Born in Yorkshire England, Ronald Holdsworth joined the British Royal Air Force (RAF) at the age of 18. Life took him all over the world during WWII. So to celebrate 100 years of age veteran Ron Holdsworth took a little flight trip in a 1940’s era biplane over Bakersfield, California. It was a birthday gift and an honorary flight in recognition of Mr. Holdsworth’s services. The flight was organised by the non-profit organisation Dream Flights as part of a two-month tour for veterans.
Holdsworth’s flight was piloted by Molly Littlefield, departing from Bakersfield Jet Centre at Meadows Field Airport, California. Mr. Holdsworth enjoyed the flight very much, describing as significantly different than flying in the tail of a Halifax bomber. Mrs. Littlefield herself is the daughter of a WWII instructor pilot. She was honoured to be able to fly a former airman and hoped that the experience gave Mr. Holdsworth the time of his life.
She is no stranger to performing flights for combat veterans, having taken around 60 veterans on such experiences. “It’s been a privilege to provide these flights to members of the greatest generation,” Mrs. Littlefield said. She furthermore believes it’s crucial that people honour those who served in WWII, to discuss their stories, and to understand the difficulties and sacrifices they made, “Because pretty soon it’s gone.”
The aircraft that they flew on was a Boeing Stearman. The particular aircraft used was restored into immaculate condition. The Stearman Kaydet is a two-seater biplane that first flew in 1934 with over 10,000 of them mass produced. It saw widespread use during WWII as a trainer aircraft for the US Army Air Force. When the war ended thousands of Kaydets found themselves in the civilian market, becoming popular crop dusters and aerobatic aircraft.
Dream Flights was created in 2011 by Daryl & Carol Fisher and family out of their love for seniors and aviation. As an organisation, Dream Flights is “dedicated to honouring military veterans and seniors with the adventure of a lifetime.” Flying with such extraordinary people means they are able to “collect, preserve, and share those stories of how they survived through times of great strife to remind us of our shared humanity, our connection to each other and the value of listening.”
Dream Flights has carried out over 5,447 flights for seniors and veterans since its foundation. Holdsworth’s flight was part of Operation September Freedom, which aimed to honour as many WWII veterans as possible from August 1st to September 30th in 2021.
Although he loved the flight, Holdsworth is certainly no stranger to flying. The British-born veteran worked as an aircraft mechanic for three years before he became a bomber crewman in 1944. He flew in the Royal Air Force (RAF) on a Handley Page Halifax, a four-engined British heavy bomber.
“I left England in April ’41 and got back in January ’44,” Holdsworth said. “I spent time in South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Kenya, Madagascar, and Egypt.”
Holdsworth flew six missions over France and a further 26 over Germany, of which most were uneventful. However, on Christmas Eve, 1944, Holdsworth participated in a daylight mission to drop bombs on industrial targets in the Ruhr region of Germany. Flying over Duisburg, his plane got hit with flak and an oxygen canister in the hull exploded. The impact shook the plane and everyone in it. Fortunately though, the aircraft was able to make it back to England.
California’s State Junior Vice Commander Tim Bryant was present for Holdsworth’s splendid flight. He stressed how important it is that young Americans truly understand and value history.
“I have two young girls,” said the VC. “It’s important that they know what our veterans have done, and what our allies have done.”
Holdsworth was asked if he had any words of advice for other veterans who had the opportunity to partake in one of the Dream Flights; “Go for it,” he responded. “I’d tell them to go for it.”