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It was an experience that moved Tracy Hatfield to tears.
The Yarmouth resident was in Europe recently and his trip included a visit to a German cemetery where he got to see the graves of three members of his father’s bomber crew from the Second World War.
In late May 1942, their Wellington aircraft was shot down during a mission over Cologne and three of the plane’s six-member crew were killed.
Hatfield’s father – also named Tracy – survived, but he easily could have been one of those who perished. In earlier operations, Hatfield had served as front gunner, but on more recent ones he had been wireless operator. On this particular night, when their plane was brought down by enemy fire, the plane’s front gunner was among those who died.
The younger Hatfield, who travelled overseas in September – a trip that also included a visit to a former prisoner-of-war camp where his father spent almost a year – said seeing the graves of his father’s fellow crew members was an emotional time.
“Just to realize, you know, one of them sort of traded places with Dad in a sense,” Hatfield said. He isn’t sure why or how the decision was made that his father again was wireless operator that night instead of front gunner.
He was shot down almost two years to the day after his older brother, Jack Hatfield, was killed when he was shot down May 28, 1940, while flying over the North Sea. Jack Hatfield was the first Nova Scotian and the third Canadian to die in aerial combat during the Second World War. During his trip overseas earlier this fall, Tracy Hatfield had a chance to visit his uncle Jack’s gravesite too.
As Remembrance Day approaches read more stories of remembrance on pages C1 to C5 of this issue.