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Market Drayton man in fundraising swim to buy back war hero’s medals

A Market Drayton swimmer is closing in on his target of over 6,000 lengths of his local pool as he attempts to raise money to buy back the medals of war hero Godfrey Dennis Thomas, which were sold shortly after Godfrey passed away in 1982.

Steve Taylor and lifeguard at Market Drayton Swimming and Fitness Centre
Steve Taylor and lifeguard at Market Drayton Swimming and Fitness Centre

As of 16 September, Steve Taylor, 69, had swum over 5,000 lengths at Market Drayton Swimming & Fitness Centre, but he aims to swim a grand total of 6,194, in no more than 83 sessions, numbers he came up with because they represent an amalgamation of Godfrey’s World War 2 flying record.

Steve said: “I wanted the distance I swam to celebrate Godfrey’s achievements, which culminated in him being awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM), bestowed and presented personally by King George VI, for valour gallantry and devotion to duty.

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“I started with Godfrey’s squadron number – 83, then multiplied that by the 32 return trips he made in combat. I then used various other key factors, such as the 208 hours he flew in freezing conditions to complete his missions and more to commemorate some 22 of his fallen comrades, along with several other significant factors, that led to my grand total aim in a time that is also equal to his squadron number.

“I’m on track to hit my total by around Monday 10 October. The money I’m raising via this swim will go to my cousin, Iris Thomas, who is the widow of Godfrey’s eldest son, so that she can buy back the many medals, including the DFM, which were sold on Godfrey’s death back in the early 1980s. It would mean the world to Iris and the remaining family members to know these medals were once again within the family.”

Steve, who is ex-RAF, having served from 1973 to 2000 in the Aircraft Avionics branch and retired as a chief technician, has been swimming at Market Drayton since 2013. Previously he was a keen runner, but had to stop that activity following chemotherapy for leukaemia. He found that running was too painful following the treatment, whereas swimming has less impact on his joints. Steve’s leukaemia is incurable, but he feels that regular activity has been a great help in slowing the progress of the disease.

Rhys Collins, Interim Contract Manager for Shropshire Community Leisure Limited, which in partnership with Serco Leisure manages Market Drayton Swimming Pool on behalf of Shropshire Council, added:

“We’re fully behind Steve’s amazing swim. He’s been through his own battles, but is keen to commemorate the achievements of a genuine war hero in Godfrey Thomas, helping the Thomas family buy back medals which will mean so much to them.”

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