A tribute to Group Captain Jack Wilson by daughter Sally 

My father, my hero

 

 

So 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 these machines.

 

This 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 Sunderland that I developed a life long affection for.

 

Four years later in Fiji , I became accustomed once again to hearing the flying boats. This time, we lived further from the water but still close enough to hear the sound of those dramatic take offs and landings. 

 

I 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.

My 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 the war.

 

The 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 Boston together with his two crew members.  He told me about the dramatic crash landing in Germany with both engines shot out and his

internment in Stalag Luft 3 where the Great Escape took place. 

 

Work 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.

 

In 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