TRIBUTES have flooded in following the death of former RAF Flight Lieutenant Bill Eames (inset).

DUP Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA, and First Minister, Arlene Foster led tributes to the late Mr. Eames, saying that she was “deeply saddened” to learn of the passing of her “dear friend”.

She said: “I was blessed to have Bill as a friend. In some difficult moments over the past four years, Bill would remind me to focus on Kipling’s poem, ‘If’. He had gifted me a framed copy with all the appropriate underlined quotes. I will miss his quiet support.”

Mr. Eames was president of the Royal Air Forces Association, Co. Fermanagh Branch, and took part in the Wings Appeal collection every year.

The Chairman of the branch, Ray Hall, said: ‘‘Bill had a hugely distinguished record of service within the RAF, participating in many of the great actions of World War II, including D-Day and the Battle of Arnhem.

“Bill was a real ambassador for us as the President of our branch, and his quiet determination, drive and inspiration was admired not just by our members, but by all those who encountered him. His guidance and presence will be missed so much by us all.’’

Air Marshal Sean Reynolds, Air Officer, Northern Ireland, on behalf of the RAF said he was “saddened” to hear of the death of one of their own.

“Bill is a decorated war hero and will be greatly missed by his RAF family and friends – we will remember him with fond memories of his bravery, service and friendship,” he said.

Mr. Eames was very involved with organisations such as the Air Crew Association, Ulster Aviation Society and Ulster Flying Club, of which he held the position of Vice-President. Paying tribute to the late “esteemed member”, Ernie Cromie, from the Ulster Aviation Society, said: “For almost all of his 97 years, Bill lived and breathed aviation.”

Mr. Cromie noted that for many years, Mr. Eames was a flying instructor at the Ulster Flying Club, Newtownards, retiring there as Chief Instructor.

“Bill, one of life’s true gentlemen, maintained his interest in aviation right up until the end, being a frequent visitor to the Ulster Aviation Collection at Maze/Long Kesh, where he was an inspiration to our younger members in particular, by virtue of his wartime service and subsequent career in aviation.”

John James paid tribute to Mr. Eames on behalf of the Enniskillen Branch of the Royal British Legion.

He said: “We in the Royal British Legion here in Enniskillen Branch have lost another true friend and truly a World War II Hero. He will be be deeply missed, but remembered with pride and honour.”

Elizabeth Kennedy Trudeau, US Consul General, said that it was a “profound honour” to have known Mr. Eames.

Selwyn Johnston, a good friend of Mr. Eames, said: “He was a gentleman and true Enniskillener at heart, born between the bridges, and proud of it. He was a dear friend to many, and our thoughts are with his family at this time. ‘Whenever an elder dies, a library burns down,’ as Amadou Hampaté Ba said,” he added.

Viscount Brookeborough, Lord Lieutenant of Fermanagh, paid tribute to Mr. Eames saying: "I think it's a very sad day for Fermanagh that Bill Eames has passed away and we should recognise what he did in the Second World War for our freedom that we have today. In particular, he flew troops in to D-Day and to Arnhem and he had no way of defending his aircraft because it was an unarmed aircraft. That was an incredibly brave thing to do. He got wounded in Arnhem and thank goodness that he recovered and that we have had the privilege of his company ever since."

"Our thoughts go to his family in this very sad week," he added.

Mr. Eames' funeral service was at 1pm on Thursday, November 19 at St. Macartin's Cathedral. The recording of the service is viewable via a link that can be found on the cathedral website: