Tiny’s Wellingtons

You know how it is, a vital football game is taking place between the Netherlands and Germany and although you’ve no problem with it being on you just need to find something else to watch.

Whilst this particular event happened a couple of weeks ago (I’m a little slow you know) I just happened to stumbled upon Wellington Bomber on BBC 4 and remembering that my Granddad Jack had been an electrician working on these very same planes during WW2, I decided that this would be an excellent opportunity to find out a little more, so I began to watch with interest.

The programme was centred around the achievement of a group of British workers, men and women who set out to smash the world record of building a bomber from scratch.  The workers all based in Broughton, South Wales broke the record beating the previous American one in 23 hours and 50 minutes.

This world record-breaking attempt was filmed as a piece of British propaganda but it has become, I think, an excellent record of the dedication and commitment shown by the workers at Broughton to their ‘boys’ at Bomber Command.

The BBC programme traced six of the workers who were invited to view the programme for the first time.  Their stories and reminiscences were interwoven with the film and the emotion of watching the film was palpable.

The Wellington bomber was described as a ‘special aircraft’, by historian Sir Max Hastings and was held in great affection by those who flew it and this comes across so clearly in this programme.

But for me, amongst all the stories of bravery the star of the show was Flt Lt Rupert ‘Tiny’ Cooling – I cannot really put this into words – his kindness; his sadness; his bravery; his love for his country and countrymen were there in his very being.

‘Tiny’ Cooling flew 67 missions which to put it another way is two official tours of duty plus 2.  When you consider that a Bomber Command crew member had a worse chance of survival than an infantry officer this achievement seems even more extraordinary.

But ‘Tiny’ Cooling’s interview goes further than just giving us ‘the facts’ – he gives us a touching and personal tribute to his friends and fellow comrades.  This poem brings home the stark reality of their lives during this ‘dark time’ and the immense sadness he feels seeing his friends’ names etched in stone.

This muster of names,
This directory of faceless, formless beings
Suffocates the mind.

Is it solely a tabulation as on
pages of Smith’s in volume S to Z?
Or a company of friends
Awaiting recognition
Amidst a legion of Strangers?

In the quest, shadows emerge,
Forgotten faces relive
Brief moments of shared experience
And call upon yet others to be identified …

Now what became of him? And him?
And their names too are
carved in the roster.

I dare not look for my own,
it should be there.

Our Flight Commander, Hinks,
Quiet Ronnie Frost (he joined with me),
Young Naylor who was lost in the North Sea …
Was he twenty when he came into my room
and cried like a baby the night Bob Hewitt died,
leaving a pregnant wife?

Three weeks later
I helped to clear his room,
And found his Bible by his bed.


8 July, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . Family History. 1 comment.

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