Terence Leedham's career



Terence Leedham's career


Joined Royal Air Force in 1936 as a Halton apprentice armourer. Promoted to flight sergeant at the beginning of the war he began a long association with 57 Squadron then flying Blenheims as part of British Expeditionary Force in France followed by postings to RAFs Wyton and Lossiemouth. Subsequently served with 57 Squadron on Wellingtons at RAFs Wyton and Feltwell. He then moved to RAF Scampton where the squadron re-equipped with Manchester and then Lancaster. Relates meeting Alma Turner later Mrs Leedham during an ground incident concerning a burning fully loaded Lancaster after which he was mentioned in dispatches. Subsequently served with 9, 227, 49 and 100 Squadrons. Describes postwar career.



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Terence Frederick Leedham was born at Windsor on the 29th March 1920. Son of Lawrence Frank Leedham. a [sic] Corporal of Horse with the First/Second Horse Guards and Mabel Violet Leedham. He was the eldest of three brothers. [sic] the others being Leslie and Geoffrey. He went to school with his brothers at Windsor until 1932 when the family moved to 100 Princes Avenue, Kingsbury.

He joined the Royal Air Force in August 1936 and started his training at RAF Halton as a boy apprentice fitter armourer. He later moved to RAF Cosford and RAF Eastchurch.

When war started, he was promoted to Flight Sergeant at the age of 19 and posted to RAF Upper-Heyford where he began a long association with No 57 Squadron, at that time flying Blenheims. In September 1939, he went with 57 Squadron with the British Expeditionary Force to France, where he worked on Hurricanes, Blenheims and others. When the main German offensive began, the BEF fell back and his unit escaped via Boulogne in the nick of time, [sic] After this, he remained with 57 Squadron at RAF Wyton and RAF Lossiemouth. 1940 found him once again at RAF Wyton, where 57 Squadron were re-equipped with the new Wellington bombers. From there they moved to RAF Feltwell in January '41.

In August 1942, 57 Squadron moved to RAF Scampton and were re-equipped with Manchesters and Lancasters.

One night in July '43, the Lancasters of 57 Squadron lined up on the grass runway at Scampton, taking off in sequence with full payloads for that night's target. As one of the heavily laden aircraft was nearing take off, a wheel locked and the Lancaster skidded, turning off the grass runway towards the hangars and the bomb dump. The pilot attempted to stop the aircraft, however, the undercarriage collapsed and the aircraft ground to a halt on its belly. A spark ignited the high octane fuel from its ruptured fuel tanks and the plane was soon burning fiercely.

In nearby “B” flight hut, the Armament Officer ordered his WAAF MT driver to drive him in her lorry to where the stricken aircraft lay, [sic] When they arrived, F/Sgt Terry Leedham and two of his lads were already there. Terry had crawled underneath the burning Lancaster to defuse its 4,000 lb bomb. He called out for a torch. The MT driver got the torch from her lorry and gave it to her officer. The officer, for some reason known only to himself, dropped the torch and disappeared. The WAAF driver picked up the torch and ran towards the burning plane. She gave the torch to one of the lads who sent her back to the lorry, some 30 yards away. The bomb was rendered 'safe' as the fire tender arrived and brought the fire under control. As a result of this action, he received the following commendation:



And the WAAF driver? Her name was Alma Lucy Muriel Turner. They became engaged on the 7th of July 43.

They were both at Scampton during the period when Squadron Leader Guy Gibson trained up and led 617 Squadron on the famous DAMBUSTERS raid.

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In Aug 43, 57 Squadron moved to RAF East Kirkby and on the 12th of September 1943 Terry Leedham married Alma Turner in the Parish Church at Ham, Surrey.

On Aug 16th, 1944. their first daughter Lesley was born. Then followed a series of postings:

Oct '44 No 9 Squadron Bardney (Lancasters)
Nov '44 No 227 Squadron Balderton (Lancasters)
Jun '45 No 49 Squadron Syerston (Lancasters)
Oct '43 [sic] No 100 Squadron Elsham Wolds (Lancasters)

In Dec 45 he was reunited with his old 57 Squadron at Scampton, now re-equipped with the more advanced Avro Lincolns.

On Aug 20, 1946, their second daughter, Valerie, was born.

