Life President.

Larry Lewis married Vera Almond in 1941. She died in 2009 and he is survived by their daughter and two sons.

Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard.

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 • Last Modified: 24 June 2014, 19:32