War hero Fred Pawsey saluted at heritage centre
PUBLISHED: 05:30 27 May 2019 | UPDATED: 18:48 30 May 2019
Visitors to Sudbury heritage centre are being told the story of one of the town’s war heroes.
Fred Pawsey rose from humble origins to become a decorated RAF fighter pilot and later a much-loved headmaster.
Now, his story is being told in a presentation running on TV screens greeting visitors to the centre in Gaol Lane.
David Barnett, secretary of Sudbury Museum Trust, said: "He was a hero in war and peace and by telling his story we hope this presentation shows just what a remarkable man he was."
Fred was born in Alpheton, near Sudbury, in 1913 the son of a farm worker.
As a schoolboy he shone and he won a scholarship to the local grammar school, but his impoverished background meant university would be all but impossible.
However his headmaster realised he that the training available in the armed forces was the next best thing and he encouraged him to join the Royal Air Force, which he did as an apprentice technician in 1936.
"University was not an option for him, but his headmaster could see he had great potential that could be realised through the forces," said David.
During the Battle of Britain in 1940 he was part of the ground crews that kept the Spitfires and Hurricanes flying in the face of the German Blitz.
The following year he was selected for pilot training and was one of the first to be sent to then-neutral America to earn his wings.
On his return Fred was commissioned and served in the Mediterranean and Italy, flying Hurricanes and Spitfires - the same planes he had serviced as a mechanic in the Battle of Britain.
He also went on a secret mission as a liaison officer with Yugoslavian partisans in 1944,
After weeks working under cover the Germans learned of his whereabouts and he had to run under tank fire to a waiting plane sent to fly him out.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1944, the citation saying he flew 70 sorties and "distinguished himself as a fearless leader and a skilful pilot".
After the war he trained as a teacher, later becoming head of Hedingham secondary school and then deputy head of the comprehensive which succeeded it.
He was also a magistrate, chairman of Sible Hedingham parish council, wrote books and gave talks on local history and the Suffolk dialect.
He later lived in Cavendish then Sudbury and died in 2016 aged 96.
Sudbury Heritage Centre is open during normal office hours on weekdays and from 10am- 12.30pm on Saturdays. Admission is free.