Comedian John Bishop visited RAF Wittering to mark the retirement of Flight Sergeant Pete Leahair, one of the station’s best known senior non-commissioned officers, on Thursday May 7.
Flight Sergeant Pete Leahair retired after 29 years of Royal Air Force Service on Friday May 8, but ensured that his last days at RAF Wittering would be among the station’s most memorable.
Pete’s cousin is John Bishop. With characteristic Liverpudlian generosity the famous comedian was happy to make his cousin’s retirement as enjoyable as possible, starting with the station comedy-night on Thursday May 7.
Comedy-nights at RAF Wittering are organised by ISS Defence and are a regular fixture on the Station. Over 200 personnel gathered in the Warrant Officers & Sergeants’ Mess to relax and enjoy a well-earned evening of laughs.
After some very funny acts, audible gasps and enthusiastic cheers swept through the function room as John Bishop took to the stage and gave the audience an unrehearsed, but hysterically delivered, 15-minute set.
The young Pete Leahair joined the Royal Air Force as a Steward in June 1986. In the intervening years he has served in Germany, Northern Ireland, the Middle East and completed no less than four tours in the Falkland Islands.
Reflecting on his three decades in the Royal Air Force, Pete said; “It’s difficult, really difficult to sum up a lifetime in uniform. It hasn’t always been plain sailing, and challenge is part of RAF life, but I’m so privileged to have been the Mess Manager in the last four years.”
Of his future Flight Sergeant Leahair said; “Long term, I am hoping to have my own pub-restaurant in the Grantham area. Short term I haven’t really given it a thought, maybe a bit of forklift driving or anything that doesn’t involve writing staff reports.”
The morning after, John and Pete were taken to the historic No. 3 Hangar at RAF Wittering where Flight Lieutenants Ian Wood and Dave Haines of the University of London Air Squadron took them for a flight in the squadron’s Grob Tutors.
Beautiful clear skies meant almost perfect flying conditions and, after an hour in the air with Flight Lieutenant Wood, John said; “That was an amazing experience.”
After the flights, Pete was joined by 163 family, friends and colleagues for his retirement top-table at the Warrant Officers & Sergeants’ Mess – the largest ever held at RAF Wittering. The top-table is a formal lunch which marks the departure or retirement of a long-serving officer or serviceman.
Group Captain Damian Alexander is the Station Commander at RAF Wittering. He said; “We must begin by acknowledging Flight Sergeant Leahair’s 29 years of service to his country. His contributions to the Royal Air Force and RAF Wittering have been profound and he has many achievements to his credit. Pete has our sincere thanks and best wishes for a long and happy future.”
Group Captain Alexander continued; “Over my 23 years in the Royal Air Force, I have been to quite a few retirement functions and comedy nights. I cannot recall any in which an A-List comedian has been present at both; on behalf of everyone at RAF Wittering, I say a huge thank you to Pete Leahair and John Bishop for giving us a very memorable two days.”