Monday, 10 May 2021
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Air Chief Marshal Sir Douglas Lowe

Brian Desmond Joseph WelchMy father, Sgt Brian Welch, was a member of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), sent to England to fly as a tail gunner, in Stirling and Lancaster bombers, over Germany and Europe, writes retired Brigadier Dr Anthony Welch. After training in Canada, he arrived in England and spent time familiarising himself with the bombers he would fly in on operations before joining an operational squadron in Suffolk.

On leave in London he met my mother, who was an English girl of twenty-one, born in Godalming. He was just two years older than his stunningly beautiful bride. My mother been engaged to marry an American flyer called Bob Ryerson, a winner of the Silver Star, who was to die on operations over Europe. My father had been engaged to a girl in New Zealand before the war but he broke it off when he met my mother, such was her charm. This was, of course, wartime and lives were short. Fun and romance had to be taken as and when it presented itself.

My parents did just that and it was, perhaps, a miracle that my father survived the war. Bomber Command aircrews suffered high casualties. Of a total of 125,000 aircrew, 57,205 were killed, a staggering 46% death rate. Tail gunners were particularly vulnerable. In all, 1,850 New Zealand airmen died in bombers flying from British bases during the war.

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