Wednesday, 20 November 2019

‘War wounds of the spirit’: Guilt, grief, PTSD, and moral injury. Remembering and interpreting wartime experiences.

‘War wounds of the spirit’: Guilt, grief, PTSD, and moral injury. Remembering and interpreting wartime experiences.
Paper presented at Heritage of the Air Conference, 16 November 2019 https://www.aicomos.com/
 Image courtesy of James Kightly, www.VintageAeroWriter.com
My PhD research focuses on the 351 Australian airmen prisoners of Stalag Luft III, a Luftwaffe camp noted for the so-called Great Escape. I analyse how the airmen reacted to and managed wartime confinement, and its post-war consequences. In particular, I consider the emotions of captivity. Today, I’ll discuss some of the moral challenges of service and captivity faced by my cohort, and the affective responses they provoked.
For many of my cohort, moral troubling did not occur during the war. It arose after some years—often in late life—as the former airmen remembered and interpreted their wartime experiences. Reflection provoked a range of emotions, including guilt, grief, shame, anger, and disgust. Some of the men allayed their moral troubles. Some could not. Their consciences were in turmoil. Their ‘war wounds of the spirit’ generated great distress. Some suffered moral injury.
There is currently no consensus about the meaning of ‘moral injury’. Definitions vary depending on researchers’ professional interests, study parameters, and their cohorts’ experiences. What I have discovered as I navigate my way through them is that, rather than pin down what moral injury is, many describe what moral injury is about. My study of moral injury is a work in progress so I’m not too worried at the moment about lack of definitional clarity. But one thing my cohort has shown me is that moral injury is the endpoint of extreme, distressful, unresolved moral troubling, rather than the unease encountered while considering the rightness or wrongness of an event, action, or sight witnessed. I have also discovered that moral injury—and PTSD for that matter—is not something that everyone develops—even those sharing the same experience.
Most of my cohort’s morally troubled were from Bomber Command. A significant proportion of pilots blamed themselves for the deaths or capture of crew members. Captains and aircrew alike were conscience stricken because they had survived their last operation whereas other crew members had not. More than a few were disturbed by their operational duty, particularly their part in the area bombing campaign. A handful wrestled with existential aspects of their wartime service, namely, whether the war in which they had fought and lost friends had been worthwhile.
Captivity presented its own moral challenges. Some of my cohort were troubled by their inability to prosecute the war; reluctance to escape; transgression of prisoner-endorsed camp rules; or because they had been medically repatriated. Some felt survivor guilt relating to the Great Escape. Others anguished over sights they had witnessed in captivity, particularly those incarcerated in Buchenwald Concentration Camp who were disturbed by the ‘terribly emaciated corpses being fed into the ovens’. 
Guilt and grief were my cohort’s predominant moral emotions. In many cases, those feelings emanated from the strong fraternal bonds shared by Bomber Command aircrew. Today, I will highlight my cohort’s two main expressions of fraternal remorse: captain’s guilt and survivor guilt.
The bomber pilot’s fraternal ties were underpinned by the captain’s responsibility for crew safety and his perceived obligation to remain in a stricken aircraft until all had parachuted out or to maximise the survival chances of the wounded who could not bale. Recognising that they might die—and many did—was the ultimate expression of the captain’s fraternal love and sense of duty. When crew died or were wounded, bomber pilots often blamed themselves. They assumed culpability for their crew members’ deaths. In their eyes, they had failed in their obligation to crew safety.
Despite a mortally damaged aircraft, Alan McCormack agonised a life-time over his decision to give the order to bale out which resulted in the death of one crew member and the other five taken prisoner. After crawling from their crashed aircraft, Reg Giddey and his crew ran from the blaze. About half a mile distant, Giddey took a head count and ‘realised the two gunners were still there’. ‘[T]hat’s something I’ve always—always had on my conscience that I didn’t go back and try to help them out.’
Many captains and crew members grappled with survivor guilt, such as Errol Green who would yell and cry as he relived his experience of abandoning his plummeting aircraft. The former pilot feared his crew had died in the crash and ‘deeply’ mourned them until his own death, fifty-five years later. Navigator Les Harvey ‘felt helpless and guilty’ that it was not due to any merit on his part that he had survived. Air gunner Frank Falkenmire could not shake the memory of his dead crew members and continued to ask, ‘why not me’.
Those who contributed to, or participated in, the Great Escape, also experienced a degree of survivor guilt. Paul Royle did not have ‘a clue’ as to why he wasn’t chosen in the post-Escape reprisals. He and his escape partner ‘were together’ when they were recaptured ‘and behaved in the same manner’. ‘There’s no reason why one should live and not the other’, he recalled. Geoff Cornish claimed he did not regret giving up his place to ‘one of the fifty they executed’. But guilt niggled: ‘there are a few ghosts in there still’, he admitted, as he told of how he ‘squibbed [the] job of going back and meeting his [friend’s] parents’ to condole. ‘What do I say to them? I’m glad I took the decision I did and didn’t get shot and your son did?’
Many of the morally troubled were psychologically disturbed. Two were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Others perhaps would also have been, if they had not died before the disorder was recognised or the diagnostic criteria broadened. PTSD is a condition arising from an adverse life event which can be diagnosed. Trauma, such as serious injury or exposure to death, is central to that diagnosis. Moral injury, however, does not necessarily arise from fear or trauma. It is more closely associated with shame and guilt. Nor is moral injury a medical or psychological condition. It is an existential state which can affect emotions, wellbeing, behaviour, social interaction, and spirituality. Despite being different states, moral injury and PTSD often exist concurrently. Moreover, guilt, moral injury, and suicide are believed to be linked. At least four of the seven from my cohort who considered, attempted, committed, or possibly committed suicide were also burdened by guilt, grief and moral pain.
Two of my cohort’s former captains endured lifetimes of guilt, grief, and unalleviated psychological distress. Their testimony suggests that they also suffered moral injury. ‘The aircraft broke in two with the starboard wing torn off’, one man wrote four years before his death. He had been trapped by a blade of the port engine airscrew. ‘I could not help … I could hardly move. I heard my wireless operator and observer die and the rear gunner was in great pain, but I couldn’t do a thing to help.’ Another man wrote in 1950, that ‘every six months or so, I wake up in the middle of the night re-living the experience of being shot down, at which time four members of my crew were killed.’ Thirty years later he attested that, ‘For years [I] woke up screaming about our shooting down. [The] [t]hought of loss of crew still distressful’. Two years later he elaborated, ‘Four of my crew were lost, whilst I, the Pilot/Captain escaped with my life. I get most upset and irate with people who think this has not affected me. How could it not affect me? I have lived with it for nearly 38 years. I don’t even know how I got out of my aircraft except that someone put me out and didn’t live for me to thank him’.
These, and other bomber captains were not responsible for their crew members’ deaths. Survivors had nothing to feel guilty about. None of those airmen were culpable. Their guilt and anguish were not appropriate. Yet, many were assaulted by it. And their grief was unassuaged.
Moral injury is not necessarily a permanent state. Moral repair—a return to moral health—can be achieved. Meaning-making, atonement, and finding value in moral challenges were some of the ways the morally troubled effected healing. ‘Life holds potential meaning under any conditions, even the most miserable ones’, wrote Viktor Frankl, who found meaning in his experiences in a concentration camp. It’s a natural human response to seek meaning—to make sense of what has happened. Indeed, ‘the need for meaning is essential’ for moral repair.
Some of the morally troubled found meaning by keeping faith with the dead. They visited grave and crash sites to honour their dead comrades and acknowledge the fraternal love shared by their intimate ‘brotherhoods of the air’. Standing at his friends’ gravesides, Jack Morschel thanked ‘Alan, Reg, Jim and Alex, together with far too many others’ who paid ‘the supreme sacrifice for the benefit of us all’. In doing so, Morschel gave noble meaning to their deaths and placed them in an acceptable moral context.
Many felt the need to atone for their guilt. Some through active goodness. It was their path to self-forgiveness, even where—in reality—they had done nothing wrong. One of those who bore extreme moral anxiety was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for service to community. Some visited the families of dead crew members. Charles Lark, who felt guilty for leaving his friends behind when he was medically repatriated, met with families to assure them of his former comrades’ wellbeing, and lobbied for entitlements and assistance for ex-prisoners of war. After retiring from a long career of military service, another man took on a pastoral role in his church. He also cared for ill family members. When asked if, through that life of service, there was any sense of atonement, he responded: ‘I realise that was my motivation to a very large extent. It was a way of cleansing myself of the sense of disgust that I had … Yes, it was a way of compensation’.
Some found value in their experiences and grew from them. After a lifetime of reflection, Alec Arnel, one of the handful of morally troubled fighter pilots, deemed his ethical struggle to have been worthwhile. I had been tested’. ‘Yes. [I had] doubts about my capacity to do things. But I came away with a confidence that I might not have had otherwise’ and an ability ‘to cope with life’. Ultimately, he told me, ‘I think I dealt with the traumas of war in a way that made me a stronger person’. 



