Monday, 25 April 2011

Lest we forget - Anzac Day 2011

Today is the day Australian and New Zealand people remember those who served during wartime. My late Dad was one of them. He was a navigator with one of the elite Pathfinder force squadrons of Bomber Command - Squadron 582:

Dad often spoke of "his war" and was proud of the fact he survived almost 55 operations - he told me survival rate was just 5, so I cannot begin to imagine the burden and memories he carried throughout his life. He spoke fondly of his squadron leader Captain Ted Swales who received a posthumous VC on their final fateful night - Dad knew that Ted saved his and his crew's lives at the expense of his own. I still have a piece of the very parachute that saved Dad's life that very night.
Dad is the tall one second from the far right
Swales' VC citation reads :

“ Captain Swales was 'Master Bomber' of a force of aircraft which attacked Pforzheim on the night of February 23, 1945. As Master Bomber he had the task of locating the target area with precision and of giving aiming instructions to the main force of bombers in his wake.

Soon after he reached the target area he was engaged by an enemy aircraft and one of his engines was put out of action. His rear guns failed. His crippled aircraft was an easy prey for further attacks. Unperturbed, he carried on with his allotted task; clearly and precisely he issued aiming instructions to the main force. Meanwhile the enemy fighter closed the range and fired again. A second engine of Captain Swales’ aircraft was put out of action. Almost defenceless, he stayed over the target area issuing his aiming instructions until he was satisfied that the attack had achieved its purpose.

It is now known that the attack was one of the most concentrated and successful of the war. Captain Swales did not, however, regard his mission as completed. His aircraft was damaged. Its speed had been so much reduced that it could only with difficulty be kept in the air. The blind-flying instruments were no longer working. Determined at all costs to prevent his aircraft and crew from falling into enemy hands, he set course for home. After an hour he flew into thin-layered cloud. He kept his course by skilful flying between the layers, but later heavy cloud and turbulent air conditions were met. The aircraft, by now over friendly territory, became more and more difficult to control; it was losing height steadily. Realising that the situation was desperate Captain Swales ordered his crew to bail out. Time was very short and it required all his exertions to keep the aircraft steady while each of his crew moved in turn to the escape hatch and parachuted to safety. Hardly had the last crew-member jumped when the aircraft plunged to earth. Captain Swales was found dead at the controls. Intrepid in the attack, courageous in the face of danger, he did his duty to the last, giving his life that his comrades might live”

Dad told me he was that "last crew member". Dad received a 'DFC" for his services -
The Distinguished Flying Cross is a military decoration awarded to personnel of the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and other services, and formerly to officers of other Commonwealth countries, for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy". (courtesy of wikipedia)

It was wonderful to see the grand Lancaster "G for George" in Canberra last year at the war memorial.

Our daughters miss their Pa terribly and their was evidence of this a year ago when our eldest daughter Emily was married. On her wedding bouquet she had a Lancaster aircraft brooch and her Pa's Caterpillar badge.
The small gold caterpillar badge on the left of the photo was given to airman by the Irvin company who manufactured the parachutes. They were only awarded to airmen whose lives were saved by their parachute - so Dad is a part of that club forever. The photos below are displayed on a piece of that silk parachute that saved Dad's life........

We all miss you Dad, Ross and Pa XX


  1. Michele, Your dad was a true hero. Thank God for all the brave men from that war and from all parts of the world that fought a common enemy. Thank you for sharing the story of that fateful flight and showing us the things you have that are so dear to you and your family. I didn't know about the catapillar pin and it's meaning, and what it cost those dear men and their families. Praying for peace in the world.
    Your friend, Margaret Foster, Mineola, TX

  2. This is a beautiful post and a wonderful tribute to your dad and all the others who have fought for freedom.

  3. What a wonderful tribute to your dad and to all the others who fought to keep our world safe. The medals are such a small reward for all these brave people have done. I don't think there are many who would have the courage today to do what they did. Thanks you so much for the blog. It certainly opened my eyes.



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