Eagles who once soared
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)