Something a bit different for Anzac Day this year: I had my photo light gear with me at the 463-467 Squadron Association lunch in Sydney, so I thought it a good opportunity to get some proper portraits of the six veterans we had with us.
It was a good day, with three veterans marching on the amended route along Elizabeth St. There was a particularly Huxtable-shaped hole in proceedings however. Very sadly, for the first time in many, many years, when someone in the crowd yelled out “Hey, Don!”, the answer was not “which one??”
But while numbers were down for the march (and as I wrote last week I’m not sure how much longer this group will continue to take part), the following lunch had more than 50 people in attendance. And this was what led to probably my favourite moment of the day. At my table were a young couple who I’d not met before. Luke is a relation of the Southwells and he’d brought his partner Sharna along. I mentioned to them in conversation the significance of the little golden caterpillar badge worn by some aircrew, and suggested that if they find someone wearing one they should ask them about it. “Like him,”, I said, pointing to Alan Buxton who was sitting at the other end of the table. “Ooh,” said Sharna, “do you know his story?” I do, I said (he bailed out over the UK returning from a raid when all four engines in his Lancaster caught on fire), but as Alan was right there I encouraged her to ask him herself.
Shortly afterwards Sharna did so. This was the result:
As I left the lunch about 45 minutes later they were still there: Sharna and Luke listening intently as Alan told them why he has a golden caterpillar.
One more story shared to a new generation. Two more people who have heard first-hand something about life in Bomber Command. This is what it’s all about.
It was a lovely way to end the day.
(c) 2016 Adam Purcell