From Gerry Linsted
It is with great sadness that I have to inform you of the recent peaceful passing of John Herold on 12th August 2021
John Herold passed away peacefully on the 12th August 2021.
John Herold turned 100 on November 5th 2020 in Cathay Care Home and reflected on an exciting life as someone who, having survived World War II, continued to serve the country.
John’s family originated in Devon and he was born in Exeter in 1920, three years after his late sister Pauline, whose son, Anthony Babington, travelled up from Buckinghamshire to be with his uncle on his 100th birthday. John Herold attended Steyning Grammar School in Sussex and joined the RAF in 1937 as a boy entrant. On the declaration of war in September 1939, he was posted to Bertangles in France as part of the air component of the British Expeditionary Force. The German Blitzkrieg of 1940 saw him, as he put it, “among the retreating hordes heading west.” Somehow, he made it back to Britain.
Retrained as aircrew as a sergeant for pilot training in 1942, John was commissioned as an officer the following year, piloting Halifax bombers. The disaster at Arnhem in 1944 saw the British 1st Airborne Division decimated, losing almost all of its specialist glider pilots. New pilots were needed urgently, so John saw himself “volunteered” for glider training. As he later put it, “It was said that we had volunteered… but I certainly don’t remember doing a stupid thing like that.”
By this stage of the war, glider pilots flew large wooden unpowered aircraft, transporting airborne troops and their equipment directly on to the battlefield. The pilots were trained to fight alongside the troops. Casualty rates were high. Despite his joke about being “volunteered”, John took to the combat training on the Scottish hills. He and his fellow glider pilots played a vital role in Operation Varsity (March 24, 1945), part of the allied crossing of the River Rhine and the largest single-day airborne assault in history. John landed his glider on target under heavy enemy fire and then supported the troops to secure victory. His later account of the battle, which paved the way for invasion of Germany, was characteristically modest.
He was awarded the MBE in 1960 for his contribution to the development of air reconnaissance photography with a capability from outer space, and in 1962 was promoted Wing Commander. After further postings in Germany and London, he was promoted Group Captain in 1970 and retired in 1974.
John’s energy, dedication and commitment to service continued in a retirement which saw him move from England to Edinburgh, then Fochabers and finally to Forres. He was (despite his war-time claims) a perennial “volunteer” continuing to work in this capacity at Dr Gray’s Hospital.
In the community and well into his eighties, he delivered Meals on Wheels, often to people much younger than himself.
A short report on my Uncle’s 100th birthday. Five of us were allowed to meet him under a Pagoda, outside the care home. He loved your card (RAFPA) and especially the Red Arrows photo. He also had cards from HM the Queen, the Lord lieutenant of Moray, RAF Lossiemouth, RAF Association, the Glider Pilots Regiment Society (He being their oldest member!) and loads more. That afternoon the care home staff and residents were to give a him another party, with a Piper. I have no idea if he turned up – we were not allowed to go to that. Anthony Babington