Yesterday, at the Battle of Britain 70th anniversary ceremonies here, I recited Harry’s poem. Harry was an RCAF Hurricane pilot who was shot down by flak in October 1941 while escorting 18 Blenheim bombers on a daylight raid. He was captured and taken to the nearest Luftwaffe base.
Harry was their first prisoner so was treated like royalty. There was a dance in the mess that night so they found an English-speaking girl to be his companion. Harry was enjoying being a kriegsgefangennen (POW) until the station Gestapo officer came in, saw what was going on, blew a fuse, and ordered the Luftwaffe to pack him off to a POW camp where I was to meet up with him 17 months later.
Harry had taken up writing good poetry and, when I published my book on my RCAF career in 1982, he let me include 3 of his poems. Here is one of them:
Like migratory birds they soared aloft,
Making geometric plan in flight;
And though the flesh within was warm and soft,
The eyes that searched the sky were hard and bright.
But Hate with hellish speed and guns that reek
Can fool the quickest eye; and burning steel
Soften the hardest heart, and make it weak -
Warm flesh alone can know the pain to feel.
The eager youth, curling beneath the lash
Of hailing lead, borne on the breath of Hell,
Watched his bright dream become a blinding flash;
And lifted up his head to say Farewell.
Granted one glance before a flaming death,
He traced the brilliant outline of the cloud;
A knew then, as he vainly fought for breath,
The darkening pall of night would be his shroud.