Thursday, November 29, 2012

Some REAL Audacity of Hope.


Not the vapid majickal fiction of Obama's blather, but reality. From The Telegraph.
 
The RAF pilot who dropped the Tricolor on occupied Paris, 12 June, 1942

In a daring raid intended to boost the morale of the French, Wing Commander Ken Gatward flew just feet off the ground to put the wind up the Germans. After dropping a huge French flag on top of the Arc de Triomphe, the British pilot headed towards the Gestapo headquarters which he raked with 20mm shells. The attack sent the German SS troops running for their lives, to the delight of Parisians.

Wg Cdr Gatward’s antics were celebrated in British newspaper cartoons and raised the hope and morale among the British and French. One of the cartoons depicted his aircraft doing a loop around the Eiffel Tower, with the word ‘Hope’ written in the sky using his trail smoke.

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and after the war he was hailed a hero by the French government who presented him with a large bottle of Champagne and a Tricolor in Paris.

Wg Cdr Gatward’s medal set, that includes his DFC with bar and a Distinguished Service Order, have now been put up for auction after the recent death of his widow. Being sold with it are the pilot’s log books and the wooden commemorative Champagne case inscribed with the words ‘In Remembrance of Your Flight Over Paris’. A souvenir booklet featuring a sketch of the moment Wg Cdr Gatward and his observer dropped the Tricolor over the Arc de Triomphe with German army trucks on the ground is also being sold.

James Grinter, of auctioneers Reeman Dansie of Colchester, Essex, said: “Ken Gatwood’s act of bravery is a real Boy’s Own story. He was asked to volunteer for the ‘unsafe mission’ which was aimed at boosting the morale of the French and British people as well as undermine the Germans. This is June 1942 and the real dark days of war for the French and this was to demonstrate that the Germans weren’t invincible.”

Wg Cdr Gatward was chosen for the sortie as he had demonstrated a skill for accurate flying during low-level attacks on enemy positions after Dunkirk. The British had been informed the Germans held daily parades down the Champs-Elysees and he was asked to strafe the parade.

He and his navigator, Flight Sergeant George Fern, took off from Thorny Island, near Portsmouth, on June 12. After reaching Paris, he flew at just 30ft before Ft Sgt released the flag down the flare shute and over the Arc de Triomphe.

Mr Grinter said: “It is an amazing story - one of those that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. He flew down the Champs-Elysees at second floor window height. It was an incredible act of bravery and a real audacious attack. He attacked the Gestapo HQ and SS troops were seen to run for their lives. As he turned for home the Germans came out and shook their fists at him. The attack gave Parisians one of the greatest thrills of the war and had a huge effect on the morale of the French and at home.”

After returning unscathed to Britain, Wg Cdr Gatward wrote in his logbook:

“Paris - no cover - 0ft. Drop tricolours on Arc Triomphe & Ministrie Marine. Shoot up German HQ. Little flak - no E.A. Bird in STBD oil radiator. Returned Northolt and on to command 61 photos. Heavy rain over England. France fair to light.”

The bird in question was a French crow that clattered into Wg Cdr Gatward’s Beaufighter plane as he approached Paris. Upon his return to England, he removed the dead bird and laid it to rest at RAF Northolt.

Wg Cdr Gatward was awarded a second DFC in September 1944 for taking part in an aeriel attack on a German convoy in Norwegian waters.

He spent 30 years in the RAF before retiring. He lived in Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, with wife Pamela and died in 1998 aged 84. His medals and other items are expected to sell for £8,000 at the auction on Friday.

6 comments:

Mark said...

What a fantastic story!

CrabbyOldMan said...

MARK SAYS IT ALL!

T. Paine said...

I wonder if the British and French people respect and remember their Greatest Generation too? God knows we seem to have forgotten them in America.

CrabbyOldMan said...

T. Paine, I would love to know the percentage of the population that knows anything at all about the 1930s, WWII, the last half of the 1940s and the 1950s.

Zelda said...

That is such a great story. I wish these stories were told more often just because they are so friggin' cool.

T. Paine said...

Crabby, I would venture to guess that most high school graduates couldn't even answer basic questions about those eras or WWII. They damned sure don't know anything about the revolutionary war, the Constitution, or our founding fathers.

Zelda, I absolutely agree with you. The guys in those stories are real heroes. Too bad those stories are not told more often!