I’ve recently discovered the Australians at War Film Archive, a massive resource made up of more than 2000 oral histories from people ‘who were there’ in various conflicts ranging from World War One to the current operations in Afghanistan. Included in the collection are transcripts of interviews of a large number of Australian Bomber Command aircrew, and it was in one of these that I found this little gem.
Rod Allcot, DFM, was a bomb aimer with 460 Squadron. After VE Day, Rod was on his way back to Australia to join the rumoured Tiger Force, flying Avro Lincolns against the Japanese. But events turned out somewhat differently:
“[…] When we were half way across the Atlantic, they [the Japanese] must have heard the news that a great team of Aussies was back on its way home to form a Lincoln squadron and fight against [them]. And that’s when they decided to toss it in… some people think it’s because of the atom bomb!”
Always modest, the airmen of Bomber Command.
This will be the last post on SomethingVeryBig for 2011. Best wishes to everyone for Christmas and the New Year, and I’ll be back in mid January.
Part of the small collection of photos that we have as part of my great uncle Jack’s personal effects is this one, showing a young woman:
This is one of the enduring mysteries of Jack’s story. Her name was Joy Gisby, according to my grandfather who has just begun a mission to find out what happened to her, and he says she was Jack’s English girlfriend. There is certainly some evidence that Jack had a girlfriend while he was overseas. His brother Edward wrote the following to Don Smith in December 1944:
“I have, since last hearing from you, had two letters from Jack’s English sweetheart […]. She is very upset over the final news of the boy, but that, I suppose, is only to be expected. It was to me, however, most comforting to know that his all-too-brief span over there was, at least, very happy.” (A01-111-001)
Unfortunately, Edward made no mention of the girl’s name, which makes it rather difficult to find any more information about who she might have been. All I have to go with in the search for information is my grandfather’s memory of a name he first heard a very long time ago and an otherwise unidentified photo. There is a family story that says Jack was engaged to Joy, and that they were to be married on the Saturday after Jack was shot down. As Jack’s letters disappeared decades ago I have no documentary evidence of this, as tragic as the story sounds. And adding to the intrigue are a number of official letters from the Air Force (that I found in A04-071 Jack’s Casualty/Repatriation File from the National Archives of Australia) addressed to Nurse MC Sands, Renwick Hospital, Liverpool Road, Summer Hill – who Jude Findlay suggested may have been a girlfriend of Jack’s in Australia. Nurse Sands was notified along with Edward Purcell of Jack being posted missing so she was obviously close in some way. She could be a red herring, but where I do not have documentary evidence of Joy Gisby’s name, I do for Nurse Sands.
But nothing ventured, nothing gained and all of that, so I’ve been doing some preliminary searching. It turns out that there are a lot of Gisbys around the world. I found a website called The Gisby Saga, a rather well-written account of one particular branch of the family. There’s a Facebook group (The Worldwide Gisby Empire) . And there are thousands of possible hits on Ancestry.com. I’m not really sure where to go from here. Any ideas gratefully received!
© 2011 Adam Purcell