Obituary: Ian G Henderson, solicitor, wartime Bomber Command navigator, company director and secretary

editorial image
Share this article
Have your say

Ian Grant Henderson, solicitor. Born: 4 May 1922 in Lockerbie, Dumfries & Galloway. Died: 24 April 2019, aged 96

Ian Grant Henderson was born in 1922 in Lockerbie to Thomas and Lilias (nee Marchbank). Ian was the youngest of three children and the only son, his elder sisters being Marjory and Elizabeth. He attended Fettes for his secondary schooling and was destined to follow his father into the family legal firm. Like so many of his generation his studies were interrupted by war.

He joined the RAF in 1943 and was posted to Bomber Command. He undertook his training in the UK and then Canada. Most aircrew were tested for pilot training but Ian reported that he was prone to bring the aircraft down so hard that he punctured the tyres. Following this he trained as a navigator. In 1944 he started the series of sorties that all aircrew in Bomber command had to complete before they were stood down for a rest. A tour normally consisted of 30 sorties but Ian’s crew did 31. Many crews did not survive their first tour.

Reading his log, one is struck by how dangerous it was even towards the end of the war owing to radar-controlled flak and night fighters. There were other dangers from his own side, such as collisions in the huge bomber formations which were quite common by that stage of the war. During his sorties he was a Flight Sergeant but he was commissioned shortly afterwards. For his courage he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal. Ian survived his tour of duty and, soon after, peace in Europe was declared.

After the war he completed his legal studies in Edinburgh University and joined his father as a lawyer practicing in Lockerbie – his father had founded Henderson & Mackay as a young man. Father and son built it into a successful practice, with clients from all over Dumfriesshire and beyond.

Ian was for many years the Secretary of the Dumfriesshire branch of the National Farmers’ Union, a post which had previously been held by his father. A few years into his legal career he met his future wife, Elizabeth Thomson. They were married in 1951 and set up home in Lockerbie. His father retired in the late 1950s, after which Ian became the senior partner in Henderson & Mackay. After the death of his parents, Ian and Elizabeth moved to the family home in Lockerbie, a house built by his father in 1914 and the home in which Ian grew up. After extensive remodelling it became their home for the rest of Ian’s life. A feature of the house is the large garden which had been laid out by Ian’s father. It provided Ian with interest and exercise throughout this life – he was still cutting the extensive lawns months before his last illness.

Gardening was not his only interest. He was a founder director of the Lockerbie ice rink and a keen curler all his life. He was also an eager bridge player and enjoyed being a member of a number of groups, one of which, in Moffat, he attended every Monday until recently.

He and Elizabeth also enjoyed the theatre, which they could indulge when taking holidays in London and the seaside towns they liked to visit.

Ian also continued the family involvement in the Lockerby Trust, a property-owning charity based in Edinburgh. The Trust had been set up by a distinguished forebear to provide subsidised housing for those who had fallen on hard times. Ian was, for many years, the factor of the estate.

Another abiding interest was the coast around Rockcliffe, near Dalbeattie. His family had a tradition of taking a summer holiday at Rockcliffe every year. This tradition was started before he was born and carried on every year since, apart from the war years. He liked to sail, play golf, set fishing lines and, when he was younger, swim. Latterly he took to the sea in a small boat with an outboard engine to enjoy the sailing escapades of his many nephews and nieces.

Ian and Elizabeth had many nephews and nieces from both the Henderson and the Thomson sides of the family. Ian took great delight in keeping up with all their activities and, as the years went on, their expanding families. He had an elaborate handwritten matrix of all their key dates. This led to a card and often a cheque marking the birthdays of all of his nephews and nieces, as well as their children and grandchildren.

Ian was a member of the Bomber Command Association throughout his life. It gave him great satisfaction to be present in London on 28 June 2012 for the formal opening of the Bomber Command memorial in Green Park in London. He felt that it was a long overdue memorial to the 58,000 young men of Bomber Command who died during the war and the countless others who, like him, had done their duty with courage and fortitude while following the orders of the War Cabinet and in accord with the overwhelming wishes of the population.

Ian Henderson died on 24 April 2019 after a short illness. He is survived by Elizabeth and family members.