Worthing war hero, a pilot in Bomber Command, dies aged 102

A distinguished RAF pilot who flew with Bomber Command during the Second World War has died at the age of 102.

Squadron Leader Bernard 'Max' Meyer DFC at his 100th birthday party. Photo by Derek Martin DM17840345
Squadron Leader Bernard 'Max' Meyer DFC at his 100th birthday party. Photo by Derek Martin DM17840345

Bernard Meyer, known as Max, came for a long-standing Worthing family and died at Care for Veterans on January 4, 2020.

He is remembered as a war hero, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross when he was just 21 years old, as a gentleman and a true friend.

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Jocelyn-Anne Harvey, granddaughter, said: “He was very intelligent. He commanded respect but he had a sense of humour. He was very much a gentleman.

Max and his beloved wife Merva

“He kept up with the times. I taught him how to use a computer in 2004 and he read a newspaper every day.

“He was really kind and a true friend. He had determination and was still doing fencing, bashing in posts, at the age of 95.”

Max was born on August 17, 1917, in Elm Grove, Worthing, where his grandmother, Sarah Henderson, ran a laundry. It was here that West Worthing Evangelical Church was founded in 1900 and Sarah then gave the funding for a purpose-built chapel in Rugby Road, which opened in 1912.

Max went to Steyne School and talked of enjoying rollerskating at The Kursaal and fishing off Worthing Pier as a boy. He then won a scholarship to Woodbridge School in Suffolk.

Max during his second stint in the RAF

He had talked of joining the Rhodesia Police and also thought he might become a surgeon, as he was good with his hands, but he joined the RAF in 1937, having seen a recruitment poster in London.

He learned to fly Tiger Moths in Scotland and was with No. 144 Squadron at RAF Hemswell in Lincolnshire when war broke out.

Max was one of the first to fly the Handley Page Hampden bombers and due to the design of the plane, had to learn just by watching, before taking it up himself.

Jocelyn-Anne said: “There was room for only one person, so he was up there on his own. He said once, he was flying for nine hours solid and he was so stiff, they had to lift him out of the plane when he got back.”

His Canadian navigator, Pilot Officer William Tudhope, developed an ingenious way to heat up the cold meat pies they were regularly issued, by tying them in a bag to the hot-air pipe used for heating the cabin.

Jocelyn-Anne said: “When they saw the White Cliffs of Dover, they knew they could have their pies.”

In 1940, Max was recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross by Air Vice Marshal Harris for his great courage and devotion to duty. He was later also awarded the DFC bar.

Jocelyn-Anne said: “When you think of the responsibility he had, and he was only 21. He had a natural aptitude for it and tenacity.”

By the time Max left the RAF in 1946, he had flown 62 missions and reached the rank of Wing Commander.

Max’s wife Merva, who he married in 1951, was in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and they met at an RAF party. They went on to have four children, a boy and three girls.

Max worked with his cousin for six years before going back into the RAF in an administrative role, at a lower rank. He remained in the forces until he retired as Squadron Leader, working in the careers information service, in 1972.

Max then went to work at Bishop Luffa School in Chichester, were he was bursar until he retired in the early 1980s.

In retirement, he was involved with the Aircrew Association and was president of the West Sussex branch from 2002 onwards.

Jocelyn-Anne said: “The RAF was still a huge connection for him but it was difficult to get him to talk about his role in the Second World War.”

She treasures the times she visited him in his shed for a chat and when he was not there, he would often be busy working on his Triumph Dolomite or growing tomatoes.

Max and Merva were regulars at the Royal Air Forces Association Club, in Ashacre Lane, Worthing, and had many friends. The couple were very close and were married for more than 65 years but, sadly, she died a week before his 100th birthday in 2017.

Max was looked after at Care for Veterans in the last three weeks of his life.

Jocelyn-Anne said: “He was really glad that they took him. He felt he would fit in there and he enjoyed his time there.”

The funeral service will be at The Gordon Chapel at Ian Hart Funeral Services, in Sompting Road, Worthing, on Friday, January 31, at 12pm. Donations to Care for Veterans.