AUGUST & OCTOBER 2008 REPORT
|“Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sun light on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.”
“When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there, I did not die.”
AUGUST 2008 REPORT
To start with I must first answer Des Amos and his questions about ‘Billy Fiske’. A fellow member, Geoff Monahan, visits the grave on a
regular basis and has come up with possible answers! 1. Billy is buried at Boxgrove because he was a Roman Catholic, whereas St. Andrew’s at
Tangmere is C of E. 2. The mention of his parents is puzzling. From the dates, if they were still in the ‘States’, wartime surely would
have prevented them being brought to the UK. They may of course have resided here or been interred after the war. Geoff is still ‘digging’ on
I am now going to somewhat ‘stray’ from my normal text content, but you may remember that I will always be interested in relating stories
that other members would find as ‘good reading’
I have been corresponding with Paul Whittick, a member from Weybridge, who has been in poor health recently and together we seem to have cheered
one another up! I am happy to say that Paul is on the mend. During the course of our corresponding he has sent me the Obituary for his brother,
Harry who died only 2 years ago and I would like to relate it to you, for it really is interesting reading.
904230 Flight Lieutenant Harry George Whittick. 31.12.19 to 12.5.06
Harry George Whittick was born in Norfolk on 31st December 1919 and spent the last 3 years of his elementary education at Thames Ditton Boys School (Surrey),
leaving in 1934 to take up an apprenticeship at AC Cars. In the spring of 1938 the family moved to ‘Foxbury’ Estate, Chislehurst, NW Kent,
where Harry’s father had been appointed Head Groundsman at Middlesex Hospital Medical School’s new sports ground. Harry’s interest in
aircraft and flying grew during 1938 and 1939 and he pursued further education – and made a decision to learn to fly. This activity engaged him
in driving down to Gatwick airfield at the weekend in his baby Austin 7 (bought for £12.10 shillings) and receiving flying instructions in a Tiger Moth.
He gained his Civil Pilot’s “A” Licence in 1938, joined the Civil Air Guard and became an RAF Volunteer Reservist in 1939.
Harry was enlisted into the RAF on 5th October 1939 and via AC Selection Board was recommended for training as an Air Gunner/WOP. After training
was completed in July 1940, he joined ‘604’ Squadron ‘County of Middlesex’ at Middle Wallop aerodrome (Hants) under the leadership
of Squadron Leader John Cunningham.
The Squadron was equipped with ‘converted’ Blenheims which had a crew of two. Harry was teamed up with Pilot Officer Keith Geddes as his
leader and the two flew together until February 1941. During their time on operations, they had no luck with any ‘kills’, but on two
separate ‘ops’ they reported damaging two enemy aircraft, one significantly; there was no ‘confirmation’ that either
aircraft had crashed in the UK – often a difficulty for ‘Night-fighters’.
In March 1941 ‘604’ Squadron had begun receiving the new ‘Beaufighter’ equipped with better Air Interception, but in April 1941
Harry left the Squadron to receive further instruction courses in Air Interception equipment and Air Gunnery. On 1st February 1941 he received
Commissioned Rank and briefly joined 228 Squadron and 209 Squadron before settling with 230 Squadron (Sunderland Flying Boats), operating in the
Middle East from Aden, Abukir etc., from around mid 1942. ‘Operations’ from 230 were varied and included ‘U’ Boat surveillance
and convoy protection as well as support on ‘Combined Operations; the Squadron was involved in the 1943 ‘Sicily Landings’ operation.
Harry had been reunited with one or two of his ‘604’ colleagues during his time serving in the Middle East Command.
Correspondence from Harry back home was sparse and one letter revealed that he and his crewmen, whilst returning to their quarters, had been attacked
by a German bomber and their MT ‘Truck’ was ‘blown-up’. Several were injured and spent some time in hospital. A more optimistic
letter was received some months later stating that Harry had been temporarily appointed Squadron Leader for a short period.
Returning to the UK in early 1945 and engaged in Gunnery Training Courses in the North of England and Scotland, Harry was demobilised in February 1946.
In 1941-42, whilst on training courses ar RAF Leuchars in Scotland he had met his future wife, Mary (Maysie) Barlow of Dundee and they married in August 1945.
Post 1946 Harry pursued a commercial business career in Timber and Rubber, exporting from West Africa to Europe and beyond with some good success.
He later moved into senior accounting roles in Local Government before retiring in 1980 and he is survived by Maysie and his two sons, Graeme and Donald
and four Grandchildren.
Thank you Paul and thanks to Donald for allowing me to reproduce Harry’s story.
Somewhat belated, I have received a letter from Harry Howard who lives in Minehead, Somerset. Harry is experiencing a bout of ill health and
has asked if any member can help him give TLC to P/O J.K.G. Clifton’s grave which is in Staplegrove Church grounds in Taunton, Somerset. Any offers?
We wish Harry a speedy recovery.
Again, belated, I must give thanks to Steve Holmes for stepping in to look after P/O Maffett and P/O Studd’s last resting places in Berkshire.
In closing, I must apologise if I haven’t answered any of your queries, but since I retired from London Underground, I seem to have entered
another ‘world’ and after working my way through the list of ‘jobs’ my wife has kindly given me, I sometimes wonder what day it is!
But, I’ll get there.
I was most honoured when Bill asked me to represent the Society at a wreath laying ceremony on Saturday 20th September 2008 at the Battle of Britain
Monument on Westminster Embankment. This was an Act of Remembrance to the 'Few' and was organised by Pat Tootal of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association.
There were to be some 15 members of the BBFA with the wreath being laid by Air Commodore Pete Brothers and the short service by the the new Chaplain of St.
Clement Danes with a Trumpeter from the RAF Central Band to play the calls.
