In 1942 at the age of 21 you enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force Reserve & commenced pilot training.
Your RAAF medical records of that year describe you as a tall, muscular man with an olive complexion, brown hair & grey eyes. So like your younger sister & her children, I see my cousin Rory, the nephew you never knew in your strong, handsome face. In 1943 you were sent from Australia to the U.K. to fly missions into Europe with the British RAF, quickly becoming a very competent war-time pilot, flying sorties in Anson, Oxford, Wellington, Stirling aircraft & Lancaster bombers. In 1944 you met & fell in love with an English girl Monica & quietly married her in July of that year. The address listed on your marriage certificate is The Dog Inn, Kidlington, OXFORD.
On the 7th of March 1945, just as dusk was falling, you left Skellingthorpe Base at 1750 hrs. as Pilot Commander of Lancaster 111MN 474. Along with your crew of six you were headed to Hamburg for a bombing operation. This was to be your 17th operational sortie, with all the others having brought you home safely.
No further communications were received from your aircraft & you were never heard from again. Your service records list you as Missing Presumed Dead 7.3.45. On the evening of your mission several pilots of other aircraft in the vicinity reported considerable Flak & enemy Fighter opposition & that several Allied aircraft were seen to go down in flames over the Hamburg target.
On March 11th the Royal Air Force Commander from your squadron wrote to your father in Adelaide confirming your Missing In Action status, but still expressing the hope that you & your crew may have managed to parachute to safety behind enemy lines & that soon everyone might receive reassuring news of your survival. He also added what a fine Officer & highly skilled Pilot you were & that your loss was a great blow to the Squadron. You were just 25 years old.
On November 27th 1945, your father Fred in Adelaide received official notification that all hope was lost & that any chance of finding you alive had been abandoned. Your parents never recovered from this crushing loss. Both lived into their nineties, & I can still hear their soft, lilting Irish accents catching as they spoke your name so many years on.
Sometime later, your body washed ashore at Markermeer. Your plane had crashed into the sea after being hit by enemy fire. With your ID tags partially destroyed, you were hastily buried as an Unknown Soldier in the U.S. Military Cemetery in Margraten. 2 years on, after a very persistent RAAF Officer pieced together your ID tags, your body was identified & re-buried with other Australian airman killed in the last days of the European conflict.
So much has been written about the 'wisdom' of continuing such heavy bombing of German cities that were all but annihilated. With the risk to further civilian & service lives so close to the end of the War, I bow my head at the futility of it all. So my friends, if you are ever in Nederwest British Military Cemetery in The Netherlands, please walk over to Row D. Linger a moment at Flying Officer F.S. Farren's grave & tell him how much he's still loved by his family back home. With his movie star looks & gentle ways, he would have quickly become our favourite uncle, of that I'm sure. If only we'd had the chance to find out.
On this most sacred of days
LEST WE FORGET