4/8/1916 – 1/8/2016
John, together with his wife, has been a resident of Sand Road for the past 29 years.
Born and educated in Surrey, John was offered a commission as a flight observer/navigator with the RAF in July 1939.
In July 1940 he married Joan. Initially they lived at Bicester where John was based at the neighbouring RAF airfield, continuing his training on Blenheim Bombers prior to a posting to Bomber Command with XV Squadron and later converting to Wellington Bombers. John completed no less than 26 bombing raids over occupied France and into Germany before, on 15th February 1941, when returning from a bombing raid over Germany his aircraft was shot down. Only 2 of the crew of 6 survived.
John was reported as missing in action and it was several months before Joan received news of his survival.
John was captured and spent over 4 years in German prisoner of war camps. For much of this time John was at the famous Stalag Luft 3 camp and shared a room with Roger Bushell who later led the “Great Escape”. This camp was also the location of the “wooden horse” escape – which also became the subject of a later book and film.
In January 1945, with less than one hours notice, the prisoners were made to march away from the advancing Russians. For 5 days, with no suitable clothes or footwear, John endured marching in freezing conditions across what is now Poland and Germany. Many died on this journey from exhaustion. John is personally mentioned in a book on this march entitled “Forced March to Freedom” by Robert Buckham.
At the age of 29 John’s request to be demobbed from the RAF was granted. He joined the cable manufacturing company Glovers Ltd which later became B.I.C.C., and stayed with them until he retired as branch sales manager at Maidstone.
Just a couple of years after the war, John and Joan had a bungalow built in Sussex. Three sons followed in the subsequent 5 years and this became the family home.
LAMBERHURST COUPLE AWARDED CIVIC
John and Barbara Uren have been awarded civic medallions for meritorious service: "in recognition of many years of tireless voluntary work in support of the village of Lamberhurst." This includes involvement with the Playing Fields, the Parish Council, the Local History Society, the Pantomime Society and the War Memorial Hall.
The presentation was made at the Town Hall on Wednesday 15th December.
Celebrating with the family
LOVE WHERE WE LIVE
"Local Hero" Micky Kennaird has won an individual award as an extremely involved Lamberhurst resident. He also won a commendation after having been put forward on behalf of the villagers of Lamberhurst for his outstanding service and commitment to the local community.
JOHN RUSSELL cont.
John enjoyed playing tennis and badminton and was an enthusiastic gardener - growing much of families fruit and vegetables. He was also a competent DIY’er with home improvements and woodworking.
Following retirement in 1976, John and Joan moved to Yalding, then to Fordcombe and finally to Lamberhurst where they became active members of the local community and church developing many supportive friendships.
John & Joan took up lawn bowls and over the years have been active members of bowls clubs in Hunton, Brenchley and Tonbridge.
He has also been President of the local branch of the Royal British Legion – his qualification probably being that as he was the oldest surviving local resident to have seen active service in the war!!
John never forgot those with whom he served during the war. It was not until recent years would he share some of his experiences. Godfrey Honnywill has elicited and recorded John’s war time memoirs.
As Joan became increasingly frail in recent years, John became her principal carer. He remained determinedly independent only giving up his car in November last year, following a driving career spanning over 80 years. John never took a driving test as they weren’t invented when he started driving!
Last year John and Joan relocated to Wadhurst Manor Nursing Home. Just 5 days before John’s death, he and Joan celebrated 76 years of marriage!
He used to say that after surviving being shot down at the beginning of the war, he felt he was living on borrowed time - adding to his appreciation for life. Finally his borrowed time ran out.
The milestone of his 100th birthday was missed by just 3 days!
MEDALLIONS FOR MERITORIOUS SERVICE
"Known to the locals as Mickey you will instantly recognise him dressed in casual jeans, a cowboy shirt and a red necktie. From early in the morning until late in the evening he works tirelessly to help others in village, collects and delivers logs to the old people, helps them with their shopping and transports the housebound. At Christmas he was involved in decorating the Xmas trees in the village with Christmas lights which were enjoyed by all.
He looks after the hopping huts which are part of Lamberhurst's heritage, making sure they are not vandalised and kept in good condition. Last year he drove a disabled lady for an outing in his vehicle to see the bluebells and rare wild flowers."