Happy Aussie day to Our Friends Down Under. To mark the day, here are three more pictures from the Australian War Memorial Collection that have rarely, if ever, been seen in print: Jack Leggo leading a VE Parade, Mick Martin’s Dams raid aircraft P-Popsie, and Bob Kellow in uniform.
a cross-section of Australians – sometimes a leader, a hero, or even a rogue – who saw war and its effects. Some of these men and women gave their lives, others became renowned for their wartime courage or example, while others, affected for better or worse, emerged to face the peace where they would make their own particular mark. Each has a fascinating story.
Some of these people, such as the cricketer Keith Miller, may be familiar to non-Aussies. Many more are not, but their stories add to our wider knowledge of just how deeply the scars of war are etched on us all.
Teunis Schuurman, a Dutch writer and designer, has a huge website, much of which is devoted to pictures of wartime memorials and crash sites. On this page (which is very large — scroll about three quarters of the way down) I found pictures of a plaque commemorating Les Knight, at Den Ham in the Netherlands. (Images courtesy Dick Breedijk.)
The inscription is in Dutch. Translated into English it reads:
Early in the morning of 16 Sep 1943 a Lancaster of the RAF crashed in this meadow. The Australian Pilot of the 4-engine bomber – Fl/Lt Leslie Gorden Knight, DSO – was killed after he ordered his seven crewmen to bail out first.
He was buried the same day at the “Old Cemetery” in Den Ham. The others landed safely nearby. The two left engines were out, but he pulled up to avoid the disaster of a crash on the village of Den Ham. That night the plane was on a raid targetting a dyke of the Dortmund-Ems canal near Ladbergen. Les Knight and his crew belonged to 617 Squadron and in May 1943 were also one of the “Dambusters”, the famous attack on the Ruhr dams in Germany.
This raid took place in very bad weather conditions. The 617 Squadron detachment were using a new thin case 12,000lb bomb, dropped from a very low height. However they failed to damage the canal, and five aircraft were lost. Four complete crews and Les Knight, pilot of the fifth plane, were killed. All the remaining seven of Knight’s crew, including Fred Sutherland, still alive and well in Canada, baled out while Knight struggled to keep his damaged aircraft aloft. They owe their lives to him, as do people in the village of Den Ham which he managed to avoid when crashing.
A New Year turns (and a happy one to all readers of this blog) but there is no word yet on how the remake of The Dam Busters is going. Screenplay writer Stephen Fry is currently in New Zealand, but is working on a BBC nature documentary, rather than the movie. All the industry gossip about Peter Jackson’s current workload is to do with his forthcoming film version of Tintin, to the cast of which Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are the latest additions. Christian Rivers who is due, as they say in film circles, to ‘helm’ the Dambusters project is currently working on a film called The Laundry Warrior about an Asian warrior assassin. Where does this leave the remake of Britain’s 11th favourite war movie? As there has been no word at all on a cast, I’m not budging from my prediction that it won’t hit the cinema screens until 2011.