Thursday, 3 November 2016

‘How deeply we feel his loss’: Condolences to William Mercer Catanach, on the death of his son, Jimmy.

I was privileged to visit the Shrine of Remembrance on 20 October 2016 to consult the James Catanach Collection as part of my PhD research on the responses to captivity of the Australian airmen of Stalag Luft III and their next of kin. The below is a reflection on one particular item in the collection. It does not include specific details of Jimmy Catanach’s background, military service, life in Stalag Luft III, participation in the Great Escape or death. Some of those details appear briefly in http://australiansinsliii.blogspot.com.au/2015/02/70th-anniversary-of-great-escape.html     


Jimmy Catanach. Lifted from http://alchetron.com/James-Catanach-777142-W  

It seems that in this modern world, penning a condolence note to someone who has experienced a bereavement is something we cannot do from our own heart. We have to turn to websites such as http://www.quickcondolence.com/200-condolence-examples to provide a sample of ‘heartfelt’ messages. There was no need for any ‘pick-your-condolence’ aids back in the first half of the twentieth century. With the number of Great War deaths and seemingly never ending casualty lists in the Second World War, men and women were much practised in writing sensitive and comforting words to their grief stricken friends and acquaintances.

William Catanach was no stranger to grief. His son Peter had died in 1923. But, once he had accepted that Jimmy had been taken prisoner by the Germans in September 1942, he would have felt relief and comfort that his son was out of action. Certainly, it seems as if Jimmy’s brother Bill felt this way. One clipping in the scrapbook recorded how Bill showed the journalist a copy of Air Board’s letter advising that Jimmy had been confirmed as a prisoner of war. Apparently declaring that the letter was ‘the finest he had ever received’, the reporter passed on Bill’s hopes that other parents might ‘have their days of anxiety cut short with similar messages’. Looking back over the past months, one of William’s friends indicated that such knowledge was a comfort: ‘at least he was safe and you could only pray for the quick ending of this awful war, knowing that as soon as it was over Jimmy would come back to you and to all those he loved and loved him’.

But Jimmy did not return and Scrapbook Two in the Shrine of Remembrance’s James Catanach Collection contains a number of documents expressing condolence. These include ones from Jimmy’s former headmaster and his wife (who always wrote to Jimmy on his birthday), Margaret Culley of Narrandera one of Jimmy’s friends (‘almost a stranger’ to William who Jimmy perhaps met while he was training at No. 8 Elementary Flying Training School, Narrandera, NSW) and Flying Officer Don Rutter, who asked that William accept his ‘sincere sympathy for your very very sad news about Jimmy. I think of you and friends of Jim’s every day’.


Don Rutter. Taken from NAA service file A9300, Rutter D H

(Donald Hemphill Rutter, one of Jimmy’s fellow Geelong Grammarians, wrote to William while convalescing from serious injury in a motor accident. Well known to the Catanach family, he asked Mr Catanach to ‘please give my love to Mrs Catanach’ and ‘all of the very best to you’. After a number of months, he was declared fit to return to operational service and rejoined 247 Squadron RAF. He was killed in operations over Germany on 5 April 1945.)

Scrapbook Two reveals that William Catanach’s first condolence was from the Minister for Air and Air Board on 17 May 1944. I doubt, however, if the expression of ‘profound sympathy’ sank in because it followed the terrible news that Jimmy had ‘lost his life … while attempting to escape from confinement as a prisoner of war’.

The telegram—sent to William’s home—is neatly pasted into one of two scrapbooks held in the James Catanach Collection. Although the Collection does not record the name of the compiler (it is noted as ‘creator unknown’) I speculated elsewhere that this album—Scrapbook Two—was created by William Catanach because the condolence messages mounted in it are addressed to him alone (though his wife is mentioned in passing in one of them). http://australiansinsliii.blogspot.com.au/2016/11/the-james-catanach-collection-musings.html

Rather than look at all of these messages of sympathy, I will focus on only a small handful.

The first, addressed to William’s workplace—Catanach Jeweller’s in the Royal Arcade—is a telegram from Malcolm McEachern, who winged it off almost as soon as he heard the tragic news of Jimmy’s death: ‘Deeply shocked terrible catastrophe extend sincere sympathy will await your instructions’. This was no hollow, social, ‘let-me-know-if-I-can-do-anything-for-you’. McEachern had known Jimmy well and had been acting in loco parentis as Jimmy’s British next of kin for parcels and immediate contact for some time.


