Jet 'flypast' is fitting tribute to former RAF pilot

The Westmorland Gazette: Basil and ‘Johnny’ Appleyard on their wedding day Basil and ‘Johnny’ Appleyard on their wedding day

A FORMER RAF pilot who served in World War II and the Cold War has died aged 91.

Basil Appleyard was born in Harrow in 1922 but lived in Sedbergh, in his wife’s family home, from 1975.

On the outbreak of the Second World War, Basil initially went to work in Sheffield’s steel industry but joined the RAF in 1942, saying it was because he liked the uniform.

He was sent to Canada for pilot training and arrived back in England shortly after VE Day. He was demobbed in 1948 and worked for a time selling insurance before rejoining the RAF in 1952.

While stationed at Leuchars, near St Andrews, he met Eva Mary Johnson – known as ‘Johnny’ – a Women’s Auxiliary Air Force member who was also stationed there. The two were married at St Andrew’s Church in Sedbergh, Johnny’s home town, in 1953.

Basil was posted to Germany where, in 1955, he survived bailing out of a Meteor using a parachute after a mid-air collision with another jet. He was later posted to RAF Coltishall, near Norwich, but as he neared retirement, Basil and Johnny took the decision to live in her family house in Highfield Road, Sedbergh.

While stationed in Wiltshire, Basil designed and planned the central heating system for the house and installed it as RAF commitments permitted.

The work was completed in 1975 and Pendeen became the home for the couple, their sons Brian and Roy and Johnny’s mother Mary, who had lived there since 1945.

Mr Appleyard retired from the air force in 1955 and had various jobs including a brief spell working for Pearl Assurance, collecting premiums from remote places around Sedbergh.

He also worked for J J Martins for several years, repairing small electrical items – a job he enjoyed thanks to his interest in gadgets.

There is, for example, a television set still in the Highfield Road house that he made from surplus war components.

Basil remained at the house following his wife’s death in 1982, pursuing his interests in gadgets, photography and cryptic crosswords until his death in December.

A funeral service was held at St Andrew’s, led by the Rev Andy McMullon, Vicar of Sedbergh, who was himself a chaplain in the RAF for 23 years.

At the service two RAF hymns were sung and – at the exact moment of the interment in Sedbergh cemetery – the peace was disturbed as a military jet flew low overhead and performed a noisy turn down into Dentdale, a fitting tribute the family loved.

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