Herbie Buckle trained on Course 20 at Falcon Field, starting on 14 February 1944 and graduating on 26 August 1944.
He was the youngest of three children, born to a master baker and a teacher who lived in Norfolk where Herbie attended Diss Grammar School. He was captain of football and vice captain of cricket, which accounted for his enduring love of those two sports throughout his life. He was head boy of the school in his final year in 1941.
Having achieved his school certificate, he embarked upon what became one year’s teacher training at Loughborough College in 1942, specialising in handicraft & woodwork. He joined the Nottingham University Air Squadron and then the Royal Air Force beckoned, sending him to Falcon Field for flying training.
On returning to the UK, Herbie was one of some 1500 pilots who were seconded to the army, to “J” squadron of the Glider Pilot Regiment, which had suffered heavy losses in Italy, Normandy and Arnhem. He was precluded from taking part on the notorious second Rhine crossing, code-named Operation Varsity, as he was in hospital recovering from an injury sustained in a glider crash. In his retirement Herbie pulled together a large dossier on these 1500 RAF glider pilots.
When he left the RAF in 1947 to return to civilian life, Herbie married Margaret and they enjoyed 52 happy years together. He joined the Civil service for six months but found greater job satisfaction at the Norwich Union where he retired as a departmental head in 1984, at age 60.
In 1981 the Falcon Field Association was formed, bringing together those young men who had trained as pilots at 4 BFTS at Mesa, Arizona between 1941-1945. He attended the first reunion in London and shortly afterwards he joined the committee and became Honorary Secretary of the Association, a role he fulfilled for 25 years. This became a full time job following his retirement. The Association did great work in rekindling long-standing relationships between former members of 4 BFTS, through reunions, fund raising, newsletters and the annual Service of Remembrance held on Armistice Day at the RAF Plot in Mesa Municipal Cemetery in Arizona. Herbie and Margaret prepared and posted thousands of newsletters over the years for worldwide distribution.
In his retirement Herbie also enjoyed the ramblers club, playing bowls, travelling to various parts of the UK and Falcon Field Association social events and reunions. He travelled on a number of Christian pilgrimages including the cathedrals and churches of northern France, following in the footsteps of St Paul on one holiday and making separate visits to Turkey and Greece. He became editor of The Old Dyssean magazine, a publication distributed to a wide circle of old pupils of Diss Grammar School. He was a worshipper at St Peter Mancroft church for over 60 years where he was formerly a sidesman and Treasurer. His favourite service in later years was Evensong. Herbie was a life-long supporter of Norwich City Football Club from the age of 11 in 1935, when Carrow Road was built.
Herbie has two sons, Chris and Steve, five grandchildren Ian, Jill, Tim, Nick and Ewan, and two great grandsons Oscar and Oliver.
Units served with
The 'Arnold Scheme' (1941-43) and the British Flying Training Schools (1941-45), with the co-operation of Squadron Leader Mills DFC and President Roosevelt, enabled the setting up of flight training in the USA for RAF pilots to train alongside American...