"So it was that the war in the air began. Men rode upon the whirlwind that night and slew and fell like archangels. The sky rained heroes upon the astonished earth." HG Wells, The World Set Free, 1914.
On the night of 20/21 June (the longest day) 1943 my father, then the young Pilot Officer 'Al' Hagan, a bomb aimer/navigator on an RAF Halifax, was shot down and on the run in Nazi occupied Holland. This is a photo of him ( far left) with three of his great pals, from the seven crew members of his original crew. The pilot, Flight Sergeant Edwin Sims, RAAF, is the jaunty fellow in the middle of the front row, (everything's apples!" was his favourite saying, according to my mother). To his left is a Canadian and chap at the back is from Northumberland, England. (I have all their names but cannot yet identify which is which due to my father now being dead and my 89 yr old mother's fading memory). On the 20 June, bomb aimers being in short supply (!) my father volunteered to join another crew on their mission that night even though he was not on duty. His plane was shot down but he survived, with the help of some very brave young Dutch Resistance helpers. Sadly all the other members of his original crew, died on their mission the following night. Two are remembered on the Runnymede Memorial (bodies unrecovered), Sims is buried in a Belgium Commonwealth Graves Cemetery (CGC) and his name appears in the Roll of Honour in the Australian War Memorial. I am researching the others.
Now the story my father's evasion from Holland, and his helpers, has been told in the recently published, "RAF Evaders:The Complete Story of RAF Escapees and their Escape Lines, Western Europe 1940-45" by Oliver Clutton-Brock. He was one of only three airmen to evade capture and escape from Holland by sea during WWII. My father was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and the young leader of the extraordinarily brave Dutch helpers later joined the American OSS and was decorated by both the Americans and his own country.
Anyway, this was my Dad and I loved him and tomorrow I will take my mother to place white roses on his grave in remembrance of that fateful night.