When you soon see on the TV news stories of the dedication of a memorial in Lincoln to the men of Bomber Command, take a moment to remember this Kiama connection.
In their darkest hour, the British formed Bomber Command to take the fight back to the enemy. British factories churned out hundreds of planes such as Wellingtons and the legendary Lancasters, and night after night thousands of men flew them across Nazi Europe to target and destroy the myriad weapons factories of the Axis powers.
This was very dangerous and Bomber Command suffered huge losses. Most planes lasted for less than 10 missions, with very few making the complete 30 mission tour of duty. It needed a constant supply of brave men from across the Allied forces, including Australia.
One of these was Richard (Dick) Pratt. Described by his son as a proud Australian but a humble person, Dick volunteered for the RAAF in 1942 when he was 20. He joined a Lancaster aircrew, based at an airfield at Skellingthorpe near Lincoln, as radio operator. Their plane, Lancaster QRX, endured 27 missions before being shot down by a German night fighter.
Dick survived his capture, interrogation and internment as a Prisoner of War until finally being freed by the advancing Allied army in 1945. He was 23 by then.
Back in Australia after the war, Dick came to Kiama to raise a family. His wife, Elaine, still lives at Blue Haven and two of his sons are locals. Dick was well known for his community involvement around the town.
The official opening of a long-overdue memorial to the many thousands of brave men who were part of Bomber Command has sparked worldwide interest, with many more people wanting to attend than they have space for. Dick’s son, Geoff, entered the ballot and luckily gained a place at the ceremony on 12 April.
“My father would have moved mountains to go to Lincoln if he had been able to,” says Geoff.
“I’m honoured to represent him, his crew, and the other Bomber Command aircrew who lived around Kiama. You can see some of their names on the wall at Hindmarsh Park.
“Without the selfless actions of these and the many thousands of brave men like them, World War II may have ended very differently. Our world is here because of them.”