David Calling

The David Pryce-Jones blog.

Conspicuous Bravery


The Times of London carries on the same day the obituaries of four men, all of them highly decorated for conspicuous bravery in the Second World War. Each one deserves to be remembered for the example he set.

Lieutenant-Colonel Alan Newson of the Royal Marines was a Fleet Air Arm pilot in one serious engagement after another, taking part in 1942 in the defense of Malta. The following year, he joined an American air group with the carrier Trumpeter which saw more operational service than any other ship of her class.

Lieutenant-Colonel Kenneth Scott worked for the legendary Special Operations Executive. Behind the German lines in Greece in 1943, he led a team of British soldiers to blow a bridge important to the German war effort. Interestingly, the Greek communists refused to help.

A New Zealander, Flight Lieutenant Jack Rae flew a Spitfire in the Battle of Britain, also defended Malta, shot down German aircraft over France and Germany, and in 1943 was himself shot down. He was in the camp where there was a mass break-out, an event made famous by the film The Great Escape. The Germans then shot fifty hostages, and Rae would have been among them except for the lucky fact that he was in solitary confinement as a punishment for his previous attempt to escape.

Finally Flight Lieutenant Harry Humphries joined 617 Squadron, led by the heroic Guy Gibson. This most famous of the RAF’s bomber squadrons was known as the Dam Busters after the exploit in destroying a dam in Germany – also commemorated in a memorable film.

Today, another example is set. A sixteen-year-old youth was caught defacing a war memorial by a lady in her sixties. She told the boy off, and cuffed him round the ear. For this, the police arrested her and she is due to appear in court on a charge of assaulting a minor. What would the men who fought and won the war have to say about that?


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