Remembering

Many of us have paid our respects today, in one form or another, to those who have served their country.

I always remember the boys that flew in Lancaster II LL637 EQ-P during WWII. To me they are family and despite never knowing them in person I know them quite well through my research. I feel very privileged to know them and through my research I will never forget them.

WWI however, I know little about, but that is slowly changing by volunteering my time at my local museum. We are busily working on a trench display, preparing for next year, when we look back 100 years.

Volunteering my time is great fun and I work with a wonderful bunch of people. Old and young come together when volunteering and I think that is an important part of remembering. There is always someone who can fill you in on a time well before your own and make it come alive through their own excitement of sharing their experiences. Often those older volunteers have been through quite a bit and have first hand knowledge of what wars are really like.

As we see the end of another Remembrance Day, I not only remember those that have fallen but those who live on and those who volunteer their time to help us make Remembrance special.

Thank you.

Poppies

Inspiration

I was hoping over the last few days, as this day approached, to come up with something to say, but it still hasn’t come to me.

A friend suggested that perhaps I should write about the voices of history or the fact that on the doorstep of what is to be the sixty-ninth anniversary of the death of the crew of LL637, EQ-P, I have received more information which brings me another step closer to finding the final piece of the puzzle, the answer to their final moments. I tried writing about both today and it just didn’t gel.

With Norm, Larry, George, Bill, Bob, Jock, and Bud so vividly on my mind as always on such a day, I find myself looking at their photographs. I never tire of looking at these moments in time captured for eternity. Their lives were short but they made the most of every moment.

Perhaps that is the point, the boys are an inspiration. They inspire me to keep going when things are tough, to work hard, and to be a better person. They inspire me to make the most of every moment.

Background

Sixty-nine years ago, on the night of 15 March 1944, RAF Bomber Command detailed 863 bombers to bomb Stuttgart, Germany.

The bombers, typically manned by a seven man crew of young men between the ages of 19 and 30, headed out from their bases across England on a round trip that would take about seven hours.

Not all would return. This operation would see the loss of 37 bombers and around 260 men.

Attacked by German night-fighters or hit by flak, a few of these men would jump from their burning bombers and parachute to the ground, with help they would evade capture. Some, not so lucky, were found and taken as prisoners of war.

The vast majority simply never made it out of their aircraft. Some of those men disappeared as their aircraft exploded in the sky over Europe. The rest would be found dead, many of them badly burnt, among the wreckage of their Lancaster or Halifax bomber. This was the outcome for the boys of LL637, EQ-P.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unique

Not unlike my internet connection bouncing on and off like a yo-yo, I couldn’t decide what to do for this week’s photo challenge, unique. I took photos of my hands and fingers with the idea of fingerprints. I have a rather amusing story about fingerprints and another that is rather emotional, but in the end I looked through photographs taken some time ago and this jumped out at me as the perfect example of unique.

Air Gunners

Most of you are probably wondering what is so unique about a museum display. This picture was taken within building 3 of the Yorkshire Air Museum which houses the Air Gunner’s display. I went to the Yorkshire Air Museum specifically to see this room as part of my research for my book. Many of you know my cousin, Bud, a tail gunner in a Lancaster bomber during WWII, died doing his job. “The room, believed to be the only one of its type in the world, is dedicated to the memory of the 20,000 Air Gunners who lost their lives in WWII.” (Yorkshire Air Museum Allied Air Forces Memorial Visitors Guide, pg 8). That makes it pretty unique!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful

Last week was quite busy. From Wednesday afternoon to Friday morning I had guests. Barbara, one of my visitors, is the niece of the mid upper gunner who flew in the Lancaster, EQ-P. Her uncle and my second cousin, Bud, the tail gunner, were the two youngest members of the crew, aged 19. Barbara and I had met once before when I was in the UK two years ago doing my research for my book. I was thankful she got a chance to visit so we could catch up with each other.

On Friday morning, just before they left, there was a very unusual occurrence. A Rainbow Lorikeet made an appearance at the far side of the pool. We watched from the window, curious. It looked as though it was trying to lean down to take a drink. After a few unsuccessful attempts at reaching the water, it slipped and fell into the pool. I expected it to fly right up, but instead it flapped its way across the pool and pulled itself out on the side nearest to us, completely drenched.

Barbara, her friend, and I, all stood inside at the window, taking photographs of the bird. It was beautiful and seemed completely unaware or unconcerned about us. My dog also watched from about three feet away on the other side of the fence.

It seemed quite happy.

It cleaned itself and walked along the pool edge back to the far side.

Eventually it disappeared behind the water feature and into the greenery. We put our cameras away and Barbara and her friend soon headed out to travel on up the coast.

Later that morning I happened to glance out the window, and there at the bottom of the water feature was the poor Rainbow Lorikeet, dead, floating in the pool. I felt bad I hadn’t kept a closer eye on the bird. I scooped it out and took it away.

When I had a chance to look over the photographs I had taken, I was thankful to have had a chance to watch the little bird and capture some lovely pictures of its last moments.

