Friday 10 May 2024

W.W. FARMER - Royal Air Force

William Walter Farmer (Sergeant Air Gunner) - Royal Air Force

Generally called by his second name, Walter, on account of his first name being the same as his father, he was born in the picturesque Gloucestershire village of Sapperton in 1922 or 1923. Sapperton is a small village with stone cottages and is about three to five miles west of Cirencester. He had two brothers and one sister, but unfortunately one of his brothers died at the age of ten. The older brother made a career m the Royal Navy, and his sister Edna married an Eton Wick man, Albert Hood, and they made their home in a newly built semi-detached house in Tilstone Avenue in 1937.

Walter attended the Sapperton School until he passed the entrance exam for Cirencester Grammar School. He was both popular and good at sports and represented his school at football and cricket. The school considered him to be the outstanding cricketer at the close of one season, and awarded Walter the much coveted "Wally Hammond" bat. He was also an accomplished snooker player. When he was 16 years old he left school and took up employment as a footman to Lord Bathurst at Park House in Cirencester. At this time his brother-in-law was running the family's coal business in and around Eton Wick. Originally the business had been operated by Albert's father, "Scottie" Hood, with a horse and cart, but since the mid 1930's it was run by his two sons, Albert and Dick.

When the 1939-45 war started, Dick was called up to serve with the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and Albert decided to join the Royal Air Force. Because of this, Walter left his native Sapperton to live with his sister in Tilstone Avenue, discarding his footman's clothes for those of a coal merchant. He probably arrived in Eton Wick in mid or late 1940 and Albert was able to explain the business and introduce him to the customers before himself entering the R.A.F. in early 1941. 
When the time came for going abroad, Albert sold the business to R. Bond & Sons, the village road contractors, for £100. Walter decided to join the Royal Air Force also, and left the village for preliminary training in April 1942, having been Eton Wick's coalman for about one and a half years. He was a driver attached to the Motor Transport section, R.A.F. until he decided to volunteer for aircrew duties as an Air Gunner. By this time his sister Edna had a year old son, and his parents, Mr & Mrs Farmer, had moved from Sapperton to keep her company in Eton Wick.

Walter completed the gunnery course and was awarded a trophy for obtaining 85% marks: the highest entrant at that time. Before taking up flying duties with an operational squadron, it was customary for crews to be adjusted to the hazards they would encounter when they took part in raids against the enemy. They obtained this experience from one of many operational training units (O.T.U.s). During the last week of this further training Walter was one of the crew of a Lancaster bomber which crashed into the Brecon Hills in Wales. The entire crew were killed. Had he lived he would have been posted for operations the following week.

Albert Hood returned from the middle east after the war and Dick Hood was killed in the Anzio Landings in Italy on August Bank Holiday 1944. Walter was killed on the Easter Bank Holiday of that year in April just two years after he entered the R.A.F. He was 21 years old and his grave is in the beautiful Haycombe Cemetery that overlooks Bath. He is commemorated in Gloucester Cathedral, in the Sapperton Village Church, on the Eton Wick Memorial and on the Eton Wick Village Hall tablet.

William Farmer's page on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.

This is an extract from Their Names Shall Be Carved in Stone  
and published here with grateful thanks to the author Frank Bond.

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