Raymond Hathaway Wilson. You’re 22. It’s 1974 and you’ve been dead 30 years. It’s tough. And you don’t like it. If you were alive now in 2014 you’d be 92 and that’s old, but if you’d made it it’s quite possible you could still be around because longevity runs in your family. Your dear mother lived to be 104. Even if you didn’t see it.
It’s possible, Mr Wilson, you could be creaking around even now and making a mess of things in your kindly old man way, but they’d only be small messes and no bother because you’re an old man. You’re ancient. And you were in the war. Everybody loves you because you’re so cool.
We don’t know that much about you. We know your kid brother. He’s not getting any younger, but neither are you. Both of you are from Peachland, BC. It’s a nice little town. Been there. Nice little obelisk war memorial on a nice patch of grass right in front of the lake in downtown Peachland. The Cenotaph. Your names on it, Raymond. Pounded into the white marble. I know you’re thinking, “Why would my name be there?”
They’re still making movies about your war. I know. It wasn’t your war. It was just a job you were doing. You were attached to 51 Squadron flying out of Snaith, Yorkshire. Snaith? What’s that? It was an RAF squadron, but you were in the RCAF, Hathaway. How come? You’re very good at what you do.
Handley Page Halifax Mk III. Good plane. Sturdy craft. Liked by all. Four Bristol Hercules XVIs. Lots of power. Seven guys and the plane. It’s ten after ten on a Thursday night and you’re airborne. Your mission is bombardment. The Fatherland of mirth. It’s Nuremberg, wherever that is.
As the bomb aimer you’d be up front with a fine, unobstructed view through the Perspex of all below. Except you were flying at night. How did that work, Raymond? What a job you had to do. It’s absolutely stunning. Good show.
There wasn’t much to do in Snaith. If it wasn’t for this war it’s unlikely to be a place you’d ever pass through. These days nobody can even find Yorkshire, much less Snaith. Disappeared off the map they have! Up above the hump somewhere there near the east coast and a good line east to the target. There’s always a reason. It’s the Air Force.
It’s one o’clock in the morning. Flying on and on.
“Five minutes to target, Skip.”
Then something happened.
If none of seven guys get out obviously catastrophic things have hit. All that training. All that camaraderie. The resolve and casual, unobtrusive bravery because it’s your job. A big wipe out. The entire crew. It’s just as upsetting now as it was then.
It’s a remember moment.