Sunday, April 25, 2010

For My Uncle Freddie

I never knew you Freddie, you were killed 11 years before I was born, but you are still loved & adored by our family. A beloved son to Fred & Mary & only brother to Kathleen (my much-loved Aunt Kay), your memory is revered by us all. Your parents had emigrated to South Australia from Ireland after WW1 & you were born in Adelaide in 1920. Named Frederick after your Dad, your happy, uncomplicated life came to an abrupt end with the onset of WW11.

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



  1. I'm a mess... a complete mess. Oh how my heart aches for him, for them. A-M xx

  2. Oh Millie, ANZAC Day always makes me cry. You penned your story so beautifully - now I'm crying more. We will remember them. xx

  3. Beautiful post Millie
    My dad would have been in the RAAF at the same time... so sad so many of our young handsome men were lost to war... but beautiful that his memory has been kept alive by your family... enough to ensure he continues to live in your lives... lovely tribute.. xxx Julie

  4. A beautiful tribute to a wonderful and brave man. Lest We Forget! xx

  5. Oh Millie,
    Such a moving tribute to the Uncle that you never knew but wished you had. ... and, it is so important to remember them. I did a post on Remembrance Day in November.
    My Dad was in the RAF, fought throughout the Second World War and lived until he was 91. You never know. They might have known each other. My Dad kept everything and, on a scrappy piece of paper were his flying instructions It went something like this.. ...'Remove chocks, turn on, rev up propellers' and go !! Very basic.
    ... and my Grandad played in the famous football match on Christmas Day in the First World War.
    I found your uncles story very moving Millie and unfortunately there are millions of similar stories all over the world. XXXX

  6. millie,
    this was a very special tribute.

    he would be grateful to you, and love you for telling his story.

  7. Lovely post Millie. They will be remembered forever in our hearts.
    K xx

  8. What a beautiful, fitting tribute. We owe so much to these men, the very least this sacred day. The RAF & RAAF were so brave, they had such little resources and such clunky planes. They are heroes and I'm honoured that my beloved grandfather was one of them. Rxx

  9. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story and life of Johnnie. What a handsome man he was. My Daddy was too young for WWII, but his Uncle RC was there and wrote the most loving,beautiful letters home. He wrote to the little town's newspapers,(Quitman, Georgia, USA) encouraging everyone to have faith and live right. He wrote poems. He was killed by shrapnel while sitting in a tent in Italy, writing my Great-Aunt Trudy. Daddy idolized RC and decades later, we took RC's flag and had it framed for Daddy. He sat there that Christmas morning and cried and told us this story.
    It's bittersweet, isn't it? We're so grateful for their sacrifice, yet heartbroken at the loss. What they could have contributed to the world and to our own little world had they lived!
    Thank you and I send my thanks heavenward to Johnnie.

  10. Millie - that is beautiful story of a man being remembered by the family. I can feel your love and care. For us, Poles, ww2 was very tragic and recent events (presidential plane crashing close to Katyn) brought to wider audience some unresolved issues.

  11. What a wonderful tribute to this much loved relative of yours. We all need to remember that the freedoms we are able to enjoy today came with a heavy price. We must never take them for granted. Raising a glass to your Uncle Johnnie in thanks! xxoo

  12. Oh Millie - what a marvellous & heartfelt tribute to your handsome uncle. That was so wonderfully written - so, so full of love and emotion. I could not hold back the tears as I read - what a terrible loss for your family and all those others who never saw their beautiful young men again...we will remember them...x

  13. Millie, you told this sad story so beautifully you have made me cry. The many graves of foreign soldiers in Normandy always seem so poignant. Too young, too far from home.

  14. What a terrible waste of beautiful young lives is War, and still it goes on, can we never learn?
    My Father fought in New Guinea and lost many friends...he never spoke about it. What a moving post this is.

  15. Lovely post Millie - my grandfather faught as well and thankfully came home to his family - oh the heartache for the families of those that did not return - thank you for sharing this story. Leanne xx

  16. So sad. But a very moving & beautiful post to him, which really touched me when I read it. x

  17. A beautiful post Millie. We will remember them. What happened to his wife?

  18. Millie..what an absolutely beautiful post to a special man. How happy this would have made him to be remembered in such a moving way. We will all remember and say praers for your Uncle Johnnie now.
    Lest We Forget

    Jeanne :)

  19. This was an amazing post. SO much heart and thought in creating it and I wanted to let you know how much it moved me - half a world away. The letters are priceless. You're lucky to have them.


  20. With tears in my eyes, I say thank you for such a moving post.
    ANZAC Day is but a small reminder to all who remember those that fought and fight in war.
    I once read we have two deaths. One when our body dies and then again when all who love you are gone. Your wonderful uncle still lives.

  21. That was very beautifully written and must wake a chord in many hearts for all those lost in all conflicts.

  22. Beautifully written Millie, it moved me to wonder how parents ever got over receiving one of those dreaded letters or telegrams don't you? I shall think of your Uncle Fred..... Xoxo

  23. Ps I remember being at work in town a few years ago and 2 Lancasters flew over Buckingham Palace....we all went out to watch and you could have heard a pindrop. Something about those enormous planes that really stirs something in you I was very emotional xo

  24. Crying as I write this Millie, LEST WE FORGET

  25. What a poignant post Millie.
    Such a lovely tribute to your Uncle Johnnie and thank you for sharing.
    We will remember them.


  26. What a great post. As a military brat - I am so proud of my mom and dad, as well as all my other family members who have served.


And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart.
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?
~W.H. Auden

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