WWII flying ace Jim Weston has been given the key to the door at his local pub and a free pint each visit for the rest of his life after 60 years loyal service.
The owners of the recently refurbished Ring O’ Bells pub on Church Street, Warrington, decided to reward the former RAF Pilot in recognition of his service to country and loyal custom.
Now aged 95, Jim is the last surviving member of 23 Squadron and completed 35 missions in a Mosquito plane during the war and then flew 220 flights on Dakota planes during the Berlin Airlift from June 1948 to August 1949.
He has now been “given the key to the door” at the pub he has been a regular at for 60 years during the 70th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift and the 100th anniversary of the RAF.
Ring O Bells assistant manager Paula Crowther said: “When we heard about Jim’s remrkable service in the RAF and his loyal custom at the pub we decided to reward him with the key tot he door and a free pint on every visit for the rest of his life.
“He is a great character, remakable for his age and is a regular at our weekly pub quizes. It is the least we could do in recognition of his loyal service not only for his country but also for his local pub.”
Jim from Willis Street, Warrington, originally joined the RAF in 1941 and on completion of training was sent as a pilot with 23 Squadron at Little Snoring. Flying Intruder flights their job was to target German night fighters over North West Europe.
Jim was also recently special guest at the packed out lecture marking the 70th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift he was part of, presented by Burtonwood Association founder and honorary lifetime president Aldon Ferguson at Gullivers World, Warrington, next to the association’s heritage centre.
Aldon said: “This year is the 70th anniversary of the Soviets blocking all road, rail, river and canal access to the city, totally besieging it and trying to force the British, American and French forces out.
“Fortunately the air routes were kept open and the three Allies decided to provide everything for the city by air. This was very difficult so long ago as there were no purpose-built transport aircraft and the world was recovering from all out war. A massive operation, known as the Berlin Airlift, was started and everything from coal, flour, newsprint, food, fuel, clothing etc had to be flown in. Massive building projects were necessary at the airports and a new one had to be built. Aircraft of this period had to be regularly maintained and all the American aircraft forming part of the Lift were serviced at Burtonwood.
“Burtonwood was only just being re-opened by the Americans after WWII and immediately had to go into overdrive working 24 hours a day 7 days a week and eventually servicing over 1,500 aircraft in a little over a year. Without Burtonwood it could not have happened!”
Jim never flew out of Burtonwood during the airlift but did visit a couple of times during the war.
Recalling his many missions to Berlin he said: “I used to take things like flour, coal and medical supplies and we would then would bring containers or people out to live outside the Russian zone.”
He sometimes worked 23 hour days from his base at Lunbeck, with two daily flights taking up around eight hours.
Following his loyal service Jim was told for his final three months he could choose where to be posted. He said he weanted to be based near his home town of Warrington.
Somewhat puzzled he found himself posted at Cranwell just about as far away from Warrington you could be! He later discovered that Cranwell was near Waddington!
On retirement Jim returned to work at Chadwick’s paper mill at Howley.