Ea­gles who once soared

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - BOOKS - REG. A. WAT­SON

I FIRST met the author, Kristen Alexan­der, at the un­veil­ing of a plaque at Hutchins School to com­mem­o­rate an old school boy, Stu­art Crosby Walch.

Stu­art was the only Tas­ma­nian to be killed in the Bat­tle of Bri­tain, the World War II air cam­paign waged by the Ger­man Air Force ( Luft­waffe) against the United King­dom in 1940.

With the an­nual cer­e­monies loom­ing for that his­toric event in mid- Septem­ber, the re­lease of Aus­tralian Ea­gles is timely.

Alexan­der has listed and writ­ten on six Aus­tralians: Jack Kennedy, Dick Glyde DFC, John Cross­man, Des­mond Sheen DFC and Bar, James Coward and our own Stu­art Walch.

The author is the Aus­tralian rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the Bat­tle of Bri­tain His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety.

The bat­tle was fought over the skies of Eng­land in the sum­mer and au­tumn of 1940.

Those pi­lots who par­tic­i­pated were called “The Few” by Win­ston Churchill.

Of the 2940 who fought, 36 were Aus­tralians. Of Fighter Com­mand, 544 air­men were killed, among them were 13 Aus­tralians.

The chap­ter on Stu­art Crosby Walch is No. 2 of six. Walch was born in Ho­bart on Fe­bru­ary 16, 1917, into one of the city’s prom­i­nent busi­ness fam­i­lies.

Out­stand­ing at sport, he was a well- known fig­ure around town in the mid-’ 30s. He joined the RAAF early in 1936 and sailed to Eng­land to fur­ther his fly­ing ca­reer.

He was there when then Bri­tish prime min­is­ter Neville Cham­ber­lain ad­vised that “this coun­try [ Eng­land] is at war with Ger­many”.

Walch would never see Tas­ma­nia again. Later he was posted to 238 Squadron based at Tang­meere as Flight Com­man­der.

It was in July 1940 Walch saw his first ac­tion, fly­ing a Hur­ri­cane fighter he was cred­ited with kills ( down­ing of en­emy craft).

Within three months of join­ing 238, the 23- year- old, be­came known as be­ing the “fa­ther” of his squadron and took on the most danger­ous jobs.

On Au­gust 11, 1940, with Walch lead­ing the squadron, he en­coun­tered an en­emy force of more than 150 air­craft. It was his 55th sor­tie.

His team was un­daunted by the over­whelm­ing num­bers they met the on­slaught, but he and his sec­tion leader plum­meted into the wa­ters about 10km south of Swan­age.

He had ac­counted for two de­stroyed en­emy air­craft, two shared de­stroyed, one un­con­firmed shared de­stroyed and one dam­aged.

The loss of the young Tas­ma­nian, nat­u­rally, was dev­as­tat­ing for his fam­ily.

Like all air­men, his name is recorded on the Air Force me­mo­rial at Run­nymede in Eng­land. He is also re­mem­bered in Ho­bart on The Hutchins School’s World War II Roll in the Chapel of St Thomas.

On Septem­ber 21, 2011, the Sandy Bay school was pre­sented with a Bat­tle of Bri­tain His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety School Plaque to hon­our Walch.

This was the first and only school plaque pre­sented in Aus­tralia.

Walch is the only Tas­ma­nian on the Bat­tle of Bri­tain Hon­our Roll in West­min­ster Abbey in Lon­don.

Alexan­der has pro­duced a won­der­ful read. It is an im­por­tant book in that those six who served and died are to be re­mem­bered more fully.

Tas­ma­ni­ans will be proud to know one of their own paid the supreme sac­ri­fice over the skies of Great Bri­tain.

Alexan­der’s re­search is good and her style is eas­ily read.

The book is hard- cov­ered, in­cludes many pho­to­graphs, two maps and comes fully rec­om­mended.

It is of limited edi­tion, how­ever, which in my opin­ion is a shame.

The book is now avail­able through Fullers Book­shop or upon re­quest.

HIS STORY: Stu­art Crosby Walch. Pic­ture: Hutchins Ar­chives and Her­itage Col­lec­tion

AUS­TRALIAN EA­GLES: AUS­TRALIANS IN THE BAT­TLE OF BRI­TAIN By Kristen Alexan­der ( Bar­ral­lier Books, RRP $ 39.95. ebook $ 10)

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