Rodney Hide: Let's remember the mums, too

Corran Ashworth was killed in action in his Mustang over France on August 3, 1944. Photo / Supplied
Corran Ashworth was killed in action in his Mustang over France on August 3, 1944. Photo / Supplied

Not many of us have a genuine hero for a big brother. My friend Vince Ashworth has two.

His brother Corran stares at me now from a photo, handsome and fresh-faced. He will never grow old. He is forever young, athletic and smart.

Corran was killed in action in his Mustang over France on August 3, 1944. He was 22 years old. Corran had been in combat since he was 19. He flew Hurricanes and Spitfires as well as the Mustang.

Vince's other brother, Artie, was a bomber pilot. He flew an astonishing 110 missions. Only one in six at Bomber Command survived their first tour of 30 operations. Only one in 40 survived a second tour.

Imagine it. Night after night. Flying into Hell. The groaning Wellington taking off, filled with fuel and a belly-full of bombs. Hours and hours in the darkness. Night fighters ready to pounce. Searchlights lighting you up for the ground guns. Lethal anti-aircraft fire coming straight at you.

The risk of collision high.

Artie Ashworth was a legend among legends. He not only survived against all odds but took on the job of being first to the target to lay flares to guide in the other bombers, of criss-crossing the target taking pictures for damage appraisals, and of staying over the target to direct in other bombers.

These were the most dangerous of jobs on the most dangerous of missions.

He was seen as brave by the brave and displayed an incredible leadership that spurred brave men on through the terror of a bombing run on the Ruhr.

Vince has captured the life and times of his two brothers in two books.

The first, For Our Tomorrow He Gave His Today, tells the life and story of brother Corran. The second, A Legend in his Time, tells the Artie Ashworth story.

The books are a powerful reminder of the terrific price previous generations paid. But the books also place Artie and Corran in Alexandra, Central Otago, and tell us of their family and friends.

Their father was killed in a car crash in 1932 and their mum survived in tight circumstances with six dependent children.

Four of her boys enlisted in the Air Force In World War II.

She had to take the dreadful news that her son Corran was missing in action, presumed dead. Imagine it.

Night after night, in her little cottage, with her boys so far away. This Anzac Day it's the boys' Mum, Edna, I will especially be remembering.

We lost a lot of men. Their names are forever etched in monuments in every town. And that's a lot of mums at home. Crying.

- Herald on Sunday

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