My father, Mervyn Thomas, loved flying ever since as a ten year old boy he won a competition and flew with the famous Sir Alan Cobham. He enlisted into the R.A.F on his 18th birthday which is 18th of August, incidentally, the same date that 355 sq. was formed. He says he enjoyed every flight so much that he came out of it alright. Not everyone did though. He recalls one of his pilots who would break down crying after some of the ops. One can only imagine that the poor guy was suffering some form of stress disorder or guilty conscience after maybe unknowingly killing civilians or even P.O.W.s. There wasn’t the knowledge then about the state of your mind, if you were fit you flew, that was it!
After completing his tour of 30 ops. in May 1945 as flt/Sgt wireless operator he was promoted to warrant officer and sent up to Poona as welfare officer for the army camp a few miles from RA F Poona. His role was to help rehabilitate and repatriate the troops. He was given extensive funding and was able to construct a couple of football pitches, open a library and bring shows over from the U.K. The only downside to the job was hearing the crying and screaming of some of the boys in the night.
On the ship going back to the U.K. dad won £200 in a sweepstake for the derby, a lot of money inthose days. The winning horse was called Airborne! Had to be didn’t it?
Dad never spoke about his time in Burma. I knew nothing whatsoever about his experiences on Liberators, Wellingtons, and Lancasters until I started doing a bit of research and found Gary Fowkes forum. I was pretty shocked to learn what these young men had to endure in atrocious conditions and has given me a greater respect for my father and his flying comrades.
Earlier this year Tony Vine the son of W/O Ron Vine who was 1st wireless operator/gunner with dad’s crew came over from Australia to Cornwall to meet dad. He brought with him his own dad’s logbook and for the first time in over 70 years the two logbooks were together as they would have been after an operation. Thanks to you Tony Vine for your insights and dogged research and also Matt Poole who has provided me with some fascinating stories and photos which have revived dad’s memories and now he can’t stop talking about a subject that he has kept hidden for all these years. At 96 dad is the only surviving member of his crew. He says he was one of the lucky ones when so many young airmen never came back.
We will remember them!
Submitted by Lester Thomas