Not many of the old boys and girls left now.
As Britain ponders military future, war veterans such as Harry Winter reminisce about its past
London Letter: The 100-year old Welshman is the star turn at the relaunch of the RAF museum at Biggin Hill
Harry Winter, who spoke about his time as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft VII, holding his POW identification papers. Photograph: Ash Knotek/RAF Biggin Hill Museum & Chapel
Wed Mar 15 2023 - 05:00
Harry Winter, aged 100, leans forward in his wheelchair and speaks with clarity and passion of his time as a crew member on bombers in the Royal Air Force during the second World War. Time hasn’t dimmed his grasp of detail.
He describes the day in October 1943 that he flew his 19th mission. He had a cold that day. He remembers the “flak” they got as they flew over the Netherlands en route to Germany. He describes how their aircraft was attacked after dropping its payload over Kassel. He remembers being shot and how he slapped the thigh of the tail gunner, who was already dead.
His eyes light up and his hands wave about as he describes parachuting off the burning plane, being found injured in a field, being brought to a hospital followed by a convalescence home run by kindly nuns. Winter can remember it all.
‘It shouldn’t be talked about,’ he says softly, of his time in the POW camp. ‘It was really bad.’
— Harry Winter
But some details are best forgotten. I ask him how he was later treated as a prisoner of war at the notorious Stalag Luft VII camp in Bankau, then in Germany but now part of Poland. He holds my gaze with a pained expression. He is looking directly at me but who knows what he sees in his mind’s eye. Silence descends, then he grumbles slightly. ...