Like many others around the UK today the team here at the Oldnautibits HQ have been celebrating the 100th birthday of the RAF. By complete coincidence I extracted a bottle of ale to enjoy with my Easter lunch and it turned out to be Marston's Brewery's excellent 'Lancaster Bomber', described on the label as 'a mullti award winning ale that pays tribute to the Avro Lancaster and is quite simply the best of British Beer'. This very special anniversary got me thinking of my late Father who was just 20 when he volunteered for the RAFVR in 1939 and left for Canada to commence his aircrew training.
He successfully won his Wings and was posted to 144 Squadron in early 1941 and after a couple of familiarisation Ops as Navigator he was crewed up and took his own Handley Page Hampden to war. On a trip to Manheim on 25/26th August 1941 he never made it back to North Luffenham and came down at Ypenburg in Holland and he and his crew were captured and went 'in the bag'.
Dad spent time in a number of POW camps ending up in Stalag Luft 111 and got to know Eric Williams and I own to this day Dad's personally dedicated copy of his book 'The Wooden Horse.' In February 1945 Dad was evacuated by the Germans and took part in what became known as 'the Death March' and was again lucky to survive and was finally repatriated, having been freed by the advancing Russian Army. Looking back with Dad entering the war so early and flying the outdated and under armed Hampden his chances of survival were minimal but unlike 55,000 of his colleagues in Bomber Command he beat the odds and lived to tell the tale.
So on this day,1st April 2018, whilst enjoying my bottle of 'Lancaster Bomber' I remember with affection my Father, his crew and all those who have served with the RAF and particularly those who were not so lucky as Fl Lt I.G Pringle and who gave up their lives for their country over the last 100 years, whilst serving with the RAF. We will remember them all. I owe it to them to find another bottle of 'Bomber' ale and raise a toast and wish the RAF all the best from the next hundred years!