Moral injury did not always give way to moral repair. Most of the injured continued to experience extreme moral pain, psychological distress, and unabated grief. But the majority of my cohort’s morally troubled did not suffer moral injury. They allayed their moral concerns. They achieved moral repair. In forgiving inappropriate guilt, in overcoming their ‘war wounds of the spirit’, those former airmen demonstrated resiliency and an ability to actively manage the moral legacy of service and captivity.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Acknowledging contribution: International Women's Day 2019. Miss Celia Macdonald of the Isles ‘who has been a particularly good friend’


Miss Celia Macdonald of the Isles ‘who has been a particularly good friend’


In April 2009, the great nephew of one of Australia’s Battle of Britain pilots contacted me. He had heard I was researching the Battle and wondered if I would be interested in William Henry ‘Bill’ Millington Jr’s diaries and letters. Would I, ever! In the parcel was a ‘last letter’, given to Miss Celia Macdonald of the Isles to pass onto the Millington family in the event of Bill’s death. It was accompanied by Miss Macdonald’s condolence note to Bill’s mother, Elizabeth. These had been offered to a major collecting institution which had knocked them back.
Lady Frances Ryder and Miss Macdonald ran the Dominion and Allied Services Hospitality Scheme, an important social organisation for Australian and other Allied servicemen and women. The Scheme was well recognised and appreciated by those who enjoyed ‘wonderful leaves while serving in the United Kingdom’ so I wondered why the letters had been declined. I recalled an article published in Wings in 2007 in which the author had unsuccessfully sought information about it so thought perhaps it and its significance to Australians had faded from contemporary memory.[i] But it was not that.
According to Bill’s great nephew, the institution’s representative told him that ‘Miss Macdonald was a euphemism and not a real person’.[ii] A quick internet check indicated that Miss Celia Macdonald of the Isles appears in The Peerage and had been awarded an OBE and later advanced to CBE for her work with the organisation.[iii] So, not a euphemism, and very real. Someone had got it wrong. That, then, was my cue to discover more about the Dominion and Allied Services Hospitality Scheme as well as Miss Celia Macdonald—unrecognised by a major military archive—and her role in the life and death of one of Australia’s Battle of Britain pilots.
Although non-British servicemen during the Great War received hospitality from the War Chest Club, the Anzac Buffet and the Red Cross, Lady Frances Ryder’s father, the 5th Earl of Harrowby, and his wife, believed Australian mothers would be ‘suffering agonies’ at the thought of being separated from their sons and so they decided to do what they could to alleviate their anxieties.[iv] This concern was based on strong connections with Australia. Lord Harrowby first visited in 1886 and admired Australia and her ‘sturdy sons’, making a special study of Australian affairs. In addition, his brother, Captain the Hon. Robert Ryder, who was aide-de-camp to George Ruthven Le Hunte, governor of South Australia from 1 July 1903 until 18 February 1909, had married an Australian.[v] The Dominion Officers’ Hospitality Scheme was launched in May 1917 when Lord and Lady Harrowby opened the doors of their London residence to visiting officers and convalescents.[vi]
Lady Harrowby and her daughter considered it ‘a privilege to do something to brighten the lives of officers and men on leave and in hospital’ and threw themselves wholeheartedly into what became ‘a very personal work’[vii]. They were assisted by Helen Wallis who took on the role of organising secretary. Joyce Fry, who hailed from Queensland, joined them at a later date.[viii] In addition, Lady Frances invited Miss Celia Macdonald, the only daughter of Sir Alexander and Lady Bosville Macdonald of the Isles, to join her in welcoming visitors and developing a network of hosts and hostesses.[ix] And they were successful. The Harrowbys alone received 13,000 officers while 600 hostesses throughout England and Scotland entertained over 8200 officers, including 2000 Australians.[x]
Lady Frances and Miss Macdonald had much in common. They were of similar ages—born on 7 August 1888 and 28 January 1889 respectively—background, character and interests. Both lived a life of privilege; they were educated at home by governesses and enjoyed comfortable childhoods. As was usual with young ladies of their class, they were presented at court; Lady Frances in June 1906 and Miss Macdonald in 1908. After their presentations, their paths continually crossed as they made the usual round of dances, house parties and country weekends.[xi]
Both were staunch churchwomen—Lady Frances, in particular, was strongly against divorce and, in later years, divorcées were excluded from her hostess list—and devoted to their charities.[xii] They were kind, thoughtful, genuinely concerned for the welfare of their military friends and had the knack of putting people at their ease, keeping the conversation flowing with little effort, with Miss Macdonald in particular, often maintaining half a dozen at a time, all while pouring the tea and passing sandwiches.[xiii]
Miss Macdonald was warm, never failing in gaiety and had an infectious laugh. She was musical and played the piano and violin. She was a talented soprano and passionate member of the Bach Choir. After she came out, she took over the running of the scout troop in the village of Rudston and was, in the words of her nephew, constantly ‘up to some good works as it was not in her nature to sit and do nothing’.[xiv]
