RAF fan Jacob marks end of anniversary year

Young RAF super-fan Jacob Newson celebrated his seventh birthday at the Memorial after braving strong winds and heavy rain to complete a marathon fund-raising walk for the RAF Benevolent Fund.

Known on social media as Jacob the Pilot, the youngster’s 35-mile walk over two days with dad Andrew took the total amount raised for the charity through a series of fund-raisers to £30,000.

The end of the walk at the clifftop home of the National Memorial to the Few coincided not just with Jacob’s birthday but with the 80th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Britain on 31 October 1940.

Dad Andrew, who served in the Royal Signals from 1998 to 2006 and took part in operational tours in Kosovo, Bosnia and Iraq, said he had “never met anyone as resilient” as his son, who rushed into the arms of mum Andrea as their walk ended.

After walking the first 22 miles of their journey from the former RAF Manston, near Ramsgate, on Friday, the pair braved horrendous weather as they battled along the coast for another 13 miles on day two.

Jacob seemed undaunted by the experience, delaying site manager Jules’ Gomez’ offer of a steaming mug of hot chocolate until after he had explored the clifftop Memorial site and posed for numerous pictures alongside the Trust’s replica Spitfire and the Memorial.

Asked how it felt to have walked so far, the Leeds-based birthday boy said: “Really good. I’m so excited to have achieved it”, before joking: “It wasn’t hard – I’m from Yorkshire.”

The father and son team had originally planned a Dunkirk Challenge, but after being thwarted twice by the pandemic lockdown they changed their plans and followed in the footsteps of one of the Few, Squadron Leader Al Deere, who flew patrols from Manston during the Battle of Britain.

The walk raised an estimated £22,500 for the benevolent fund, adding to cash already raised for the charity by the pair over the past couple of years.

Jacob said: “We did it to raise money for the RAF benevolent fund because it’s important to support them. It’s very important to help the RAF family and I love doing things to raise money for them.”

The youngster, who wore an RAF flying suit under his raingear, added: “I really want to be a pilot when I grow up. I want to be part of the RAF. This was a good way to spend my birthday and now I am looking forward to opening my presents.”

Reflecting on the £30,000 now raised for the charity, young Jacob commented: “That would buy a very big toy!”

Memorial Trust chairman Richard Hunting CBE said: “The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust was absolutely delighted to welcome Jacob and his father Andrew to the site at the end of their fantastic charity walk for the RAF Benevolent Fund. For a young man to spend his seventh birthday putting in so much effort to support such a great cause is fantastic and reflects the ambition and determination shown by the RAF pilots he so admires.”

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