Born on 7th of September 1917
Died on 31st of July 1992
Leonard Cheshire, DFC, DSO, VC and OM achieved greatness as a war hero and later as a humanitarian. His selfless work for the disabled continues to this day through the charitable foundation which bears his name.
Cheshire was born on September 7, 1917 in Chester. Brought up in Oxford , he attended Stowe school and studied jurisprudence at Merton College Oxford where he graduated in 1939 just prior to the outbreak of World War II .
Having gained a commission in the RAF, in June 1940 he was posted to 102 Squadron at Driffield where he flew bomber aircraft. He gained his first medal here, a DSO, for flying his badly damaged bomber back to base. Cheshire wrote an account of his adventure in his 1943 book Bomber Pilot, characteristically not mentioning his medal but praising his crew. Having completed his first tour of operations in January 1941 he immediately volunteered for a second which he completed as Squadron Leader. He raised morale by implementing modifications which improved the lumbering Halifax bombers in his command and in 1942 became Station Officer at RAF Marston Moor. Cheshire preferred flying and in 1943 as the youngest Group Captain in the RAF took command of the legendary 617 Dambusters’ Squadron. By the end of his fourth tour of duty Cheshire had completed a total of 102 missions and his sustained bravery was recognised by the award of a Victoria Cross.
Cheshire witnessed the second atomic bomb at Nagasaki before leaving the RAF in 1946. His humanitarian efforts began almost immediately but it was not until 1948 that he was able to establish Leonard Cheshire Disability which was to become a leading charity helping disabled people throughout the world. Cheshire also became a Roman Catholic in 1948 and his Christian beliefs found practical application in lecturing on conflict resolution and organizing humanitarian projects. In 1959 Cheshire married Sue Ryder, herself a leading charity activist. In 1991 Leonard Cheshire was awarded the Order of Merit, and in 1992 granted a life peerage shortly before his death on July 31 1992.
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