A Bomber Command veteran from Heage who leapt from a burning plane and spent 17 months as a prisoner of war has died at the age of 88.
Ted Cachart, who wrote a book about his time with the RAF, flew in Lancaster bombers as a wireless operator during the Second World War.
In January, 1944, he and his crew collided in mid-air over Germany with another Lancaster.
All of the men in the other plane died but Mr Cachart and his crew parachuted out and landed in trees.
Speaking to Blind Veterans UK shortly before his death Mr Cachart said: “ As I looked from the Astrodome I saw part of our aircraft disappear.
“In the collision I lost my helmet and oxygen mask and at that height, if you’re lucky, you have about two minutes before you pass out through lack of oxygen.
“I worked my way along the darkened fuselage and saw both gunners standing at the open door. I couldn’t talk to them and don’t remember if they gave me the thumbs up to bail out. I do know I sat on the steps and rolled out.”
The crew were captured by the enemy and Mr Cachart spent time in prison camps in Lithuania, Poland and Germany.
He said: “The German sergeant in the guardroom let me sit by a fire and shared his rations with me in the early hours of themorning before he locked me in a cell when he went off duty. Later five officers entered and one tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Liverpool fünf times’ and another said, ‘London acht times’. Another, who spoke good English, put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘You’re a very lucky young man as your war is over. We have to fight on’. Looking back there was no animosity. They were no different to us; they were just doing the job they were told to do. There was great respect between the RAF and the Luftwaffe.”
When he was in his late 70s, Mr Cachart decided to write a story of his life, which he called Ted the Lad – A Schoolboy Who Went to War, in the hope that it would inspire young people to do something memorable with their lives.
His fundraising work with the Bomber Command Memorial in London saw him twice invited to garden parties at Buckingham Palace.
Mr Cachart lived in Heage for the past 15 years after wife Betty died 22 years ago. As well as their daughter, Jackie Howard, 54, Mr Cachart had a son, Tony, 58, who lives in Brassington, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Mr Cachartwas taken to the Royal Derby Hospital, where he died surrounded by his family on September 9.
His funeral, on Sunday, September 15, was private family ceremony in Brimington, Chesterfield, and was followed by a party to celebrate his life at Wirksworth Cricket Club.