A SECOND World War glider pilot will take to the air once more to say a final goodbye to his wartime friend.

Thanks to a heart-warming community effort, and some help from 'on high', 94-year-old Ian Kerr-Bonner will fly to Kent next week to say goodbye to his former comrade Des Page.

Following Des' death last month, former pilot Ian was determined to say goodbye in person.

But with two broken hips, the 600-mile round trip from Cresswell Quay to Kent looked to be too much for the veteran, and his family was desperate to find an alternative to driving.

Western Telegraph: Ian Kerr-Bonner said he thought he and Des would 'cross the final bridge' together. PICTURE: Martin Cavaney

PICTURES: Martin Cavaney

Since the story of the pair's 70-year-friendship appeared in the Western Telegraph, Ian's family have been inundated with offers of assistance.

Now, a group of former Army Air Corps pilots have come forward to save the day.

The Gazelle Squadron is a charity established by Bruce Stuart and manned completely by volunteers.

They use historic aircraft to raise money for good causes at air shows around the country. 

Gazelle Squadron member Richard Mitchell will fly one of the organisation's ex-forces helicopters to Pembrokeshire to collect Ian almost from his doorstop.

Richard, a former Air Corps helicopter pilot who now flies long haul with Virgin Atlantic, said the display Squadron was delighted to help out.

"This is what we do," he said.

"We're all volunteers, some ex-forces and some civilians, and we love looking after these aircraft and putting them to good use.

"It's a wonderful organisation."

Western Telegraph: Gazelle Squadron fly all over the country.

“Dad can’t believe there’s been so much interest from people,” said Ian's daughter Fiona Elliot.

“I am so grateful for all the kind offers we have had.

"Taking a helicopter will cut the journey down to about three hours, and is such a fitting way for Dad to get there."

Fiona said Des and her father had an enviable bond, spanning more than seven decades, through marriage, children, career changes and personal loss.

Western Telegraph: Ian (right) and Des as young men. PICTURE: Martin Cavaney

The pair both survived the battle of Arnhem, but Ian was taken prisoner of war and condemned to undertake a three-month ‘death march’ across Germany before finding freedom.

He weighed just six stone at the end.

Meanwhile plucky Des managed to evade the enemy by swimming the Rhine in a fur coat, which years later he had dry-cleaned and returned to its proper owner.

“Looking from the outside in, as a daughter, it was a friendship that we can’t explain because of what they’ve been through - it something our generation can’t ever know," said Fiona.

“The chance to go and say goodbye to Des means so much to him, and all of us.”

“It was a privilege to know Des, he was unlike anyone else," said Ian.

“We always said we would cross the final bridge together but it wasn’t to be.

“Our regiment motto was ‘nothing is impossible’, and I would walk to Kent if I had to."

Added Fiona: “Dad said his luck started at Arnhem because he survived."

“This last week has shown us that luck is still with him."

If you would like to make a donation towards the trip, please contact armed forces charity SSAFA Dyfed on 0845 266 8662.

Alternatively, you can contact Patrick Lort-Phillips on 01646 650281 or patricklortphillips@gmail.com, or Thomas Lort-Phillips on 01834 891634 or tlortphillips@gmail.com.