The efforts of Lady Harrowby, Lady Frances and Miss Macdonald were publically recognised on 27 June 1919 when they were appointed to the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order: Lady Harrowby was made a Dame Commander; her daughter a Commander; and Miss Macdonald an Officer.[xv] The Scheme had fostered such great international relations that, rather than allow it to lapse after the war, ‘prominent politicians’ who recognised its ‘imperial value’ suggested working with the young people of the Empire. Accordingly, the new Dominion Students’ Hospitality Scheme catered to students taking up places in Britain’s universities.[xvi]
Lord Harrowby’s London residence proved inadequate and so a new base was required. Lord Cadogan offered a favourable rent at 21B Cadogan Gardens.[xvii] It wasn’t long before a regular stream of male and female undergraduates, Rhodes Scholars, military cadets and anyone else who had arrived in England without friends but with an appropriate letter of introduction, made 21B their second home.[xviii] Miss Macdonald left in 1919 but rejoined Lady Frances in 1922 and they continued to work together until Lady Frances was forced to retire in 1933 because of ill health.[xix] Miss Macdonald then took over the running and her contribution was again recognised when she was advanced to CBE in 1937.[xx]
With war imminent, Air Ministry adopted the Scheme for the benefit of Commonwealth personnel, renaming it the Dominion and Allied Services Hospitality Scheme. Lady Frances came out of retirement and resumed her position beside Miss Macdonald at the tea table. They expanded their card files, increased the hostess network and appointed regional coordinators. They recruited new helpers who typed welcoming letters to new arrivals—which Miss Macdonald signed—and sent out invitations complete with host addresses, details of the nearest train station, a discrete slip of paper outlining appropriate tips for household staff, and an exhortation to send a wire to advise their arrival time.[xxi]
Lady Frances and Miss Macdonald did their utmost to match their military clients with suitable hosts. They asked where they would like to spend their leaves, what sports they played, and whether they wanted a quiet break or a busy time.[xxii] For the most part, they were successful. When Wade Rogers arrived at Cadogan Gardens, he longed for a country family and home cooking. He was sent to the Pillings in East Yorkshire. Dick Pilling pressed Wade to call him ‘Uncle Dick’ and the young Australian felt so comfortable he returned many times.[xxiii] Referrals were not always as successful, however. Yorkshire hospitality had little to offer someone as lively as Pat Hughes.
He soon discovered that ‘the local families are either terribly county or else strict church goers’. The highlights were ‘an occasional game of tennis with several of the fair widows of the district’, but the lowlights were ‘evenings at home which consist of my slowly sipping a glass of muck after struggling through an incredibly indigestible dinner’. Then, recounted Pat, the hostess would ‘spring to her feet, clap her hands and after gazing around for several minutes’ have ‘a brain wave’ and ‘exclaim, “I know let’s play sardines”—Ye gods, our existence is limited’.[xxiv]
Northumbrian-born Bill Millington, who had arrived in Adelaide, South Australia on his 9th birthday, had a much better experience of British hospitality. Miss Macdonald wrote to him after he was notified of his short service commission, welcoming him to England and inviting him to come along ‘to have tea with us’ at any time ‘as you will always find somebody here’.[xxv]
Bill was drawn almost immediately to Miss Macdonald. Perhaps her comfortable demeanour reminded him of his mother, perhaps he delighted in accounts of her stay in Adelaide during her world tour in 1936–37.[xxvi] Perhaps it was their shared adherence to the strong moral principles of scout law: whenever he wasn’t dreaming of flying, Bill had channelled all his energies into the scouting movement, graduating from cub, to scout and rover, winning many achievement badges on the way.[xxvii] Whatever the basis, they developed a warm empathy.[xxviii]
The opportunities offered to young airmen were vastly different from anything they had experienced before. Geoff Cornish enjoyed his host’s priceless collection of etchings of Heath Robinson inventions.[xxix] David Scholes, guest of Tom Maclean, the Earl of Ancum’s gamekeeper, went fishing and hunting on the Monteviot Estate.[xxx] Bill Millington accepted ‘numerous invitations to dinners etc. Last night I went with a party to the open air theatre in Regent’s Park ... I’m going to a garden party on Saturday.’ He had a ‘very pleasant evening’ with Lady Douglas Smith and her daughters, joined Sir Stuart and Lady Sankey for lunch, and chatted with Lord Athlone, ‘brother to Queen Mary and former governor-general to South Africa’. He lunched at the Café Anglais, followed by an afternoon at Boodle’s, a gentlemen’s club.[xxxi] Amusing as all that was, he liked nothing better than being with family and friends, and when he visited Ruckley Grange he had both. He was embraced by the Reid Walkers, a welcoming family who did not stand on ceremony. His first Christmas in England since he was a lad of eight was a warm, happy affair en famille. He had ‘a very enjoyable time’, full of ‘hunting, felling trees, shooting, skating and tobogganing’ and trimming the Christmas tree.[xxxii]
Bill accepted the Reid Walkers’ prosperity as a matter of course but John Crossman was dazzled by his hosts’ ‘big Buick and three Standards and ... staff of servants. It must cost 40 pounds a week to run that house.’ In addition, ‘we sit at dinner and drink champagne and look absolutely it. There’s no doubt how these people do live well.’[xxxiii]
As war progressed, Lady Frances and Miss Macdonald entertained Polish, Czech, Norwegian and Dutch servicemen and the free French forces. After Dunkirk, they welcomed Australian and New Zealand nurses who had fled France and received a royal imprimatur when Queen Elizabeth joined them at the tea table to meet those brave women.[xxxiv]

