Sunday, 11 November 2012

Remembrance Sunday 2012

.Today in his parish notes, Fr Kevin O'Shea beautifully summed up the debt we owe those who gave their lives so that we can enjoy freedom. This is why I wear my poppy with pride. Here is an extract from Fr Kevins notes
As we begin our winter season, we hear the call within us to pause, to reflect, to remember and above all to be grateful for what has been given to us by others. 

Today our country asks us to remember all  who have died that we might be free.

All we have of freedom, all we use or know -
This our fathers bought for us 
long and long ago.
- Rudyard Kipling

Let us cherish our freedom

On this day, above all others, I remember my father. He was a bomber pilot during WWII flying Wellington bombers for 40 squadron. The pictures above are his crew (I believe the picture was taken in North Africa) and an extract from his diary for the week commencing 24th April 1944. He details the weather, his delight at receiving a letter from my mother and how he dropped a 4,000lb bomb on a power station in Leghorne in  in Italy. He writes that he is looking forward to returning to see her in July. Sadly he never made it. His plane was shot down on the 30th June. He spent 68 days as a POW before escpaping and being repatriated. F/O John "Spud" Murphy (152861) (rightmost picture) was the rear gunner and died. The other two in the picture were F/O Bob Walsh (151888) and F/O Tony Duff (Aus 424291).

Today I attended the 10am mass and at the end, lit a candle in honour of F/O Murphy, who sadly didn't grow old and see his children grow up. I said a quiet prayer for him and all of those who died fighting fascism and tyranny. There are many things in the world that are complicated and ambiguous. To me, remembering these heroes is something that could not be clearer. If my father and all of the other men and women who fought so bravely for our country had not been prepared to make such enormous self sacrifices, the world would be a very different place. In 1940, Great Britain stood alone against Nazi Tyranny. My father volunteered for the RAF because he believed that the Nazi regime of Germany was evil and had to be stopped. He flew 40 bombing missions. Most of the other crew in 40 squadron were shot down and either killed or taken prisoner in June 1944, flying dangerous missions in the Balkans, Italy and over Germany.

These missions cut off the fuel supplies and the industrial capacity of the Axis to wage war. Due to political considerations, my Father never received a campaign medal for bomber command and never lived to see the recently opened memorial.

The last time he saw F/O Murphy was when the Rumanian airforce held his funeral in a military cemetary. My father was shocked at the size of this, most of the graves were of American aircrew, who had been bombing the Ploesti oilfields. My father was upset and said it was tragic that so many fine young men had died. The Rumanian hosts asked if he'd like to see their cemetary. He said yes and was shocked that it was even bigger. The Rumanian air force treated him well and he always held the Rumanian people in the highest respect for their treatment of him. He always made a point to distinguish between the ordinary people and the regime. He often told how the Rumanian POW camp guards would cry, because they knew they would lose the war soon and be under Stalins evil tyranny.

Tyranny should be opposed in all its forms, left and right. It can never be excused. We are standing on the shoulders of giants, never let us forget this.

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