Medals owed to Saffron Walden serviceman who fought in war arrive on anniversary of decisive battle
PUBLISHED: 08:30 18 April 2019
War medals have been sent to the son of RAF flight engineer Eric Porter - 74 years since the end of the war - and days before the anniversary of his last mission, on April 19, 1945.
Warrant Officer Porter, a compassionate and colourful character, joined the RAF in 1942 aged 18.
He served in the Middle East and right at the end of the war fought in crucial battles in Italy but he never applied for his medals.
His son, Matthew, said: “I think he was put off by the process. I applied at the end of last year and submitted a copy of his log book and service record.”
Eric's last mission was in Malabergo, northern Italy, just before the decisive Battle of Bologna, soon after which the Germans surrendered.
Eric died aged 93 on December 21, 2017. He was born on May 13, 1924, in Debden Road, Saffron Walden, the third of four children to Rose and George Porter.
He grew up in Saffron Walden and went to the Boys British School.
He was a solid student and keen sportsman, who remembered his school days fondly (apart from receiving the cane).
Upon leaving school, Eric embarked on a series of money-making schemes.
They included collecting horse manure for the roses of an army officer who lived nearby.
Matthew said: “His early teenage years were characterised by mischief, adventures and escapades.”
Eric volunteered for the RAF in November 1942, serving with 37 Squadron as a flight engineer, first flying Vicars Wellingtons then converting to B24 Liberators in late 1944.
He was stationed in Palestine, Egypt and Italy, where he discovered a love for opera.
His travels even took him to Australia. Eric loved being in the RAF. He often talked about his experiences and described being in the RAF as the best adventure of his life.
By the time he was demobbed in November 1946, he had flown 24 operational sorties.
Back in civilian life, he worked at an electrical repair and servicing shop in Saffron Walden, going to Cambridge Technical College on day release.
Once qualified, he rented a shop in Market Hill, which he bought in 1959.
Eric's business flourished, dealing in accumulators (batteries), radios, TVs and undertaking work in people's homes, including wiring and rewiring.
Employing a team of staff and although providing a good service, he had a reputation for sending out bills late, even up to a year after the work had been done, and for holding on to items handed in for repair for an equally long time. On one notable occasion, Eric broke into someone's house, to install their TV. He left an apologetic note.
After retiring, Eric worked at the Saffron Hotel for 10 years, washing up, changing the beer barrels, repairing light fittings and even walking the hotel manager's dog.
His son said: “He was always active, every single day.”
He was married twice, first to Dorothy in 1952, with Robin born in 1955, and then to Anne in 1974. Anne died a year later from breast cancer when Matthew was four and his sister Rachel only six months.
The children were brought up with the help of their grandmother, Rose.
A keen gardener, keeping an allotment off Little Walden Road, Eric had a passion for growing vegetables. He loved the interaction and banter with the allotment community.
Matthew remembered: “My father was incredibly compassionate with animals. He'd take in any cat in need of rescue. At one time there were 13 cats living in the house.
“He kept dogs, chickens and horses at some point during his lifetime. His last rescue was a pigeon with a broken wing.
“He taught us important life skills including not to judge people by appearances.”
Eric is survived by his three children, sister Iris and five grandchildren.