On 17 June 1940, Bill Millington was posted to 79 Squadron which had two pilots killed in France, one taken prisoner and two wounded.[xxxv] He knew it would not be long before he joined his new friends on operations. He recognised that ‘the possibility of a hasty departure from this life is ever present’. He had no fear of dying; he accepted that possibility and was ‘light of heart’ as he prepared for his first sortie.[xxxvi] Knowing he might not return, he decided to write a ‘last letter’ to his parents, to be delivered only in the event of his death. ‘Please do not grieve over my passing. I would not have it otherwise’, he told them. ‘Flying has meant more to me than just a career or means of livelihood’, he explained. ‘The intoxication of speed, the rush of air and the pulsating beat of the motor, awakes some answering chord deep down which is indescribable.’ He posted the letter to Miss Celia Macdonald, ‘who has been a particularly good friend to me’ for safe keeping. Despite having close family in England he asked Miss Macdonald to act as his next of kin, entrusting to her the task of gathering up ‘any of my personal effects ... in the event of some untoward incident’.[xxxvii]
By 31 August, Bill had been in action a number of times and had already achieved a string of victories. He was in the air twice that day, again adding to his personal and squadron ‘bag’. During his first outing, ‘we engaged about twenty Me 109s and slapped quite a few down’. He was ‘badly shot up and made a forced landing near Folkestone and returned to my station per police car’.[xxxviii] Later that day, he and his section were tasked with aerodrome guard duties when fifteen Dornier Do 215s escorted by large numbers of Messerschmitt Me 109s and 110s were sighted. Bill attacked, setting alight the port engine of one of the Do 215s. Three Me 109s targeted him. He fired, damaging one as he shook off the other two. By then he was alone; his confrères were engaged in their own battles. He again attacked the bombers but was beset by more Me 109s.[xxxix] He ‘shot down a Messerschmitt 109 after a dogfight with three of them’. He was hit ‘badly by cannon fire and wounded in the thigh. However I crash-landed in flames and managed to scramble out before the machine exploded’.[xl]
He walked, with assistance, to a nearby farm house, then ‘eventually finished up in hospital for about ten days, where most of the shrapnel in my thigh was removed.’[xli] When Miss Macdonald visited the convalescent she asked why he had been so foolish to attack a bomber on his own. ‘Isn’t that awfully dangerous, Bill?’ He replied, ‘what is one fighter compared with a German bomber?’.[xlii] And that on top of his decision not to bale out, ‘as my machine would probably have crashed into a small village’.[xliii] Miss Macdonald recognised a ‘complete unselfishness’ of ‘outlook [that] is magnificent and most inspiring’.[xliv] So too did the Air Officer Commanding 11 Group, Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park who considered ‘this young Australian officer ... worthy of reward and strongly recommend him for the Immediate Award of the Distinguished Flying Cross’ for showing ‘great courage’ in avoiding the small township, ‘despite the fact he was wounded’ and for exhibiting ‘dash and courage in attacking superior numbers’.[xlv]
Bill was posted to 249 Squadron on 19 September. Over the next few weeks he continued to add to his score against the Luftwaffe. On 30 October 1940, the squadron was patrolling North Weald aerodrome when they encountered some Messerschmitt Me 109s. They gave chase and Bill was last seen trying to intercept one over the English Channel.[xlvi]
Within hours, telegrams advising that he was missing in action were sent off.[xlvii] Even though Miss Macdonald had ‘always felt it a great responsibility’ as custodian of Bill’s ‘last letter’, she did not post it immediately because she knew his parents ‘had such a strong feeling that he would still turn up and, like you, I hoped and hoped.’[xlviii] Instead, she wrote to Bill’s mother, who charged her with ‘the sad job of unpacking the Christmas parcels which had come to him from Australia and sending them off again to be divided among his friends’.[xlix]
Despite their hopes, Bill did not ‘turn up’. Nor was his body found. In September 1941, Miss Macdonald and the Millingtons received official notification of presumption of death.[l] Bill’s friend then posted his ‘last letter’. Although she accepted that ‘we must presume that he was killed’, she admitted that she could hardly ‘bear to write the words’. She took comfort—and hoped Elizabeth Millington would as well—knowing that ‘Bill would want us to be brave and face facts, with as much courage as possible’.[li]
Just as Bill had tried to assuage his parents’ grief, so too did Miss Macdonald. She was no stranger to death in conflict. During the Great War, she had been close to a young man who was killed; if he had survived, it is likely they would have married. ‘This’, according to her nephew, ‘caused great sadness to Celia but although she got over it, like all of these tragedies, one never forgets’.[lii] With genuine compassion and a deep seated belief in its truth, she told Bill’s mother that:

We know that he died gloriously. “Greater love hath no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends.”[liii] And he was happy. I can assure you of that. You, his mother can indeed be proud of him and I, one of his many friends, can be grateful for his trust and affection and for the inspiration and help I gained from his great unselfish spirit.[liv]

Miss Macdonald lost many more young friends during the war.[lv] As she had in the past, she put aside her grief and continued to work tirelessly at 21B Cadogan Gardens. It wasn’t always easy to keep the rooms open, however. Bombs were an occupational hazard in London during the Blitz. They fell all around and, at one point, Miss Macdonald slept for nearly three-and-a-half months on a deck chair in the lift hall of her block of flats.[lvi]
As the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) Empire Air Training Scheme gained momentum, more and more Australian trainees visited Lady Frances and Miss Macdonald or their regional branches. In 1942 alone, more than 10,000 visits were arranged.[lvii] Leslie Jubbs recalled that ‘on every occasion my wonderful hosts made my stay so varied and their generosity was quite overwhelming by kindness’.[lviii] Bob Nielsen regarded return trips to the Goads, his host family in Bournemouth, as ‘another homecoming’ where he was ‘treated like a very special member of the family’ and Mrs Goad ‘lavished on him love and concern’.[lix] David Scholes relished his visits with the Macleans and regretted the inevitable departure: ‘It is with great sorrow that I leave Tom and Euph. They ... have given me a wonderful time making me feel as much at home as possible.’[lx]
Mary Adams, née Hill, lived in Bournemouth. She recalled that ‘we had our first “boys” for Christmas 1941’, six months after her brother Sydney was fatally wounded in combat.[lxi] ‘Throughout the remainder of the war, we had over 200 stay with us. In fact I married one!’ The Hills hosted ‘Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders and the odd American and South African. Many of them spent all of their leaves with us. They all called my mother, “mum”.’ Mrs Hill’s new, extended family ‘was a great happiness’ and comfort in her grief.[lxii]
Inevitably, remembered Mary Adams, ‘we lost many of them in action’.[lxiii] As did other host families, they were moved to write to parents after their guests were reported missing or dead.[lxiv] For some, the opportunity to condole came years later. Geoff Clark’s parents once threw an impromptu belated 21st birthday party—‘complete with cake’—for Joe Leary, who had been in hospital on the big day. Ten days later, Joe, a pilot with 460 Squadron, was lost on a raid to Friedrichshafen. In 1990, Geoff’s 88-year-old father visited Joe’s 93-year-old Aunt in Auckland. The Clarks’ in loco parentis role extended to their guests’ families. Don Walker was one of the first Australians to stay with them. His brother Bill was taken prisoner of war when Crete fell and so, to relieve Don of the worry of organising Red Cross parcels, the Clarks offered to do it. Even after Don died on operations with 235 Squadron, they continued to send Bill parcels until his release.[lxv]
With peace came the gradual wind down of the Scheme. It returned to its pre-war character and was renamed the Dominion Services and Students Hospitality Scheme.[lxvi] Lady Frances and Miss Macdonald continued to welcome visitors to Cadogan Gardens, and Miss Macdonald maintained an exhaustive correspondence with her many friends throughout the world, including Elizabeth Millington.[lxvii] But her duty to Bill and his family was not yet complete.
Cadogan Gardens escaped the bombing during the Blitz but much of London was destroyed or damaged. Westminster Abbey’s Lady Chapel, built by King Henry VII and now more commonly known as the Henry VII Chapel, was one casualty. When the Dean of Westminster was approached about a memorial to those who fought and died in the Battle of Britain, he suggested the Lady Chapel. Lord Trenchard, the Marshal of the RAF, and Lord Dowding, who led Fighter Command during the Battle, headed the committee to raise funds to restore the chapel and to commission a commemorative window to replace the stained glass that was shattered during the Blitz.[lxviii]
On 10 July 1947, King George VI unveiled the Battle of Britain Memorial Window in honour of ‘The Few’ at Westminster Abbey. The next-of-kin of airmen killed in the battle were invited to the ceremony at their own expense. Australian-based families who could not be present were permitted to invite in their stead a relative or friend living in Britain or, if that were not possible, an officer from the RAAF’s London headquarters would attend on their behalf. When William Millington Sr learned that Sir Willoughby Norrie, the governor of South Australia, would be attending, he asked him to stand in for himself and his wife.[lxix] Sir Willoughby agreed but on the day when ‘every seat in nave, choir and Henry VII’s Chapel was filled—the greater number with more than 2500 near relatives of the men named in the roll of honour’—Miss Macdonald was among them, officially representing the Millingtons.[lxx] She later sent Bill’s parents a memento of the dedication.
In ceremonies throughout Australia on 15 September 1947—Battle of Britain Day—the Royal Australian Air Force Association inaugurated Air Force Day to annually commemorate the RAAF’s war dead.[lxxi] Bill Millington had been rejected when he applied for a RAAF cadetship. It may have been as simple as too many had applied that year and, with limited cadetships available, many good candidates missed out but his family believed he had missed out because of lack of money and influence.[lxxii] Even so, his parents attended Adelaide’s service. Holding the brochure for the Battle of Britain Window in Westminster Abbey that Miss Macdonald had sent them, they remembered their son and his sacrifice.
Later that year, Lady Frances once again stepped back from the hospitality scheme.[lxxiii] The ill health that had brought about her retirement in 1933 reclaimed her and she returned to her childhood home. She suffered breathing problems and was unwell for a long time before her death on 24 December 1965.[lxxiv] She was mourned by many friends, all around the world.[lxxv]
In 1948, Miss Macdonald formed the Dominion Fellowship Trust to take over the hospitality work. As well as running the Trust, she maintained her maternal role to the many young people in her life. She was a wise, caring and knowledgeable counsellor to guests of the Trust and a broad-minded confidante to her own family’s younger generation. She was ‘a much loved aunt’ to her nephew and ‘her visits were much looked forward to. You could tell Aunt Celia things that you could not tell other people.’[lxxvi] In 1959, Oxford University conferred an honorary Master of Arts for her work with Rhodes Scholars over the years.[lxxvii] In March 1960, she reluctantly announced that the Dominions Fellowship Trust would fold in early 1961. Its work would be continued by the Victoria League.[lxxviii]
Miss Macdonald died on 4 January 1976. Her memorial service was crowded with family, friends, and representatives from the Victoria League, other akin service organisations and Commonwealth countries, including Australia, who had benefited from her ‘span of over forty years of self dedication to a most worthy cause’. In his oration, her friend Ronald Atkin, a one-time host and ‘honorary office-boy-come-door-boy’ at 21B with whom she used to play Beethoven symphonies scored for two pianos, told of the shock of her death, so sudden that family and friends alike were still reeling from it. ‘We will miss her sorely ... and sharing with us in our loss ... will be that vast world-wide “adopted family” overseas, who have never ceased to bless her name and that of Frances Ryder.’[lxxix]
Perhaps knowledge of Miss Celia Macdonald’s great contribution to the comfort of Australians has faded somewhat from the collective consciousness but ‘a euphemism and not a real person’? I think not. She was very real.
This essay won the Military Historical Society of Australia's 2013 Sabretache Writer's Prize. An edited version was published in Sabretache, the Journal of the Military Historical Society of Australia Vol LIV, No.3 September 2013 (https://search-informit-com-au.wwwproxy1.library.unsw.edu.au/documentSummary;res=IELAPA;dn=699335233277638) Please email if you would like a PDF.




