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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.
Peter Cribb was born in Menston, Yorkshire in 1918, educated
at King Henry's School and joined the Royal Air Force as an officer cadet in the
1930s, attending the RAF College at Cranwell. Married on the outbreak of war to
Patricia Walter, he became a distinguished bomber pilot, making more than 100
raids over enemy territory. He took part in the Tirpitz raids in 1942, was
recruited by AVM Don Bennett as one of the leaders of the newly-formed
Pathfinder Force, and served as a pathfinder and Master Bomber on raids over
Peter served with 58 Squadron, 104 Squadron, 35 Squadron, the Bomber Development Unit, commanded 582 Squadron and the Pathfinder Wing at Little Staughton, Lincolnshire. He flew most types of bomber aircraft, including the Lancaster, Halifax, Whitley, Wellington and Mosquito. He recalls his final raid was to bomb the SS Barracks at Hitler's retreat at Berchtesgarten.
Peter won 2 DSOs, 2 DFCs, the DFM, the CBE and other decorations. He was the only one of his Cranwell class to survive the war.
After the war he commanded RAF stations at Salbani in India and Oldenburg, Ahlhorn and Gutersloh in Germany and was Senior Air Staff Officer in Aden, followed by a stint flying a "mahogany bomber" as Director of Joint Warfare at the Air Ministry. He served with the RAF until 1966, attaining the rank of Air Commodore and helping to draft the White Paper that led to Britain's strategy of nuclear deterrence.
In 1949 he married Vivienne Perry, whom he had met in India when she was touring with the Stars in Battledress. They migrated with their three sons to Perth, Western Australia in 1966 when Peter became Manager of the Mt Goldsworthy iron ore mine. Subsequently he ran his own business and retired in Perth where he lived until his death in June 2011. We salute Peter Cribb. (refer newspaper obituary)
original page constructed by Tim