Ex-Leeds United chairman’s WW2 honour

Leslie Silver pictured with daughter Hilary.
Leslie Silver pictured with daughter Hilary.
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He was chairman of Leeds United during their high-flying days of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Now, though, Leslie Silver has received recognition for his exploits in a field far removed from the comfortable surroundings of the football boardroom.

Leslie, 88, is among the latest recipients of a new award for veterans of the RAF’s Bomber Command campaigns of the Second World War.

He took part in more than 40 operations in Europe as well as 20 in the Far East after volunteering for the air force aged just 17.

And, in typically modest fashion, one of Leslie’s first thoughts on receiving his clasp-style award was for the comrades he lost during the war.

He told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “It brings back memories of some very fine fellows who sadly didn’t get back.”

Talking about his experiences as a young airman, Leslie said: “I had a job to do and had mates that I was very close to. I believed in my capabilities.

“At that time people were basically anti-fascist and wanted to fight back. We were very focused on the job so there was no time for fear.”

Leslie joined Bomber Command in February 1944 as a flight engineer.

He flew with 138, 161, 291 and 356 Squadrons and at one stage was sent into Singapore’s Changi Jail with supplies for prisoners he describes being “in a terrible way”.

Recalling the moment he told his father he had completed his quota of 250 hours of operational missions, he said: “Dad closed his eyes, leaned his head against the wall and said, ‘Thank God for that’.”

After leaving the RAF aged 22, Leslie set up a paint company with a £250 gratuity.

Silver Paints, later known as Kalon Group, had a turnover of £100m by the time its founder retired from the business world in 1991.

Leslie was chairman at United between 1983 and 1996, a period in which the Whites gained promotion from the old Second Division and then won the old First Division title. He has retained close links with the club, pledging £15,000 to the cost of a recently-unveiled statue of legendary Leeds manager Don Revie.

* The Government introduced its Bomber Command clasp award in February this year.

Announcing the initiative, Defence Minister Mark Francois said all those who served in Bomber Command “deserve nothing but the utmost respect and admiration”.

For more details on how to apply for one of the awards, visit the www.veterans-uk.info website or ring 0845 780 0900.