Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home Archive People

Europe's victory bittersweet for pilot Bill

Retired pilot was only five when his war hero father crashed and died in Sicily

Published 12/05/2015

Bill Henderson
Bill Henderson
Bill Henderson's late father, Flying Officer Billy Henderson, who died when his plane crashed on take-off in Sicily in 1943

It's a bittersweet commemoration of the Victory in Europe anniversary for retired pilot Bill Henderson (75).

For it brings back memories of the father he hardly knew - Flying Officer Billy Henderson, who was killed in Sicily in December 1943 when his Beau Fighter aircraft crashed on take-off.

Henderson senior died a WWII hero at the age of 27 after bringing down at least three enemy aircraft as a member of 108 Squadron RAFVR in his all too brief career.

Bill and his sister Anne took their mother Joan to his grave in Sicily before her death.

"That, of course, was a sad occasion, but being there brought us closer," he recalls.

"I was only five when dad lost his life, leaving my mother to raise Anne and I on her own," explains Henderson junior.

"I don't remember anything about him, except that he was a brave man of whom I am proud."

Billy Henderson's name is one of those engraved on a plaque of war veterans at Stormont.

Undeterred by what happened to his father - or perhaps inspired by his exploits - Bill Henderson, who grew up in the Cavehill district of Belfast, joined the RAF and flew Beverley transport planes for six years.

He then joined Aer Lingus as a civilian pilot and flew passenger planes around the world for 29 years.

He ended his flying career with the CargoLux line of Luxembourg.

"I had a brief spell with Singapore Airlines and I met my second wife Sally, who is Chinese, in Singapore," he adds. He has three grown-up children from his first marriage - Kevin, Andrew and Amanda and a step-daughter Sabrina.

Bill recalls that while his father was away fighting the war, he was a little boy gazing up at the dark skies during enemy attacks on Belfast.

"I remember the searchlights lighting up the heavens and the barrage balloons and wondered if the father I didn't know would ever come home. He never did. I'm delighted to join with friends like former pilot Paddy Crowther in the Air Crew Association to celebrate the VE Anniversary, but this is definitely a bittersweet time."

Don't worry Nicholas, upsetting Prince means you're doing your job

I've a piece of advice today for BBC Royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell, who appears to be disliked by Prince Charles.

You're never a good journalist, Nicholas, until you upset someone and they stop talking to you.

In my case there's a lady out there who hasn't spoken to me for nigh on 15 years since she took exception to something I wrote about her.

I haven't a notion what those terrible words of mine were all that time ago, but we had a stormy row over them and, of course, I never apologised. Fact is I'm only recalling the nearly forgotten and petty drama now because of the Witchell incident.

Nicholas, who began his career at Broadcasting House in Belfast, should remember that Charles will need him before he needs the Prince.

Sadly, Prince William appears to shun Witchell when he can, too. Not a good way for a future king to behave.

Belfast Telegraph

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph