This letter was written by an English bomber pilot and left with his Commanding Officer, unsealed, with instructions that it be sent to his mother if he was killed.
On May 30th 1940, his Wellington was shot down over Ostend, while on a night raid supporting the BEF’s retreat to Dunkirk. There were no survivors.
Though I feel no premonition at all, events are moving rapidly and I have instructed that this letter be forwarded to you should I fail to return from one of the raids which we shall shortly be called upon to undertake. You must hope on for a month, but at the end of that time you must accept that I have handed my task over to the extremely capable hands of my comrades of the Royal Air Forces, as so many splendid fellows have already done.
First it will comfort you to know that my role in this war has been of the greatest importance. Our patrols far out over the North Sea have helped to keep the trade routes clear for our convoys and supply ships, and on one occasion our information was instrumental in saving the lives of the men in a crippled lighthouse relief ship. Though it will be difficult for you, you will disappoint me if you do not at least try to accept the facts dispassionately, for I will have done my duty to the utmost of my ability. No man can do more, and no one calling himself a man could do less.
I have always admired your amazing courage in the face of continual setbacks; in a way you have given me as good an education and background as anyone in the country; and always kept up appearances without ever losing faith in the future. My death would not mean that your struggle has been in vain. Far from it. It means that your sacrifice is as great as mine. Those who serve England must expect nothing form her; we debase ourselves if we regard our country as merely a place as which to eat or sleep.
History resounds with illustrious names who have given all, yet their sacrifice as resulted in the British Empire, where there is a measure of peace, justice, and freedom for all, and where a higher standard of civilisation as evolved, and is still evolving, than anywhere else. But this is not only concerning our own land. Today we are faced with the greatest organised challenge to Christianity and civilisation that the world has ever seen, and I count myself lucky and honoured to be the right age and fully trained to throw my weight into the scale. For this I have to thank you. Yet there is more work for you to do. The home front will still have to stand united for years after the war is won. For all that can be said against it, I still maintain that this war is a very good thing; every individual is having the chance to live and dare all for his principles like the martyrs of old. However long the time may be, one thing can never be altered – I shall have lived and died an Englishman. Nothing else matters one jot nor can anything ever change it.
You must not grieve for me, for if you really believe in religion and all that it entails that would be hypocrisy. I have no fear of death; only a queer elation… I would have it no other way. The universe is so vast and so ageless that the life of one man can only be justified by the measure of his sacrifice. We are sent to this world to acquire a personality and a character to take with us that can never be taken with us. Those that just eat and sleep, prosper and procreate, are no better than animals if all their lives they are at peace.
I firmly and absolutely believe that evil things are sent into the world to try us; they are sent deliberately by our Creator to test our mettle because He knows what is good for us. The Bible is full of cases where the easy way out has been discarded for moral principles.
I count myself fortunate in that I have seen the whole country and known man of every calling. But with the final test of war I consider my character fully developed. Thus at my early age my earthly mission is already fulfilled and I am prepared to die with just one regret, and one only – that I could not devote myself to making your declining years more happy by being with you; but you will live in peace and freedom and I will have directly contributed to that, so here again my life will not have been in vain.
Your loving Son.
His CO read the letter (for security reasons) and was so impressed by it’s patriotic tone that he asked the pilots mother if it could be published anonymously. After it appeared in The Times the paper received half a million requests for copies. In 1981 the pilot was identified as Flying Officer Vivan Rosewarne from No. 38 Squadron based at Marham in Norfolk.
Taken from ‘Voices from the Frontline – Antony & Nicholas Bird’