WWII pilot, Ken Wright, received a surprise Honorary Rank award from the Air Force as presented by the Chief of Air Force, Air Marshall Geoff Brown AO.
Mr Wright is a retired Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) during World War II.
"It was a privilege to present this honorary rank today. FLTLT Wright's skills, courage and leadership exemplifies the best traditions of the Royal Australian Air Force. The values of respect, excellence, agility, dedication, integrity and teamwork demonstrated by FLTLT Wright during his service mirrors those held by the modern Air Force," Air Marshal Brown said.
Mr Wright was nearly in tears while receiving the award.
"Thank you, it's a real surprise. I applied for the commission before I was shot down, but the papers couldn't be found. When I came back they said 'forget about it' so I did. After I was shot down I was picked up by the German Army and taken to an aerodrome, where I met the German pilot that shot me down. He shook my hand and said 'one day we'll be friends'," FLTLT Wright (retired) said.
Mr Wright was reported missing from the field in 1942 and all paper works and records of his absence went missing.
Today, he told his story in his very own recollection. He said that during his 20th mission doing a classified photographic surveillance between Bremen and Bremerhaven (North Germany), he was shot by a German Messerschmitt BE 109.
The shrapnel wounds made him weak to escape his abductors; hence, he was taken by the enemies.
"I was fired at from the ground but the flak bursts were not close and I turned on my camera and started the run, in my rear vision mirror appeared a Me109. I had no guns and no training in fighter tactics. I guessed 'one is up the creek without a paddle'. I made an evasive move as his burst did not hit the cockpit but he hit one wing leaving one aileron flapping in the slipstream. I was still able to hold the plane level.
"Eventually he fired again and the burst strafed the cockpit and caused me a lot of shrapnel injury and the destruction of my instruments and I could smell petrol. I left the U.K. with 80 gallons in the main tanks and 65 gallons approx in each of the two tanks built in to the wings, the fact that it did not catch fire was amazing. I then decided I had to bail out before being shot or burnt to death in an explosion.
" I remembered my escape drill although I had never jumped before - undo the harness straps, turn the aeroplane upside down as there were no ejection seats, and fall out, as well as a final kick forward to the stick to help my exit. As I floated down my adversary circled me, and I can remember wondering if he would shoot. He apparently decided I would be caught very easily. I landed in a potato field and noticed on my way down that army trucks were speeding towards me with armed soldiers on hand very quickly. I remember feeling that I had failed and very downhearted as I loved flying."
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