The Northern Ireland Veterans' Support Office would like to wish Royal Air Force Veteran Bill Leckie a very happy 100th birthday today!
We have been sent a short biography of Bill's RAF career, where he played a significant role during WW2:
Bill was born in Glasgow, on 23 June 1921 and joined the Royal Air Force in June 1941. He started his flying training, on the 4th of April 1942, at Stoke Orchard near Cheltenham on Tiger Moths. He went to Canada in May 1942 for advanced training and then to the USA where he flew the Stearman advanced trainer and, at then on to Pensacola, Florida where he learned to operate Catalina Flying boats. Back in the UK, Bill was expecting to join a Coastal Command squadron flying Catalinas, however, he was transferred to Bomber Command and a conversion course on to Whitleys at Kinloss Scotland in February 1944.
He joined 77 Squadron at Full Sutton on the 19th July 1944 flying the Halifax, flying 6 bombing missions, one of these being the bombing of the Flying Bomb Factory at Russesheim, before transferring to 148 Special Duties squadron on the 19th of August 1944 and being posted to Brindisi.
The now Pilot Officer Bill Leckie was involved in the dropping of supplies (guns, ammunition and food) to the Polish during the Warsaw uprising. This was a costly mission and many aircraft were lost. For his efforts in air-dropping supplies during this period, Bill was awarded the Polish Cross of Valour (KW).
Bill was the pilot for Operation Ebensburg on Sunday 8th April 1945 using a specially modified Halifax of 148 Special Duties Squadron. This mission involved dropping four SOE agents and their equipment near Alt Aussee salt mine in the Austrian Alps. Their mission was to secure and protect 6,755 items of the world’s greatest works of art that had been looted and stored by the Germans as they swept across Europe.
With the allied forces closing in, the Germans had planned to blow up the entire store to prevent the artworks from falling into the hands of the liberators. Once on the ground, the four agents linked up with local resistance fighters, and the mine and its valuable contents were eventually secured, the explosives made safe and the entire cache taken into the safe keeping of the 80th US Infantry Division as the German occupation of Europe crumbled. This mission was portrayed in a somewhat imaginative fashion in the film The Monument Men.
Bill Leckie remained with 148 Squadron until 18th May 1945 when he was posted to Cairo with 216 Squadron and later 78 Squadron in Transport Command. Bill retired from the Royal Air Force in September 1946.
Post war, Bill flew with Airwork in Perth and subsequently and for many years with Aer Lingus, retiring as a captain on the Boeing 737.
A very happy birthday to you, Bill!