Tuesday, September 15, 2009

All The Way

Like most people Mine Host is uncomfortable when confronted with a victim of severe burns. Even years after their recovery, sighting (or even thinking of) the victim brings to life the torment of what severe burns must feel like.

The Mongoloid visage of one who has had their face burnt off is possibly the most unsettling of all burns injuries (for those of us who have not been burned)

All of us have experienced minor burns (from a stove etc) and the imagination horrifically multiplies this experience.

A cousin, though functioning as a member of society, spent most of his life bearing the all-too-obvious scarring of severe 3rd degree burns to much of his body (the visible parts anyway) including his face and hands.

Cousin had a brief career in the RAAF. A radio operator in a Wellington bomber crew, what turned out to be his last mission (and final task in the RAAF) came very early in the war.

Hit badly after a bombing mission to mainland Europe, his Wellington ditched. Upon the skipper's advice that ditching was unavoidable, Cousin commenced transmitting a distress signal, advising their imminent fate and estimated position.

After the crash into the sea, he remained at his station, transmitting continuously, with no way of knowing if his signals had been heard.

He kept transmitting as the bomber burned around him, leaving it only when fire destroyed the radio equipment.

The crew was rescued, unharmed (radio operator excepted).

It is not known if his transmitting until the final moment helped their rescue. Had he got out of the crashed bomber with the rest of the crew, he would not have been burnt.

He received several years of rehabilitation, Three service medals, and a discharge into civilian life.

Morse code, his most marketable skill, was not available to him, his fingers no longer able to tap it out.

Even though he lived an ordinary and decent life, as most of us do, his presence at family gatherings always prompted everybody to (at some stage) privately reflect with their own thoughts.

1 comment:

Kay said...

This is so sad for such a brave man.