Much-loved Burnley war hero honoured as he celebrates his 100th birthday
A hero Second World War veteran who served with the RAF has been honoured by Burnley Borough Council during his centenary birthday celebrations for his contribution to protecting Britain during its darkest hour.
Loved ones and civic dignitaries, including Burnley Mayor Coun. Wajid Khan, councillors Lian Pate and Cosima Towneley gathered socially-distantly outside the home of Mr Stephen Bacon, to present him with a certificate recognising his acts of heroism during the war.
Delighted to receive the Certificate of Honour from Coun. Khan, Mr Bacon, whose plane was shot down behind enemy lines in 1943 as he was captured and imprisoned by the Germans, also enjoyed tucking into his favourite chocolate eclairs to mark his milestone birthday! He said he was "overwhelmed" by the honour and "never expected it".
When asked the secret to his longevity, the centenarian replied: "I have no idea. It's just a gift from him up there!"
Acknowledging and appreciating the struggles and sacrifices faced by the veterans, Coun. Khan said: "It's a privilege for me to be able to present this Certificate of Honour to Mr Bacon, an RAF veteran from the Second World War who helped saved this country and whose bravery and dedication in the face of terrible dangers we should all be grateful for.
"It's difficult for our generation to understand what people went through during the war. We should all take time to remember their sacrifices and endurance and never forget the great service they performed for their country."
Born and brought up in Barton-upon-Humber, the youngest of five brothers and two sisters, Mr Bacon left school aged 14 and took a job at the local rope works . He also worked in the local brickworks and cycle factory before enlisting with the RAF in 1939. He was based near Blackpool for part of his RAF training, where he met his wife-to-be-Alice, who was in Blackpool on a short holiday with her sister, Mary.
Mr Bacon served with 12 Squadron, based at RAF Wickenby, in Lincolnshire. He served as a mid-upper gunner in a Lancaster Bomber. His plane was shot down in January 1943, and he was captured along with the rest of the five man crew after parachuting out. The other three Lancaster Bombers and their crew that left Wickenby that night were never found. Initially it was thought that his crew had also had a similar fate and a memorial service was held for him in Barton Church. However, it was later announced that the crew had in fact survived. Stephen spent the rest of the war in a prison camp close to the Polish border. He escaped three times only to be re-captured a dew days later. Towards the end of the war he was in the Long March across Germany, before eventually being flown home to RAF Cosford for rehabilitation, weighing a mere seven stones.
He came to Burnley in 1946 to marry Alice and worked mainly in the weaving industry, eventually finishing up as manager of Courtaulds George Street Mill.
Mr Bacon, who has a daughter Marilyn, two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, hobbies were mainly walking and reading. Sadly, his failing eyesight has put paid to the reading, but he still likes to walk, though not too far these days!
The family's original plans for the 100th birthday celebrations included a large gathering, however, that all changed due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Mr Bacon's son-in-law, Stuart Mitchell, commented: "We were planning a major family reunion in Barton, with possibly visits to Wickenby airfield, the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln, and to RAF Conningsby, where he once had the pleasure of meeting HRH Prince William. All of this is now on hold due to Covid restrictions."