On 14 September, former Flight Lieutenant Colin Bell (DFC AE FRICS), 102, took part in an extraordinary fundraising challenge to raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund, London’s Air Ambulance and The Royal College of Nursing Foundation.

The former Mosquito Bomber Pilot descended 280ft down the Royal London Hospital, the highest elevated helipad in Europe, in an attempt to break a Guinness World Record as the oldest person to abseil.

Colin completed a sponsored walk between the 21-23 August, visiting places significant to his wartime role during the Second World War. Colin did his walk in three stages over three days – on the first day Colin walked from the Churchill College Cambridge to the American Military Cemetery in Madingley, accompanied by Randolph Churchill, Winston Churchill’s great-grandson. On the second day, Colin visited RAF Wyton, where he underwent his conversion training on Mosquito Bombers; and on the third day, Colin walked to RAF Downham Market, Bexwell Church and the VCs Memorial. 

Colin, from Royal Tunbridge Wells, was born in 1921 and joined the RAF towards the end of 1940. His flying training was carried out in America prior to their entry into War (before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour) in December 1941. Colin carried out 50 bombing raids over Germany, including 13 over Berlin.

He said: “I may be 102-years-old, but I still wanted to do my bit to raise much needed funding for three amazing charities: The Royal College of Nurses Foundation, London's Air Ambulance and The RAF Benevolent Fund. I am glad to be doing something - quite frankly at my age, I am glad to be doing anything!” He continued: “The RAF Benevolent Fund does the most amazing job in supporting members of the RAF Family though thick and thin, providing practical, emotional and financial support whenever it is needed. I would hugely appreciate and encourage any donations!”

Colin said of his abseil: “I don’t scare easily, when I was at the top, I was thoughtful; it seemed a long way down!” He says that the secret to staying fit and well at 102 is: “A combination of exercise, alcohol, and the love of good women with the odd bad one thrown in.”  

Mark Vickers, former Director of London’s Air Ambulance said: “It’s absolutely vital to keep the appetite for giving going… endeavours like Colin’s and raising the profiles of these charities is hugely important and greatly appreciated.” Colin has now raised almost £17,000 for his three chosen charities.

The RAF Benevolent Fund provides financial, emotional, and practical assistance to serving and retired RAF personnel and their families. This includes grants to help with financial difficulty, mental health support, Airplay youth clubs, and more.