Gallery: War hero honoured at centre opening

PUBLISHED: 08:00 18 February 2015 | UPDATED: 08:58 18 February 2015

Official opening of  Portishead Cadet Centre in Station Road by Lady Gass.

Official opening of Portishead Cadet Centre in Station Road by Lady Gass.

Archant

A NEW joint cadet centre named after a Portishead war hero has been officially opened in front of his relatives and guests from the armed forces.

The facility in Station Road, built by the Wessex Reserve Forces and Cadets Association (WRFCA) for £420,000, is now home to the town’s growing army cadet force and air training corps (ATC).

Previously they would meet in cold and damp portable buildings based at the same site.

On Friday, representative of the Crown and Lord Lieutenant of Somerset, Lady Elizabeth Gass, officially opened the centre which has been named after Squadron Leader Tommy Broom.

Tommy grew up in Portishead and during World War Two survived more than 80 missions over the hostile skies of occupied Europe and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross three times, making him one of Britain’s most decorated war heroes. After completing his RAF service, he returned to his hometown. He died in 2010 aged 96.

The idea of naming the building in his honour was put forward to the WRFCA by air cadet committee member Mike Spencer who came to know Tommy when he delivered papers to the Broom household as a teenager.

Mike, who also joined the RAF at the age of 17, said: “He was a great inspiration to me.

“What inspired me was - when you face death or extreme danger once and you realise how mortal you are, to then put yourself through that another 80 times is courage beyond expectation.”

Friday’s event was attended by Tommy’s daughter, Mary-Ann Iles, her husband Greg and their two sons also attended.

A guard of honour was formed by 15 ATC members and 15 army cadet force members. The air cadets later demonstrated their flight simulator skills while the army cadets demonstrated shooting their rifles.

Mrs Iles said: “I was born and bred in Portishead and this is still my local area. I feel so proud that each time I go past I can look across and see my father’s name on the front of the building.”

While the new facility was being built, the groups paraded at St Nicholas’ and St Peter’s churches. They eventually had access to their new home in March last year.

Flying Officer Dawn Adam, the recently appointed ATC Officer Commanding said: “We have classrooms, flight simulators and internet facilities - everything our cadets could need as well as being ideal in helping inspire more young people to join us.”

Mr Spencer added: “This project has taken three-and-a-half years from start to finish so it is great to see it completed.

“The Broom family did an awful lot for the people of Portishead so it is nice that has been recognised.”

For more details about the UK cadet movement and how to get involved visit the WRFCA website at www.wessex-rfca.org.uk/cadets

The Broom brothers at war:

* Tommy Broom grew up with siblings Robert, Peter and Muriel in a row of cottages in Roath Road which have since been demolished.

* The three brothers all served in World War Two but only two returned home from the conflict.

* Together with his namesake and great friend, Ivor Broom, Tommy led some of the most daring raids of the war. The pair were named The Flying Brooms and their pathfinder Mosquito bomber was adorned with a cross of broomsticks logo for good luck.

* As well as flying more than 80 missions over Europe, Tommy also managed to escape the clutches of the Gestapo when he crash landed in Belgium. With the help of the French resistance, he crossed the Pyrenees on foot and eventually made it to Gibralter and travelled home before continuing to fly further dangerous sorties over war-torn Europe.

* Tommy’s younger brother Robert, known to many as Bob, also served his country but with the army.

* At the outbreak of the war he enlisted in the 2nd Battalion Lothian and Border Horse Regiment of the Royal Armoured Corps and trained as a wireless operator.

* He sailed to Africa in the British/American armada of 1942 and once there, after surviving fierce bombing from the Germans, later participated in frontline action with many tank battles. However, in April 1943 the tank he was travelling in was hit with solid shot which destroyed the vehicle and killed Bob instantly. He was aged 27.

* The youngest of the three brothers, Peter, served with the Royal Artillery during the war and was a member of the searchlight battery attached to RAF Hullavington. He also served with the 365 Coastal Battery in Portishead, protecting the strategically-important Avonmouth Dock area.


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