Italian village commemorates sacrifice of WWII Aussie airmen


Though the war ended seven decades ago, the memories of many WWII airmen live on. Many such men remained on assignment during the close of the war, and two such men died shortly before the ceasefire was finally reached. These two brave Australians were based in Italy at the time of the ill-fated mission which claimed their lives, and now the country remembers the two WWII airmen seventy years after their deaths.

While Italy had been claimed for the Axis, this was not all well and good with many of its citizens. Even after Mussolini’s death, fascism gripped the northern half of the country, yet many northern civilians fought hard against the Germans and their imposed regime. Squads of WWII airmen fighting for the Allies were sent to aid the rebellious citizens in their cause, but not all were to return. Among the losses were Flight Sergeant Clarence William Lawton and Thomas “Bob” Roberts Millar. Lawton was found in his plane’s wreckage sometime later; Millar’s plane disappeared entirely.

Clarence Lawton was not shot down on his assignment, but rather fell prey to inclement weather. After his plane crashed into the Alps, his family heard nothing of his fate for some time other than that he had died along with a handful of other WWII airmen flying the same assignment. Lawton’s modern relatives became more aware of his fate once they were contacted by the relative of one of his comrades who was curious to learn more, the SBS News reports.

Bob Millar left behind a daughter when he disappeared. Anne Storm grew up with a growing curiosity concerning her father’s fate, and she contacted dozens of families seeking information on the fates of other WWII airmen who had flown with Millar in Europe. While Lawton’s wreckage was eventually located, Millar’s never was.

The Italian town of Cantalupa erected a memorial to the WWII airmen aboard Lawton’s flight, forever honoring the men who helped them fight for freedom from fascism. They now gather to honor the men annually, and have since been joined by the now-acquainted relatives of Lawton and Millar. British and Australian flags are raised as a further sign of respect for the heritage of the men lost in the mission, demonstrating good will toward the Allied nations that were considered enemies by the Axis powers. Anne Storm may never learn precisely what happened to her father, but she can rest knowing that in a quiet Italian town, all WWII airmen who flew for his same cause are being honored by those he had been called to aid.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE