The son of a beloved High Wycombe secondary school teacher has paid tribute to his father, calling him his hero.

Members of the BFP’s We Grew Up in Wycombe Facebook group fondly remembered their school days as children returned to classrooms earlier this month.

Many recalled being taught by Ron West at Lady Verney High School, Jennifer Darvill-Saunders remembering him as the “best teacher of all [her] school days”, a sentiment echoed by Ann Scott, who said: “I was in his form for two years, the best teacher ever.”

The story caught the eye of Mr West’s son Chris, who contacted the BFP to pay tribute to his father’s memory and tell readers more about his life.

Ron West was born in Wraysbury in 1922, an only child, and spent his childhood in Abingdon and Oxford where Chris’ grandfather was a postman and his grandfather’s brother was the head postmaster.

Chris said: “The post office was something of a family firm which my Dad rather reluctantly joined on leaving school.

“I don’t think he was any great shakes at school but had some musical talent playing the violin and singing in the choir at Mansfield College, Oxford.

“He met my Mum, Joan Strange, whilst playing alongside her in an orchestra. That’s where the connection to High Wycombe comes in as she was a Wycombe girl who lived in Eaton Avenue and worked in the office of one of the furniture factories.”

ALSO READ: 'Wonderful friendships which endure': YOUR memories of secondary school life

Mr West joined the RAF in the first week of the Second World War, signing up in the Long Room at Lord’s Cricket Ground.

He undertook his aircrew training in Florida and in Canada, and became a warrant officer, bomb aimer and navigator.

Chris said his initial duties were in Coastal Command – mine hunting and so forth – but in 1943 he transferred to Bomber Command.

Bucks Free Press: PICTURED: Ron West when he returned to the UK after his aircrew training in AmericaPICTURED: Ron West when he returned to the UK after his aircrew training in America

On just his third mission his Halifax – with a call sign “m for mother” – was hit by anti-aircraft fire over Cologne.

He parachuted from the burning plane, with five of the crew of seven surviving, but the pilot and the gunner were lost.

Chris said: “He didn’t talk much about his war experiences, but I do remember him telling me that he owed his survival to two things, the Red Cross and his good fortune – but that good fortune came in mysterious ways.”

His parachute jump landed in a sewage works and Mr West was not captured for the best part of two days, with Chris adding: “When he was caught a crowd gathered and forced him into a shop doorway and he was genuinely convinced that he was going to be lynched.

“His good fortune came to his rescue in the form of a passing policeman who dispersed the crowd but handed him over to the authorities and to prisoner of war camp.”

ALSO READ: Looking back at school memories from years gone by

Mr West ended up in coldest PoW camp, Stalag Luft 6, which is in modern day Lithuania.

Chris said: “The Red Cross’s role in helping the survival of prisoners is not that well appreciated these days. Its good offices were the conduit for small parcels from home – basic necessities we’d say now but eagerly anticipated treats for prisoners living on very meagre rations.

“Even less well known is the educational service they provided with correspondence courses on many subjects and they even ran exams so PoWs could return home qualified – if they returned at all of course.”

Mr West got his commercial qualifications in Germany, which allowed him to become a teacher.

He was saved from the notorious ‘long march’ all able-bodied prisoners from the camp were ordered on after he got severe frostbite.

His son said: “Most unusually he was repatriated by air in a successful attempt to prevent amputations and was home before the conclusion of hostilities.

Bucks Free Press: Mr West at home with the family's our cocker spaniel, NickyMr West at home with the family's our cocker spaniel, Nicky

“Many of his friends from the camp perished on the Long March – some from hypothermia – others from ‘friendly fire’ from the RAF before the plight of these poor souls trudging across wartime Germany in the grip of winter was realised.”

Against the odds, Mr West returned home, with a spell in military hospital somewhat repairing the frostbite damage.

He married Joan Strange at High Wycombe Parish Church on September 15, 1945, with one of the other survivors from his Halifax his best man, and lived with his parents until 1951, when the couple moved to Rupert Avenue, in High Wycombe.

Mr West’s first teaching job was at Slough Technical College, which he commuted to by bicycle, which Chris described as a “beg heavy, fixed wheel, old-fashioned bike” with no “bad weather alternative”.

ALSO READ: These are some of your memories of growing up in High Wycombe

He moved to Lady Verney in 1959, with Chris saying he “threw himself into the life of the school in a way that hadn’t been possible at Slough because of the journey involved”.

He organised school dances and school trips, and one year, managed to get Rupert Davies, star of Maigret, to open the fete – after the pair spent time in the Stalag Luft 6 camp together.

Mr West also taught evening classes at Wycombe College two to three nights a week, and was closely involved with the Royal Life Saving Society first as a teacher and then as the senior examiner in the area.

Chris said: “Evenings in the summer term were spent round swimming pools testing candidates for their bronze medals – and for the more advanced grades I was often the person to be rescued.

“There were a few times when I’d never felt more at risk from drowning.”

Bucks Free Press: Ron West sadly died in 1970 aged just 48Ron West sadly died in 1970 aged just 48

His charitable work in life-saving was rewarded with an audience with the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 1968.

Chris said his father was “particularly pleased” that Her Majesty recognised the ‘Caterpillar Club’ badge he always wore in his lapel as a mark of someone whose life had been saved by a parachute.

Mr West’s death from coronary thrombosis in 1970, at the age of just 48, came as a shock to his wife and son, with Chris saying it is a “continuing sadness to me to this day”.

ALSO READ: WWII hero who cracked codes at Bucks' Bletchley Park to appear on new £50 note

He added: “That he didn’t get to meet his daughter-in-law or his three grandchildren is a lingering regret.

“Ron was an only child, as am I, so family links are very restricted. I’d thought that only two lifelong friends and three cousins on my Mum’s side would remember him now.

“That’s why to read that girls he taught – who will be at least in their 60s by now – remember him so fondly is particularly poignant.

“Ideally everyone’s Dad should be a hero to them and it has taken me this long to realise how much this is true in my case.”