[i] Jubbs, ‘Lady Frances Ryder’, Wings, Official Publication of the RAAF Association, Volume 59, No. 4, Summer 2007
[ii] Email Simon Robinson/Kristen Alexander 5 January 2011
[iii] http://thepeerage.com/p4345.htm#i43443; http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/31422/pages/8092; http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/34396/supplements/3095
[iv] The Age, 19 January 1924
[v] The Register, 13 June 1918 and 21 August 1919. Major Ryder, who served with the 8th (King’s Royal Irish) Hussars, was killed in action on 30 November 1917.
[vi] The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 January and 16 August 1918; The Register, 21 August 1919; The West Australian, 20 March 1924
[vii] The Times, 30 December 1965; The Argus, 23 January 1924
[viii] The West Australian, 10 January 1936; Queensland Figaro, 28 April 1928
[ix] The Times, 25 March 1960
[x] The Register, 21 August 1919
[xi] Their social connection was strengthened in January 1917 when Miss Macdonald’s brother, Godfrey, married Lady Frances’s cousin, the Hon. Rachel Campbell. Email Nicola Finlay, Personal Assistant to The Earl of Harrowby/Alexander 8 December 2011; letter Major Nigel Chamberlayne-Macdonald/Alexander 12 January 2012
[xii] The Courier Mail, 10 August 1942; Funeral Oration: In Memoriam—Celia MacDonald 1889–1976 by Ronald William Mein Atkin MBE, courtesy of Major Nigel Chamberlayne-Macdonald (hereafter Atkin: Funeral Oration)
[xiii] The Australian Women’s Weekly, 13 April 1940; The Times, 30 December 1965; email Nicola Finlay, Personal Assistant to The Earl of Harrowby/Alexander 8 December 2011; and letter Major Nigel Chamberlayne-Macdonald/Alexander 12 January 2012
[xiv] In 1935, Miss Macdonald was one of the choir honoured to sing at King George V’s Silver Jubilee concert. Letter Major Nigel Chamberlayne-Macdonald/Alexander 12 January 2012; Atkin: Funeral Oration; The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 January 1937
[xv] http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/31422/pages/8092
[xvi] Email Nicola Finlay, Personal Assistant to The Earl of Harrowby/Alexander 5 December 2011; The West Australian, 10 June 1936
[xvii] Letter Major Nigel Chamberlayne-Macdonald/Alexander 12 January 2012
[xviii] The Age, 19 January 1924; The Argus, 23 January 1924; The Times, 30 December 1965
[xix] The Times, 25 March 1960; Sydney Morning Herald, 2 January 1937
[xx] http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/34396/supplements/3095
[xxi] Letter Miss Celia Macdonald of the Isles /John Crossman 18 March 1940, courtesy of Bowden Family Archive
[xxii] The West Australian, 23 November 1946
[xxiii] Nelson, Chased by the Sun. Courageous Australians in Bomber Command in World War II, ABC Books, Sydney, 2001, p. 68
[xxiv] Letter Pat Hughes/Charles and Heather Hughes July [1939], courtesy of the late Greg Hughes
[xxv] Bill’s welcoming letter is no longer extant but would have been similar to John Crossman’s. Letter Miss Celia Macdonald of the Isles/John Crossman 26 October 1939, courtesy of Bowden Family Archive
[xxvi] The West Australian, 8 December 1936
[xxvii] Handwritten biographical notes by Eileen Robinson née Millington, courtesy of Robinson Family Archive
[xxviii] Bill Millington’s ‘last letter’ June 1940, courtesy of Robinson Family Archive
[xxix] Hayes, Beyond the Great Escape. Geoff Cornish: The One Who Got Away, Possum Publishing, Elanora, 2004, p. 41
[xxx] Scholes, DFC, Air War Diary. An Australian in Bomber Command, Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, 1997, pp. 68 and 53
[xxxi] Letter Bill Millington/Eileen Robinson née Millington 7 July 1939; and entries for 28 June, 2 July, 21 July and 8 December 1939, Bill Millington’s diary, courtesy of Robinson Family Archive
[xxxii] Letter Bill Millington/Eileen Robinson née Millington 31 December 1939, courtesy of Robinson Family Archive
[xxxiii] Entries for 24 December and 23 December 1939, John Crossman’s diary, courtesy of Bowden Family Archive
[xxxiv] The West Australian, 5 April 1941
[xxxv] Bill Millington’s RAF Service record, RAF Disclosures, via Robinson Family Archive; Cull, Lander and Weiss, Twelve Days in May. The Air Battle for Northern France and the Low Countries, 10–21 May 1940, Grub Street, London, 1995, pp. 2–5
[xxxvi] Bill Millington’s ‘last letter’ June 1940, courtesy of Robinson Family Archive. This letter is dated simply ‘June 1940’ but it is clear from the content that Bill penned it just before his first operation.
[xxxvii] Bill Millington’s ‘last letter’ June 1940, courtesy of Robinson Family Archive
[xxxviii] Letter Bill Millington/Eileen Robinson née Millington 14 September 1940, courtesy of Robinson Family Archive
[xxxix] Bill Millington’s DFC Recommendation National Archives United Kingdom AIR 2/9398
