My Grandad, My Hero

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Centre Screen’s designer and animator Joel Hepworth had a profound, personal link to our recent project with the International Bomber Command Centre – his grandad Edward (pictured third from left) crewed on Lancaster bombers in the Second World War. Joel tells his story.

“Working on design and animation for the IBCC had a really personal impact on me, because my Grandad Albert Edward Whitfield flew on Lancasters during the war. Serving with the 90 Squadron Bomber Command 3 Group, Eddy, as he was known, was an air gunner and wireless operator, then a warrant officer. And I’m proud to say he was my grandad, and my pal.

Grandad never spoke much about his time in service. Instead, he’d share his experience indirectly by teaching his grandchildren about engineering, and about working on cars and radios. He did have one or two stories he enjoyed telling.

My personal favourite was about a cheeky emergency landing in France. While on the ground in enemy territory, the crew spotted an abandoned BMW motorcycle. Deciding it would be shame to let it go to waste, they liberated it, storing it in the bomb-bay. They agreed it would be best not to tell the skipper. Unfortunately, as they crossed the Channel, the skipper carried out a routine ditching of unreleased ordinance by opening the bomb-bay doors, and the crew had to watch in silence as their new bike plunged into the cold waters below.

Having lost Grandad when I was still a boy, my involvement with the IBCC project has helped me get to know him a little better. Being able to do that, using the creativity he helped inspire and nurture, has been an incredible experience. It has brought back many happy memories of our time together, hours spent chatting as we built Airfix models.  It has also prompted the whole family to talk to my Grandma about their experiences during the war. Being a recipient of the ‘Women of Steel’ medal for her service at Sheffield steelworks during WWII, she has not only been a great source of knowledge of my Grandad’s time in Bomber Command, but has a fair share of her own stories to tell.

I have been captivated by the project and the many stories I’ve heard throughout its progression. I have been extremely lucky to have had access to images, footage and audio that has allowed me to craft and develop pieces of film that I hope do justice to the stories of Edward and the many brave men and women he served with. Not only that, but I hope it helps educate those that may or may not know the details and history of Bomber Command, and help keep the many memories and stories alive.”