b. 1924 | d. 2020 | Royal Air Force
Eric Evans served as a bomb-aimer in the Royal Air Force during World War Two. He trained under the British and Commonwealth Air Training Plan and was posted to India. He took part in several bombing sorties in the Burma Campaign but was shot down and badly injured shortly before the end of his tour.
Eric and one of his sons in November 2019
Eric Evans was born in Banwen in the Neath Valley on the 24th of July 1924. His family moved to Briton Ferry when he was seven but less than a year later, his uncle was killed in a mining accident nearby.
Not long after, the family moved again to Penygroes and once more to Ammanford. It was at school there that a visiting speaker inspired Eric and a friend to join the war effort. They left school at just 15 years old but were too young to enlist so they got jobs on the production line at the Miles aircraft factory in Woodley, near Reading.
For Eric, this experience sparked an interest in flying and eventually led him to join the Royal Air Force. In 1942, he volunteered for service.
Miles produced several thousand training and target towing aircraft for the RAF during WWII, including the Magister; Master I and II; and Martinet.
RAF Aircrew Training
Eric was sent to Oxford for three days of medical and academic exams before being selected for aircrew training. He was posted to Saskatchewan in Western Canada where he trained as a bomb-aimer under the British and Commonwealth Air Training Plan. This was followed by a navigation course in Winnipeg, which meant Eric could serve as a back-up if a crew’s navigator was injured and unable to function during a mission.
After he completed this training, Eric was sent on a long-range bombing course, flying twin-engine, B.25 Mitchells out of Boundary Bay, a coastal area on the border of Canada and the USA. He then chose to move onto heavy bombers, flying four-engine B.24 Liberators instead. Following a short period of leave back home, Eric was posted to the Far East where he joined 99 Squadron.
Operational Tour in the Far East
99 Squadron was stationed at RAF Dhubalia in Bengal, India and was actively involved in the Burma Campaign, flying B.24 Liberators. The unit provided close support to the 14th Army during bombing missions and moved “big guns” for them.
While serving with the squadron, Eric was promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer from Field Sergeant. Shortly before he completed his operational tour of 30 bombing sorties, however, things changed for the worse.
Eric was on a mission to attack Japanese oil tankers at sea when his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire and was badly damaged. The pilot had been flying just 55 feet above the water but managed to keep the plane in the air until they reached land, setting a course for Burma.
Unfortunately, the aircraft could not make it the whole way and Eric was “belted around a bit” before the plane dived into the ground. When he was recovered from the aircraft, he was severely injured and had to spend many months in hospital.
Eric’s campaign medals and bomb-aimer badge
Left to right: 1939-1945 Star, Pacific Star with clasp, War Medal 1939-1945 and Defence Medal
“One third of my body didn’t work.”
– Eric Evans –
After the War
After the crash, Eric was permanently removed from flying duties and eventually discharged from the RAF. He returned to his family who, by this time, had moved to Llanelli. His uncle was a jeweller in Swansea so Eric went to work for him and became an expert at repairing watches.
He and another RAF veteran applied to the RAF Benevolent Fund, hoping to start their own watch-repair business but were turned down. Although he was disappointed, Eric was not deterred and went on to set up his own business which he successfully managed until he retired.
He married and raised his children alongside his wife, moving back to Llanelli in later life. One of his sons, Edward, and grandson, Michael, also served in the Armed Forces and have submitted their experiences to the West Wales Veterans’ Archive as well. Read their stories!
Throughout his life, Eric continued to suffer from the severe injuries he sustained during World War Two. He felt strongly about ensuring that his comrades in Burma received the recognition they deserved and spoke with the media and First Minister Mark Drakeford about his experiences only weeks before his death.
Sadly, Eric passed away on the 26th of September 2020.