Lest We Forget

ECahirFSEdwardsPJv1.jpg

Title

Lest We Forget

Description

Details of the night Jim Cahir and crew were shot down. The surviving crew remember the pilot struggling with the controls to allow the others to escape. Patrick Edwards, the pilot did not survive. It was not until February 2004 that the survivors found out where their pilot was buried. The remains of their Halifax are used in a nursery and a farm.

Creator

Date

2004-06

Temporal Coverage

Language

Format

One typewritten sheet

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Contributor

Identifier

ECahirFSEdwardsPJv1

Transcription

[underlined] LEST WE FORGET [/underlined]

There must have been many, many times that crew members of a Bomber hit by enemy fire have sacrificed their lives for their fellow crew members.

Why these stories have not been told before, one can only guess. Perhaps because their heroism was in vain, perhaps the whole crew may have perished despite the bravery of one or more of the crew. Or perhaps it is not until many years later, something stirs in the memory of a survivor of an event that occurred perhaps decades earlier and floods back into his memory. H realises that he has granted those extra years of life because of the self sacrifice of fellow crew members.

This is the true story of one of those unsung heroes who gave his life that others might live.

At the recent funeral of Ralph Parsons of 466 Halifax Squadron, Ralph’s son Don, in his eulogy, told of his father’s belief that his pilot F/Sgt. 413748 Patrick John Edwards of Newcastle, N.S.W. had granted him an additional 61 years of life (a belief that other surviving members of the crew also shared).

On the night of December 20th 1943 a Halifax Bomber Mark 3, Serial No. HX 273, Squadron No. HD-W lifted off from Leconfield, Yorkshire, U.K. at 16.48 hours, the target, Frankfurt-on-Main, Germany. At approximately 19.45 hours, homeward bound from the target, it was attacked by a German night fighter – a JU 88 flown by Hauptman Heinz Rokker, a veteran Luftwaffe fighter pilot with 67 confirmed victories to his credit.

That fatal shots from the JU 88 night fighter set the Halifax starboard engines and wing on fire. The fire extinguishers in the engines failed to put out the blaze and in a matter of seconds, the fire was burning more furiously and had spread across the whole wing of the aircraft.

Patrick Edwards, the pilot, temporarily lost partial control of the Halifax as it went into a steep spiral dive because of the loss of power from [underlined] both [/underlined] starboard engines. Pat managed to gain some control after losing about 10,000 feet in height and he ordered the crew to, “BALE OUT NOW” adding, “I will try to get it level, GO!”

It was only his determination to stay at the controls of the doomed aircraft and his bravery to put the safety of his crew before his own safety, that enabled the other 6 members of the crew to parachute to safety before the aircraft hit the ground.

Patrick John Edwards’ bravery and loyalty to his fellow crew will never be forgotten. His name lives on today, as it is borne by the eldest son of one of the survivors.

Sixty years later, in December 2003, there appeared in a German magazine, “Der Grund”, an interview given by a resident of the village of Beltershausen, which is situated 90km north of Frankfurt-on-Main. He relates how as a young boy of 11 years, he was witness to a four engine Bomber with a wing on fire appearing low over his village, and he though it was about to crash on him. He tells how he pressed himself against the wall of the local carpenter’s shop and watched it crash in a field beyond the village. In the morning, before going to school, he inspected the burnt out plane and saw that the pilot was still in the wreckage.

Patrick John Edwards was buried in the local cemetery, but was exhumed by the R.A.F. in 1947 and is now buried in the Hannover Commonwealth War Cemetery. His grave in Hannover has been visited by three Australian crew members, F.O. 421353 Bruce Loane, F/Sgt. 409226 Ralph Parsons and F/Sgt. 419441 F.S. (Jim) Cahir.

It was not until this story appeared in Der Grund in December 2003 and was translated into English in Australia in February 2004 that any of the survivors from the aircraft had any idea what happened to the stricken plane from which they had parachuted.

Today the remains of that Halifax that took off from England 60 years ago can be seen in the village. The tail plane of the aircraft is used as a decoration in a plant nursery and the corlings from the engines are used by a German farmer as a woodshed.

F.S. Cahir
June 2004

Citation

Jim Cahir, “Lest We Forget,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 29, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/20128.

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