The Christmas bells are muffled today as a Second World War hero, who passed away aged 97, is mourned. He was former RAF squadron leader Tom Long, who flew 87 operations in Wellingtons and Mosquitoes in raids on enemy territory, including 25 missions over Berlin at the height of the war.
And at Tom’s funeral service in Fortwilliam Presbyterian Church in Belfast, before he was laid to rest in Carnmoney Cemetery, his son, Ian, read his father’s favourite poem — an Irish Airman Foresees His Death by WB Yeats.
Its opening lines are: “I know that I shall meet my fate/Somewhere among the clouds above.”
But Tom Long ended his war safely, against all the odds, far away from the dark clouds in which he might have perished, the Rev Tom McMullan reminded mourners.
This much-loved hero was one of 126 young men who joined up in the RAF Volunteer Reserve when war broke out in 1939. Only one of the 126 now survives.