GLF Schools

GLF Schools

GLF Schools was founded in 2012 in order to enable the federation of Glyn School (an academy in 2011) and Danetree Junior School. Together, we began our journey to become a MAT of more than 1000 talented staff working with over 10,000 children in 40 schools across 5 regions in southern England.

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In Memoriam

Our sincere condolences to the families and friends of former students who have sadly passed away:

In Memory of Wing Commander John Bell DFC, MBE, Legion D’Honneur


Obituary written by Mr Summers with the help of Mr Howard

Glyn school is saddened by the passing of Wing Commander John Bell DFC, MBE, Legion D’Honneur. He died peacefully at his home in Sussex the day before his 101st birthday. John attended the school between 1936 and 1939. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Born in 1923, John moved to Epsom at the age of 13 when his father came here for work. He was enrolled in the Epsom County School for boys which had just moved to its current site in 1938. John could remember on his first day at the school sitting in a classroom (now Mr. Braybrook’s art room) as builders finished putting in windows whilst the teacher taught the lesson. John said he enjoyed school and felt his favourite subject was Mathematics. He was a member of the newly formed Tudor House and came third in the House cross country competition 1936.

John remained at the school until the outbreak of war (above he is in the school photograph stood behind the headmaster). His father told him it was time to go out and get a job, so he did. He left school with no formal qualifications but a good reference from the headmaster.

He began work as a clerk in London  travelling there by train  from his home in  Worcester Park. He said his decision to join the RAF happened when he was caught in an air raid and had to take cover under a bench in a park whilst bits of hot metal fell out of the sky to the sound of air raid sirens and planes overhead. He said that "The aircraft from Germany, flying over London, they were going to get something back."

Rather than wait to be called up, in June 1941 he presented himself as a volunteer at the recruiting office in Worcester Park - this meant he would be able to choose which service he went into. He was sent for a medical in Oxford. Standing as a giant at 6 ft 4 ins, he was too tall to become a pilot. Instead, he trained as a bomb aimer, navigator and a gunner in South Africa and Canada. 

Upon completion of his training he returned to the UK in 1943 and was posted to 619 Squadron, Bomber Command who were armed with the newly introduced Lancaster bomber. Now a legend of aviation history, the Lancaster was a four engined bomber  designed for one purpose: the destruction of Nazi Germany from the air. It could carry a much bigger payload and fly further than its twin engined predecessors.

Airmen with Bomber Command were required to fly 50 missions until they were removed from active service and given a ground posting.. The casualties in Bomber Command were horrendous. Your chances of surviving all 50 missions was less than 50%. Your chance of surviving the war without injury was 24%. Despite this John and his comrades clambered into their  plane and flew night, after night, after night. 

John and his crew flew 30 missions together. Taking part in the aerial bombing of Germany’s industrial cities. These missions included eight over the capital Berlin as well as Operation Gomorrah - a huge RAF attack on the city of Hamburg. John recalled that the thought of being shot out of the sky any second wasn’t scary at the time, “you had a job to do - you didn’t have time to think about how scary it was”. During a mission over Leipzig two of the plane’s engines stopped working and the plane plunged towards the ground, but fortunately the engineer was able to get the englines working and the pilot was able to pull out of the dive and return home safely.

After completing their 30 missions the crew were given a choice of being split up into other crews to spread their experience amongst new crews or staying together and joining an elite flying unit where the missions would be a lot more dangerous. The crew opted to stay together as they felt this was their best chance of survival. The squadron they joined was the now famous 617 Squadron, the Dambusters.

At this time John met his first wife. She was working in the operations room of the airbase where John was stationed. John said that he first saw her when he had to go in to study the photos and maps of the next mission he was on. He told me he found excuses to go in there until he plucked up the courage to ask her out. He eventually did and they went for picnics and bike rides in the Lincolnshire countryside in between missions. They were married for over 30 years until her death in the late 1970s.

