Make The Right Connections

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This week 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 not only their families but our country.

Dawn services across the nation and overseas will give thanks to and  " 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 also a time to reflect on others who have also helped to protect our country and as a mother with a 30 soemthing year old son and a 2 year old grandchild, I hope that I will never have to experience what so many other families have faced into.

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.

My mother treasured a rudmentary book ,was put together by a group of my uncle’s mates many years ago now which tells the story of their experience and a network of people of the French Resistence who sheltered my uncle and helped him return to London. 

On a visit to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra I was able to track much of my uncle’s story 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. 

What an experience and how fortunate was my uncle to make the right connections and find the support he so needed.

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Have you family stories that illustrate the impact a network has had? I would love you to share them here.



Kerryn PowellComment