Friday, 27 July 2012

My Uncle Jim - R.I.P.


A Wellington Bomber over the coast - note the four other RAF bomber types in each corner. this was painted when Uncle Jim was a mere 85 years young....;-)


On the Saturday before my return from Turkey (14/07) my Uncle Jim died after a short illness. He was 91 years of age and in full possession of his mental faculties although understandably was 'feeling his years' physically - especially as he was acting in the capacity of a carer to his wife, my Aunt Pearl, during the last year of her life. She passed away last year and obviously my Uncle felt her loss very deeply and the toll it took on him, physically and mentally was immense although he was never one to complain. The funeral was today and was a suitably solemn and moving occasion. His coffin was dressed in an RAF ensign and featured his campaign medals from his service during the second world war. He was very much an influential part of my life during my formative years - especially after my mother and father separated when I was a small boy. I absolutely idolised him as a youngster and this feeling matured as I grew older into one of unstinting respect and reverence.

Uncle Jim was an RAF pilot during the war flying Wellington bombers with Number 9 squadron . In many ways in his appearance he was the epitome of an RAF officer, neat, dapper, fastidious and with a carefully trimmed moustache and lacing his everyday conversation with RAF slang. He was a quiet and thoughtful man, a talented model maker - he loved making kits of fully rigged sailing ships -  and painter (the picture at the head of this post was painted by him for me at the age of 85 whilst awaiting a cataract operation!) as well as an accomplished musician playing both the accordion and the piano. He also possessed a great sense of humour and was always ready with a sparkling comment. The only word that springs to mind when describing him is gentleman, in the fullest and most complete sense of the word.

As a young boy, growing up in the 1960s and early 1970s and bought up on a diet of Commando books and Airfix kits he seemed like a living legend - the embodiment of all that excited me about the RAF and the war years. Like most ex servicemen he was very modest about his wartime exploits and one had to coax most information out of him. He would happily talk about amusing incidents and trivia but of his 29 combat flights he was far less forthcoming. At the time a tour was either 30 missions or 6 months on operations. His two daughters (my cousins) have given me permission to copy his log books with the view to researching the missions he took in part in and to get a sense of what, as a young man, he had to endure.. By his own admission (I had seen them on a previous occasion), these were populated with the minimum amount of information he could away with as he jokingly said that paperwork was tedious. I want to cross reference these to the actual operational records to get an understanding of what flights he undertook and why these have been so uncomfortable for him to discuss. My research will form the basis of further posts in due course.

Our last conversations were centred around the then forthcoming unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial - which he fully intended visiting with a suitable entourage. Sadly he will not be able to make that journey now but those that have survived him, myself included, are going to do so in his memory and also for those that were not so fortunate to have been able to live to see  the day.

It is a clichĂ© I know but they don't make them like that any more.

God bless Uncle Jim, rest in peace and as was observed today, you now have your second set of wings.

33 comments:

Robert (Bob) Cordery said...

A very moving eulogy.

May your uncle rest in peace in that great crew room to which all airmen eventually go.

Bob

Tail End Charlie said...

I am sorry for your loss. The world thanks him for his service!

Jason said...

My sympathies David. Your Uncle was clearly a brave and very good man.
My Grandfather who I idolised (also RAF during WW2) passed away just a few weeks ago. You are quite right, they don't make them like that anymore.
Regards,
Jason

Conrad Kinch said...

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Hadik said...

God bless your family and your Uncle Jim. I'm sorry for your loss. It's a sad reminder that we are losing such a valiant generation. I do look forward to hearing more about his service in the war.

Steven Page said...

My deepest sympathy on the loss of a man who was such a wonderful influence. The gentlemen of Bomber Command are unsung heroes on this side of the water. I look forward to further chapters in his story. May God be near you in this time of loss.
-Steve P.

Steven Page said...

My deepest sympathy on the loss of a hero and a fine influence. The men of Bomber Command are all too often unsung heroes on this side of the water. I hope you will continue the study of his wartime career,and share it with others. May God be close to your family in this time of loss.
-Steve P.

El Grego said...

Condolences on your family's loss.

Bluebear Jeff said...

A very nice post, sir. I wish you good fortune with researching his log books . . . and I am sorry for your loss.


