Topic: Poetry and Poets
The late Dennis Hornsey was a World War II pilot serving with No. 76 Squadron flying a Handley Page Halifax Bomber. The crew named their aeroplane Excelsior and had a clenched fist with one finger pointing upwards painted on her side. On the night of 3rd/4th of November 1943, the aeroplane failed to return from an operational flight to bomb Dusseldorf. It had been shot down by a night fighter and crashed at Opgrimbie in Belgium. All seven crew bailed out but six of them were eventually captured and sent to prisoner of war camps. Dennis Hornsey was the only one to successfully evade through Belgium, France, over the Pyrenees and into Spain helped and guided by numerous brave members of the Underground Organisations. He returned to London from Gibraltar on the 11th December 1943.
After the war ended, Dennis Hornsey published his story, and recounted what happened to each of his crew, in a little book called: "The Pilot Walked Home". It is now out of print and very difficult to obtain so I was extremely lucky to find a copy. It is dedicated to the Underground Organisations of Belgium, France and Spain, and those of the R.A.F. who never came back. I was very touched by this poem included at the end of Chapter One of his book. I felt it was appropriate for this special day commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the end of the war.
What Think You, Airman?I do not know if Dennis Hornsey's widow is still living but if any members of his family read this, I hope they will forgive me for publishing his poem here.
by Dennis Hornsey
What think you, airman, when you fly,
So proudly there in heaven's sky?
Do you exult in your great might,
As you go onward through the night?
I think of death beneath my wings,
And of the dire load my bomber brings;
My spirit flinches from the thought
That of this carnage may come naught.
I pray that soon the day will come
When man will offer man his hand,
And peace prevail throughout the land.
I face up to my moment's task
And three things alone of God I ask—
Please help my flesh to stand the strain;
Protect us, Lord, this once again;
And if this cannot be your plan,
Give me the strength to be a man.
Extract from The Pilot Walked Home by Dennis Hornsey. Paperback published by Collins (White Circle) Clear-Type Press: London and Glasgow 1946