The RAF Association is saddened to hear of the death of D-Day veteran and President of our County Fermanagh branch, Bill Eames.
Bill, who recently received the British Empire Medal for services to the RAF and for his community work in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, was one of the last remaining pilots to have taken part in the D-Day airborne operations.
Early on 6 June 1944, he helped to tow gliders to Normandy as part of Operation Deadstick. The troops onboard the gliders went on to secure Pegasus Bridge, limiting a German counter-attack following the Allied invasion of Normandy.
A few months later, Bill took part in Operation Market Garden, which, at that point, was the war’s largest airborne operation. He dropped glider-borne soldiers into Arnhem in the Netherlands, but, on the third day, was badly injured when his bomber was hit by anti-aircraft fire.
Despite being seriously injured, Bill, originally from Enniskillen, helped the other crew members to bring their bomber home.
After a long period in hospital, he returned to active flying duty with 196 Squadron, flying Short Stirling bombers. His final wartime missions included helping to transport Allied troops to Norway and Denmark to oversee the disarmament of the German forces.
After the war, Bill worked as an air traffic controller for the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
In 2016, the French Government awarded Bill their highest honour, the Légion d’honneur, for his service during the D-Day Landings.
Until recently, Bill, who was 97 and one of the longest-serving members of our County Fermanagh branch, took part in the RAF Association’s annual Wings Appeal collection. He also gave talks to local schoolchildren about his wartime experiences.
County Fermanagh Branch Chairman, Ray Hall, said:
“Bill was our president for 18 years and was totally committed to the Association. His quiet determination, guidance and selflessness was admired by all who met him. People who talked with Bill about his wartime memories were always struck by his modesty and humility.
“Bill made a huge contribution to the work of our branch and to the wider Association, and he will be missed very much by all of us.”
Bill is pictured during one of his visits to a local primary school, where he spoke to pupils about his wartime experiences.