All that was missing was a flypast by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster but, after the funeral service on Thursday at St Peter’s Church, a rainbow to mark our old friend Thelma Littlewood’s last journey away from Horbury seemed suitably stylish. Her husband Jack flew Lancaster bombers during the Second World War, surviving a full tour of duty of thirty bombing raids. He was 22 years old at the time. Meanwhile Thelma was working, sometimes on the nightshift, at Sykes’ mill (later Slazengers) on the lathes, making butts for Lee Enfield rifles.
Thelma once told me that she knew when Jack was setting out on a mission because he’d come out of formation and fly his Lancaster low over Horbury (or did she say he’d do that on his safe return? I think she said on the outward flight). I’m told that this story is unlikely to be true as the RAF would never have allowed it, but who knows what happened unofficially. Possibly a roundabout route from one of the bases in North Yorkshire, such as Dishforth or Leeming, could have involved a flightpath down the Calder Valley.
Thelma (1924-2018), was a great friend of my mother’s during their retirement years, getting into all sorts of adventures on their travels, including being so keen not to miss their stop on a rail journey to the Lake District, that Thelma ended up swinging on the door of the carriage, leaning out of the open window, as the train came to a halt in the station.
As we lived not far from each other on Jenkin Road, I often walked to St Peter’s Junior School with her son, my contemporary, Adrian, especially in our third year when we were both in Mr Thompson’s class. Sadly, Adrian died over twenty years ago, in the early 1990s. Like his mother, Adrian had a sense of style and I remember being rather envious of his special pet, a beautifully marked garden cross spider, which he kept for a while in a makeshift vivarium in a mini-habitat of twigs and leaves in a Gales Honey jar with air holes punched in the brass-coloured lid. He called it Arthur (although I now realise that ‘it’ must have been the larger female of the species).