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

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.

A Love Poem for Remembrance Day

After noting several hits on my website looking for remembrance poems, I thought it appropriate to post this. The following poem was written, sometime around late 1943, by my cousin Robert “Bud” George Alfred Burt. He was a tail gunner in 408 Squadron. He sent the poem home to his girlfriend in Canada. He died March 15 1944.

This little poem, I just had to write;

To let you know that things are all right,

That my thoughts are of you, wherever I roam,

Whether it’s over Berlin, or over old Rome.

~

And though things look stormy, cloudy or bright,

My thoughts and my prayers are with you every night,

Though God has willed that we drift far apart,

I feel we are closer, both in spirit and heart.

~

The dark clouds are lifting, and things now look bright,

It, won’t be long now, till we have things right;

So here’s to the future, the past has gone by,

The future I’ve dreamed of for both you and I.

~

So chins up, old girl, things really look bright,

Though I know I shant be home, today or tonight;

But tomorrow is coming, and we’ll win the darn war,

Then we’ll pick up again, where we left off before.

~

Say hello to your mother, your family and mine,

Give them my regards and tell them I’m fine;

In closing, there’s yet one thing I’d like to do,

And that is to convey just how much I love you.

~

Well, dear, I’ll write “finish” to this poem or rhyme,

My eyes are complaining, it’s past my bed-time;

Hereafter I’ll stick to my turrets and my guns,

And leave things like this to poets and their sons.

~

So good night, my dear, pleasant dreams, pleasant rest,

And may I add, “Merry Christmas and all of the best”;

And I hope that, God has willed it to be,

To protect and to keep you safely for me.

                                                                 By Robert “Bud” George Alfred Burt

Remembrance Day: What I Remember

No matter where you go, each country has a form of remembrance for its war dead. Some are quiet gatherings while others are grand affairs. Invariably, there are people who stand in front of cenotaphs and wear poppies to pay their respects, there are people who object to such events as a glorification of war, and there are people who just don’t seem to grasp the relevance in today’s society.  In the hearts of most however, I’d like to think, none of them really want to see a war.

Yes, I wear a poppy, several in fact. I wear a pin and a medal too. I don’t see it as a glorification of war. I wear them as a symbol of respect and outward remembrance for the people who died protecting my freedom. Even when I don’t go to a Remembrance Day ceremony, I still wear the symbols of remembrance on my shirt, I will still stand silent for two minutes on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, each year. However, I believe this alone is not enough.

Remembrance is not merely about respect.  Remembering the facts of war is not really remembering either. There is little connection to the past for current generations.  Many people today would question what it is they are suppose to remember, considering most of the people who survived the war have passed on.  How are they to remember an event they were not part of? How are they to remember someone they never knew?

Remembering for me goes deeper than respect or facts.  What is often forgotten in remembrance is the very thing we should remember, the individual people who died. One needs to identify with the people we are asked to remember. The way to do that is to find out about them, not in general, but as individuals. When I remember, the thought of war is present, but it’s what’s lost in war, the people who died and their sacrifice that I think about.

Jock joined the air force before war broke out.  He fixed aircraft for several years, but in 1943, when more Engineers were needed for Lancaster bombers, he remustered as a Flight Engineer.  If he had continued to serve his country on the ground, it is likely he would have survived the war.

Larry was married and much older than the average recruit.  He didn’t have to join the war effort.  He applied anyway and was highly regarded in his field.

George too was much older than the average recruit.  Initially he was turned away from enlisting because he was married and starting a family. He didn’t have to join the war effort.  He became the proud father of two young children. A few years later, he reapplied. The air force needed more men.  They didn’t turn him down a second time.  He never got to see his children grow up.

Bud was young and knew he would be called up sooner or later.  Instead of waiting to be called up, he volunteered when he turned 18.  He died on his first op.

Bob joined air cadets in his teens, preparing to join the air force later on.  He too volunteered as soon as he was eligible.

William had finished his general education, but to join the air force he needed to complete his grade twelve.  He took correspondence courses and later moved closer to town so he could go to school and complete his education, just so he could volunteer to serve his country.

Initially, the air force turned Norman away due to health problems.  He reapplied later and despite having the same health issues he was considered fit to fly.

All of these men were determined to serve their country.  They each had a job to do, and they did it.

Together, they joined the many in the fight for freedom.  In the end, they sacrificed everything.

I will remember them.