KAGAWONG—December 1943, a badly damaged American bomber struggles to stay aloft over wartime Germany. At the controls is 21-year-old Second Lieutenant Charlie Brown. Half of his crew are wounded or dead. Suddenly, a Messerschmidt fighter pulls up on the bomber’s tail. German ace Franz Stigler is the pilot and with a simple the squeeze of a trigger he could have destroyed the young American crew.
What follows, “is truly a story about humanity coming out in the face of conflict,” stated Rick Nelson, curator of the Old Mill Heritage Centre Museum and a member of the Kagawong Cenotaph committee, as he provided a glimpse into the speech he will be delivering at the Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11 at the Park Centre.
“My speech on Remembrance Day will be about the contents of a book, ‘Higher Call,’ that a member of the Cenotaph committee, Peter Fletcher, gave me to read a year ago,” said Mr. Nelson. “I was so moved, it was hard to read without getting emotional.”
“The German pilot was Franz Stigler and his job was to shoot down enemy bombers,” said Mr. Nelson. “But in this case he spared an enemy bomber. The Allies’ role was to fly over Germany and hit targets with bombs, but 2nd LT. Brown’s plane had been hit by flak and he was hoping to get out of enemy territory and get back to England.”
“As I mentioned, the idea for my presentation at the Remembrance Day ceremony came from the cenotaph committee chair and Cold War veteran Peter Fletcher, who gave me a copy of the book. I was so moved by the story I knew it was what I wanted to talk about in my speech at the ceremony which also marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I,” said Mr. Nelson. “Every time I’ve seen Peter since he gave me the book he would ask, ‘have you read that book yet?’ He did this at a fish fry in Rockville this summer, ‘Have you got that book read yet,’ and I said ‘I’m working on it’,” laughed Mr. Nelson.
Dianne Fraser, who is also on the cenotaph committee, told the Recorder she will be delivering a speech in tribute of nurse Edith Cavell. “Of course as part of the ceremony we will be focusing on the 100th anniversary of the ending of WWI. In my presentation I will be doing a tribute to nurse Edith Cavell, a British Nurse in World War I who was in Belgium when World War I started. She nursed many soldiers, whether they were British, German etc.” Edith Cavell was accused of treason, found guilty by a court-martial, “and was executed because she was helping enemy soldiers.”
“We will also be remembering Billings WW I veterans at the service,” said Ms. Fraser.
“After the Remembrance Day ceremonies everyone is invited to come to the Old Mill Heritage Centre Museum to see a CBC documentary on the book ‘Higher Call’,” continued Mr. Nelson. “The story is a true story of humanity in the face of battle.”
Mr. Nelson pointed out the two pilots met again 50 years ago. “I will be explaining in my speech about their encounter in the air and how they met again 50 years later.”
“Once I got the book and started reading it I couldn’t put it down,” said Mr. Nelson. “It made the top 10 New York Times best seller lists. I’m surprised no one has made a movie out of it—it has all the elements of a great story.”
As part of the Remembrance Day service, the Irish Regiment Honour Guard will be returning again this year to take part in the wreath laying ceremony, said Mr. Nelson.