I very much doubt that , in 1999, when Ron started his quest to achieve recognition for the "unsung heroes of 624 squadron" he thought for one second that he would one day be widely regarded as one of those heroes himself.
The truth is that none of us would be here now if it wasn't for Ron. He single-handedly brought the squadron that was, by it's nature largely unheard of, into the light. Through his website "624squadron.org" he reunited comrades who had not met for 60 years and achieved so much for the veterans and their families. Sadly we lost Ron in 2015 and his wonderful website shortly afterwards. This new site owes a huge debt to Ron for his incredible efforts and I hope we can bring his work back into the public domain where it belongs.
Thanks Ron, R.I.P.
Ron tells how the predecessor of this site was born in 1999/2000.
"This site was developed following my research into my Uncle who was " Missing Presumed Dead" in August 1944.
As a boy I grew up always showing an interest in the R.A.F. and was very close to my Grandma. I asked many questions about Uncle Edmund but I was unable to find very much information. Few in the family appeared to know why he was flying. He had always been a mechanic and a member of ground crew.
In August of 1999, I found information on the Commonwealth Graves Site which informed me that he had been serving with 624 Squadron and that a plaque on the Malta Memorial commemorated his name.
I then found that 624 was a Special Operations Squadron and was informed that information would be very limited. However I placed a message on Larry's Bomber Command site, contacted the R.A.F. Personnel Management Agency at Insworth Gloucester. and sat back and waited.
In Mid October, having virtually given up hope, I received an E-mail with lots of invaluable information,including records of all flights by 624Sqdn. I discovered that the aircraft my uncle was flying in was Halifax JN896. Other information included a list of surviving members of 624Sqdn and on 27th October I wrote to these men trying to find out if anyone remembered Edmund.
I was really touched by the quick response from everyone of them, and with the information they all provided I felt that I had known them for all of my life. Even though none of them could personally remember Edmund, on reading what they forwarded me I fully understood. Most of them only knew the crew they worked with and the officers. I felt that their story needed to be told. In a short space of time, I started to find my way around the internet and my computer in order to develop this, my first and only website.
I hope that as time goes by the story of 624 Squadron will become known to many in the world, a world that may not have known the freedom it does now, had it not have been for the dedicated men of 624 Squadron R.A.F.
In acknowledgement of their gallantry I would like to thank them for their services, commitment and memories".
Gary Vickers' speech
On behalf of Susan, can I thank you all for being here for the unveiling of Ron McKeon’s plaque and I am pleased that we are able to include this with the medal presentation that follows. As you will see, Susan has todays BOGOF offer with two of us given the honour of unveiling the tribute to Ron. Regrettably, I have to use notes now to help with my memory, which I put down to my age. Can’t speak for John though.
It seems such a short time since John and I were at Ron’s funeral and since we had his constant smile around us.
From the earliest days of the gatherings of 624 Veterans and their families at Brize Norton, Ron has been there and has been very much part of the group. His constant attention to the website and working with Wing Commander Dixon of 4624 Sqn, got the message out that gave the initial creation, venue and support of the loose association of veterans and families that became 624 Sqn association.. My early involvement was supporting Sqn Ldr Mark Dover with reunions until I took over organising them and other veterans events myself. These were heady days with so many of the 624 Sqn members with us on section visits, presentations and trips. Ron was a constant source of information and help with arrangements and we often chatted through the plans for reunions or other activities. I have had the pleasure of Ron’s company on some of the events I have organised such as the BBMF Lancaster visit to Brize Norton for 624 Veterans and of course, the 2004 visit to the south of France. 3 ceremonies in 2 days and a civic reception and exchanging gifts etc, all the veterans received the regions medal and Ron was there, with that huge grin on his face. My honour there was to lead the RAF and veteran contingent on the ceremonies and be the military point of contact for the visit. This caused probably the biggest headache I have ever had when I was staying with the veterans and supporters including Ron, and, by headache, I actually mean hangover.
Throughout these years, Ron’s website gave us a focal point, kept a record of 624 Veterans, their history, exploits and activities, provided a place for research as well as a picture record of annual get-togethers and visits. Ron’s efforts were pivotal for the spread of knowledge of 624 Sqn and I believe that all of us that care about 624 and its men owe him a debt that we are, in part, repaying today.
My involvement finished in 2011 when I left 4624 Sqn and went back into the Middle East to work so I lost touch with the 624 gang until I got back here to the NMA. The baton was then very firmly in WO Mazzotta’s hand so it is fitting he takes over and fills the gaps and brings us to today.
John Mazzotta's speech
My first real foray with the Veterans of 624 Sqn was during the visit to France in 2004, although I had been on the periphery at some of the reunions at Brize Norton. But France was my first chance to see the impact on Ron with regards to missing his Uncle Ernest. After completing the final parade Ron had a moment of reflection and was overcome with emotion. We just stood there giving each other a hug and I allowed him let all his emotions pour out.
During subsequent visits to Brize after that event, I was able to get to know all the vets and Ron a lot better. Ron always had a smile on his face especially when he was surrounded by the 624 Family. His knowledge with regards to the missions, the crews was outstanding and he was very proud to be associated with them all.
As time progressed we all know that there were more difficulties in getting our Vets and families onto Brize for the reunions. In Apr 2011, whilst I was here at the NMA on a visit with my flight from 4624, one of my airmen came to me with the idea. This individual had supported the reunions at Brize and had been in France as well. He suggested that we have a plaque at the NMA to commemorate the existence of 624.
So after much debate and a period of operational deployment for myself I joined forces with Ron, who had already visited the NMA and had discussed the Sqn with Mike Colton, between them they came up with the location were the Sqn plaque now proudly sits. Ron was a force to be reckoned with, he must have called me at least once per week, making suggestions and helping to organise the event. Ron was so proud that at long last the Sqn was going to have public recognition in a place as beautiful and picturesque as the location that we are standing it today. Without Ron's assistance we would not have had a bugler and Pipes. We would not have had the whole event videoed for posterity. In Fact I was only reminded of his passion this week, whilst reviewing the videos that Susan had uploaded on the Facebook page, brought back happy memories
So from this point onwards, we have continued to attend the NMA as part of our annual reunion, where we could all pay our respects, to those that served on a great Sqn and those that never came back.
Ron's health deteriorated, he tried to put all his affairs in order to ensure that at least the website was still available to all those that used as a source of information and continued to flourish as Gary has already eluded too. So last year's reunion was a very difficult time for many of us, especially Susan, who had been his companion and comforter in his last years and brought much joy and happiness to his life.
This leaves me only to say, that as well as the Sqn that Ron loved passionately being commemorated here in the Special Forces Memorial Grove, we can now give thanks to Ron's life, for his passion and enthusiasm for 624, it gives us both great pleasure to unveil this plaque in memory of Ron McKeon.
Thank you - you did us very proud!
P.S from Gary........ I think we should note that Jenny (Wilson) made it clear that Ron was the driving force behind the Vets getting the Legion d'Honneur . There was more to Ron than a lot gave credit. Chill now chap, you achieved a lot and sought nothing in return. The notes above show that we all recognised your efforts.