Restored 100-year-old RAF bear keeps 'lovely, wonky smile'
A 100-year-old teddy bear that helped a World War Two airman convalesce has undergone a delicate restoration.
Bobby Bear was the childhood toy of RAF wireless operator Joe Mack, who flew with one of the elite Pathfinder crews based in Bourn, Cambridgeshire.
The "treasured keepsake" was faithfully mended by a team of specialists for the BBC Repair Shop series.
Mr Mack's daughter, Kris Johnston, said the family wanted Bobby "conserved rather than changed".
The "fragile" bear was loaned to the Pathfinder collection at RAF Wyton in Cambridgeshire and formed the centrepiece for its 75th anniversary in 2018.
Senior curator at the RAF Wyton heritage Centre, John Clifford, said he hoped the cuddly mascot would one day return to the base.
Mr Mack was a wireless operator with the RAF's 97 Squadron, based in Bourn, Cambridgeshire, and flew with the force's Pathfinder crew during World War Two.
Their job was to precede bombing missions and identify targets with coloured flares.
In 1943, at the age of 21, Mr Mack survived an aircraft crash near Bourn airfield, on what become known as Black Thursday. The day saw heavy loss of life because of bad weather on home soil - rather than enemy fire.
His family said his beloved bear aided his recovery from serious injuries, although he never took to the skies again.
A gold-stitched line on the bear's left arm replicated the wound stripe displayed on the uniform of an injured airman.
Bobby Bear was presented to the team on the BBC programme, who set to work reinforcing his body with conservation mesh and felt.
The aim was to "keep his character and history" as well as his "lovely, wonky smile".
Mrs Johnston said her father's bear became his mascot and her grandmother had "patched and darned" it over the years, even knitting the bear an identical RAF uniform.
"We did not want a brand new bear," she said, "but he needs to look as battered as he did before.
"Getting Bobby Bear fixed is a tribute to dad and his crew - that way his story will live on in a much more vibrant way.
"He's not just a family treasure but an icon."
Joe Mack died at the age of 72 in 1994 but his family said he would have been "overjoyed that Bobby Bear is still going - and will go on for generations".