The following is the transcript of the speech given by Royal Australin Air Force Wing Commander John Ibbotson at the Lancaster EE138 65th Commemoration :
Councillor Kamp, Excellency, Distinguished Guests, and Relatives of the Crew of EE138.
Firstly let me acknowledge the privilege of being here today to help remember our debt to the young men who gave their lives so that we may enjoy ours today. I do this often in my job, and it always brings a lump to my throat.
Let me also acknowledge on behalf of the RAAF the local community who have worked so hard to assist the relatives to enable this site to be protected. Special mention must be made of the efforts of Ingemann Halkjaer and his family and descendant children for the care and support given to protecting and maintaining the integrity of the last resting place of the crew of Lancaster EE138. An example of this dedication is shown through the actions of one of Ingemann Halkjaer’s daughters, Mrs Kamma Halkjaer Poulsen – a local resident of Stadil, who regularly visits and tends this site - as recently as April this year in preparation for our Anzac Day - and has done so for many years since the loss of EE138. This care and consideration is greatly appreciated by all.
The story of EE138’s last mission has been recorded for posterity on the plaques here. Please indulge me whilst I attempt to add some background to the mission.
EE138 was on the strength of 460 Squadron, RAAF. 460 SQN was an Australian unit stood up in November of 1941, although as you can see from the crew of EE138 it was actually a Commonwealth Squadron. At the time of the raid they were operating out of Binbrook Airfield in Lincolnshire. Late 1943 was a difficult time for Bomber Command with high losses, the German anti aircraft defences being strengthened and many new aircrew being introduced to units and requiring integration. On some raids losses were as high as one aircraft in ten.
Whilst the crew were on their first mission with 460 SQN, it was not their first operational mission over Europe. As part of their training they were sent several times to assist the main bomber force and to get operational experience. Many trainees were lost in these missions. As the crew progressed through their training, they were gaining in proficiency. Navigator Ewin Carthew finished course with the highest assessment ever recorded. The remainder of the crew all finished with Above Average assessments. Unusually for a crew straight out of conversion, they were recommended for the Path Finder Force, which was usually only done after crews had completed an operational tour. Given their relative inexperience however, they were posted to 460 SQN.
460 SQN rightly holds a place of honour amongst those of Bomber Command. They flew the most sorties of all units in 1 Group, and the most Lancaster sorties of all Squadrons in Bomber Command. They suffered the highest number of losses in 1 Group, and the second highest in Bomber Command. Indeed, with 200 aircraft losses and over 1000 aircrew killed, it was wiped out 5 times. To cap its achievements, 460 SQN was the most decorated, and dropped the highest tonnage of bombs of any squadron in Bomber Command. The aircraft G for George on display in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra is former AR-G of 460 Sqn, which flew over 90 missions before being sent home to Australia.
Obviously the crew had been posted to a very professional outfit and felt they had big shoes to fill.
It is a humbling experience to be representing the people of the RAAF in thanking those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the finest tradition of ANZAC. It is our legacy, our responsibility and our privilege to uphold the memory of those who have fallen, and to carry the memory forward.
Lest we forget.
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