James Vidler: The Royal Air Force veteran with a distinguished career of 50 years

Mr James Vidler, veteran from British Royal Air Force, breathed his last at the age of 92 on 13th November, 2014. He is survived by his wife Irene, daughter Samantha, and granddaughters, Larissa and Isabelle. Mr Vidler has had an unparalleled and distinguished career serving the Royal Air Force for almost 50 years. His passion to serve his country in wars is evident from the fact that not once but on many occasions he lied about his age to get seconded to war.

Mr Vidler was born in May 1922 in West London.  He lied about his age to get recruited in the Royal Air Force (RAF) to fight in the Second World War in 1939. Everyone said that the war would be over by Christmas and hence, Mr Vidler didn’t want to miss out on the action. However, the war got over only in 1945 and he saw himself working as a gunner in a Lancaster Bomber and a short spell in Dutch Navy. During this time he survived three air crashes and served almost all over the world. He was serving in Burma when he suffered a fractured skull from a bayonet wound during a combat with the Japanese troops. He received the Burma Star Medal for his services.

Post war Mr Vidler remained with the Royal Air Force serving as an Engineer. He served in India, Australia, and Canada as a Master Technician and a Warrant Officer. He fought in the Malayan and Korean wars and also took part in the Berlin Airlift.

Mr Vidler met his wife Irene, who worked at the Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Nursing Service. She was treating him for wounds that he got during a bad car accident. Irene recalls, “As soon as he saw me he said, ‘I’m going to marry you”. They got married soon after and lived in Hongkong, Malawi, Jordan, Dubai and Sharjah where Mr Vidler was serving the RAF. Later in the 1970s they moved to England and lived in Bingley for a few years before moving to Shipley.

The Gulf war broke out in the 1990s and Mr Vidler, who was 69 then, saw an opportunity to serve his country again and hence, he again lied about his age to get seconded to the American Air Force. During this time he was working with the World Airways in America. He was a part of the Operation Desert Shield where he flew between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. He received recognition for his services during the Gulf War, the Telegraph and Argus reports.

Irene remembers that she spent most of her life altering his date of birth in his birth certificate so that he could take part in the war. Mr Vidler was very proud of his achievements, medals, and Royal Air Force citations. He was awarded MBE for his chivalrous career with the RAF.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE