Farina Restoration Group. February 8th, 2015
10th Squadron Ceremonial Farina Flyover, 3pm 18 June, 2015
The 10th Squadron are celebrating their first war time flight, which occurred in June 1940. They still operate out of England and Edinburgh, SA.
In 1940 John Napier Bell was a pilot in England waiting for the war to start. He was one of three sons of the Bell family who ran the Farina General Store.
The Vichy Government, led by Marshall Petain, had conceded France to Hitler, which de Gaulle strongly disagreed with so he flew to England to consult with Churchill and to build the French Free Force.
From London he delivered a stirring radio address, authorised by Churchill, which exhorted the French people not to be demoralised and to continue to resist the occupation of France and the Vichy government. This speech became known as the Appeal of 18th June and inspired the formation of the French Resistance Movement. This date is significant and is the reason that 10th Squadron chose 18th June for their celebrations.
Churchill ordered Flight Lieutenant John Bell to get a crew together for a top secret mission. One of his crew was another South Australian, Sergeant Chas Harris, from Adelaide. Sergeant Harris used to visit Bell in Farina and thought it was the last place on earth to visit.
Their plane was a little Walrus with a top speed of 150 mph and slow speed of 50 mph. It could take off and land on sea or land and could be launched by catapult! It was prior to radar. The Australian Government was considering buying 160 of these aircraft for wartime use.
The secret mission was to fly to Brittany in North West France and bring Madame de Gaulle and the children to safety in England.
It was a foggy day in Brittany – maybe that was why the plane crashed into a field with all crew killed. They were the first to die in dangerous active service.
Madame de Gaulle was unaware of this mission and had managed to escape by boat from Carantec just hours before the ill-fated flight. One of the crew was going to remain in France, travelling west to Brest, his mission to blow up the oil refinery before the German’s were able to use it.
The same day of the crash, the people of the lovely rural town of Ploudaniel, buried the crew. A day later the German’s arrived. The population of Ploudaniel at the time was about 300, a similar size to Farina in 1940.
The crew rest in the Ploudaniel cemetery to this day, honoured in an annual ceremony.
Last year, on 18 June, 2014, two of the Farina Restoration Group (Peter and Diana Harris) were present in Ploudaniel for the annual ceremony.
In Peter’s words:
“There were banners, Generals, gendarmes, French Foreign Legion soldiers and 10th Squadron officers from England and Australia and descendants of three of the four crew.
There was a 10th Squadron flyover from England in fast, loud planes at the appointed time.
Over 300 people marched from Ploudaniel to the field crash site and then back to the cemetery accompanied by pipe bands and choirs.
In the main speech the Mayor of Ploudaniel thanked Bell and his crew for their lives but more importantly said that he would like to thank them for the hope and stability they brought to France on the first day of World War 2. They will be honoured and treasured for ever.
Ploudaniel has made a permanent museum which commemorates the crash and the brave young men who were killed.”
Two restored Walrus aircraft exist today – one in England and the other at Point Cook, Victoria.
18 June, 2015 – the 75th Anniversary
This event is attracting enormous attention.
10th Squadron are conducting the ceremony at the Farina War Memorial and are bringing 30 personnel to run it, complete with banners and wreathes.
There will be a flyover of Farina.
Channel 7 are interested in doing a TV presentation.
An email from Alan Hall states:
“I have just been advised that the Commonwealth Government via several bodies (ACMA and the Wireless Institute of Australia etc) has approved the use of a special amateur radio call sign VK100ANZAC for use at Farina on the 18th of June 2015
This is a unique radio call sign and will attract world wide attention
At this point of time there are indications that 4 radio amateurs will be there to operate the station.”
We are expecting a very large number of people will attend. – A very exciting event!
Regards … Cathie