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Oct 18, 2010 11:15 AM by Katie Johnson

British World War II pilots reunite at Florida training site

World War II was fought an ocean away, but some members of Britain's "Greatest Generation" trained in Southwest Florida.

Some of the aviators recently reunited in the very place where they learned the skills that saved their lives at war.

For 4,000 British airmen, their journey into World War II began at Clewiston's Riddle Field, now known at Airglades Airport.

Members of the Number Five British Flying Training School honed their skills in Southwest Florida at a time when their country was under attack by Germany.

"They were still bombing at that time, but it was tailing off. I didn't come here until the end of 1943. By that time, the Germans were seeing the light that it was dangerous to fly over England," said visiting veteran Peter Hiles.

When the men first came to North America, they had no idea where they were going.

It was either north to Canada or south to Florida.

They say they were lucky enough to come to Florida and that it didn't take very long to adjust.

"Sunshine, warmth, plenty of nice food and rationing had been going on in England when we arrived here and it wasn't here - any rationing at all I suppose," said Veteran Brain Spragg.

The group visited the airport seven years ago, and many thought it would be their last trip.

But the surviving members, now in their 80s, wanted to pay their respects one last time to a school that they say helped saved their lives.

"The history of an area gets kind of lost in the blur of time, unfortunately. And that's what this is about - remembering how we got to where we are," said Clewiston Museum Secretary Jeff Barwick.

And although many years have passed since their training days in Clewiston, the men say they'd love to take one last flight for old time's sake.

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