During this time the Allied war effort also shifted in anticipation of D-Day; the Allied liberation of Western Europe. John and his crew’s new plane was nicknamed “Thumper Mk. II '' after the rabbit in Disney’s ‘Bambi’, which apparently they had all just seen at the Cinema. It was piloted by Leonard Cheshire, who later went on to found a highly successful chain of care homes. On the night of the 5th/6th June 1944 Thumper Mk. II with John on board, were on a top secret mission flying circles  above the coast of Calais dropping tin foil to confuse German radar. This would give the illusion of lots of planes and ships being there, when they were not. This was part of a wider deception plan to fool the Germans from thinking the invasion was happening there when in reality the landings were in Normandy. It is  thought this deception saved thousands of Allied soldiers’ lives.

After D-Day, 617 Squadron’s job was to tackle and destroy Hitler’s new vengeance weapons; the V2 Rockets. These were the first guided missiles and were aimed and fired at London. They caused massive damage and there was no warning one was about to strike. The V2 went on to kill 9,000 Londoners and injure thousands more. 617 Squadron's job was simple - to stop them. 

On the 24th June 1944 Thumper Mk II and fifteen other Lancasters attacked the V2 Rocket Base at Wizernes in the Pas De Calais region of France. Built under a huge reinforced concrete dome structure the base resembled a villain’s lair from a Bond Film. John was able to drop a 12,000lb bomb just to the right of the dome causing a massive earthquake which broke the structure and stopped any missiles from ever being fired. This prevented Hitler from firing these weapons for another two months. It is clear that without John doing that, far more Londoners would have been killed during the months that missiles would have been fired. His actions saved thousands of lives.    

In August 1944 John completed his 50th mission attacking German U-Boat pens in France. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and retired to a training school where he trained other bomb aimers.

John simply said this of the war: "I am proud of my service. I survived. I was lucky." 

When the war ended John remained in the RAF. In 1948 he helped organise the Berlin Airlift and then served with the USAF in the Korean War. He completed a secondment at the Pentagon in Washington DC as an air attache for the Royal Air Force and some time in Singapore as well. He was awarded an MBE in the 1970 New Years Honours list, he retired from the RAF in 1977 as a Wing Commander.

In his retirement John spent a time as Mayor of Huntingdon. He has a large family with many Grandchildren and Great grandchildren. He spent a lot of time with his first wife caravanning around the UK, USA, Canada and beyond. He met his second wife whilst caravanning and in later years John devoted himself to charity work and the erection of a memorial to his fallen comrades in Bomber Command. After the war their role within it became controversial and unlike many other units they were left without a memorial. John worked tirelessly to get one and helped to raise £5.6 million. The memorial was opened in 2012 at Hyde Park Corner and John regularly attended ceremonies there commemorating the 55,000 British and Commonwealth airmen who were killed in the Second World War. He relentlessly campaigned to raise funds for the RAF Benevolent Fund up until his passing. In 2016 he was awarded the Legion D’honneur by President Sarkozy of France in recognition of the highly dangerous missions he flew.

Visiting the school on many occasions, John spoke to Glyn students about his life and the importance of Remembrance. He also laid the wreath at our remembrance ceremonies many times in recognition of his school friends who were lost in the conflict. He last visited the school to speak to students in 2017, he continued to attend the Old Glynians Dinner  until 2020.

He was a wonderful human being who experienced extraordinary things. His war service was exceptional but did not define who he was as a person. Despite all his achievements he remained grounded and humble. He was one of those people who was happiest when giving to others, devoting much of his time in this way. I will always remember fondly the kindness and generosity he showed me as a young teacher trying to engage students in the importance of remembrance. He gave me a signed copy of a book he had contributed to as a thank you for inviting him into school, I genuinely treasure it. When asked what the secret to a happy life was by one of our students, John simply said: “Enjoy everything you do, every day is a gift, just enjoy”.

John was a gentle giant, with impeccable manners and a class which permeated through everything he did. He was a true war hero who, when required, stood up to do the right thing as he saw it; a man of real integrity. The school will mourn the passing of a true titan of its history and one of the finest people it has helped to shape over the past ninety-six years. He will live on as an inspiration for generations of students yet to come.

On the back of the Bomber Command memorial, which he helped to erect, is a quote I feel is very fitting for a man like John, who lived his life freely and to the fullest:


Thank you John.