Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Group captain John Henry Roberts. Up, up into the blue.

A Canso on the launching ramp at Dartmouth in Halifax harbour

Group captain John Henry Roberts.

Jack Roberts , my wife Heather`s father, died recently at the ripe old age of 96. For me, it comes as a kind of wake up call because it seems only a short while ago since it was veterans of WWI who were dieing at that age. Now it is the Veterans of WWII who are taking their turn with crossing no-mans-land, the valley, the dark river, to the other side. Jack was a career Air force officer so perhaps it would be more appropriate to think of him as free at last to be off into the great blue yonder.

 People like Jack led the high moments of their lives during WWII. He flew a Canso ( Catalina) flying boat on long range patrols over the North Atlantic guarding the convoys that were carrying all the essential materials to keep Britain alive and fighting. After that life, after that experience of danger and high adventure, it was often difficult for the men and women who survived to adjust to the peacetime military and the different demands of family life.

I imagine Jack back in the cockpit with his wartime crew on some plane of existence, rolling his amphibian down the ramp at Dartmouth and taking off through the choppy waves of Halifax harbour. A cold, overcast day, many lonely hours and miles out to sea, watching over the grey shapes of yet another convoy. Guarding them from the wolves that were U boats and surface raiders. A shepherd, you might say. Not such a bad thing to be.

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