A poem for Remembrance Day

Think Not That They Are Lonely
[The peoples of the occupied lands defy their German oppressors by placing flowers on the graves of British aviators.]

Flt Lt Owen Chave

Think not that they are lonely where they lie
Your tears are not the only ones to bless
Their sacrifice, for no one passes by
But pays his homage to their quietness.

As demi-gods they rest, and on each shrine
Are laid the votive gifts that children bring;
All Europe’s flowers are heaped there for a sign
That their swift fame need fear no tarnishing.

As far as I can tell, Flt Lt Owen Chave had no connection with 617 Squadron, although as he spent the early part of the war as a flying instructor, some of the squadron’s pilots may have passed through his hands. During this time, Chave wrote some rather good poems which are not widely known. The one shown above appears in a collection called Air Force Poetry, edited by John Putney and Henry Treece and published in 1944.

Owen Chave. [Pic: Brighton College]

Owen Cecil Chave was born in Southampton on 29 April 1912, the son of Sir Benjamin and Lady Chave (née Rachel Morgan). He was educated at Brighton College between 1926 and 1931. On leaving school he worked first in insurance, and then became a schoolmaster. However, he really wanted to be a writer, and before the war had poems and articles published in a number of magazines including Punch and The Spectator. He joined the RAF Reserve in 1936, and gave up teaching to work in commercial aviation.

When the war started, Chave became an RAF instructor, flying Airspeed Oxfords at RAF South Verney in Gloucestershire. He found this a frustrating experience, as can be seen below in the typescript of a humorous poem published in Punch:

Pic: Brighton College

A book of Chave’s poetry, Winged Victory: Poems of a Flight Lieutenant, was published in 1942, using the pseudonym ‘Ariel’. Eventually, he was allowed to volunteer for operational flying and in 1942 he joined 15 Squadron at RAF Bourn, flying Stirling aircraft. He flew on a number of operations until, on 14 February 1943, his aircraft was shot down by a night fighter over Belgium, with the loss of everyone on board. The crew was buried in a local graveyard and, after the war, reinterred in the Heverlee Commonwealth War Cemetery.

When the clocks strike eleven this Sunday morning, please pay homage to the quietness of the grave of Owen Cecil Chave – and indeed to all those who have fallen in war, combatant or not, many of whom who have no known place of rest. Think not that they are lonely.

Chave information at Old Brightonians, Brighton College
Chave crew page at Aircrew Remembered

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Johnny Johnson collects MBE from the Queen

One of the last two men alive who took part in the Dams Raid, George ‘Johnny’ Johnson, was decorated yesterday with the MBE by the Queen at a Buckingham Palace investiture. Johnson, who will be 96 in 17 days time, was the bomb aimer in Joe McCarthy’s crew in Lancaster AJ-T, which attacked the Sorpe Dam on the night of 16/17 May 1943. The other survivor is the 94-year-old Canadian Fred Sutherland, the front gunner in Les Knight’s crew in AJ-N, which dropped the final mine on the Eder Dam, causing its breach.

Johnny Johnson was decorated for his services to Second World War remembrance and to the community in Bristol, where he lives. He said afterwards that the Queen told him that she was ‘glad to see that the Dambusters are still here’.

Johnny Johnson has, of course, been to the palace for an investiture once before, on 22 June 1943, when he was one of the 33 men decorated by the current Queen’s mother after the Dams Raid. On that occasion he received the DFM. He must be one of the few who have an MBE to add to his collection.

BBC News Bristol report

AJ-A memorial nearly there: please help it get to target

One of the members of the crew of AJ-A on the Dams Raid, wireless operator Lawrence Nichols, pictured here during training with the rest of the participants on his wireless course. The picture was probably taken in Blackpool in 1941. Nichols is sitting on the ground in the centre of the front row. [Pic: © Ray Hepner collection.]

The appeal for funds for a new memorial plaque on the Dutch coast, near where Sqn Ldr Melvin Young’s Lancaster, AJ-A, was shot down on the night of the Dams Raid has been very successful, and has so far raised about 80% of the €3500 needed.

The organisers, the 617 Squadron Netherlands Aircrew Memorial Foundation is now appealing to anyone who has not yet supported the campaign to do so as soon as possible so that work can begin on designing and producing the plaque and its associated works.

The Foundation was established to commemorate all members of 617 Squadron who lost their lives in the war. As part of this work, the Foundation will unveil a memorial plaque to the crew of AJ-A on the seafront at Castricum-aan-Zee in late May 2018, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the retrieval of their bodies from the sea and their burial in the nearby Bergen cemetery. Members of the families of the crew of AJ-A have already said that they hope to be present for this occasion.

If you haven’t yet made a donation to the Foundation, then this is your chance to do so! Please use the PayPal link below. (Any credit card can be used – you don’t need to have a PayPal account in order to make a payment.) Your donation will be gratefully received and will be acknowledged at the unveiling ceremony.