Mission continues for ex-fighter pilot ace
WAR veteran Bill Cullerton is still a man on a mission. But for the Second World War fighter ace the shape of his cause has changed. Speaking in the shadow of the war memorial to the American 355th Fighter Group at Steeple Morden on Friday morning, he sai
WAR veteran Bill Cullerton is still a man on a mission.
But for the Second World War fighter ace the shape of his cause has changed.
Speaking in the shadow of the war memorial to the American 355th Fighter Group at Steeple Morden on Friday morning, he said: "I am on a mission and that mission is to honour our fallen comrades and I will do that whenever I get the opportunity."
And he stressed: "We have to instil that memory into our children and our children's children.
"That's my mission."
In those short sentences he captured the atmosphere of the memorial ceremony.
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And to emphasise the importance of remembering the past a group of pupils from Steeple Morden School attended the service to demonstrate the link between the past and today.
Bill Cullerton and his colleagues, Robert Kuhnert and Julius Moseley were making a return to Steeple Morden to launch an appeal to restore the tower at St Catherine's Church in Litlington.
The church was important to the American pilots as it served as a landmark which put them in line to return to the air base.
To help towards the costs of the restoration work a painting of Bill Cullerton in his P51D Mustang - Miss Steve - had been commissioned and then produced in a limited number of prints.
During the visit, however, Bill had suffered a mild stroke which saw him detained in Addenbrooke's hospital.
But he was determined to be at the memorial service and he described the episode in war-time combat language.
"In a dog fight you can't relax for a moment because then your opponent will have you.
"That's what happened to me. My opponent though he had me, but I didn't give up and I will not give up," he said.
Indeed, the words were appropriate for a man who had seen so much combat during the war and was eventually captured after a crash landing while returning from a mission over enemy territory.
The three veterans were part of the more than 2,000 US personnel based at Steeple Morden from July 1943 to April 1945.
The pilots were involved in escort duty during day-time bombing raids across occupied Europe and Germany.
In a short address, Bob Kuhnert spoke of his admiration of the Britain during the war when "the will and the spirit of the people didn't break when they stood alone".
To mark the occasion a display from a Mustang P51 was given at the end of the service.