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Email received from Liz Rothwell on 30th May 2006

Richard Kukura, my father’s pilot has already given an account of their experience together in Ireland. As my father is no longer with us, I would like to include a few details gleaned from his reminiscences and mementoes:

My father spoke about the loss of his Lighthouse Identification Chart alongside the maps when the hatch blew open in the storm, and the fact that the radio transmitter had been damaged. All the lighthouse keys had been changed. At one point they sighted a light which he believed to be the Instrahull Lighthouse, but without the key he couldn’t be sure. Richard circled the light and my father asked them who they were on the Aldis Lamp. But it was automatic, there was no-one there.

He remembered calling Bircham Newton for a fix and course for England. They received his signal but said that his signal was far too weak for a fix, due to damage to the transmitter. The cloud base was low and Port Ellen on Islay is surrounded by mountains of 2,000ft. Fuel was dangerously low. It was decided that baling out was the only option.

As soon as he emerged from the escape hatch and onto the ladder, the force of the wind blew his flying boots off. As he parachuted down my father hoped their calculations had been correct, that he was not over the sea. After passing through several layers of cloud and nearing earth he heard a dog bark - it was a very welcome sound. He was fortunate to land in boggy ground which served to soften his fall.

He had landed in Southern Ireland, neutral territory. After walking without shoes for some time, he was given kind help from a priest who directed him to the border.

Richard Kukura has taken up the story from 1943 to 1945.

My father returned to England in April 1946, after three years abroad. His journey included a memorable jeep ride through Italy from Naples to Milan where he managed to view Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ in the damaged church of S. Maria Delle Grazie. He then joined a troop train from Milan. My mother has kept the ‘MEDLOC FOLDER’ - a leaflet and map providing information about the train journey for the troops. The train passed South of Lake Maggiore, through the Simplon Tunnel to Switzerland, across France via Dijon, Sens and Paris to Calais. There were ‘Feeding Halts’ at Domodossola, Villers Les Pots, Epluches, where ‘washing facilities’ were also available. The ferry from Calais then took him across to Folkestone.

Although Richard Kukura (Dick to my father) lived far away in Australia after the war ended, and they had very little contact, I know that their close bond and friendship endured. My father always talked about Richard’s skill as a pilot, and how it had played a major part in their joint survival.

© Elizabeth Rothwell 2006

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Photos from Elizabeth Rothwell.         © Elizabeth Rothwell 2006

Tommy W. Hulme
Tommy W. Hulme in his RAF uniform
© Elizabeth Rothwell 2006

Beaufighter Escape hatch
A photo Elizabeth Rothwell took last weekend of the escape hatch of a Beaufighter in the RAF museum, London
© Elizabeth Rothwell 2006
Tommy Hulme in the map room
Tommy Hulme in the map room, somewhere in Italy?.
© Elizabeth Rothwell 2006
Received from Elizabeth this afternoon, 25th May 2006

Tom & Betty's Wedding Day on 10th December 1941 - Recieved from Liz on 28th May 2006

  23rd May 2006
As soon as I have a chance I'll rearrange the web site to give proper prominence to this new information

Monday 22-May-2006
On Saturday evening (20th May 06) I spoke on the telephone with Tommy Hulme's daughter Elizabeth Rothwel who was most interested in furthering discussions with us and has offered to send us some photographs of Tommy as well as some of the stories he told of his very short time in Ireland and a little of what happened to Richard and himself later on in the war.

One lovely snippet she offered was that after an injury caused by enemy fire from below the aircraft Tommy always used to carry with him a piece of steel on which to sit. He claimed it saved his life on more than one occasion!

It looks like we might have lots more on this mini web site!!!

Elizabeth, if you read this please accept my Thanks and Best Wishes, I really hope you and your family can come over in July.

NR        

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