Flight Lieutenant Bill Neubeck and Tom Scotland, author of ‘Voice from the Stars a Pathfinders story” were Australian pilots flying with a Pathfinder Squadron in Italy during World War II. Together they had carried out many attacks, but on this occasion Bill did not survive. It was February 1945 and the Pathfinders were leading the bombers into an attack on the Italian Naval Base of Pola. Tom Scotland and Bill Neubeck flew into a terrifying concentration of exploding gunfire that damaged Tom’s aircraft but Bill's aircraft just exploded. Flaming pieces made an awesome arc of fire through the sky as they fell into the target area below. When the battle was over the German army gathered the shattered bodies of the crew and buried them. Bill’s body had no identification discs and so lay, for a long time, in a grave with no name.
Tom’s book ‘Voice from the Stars’ records a graphic account of the loss of the Pathfinder aircraft and its crew. A reader borrowed the book from the Lane Cove Library in Sydney, Australia. Gripped by the account of the loss of the flyers, he saw the name Neubeck as the pilot who was lost with the plane. He photocopied the page and sent a copy to a woman whose brother Bill had been lost in an air battle over Italy during WWII. The family had only scant information as to what had happened.
Bill’s sister, Dorothy, received the copy and recognised the story as being about her long lost brother. She had been a girl of sixteen when her family had farewelled Bill at the country railway station in New South Wales. Dorothy and her husband were so gripped by what they had received they were determined to obtain the book and get the whole story for themselves. Their urgent phone calls to bookshops inevitably tracked down the author and they phoned him in Western Australia. Amid flowing tears Dorothy pleaded for a copy of the book ‘Voice from the Stars a Pathfinders story’ and could Tom and his wife please visit her and her husband in Canberra
The book was sent and In due course, Tom and his wife Laurel were able to spend a very fulfilling day in the Canberra home of Dorothy and her husband. Rewarding results flowed from that visit. Dorothy experienced a freedom and release about her brother’s death. She was able to obtain Bill’s war medals, including his coveted award of the gilt Eagle of the Pathfinder Force of the RAF. The honour of that Pathfinder Eagle award has been termed by the late Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC, as “… next to that of his highest honour, the Victoria Cross”. They have also discovered Bill’s final burial place - the War Cemetery at Udine (pronounced Oodinnay) in Northern Italy.
The book ‘Voice from the Stars a Pathfinder’s Story’ that so fascinated Dorothy and her husband, has been republished in a 7th printing and is celebrating a twenty third anniversary (2013).
Elma was Bill Neubeck’s fiance. Elma received a copy of the book, "Voice from the Stars" from Bill Neubeck’s sister Dorothy. Elma has now written an amazing letter to Tom the author of the book. She shared a fascinating account of the last letter she wrote to Bill Neubeck in 1945. The precious reply letter from Bill arrived after she received news from Bill’s family of his tragic loss. It was only later that Elma discovered that Bill had carried her last letter into battle, in the pocket of his uniform. A War Graves Commission officer had found it there in his breast pocket after World War II when his body was exhumed for reburial and it positively identified Bill.
Elma's letter to Bill eventually found its way to the Australian authorities in Canberra. However, to this day, the authorities have not been able to release it to Elma. She remembers so well writing that last letter and how it gave highlights to her very special wartime romance with Bill. However she does have his reply. She has also been deeply moved to read about the man she loved in “Voice from the Stars a Pathfinders story”. It all happened so long ago, but the book helped her to discover the facts and to come to peace about the loss of her Pathfinder.
Flight Lieutenant Ken Mepham was the British Navigator of Bill Neubeck’s Pathfinder aircraft lost in the naval base attack on 21st February 1945. Childhood sweetheart Edith had Ken as her husband for just a few weeks in 1944 before he had to fly off to join 614 Pathfinder Squadron in Italy. Tom Scotland, a Pathfinder Captain on the squadron, met him at this time
In March 1945 the RAF advised Edith, her Ken had been lost during flying operations in northern Italy. Edith decided to return to her job in a printery in her hometown and there, she quietly grieved alone. “But what really happened to Ken ... ?’ was Edith’s persistent question. The information she had been given about his passing had been so brief that she yearned for more specific information.
Recently, Edith found
a way to advertise in a newspaper for anyone who had information about Ken, to
contact her. Surprisingly, one person responded. He had been a British pilot
flying one of the Pathfinder aircraft on 614 Pathfinder Squadron. He had
already obtained a copy of Tom Scotland’s book, ‘Voice from the Stars a
Pathfinders Story” and he lent it to her.
The unfolding narrative so gripped her that she decided she needed a copy
for herself. At last Edith was able to picture the Pathfinders and her Ken flying
with Bill Neubeck on their last operation. She was delighted when she was able
to contact Tom, the author of the book and he sent photos of Ken that she had
never seen before. Ken and Edith had only been married for such a short time,
but at last she knew what his loss was all about. Her gladness and appreciation
overflowed and her grieving heart found rest.