Alton Webteam: February 2016
Many people influence us during our lives and sometimes we do not even realise who they really were.
I was fortunate enough to be selected to be trained to fly during my National Service from 1956 to 1958. Even better than that, at the end of the 14 week 'square bashing' course at RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey, Lincolnshire, I learnt that our Course was to be sent to Canada for flying training. Initial training was on Chipmunk aircraft at Centralia, Ontario, but the main training was on Harvards, for which we were sent to No.4 Flying Training School at Penhold Alberta.
The Station Commander, who we hardly ever saw, was a Group Captain Galloway, but the Wing Commander Flying, in charge of No.4 FTS, was a J.C. McCarthy. He was a strict disciplinarian and his influence was everywhere. The slightest misdemeanour was punished, but I also remember him as a superb pilot and was very pleased if I performed well when he took me as instructor on a training flight.
It was only a few years ago that I discovered that J.C. (Joe) McCarthy is famous for having taken part with RAF 617 Squadron in the dambusting raids to the Moehne, Eder and Sorpe dams in World War II. He led a group of Lancaster bombers on a different route from the main attack, in order to create a diversion, and several of his group were shot down on the way. McCarthy then went on his own to attack the Sorpe dam. The mountainous terrain meant that a steep dive was needed down to the lake, and sharp turn to get to the target. He was not satisfied to drop his bomb until his approach was absolutely right, requiring nine attempts to manoeuvre his unwieldy Lancaster before he got it right and dropped his bomb exactly on target. If only I had realised who he was at the time I knew him.
Our Christian lives are influenced by people we don't necessarily know well either. A Christian is someone who has met Christ, acknowledges him to be Lord and trusts him as Saviour. We meet Christ through people, sometimes through parents, families and friends, school, clubs, youth groups, books and Church. We thank God that there are so many ways in which we can meet Christ. May we recognise him when we see him. The rest is up to us.
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