I actually tear up with gratitude every Nov. 11. Usually, it’s during the final resonate notes of The Last Trumpet. This year was no different. I remember my Grandfather who drove armoured cars and was among the first Canadians into Holland.
This year my thoughts also wandered to the powerful story of Sgt. Gerald Walter Flower who took a few moments of his time and did an interview with me last year for a Remembrance Day assignment. I have thought about Flower a lot over the last year and I was happy to se that he was at the Cenotaph again today. Read his story in the original layout here or pasted below.
A Survival Story
During the second world war, Gerald Walter Flower was a flight sergeant with the Royal Air Force, serving as the tail gunner for Lancaster Bomber Squadron 115. His crew did 21 operations over Germany before they were shot down and taken as prisoners of war.
Flower was a PoW for four years, spending time in various camps, including one called Breslow near the Polish-German border.
In the prison camps each day he was given only a cup of pea soup a tenth of a loaf of bread to eat. “Inside the pea soup was little black beetles, and we were all starving by then so it didn’t matter anymore,” said Flower.
As a prisoner, he spent much his time on the move. They were marched for 100 days through what Flower called, “the worst winter I ever saw.”
“[The Germans] used to take the Russian prisoners out every day and only half of them ever came back,” Flower said. He saw other atrocities, like prisoners being shot and a man crushed underneath a tank. “Some men were teated worse than dogs,” he said.
When Flower finally got out of the camp, he was sent back to Dublin where he began training again. This time he was to be sent to Japan. Fortunately, the war ended before he was deployed.
The day the war ended was one of the best days of his life. “I didn’t get released until after everything was over, but I made it,” said Flower.
Flower didn’t speak about the war for 10 years and was often tormented with nightmares of what he had survived. “My poor wife, I don’t know how she would put up with it,” he said.
Flower joined The Royal Canadian Legion in 1956, for comradeship, and has been a member of Grandview Branch, #176, ever since.
He calls Remembrance Day a very emotional day, and said, “I remember my crew because only four of us lived and three of them were killed so they come first in my mind.”
Gerald, was a friend of my Dad in his younger days, pre war, my Dad often has talked about Gerald going to war and we recently listened to the documentary he did with RTE
This has helped me connect to a part of my Dad’s life he doesn’t really talk about, he’s 83 now, lives in Wales but often refers to his youth in Dublin