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Remembering the fallen - Anzac Day

Anzac Day means a lot of things to many people. For me, I think of my Dad and his family who back in 1944 lost their beloved eldest son and brother, John Bonaventure 'Bon' O'Connell.

For my generation (in my family) we know him as 'Uncle Bon', an Air Force pilot who died flying over Sardinia (Italy) in 1944. There is a small mention of him in a book by Peter Alexander in 1959 called We Find and Destroy about the No. 458 Squadron of which Bon was a member:

"Fereday didn't have the same luck when his own aircraft had a "hang-up". He had bombed some enemy destroyers. Immediately on touchdown at Alghero the bomb exploded, setting fire to the fuselage. Two wireless-airgunners, W/Os Duncan and O'Connell (my uncle) died, the observer Sgt. Barlow (of "I'm a fairy" fame, at Bone) and the second pilot F/Sgt. Croft were injured but recovered"

My Dad wrote his memories of brother—he was a teenager—when Bon served in WWII:

"Bon (John Bonaventure) was the eldest of the family. He worked on the farm and at the Southbrook cheese factory. With the advent of war, eligible men were being called up and Bon joined the Air Force reserve and studied to be accepted. He possessed a fine tenor voice and learnt voice production from Mr Slatyer in Toowoomba. He trained as a wireless air gunner in various training camps in NSW before being sent overseas; first to Canada, then England, and North Africa, before losing his life in Sardinia - following a bomb explosion. He had been severely burnt. He lived for two weeks, but contracted pneumonia when shifted to another hospital." He is buried at Cagliari in Sardinia.

Dad also recalls what a difficult time his mother had, having already lost her husband (his dad) some years before. Her health deteriorated and she died the following year.

Whilst this story is by no means uncommon during both WWI and WWII, many families—too many—lost their young sons. I always tear up when I hear the last post and everything it stands for. I know that there has and always will be conflict in the world, but in my idealistic world, I sincerely hope that one day peace will reign supreme.

Lest we forget x

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