-- Jeff

David Manley said...

Bless him. I salute your proud, brave uncle. The world is a better place thanks to him and his comrades.

Steve-the-Wargamer said...

Nicely put David.. very nicely put... sorry for your loss.

Pls share the results of your research, it would be fascinating

David Crook said...

Hi Bob,

Many thanks - much appreciated. I am quite sure that in the great crew room in the sky he will the quiet one in the corner on the piano 'tinkling the ivories'!

All the best,

DC

Ross Mac rmacfa@gmail.com said...

Sounds like a worthy Uncle indeed. I think you have done a great job of painting a word picture of the man and some of what he meant. A sad loss but part of him will live on as long as he is remembered and talked about.

Another empty glass on the table.

David Crook said...

Hi Tail End,

He was very pleased about the Bomber Command Memorial although he admitted that seeing all the TV coverage reminded him of some painful times.

I will miss him hugely.

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi Jason,

My sympathies for your recent loss as well! They are gone but I am sure never forgotten.

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi CK,

Thank you Conrad - simple and to the point.

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi Hadik,

Thank you sir for the kind words. As soon as I have news I will post accordingly. The funny thing is that his close family are as keen to find out what he did so I have an extra incentive. These events should be remembered and if I can help this in some way then I shall be very happy.

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi Steven P,

Many thanks for your kind words and thoughts - they are much appreciated and I hope to prolong my Uncle's memory by finding out his role in those momentous events.

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi EG,

Many thanks old chap - much appreciated.

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi Jeff,

Many thanks sir - on both counts.

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi Dave,

He always saw himself as an ordinary bloke and I always got the impression that being classed as a 'hero' or as a 'brave man' was something he felt almost embarrassed about.

You are right though, the efforts of him and the thousands others have helped to make the world a better place.

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi Steve,

Cheers old chap - rest assured, all the information I can acquire will be shared.

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi Ross,

For my Uncle the empty glass would probably be of bitter or a nice claret.

Thank you for your kind words and thoughts - much appreciated.

All the best,

DC

Stryker said...

It's sad to think that the generation who fought in the war are slowly passing on. My own father was a RAF Navigator in WWII and is still with us, now 92. About 10 years ago he started writing a book about his experiences but he only managed this by getting the official records from the PRO which were very detailed. My Dad, like your Uncle only kept brief notes in his flying log book. This was because they were told at the time that they would not be able to keep their log books after the war although most of them did. You will probably find that there is a wealth of information waiting for your research. There is a post about my Dad's book on my blog http://hintonhunt.blogspot.co.uk/2009/03/forgotten-air-force-remembered-off.html

Ian

Tim Gow said...

He sounds like a good chap. I look forward to hearing more about his exploits.

David Crook said...

Hi Tim,

He was one of a kind and certainly hope to bring his experiences to life if I am able.

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi Stryker,

The PRO will be a great help once we have the log books (they are in his flat somewhere) and I have a copy. I am pleased that your father at 92 he is still going strong and that he is recording his experiences - I tried to persuade Uncle Jim to do the same but he was never keen on the idea - mainly because he felt that nobody would be particularly interested!

I will check out the blog and many thanks for the kind words.

All the best,

DC

Chasseur said...

David,
May a peace that passes understanding be with you and yours. You must be very proud of your uncle as he sounds like an admirable gent.
Jeff

Paul of the Man Cave said...

My condolences David. My Grandfather was also a member of RAF Bomber Command, flying Lancasters.

Lest we forget

David Crook said...

Hi Jeff,

I certainly am proud of him and a gent sums him up very well.

I will certainly miss him very much.

All the best and thanks for your good wishes - they are much appreciated.

DC

David Crook said...

Hi Paul,

Many thanks old chap. Uncle Jim had been taken off operational flying by the time Lancasters came into service and spent the second half of the war based on Malta after the siege had lifted in some kind of administrative capacity. I hope to find out more in due course and will post the results on the blog.

So your grandfather was in Lancasters? I suspect his recollections would be of great interest but I should imagine that, in common with most ex servicemen, he is probably very modest and unassuming about them.

All the best,

DC

Tomo said...

God Bless!

David Crook said...

Hi Tomo,

Many thanks old chap - much appreciated.

All the best,

DC