[xl] Letter Bill Millington/Eileen Robinson née Millington 14 September 1940, courtesy of Robinson Family Archive
[xli] Undated letter Victoria Wells, Hawkhurst History Society/Alexander (received 9 March 2011); letter Bill Millington/Eileen Robinson née Millington 14 September 1940, courtesy of Robinson Family Archive
[xlii] The West Australian, 5 April 1941
[xliii] Austin, Fighter Command, Victor Gollancz Ltd, London, 1941, p. 193; Bill Millington’s DFC Recommendation National Archives United Kingdom AIR 2/9398
[xliv] The West Australian, 5 April 1941
[xlv] Bill Millington’s DFC Recommendation National Archive United Kingdom AIR 2/9398
[xlvi] 79 Squadron Operational Record Book National Archives United Kingdom AIR 27/664/17; letter Flight Lieutenant M. Hudson, Air Historical Branch, Ministry of Defence/Alexander 21 November 2012
[xlvii] National Archives of Australia Barcode number: 3330251, Series number: A705, Control symbol: 106/6/115, Item title: RAAF—Directorate of Personnel Services—Casualty Section—Pilot Officer W.H. Millington DFC DP Air Operations—RAF (NAA Casualty file)
[xlviii] Undated letter Miss Celia Macdonald of the Isles/Mrs W.H. Millington September 1941. The original of this letter is no longer extant but it was hand copied and distributed throughout the family. Eileen Robinson’s copy courtesy of Robinson Family Archive
[xlix] The West Australian, 5 April 1941
[l] NAA Casualty file
[li] Undated letter Miss Celia Macdonald of the Isles September 1941/Mrs W H Millington, courtesy of Robinson Family Archive
[lii] Letter Major Nigel Chamberlayne-Macdonald/Alexander 12 January 2012
[liii]John 15:13
[liv] Undated letter Miss Celia Macdonald of the Isles September 1941/Mrs W.H. Millington, courtesy of Robinson Family Archive
[lv] Letter Major Nigel Chamberlayne-Macdonald/Alexander 12 January 2012
[lvi] The West Australian, 5 April 1941
[lvii] Nelson, Chased by the Sun. Courageous Australians in Bomber Command in World War II, ABC Books, Sydney, 2001, p. 63
[lviii]Jubbs, ‘Lady Frances Ryder’, Wings, Official Publication of the RAAF Association, Volume 59, No. 4, Summer 2007; http://www.futurepd.org/les/Documents/Unwanted%20Pilot.pdf
[lix] Nelson, Chased by the Sun. Courageous Australians in Bomber Command in World War II, ABC Books, Sydney, 2001, p. 63
[lx] Scholes, DFC, Air War Diary. An Australian in Bomber Command, Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, 1997, p. 54
[lxi] Sydney Jenkyn Hill flew in the Battle of Britain with 609 Squadron. On 21 October 1940, he shared in the destruction of 609 Spitfire Squadron’s 100th victory with Flight Lieutenant Frank Howell. He was the ‘bosom buddy’ of Melbourne born Battle of Britain pilot John Curchin; the pair were so close they were referred to as the ‘Heavenly Twins’. John was killed in action on 18 June 1941, two weeks before Sydney’s death. Email Mary Adams née Hill/Alexander 2 December 2011; http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2361173/HILL,%20SYDNEY%20JENKYN; http://www.bbm.org.uk/Curchin.htm
[lxii] Email Mary Adams née Hill /Alexander 2 December 2011
[lxiii] ibid.
[lxiv] Nelson, Chased by the Sun. Courageous Australians in Bomber Command in World War II, ABC Books, Sydney, 2001, pp. 63–64
[lxv] http://www.theoddbods.org/2012_10/oddsnends04.htm. Bill Walker visited the Clarks before returning to Australia.
[lxvi] Atkin: Funeral Oration; The Times, 9 July 1947
[lxvii] At one time it was estimated that Miss Macdonald was in continuous contact with 1700 to 1800 former guests from the Dominions. The Australian Women’s Weekly, 14 November 1936; Eileen Robinson’s annotation on her copy of Miss Macdonald’s September 1941 letter, courtesy of Robinson Family Archive
[lxviii] http://www.westminster-abbey.org/visit-us/highlights/the-royal-air-force-chapel; Perkins, Westminster Abbey. The Royal Air Force Chapel with the Battle of Britain Window in The Chapel of King Henry VII, H.B. Skinner & Co Ltd, London, no date, p. 25
[lxix] The Advertiser, 7 June 1947
[lxx] The Times, 11 July 1947; The Mercury, 11 July 1947
[lxxi] The Advertiser, 16 September 1947
[lxxii] Unpublished biographical essay by Simon Robinson, courtesy of Robinson Family Archive
[lxxiii] Atkin: Funeral Oration
[lxxiv] Email Nicola Finlay, Personal Assistant to The Earl of Harrowby/Alexander 6 December 2011
[lxxv] The Times, 30 December 1965
[lxxvi] Atkin: Funeral Oration; letter Major Nigel Chamberlayne-Macdonald/Alexander 12 January 2012
[lxxvii] Letter Major Nigel Chamberlayne-Macdonald/Alexander 12 January 2012; The Times, 28 January 1959
[lxxviii] The Times, 25 March 1960
[lxxix] The Times, 14 January 1976; Atkin: Funeral Oration; letter Major Nigel Chamberlayne-Macdonald/Alexander 12 January 2012; The Times, 28 January 1959