The Curiousity of Research: Now You Know

I received an email from my editor on Remembrance day. Attached was the next section of manuscript edits. It felt right getting the edits on the day of days to remember. Sometimes it seems the boys keep pushing me on to finish.

For now the painting will go on hold so I can get this third section sorted. I think I am about half way through now. It is a hard section to edit though. I expect more than a few eyes would glaze over with the amount of information, so it it is time to painfully take out bits and pieces and smooth it out a little.

One thing that I have found curious in this whole process is the change from knowing little to knowing loads and how it has changed me forever. My editor often notes words that I need to add to my glossary or define within the text. In the beginning, I didn’t know many of the terms myself, but after so much research it seems odd now to think people don’t know what these words mean.

For example, if you were reading a book discussing the air force during WWII, would you know what was meant by dropping “window”? It is likely in the beginning of my research I didn’t know exactly what “window” was, but somehow my research has become so ingrained, it is like I have always known. It has become a part of my common vocabulary, a part of me. I actually struggle with the fact that others do not know what it means. It is curious to realise I have been assimilated…kind of like the Borg. That’s a bit scary really.

Anyway, for those of you now curious to know about “window”, this is what it looks like. Yes, that unassuming silvery foil stuff there that looks like stiff Christmas tinsel. By the way, this particular bit was dropped in Hilsenheim, France some time in 1944 or 1945.

For the more curious of you, here is a closer look.

Window was bundled strips of foil cut to the same wavelength as enemy radar. It was dropped from planes. The Axis relied on radar, with its electronic echoes, to locate the incoming bomber stream (hundreds of planes fully loaded with bombs and incendiaries headed for a target) and give warning and location details to Axis fighters to find them. Window created confusing, false electronic echoes, making it seem as though bombers were in one place when they were somewhere else instead.

So, now you know!

Now, I have to go edit!

A Progress Update on Bud’s Portrait

I wish I could say I am finished Bud’s portrait, but the reality is I still have a long, long way to go before I can say it is completed. I am at a point however, where I am willing to show it to you and hope you can see where I am going with it despite its very unfinished state.

If you have seen my previous posts on this you will know I used various photos to come up with this portrait. The hard bit is doing this in colour without a colour photograph to go by. I think for the face I will have to take a photo of myself and then try to use that as an aid to colouring when it comes to the finer details. I will also have to see if I can find colour reference material for the uniform.

 

A Tick on the Bucket List: A Remembrance Wish Comes True

Growing up, I was always fond of Remembrance Day. In school we always did poster and poetry competitions, and at home, on the day, I watched the Remembrance Day memorial service on television. Now, much older, I still love Remembrance Day. This year I’m ready. I have  my Canadian poppy pin, a miniature replica of the Air Crew Europe Star, and a mini bouquet of poppies.

These poppies stand for several things, but closest to my heart, the poppies represent seven specific airmen who died the night of March 15, 1944. I talked about them last year and earlier this week. They are: pilot: Norman “Norm” Andrew Lumgair, flight engineer: Douglas “Jock” Cruickshank, bomb aimer: William “Bill” Taylor, navigator: George Parker, wireless operator: William “Larry” Lawrence Doran, mid upper gunner: Robert “Bob” Henry Hudson, and tail gunner: Robert “Bud” George Alfred Burt.

Through my research to bring their story to light, I made contact with a vast number of wonderful people. One of them was my second cousin, the brother of tail gunner Robert “Bud” George Alfred Burt. Through our numerous emails it turned out we had the same two remembrance wishes, we both wanted Bud to be formally remembered and we both wanted to ride in a Lancaster bomber.

Bud

This year marks off one of those wishes (hopefully next year will mark off the other). We have now both officially taken a ride in a Lancaster bomber. Unfortunately, we did not end up getting to ride in a Lancaster together, which would have been great as we have never met in person, but we have now each made one of our wishes come true.

View from the mid upper turret

Some people go to see the machine, to marvel at the technology of the time, and to be one of the few who can say they have been in a Lancaster bomber. I went to gather an understanding of the men who flew in the machine. I wanted to immerse myself in the essence of the plane and its crew. I went half way around the world to ride in a Lancaster bomber to find remembrance.

In August 2010 I took my taxi ride, sitting in the tail gunner position in the Lancaster “Just Jane”, at Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Museum in East Kikby, UK. It came with an unexpected emotional experience, bringing the realities of Bud’s last moments to the surface of my mind.

Tail turret

I shared my experience with my cousin through email and hoped he too would get a chance to ride in a Lancaster bomber.

This September 2012, my cousin took his one hour flight, in one of only two air-worthy Lancaster bombers in the world, when he visited the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ontario. For safety reasons no one is allowed to ride in the tail gunner or the bomb aimer position, but it was an amazing experience all the same. It “was a thrill of a lifetime!”

Entering the Lancaster

For both of us the ride was “noisy as heck” but unlike my cousin, who was given earmuffs, which made it comfortable, I didn’t have any on my ride. To be honest, I loved the noise and I loved being able to sit where Bud would have been in the plane. Best of all, I found remembrance. Bud, and the rest of the boys, will always have a home in my heart, and that’s exactly where they belong.