Ringmer RAF veteran who cheated death several times dies aged 101

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An RAF veteran who lived in Ringmer for all of his life has died at the age of 101.

Arthur Howell served as an aeroplane engine fitter for the Royal Air Force in the Second World War.

Serving in Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Italy, he cheated death several times.

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A re-arming exercise on a Spitfire once nearly went disastrously wrong. The plane was supposedly out of ammunition but the armour had forgot to check and as Arthur drove a fuel tanker towards it machine gun bullets suddenly smashed through the windscreen – missing his head by inches.

Arthur Howell at 100. Picture: Peter CrippsArthur Howell at 100. Picture: Peter Cripps
Arthur Howell at 100. Picture: Peter Cripps

On another occasion a Blenheim he had just hitched a ride aboard was found to have a tail plane so badly corroded it could have fallen off at any moment in mid-air. The bomber was immediately scrapped.

And Arthur would usually join comrades on a weekly trip to Alexandria but on one fateful occasion told them he had to stay at the base to write letters home.

The truck his friends returned in was struck by a Lancaster which developed engine failure on take off just as they crossed the runway. They were all killed.

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Arthur died peacefully at Lydfords Care Home in East Hoathly on July 17, his family confirmed. He was one month short of 102.

Arthur Howell with his sons, Martin (left) and Mike. Picture: Peter CrippsArthur Howell with his sons, Martin (left) and Mike. Picture: Peter Cripps
Arthur Howell with his sons, Martin (left) and Mike. Picture: Peter Cripps

He is survived by his two sons, Mike, 73, and Martin, 72, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

This week, his son, Mike, said that his dad will be remembered for his ‘great sense of fun and love of talking to people’.

“We did many things together, including going to Venice and Canada,” said Mike. “He knew an awful lot of people and we have received lots of cards and tributes, with people saying what a lovely man he was.”

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Arthur left school on a Friday at the age of 13, and started work as a butcher’s boy in the village on the Monday. A year later he was able to satisfy his love of all things mechanical when he started work at Ringmer Motor Works as a mechanic.

His association with the RAF was not confined to the war years – he was a founder member of the Tangmere Aviation Museum.

He was also a founder member of the Royal Air Force Association Lewes branch for whom he did much fundraising.

After the war Arthur went back to the village’s motor works and in 1967, launched his own car maintenance business in Ringmer. He carried on working until he was well into his 80s.

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His funeral is being held on Tuesday, August 18, at Ringmer Church, but is by invitation only as numbers are restricted. Family flowers only, but donations can be made to the Salvation Army or RAF Benevolent Fund via Grace - Independent Funeral Directors, 74 Springett Avenue, Ringmer or www.gracefuneraldirectors.co.uk.

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