Gordon Desmond Lush (OK 1941) died February 17, 2019

24th February, 1923 – 8th January, 2019

Gordon Desmond (Des) Lush died peacefully in his 96th year, on 8th January, 2019. Desmond had been in good health and living alone in the village of Kenton until 2017, when he moved into Sherrington House, a care home in nearby Ipswich. He is survived by his older brother, Brandon Lush. His older sister, Mrs. D.M. “Lush” Napier-Andrews predeceased him by three months.

Desmond was born on 24th February, 1923, in Upper Tooting, and was raised in Wimbledon, South West London, the son of Mr. and Mrs. B.S. Lush. He studied at King’s College School, both in the junior and senior schools. At the age of 18, on 17th October, 1941, he volunteered for the RAF, but was not called up until July the following year. After basic training in London, he was first posted to Ludlow, Shropshire, and then to No. 12 Initial Training Wing in St. Andrews, Scotland. There he learned navigation, weather forecasting and map reading, before moving on to Perth for flight training.

His first flight was on 5th December, 1942, in a Tiger Moth, with Flying Officer Kay. He took his first solo, of 10 minutes duration, after only 10 hours of dual flight time. While some of his fellow cadets were posted to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa, Desmond was sent to Canada on completion of his courses, as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. In March 1943, he boarded the Queen Elizabeth at Gourock, Scotland, for the perilous voyage to Halifax, Nova Scotia. After a brief stay at No. 31 Personnel Training Department in Moncton, New Brunswick, he took the long train journey to St. Catharines, Ontario, for Pilot Officer Training.

Although he was familiar with the Tiger Moths, after a month he was stood down for not making quick enough progress. “My take-offs were OK,” he told officials at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in nearby Hamilton, many years later, “But my landings were rubbish.” With a choice of either navigator or bomb aimer, he chose the latter, and was first sent to No. 149 Staging Post in Fingal, Ontario, and then to No. 7 in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. After completing his training he returned to the U.K. in May, 1944, and joined 625 Squadron at RAF Kelstern, Lincolnshire, as a bomb aimer/navigator.

He flew 31 missions, mainly night raids on cities such as Bonn, Hamburg, Cologne, Essen, Munich and Hanover, as well as oil refineries, installations and submarine workshops. His task was very dangerous, lying in the Perspex nose of a Lancaster bomber. Crews had a survival rate of less than 40 per cent, but Desmond flew all his missions with the same, mainly Commonwealth crew. They named their plane Wee Wally Wallaby after an Australian crew-mate. Two missions were aborted. “We had to dump the bombs into the North Sea,” he explained, “Luckily I didn’t hit anybody, though I did kill a few fish.”

His service included liaison duties in Romania where he met Josephine, the love of his life. Unfortunately, post war refugee restrictions ended their relationship, but he kept her photograph with him for the rest of his life and was buried with it. He never married. Desmond also served as adjutant at Rome Airfield and mustered out of the RAF with the rank of Flight Lieutenant and five medals.  In 2017, he received the Legion d’honneur, France’s highest order of merit, for his wartime service.

Post war, he became a Special Constable, and joined the Guardian Royal Exchange insurance company. He lived with his parents in Wimbledon. When they sold Stone Court on Murray Road, they all moved to a flat in Putney. His weekend duties as a Special, where he rose to the rank of Sergeant, took him to several of London’s famous street markets. His insurance company, later Guardian Assurance and then Axa, relocated to Ipswich in the 1970s and he moved his parents, now retired, to Lane End, Kenton. He looked after them until their deaths.

Desmond was very involved in the local community, where he was much loved. He was warden at All Saints’ Church, Kenton, and for 20 years drove the community bus. He was a member and past Chairman of both the Probus retiree organization and the local Royal British Legion. He was an active member of the RAF Association. He had a life long interest in classical music and enjoyed concerts well into his eighties. He travelled the world on many cruise ships.

A Celebration of Life for Desmond will be held at All Saints’ Church, Kenton, Suffolk, on 8th March, 2019, with a eulogy from Mr. Eddy Alcock, OBE, chairman of the Royal British Legion in Debenham.