Family, friends and officers gather for funeral of war veteran from Stanion
Family, friends and officers gathered to pay tribute to a war veteran who has died at the age of 97.
Officers from RAF Marham were among those honouring the life of William John Whitsey Linaker, who was known as Jack, at his funeral at Kettering Crematorium yesterday (Wednesday).
Jack was born in Northampton in June 1919 before moving to Corby and he trained as an air gunner after joining the RAF during the Second World War.
He was posted to 9 Squadron at RAF Bardney, near Lincoln, and became the tail gunner in a crew with lifelong friend Bunny Rothwell.
On 21 December, 1944, when returning from an operational sortie, his Lancaster crash-landed and Jack’s rear turret was severed from the rest of the sliding Lancaster.
Jack was catapulted into the air and landed in a potato field without his flying boots, which had come off.
Bunny found him and they looked around for the rest of the crew, but sadly they found two of their crew dead and their pilot was missing – he had been catapulted through the cockpit roof, still attached to his seat, but was found alive.
Jack returned to flying a few weeks later and was promoted to flight sergeant and then warrant officer.
He survived the war and married Theresa, who died several years ago.
Rob Sutton, a retired RAF officer, said: “Both Jack and I are members of the 9th Squadron Association.
“Because Jack lived in Stanion, we used to take him backwards and forwards to RAF Marham for the reunions.
“We have done that for a number of years, and because of that we always kept in touch to say hello and see how he was.
“He was an absolute gem.
“It was only this year when he had his fall that he went downhill.”
Jack spent most of his life in Corby and had a bungalow in Stanion, where his neighbours would check in on him and help with his shopping.
Mr Sutton added: “We wanted to give him the send-off that he deserves.
“We are trying to honour one of our own.”
Dozens of people turned out for Jack’s funeral yesterday.
The hearse carrying his coffin draped in a Union Jack flag was met by four standard bearers at the gates of the crematorium who then processed in front of the vehicle.
Officers from RAF Marham acted as pallbearers to carry the coffin in as Vera Lynn’s The White Cliffs of Dover played at the start of the service, which was led by the Revd David Saint.
Revd Saint paid tribute to Jack before Group Captain Alan Ferguson, who is vice president of IX (B) Squadron Association, spoke of Jack’s time in the RAF.
He recounted several tales from Jack’s life, including Jack’s great friendship with Bunny Rothwell and their love of popping to the pub together, as well as the huge risks both men took by taking to the skies during the war.
Group Capt Ferguson finished by saying what a privilege it was to have known Jack.
The Last Post was performed for the committal before Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again was played as the service came to a close.
Donations from Jack’s funeral will go to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.
Jack died on October 20.