United Kingdom,

Bupa UK care home resident takes to the skies 70 years after leaving the RAF


A 96-year-old RAF hero has taken to the skies again nearly 75 years after last piloting an aircraft – thanks to staff at his care home.

  • Bupa care home colleagues organised the trip for 96 year old great-grandfather, Bernard
  • It’s 73 years since he’s taken to the skies, and comes as RAF celebrates its centenary
  • Surprise is part of Bupa’s #nevertoolate campaign to help residents’ achieve their dreams

As a former pilot, great-grandfather Bernard Rye had longed to be airborne once again, but thought his flying days were over until Bupa colleagues arranged a surprise trip as part of a wish-granting programme.

Bernard was whisked aboard a Piper PA Cherokee Six for a 30 minute flight over Dorset and the Isle of Wight, accompanied by his son and flown by a volunteer pilot.

Now a resident at Bupa’s The Links care home near Bournemouth, Bernard joined the RAF in 1940 and toured the world in his Tiger Moth and Avro York planes.

He even had the honour of piloting Louis Mountbatten, the 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, during his time in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

During this time he travelled to countries including South Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand, and also spent time in the Middle East.

Bernard was nominated for the flying experience by Zoe McCarthy, Activities Lead at the Bupa care home, as part of their #nevertoolate campaign.

The campaign is being run across Bupa care homes to help residents live life to the full, while ticking off their bucket list. Elsewhere, in-home staff have worked to fulfil residents’ ambitions from meeting a musical icon through to seaside days out.

Zoe said: “Everyone’s got ambitions that they’d like to achieve and being in a care home shouldn’t get in the way of that.

“We all love hearing Bernard’s stories from his days in the RAF and he absolutely lights up when he tells them. That’s why we wanted to help him relive it, and organised his surprise for him.”

After hearing about Bernard’s time in the RAF, Zoe worked closely with fly2help – a charity specialising in aviation experiences – to set up the surprise.

Originally from Enfield, north London, Bernard joined the Air Force aged just 18. An accountant by trade, his mathematical skills were put to use in his roles as a pilot and navigator, which involved calculating flight routes under severely testing conditions.

Following the war, Bernard left the air force and returned to his career in accountancy working for the BDH chemical company.

It was here that he met his wife, Josephine, in 1955. Following a short courtship they married a year later in a ceremony at All Saints Church, Woodford Green.

The pair had three sons, Howard, Jonathan Edward and Matthew Shearing. Today, Bernard has 10 grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

In 1969 the couple moved to Poole in Dorset, where Bernard took up a new finance job at a local company. He has lived in the area ever since, moving to Bupa The Links in 2013.

Speaking after his flight, Bernard said: “I had a thoroughly good time in the RAF and got to see everywhere from South America to Australia and the Middle East.

“It’s been over 70 years since I flew myself, and I never expected I’d be taking to the skies again. It took me back quite a way, and I’m very grateful to the team for making it happen.”



About Bupa

Bupa's purpose is helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives.

With no shareholders, our customers are our focus. We reinvest profits into providing more and better healthcare for the benefit of current and future customers.

We serve 15.5m health insurance customers, provide healthcare to over 14.5m people in our clinics and hospitals and look after over 22,900 aged care residents.

We directly employ over 78,000 people, principally in the UK, Australia, Spain, Poland, Chile, New Zealand, Hong Kong, the USA, Brazil, the Middle East and Ireland. We also have associate businesses in Saudi Arabia and India.

Health insurance accounts for the majority our business. In some markets we also operate clinics, dental centres, hospitals, and care homes and villages.

For more information, visit www.bupa.com.