Obituary: Alex Maxwell, 88

Alex Maxwell. Picture: contributed
Alex Maxwell. Picture: contributed
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AN airman who survived many hazardous missions in the Second World War has died, aged 88.

Alex Maxwell, who lived in Balerno, was an airgunner on RAF bombers in sorties over Nazi-occupied Europe.

He was born on January 8, 1925, in Camelon, Falkirk. His father was a civil servant, but died when Alex and his little brother were very young.

Those were tough times, and Alex worked at three separate jobs from an early age in order to support the family.

He joined the RAF straight from school and had several narrow escapes during the war.

Mr Maxwell’s position in the rear gun turret of a Lancaster bomber was one of the most dangerous of the air war, with enemy night fighters trying to kill the tailgunner first.

He kept his concentration by eating squares of chocolate from his rations – and was a “chocoholic” for the rest of his life.

He saved his plane and crew on one raid after spotting a friendly aircraft opening its bomb doors above without seeing them.

On another occasion, he saw another RAF plane being shot down next to his own and, decades later, by chance bumped into one of the crew he had watched parachuting to safety.

Mr Maxwell flew in Wellingtons, Stirlings and Lancasters with No 218 (Gold Coast) Squadron, completing 10 missions over continental Europe, dropping supplies to Dutch civilians in Operation Manna and bringing Allied prisoners home.

After the war, he studied business at Edinburgh University and became a primary teacher at schools in Ardrishaig, Argyll, Gartcosh in Lanarkshire and Humbie, East Lothian, retiring as a headmaster.

He was a widower to Joan, and is survived by his second wife, Margaret, daughters Abigail and Susan, and three grandchildren.

His funeral service at Mortonhall Crematorium recently was attended by relatives and comrades from the Scottish Saltire Aircrew Association, of which he was a proud member.

Jack Burgess, a fellow RAF veteran from the Second World War, said: “Alex was held in high regard and commanded respect. He will be greatly missed.”