News: Former RAF POW returns to RAF Mildenhall
Story by Airman 1st Class Preston Webb
MILDENHALL, England - The 100th Air Refueling Wing derives its rich heritage from the 100th Bombardment Group, but RAF Mildenhall owes its history to several units throughout the years, such as the Royal Air Force Bomber Command No. 15 Squadron during World War II.
Maurice Howard Bailey, former prisoner of war during World War II and former RAF wireless operator, returned March 7, 2014, to tour his former duty station — RAF Mildenhall, England.
In August 1943, Bailey was part of an aircrew flying a raid over Nuremberg, Germany, when the aircraft was shot down; Bailey managed to survive the crash uninjured.
“The night we were shot down, three of the crew didn’t make it,” Bailey said. “Four did, I was the only one who was lucky enough to be uninjured.”
After evading enemy forces for weeks, Bailey said he was captured near the border of Switzerland. He spent the rest of the conflict surviving as a POW.
“After I was captured, the war was still progressing. The Americans and the British — or the Allies as they were called then — were advancing from the west, with the Russians on the east,” Bailey said. “The Germans, for some unknown reason, marched —shambled us really — north to Lübeck.
“We managed to get a radio at one point — not sanctioned by the Germans of course— so we did get the news,” Bailey said. “We actually knew about the invasion (D-Day) before the camp commandant called us together in the middle of the morning to tell us.”
After the Allied victory, Bailey returned to his home in Poole, England, and said he kept in touch with a few of the surviving crew members.
When he heard about the death of the last of his former crew members, the 92-year-old Bailey returned to his former duty station to honor their memory.
“It was a real privilege to meet Mr. Bailey and hear his story,” said Mark Howell, 100th Air Refueling Wing historian. “He is a very valued former RAF aircrew member who made tremendous sacrifices, not only for his own country, but the entire Allied war effort.
“He was undoubtedly surprised at the changes made to RAF Mildenhall, just as we are in awe of his efforts and service during World War II.”
Bailey’s unending perseverance during World War II and his dedication to his comrades more than half a century later, serves as an example for all service members on RAF Mildenhall — past, present and future — to consistently perform to the best of their ability and never forget their history.