father, my hero
many of my childhood memories of my father are associated with flying
machines. My earliest
and most deeply etched memories are of the glorious flying boats and
their thundering take offs and landings on the water behind our house at
Hobsonville. I was only
three years old at the time but I was aware that my daddy was flying
was a significant era for the flying boats as the changing of the guard
was taking place with Sunderlands replacing the Catalinas,
affectionately known as the Cats. Some
of the landings that I was hearing as that small child were the final
journeys for the Cats as most of them slipped silently and
unceremoniously into the history books.
This was the dawning of the Sunderland era and it is the
years later in
had a vague idea that Dad had flown in the war but I was told never to
ask him about it. Not
being a compliant child I did ask, many times.
persistence eventually paid off because one day, out of the blue Dad
showed me a little soft toy which he said was his special mascot.
He told me he took this mascot on every bombing mission during
mascot seemed to be the key that unlocked Dadís wartime memories.
Over the next few years he shared with me his daring bombing
missions in his
internment in Stalag Luft 3 where the Great Escape took place.
on the tunnel was well under way by the time Dad arrived. On the
night of the escape the tunnel was discovered well before Dad's
turn to escape. Dad stayed at the camp until the last days of the
war when all the prisoners, half starved and emaciated were forcibly
marched in cold and harsh conditions with many prisoners dying along the
way. I can barely imagine the hardships endured and the resilience of
these brave men.
1982 I organised a reunion for Dad with his bomber crew consisting of
his gunner and the navigator.
What a privilege it was for me to bring these wonderful men
together. The gulf of
time and distance was irrelevant as they slipped so easily into one
anotherís company and reminisced with a hearty dose of humour thrown
in. It was fascinating for me to hear their different perspectives and
to fill in some gaps. I
didnít want the day to end.
Dad may be gone now but he lives on forever in my heart and in the skies. If I see a military plane overhead I never fail to remember my hero