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Lyn Seabury

Hotelier and wartime airman.

Born: April 27, 1923; Died: April 4, 2014.

Flight Lieutenant Lyn Seabury, who has died in Largs aged 91, survived 34 wartime missions in an RAF bomber, then volunteered for a second death-defying operational tour after deciding his new job teaching young Frenchmen how to fly was, in his words, rather dangerous. He later rose to senior positions in the chemicals industry and became a well-known hotelier, Burnsian, actor and singer.

He was born near Kendal in the Lake District, the younger son of Hilda and Harold Seabury, an explosives engineer working for ICI who was transferred to Ardeer, Ayrshire. He attended Ardrossan Academy but preferred sports to academia and particularly rugby; a lifelong passion. His brother Edgar served in the Royal Navy during the war.

He enlisted in the RAF straight from school and qualified as a bomb aimer before joining No 102 Squadron, flying Halifaxes at Pocklington in Yorkshire in 1943, at a time when Bomber Command was suffering some of its heaviest losses of the Second World War. "I remember one particular night when almost half the squadron failed to return," he recalled.

Returning from one raid on Kassel in the German Ruhr, and having experienced heavy flak over the target, their home airfield was in sight when the pilot had to alter the pitch on the port-inner engine propeller, resulting in one blade coming off and a vibration so bad that the entire engine broke free, damaging the adjacent propeller as it fell away.

As bomb aimer, Mr Seabury sat beside the skipper, assisting in locking controls on take-off and cutting power on landing. "On this occasion," he said, "the pilot was busy straining to keep the aircraft on an even keel and we seemed to scream over the fence at the end of the runway, coming to a halt in deathly silence." For his airmanship under duress, the pilot Noel McPhail was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal personally by King George VI. He was later to win the Distinguished Flying Cross

Another eventful operation occurred in April 1944 when the crew were on a so-called gardening trip, laying mines in Kiel Bay. On their way home, they encountered several Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighters and engaged in combat, taking a cannon shell but managing to shoot down one enemy and damage a second as it opened fire.

Having lost both intercom and gyro compass, Mr Seabury took star shots from the engineer's dome which were plotted by the navigator, resulting in their hitting landfall only slightly south of their intended position. The pilot and two air gunners were later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

By now screened or tour-expired, having survived 34 sorties, Mr Seabury was posted to Lossiemouth to train Free French aircrew in bombing and gunnery, flying Wellingtons. However, he noted: "I found this rather dangerous so I volunteered for a second operational tour."

His work now took an entirely different turn with No 100 (Bomber Support) Group, engaged in electronic warfare and countermeasures and tasked specifically with harassing, tormenting and confusing the enemy; a pioneering form of what is now known as psyops, or psychological operations.

Still flying Halifaxes but this time loaded with special wireless equipment, scientists and German-speaking aircrew rather than bombs, he discovered special duties work required a more subtle approach. With daily German call signs and radio procedures supplied by unknown agents, Mr Seabury and his crew duly wreaked havoc. "German aircraft were sent out, taking off in all directions by following our misinformation," he said, adding that dropping bundles of tin foil, sometimes by parachute, to disrupt and distort enemy radar systems gave many a headache to invasion-spotting Germans.

After several operations with 171 Squadron spent circling enemy-occupied areas at high altitude to confuse the Luftwaffe, nicknamed flying around the race course, Mr Seabury and his friends changed the name of their Norfolk base from North Creake to Up the Creek, as that was the destination they appeared to be leading the Germans.

In April 1945, weeks before the end of the war, seven Halifaxes took off, each carrying a full load of 500lb bombs. The operation was intended to disrupt the Luftwaffe's squadron of Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighters based at Ingolstadt, north of Munich.

The Me 262 was the world's first jet-powered fighter and posed a deadly threat to Allied aircraft. Mr Seabury's plane had the dubious honour of leading the squadron and marking the target.

He recalled: "All went surprisingly well and we arrived within 10 miles of our target. The night was reasonably clear and we started a time and distance run. As bomb aimer I did the countdown.

"I was just about to say 'bomb doors open' when the aerodrome lights were switched on to reveal control tower, hangars and German aircraft in dispersal areas. We had a perfect drop and were on our way home before they either switched off or we blew out their lights. After much discussion, we decided that some poor bod had thought we were one of theirs and switched on the Drem system (airfield night lighting). I suppose he won't forget that night either."

It was his final mission, and having completed 18 Special Duties operations in addition to his first tour of 34 sorties, he was declared unfit for further flying and remustered as a physical fitness officer. He was subjected to 12 weeks at the RAF School of Physical Training at Cosford and posted to Upper Heyford and the Isle of Man, before completing his RAF service at Middle East Command in Aden in August 1946.

The crew he mainly flew with became firm friends throughout their lives and he made several trips to Australia and the UK to meet them. In civilian life, he worked for ICI in Glasgow and Ardeer, rising to a senior position in sales and making frequent trips abroad. In 1969, he was made redundant. He studied book keeping and bar management while his wife Netta went to catering college before beginning a new chapter in his life as a hotelier, opening the Stanley Hotel in Saltcoats in 1971.

The business was a great success and the couple retired early in 1984.

Mr Seabury loved amateur dramatics and was a leading light in the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Players. He also enjoyed fly fishing, golf, choral and solo singing and supporting his local rugby team, Ardrossan Academicals. He was famous throughout Ayrshire for his renditions of Burns songs and was a regular on the supper circuit. He and Netta, daughter of a former provost of Ardrossan, also had a small concert party and entertained in old folks' homes and social clubs around North Ayrshire.

A committed Christian all his life, he was an elder in the Church of Scotland for more than 50 years and a member for even longer. In a chance meeting with a former Luftwaffe airman on a cruise, he was able to embrace the other man as a brother and not an enemy. His faith was vital to him and he always carried his tattered copy of William Barclay's Book of Prayers.

Mr Seabury, a long-standing member of the Scottish Saltire Aircrew Association, was last year awarded the Bomber Command medal clasp.

His wife died before him and he is survived by his son Chris, his son's civil partner Dean and his daughter Shirley and her civil partner Margaret.

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