Bibliography
PRIMARY SOURCES

PUBLIC COLLECTIONS

National Archives of Australia

Barcode number: 3330251, Series number: A705, Control symbol: 106/6/115, Item title: RAAF—Directorate of Personnel Services—Casualty Section—Pilot Officer W.H. Millington DFC DP Air Operations—RAF

National Archives United Kingdom

AIR 2/9398 Bill Millington’s DFC Recommendation
AIR 27/664/17 79 Squadron Operational Record Book

PRIVATE RECORDS

Author’s Records

Email Simon Robinson/Kristen Alexander 5 January 2011
Undated letter Victoria Wells, Hawkhurst History Society/Alexander (received 9 March 2011) 
Email Mary Adams née Hill/Alexander 2 December 2011
Email Nicola Finlay, Personal Assistant to The Earl of Harrowby/Alexander 8 December 2011
Letter Major Nigel Chamberlayne-Macdonald/Alexander 12 January 2012
Letter Flight Lieutenant M. Hudson, Air Historical Branch, Ministry of Defence/Alexander 21 November 2012

Robinson Family Archive

Bill Millington’s 1939 diary
Letter Bill Millington/Eileen Robinson née Millington 7 July 1939
Letter Bill Millington/Eileen Robinson née Millington 31 December 1939
Bill Millington’s ‘last letter’ June 1940
Letter Bill Millington/Eileen Robinson née Millington 14 September 1940
Undated letter Miss Celia Macdonald/Mrs W.H. Millington September 1941
Handwritten biographical notes by Eileen Robinson née Millington
Unpublished biographical essay by Simon Robinson
Bill Millington’s RAF Service record, RAF Disclosures

Bowden Family Archive

John Crossman’s 1939 diary
Letter Miss Celia Macdonald of the Isles/John Crossman 26 October 1939
Letter Miss Celia Macdonald of the Isles/John Crossman 18 March 1940

Major Nigel Chamberlayne-Macdonald

Funeral Oration: In Memoriam—Celia MacDonald 1889–1976 by Ronald William Mein Atkin MBE

The Late Greg Hughes

Letter Pat Hughes/ Charles and Heather Hughes July [1939]

SECONDARY SOURCES

NEWSPAPERS

The Advertiser, 7 June and 16 September 1947
The Age, 19 January 1924
The Argus, 23 January 1924
The Australian Women’s Weekly, 14 November 1936 and 13 April 1940
The Courier Mail, 10 August 1942
The Mercury, 11 July 1947
Queensland Figaro, 28 April 1928
The Register, 13 June 1918 and 21 August 1919
The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 January 1918, 16 August 1918, and 2 January 1937
The Times, 9 and 11 July 1947, 28 January 1959, 25 March 1960, 30 December 1965, and 14 January 1976 
The West Australian, 20 March 1924, 10 January, 10 June and 8 December 1936, 5 April 1941, and 23 November 1946

BOOKS AND ARTICLES

Austin, A. B., Fighter Command, Victor Gollancz Ltd, London, 1941

Cull, B., Lander, B., and Weiss, H., Twelve Days in May. The Air Battle for Northern France and the Low Countries, 10–21 May 1940, Grub Street, London, 1995

Hayes, H., Beyond the Great Escape. Geoff Cornish: The One Who Got Away, Possum Publishing, Elanora, 2004

Jubbs, L., ‘Lady Frances Ryder’, Wings, Official Publication of the RAAF Association, Volume 59, No. 4, Summer 2007

Nelson, H., Chased by the Sun. Courageous Australians in Bomber Command in World War II, ABC Books, Sydney, 2001

Perkins, J.,  Westminster Abbey. The Royal Air Force Chapel with the Battle of Britain Window in The Chapel of King Henry VII, H.B. Skinner & Co Ltd, London, no date

Scholes, DFC, D., Air War Diary. An Australian in Bomber Command, Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, 1997

WEBSITES

http://thepeerage.com/p4345.htm#i43443
http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/31422/pages/8092
http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/34396/supplements/3095
http://www.westminster-abbey.org/visit-us/highlights/the-royal-air-force-chapel
http://www.theoddbods.org/2012_10/oddsnends04.htm
http://www.futurepd.org/les/Documents/Unwanted%20Pilot.pdf
http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2361173/HILL,%20SYDNEY%20JENKYN
http://www.bbm.org.uk/Curchin.htm