Squadron’s DIY SOS style project aims to give back to inspiring RAF Mildenhall veteran
A 95-year-old RAF veteran posted to Mildenhall after beating an American general at squash during the Second World War is having his garden transformed thanks to a DIY SOS style project.
Noel ‘Red’ Dunningham flew Spitfires and Hurricanes in the RAF after training as a pilot in 1939 – when he had just turned 17.
His career took off in the cockpit of a Harvard in South Africa and ended with a stint as RAF Mildenhall’s weapons and explosives officer.
Now retired and living in Red Lodge the 95-year-old, who was squadron leader at the west Suffolk base from 1972 to 1974 and ran marathons up until a few years ago, continues to inspire the next generation of servicemen.
In fact, his illustrious career in the air force and “bright as a button” character has charmed one squadron so much they are transforming his back garden which he can no longer maintain.
Members of the 100th Logistics Readiness Squadron, including Red’s neighbour Staff Sergeant Brian Nichols, said they wanted to give something back. The group met at Red’s home at the weekend to make a start on the project.
Welcoming them, he said: “First of all I would like to thank you from my heart for doing this today. As you can see I cannot help you with what you are doing.
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“I am 95 and have had a long and hard life. I have also messed up my knees from running marathons and playing squash.
“When I was 17 in 1939 I trained as a pilot and was lucky enough to fly Hurricanes and Spitfires. I still think the Spitfire is the most beautiful aeroplane ever made and if it wasn’t for these two aeroplanes we would all be sitting here speaking German.
He continued: “After I joined the RAF I was posted to headquarters we had in north Germany. I remember one day I had no-one to play squash with. I found this one man and I beat him almost every time I played him. It turned out he was the commander in chief!
“I kept beating this very important American general at squash and he told me I should go to Mildenhall because I got on so well with Americans. So that’s where I went and met so many wonderful people. I am so lucky to be sitting here now.”
Brambles, roots and overgrown plants were cut away as the group made progress on the project this weekend. Once it is finished, it is hoped Red will be able to sit and admire his garden.