As for the past few months, I’ve been immersed in republishing my father’s books on World War Two, I’ve become especially sensitive to extraordinary contributions made by otherwise ordinary people. War is well known for bringing out the best in people, amidst its otherwise destructive and horrific aspects.
Veteran’s Day, Armistice Day, especially on this date of 11.11.11, should rightfully give us pause to remember and thank those soldiers who gave their all for freedom.
There were a lot of soldiers in my family, such as my late Uncle Allen, a rear gunner in Short Stirling bomber, shot down over Germany and who endured two years, two months, and two days of captivity in a Luftstalag. His father, my maternal grandfather, fought in the Boer War and in the trenches in WWI. My Scottish great-uncle Donald McVicar served in the Black Watch in that same “War to End All Wars.”
In 1941, his namesake, my father, volunteered as a civilian pilot in the Royal Air Force Ferry Command. The RAFFC, under its several titles, had delivered 10,000 aircraft from North America to the “sharp end” by VJ Day.
The purpose of this post is to honor the service of those heroic civilians who put themselves in harm’s way in the RAFFC. They might have been paid more than military individuals, which did cause some griping at the time, but they were hired because they were, like Dad, already trained and qualified for the job at hand. They were desperately needed to fill a large gap in manpower.
When they were hurt, they had to pay their own medical bills.
When they died, their families had to pay funeral expenses and did not receive a pension.
If they lived to old age, as did my father, they were not considered “real” veterans and did not receive a pension or any sort of benefits.
Yet the proportionate losses of aircrew in the Ferry Command were comparable to those who were in combat. Men in the Merchant Marine also suffered the same shabby treatment.
So my heart is full as I write this, with deepest gratitude to these unsung heroes. Their wide-ranging and hazardous mission was secret, and their contributions therefore have been almost overlooked. Dad’s book, Ferry Command, published in 1981, was the first time public mention had been made of this unique organization.
I sincerely hope that you, dear reader, will also take some time to remember and thank these brave aviators, those forgotten fliers of World War Two.