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It has been another strange year as life slowly comes back to normal. The UK has had two Monarchs and three Prime Ministers. We have experienced extremely cold weather and also extremely hot weather. Florida has had two hurricanes – Hurricane Ian (category 4) which made landfall near Fort Myers close to where Hurricane Charley (also category 4) made landfall in 2004 and then proceeded to destroy the last remaining 5BFTS WW2 building (a hanger) at Airglades Airport (aka Riddle Field), and Hurricane Nicole (category 1).

In August, I spent a week in Florida, mostly at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) in Daytona Beach to help with building the 5BFTS Digital Archive. While I was there, I drove to Jacksonville to visit a wonderful lady who had been a little girl of six living with her parents and two older sisters in Fort Myers in 1941. This family hosted my father George and his three ‘best friends’ nearly every weekend throughout their time at Clewiston and after WW2, strong ties remained between their family and ours. I was so glad that I had visited and spent an afternoon reminiscing with her, because the next week, I heard that she had died. As far as I know, she was the last living link I had with George when he was in Florida between October 1941 and March 1942, and I shall miss her. There are 5BFTS people who are fortunately still with us, but none who knew him at Clewiston during these dates.

Many of the cadets formed similar friendships during their time at Clewiston and retained links between their families and Florida families. I know I speak for them all as I say ‘Thank You’ to the wonderful people who befriended these ‘boys’ who were a long way from home, and generously made them feel so welcome in Florida. Long may the links remain.

And this is why we need to build and maintain the 5BFTS digital archive at ERAU; so that these stories, and the many documents and photographs that have been collected over the years can be preserved for future generations. People are asking what their grandfathers/great-grandfathers/great-uncles, etc, did during WW2. And now, thanks to ERAU, if they were at 5BFTS, they will be able to find out a little more!

And to everyone, I send Season’s Greetings using the words of Gerry Beardsmore, 5BFTS Chairman from 1998 to 2005:
“From me and mine to you and yours, Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas and Health and Happiness and Peace in the New Year”



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