On Tuesday morning I walked on the beach at sunrise, and saw a kingfisher hunting sand hoppers on the tide-line. It seemed somehow fitting for the day when the sun would shine on our old airman’s last fiight.
For my father-in-law died on Friday and Tuesday was the day of his funeral: a loving celebration of his life which ended with the RSA’s ritual words on the passing of a member of the armed forces, and the playing of the Last Post for one more old WWII veteran (Eric was 21 when he joined the RNZAF and trained in Canada for service in the UK and Europe, and 2 weeks short of his 94th birthday when he died).
We knew him as a lovely, loving, gentle man: a true gentleman who adored his wife, his children, his grandchildren and great-grandchild. Someone who was loyal, generous, with a strong sense of right and wrong, & who gave so much to family, friends, and the various sports and service clubs he belonged to. We knew he’d flown in the war as a wireless operator on Dakotas, but little more than that, for it was something he didn’t really care to speak of.
But going through his papers after he died, his children found not only his flight log, but longer, more detailed transcripts of what happened on many of those flights. So now we know (along with much more) that Poppa and his crewmates flew on D-Day, dropping paratroopers over Europe; that the final jumper was a large man & so encumbered by his gear that they couldn’t get him out over the drop zone; and that the plane turned and flew 360o through heavy fire – for the enemy were now well aware of their presence – to repeat the drop. And then somehow made it safely home.
So now we know so much more about you, Eric: more memories to treasure.
Rest in peace, you lovely, loving man.