Flying Officer Gerald Hood (100 Sqdn)
Royal Russell School Croydon
On Saturday the 19th May 2007 the Royal Russell School and the Old Russellians Committee paid a memorable and fitting tribute to one if its “old boys.” Many Old Russellians have given their lives on active service in the diverse theatres of conflict that are part of our history and all are listed in the extensively researched “Roll of Honour” which has only recently been fully completed. However, this particular day belonged to Gerald Hood, who was remembered in style at his old school, the place he knew as home.
The day commenced with a reception, Dr Jennings the headmaster greeted and welcomed us all to the school, at last, many of those who have contributed to telling the Hood story were able to meet for the first time and put faces to names. Excellent refreshments were next, followed by a moving service in the chapel. The eulogy and address was given by Mr. Brian Angel of the Old Russellians Committee who outlined the remarkable and tragic tale of F/O Hood to the assembled guests. Some of those present were intimately familiar with the events that took place in and around the town of Almelo, Eastern Holland, over sixty years ago, but many more were newly enthralled as the story unfolded.
At the end of the service, all present filed out of the chapel and made their way to the main front lawn to assemble around the symbolically crossed flags of Britain and Holland that stood proudly behind the shrouded memorial laid at the base of an oak sapling recently transplanted from the woods close to the execution site in Holland and kindly donated by the Zenderen Liberation Committee. After an address from the school chaplain dedicating the tree to the memory of F/O Gerald Hood and the general address of remembrance from Dr Jennings the headmaster, a lone bugler positioned high above on the roof parapet sounded a faultless, spine tingling last post. The following two minutes silence was broken only by the reveille from the bugler and as the school choir sang a lament, the Mayoress of Croydon unveiled the plaque at the base of the tree.
As everyone stood in silence, a party of four stepped forward bearing the wreath to be laid; Greg Harrison and myself for the 100 Squadron Association, flanked by serving officers from today’s 100 Squadron W/Cdr Darren Legg (Commanding Officer) and Flt/Lt Alistair Footitt, who both stood to attention in salute as the wreath was laid.
The service ended with the chaplain giving his blessing and right on cue, just a fraction of a second after his final amen an ear splitting roar came from above and behind as a single 100 Sqdn BAE Hawk flown by Sqdn/Ldr Richard Walker and F/O Chris Whitehair passed directly over our heads at 1000 ft and climbed away to the north on return to base at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire, only after succeeding in taking away the breath of all present. The moment of stunned silence and feeling of emotional electricity that accompanied the fading roar of the Hawk will forever remain with all who were present.
After further refreshments there was still more to come; back in the headmaster’s study Gerald Hood’s service medals (awarded, but for obvious reasons never presented) had only been recently acquired by the squadron, they had been mounted in a frame next to a service photograph of Hood in uniform, so they too were fittingly presented to the school by W/Cdr Legg.
On behalf of the Zenderen Liberation Committee, Mr. Martin Vloedbeld gave a moving speech dedicated to those who gave their all to help remove the burden of occupation from the Netherlands his words strongly emphasizing the bonds of friendship between our two respective nations. Mr Vloedbeld ended his speech by presenting the school with a beautiful glass plaque etched with the outline of a Lancaster and engraved with some well chosen words in memory the crew of LM658.
The Lancaster LM658 and her crew
MJ Vloedbeld-Wapenveld 2006
You served your country so proudly
Fighting for our freedom so high in the sky
The dangerous missions that you had to fly
Your life was taken so young and so sadly
To give us our freedom we live in today
No words can express our feelings
We will always remember you and your mates!
Cheerio old chap
We will watch you flying by.
These words are dedicated to Gerald Hood and the crew of Lancaster LM658.
Tea was again served before we returned to the chapel where all present were treated to a truly impressive performance of Henry Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” by the Royal Russell Chamber Choir and String Orchestra.
All of those who attended the Gerald Hood memorial were in full agreement that the staff and associates of the Royal Russell had given us a day to remember with organization and hospitality second to none. On a personal level it had been a great and unexpected honour for myself to help lay the wreath on behalf of 100 Sqdn, but most important of all Gerald Hood was “brought home” in a way that I could not have possibly hoped for on that hot August afternoon in 2001 when I was first confronted in that peaceful Dutch woodland with the name on a stone tablet of an English RAF officer whose life had ended some 56 years ago, so near to where I stood.
My drive back to Lancashire was made in silent, reflective thought!
Alan J. Barrow.