ELHAS Meeting Report - February 2016

Meeting Report February 2016

In February we were delighted to welcome Alun Pugh, a popular local speaker who gave an amusing and entertaining talk entitled "Dei goes to War". This was about his father's exploits as a bomber pilot during World War Two. Alun began his talk by explaining that his father was born in 1921, the son of a Welsh farmer and was only 18 when war was declared. His desire to join the RAF was almost thwarted from the beginning when his father declared that if he joined up he would be 'no son of mine', and the RAF said he was too tall to be a pilot anyway. However, both these issues became resolved and he was able to realise his ambition being sent to Canada to start his training. Alun regaled us with several funny stories of his father's voyage to Canada, and also described how in spite of the rigours of his training he thoroughly enjoyed his stay there.

On completion of his training he was posted to Pocklington where he met his future wife Marie. Alun explained that his father had kept a diary all his life and that was what he had drawn on in putting the talk together. He also said that the diary had originally been written in Welsh and when his father had been questioned as to why that was so he had replied "So you're Mother and Adolf Hitler couldn't understand it". The diary had made fascinating reading for Alun and proved equally interesting to his audience.

Whilst many details of the operations Dei took part in were of interest to us the most significant entry was the description of the raid in January 1944 which ended with the plane ditched in the North Sea and the death of four of the crew. Alun read directly from the diary and the audience was enthralled to hear the story in Dei's own words. He had written that they were taking part in a big raid on Berlin when the Halifax bomber was hit by a shell, which caused severe damage and holed the petrol tanks. Despite his heroic efforts to fly home he had no alternative but to ditch the plane into the cold waters of the North Sea. Within two hours the dinghy had capsized and three of the crew were lost. The remaining four spent three days and four nights at sea with no food or water. Miraculously they were found and rescued but still had to face another 20 hours at sea before they reached land at Montrose in Scotland. Sadly the rescue came too late for the Canadian navigator Jimmy Graham who had died of exposure. The rest of the crew were taken to hospital in Brechin and spent many weeks in hospital recovering and regaining the ability to walk on feet which had been severely frostbitten. The surviving members of the crew were made members of the Goldfish Club, an association for people who have escaped death by use of an emergency dinghy.

After the war Dei became a teacher and settled in Cross Gates to bring up his family. He lived in the same house until his death in 2001. Alun's obvious affection and pride for his father came across very strongly during his talk, and for those in the audience who had known his father, but not his story, it was a remarkable insight into the man only known as a neighbour or colleague. Although the talk centred on a serious subject, Alun's style of delivery, and his amusing asides ensured that the audience were kept thoroughly entertained all evening.

Our next meeting on Monday 21st March 2016 will be an illustrated talk by Professor Joyce Hill "The Vikings in Yorkshire"