The outbreak of Second World War prevented Bill Lucas fulfilling his dream of running in the 1940 Olympic Games in Helsinki at a time when he was considered a medal contender in the 1500 meters.
He took his revenge by joining Bomber Command. As he said later: “Hitler had deprived me of my best athletic years, so what did I do? I went out and bombed him.”
In all, Lucas flew 81 missions, including the first 1,000 bomber raid in May, 1942.
As the average lifespan at Bomber Command was 30 missions, Lucas counted himself fortunate to see out the war but in fact became, eventually, the oldest surviving Bomber Command pilot.
The only child of a bricklayer and a seamstress, London-born Lucas left school at 15 and after a succession of jobs, landed a position as an assessor with City insurance company London and Lancashire.
His new employer had a thriving sports club and the tall and lanky Lucas was a natural runner who became known for his long, silky stride.
He went on to join the country’s biggest athletics club, the Belgrave Harriers, and by the time war broke out was seen as a world-record contender.
At the end of the war he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and by the time he was demobbed in 1946 he was an acting squadron leader.
Lucas returned to working in insurance and in 1948 finally got his chance to take part in an Olympics when he ran the 5,000m in the “Austerity Games” in London.