Malcolm McEachern. 
Lifted from https://i.ytimg.com/vi/lYSTP3il7Co/maxresdefault.jpg

Albury-born McEachern had enjoyed a successful musical career in both Australia and the United Kingdom as a bass singer and concert soloist. (For a sample of his vocal talent, check out Devonshire Cream and Cider, recorded in 1934 on you tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zToWL1m8yO0 He was also well known as Jetsam, from the popular musical comedy duo, Flotsam and Jetsam. Jimmy first met McEachern and his wife, Hazel, when he visited their home with his friend Maurice Martel, with whom he had trained in Australia. Various hospitality schemes had been established to ensure allied servicemen without the benefit of UK-based family and friends could enjoy home comforts during leave. In this case, however, Jimmy’s connection with the McEacherns began not under the auspices of one of those schemes but because they had known Maurice for many years. After Maurice lost his life in March 1942, Jimmy continued to visit. ‘We loved Jimmie’, Hazel later wrote to William. We ‘thought him one of the grandest boys we had ever met—there were many happy times when he & his friends came to the house’. 

McEachern was photographed standing next to Jimmy during a recording for the BBC’s ‘Anzac Hour’ on 24 July 1942; a photographer was present and The Sun’s 7 October 1942 captioned photo has been pasted into Scrapbook Two. The Collection indicates that McEachern played an important role in alleviating some of the rigours of Jimmy’s captivity: shortly after arriving at Dulag Luft Jimmy told his father: ‘Dad you are my Next of Kin but I will ask Malcolm to send the little allowed clothing etc. as it is easier for him. You had best work through him if you will’. (A copy of this letter is held in the James Catanach Collection.)

Jimmy is left of the microphone and Malcolm is to the right. Lifted from the Australian War Memorial picture collection: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/SUK10345/

Acknowledging the distance between Australia and England, many prisoners of war appointed family or friends to be their designated British next of kin for clothing parcels. These caring supporters in no way supplanted Australian family. They simply facilitated the flow of essential comforts to the prisoner, even as they provided another important source of outside contact and stimulation to help ameliorate stultifying confinement. In all, the McEacherns sent three comfort parcels to Jimmy via official Red Cross channels.

Thoughtful recipients of UK next-of-kin assistance appreciated the strictures of rationing and the cost of assembling a well-stocked parcel. Jimmy was not the only one who entreated his family to send chocolate and other items so McEachern ‘can send it on as allowed’. Assuming they had the coupons, the McEacherns could well afford any treats that would make Jimmy’s life in captivity easier but in asking his family to send items to the McEacherns, Jimmy was offering a courtesy that no doubt the McEacherns would appreciate. It also reinforced that his own family had not been asked to surrender their role of his chief supports.

McEachern not only took his next-of-kin role seriously, he embraced it further. The next item in this section of Scrapbook Two is not another condolence but a note from McEachern who represented William at the 20 June 1944 memorial service for the fifty shot airmen at St-Martin-in-the-Fields. ‘It was all beautifully done and I felt honoured to be your representative’. McEachern’s shock at the circumstances of Jimmy’s tragic death had not abated: ‘Everyone is distressed at this dreadful act’.

As indicated by an airgraph letter from Hazel McEachern which has also been pasted into the album, the McEacherns also fulfilled another next-of-kin role. (Postmarked 21 May, the position of this in the scrapbook indicates that it was received after McEachern’s 21 June note.) ‘With sad hearts’, wrote Hazel, ‘we are today gathering together Jimmie’s valuables & sending them to you by registered mail’. Those items included a wrist watch and travel clock, which are both held by the Shrine. The former, inscribed to ‘J Catanach 400364 with love from Dad’ was a 19th birthday present (dated 28 November 1940 while Jimmy was at 8 EFTS, Narrandera). It seems Jimmy considered it too precious to take when 455 Squadron transferred to Russia. Or perhaps, knowing that the Russian destination was just beyond their maximum fuel range, it was one of the nonessential items that had to be left behind to minimise weight on an already overloaded aircraft. The clock, engraved to ‘JIM from Dad, 28.11.42 “Cheerio”’, was clearly a 21st birthday present but it is highly likely that, by the time it arrived in England, Jimmy had been in captivity for some weeks, so probably never saw it.





