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Lottery fund helps Cardiff war veteran to revisit Sri Lanka

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BBC Wales History BBC Wales History | 14:20 UK time, Tuesday, 27 March 2012

A national television advertisement for the National Lottery's Good Causes holds special significance for Cardiff war veteran Leslie Godwin.

Leslie Godwin

Leslie is one of over 50,000 people who have made commemorative trips through the BIG Lottery Fund's Heroes Return scheme.

Leslie in his RAF uniform

Leslie, 87, was just a teenager when he left Cardiff for the Far East to serve in the RAF during World War Two.

He joined the Home Guard at just 15, and at 18 left his job in Cardiff's East Moors steel works to become a rear gunner and wireless operator in the Royal Air Force.

Leslie was sent on gunnery and telegraphy training course, eventually ending up in Koggala, Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) towards the end of the war in 1945.

He remained station in Asia as part of the Coastal Command whose duties included air sea rescues.

Leslie was demobbed in 1947 and had only been home in Splott for three days when he met the woman who would become his wife. They remained married for 54 years.

Koggala lake

Koggala was badly hit by the Asian Tsunami in December 2004

Speaking about the return journey to Koggala, Leslie said: "My wife died nine years ago and I hadn't been well for a while, then I saw this opportunity and thought "Why not?"

Last year Leslie took his grandson Gareth Keene to see where he'd served. His Koggala base had been hit badly by the 2004 tsunami, so Leslie and his grandson toured the region.

"Gareth came as my carer, and it was great to be able to show him some of the places I'd told him about. It did me a power of good, and I'm glad we were given that chance.

"Going back, my main memory of the war is working so closely with that crew of men.

"I was one of the lucky fellows - many of those in Bomber Command didn't come back."

Life Changing campaign

The National Lottery - Life Changing campaign is running on national television throughout March. Adverts in national newspapers will also promote the impact of National Lottery funding.

Since 2004, £88 million has been awarded to veterans and projects that involve learning about and commemorating their experiences. This has allowed over 51,000 World War Two veterans, spouses, carers and widows to visit the places where they saw active service.

You can find information and details of how to apply for a Heroes Return 2 grant by calling 0845 00 00 121 or visiting www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/heroesreturn.

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