Unfortunately, Pete Brothers was unwell and unable to attend, the wreath was laid by Bob Foster, who was accompanied by 11 of the 'FEW'.
I am sure you would want us all to wish Pete a speedy recovery! The faces of the 'FEW' were familiar but I did not manage to get all their names.
It is not quite correct to ask their names when you know they did save our island, but I did recognise Bob Foster, Geoffrey Wellum, Jock Cunningham and Tony Iveson.
Bill perhaps you can get the names for me and add them as a postcript?
It was pleasing to meet some fellow members of the Society and in particular, Paul Whittick, Stan Jordan, James Henocq, and Dave Ennis!
One other member was our dear Carmel Connolly who also travelled from Northumberland and in her 97th year. She looked immaculate in her full uniform.
I have sent Bill some photographs if he can manage to fit them in!
I thoroughly enjoyed the day and was very honoured, as I have already said, to represent the Society and that so soon after attending the handover ceremony
on the 11th September of the Maquette to the Museum in Docklands. I have written a short note which relates the details of the day etc., which I hope Bill will print.
I wonder if there is now time for the members in the South East to get together again? I seem to remember some years ago we had a lunch meeting
at the 'Spitfire' public house in West Malling, Kent. If anyone is interested contact me and perhaps we can arrange something again.
It is very encouraging to put faces to names!
Well back to business! The saga of 'Billy Fiske' goes on! I has a letter from Geoff Monahan. Sadly he reports the passing of his dear wife following
a serious illnes. Geoff our thoughts are with on your sad loss. Geoff reports that he has managed to visit the grave of 'Billy' and laid fresh flowers.
He also, with the aid of his Son-in-Law, removed the plastic grass! I thought this had been done ages ago by the Rev. Ian Forrester! Geoff replaced
the grass with four bags of white chippings, as used by several graves in Boxgrove! A couple of weeks later he returned and replaced the fresh
flowers with new ones and all looked well! Geoff also reports that the stained glass window is now in situ and the dedication was to be on the 17th September.
Can you imagine his surprise when on returning on the 17th he found the chippings had been REMOVED! And also the flowers! In their place was some rather
'limp' turf and some other flowers. He immediately expressed his displeasure, something Ken and Diane Lodge are familiar with, to the Rev. Ian Forrester
who promised to find out why this had happened. He went on to explain that plans had been in place for sometime to install the turf but he couldn't
explain the changing of the flowers. According to the 'Rev', white, or any other coloured chippings are not allowed by Diocese Rules.
How the white chippings on other graves have survived is a mystery! Geoff, quite rightly stated that he would not make anymore additions to the grave,
except to place fresh flowers whenever he can.
Incidentally, Boxgrove is in fact Church of England and shares its Parish with Tangmere and according to the 'Rev' this was the reason 'Billy' was buried there.
Geoff is not convinced and was also told, and he doesn't say who by, that 'Billy' whilst flying over Boxgrove on one occasion told a colleague “If
anything happens to me that's where I want to go.” That sounds more likely. As far as his parents ashes are concerned, they are either in the grave
or scattered around it, but he knows not when. Geoff finished by saying the window is worth a visit! Thank you Geoff for the update on the never-ending story
of 'Billy and the Rev'.
Thank you Paul Whittick for an addendum to the obituary of your brother Harry in my last column. Paul hastens to say that Harry was commissioned
in February 1942, NOT 1941 as stated. Thank you Paul and I repeat it was great to meet at the Monument.
I've had a letter from Mark Whitnall who states that he has come across two graves in Lincolnshire. One is of Charles Nevil Overton, DFC 609 Squadron,
buried in St. Andrews Churchyard, Boothby, Graffoe, Lincs. And the other is Basil Martin Bush (Mike) DFC. 504 Squadron, buried in St. Peter's Churchyard,
Dunston, Lincs. Upon checking my records I find that I have no registered carer for these graves. Mark has agreed to check on them regularly
and as they are both in pristine condition, it would seem that the families of both Pilots are still around. Well done Mark and keep me informed of any developments.
My last item is from my dear friend Lewis Deal MBE who reports that a moving ceremony was held in the airmen's section of St, Stephen's Church, Lympne,
Kent on Battle of Britain Day - Monday 15th September 2008. The ceremony was to commemorate the 'lost' headstone of a brave Belgian born pilot,
Emmanuel Alex Dieudonne Jean Ghislain Van den Hove D'Erstenryck, and install a new memorial plaque. The headstone may have been removed some 4-5
years as his remains were exhumed and he now lies in his native Belgium but RAFA agreed with Lewis that this was wrong and had to be corrected.
The rights and wrongs of where to site the plaque were not an issue and it is now adjacent to two other young BoB Pilots, Sgt. Geoffrey Pearson
and P/O Kenneth Campbell. All attendees were delighted by the attendance of the Head Teacher and several pupils of Lympne CE Primary School.
The pupils read out the poem that I use as my heading and comes from the gravestone of P/O Arthur Clarke (Newchurch) and there was not a 'dry eye' in the house'.
Safe landings - Peter Saunders
“Sixty years on, but where have they gone?
As memories come to us now that still linger on.
We give thanks for all those years of peace,
And pray that in time all wars will cease.
For those who gave their lives to save us then,
May we never forget our debt to them.
And today, may each of us in our own way,
Look to the future with Faith and Hope and say;
Now and forever we shall always remember them
And then, as with the passing of the years,
We try to hide the sorrow and the tears,
And with our faces changing and growing lined,
We will always try to keep in mind,
Those who did not return, like me and you,
Or lived to see their dreams come true.
The pains that we suffer may be the sign of age,
But having lived our span on this world’s stage,
If GOD should give us that extra time to play’
Let us give HIM our thanks, for each and every day.