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J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

Beautiful essay. The quality of the writing is outstanding.
He chews a ham sandwich, viciously, like it insulted his mother.
What a vivid image!

Paul Rogers
Paul Rogers
1 year ago

Thank you. A really lovely piece.
“Suddenly a man who cannot walk has his wings back. He is 20 again, avoiding purple-black monsoon clouds above a Burmese delta.”
Beautiful.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
1 year ago

This story reminds me of my late grandpa. He was a navigator and gunner on a B-17. I still remember some of his stories and I wish he lived long enough to ask him about it when I was old enough to appreciate it.

Tiberius Vindex
Tiberius Vindex
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

I know the feeling. My own grandfather was an artillery man in New Guinea and sadly passed away when I was 12. I had asked him about the war but he never wanted to talk about it. Going by some of the stories my mother told about growing up with him he sounded like he had PTSD and dredging up those memories would be too painful.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
1 year ago

Thank you, wonderful essay. Incidentally, my favourite war, flying, book, and thoroughly to be recommended, by me, is ‘Ghosts of targets past’, a bomber pilots journey during the closing years of the war.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll get that book. My father was in Bomber Command, would never talk about it at all, didn’t march in the annual veterans’ march, or have any contact with his former ‘crew’. When he came home he had an ‘anxiety condition’ and was put under ‘deep sleep’ as a treatment. I think the nearest I ever got to understanding what it might have been like was from Kate Atkinson’s novel “A God in Ruins”.

Last edited 1 year ago by Russell Hamilton
Simon Diggins
Simon Diggins
1 year ago

Great essay: thank you. You have humanised, as well as extolled, our ‘greatest generation’, whose proudest boast, if they were anything like my great Uncle (Merchant Navy, WW1 & 2; OBE for his service in WW2; Lloyds Silver Medal for saving his ship), was, “I served.”

Marc Franklin
Marc Franklin
1 year ago

Wonderful essay, and yes the few are getting fewer. My father Sydney was an RAF Mosquito Pilot who passed away last September. He was 98. He joined the RAF as a volunteer in 1940 he boasted that he got his wings before he could drive a car. The RAF shipped him off to Canada as an instructor where he flew Harvards and taught aerobatics in the Stearman. In 1944 he was posted to the 110 Hyderabad Squadron of Bomber Command in Labuan, where he was given the new Mosquito fighter bomber the “Wooden Wonder” – he never got to fly the Spitfire but used to say “I had Two Merlin Spitfire engines” and it was the fastest plane in the world at the time. His last combat mission (unknown to him at the time was a few days before Hiroshima and the eventual Japanese surrender) was a low level bomb and canon attack on a heavily defended Japanese ferry-crossing in Burma, a 500lb bomb exploded prematurely beneath him which blew the canopy off his aircraft, on his return to base the ground crew told him that his plane had taken over 100 hits from ground fire, the wooden frame had absorbed most of the damage. He said that the atom bomb probably saved his life as flying low level bombing missions against the Japanese over dense jungle with limited or no safe places to land must have been quite daunting to a 20 year old Essex boy. He was one of the first To fly into liberated Singapore and he never lost his disgust for the Japanese after witnessing the atrocities inflicted on the Singapore civilians. He was offered a full time job when his 110 squadron was transferred to Hong Kong, but decided to return home and his last Job for the RAF was to fly a DC3 back to Berlin in late 1946 as part of the lend/lease refund. He loved flying and continued privately after the war even teaching my brother and I some of the basics when we were kids and we both have our PPL. We must never forget all those who fought and and still fight today for our freedom. Thanks for the report.

Last edited 1 year ago by Marc Franklin
Bill W
Bill W
1 year ago
Reply to  Marc Franklin

Condolences on the loss of your father. The Mosquito was a fantastic aircraft. My father who died during lock down flew in Lancasters in the war but had a couple of post war Mosquito entries in his logbook before his demob. He rejoined the RAF later serving almost right up to the end of the Cold War.

Marc Franklin
Marc Franklin
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill W

Thanks Bill. Same to you. You’ve reminded me that I must find my fathers logbook. As a kid I found his trunk in the attic – wow! What treasures! Incl his survival escape kit with a silk scarf with a Burmese map, a small rubber button with a concealed mini compass, amphetamine tablets with the instruction ‘only to be used in emergencies and authorised by an officer..’ an escape saw…
Real Boy’s Own stuff!

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
1 year ago

I grew up in Biggin Hill which was a Spitfire base during the war. It was still an RAF base until the 90s – they used to train pilots there. I grew up watching Spitfires fly at the air show they had there every year. Such an elegant design! The sound of the engine alone is gorgeous.

At Biggin Hill You can fly in the rear cockpit of a modified Spit for half and hour if you have £3000 available. If I had the money I think I’d do it.

Dave Corby
Dave Corby
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

Aww. I was born within walking distance of Biggin Hill and did some flight training there.
I attended every airshow – but they often just flew over our house.
Wonderful time.

Michael Pond
Michael Pond
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

I flew one at Sywell in Northampton and paid an extra £500 for an extra 10inutes. Best 40 minutes and £4,400 I have ever spent. Flew it for 10 minutes and had some aerobatics. This plane can literally fly itself in a straight line.

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
1 year ago

Beautiful. Reading that was… emotional. Thank you.

John Szente
John Szente
1 year ago

Thank you for bringing us with you on your journey with these amazing souls. Your writing is truly visual and enthralling. Rarely do I find myself reading an entire piece, but every word drew me in to read the next until the end. Wonderful! The passing of the #GreatestGeneration will leave a hole not easily filled for generations.

FacRecte NilTime
FacRecte NilTime
1 year ago

Thank you. Reminded me of First Light, a beautiful memoir by Geoffrey Wellum DFC, who at 18 was the youngest Spitfire pilot in the Battle of Britain. He appears in a BBC dramatisation of it made in 2010 to mark the 70th anniversary.

“If you could survive three weeks, you had a good chance of surviving six. Or even longer.”

https://youtu.be/qdmXIgbbX6I

Chris Milburn
Chris Milburn
1 year ago

What a wonderful piece.

Eric Blair
Eric Blair
1 year ago

.

Last edited 1 year ago by Eric Blair
Dave Lowery
Dave Lowery
1 year ago

A beautiful piece of writing, thank you.
If you haven’t seen it, this is worth watching (2 mins) volume up!
https://youtu.be/4iOoiEbtf2w