Jimmys 19th birthday watch on display in the Shrines James Catanach exhibit, along with his Distinguished Flying Cross and epaulette rank slide. Photos courtesy of Drew Gordon.

(A brief aside. Jimmy was not without a watch in Stalag Luft III. Before the Great Escape, he wore a Catanach’s branded Cyma Watersport. Like the 19th birthday gift, Jimmy’s name is engraved on the reverse, but this watch bears no date. None of those embarking on the Great Escape could afford to carry items that would contradict their forged identities and so, Jimmy passed his watch to Roy Nielsen, a Norwegian Spitfire pilot, for safe keeping. Seventy years later, Nielsen’s family visited the Stalag Luft III museum, indicating that they wanted to return to watch to Jimmy’s family. They soon made contact with the Catanachs via the jewellery shop and the watch finally made its way back to Australia. It now takes its place in the Shrine’s James Catanach Collection. Both it and the 19th birthday watch are on display.)





The watch Jimmy left behind in Stalag Luft III which was later returned to Australia. Photos taken when Roy Nielsen’s family visited the Stalag Luft III museum in 2014. Courtesy of Marek Lazarz.

Bundling up effects to send to Jimmy’s parents was a melancholy task for Hazel McEachern but it was a responsibility she and her husband undertook willingly. As well as offering comfort to the Catanachs knowing that Jimmy’s effects were taken care of, it helped assuage the grief the McEacherns felt for the loss of Jimmy. ‘We deeply mourn the loss of these brave lads to whom we owe so much’. (Hazel’s mourning would continue. Malcolm would soon be diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus and die on 17 January 1945 after an operation. Their only son, Lieutenant Robert Malcolm McEachern of the Royal Armoured Corps, would die in Germany two months later.)

Jimmy’s insistence that he maintain regular contact with Malcolm McEachern raises some interesting speculation. I have written elsewhere how fellow Great Escaper Albert Hake dropped some very large hints to his wife Noela that his circumstances were about to change. http://australiansinsliii.blogspot.com.au/2016/05/43-years-albert-hake-australian-in.html It seems Albert was not the only one. 




Fellow Australian Great Escaper, Albert Hake. Photo courtesy of the Preen Family

Albert’s escape partner, New Zealander Johnny Pohe wrote a letter to his family in February 1944 asking that his uniform be cleaned. He followed up with another asking for progress because he ‘might be using it soon’. The James Catanach Collection does not contain Jimmy’s last letter home but in his last letter to McEachern he reported that he was looking forward to leaving Germany and hinted that it might be in the very near future: ‘Get my suit pressed’. It seems that these were just a handful of the letters full of broad hints making their way through the German postal system because, on 23 May 1944, the Adelaide Advertiser reported that ‘Nazis warned by letters. Prisoners’ hints of escape’. Apparently there were so many of them that, according to the Advertiser’s Special Representative in London, ‘it is believed that the Gestapo redoubled its watchfulness on airmen prisoners at Stalagluft Camp 3’ as a consequence. While not drawing a link between letters out and Gestapo watchfulness, Melbourne’s The Argus reported similar extracts from letters, including Jimmy’s. While the Advertiser article is not in Scrapbook Two, The Argus one is, and I wonder if William Catanach—and indeed the McEacherns—ever contemplated the possibility that Jimmy may have unwittingly contributed to his own death.





While not family members, the McEacherns acted as pseudo family members—as honorary family—and, as such, can be considered as part of William’s ‘fictive kin’ network of support. Another member of that network was Ralph Anderson, brother of George Robert ‘Bob’ Anderson, Jimmy’s navigator who been captured at the same time.

Bob and Jimmy had more than just a good working relationship. They ‘had an affection for each other formed mostly under extremely dangerous conditions’. Ralph and his family ‘in turn looked upon that friendship with a very sincere regard’. It also presented them with an obligation—or happy duty—to reach out to the Catanachs in friendship and support at an early stage.

The Collection reveals Ralph sent the Catanachs a copy of an extract from Bob’s first letter to Ralph, written on 29 December 1941, shortly after he commenced operations, so Jim’s family could get a sense of what life was like on an operational squadron (and perhaps what life was like with Jimmy as a captain of their bomber aircraft). In his first letter home from Stalag Luft III, Jimmy recorded that he was ‘quite comfortable. We are 8 in a room and do our own cooking and are very thankful for comforts of the Red Cross as added luxury. Tony Gordon [a fellow trainee in Australia who had been posted to 455 Squadron before Jimmy and had been captured on 7 November 1941] is here and very well, Bob Anderson too’. 




