Thursday, April 25, 2013

Into The Dusk Light

On ANZAC Day 2010 I dedicated a post to my Uncle Freddie (pictured bottom row, centre), who while commanding a Lancaster bombing mission over Germany for the RAF, was killed at the age of 24 along with his crew of 6 on March 7th 1945. Freddie from Adelaide, was a pilot with the Royal Australian Air Force, but had been seconded to command bombers for the Royal Air Force. You can read the post here .

Late last year the following email arrived in The Laurel Hedge Inbox:

Hi Millie

I read your blog post about your uncle. My grandfather was the Flight Engineer on Lancaster ME474, so would have been sitting next to your uncle on the plane. I did read that ME474 had been newly received two weeks prior to their last mission, being the maiden flight of the plane & that it had crashed into the sea off Holland, that's all we know. I do have some photos & I may have some letters somewhere which may be of interest & would be most grateful for any further information you may have. My Grandad is pictured in the back row far right.

Kind regards

You can imagine how I felt - the 68 years since that terrible night dissolved in a heartbeat. In my mind I saw the crew walking across the tarmac at Skellingthorpe, climbing into that big, noisy Lancaster & the plane taking off, heading across the English channel into the fading dusk light. I saw Paul's Grandad & my Uncle Freddie seated in the cockpit - doing the flight checks, talking about the weather conditions & maybe the task ahead. The British accents of the 6 crewmen occasionally interrupted by the flat laconic tone of the lone Aussie. The war in Europe was drawing to an end, great devastation had been delivered to both sides by similar bombing raids.  I sat for a long while at the computer, re-reading Paul's email in quiet reflection of the great loss all the families of ME474's crew have endured through the years.  

Any doubts as to why I blog were dispelled. Only 2 bodies of the lost crew were ever recovered after the aircraft ditched into the sea, Freddie's & Paul's Grandad Bill, the irony of that has not escaped me. I guess Paul was doing some research into ME474, a search engine picked up those words from my post & the link to The Hedge appeared. I shared the email with my cousin & he has now joined me in our communications with Paul.   

So, many years later, 2 families on opposite sides of the world are reunited, in remembrance of the sad bond that links us forever. 




  1. Hi Millie,

    Such a poignant and sad story, and what a handsome and brave man, your Uncle Freddie was. So lovely that you got the letter from Paul and you can share a bond and be reunited together.
    Do hope all is well with you.


  2. What an amazing post and a more amazing coincidence. I too have met members of my family I never knew existed through a couple of posts I did on tracing my family history. My story is not as heartrending as yours but again it shows the power of the blogging world.. So glad you got to share your memories and meet a new friend. We all need to remember what those brave boys and girls did for us.

  3. What a coincidence...what a heart breaking story...I have tears streaming now thank you Millie...puts it all in perspective, doesn't it? How young and just everyday-ish of it all...trotting out on the tarmac...and yet it was their lives...

    I also can't help but notice how devilishly handsome your uncle was, and how kind Bill's face looked...makes it all the sadder...Lest We Forget...were there every words any better?

  4. Wow Millie, That is an incredibly poignant story. And ironic but lovely that at least a couple more of the missing puzzle pieces are solved.

  5. Goosebumps reading this. The power of the Internet to put two families in touch from a catastrophic shared event so many years's just amazing. I've had a similar experience researching my Great Grandfather's life recently... through I made contact with distant family members in England... It filled in a lot of blanks about his life. Have just written a post about his War experience actually. So many sad experiences for families everywhere from the Wars that still have reverberations in later generations. xx

  6. A salute to all veterans.
    This story inspires and nurtures me. It is so sad and yet it has a small bit of happiness.

  7. Oh Mill's ..... what a story and how lovely that you are both now in touch, even though it is under such sad circumstances. Our Dad was in the RAF and flew planes in WW11 but, he never really spoke about it. I just cannot imagine what they all went through and how young they all were. It is so sad that o many perished.
    ....and, as you say, this is why we all keep blogging !
    Hope that you, MOTH, your knees, the family and that gorgeous little grand-daughter of yours are all well and, mustn't forget Lulu !! XXXX

  8. What an amazing, amazing story... true serendipity... even that sounds too light a word for such a major set of circumstances...
    I am so happy that you are in touch... What a truly wonderful tale, Millie... xv


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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