A Tribute - Let It Be Hushed - David Raikes

Sixty eight years after they died, the crew of an RAF bomber have been buried with military honours at a ceremony in Italy. One was a young poet who had himself written poignantly about the pain of losing air force comrades.

The four served in 18 Squadron, based near Rimini, in the last days of World War ll.

One evening in April 1945, they took off in their Boston bomber on a mission to attack a bridge on the River Po and then carry out a wider reconnaissance. They never returned.

Just 10 days later came the Allies secured victory in Italy.

The crew have been laid to rest at a Commonwealth war cemetery in the city of Padua.

Three of the flyers were British - the pilot, Sergeant David Raikes, the navigator, Flight Sergeant David Perkins, and the wireless operator and gunner, Flight Sergeant Alexander Bostock. They were all aged 20. The crew's other gunner was an Australian - Warrant Officer John Hunt, of the Royal Australian Air Force - He was a year older.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.

Let It Be Hushed - David Raikes

Let it be hushed; let the deep ocean close
Upon these dead. Others may laud the parts they played,
Raise monuments of marble in their names.
But we who flew with them and laughed with them,
We other crews who, living side by side,
In outward contacts slowly came to know
Their inmost parts, would rather leave untouched
The wound we healed, the love we buried there.
These men knew moments you have never known,
Nor ever will; we knew those moments too,
And talked of them in whispers late at night;
Such confidence was born of danger shared.
We shared their targets, too; but we came back.
Lightly we talked of it. We packed their kit,
Divided up such common useful things
As cigarettes and chocolate, rations stored
Against a rainy day that never came.
'And they cast lots among them!' Someone said,
'It was a pity that he wore his watch;
It was a good one, twenty pounds he said
He paid for it in Egypt. Now, let's see,
Who's on tonight. Ah, Taffy - you've a good one!
You'd better leave it with me.' And we laughed.
Cold were we? Cold at heart. You get that way.
Sometimes we knew what happened; how they crashed.
It was not always on the other side.
One pranged upon the runway, dipped a wing,
The navigator bought it, and the gunner.
The other two got out, a little shaken.
Bob crashed when doing an air test, just low flying
- At least they think it was, they couldn't say.
The plane was burning fiercely when they found it;
One man thrown clear, still living, but he died
On way to hospital. The loss was ours, -
Because I shared an aeroplane with Bob.
We had to get another D for dog.
And some did not come back. We never knew
Whether they lived - at first just overdue,
Till minutes changed to hours, and still no news.
One went to bed; but roused by later crews,
Asked 'Were they back yet?' and being answered 'No',
Went back to sleep.
One's waking eyes sought out the empty beds,
And 'Damn', you said, 'another kit to pack';
I never liked that part, you never knew
What privacies your sorting might lay bare.
I always tried to leave my kit arranged
In decent tidiness. You never knew.
But that is past. The healing river flows
And washes clean the wound with passing years.
We grieve not now. There was a time for tears,
When Death stood by us, and we dared not weep.
Let the seas close above them, and the dissolving deep.

David Raikes

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