When my father returned from active duty in the Royal Air Force, he was not well at all, as were most aircrew.
Today, the term for his ailment is PTSD. There was very little help for veterans then.
Near the end of the war, the German air force was virtually destroyed so they resorted to firing rockets and flying bombs which were also known as doodlebugs. These rockets were very successful and destroyed a large section of many cities in the U.K. resulting in many civilian casualties. The rocket sites were eventually destroyed and it brought the war to a close soon after.
When the weather conditions were bad, such as heavy fog, it was inevitable that some of the targets were not destroyed and civilian casualties were the result. Many of the German soldiers hid amongst the civilian population just as ISIS and other terrorist groups do today.
At the end of the war, Bomber Common lost 47,000 aircrew and 9,700 were taken prisoners of war. That figure did not include the losses incurred by the army and navy, plus Russian and American casualties.
The Germans also suffered heavy losses. Please remember that most of the aircrew were aged 18 to 23.
Father knew about the casualty figures and this did not help him with the stress and guilt that he felt.
Father was proud to wear the RAF uniform but politely refused to accept the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) awarded to a number of aircrew and to be presented by King George on March 21, 1944.
I was very privileged to know one of the recipients named John Patterson who wrote a book called World War II. John was a resident in our apartment building but sadly passed away a few years ago. We had many discussions with regards to his service in the U.K.
Here are a few more tragic numbers regarding casualties in the war of 1939-45:
Military losses: 20 million;
Civilian losses: 40 million.
Father was finally able to help himself by seeking out many parents and young widows of aircrew that he served with.
By spending time consoling them, he himself was able to come to terms with his stress.
He also founded a volunteer group locally where they would help veterans and older people with their daily needs, such as medical appointments, etc.
Father died of cancer in 1954 at the young age of forty-four. He is buried in the military section of the cemetery in my home town of Aberystwyth, Wales, U.K.
He may have been a war hero in our home town but to my sister and me, he was just dad.
By: Ernest G. Stirrup.