A SURPRISE £40,000 cheque hit a high note at the musical start of a military memorial weekend.

Secretary of the Darlington branch of the Royal Air Force Association, Marjorie Roberts, handed over the windfall to Group Captain Bob Kemp, Director of the RAF Benevolent Fund.

He told a packed Darlington Civic Theatre: "This is a huge amount of money and I will make sure it is put to good use."

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The commemorative concert by the Band of the Royal Air Force College, under the direction for the final time of Squadron Leader Chris Weldon, entertained the audience for more than two hours this evening (May 30).

It included a celebration of Canadian airman Andrew Mynarski VC, memorialised by a statue close to the former RAF Middleton St George, now Durham Tees Valley Airport.

The Pilot Officer was shot down over France in June 1944 after taking off from the base. He died from his injuries after helping save the life of a colleague trapped in the stricken aircraft.

The concert is the first in a series of events planned for the Royal Canadian Air Force and RAF Middleton St George memorial weekend.

A memorial service for the airmen who flew from the base during the Second World War will be held in the shadow of Mynarski's statue, at 10.30am on Saturday (May 31).

Concert sponsor Alasdair MacConachie, of Sherwoods, said: "I'm a great supporter of military bands. It's where I started my carer and this is a very worthy cause."