VIDEO: Dementia sufferer’s wish to fly granted with film

A former RAF pilot who suffers from dementia was granted his Christmas wish to fly again with a ‘priceless’ gift from a fellow veteran.

Michael Hollings was only 17 when he joined the RAF at the outbreak of the Second World War, having lied about his age.

Michael Hollings, 93, was a pilot in the RAF during the Second World War. His Christmas wish was to fly again, and James Douglas, also a former RAF pilot, visited his home at Green Willow Residential Care Home to show him a video of him flying a plane

Michael Hollings, 93, was a pilot in the RAF during the Second World War. His Christmas wish was to fly again, and James Douglas, also a former RAF pilot, visited his home at Green Willow Residential Care Home to show him a video of him flying a plane

He flew Lancaster bombers during the conflict and was a captain of a Wellington bomber at age 19, according to his records at Green Willow Residential Care Home in East Preston.

Now 93, Mr Hollings’ Christmas wish was to fly a Lancaster again – so his carers at the home wrote it on a card and put it on the tree they decorated for the village Christmas tree festival.

Run by St Mary’s Church, the building was filled by 40 trees decorated by groups and organisations for the event.

But it was Mr Hollings’ wish that caught the eye of organiser James Douglas, who was an engineer officer in the RAF from 1968 until 1988.

If we speak about it now, sometimes he remembers and sometimes he doesn’t but at the time he was right there, and that’s all that matters. It was utterly priceless

Diane Denyer

The 67-year-old said: “The thing that hit me most about the note was that he missed the camaraderie, so I thought I could help him and perhaps bring back some memories.

“Although I spent 20 years in the RAF, my father was also a bomber pilot during the war, and if he had still been alive, he would certainly have liked to share experiences with Mike.”

Mr Douglas said that there are only two working Lancasters left in the world, so he got the next best thing: a video of one of them flying over the German dams that were damaged in the famous 1943 raids.

He visited Mr Hollings at the home and showed him the footage.

Michael Hollings, 93, was a pilot in the RAF during the Second World War. His Christmas wish was to fly again, and James Douglas, also a former RAF pilot, visited his home at Green Willow Residential Care Home to show him a video of him flying a plane

Michael Hollings, 93, was a pilot in the RAF during the Second World War. His Christmas wish was to fly again, and James Douglas, also a former RAF pilot, visited his home at Green Willow Residential Care Home to show him a video of him flying a plane

Mr Douglas said he enjoyed the footage, and commented ‘what lovely Merlins’, referring to the aircraft’s engines.

Care home manager Diane Denyer said the gesture was ‘utterly priceless’.

“He was animated – he knew what he was looking at – and he was listening to James when he was talking and responded with what he did during the war.

“It was fabulous because as he watched the video you knew he was remembering how happy he was when he was flying.

Michael Hollings, 93, was a pilot in the RAF during the Second World War. His Christmas wish was to fly again, and James Douglas, also a former RAF pilot, visited his home at Green Willow Residential Care Home to show him a video of him flying a plane. The tree that Mr Hollings' Christmas wish was hung on at the home.

Michael Hollings, 93, was a pilot in the RAF during the Second World War. His Christmas wish was to fly again, and James Douglas, also a former RAF pilot, visited his home at Green Willow Residential Care Home to show him a video of him flying a plane. The tree that Mr Hollings' Christmas wish was hung on at the home.

“If we speak about it now, sometimes he remembers and sometimes he doesn’t but at the time he was right there, and that’s all that matters. It was utterly priceless.”

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