Both before and after the war he had always had a great interest in competition shooting and was an excellent shot, winning several medals in service competitions at Bisley.

In Mar 1949 he was posted to the Middle East Air Force with No 115 maintenance Unit at Habbaniya, Iraq, working on explosives. The family joined him in June 1950.

In June 1951 he was posted to Winterbourne Gunner JSCW as an instructor and on January 25th 1953, his son Richard was born.

In Feb 56 he was posted was posted [sic] to RAF Boscombe Down, working on Hunters, Venoms, Canberras, Valiants, Victors and Vulcans.

In March 1957, he was posted to RAF Seletar, Singapore, as station Armourer. There he worked on Sunderland flying boats. He travelled out on board the troopship “Asturias” and the family joined him on the ship's next voyage.

In 1959, we all travelled home together – on board the “Nevasa”. On his return, he was posted to RAF Leconfield, and had to commute over the Pennines to visit us where we were quartered in the Progress Hotel at Blackpool.

Soon, he was posted again, this time to RAF Ouston, near Newcastle, where he was Station Armourer. On the 1st of May 1960, he was promoted to Warrant Officer. During his time in the service, he had been awarded the following medals:

1939-45 Star
Defence Medal
War Medal 1939-45 with Oak Leaf
Malayan Campaign Medal
AF Long Service and Good Conduct Medal

After 28 years of travelling England and the world with the RAF it was time to put down some roots. The scouts were sent out and they located a lovely bungalow being built, overlooking a meadow at the far end of a secluded cul-de-sac called Provene Gardens, in Waltham Chase.

He didn't take much of a holiday after 28 years with the RAF. He was demobbed on Friday 8th March 1964 and started work with IBM on the

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Monday. He worked as a technical librarian in the Patents dept of IBM UK, Ltd, on the top floor of Hursley House.

In 1970 he was joined at IBM by my mother [sic] After a while, one of the canteen gossips was moved to enquire of a friend “Who is the gentleman Mrs Leedham always seems to have lunch with, and has it been going on for long?” “About 30 years, and the gentleman is her husband” was the reply.

When the Patents Department moved to Wessex House at Eastleigh and then to Winchester he moved with them. By Summer 1979, it was time to move again, partly to be nearer work but also now beginning to think towards retirement. “Green Pastures” in Castle Lane, Chandlers Ford fitted the bill exactly. When the Job Release scheme came up, he took early retirement in June 1983

In retirement, he remained active, doing DIY on the car. Together, they redecorated the house and tended the garden. Retirement also enabled him to make the most of one of his great loves, dancing. Together they learnt sequence dancing and regularly attended Ford's and Pirelli's Social Club's Sequence Dancing evenings and, Blanche and Clifford King's events at Bishops Waltham and Waltham Chase.

All of you here know him and you will each have your own cherished memories. For me to elaborate on his virtues is therefore almost superfluous. I will, however mention just a few.

He was a man who had high standards and who lived up to them. He was dependable, courageous and unflappable. He was caring and sensitive, frequently putting the wants and needs of others before himself.

He was a gentleman in all the senses of that word, who respected others and who was respected in turn. He was a man of wit and good humour.

He was a man of knowledge and education. He was skilled craftsman who delighted in machines and making things work. He was an equally skilled teacher, always ready to pass on his acquired knowledge and skills.

Not one to show his emotions generally, he was nevertheless a devoted and loving husband and father. As a father, he was always fair, and by his teachings and his example, he strove hard to ensure that his children went out into the world as good citizens.

During his time in the RAF, at IBM and in retirement, his thoughtful consideration for others, pleasant disposition and natural good humour won him many friends. It is indeed a worthy tribute to him that so many of his friends and relatives are here today, some of whom have travelled substantial distances to be with us. Others, unable to join us here, have sent their regrets with very moving messages of sympathy.

My father was always keenly interested in Astronomy and the stars. It may be coincidence but one of his favourite melodies was called “A Handful of Stars”. When he was driving me to the station to join my first ship, he stopped the car and from the back, he presented me with a beautifully polished vernier sextant in a rosewood box – “So you can navigate by the stars” he said. I can think of no better words to sum up his life and personality than those adopted as the motto of the Royal Air Force - PER ARDUA AD ASTRA.



“Terence Leedham's career,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 24, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/18510.

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