John Pinkerton at U3A meeting

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John Pinkerton, retired solicitor from Ballymoney and member of the U3A, presented a further enthralling instalment of the ‘Pinkertons of Ballaghmore’ to the Ballymoney U3A main meeting in February.

In her thanks, Frances Bach said: “Anyone who was not here would have missed something very special.”

This second instalment concerned Tom Pinkerton a former pupil at the Coleraine Inst. who gained a Mechanical Engineering degree from Queens, Belfast. He joined the RAF in 1942 at about the mid point of the Second World War. He was sent to the US to learn to fly, a common practice once the US had joined the war in December 1941. Outside the RAF, his particular interests were the bagpipes, which he took with him on all operations, and the novels of Agatha Christie. He was also interested in computation, which eventually was applied to computer systems.

Once he became operational as a pilot he flew photographic missions sometimes at quite low levels. He was active during the Battle of the Bulge in 1945 and the movements in Holland at about the same time, when he photographed broken dykes and large numbers of tanks. He also took many personal photographs, which are very interesting and unusual. At the end of WWII, he was instrumental in taking the surrender of Hamburg airfield on his own.

He continued in the RAF after the war and was sent to Dayton, Ohio, where he worked on fire control computers. Later, during the Vietnam War, the by then, Wing Commander Pinkerton went to Vietnam in order to repair the fire control systems of gunships which were going down. He asked permission of the RAF for this mission but the reply, a negative, took so long in coming that he had been to Vietnam and returned by the time he received it. He was given a US Air force civilian award for meritorious service for the Gunship work. Resigning from the RAF in 1986 he moved to Dayton where he had spent so much time. He died in 1991 just a few months after remarrying.