Was it really 75 years ago?

November 22nd, 2014, 2pm

Let me introduce you to Terence. My friend is 92 years old, but as sprightly as many people 20 or 30 years younger than him. On Saturday I had the privilege of taking him, along with my 14 year old son, to the Imperial War Museum in south London, which has just undergone some major refurbishment.

On the way into London Terence told us about his time working with various planes, including Blenheims, Mosquitos and Liberators in India and Burma. He was a radio operator, so when we got to this section of a Lancaster bomber cut away at just the point where the radio operator would have been positioned, he stood and admired the equipment that had been so familiar to him over 70 years earlier.

We returned three times to this exhibit, at Terence’s request, and I just wish that he had been able to climb inside and get his hands on the radio. He told us what type it was, how it was powered and how it could be taken out and used outside the plane if necessary. I’m sure there are many more things he could have told us, but he seemed happy to stand and stare silently, no doubt allowing the memories to come back and bring him joy as well as some pain.

“There are just three of us from my intake left alive now” he told us, as we made our way home. “And I’ve lost touch with the other two”.

I find it a very moving and humbling experience to spend time with someone who was actually part of what I can only read about in history books. Would I have been as brave as those young men setting off to war 75 years ago?

It’s interesting that Terence seems quite careful in what he chooses to share. I was aware that on some of the bigger planes radio operators also had to man a machine gun if enemy planes attacked, but when I asked him about that he just said ‘yes’, with a bit of a grimace, and that was it. No glorying in what that might have entailed. He’s a gentle man, who ‘did his bit’, but who loves to speak little of the fighting and far more of the planes, the radios, the funny experiences and the engineering challenges. Like the problem with the Mosquitos out in India and Burma, where the humid heat caused the glue used in the construction of the “Wooden Wonder” to come apart! Or the difficulties of keeping aircraft flying when no supplies of spare parts could be obtained.

A memorable day, with hopefully more to follow.

Daniel, Shu, David Wade, Steve and 2 others said thanks.

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Adrian Tribe

A follower of Jesus Christ, a husband and father, a Kentish Man (not a Man of Kent), a commuter to London

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