Courageous RAF veteran who survived all of the Second World War and helped cripple Nazis' nuclear weapon plan dies, aged 99

AN RAF veteran who fought throughout the Second World War and was involved in the effort to cripple the Nazis’ nuclear weapons programme has died, aged 99.

Monday, 22nd November 2021, 1:10 pm
Charles Eldred pictured dur a veterans' lunch on South Parade Pier in 2019 during the D-Day commemorations. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (060619-39)

Heroic Charles Eldred, of Waterlooville, risked his life throughout the battle against the Germans to deliver devastating blows to the Third Reich’s ambitions to dominate the world.

He volunteered to join the RAF as a teenager in 1939, eventually becoming a navigator on Lancaster bombers with 83 Squadron.

Despite having been given a life expectancy of three months, courageous ‘Chas’, cheated death to survive the entire war – living through three crash landings in the process.

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Charles Eldred was a Flight Lieutenant responsible for navigating his Lancaster bomber onto its targets during the Second World War. Here he is pictured in his uniform.

Aged just 22, the former Flight Lieutenant was tasked with leading his Lancaster on a daring raid against a German factory in Norway producing heavy water – a key ingredient to creating an atomic bomb.

Flying out of RAF Coningsby, home of the legendary ‘Dambusters’ from 617 Squadron – which now fly the F-35 stealth jet, Chas ordered his crew to fly as low as possible to dodge the hail of Nazi anti-aircraft fire to deliver his bomb.

It was a raid he revealed to his nephew, Chris Brown, after years of silence about his military service.

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The imposing Lancaster bomber flying in the skies

Chris, 60, of Alton, said: ‘He was flying along and could see all these planes being shot out the sky. He said to the pilot “the only way we can get in there is to get as low as we could possibly go”.

‘I remember him telling me he felt like he could touch the sea water, it was that low. They were the old guys and veterans – they were 22. The pilot went in. My uncle told him to bring the plane up to drop the bombs which they did.

‘The only way they got out was the same way they went in. The pilot turned it upside down and flew upside about 2ft above the water.’

Chris added: ‘He was one of the very lucky ones that survived the whole war… He was incredibly brave. His life expectancy was three months when he joined.’

Chas died peacefully in Ranvilles Nursing Home, in Titchfield on October 18, with his funeral set to take place on Friday at Oaks Crematorium in Havant.

He was born on August 6, 1922, in Maidenhead, Berkshire and was the second-oldest of four children.

He left home at 16 to become an engineer in London, working at the Woolwich Arsenal before joining the RAF.

During his time with the air force, Chas was involved in the infamous carpet bombing by the Allies of the German city of Dresden, which killed up to 25,000 civilians.

It was a mission his family said haunted his life, with Chris adding: ‘That affected him quite badly. He knew he was killing civilians which he didn’t like.’

After being demobbed in 1946, Chas went into teaching, eventually becoming the head teacher of Sandhurst Junior School, in Catford, London – a position he held for 25 years until 1985.

Chris’s wife, Tracie said Chas had been an ‘inspirational’ teacher and had touched the lives of so many children.

She added the Dresden bombings had been a painful memory. ‘They were sending their very young men to drop bombs on civilians,’ she said. ‘That haunted him.

‘It was something that had to be done and he was brave enough to do it but it didn’t mean it was something he wanted to do.

‘But he was obviously meant to survive for a reason; the reason was he went on to become a teacher and inspirational headmaster.’

When he retired, he moved to Waterlooville with his wife Edith, who died in 2016 after having been married to Chas for 75 years.

Chas’s funeral will be attended by a bugler from the RAF and a standard bearer from the RAF Association.

Chris added: ‘It’s hard to summarise a guy’s life for 99 years; he was just a good man. There wasn’t a bad bone in his body.’

Chas’s ashes are due to be spread alongside his wife’s at Durdle Door, in Dorset, where the pair enjoyed holidaying.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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