At the outbreak of World War 2 my father John Percival Garrard was teaching at a one-teacher school in Forest, situated in the Otway Ranges in Victoria. He had settled there with his wife Dorothy and young family - Patricia, aged four and John aged two.
In 1942 John (sometimes called Jack) decided to make a commitment to the war effort and enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), successfully partaking in training courses in Australia. John departed from Melbourne on January 15, 1943 and arrived in United Kingdom on March 17, 1943 where he continued his training in the Royal Air Force (RAF).
In 1945 the crew from No. 201 squadron RAF - of which John was a Flight Lieutenant - were based at Castle Archdale on Lower Lough Erne and were flying over neutral Irish territory.
They were en route across the famed Donegal Corridor via Donegal Bay into the North Atlantic to undertake an anti-U-boat patrol.
On March 14, 1945, their Sunderland Flying boat came down on Crownarad Mountain, north-west of Killybegs.
Twelve men – including my father- lost their lives in county Donegal.
This event was just two months before Germany’s unconditional surrender on May 7, 1945.
John was buried in Irvinestown, County Fermanagh.
Although I was only eight at the time, and now 84, I can still recall the day my mother received a telegram informing her of my father’s death – “killed in action”.
Many tears were shed that day for the loss of a loved son, husband and father.
This was devastating news for my grandmother Elizabeth, my mother Dorothy and, in the years to follow, for my sister Patricia and me.
Although I am proud of my father’s achievements in the Air Force and proud that he gave his life defending his country, it meant that we would never get to know him or ever experience the love and nurturing of a father.
However, I am grateful for the wonderful life I’ve had and the fact that the Garrard family tree has continued to grow. I have been married for 62 years, have four sons, 17 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the tragedy, a lasting memorial featuring a memorial plaque, was unveiled at the crash site on March 14, 2015.
Many of the descendants of the aircrew attended this celebration, including three of John’s grandchildren.
John’s service awards include – Mentioned in Dispatches,1939-45 Star, Atlantic Star with France and Germany Clasp, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-45 and Australia Service Medal1939-45 awarded for his service with the Royal Australian Air Force.