As a young RAF pilot, David Raikes wrote movingly about his World War II comrades who didn't come back. Then shortly before the end of the war, he and his crewmen failed to return themselves after their plane was shot down. His family published a book of his poems after the war.
Let it be hushed; let the deep ocean close
Upon these dead. Others may laud the parts they played,
Raise monuments of marble in their names.
But we who flew with them and laughed with them,
We other crews who, living side by side,
In outward contacts slowly came to know
Their inmost parts, would rather leave untouched
The wound we healed, the love we buried there.
These men knew moments you have never known,
Nor ever will; we knew those moments too,
And talked of them in whispers late at night;
Such confidence was born of danger shared.
We shared their targets, too; but we came back.
Lightly we talked of it. We packed their kit,
Divided up such common useful things
As cigarettes and chocolate, rations stored
Against a rainy day that never came.
'And they cast lots among them!' Someone said,
'It was a pity that he wore his watch;
It was a good one, twenty pounds he said
He paid for it in Egypt. Now, let's see,
Who's on tonight. Ah, Taffy - you've a good one!
You'd better leave it with me.' And we laughed.
Cold were we? Cold at heart. You get that way.
Sometimes we knew what happened; how they crashed.
It was not always on the other side.
One pranged upon the runway, dipped a wing,
The navigator bought it, and the gunner.
The other two got out, a little shaken.
Bob crashed when doing an air test, just low flying
- At least they think it was, they couldn't say.
The plane was burning fiercely when they found it;
One man thrown clear, still living, but he died
On way to hospital. The loss was ours, -
Because I shared an aeroplane with Bob.
We had to get another D for dog.
And some did not come back. We never knew
Whether they lived - at first just overdue,
Till minutes changed to hours, and still no news.
One went to bed; but roused by later crews,
Asked 'Were they back yet?' and being answered 'No',
Went back to sleep.
One's waking eyes sought out the empty beds,
And 'Damn', you said, 'another kit to pack';
I never liked that part, you never knew
What privacies your sorting might lay bare.
I always tried to leave my kit arranged
In decent tidiness. You never knew.
But that is past. The healing river flows
And washes clean the wound with passing years.
We grieve not now. There was a time for tears,
When Death stood by us, and we dared not weep.
Let the seas close above them, and the dissolving deep.
One evening in April 1945, David Raikes and his crew (shown above, Raikes is on the left) took off on a mission to attack a bridge on the River Po, then carry out a wider reconnaissance. They never came back. They lie in Padua War Cemetery. Read an account of this in our Archive Report.