Dzien Dobry — Shalom — Good Morning
Dear Friends, it is so nice to be together again on this beautiful morning.
I am so pleased to see many young people here as I believe Memorial Services have a special message and challenge for the youth. I will now ask a young man to read a few verses of great wisdom spoken by King Solomon and recorded in the Old Testament Book of Proverbs.
Extracts on wisdom from the Book of Proverbs.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and discipline.
The Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth come
Knowledge and Understanding.
Then you will understand what is right and just
And fair — every good path.
Godly reverence of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom,
And knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
Lean not to your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him
And He shall direct your path.
Thank you Mathew, I have two questions for you.
How old are you? (answer 20)
What is your occupation? (I am a fulltime university student)
Friends these are significant answers, for I remind you that the average age of the young men of 31 and 34 Squadrons we are honouring to-day was 20! Furthermore most of them were university students or recent schoolboys.
It makes you think, doesn’t it?
These fun-loving young men were full of the zest for life and came from all over the country — every city, town, village and farm were represented. They came as volunteers to fight against violent evil and the worst racial oppression the world has ever known. Perhaps they were not as sophisticated and worldly wise as you are for they did not have computers, television or cellphones and very few even held driving licences.
That reminds me to tell you that one day my friend John Colman and I were admiring our Colonels Jeep standing outside squadron headquarters with his pennant flying up front. Although I had never driven any vehicle, there was I explaining to John the controls and how they worked, when the door burst open and Col. Dirk Nel came out and hopped into the back seat with the instruction “Jones drive me to the Mess” I did not stand stuttering and stammering that I did not have a licence and could not drive, because in those days Dirk Nel was not the kindly old Grandpa we usually see at these services but a fiery 26 year old commander of a big squadron with heavy responsibilities and when he said jump you did not wait to ask him “how high”. So I jumped into the Jeep and left John laughing his head off as we went sliding and jerking our way through that thick Italian mud!
To get back to these young men; they did have loving parents back home who prayed for them and also beautiful girl friends — just look at our wives to-day to see what I mean! Like you, young folk, they loved their sport. Whilst forming up in the Egyptian Desert they went in large numbers to the Gizera Sporting Club in Cairo to see the 6th Division Springboks play the New Zealand Kiwis at rugby. At Lydda in Palestine I recall a grand soccer challenge between RAF and SAAF and in Italy they shared a landing strip with a United States squadron and enjoyed many fine games of baseball together.
Then came that fateful day — Sunday 13 August 1944, when 10 crews of 31 squadron were hurriedly sent down to Brindisi for briefing and loading of the special cargo for that night. They were horrified to hear that they were to fly at rooftop height over a heavily defended city and were also told that they would not experience too many problems if they stuck to the center of the Vistula River as other squadrons had not encountered any problems during the last few nights. However, during a hurried coffee/sandwich break other locally based airmen told them that the Polish Flight had been almost decimated in their attempts to get through to Warsaw! That briefing ended with a very emotional Polish Squadron Leader saying “Poland is in dire trouble and I plead with you South African and British gentlemen to save my country to-night.”
With these words ringing in their ears these fine young men flew out into the setting sun to help our courageous allies in Warsaw. The rest is history. They were well trained and disciplined and many of them were also young men of faith and I believe that prayers of commitment and calls for Divine help went up as they wrestled with their crippled aircraft before plunging into the streets of Warsaw or nearby forests there to die along side thousands of brave Polish men and women.
At 25, my tent mate, Eric Impey, was older than most and after packing up my personal belongings, he sat down and wrote the well known Airmans Prayer before going out to Warsaw that night never to return. He was the reigning South African High Jump Champion and a young man of faith.
I have been asked to be personal, so I tell you that I too was a young man of faith in God and His saving grace and in a definite way knew of the Lord’s presence with me that night. Only years later I came to understand His last promise to his friends “Lo I am with you always” As we ran into the target at just 400 feet above the Vistula River, I was lying on my stomach in the nose of that aircraft, guiding the pilot into our precise dropping area in the Old City and in the midst of the vivid fireworks display below, I heard a voice say “Jones put on your tin hat”. We were obliged to take our steel helmets with us but never wore them as they were cumbersome in that confined space. When God’s voice came for the second time, I reached for the tin hat on the floor behind me where I usually dropped it, and put it on. Friends, had I not done so, I would not be speaking to you to-day for moments later that big crippled aircraft crashed nose first on to Warsaw Airfield. I was knocked out but all seven of us miraculously scrambled out to be taken prisoners.
The point of all this is to challenge you young people as well as those a little older, to take up the leadership into the future. It is true that after 60 years Poland and South Africa are free and relatively prosperous but there remains “much ground to be possessed” — we oldies have not got it all right and you need to take over into the future. You will need great wisdom and I can do no better than point you to God’s Word — start at the book of Proverbs, that marvelous manual of instruction for young people on how to successfully play the Game of Life. Learn the seven Pillars of Wisdom which will help you and may God bless, guide and strengthen you.
Thank you for listening — I am grateful for the honour of sharing this service with Rabbi Yosef Hecht of Wendywood and Father Jaworski- our very own “Pope of Norwood”. We thank Chairman Andrzej Romanowicz for his leadership as well as his wife Krystina and her team of Polish Ladies for the good eats they are now preparing for us.