Geoff Gott admits there has been someone’s memory almost walking alongside him during his 84 years of life.
It’s his cousin Leonard John Porter, known as Jack, who died aged 22 when the Mosquito II he was piloting went into the sea returning from France.
Geoff, who lives in Spalding Road, Holbeach, says the family subsequently uncovered the story of Jack’s heroism on that fateful day in 1943.
After successfully ditching the plane into the sea, Jack tied his gunner, who was too weak to float on his own, to the wing of the plane.
Having ensured his gunner’s safety Jack was himself unable to cling on to the wreckage and was drowned. His body was never recovered, but his name is recorded on the grave of his grandparents, William John Webb and Rose Ellen Webb, in Moulton churchyard.
Jack was the older cousin Geoff admired, the one who, in his final year at Moulton Grammar School, became head boy and captained both football and cricket teams.
He was said to be academically brilliant, graduating from Trinity College Cambridge in 1940 before volunteering for the RAF the following year.
He qualified as a pilot officer with 264 Squadron and was promoted to flight lieutenant in 1943, shortly before his death.
Geoff said: “Jack would have been about 92 now. We were close. He always used to come and see us down at Moulton Seas End whenever he had a chance because he was very fond of my mother.
“Everything he did he was good at. He used to play the piano and my mother used to sing.
“I remember his mother telling me Jack was missing. I don’t think I said anything. I was very quiet. I felt dreadful, absolutely dreadful. He was so young, a month short of 23.
“It has sort of increased as I have got older. I think a lot more about it now than I used to, but I think he’s been there in the background through my life.”
Amazingly, the gunner whose life was saved by Jack’s heroism lived, although he was captured by the Germans. He went on to survive the war in captivity and afterwards went to visit Jack’s parents to tell them what had happened to their son.
Jack is also commemorated on the Moulton Grammar School memorial in Moulton Parish Church.
Geoff’s life took an entirely different direction. After studying agriculture, he worked as a representative for an agricultural merchant in this area for many years. Geoff then taught organ and keyboard in his own home and in other people’s houses, until aged 75.
Geoff said: “Jack is just one, isn’t he, and they were all brave. It’s nice to remember, particularly at Armistice time, and I have lots of memories of Jack.”