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Survivors of war are still defying odds

Zach RelphSouth Western Times
Frank Mouritz and Norman Smith display the French Legion of Honour medals they received for their heroics as Lancaster bomber pilots in World War II.
Camera IconFrank Mouritz and Norman Smith display the French Legion of Honour medals they received for their heroics as Lancaster bomber pilots in World War II. Credit: Harvey-Waroona Reporter, Zach Relph

At 20 years of age, Frank Mouritz and Norman Smith had zero margin for error while serving as Lancaster Bomber pilots over Germany in World War II.

Lancaster crews flew daring missions for the Bomber Command, dropping bombs on German targets and Nazi-held strongholds across Europe.

Each Lancaster plane consisted of seven men – a pilot, bomb aimer, flight engineer, navigator, mid-gunner, rear gunner and wireless operator.

With danger looming each time they took to the sky, every Lancaster crew was only given an eight-week life expectancy.

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All Lancaster pilots had to endure aerial combat and navigate foreign conditions in cabins that were not pressurised.

Mr Mouritz, who is the last surviving member of his crew which successfully completed 33 missions in “Mickey the Moocher”, said every member played a vital role in keeping each other alive.

“The worst thing was taking off with seven to eight tonne of bombs and having high-octane petrol on board,” Mr Mouritz said.

“You only have to make one mistake to be in trouble.”

Remarkably, Mr Mouritz, who retired in Busselton more than 30 years ago, and Mr Smith, who lives in Mandurah, only met for the first time at the weekend.

The retired World War II veterans, both 93, were brought together by Australind war historian John Ablett at the Featured Wood Gallery and Museum on Saturday.

Mr Ablett said it was an honour to have the two pilots share stories and photos with each other at his museum.

“There aren’t many of them left now so it was a great occasion Norm and Frank got to meet,” Mr Ablett said.

“They are both French Legion of Honour medallists which is France’s highest honour – these boys deserve it.”

Mr Smith will accompany Mr Ablett this weekend to the South West leg of the Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience to be held at the Eaton Recreation Centre.

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