14 September 2007
We were pathfinders once and young
This is a group photo of some of the last survivors of the RAF Pathfinder Force. It was taken at their annual memorial day at RAF Wyton (the Pathfinder Force HQ during WWII) last month. All of them are in their 80s or 90s now. At 81, my father is the youngest of the group. He is on the far left in the blue/grey suit. He chooses not to wear his service medals (The Defence and War medals, the 1939-45 Star, the Aircrew Europe, Africa, Italy and Burma stars).
About 3700 Pathfinders were killed during WWII, a high death rate even by RAF Bomber Command standards (45% of all operational aircrews were killed. Only one in three survived the war without injury)
As I have mentioned before my father had two very good reasons not to serve in WWII: firstly, he was a citizen of Eire, a neutral country; secondly, he was only 15 when he joined (The RAF probably still thinks he was born in 1923 rather than 1926!). Despite some awful experiences, he never regretted his war service and he is still proud to have been a member of an elite force.
He was one of many Irish men and women in the British services who uttered the well worn phrase to a fellow citizen "Aren't you glad Dev kept us out of the war!"