Son tries fa­ther’s spot in bomber

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By SHELLEY GRECO

Board­ing a Lan­caster Bomber air­craft is bring­ing Clive Holt an­other step closer to his fa­ther’s war.

Clive’s fa­ther Harry Holt joined the Bri­tish Air Force dur­ing World War II and be­came a crew mem­ber of a Lan­caster Bomber.

On June 11, 1944, hav­ing suc­cess­fully bombed their French tar­get, Harry Holt’s Lan­caster Mk III was shot down by the Ger­mans. The plane landed in a field in Nor­mandy, be­fore burst­ing into flames.

He and three of his com­rades sur­vived the crash. Three oth­ers in­clud­ing the pi­lot were killed.

Seventy years later Clive Holt was able to board a Lan­caster Bomber at Mo­tat as the win­ner of a ra­dio com­pe­ti­tion.

‘‘I wasn’t emo­tional but I was thrilled to go in there and lay down,’’ he says. ‘‘It was a fan­tas­tic day. It made it very real, ab­so­lutely.’’

To ex­pe­ri­ence what it may have been like for his fa­ther, Clive Holt’s wish was to go on board and lay down in the small space where his fa­ther would have been po­si­tioned as a bomb com­man­der.

He and his part­ner Debbie Lane were joined by Mo­tat staff and two bomber vet­er­ans with full ac­cess to the huge fly­ing ma­chine.

On a 2011 trip to France to at­tend a family wed­ding, the cou­ple spent time in the field where Harry Holt’s plane landed all those years ago.

While there, lo­cals man­aged to track down An­dre Toutain, the man cred­ited with sav­ing Harry Holt’s life when the plane be­came grounded. When it crashed, Harry Holt hid in the for­est overnight.

The fol­low­ing day he knocked on the door of a nearby farm­house.

Toutain, then just 14 years old, an­swered the door and he and his family hid the air­man in the cel­lar be­fore pass­ing him on to the French Re­sis­tance. Now in his 80s, Toutain ex­cit­edly re­counted the ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘That was emo­tional,’’ Clive Holt says. ‘‘It was very raw for him. He told me stuff I didn’t know. Dad didn’t talk much at all. He died 25 years ago, all that his­tory is gone. If I’d known then what I know now, I’d have asked more ques­tions.’’

Photo: SHELLEY GRECO

In mem­ory: Clive Holt with a photo of his fa­ther Harry Holt.

Fly­ing ma­chine: From left: Bomber com­mand vet­eran Wally Hal­li­well, Clive Holt and bomber com­mand vet­eran Des Hall.

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