Fight or Flight - Your network can save your life
This week we observe people everywhere attending dawn services to " honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. " ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day is the anniversary of the landing of troops from Australia and New Zealand on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey, in World War I on April 25, 1915."
It is an appropriate time to reflect on the massive contribution of so many service men and women of all ages who have shown courage, resilience and determination to protect what they believed in. Their bravery and commitment should never be forotten and their sacrifices made by so many has protected o protect their families and country.
I would liek to share a story passed down to me via the family of my uncle. It's certainly a story of courage, resilience, bravery and survival...made possible by a network that banded together, supported him and helped save his life and eventually return back to his family in Victoria.
In 1942, my mother's brother (my uncle), then 19, joined the Royal Australian Airforce . He attended training schools in NSW to learn about wireless operation and gunnery school in Western Australia prior to being sent overseas.
I know my Uncle's story of survival from a rudmentary book that was put together by a group of his mates some years ago and tells the story of their experience and in our case the people of the French Resistence who helped shelter my uncle and help him return to London.
When we visited the Australian War Memorial in Canberra a few years back, where I was able to track much of his history and see copies of original correspondence informing my grandfather of his son "Missing In Action" and then reporting he was "Alive" and would be returning home.
In the compulation of stories that my uncle and his friends put together, Jim writes of the camaradarie between his crew members who had 27 missions together .
On the 27th mission, the young men , flying in a Lancaster, were involved in a bombing attack on the Dortmund-Ems Canal. My uncle remembered the pilot saying "Bail out. Bail out!" He grabbed his chest chute, clipped on the harness and made for the rear escape hatch.
Making his way across the fields in the darkness, I can only imagine how scared he must have been. Luckily he found refuge with a farming family who hid him from the enemy. I am not sure of the actual time frame but he was hidden in the loft by the family and took on the identity of a deaf and dumb relative. When the Germans visited the house, the family protected him. Remaining calm and appearing oblivious to what was happening around him was his protection.
The Resistance arranged for his escape to England and I am sure it was a joyous day for my grandfather when he received word that his son was alive and would be returning to Australia,
My mother who has now passed, told stories of the sadness in losing her brother, of the discomfort of not knowing if he was alive or dead and then the joy of his return.
On the 11th February 1945 a my grandfather received a letter informing him that this son Pilot Officer " was ‘missing whilst engaged on an operational flight from this country’. Strickland later turned up, having baled out and evaded capture.