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A Homeward-Bound Letter from Lavariano

This letter was written on 15 June 1945 by Padre Fred McKay, one of three R.A.A.F. Chaplains working with
No.3, No.450 and No.454 Squadrons.  The letter was sent by Fred to the families of serving airmen.

Lake Como, Italy. c. 1945.  A group of airmen of No. 3 (Mustang) Squadron RAAF, looking at Lake Como. 

Dear Home Folks,

This letter is written in Northern Italy where three Australian Squadrons are camped side-by-side with other Desert Air Force teams; and it is designed to reach the loved ones in the several homes who are counting the days till our ship casts anchor in a home port and we take our place again in the circle to which we belong.

The thought of going home is exhilarating and exciting.  We can scarcely wait.  But common sense tells us that ships do not always come in when we think they will.  With sane minds, therefore, we are just waiting; and service life has taught us, we cannot do much else.

I want to suggest that these days of waiting are not easy days.  Our tents are pitched not far from the Austrian border, in grassed fields.  We scan the distance and we mark off our calendars.  We think of the task finished, and of the task unfinished.  We watch the loads of German prisoners who pass almost daily.  We put our own interpretation to the conditions all about us, for the country is war-sick and poor.  Meanwhile, and in contrast, across the canvas of our minds there race the loveliest pictures of the day when we can hold the hands of our 'ain folk' again and take the place they have kept so lovingly for us.

For you, too, waiting will not be easy.  But you also will have learned that service plans cannot always keep pace with individual hopes.  And there was a good man who once said that patient optimism is among the greatest of graces.

Your letters have always been our stay and strength.  During these days they mean more than ever.  And, whereas it may be unwise to send parcels etc by sea, yet air-mail letters reach us within short time - and our spirits never flag when the post-bags are full.

And in the end that glorious day must come when we will bound across the familiar threshold again, and show you our wealth of gratitude for all you have done for and meant to us during the days, the months, and the years of war separation.

I think you will completely realise what your boys have done in Italy.  Their contribution has not brooked competition by anyone.  Since the invasion of this country, and even long before that, our ground staff lads have done constant front-line work - and their serviceability and efficiency records are unequalled.  Nor has Italy always been sunny!  There have been months of mud, and cold, and wet.  And the war-scorched countryside has helped little in supplementing monotonous rations.  But the work has gone on - and the battle; and in the evenings tented men have written comforting and brave letters never mentioning their own exploits.

We all fore-gathered a few days ago to see our aircrew boys take part in the grand Italian finale of the Desert Air Force, when more than a proportionate representation of Australian pilots and aircrew gave their last salute to the Eighth Army, at whose side they have given a coordinated service for so long.

Italy will have lots of memories ... many happy; many sad; many gallant.  And there will be countless folk at home who will one day make their lonely but proud pilgrimage to the graves of heroic sons; for in this far away land it is an eternal flame which Australian airmen have lighted, and it will burn on undimmed.

To you all, in this my last letter from Italy to home folks; to you all, I send my warmhearted greetings.  Yet a little while and your boys will have definite news of future movements.  Yet a little while and you will have that sure reward which comes to those who never lose sight of the ideal of the happy home.

We never cease thinking of our loved ones ; we never cease thinking of the romance of home-making; we never cease thinking of our unborn children.  So, life has a purpose and a meaning - and around that purpose and meaning all our endeavors and plannings are set.

May God bless you all,

Yours sincerely,

Fred McKay

See also our main Fred McKay page.

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