Room mates, Tony Gordon (left) and Jimmy Catanach (right) shortly after Jimmy arrived in Stalag Luft III. Tony had arrived a few weeks earlier. 
Photo courtesy of Drew Gordon.  

No doubt it would have been a comfort to the Catanachs that, even if Jimmy was a prisoner of war, at least he had his friends with him. Perhaps the Andersons felt the same way and all looked forward to the day when their ‘boys’ would be released.




Members of No. 455 Squadron RAAF, April 1942. Bob Anderson is second from left, and Jimmy is third from right. Lifted from the Australian War Memorials picture collection:  https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/SUK10124/

Anderson’s letter, written the day after William Catanach received the appalling news, noted that ‘the shock of Jimmie’s death in Germany has filled my family and me with the utmost sympathy for you and yours. Words are useless at present but I do want you to know how deeply we too feel his loss’. Anderson may not have had the gift of glibness, but his ‘utmost sympathy’ was accepted and preserved in the scrapbook and the extract from Bob’s earlier letter was also saved and is held in the Collection.

Thomas White, Great War pilot and former politician, also penned a condolence letter. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he joined the Citizen Air Force and, taking leave from parliament in April 1940, accepted an appointment as commanding officer of the newly established No. 1 Initial Training School at Somers, Victoria. Jimmy commenced there on 18 August 1940. Their acquaintance was renewed when they met during White’s visit to 455 Squadron during his tenure as commanding officer, RAF Station, Brighton. White once flew as ‘a spare observer’ in Jimmy’s Hampden and Jimmy wowed him with his flying skill. (Details of this is included in White’s ‘An RAAF Bomber Squadron in Britain’, a copy of which has been preserved in Scrapbook One. There is another loose copy within the Collection.)




Wing Commander Thomas White, March 1942.  Lifted from Wikipedia   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_White_(Australian_politician)

White told William Catanach that ‘at Somers and in England I was glad to be associated with, and developed an affection for him’. So close had he become that he felt ‘almost as if I had lost a son myself, as I had such an admiration for his qualities and eager courage’. William may not have realised it beforehand, but Jimmy had so impressed White as an ‘outstanding type’ that he included the young pilot in his 1943 Sky Saga, a monumental poem which pays tribute to the Empire airmen.




Sky Saga. Authors copy 

(An aside along the lines of ‘you learn something new every day’. I had long recognised Sky Saga’s Blue Prescott as Bluey Truscott, Darrel Smith as Ray Thorold-Smith, the Irish Boy as Paddy Finucane, and LC Witham as Battle of Britain pilot, Latham Carr Withall, but until reading White’s letter, I had no idea that Jimmy Catanach had also found a place Sky Saga.)

Jimmy and his crew returned. Shelled soundly
On their circuit of the Ruhr. Dazed by searchlights;
Tracked by fighters. And once in depthless solitude
Among the silent peaks and valleys of the clouds,
Icing glazed their rushing wings. […]
Above the silent sea they found the ‘fix’ to bring
Them home… ‘Another jaunt to Happy Valley!’
Said Jimmy, ‘We kept our date though. That’s the thing!’


‘It is too unutterably sad to think that after all Jimmy had done and had endured, that he was not spared to see you again.’ White, who thought it ‘too cruel that he was not fated to return, to play an equally good part in peace as he has done in war’, understood only too well the drive to escape, the need to take any risk to be free from captivity. He too had been a prisoner of war, but he had successfully escaped from his Turkish prison camp in the last months of the Great War.

White was unforgiving of the Germans, and perhaps this reflected a similar sentiment in William Catanach which was later honoured by his wife. ‘I hope no pity will be extended to the merciless Huns responsible, who seemed to have forgotten that it is the obligation of an officer to endeavour to rejoin his comrades…’. On 14 October 1947, exactly six months after William’s death, Sybil received a letter from Elly Koester, the sister of Hans Kaehler, who was one of those accused in the war crimes trials of shooting Jimmy. Elly pleaded for Sybil to intervene on her brother’s behalf. ‘Dear Mrs Catanach—I now beg you is it your wish that my brother—who is honestly innocent—now must die?’ Still grieving over the loss of her husband and stepson (she continued to insert memorial notices ‘in loving memory of Jim’ in The Argus’s In Memoriam lists for some years) it seems Sybil was silent. It appears that ‘no pity [was] extended to the merciless Huns responsible’ and Kaehler was executed along with his surviving fellows (one committed suicide) in February 1948. (Elly’s poignant letter is on display in the Shrine’s James Catanach Exhibit.)




