Rachel Kellett

2019 Brooklands Tim Harris and Rachel Kellett

Rachel inherited Richard Kellett‘s papers and keeps finding his life weaving into hers at various states. Born in Norwich, schooled in Essex, lived London and India, she has returned to East Anglia Suffolk where she lives helping to run a forest school in her wood.

Rachel’s Forward to Jacks guide (resurrected from the cutting room floor)

Yet again, my past returns and weaves in and out of my present, even into a future. It’s Richard Kellett, my uncle, who keeps returning. I came to know him at the end of his life, over conversations usually over a Guinness in pubs around Bexhill where he’d come to retire, and where eventually he died in 1990.

Shortly after the events around anniversary of the film The Great Escape, (Richard was a POW in Stalagluft III) Jack came on the scene, with his unusual desire to celebrate a failed WW2 battle of Heligoland, which I now see was a tribute to those who died including Jacks own uncle.

The Heligoland project has merged naturally into the Loch Ness Wellington story. N2980 crash landed in to Loch Ness December 31st 1940, 80 years ago this year. It’s a natural anniversary. In the 1980’s, with advancing Sonar technology and a series of serendipitous events it was found, raised and restored at Brooklands where it now resides – the last remaining fighting Wellington out of 11, 461 produced. The person behind the raising, Robin Holmes, involved Richard (among many others including Tim, the Heligoland pilot) in his mission, and shortly after Richard died in 1991 published a book, ‘One of our Aircraft’ which I am reading now. The raising in 1985 brings together people of remarkable tenacity and perseverance, along with the local people who witnessed the struggle to raise it. Of particular merit to mention here is Ian Benzie who is re-uniting his class of 85 to reinact the play they were inspired to write and perform, telling the R for Robert story.

One great element out of Jack’s project for me has been to meet Tim Harris. Tim’s father Paul Harris, was Richard’s 2nd in command on the Heligoland raid (and they probably bumped into each other in the Western Desert before then). Paul Harris wrote the forward to Robins book, and in the first paragraph I read: ‘We survived simply because Wing Commander (as he was then) Richard Kellett’s leading was immaculate.’ I am bowled over, and of course, wish Richard was still alive to share these moments. So thank you Jack for not only bringing this story back to life, but for introducing us, reminding us of that history to which we are joined and inform us, and and linking us forward into a future.

August 2020