By Jane Whitworth
On this Remembrance Day, I can’t help but pause and reflect on all the brave men and women who have died to protect our freedom – people like my grandfather, Pilot Officer Bill Gray.
I never knew my grandfather, who died at the tender age of 31 in 1940, but as I look at photographs of his adventurous life, I am struck by a sense of loss, wishing that I could have known him. He was a professional pilot, who travelled by plane around the Middle East and Europe, visiting ancient sites and beautiful locales at a time when runways and airports were almost unheard of. I treasure our photographs of him in Lebanon, Syria and parts of Southern Europe.
He flew a Wellington Bomber for the RAF during World War II when he and his comrades were shot down in May 1940; they were defending the British Expeditionary Force as they were trying to exit France. He died of his injuries in a field hospital near Arras, France.
My wonderful and kind-hearted grandmother was suddenly a widow with two very young children — my mother, who would have been 19 months old, and my uncle who was only three months old. My grandmother never spoke about her husband, and I can only assume that this was because her loss was too painful to talk about. She did have a strong faith and she dedicated her life to looking after others. It has only been in recent years when I started looking through old photographs of my grandfather in the Middle East that it dawned on me what a remarkable man he was. My grandmother lived until the year 2000.
Today, I wear a poppy for him and the countless brave individuals like him, those whose names who know, and those whose names we don’t.
Thank you for your sacrifice.