War hero’s story to be told as town honours its RAF links

The Clock Garden on Seaham's seafront, where memorial stones have already been laid in honour of the Army and Royal Navy.
The Clock Garden on Seaham's seafront, where memorial stones have already been laid in honour of the Army and Royal Navy.

The story of a war hero will be told as a new memorial is unveiled in honour of those who dedicated their lives to the RAF.

The Clock Garden on Seaham’s seafront has been undergoing a revamp, with stones already laid in tribute to townsfolk who served in the Army, as well as its connection with the Durham Artillery Volunteer Corps, and the Royal Navy, with its stone also acknowledging the link with HMS Seaham.

Reverend Les Hood, pictured in 2006, with his letter from the Defence Council praising his work with the Air Training Corps.

Reverend Les Hood, pictured in 2006, with his letter from the Defence Council praising his work with the Air Training Corps.

The unveiling ceremony on Saturday will also mark 100 years since the RAF was launched when the Royal Flying Corp and the Royal Naval Air Service merged.

It will feature a reading about the late Reverend Les Hood, a teacher, miner and curate of St John’s Church, who was a flight sergeant in June 1944 when the Lancaster Bomber he was in was shot down over France.

He spent three months in hiding, with the help of locals and members of the French Resistance, and was grilled by the country’s authorities who feared he was a German.

In time he was flown to London, where he finally found out two of his colleagues had died in the air attack.

This will complete the garden with all three memorials.

Dave McKenna

Of the others survivors, pilot Splinte Spierenberg was captured by the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp, but survived, while navigator Bill Foley and engineer Harold Siddons evaded capture - Siddons went on to appear in The Dam Busters film.

Rev Hood, who died in 2011 aged 87, spent another two years in service before he was demobbed.

He founded Seaham’s Air Cadets, with one of its members to be tasked with reading his story at the unveiling.

The revamp of the garden had been supported by Seaham Town Council and led by the Seaham Remember Fund, which has bought the stones with the help of donations and has previously worked on the Remembrance Day displays in front of the Tommy statue for the last two years.

Dave McKenna in front of the pebble display created in front of the Tommy statue by the Seaham Remember Then Fund.

Dave McKenna in front of the pebble display created in front of the Tommy statue by the Seaham Remember Then Fund.

Dave McKenna, who founded the fund is also a town councillor, said: “It will be dedicated as we tell his local story and if you look at it, it’s like a war film in its own right.

“If you look into what happened to Les, it’s really unbelievable what he went through.

“The stone has been done in black granite and they all match and we want it to look its very best.

“This will complete the garden with all three memorials.”

The ceremony at the garden, on the corner of North Terrace and North Railway Street, will begin at 10.30am.

It will also feature the RAF Association’s standards and will be attended by members of the RAF Reserve and Mayor of Seaham Sonia Forster.