Photograph of James Catanach Exhibit, Shrine of Remembrance (POW section) by Vlad Bunevich, the Shrine of Remembrance, 26 October 2016. Reproduced courtesy of the Shrine of Remembrance. 
Elly Koesters letter is bottom centre.

White understood the tragedy of Jimmy’s death and appreciated the importance of imparting meaning to it. ‘Though such a heavy blow to bear, your grief will perhaps, in some ways be softened by the proud knowledge of what Jimmy had already achieved while so young, and to know that his name and memory will long endure as among the noblest of those who gave their all.’ (How little did White realise that Jimmy’s name would still be recognised and that his contribution would be honoured by the Shrine.)   
White was the father of four daughters. While he may not have experienced the father/son bond, he reached out to William Catanach as a parental equal: in Jimmy, he wrote, ‘I feel almost as if I had lost a son myself’.

White’s emotional letter was preserved in the scrapbook, as was that of a father who laid bare his own grief even as he attempted to condole with William. ‘My dear friend’, wrote Charles Martel on 18 May 1944. ‘I was very sad indeed to read in this morning’s paper that your dear Jimmie had died in Germany.’ Martel, a French wool buyer of Prouvost, Lebevre and Co and long term resident of Australia, understood bereavement. Like William, he had lost a wife—his Australian born wife had died in early January 1938—and he too had lost a son.

Maurice Joseph Martel and Jimmy had been friends. They had trained together at Somers under Thomas White’s command, and the Collection holds a photograph Jimmy and his fellow recruits of Hut 61 at Somers, including Maurice and Tony Gordon, one of his roommates at Stalag Luft III. Jimmy, Maurice and Tony went on to complete their elementary training at Narrandera, all participating in the ‘inspiring spectacle’ of 8 EFTS’s first graduation parade. Maurice was the course’s high flyer (pun intended). He received the highest aggregate at the examination and claimed the book prize. Tony was 6th in the order of examination passes and Jimmy was 11th. Maurice had shown such promise before his Hudson failed to return to base on 17 March 1942, during a patrol from RAF Station Wick in Scotland. (A small clipping noting that ‘Melbourne Flyer’ Maurice had been posted missing in action is pasted onto one of this album’s earlier pages.)  



‘A cold shiver ran through my spine, reopened a wound which has never and never will heal, that of my dear Maurice lying in his Bomber under the cold waters of the Norwegian coast’. Although confessing to envying William Jimmy’s safe exit from operations and eventual return, Charles could sympathise with a father who grieved as he did: ‘I know how you feel and what your thoughts are’. Charles recognised that William, like he, had been ‘frustrated of what you loved most’.

As someone who had experienced the same searing grief, Martel could entreat his ‘dear friend’ to be brave. Like Thomas White, he knew that the only way they could make sense of senseless deaths was to look at the contribution that preceded those deaths, and in doing so, place the deaths of their servicemen sons in the age old tradition of noble sacrifice: ‘His sacrifice has not been in vain. Soon Germany will be crushed for ever and on the day of victory you will only think that Jimmie, Maurice and thousands of others have pioneered the way to that victory.’ And rather than grieve for lost lives, ‘we can only thank them and be proud of them.’ Martel, however, knew that it would be difficult to move from sorrow to pride and so he closed his heartfelt condolence by entreating William to ‘believe me, dear friend.’

Perhaps William finally came to believe that his son’s death represented a noble sacrifice. Acting in her dead husband’s stead with the Imperial War Graves Commission, Sybil advised her choice of inscription for Jimmy’s gravestone in Poznan’s Old Garrison Cemetery: ‘His duty fearlessly and nobly done. Ever Remembered.’





