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IN fact he was a civilian expert in airborne counter intelligence engaged in such sensitive code-breaking work that even those he flew with were strictly for-bidden from communicating with or even seeing them.‘He was so secret that I never saw him.

But we knew they were in uniform and they had a complete record as if they were crew members because of the risk of being shot down and the Germans knowing they had got hold of a scientist.

He admits that, much of the time, the missions he flew from Norfolk at RAF Feltwell and later RAF Foulsham were so secret that he did not have a clear idea of their purpose.

Nor was he fully aware of the role of the shadowy figure behind the black curtain whose face he and his fellow crewmen never saw.

Little wonder that, as he waited for his demob papers that summer, 24-year-old Mr Reid considered his flying days over.

Here he was, blessed to be back on terra firma in one piece after riding his luck in all manner of cramped and sputtering bone-shakers – every one of them a target for Hitler’s forces.

When his own Wellington landed moments later, similar fractures were found on its wings.He always just felt that he had had his luck, that he’d had some frights, that a lot of his friends were gone and there had been one or two close-run things.’Yet, in common with many of the airmen who faced appalling odds in wartime, Mr Reid is understated about the perils.‘It was just a job,’ he says now.‘It was a thrill when I joined, something new and great.‘It was only after you’ve been up and down a few times that it wasn’t quite so funny.‘Any of the boys in Bomber Command could tell you much better stories than mine.’That is debatable.He was painfully aware that only good fortune had kept him alive in his years on a dozen types of military aircraft, including the Wellington, the Halifax and the Mosquito.And, by the end of his years of service, he was dwelling much more than he used to on the mechanics of those clanking flying machines taking him into troubled skies.