Long time member of the Rotary Club of Taree, Dr Colin Rose, made a very personal and at times, poignant presentation to the club’s meeting.
Dr Rose spoke of his visit to France, along with his wife Di, to honour the death of his uncle and namesake Flight Lieutenant John Colin McIntosh Rose (known as Colin Rose), a Lancaster bomber pilot who died in World War II.
He also made the journey to honour his grandmother, who stoically bore the loss of her son 12,000 miles from home while serving his country in war.
Dr Rose recounted how during the war the post office would use a yellow van with two men to deliver telegrams to homes advising which family member serving overseas had been killed in action.
In 1943 when his grandmother saw the yellow van pull up in front of her house and the two men walk up the long footpath to her door, she wondered which one of her three sons, all serving in different theatres of war, had been killed.
It was Flight Lieutenant John Colin McIntosh Rose, known as Colin Rose, 21, who was killed a few days before Christmas while flying his Lancaster bomber at night back to England after a raid over Munich. He was shot down over the village Solre le Chateau in France next to the Belgium border.
Almost 75 years later his nephew Dr Colin Rose and his wife Di attended a moving ceremony in the small village to honour the bravery and sacrifice of Flt Lt Rose and his crew all who perished on that fateful night.
The statistics of war, as told by Dr Rose, were horrifying. Of the 125,000 who served in bomber command, 57,205 were killed. Flt Lt Colin Rose, who had completed 26 missions, joined their number on 21 December 1942. He and his crew are buried beside one another in the small village.
Dr Rose said at the time, the crash was seen by the village residents as a sign of hope that someone was trying to help; a way out of the oppression of Nazi occupation.
A new memorial to mark the 75th anniversary of the crash was dedicated a few months before the anniversary with 500 members of the community, representations from the RAAF, the Australian principal secretary to the ambassador in Paris, and a fly over by a Lancaster bomber from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, England.
After the dedication the ceremony moved to a building with a wall plaque which listed another horrifying statistic of the war. The plaque listed the names of 15 villagers who were rounded up, shot and killed, including two 15-year-old girls, following the disappearance of two Nazi officers in the area. The bullet holes remain today, etched in the wall, 75 years on.
Dr Rose said his visit, apart from the wonderful opportunity to honour his uncle’s sacrifice, gave him a far greater appreciation of what it must have been like living under the control of the German occupation forces and how vividly it is still recalled and passed on to the generations of today.