This document provides background on the Royal Air Force Pathfinder Squadron. It is an address by Air Commodore (R.A.F. Retired) Peter Cribb. C.B.E., D.S.O., D.F.C. at the book launch:
The 20th century is drawing to a close, and with it will pass most of the survivor of the war that put a top to the obscene ambitions of Adolf Hitler, first to enslave Europe, and then conquer the World. The sea, land and air campaigns raged for five and a half years to force the surrender of Germany and the liberation of the occupied countries of Europe.
Only one force fought the Germans within the borders of their Fatherland for the whole of those year. That force was Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force. An integral part of Bomber Command was the Path Finder Force, created in 1942, and commanded from then until the war ended by a remarkable Australian airman, the late Air Vice Marshal Donald Bennett C.B, C.B.E, D.S.O.
Hundred of Australians volunteered to serve as air crew in Europe, and after training through the Empire Air Training Scheme, joined the R.A.F. Squadron of Bomber Command. The most successful crews were invited to volunteer to join the Path Finder Force, and extend their tour of operations by at least fifteen sorties. The Path Finder Force was made up of specially selected experienced bomber crews, who were given intensive training in navigation and bombing using specially developed electronic devices. These crews were then posted to the Path Finder Squadrons who had the responsibility of leading nearly all bombing raids on Germany and Italy, identifying and marking the target for the main force to attack.
One such squadron (614 Squadron) was formed and trained by the Path Finder Force, at Newmarket, on the world famous race course converted to a war-time airfield, and then transferred to Italy after the Italian surrender, to mark targets in southern Europe for attack by bomber forces of No. 205 Group based in southern Italy. The crews in this force faced a double enemy, the German defences, and the ferocious storm and icing conditions over the mountains, which had to be crossed twice on every sortie. That small detached force of Pathfinders surely deserves its own historian.
The captain of one of the crews in that squadron was Tom Scotland, and author of the book we launch today which includes his recollection of that unique fragment of war. 'A Voice from the Stars' is more than just war memoirs. Flying and fighting were not Tom's chosen profession, but like many others of his generation he responded to the needs of the motherland of the British Commonwealth.
War invariably leaves it mark on those who fight and survive. None are unchanged though they may bear no visible scars. Some are spiritually crippled or warped by the experience, other grow in character and compassion. By their very nature, night bombing operations require each small crew of six or even to face the enemy and the elements alone, isolated by distance, darkness, and essential silence, from bases and all the other crews, who can render them no assistance or support over enemy territory. To survive they depend heavily on each other, and particularly on the character and skill of their pilot.
The launch of this book offers its readers an exceptionally candid insight into the development of one young West Australian who was called upon to bear that responsibility, and to whom the experience seems to have inspired a quest for guidance which became a commitment to unselfish service to other in their hours of need. It is a moving story of endurance, felicity and warmth that will enchant readers of all ages.
The author has donated the proceeds of todays sales to the R.A.A.F. Aviation Museum Appeal, which in turn will assist in keeping the unique collection around us intact for future generations of West Australians. We ask you to respond generously.
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