War Graves Record Card. NAA A8231, 6/CATANAH JAMES World War II


Jimmy Catanachs grave, Old Garrison Cemetery, Poznan. Courtesy of Geoff Swallow, RAAF Deaths Photographic Archive of Headstones and Memorials WW2 

The Catanach family had an extensive network of family, friends, and business ties, evidenced both by condolence notices in The Argus and the James Catanach Collection’s Scrapbook Two. While I can’t state it conclusively, it seems that those mounted in the scrapbook represent only a small sample of the many the family received. Towards the end of the book, spanning 17 and a half columns over nine pages, is a list of names. There is no heading to indicate what the names represent and I can’t recognise all of them (some are just surnames), but judging by the ones I do recognise or can make out, I believe this is a list of condolences received. Some of the names that stand out for me are: Peter Isaacson DFC DFM, well known bomber pilot renowned for his exploits in Q for Queenie, as well as and his parents; Paddy Padula (Spitfire Paul Angelo ‘Paddy’ Padula of 452 Squadron); Wing Commander Thomas White DFC; John Lawson (adjutant of 455 Squadron who wrote the next-of-kin letter); Jack and Alan McAinsh, Jimmy’s mother’s brothers; H Fairchild and J Fairchild, relatives of Sybil Catanach; Margaret Cully of Narrandera; EM Anderson, Bob Anderson’s mother; 3AW; and popular singer and radio identity Jack O’Hagan. An Egan appears on the list and I wonder if it could be Richard Egan who was a fellow inmate of Stalag Luft III? Righetti also appears. Perhaps it is Alan Righetti, another fellow prisoner who recalled: ‘I did not know Jimmy Catanach when I first arrived in Luft III, but not long before the Escape, we saw a lot of each other, and shared many common interests. I was very envious of his ‘good luck’ when his name was drawn from the hat to go out through the tunnel, and my name was not!! My parents knew his when we lived in Melbourne.’ 

Clearly, the letters of sympathy pasted into this album do not represent all that the Catanach family received. So, where are the condolence notes to Mr and Mrs Catanach jointly (only Don Rutter asked after Sybil)? Where are the personal ones to Sybil, Jimmy’s loving and loved stepmother? Even if there was no place for Sybil’s correspondence in this album, why are her sympathy notes not found elsewhere in the James Catanach Collection? And above all, why have only these particular condolences and related items been singled out and preserved in an album that began as a celebration of aerial success but ended up as a memorial?

Male grief is often hidden from public view. Men grieve stoically and in silence. I believe that the compiler—I am sure it was William Catanach—preserved the items which best reflected and acknowledged his grief, which revealed something of his son, and which helped him make sense of a tragic and senseless loss. Compiling and maintaining the album was his way of expressing—making visible—the love he felt for his son. The letters he kept especially also demonstrate that he wasn’t alone in his grief. They reinforce his belief, that, at a time when the world was still at war with the allies in the ascendant, Jimmy’s death had helped bring about the defeat of the enemy.

The scrapbook celebrates and commemorates Jimmy Catanach’s service, achievement and death and is tangible evidence of a father’s love and loss. Through it we learn how much Jimmy affected those around him; we also learn how one person responded to Jimmy’s death.

So much family material relating to Jimmy has either been lost or is held elsewhere. As such, the James Catanach Collection cannot tell us everything we want to know about Jimmy’s life and service and impact on those who loved him. We do need to go elsewhere, reinforcing that no archive can represent the final word on any subject. Even so, this Collection is significant and Scrapbook Two has a particular importance. It endured for decades after 65 year old William Catanach’s death on 14 April 1947 following an illness of several weeks. It was treasured within the Catanach family before passing into the Shrine’s custody. While no doubt the memory of it is still cherished within the family, others can see the impact of Jimmy’s service, captivity and death. Preserving Charles Martel’s letter—and every other item in the James Catanach Collection—and placing it in with a public custodian has ensured that others will know that Jimmy’s death had meaning.


James Catanach. Authors collection 

I would like to acknowledge the assistance of the Shrine of Remembrance’s helpful staff who made my visit such an enjoyable, illuminating and moving experience: Jenna Blyth, Collections Manager, who facilitated my access to the James Catanach Collection, Neil Sharkey, Exhibitions Curator, for additional details about the collection, and Vlad Bunevich for the photo of the James Catanach exhibit. My thanks too, to Marek Lazarz of the Stalag Luft III museum in Poland for details about and the photos of Jimmy’s watch; Geoff Swallow and his RAAF Second World War Deaths photographic archive of headstones and memorials for the photo of Jimmy’s gravestone; and Drew Gordon for the close up photos of Jimmy’s watch in the Shrine’s James Catanach Exhibit and the photo of his father and Jimmy in Stalag Luft III.


I would like to note that this personal response to items in the collection is my own and may not reflect that of the Shrine of Remembrance.



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