When RAAF air gunner and wireless operator Denis Kelly’s Lancaster bomber took off on its final mission in July 1944 little did he know that he would spend the next four months and his 21st birthday avoiding capture in Occupied France.
Kelly, a VFLUA member from 1951-52, lived one of the more remarkable, but rarely told stories of survival: from bailing out of his burning plane by parachute with the hatch “red hot with great lumps of jagged metal” and killing a German with his bare hands to avoiding capture.
Few if any of his umpiring colleagues would have been aware of the story. In an interview in the Herald-Sun he said he rarely told his story because “people would think you were the greatest liar in the world”. Click here to read the original story.
As a VFL field umpire Kelly officiated in 22 VCFL matches in his two years on the list. Coincidentally his first match was the RAAF versus Clydebank at Sale.
Recently his story was told in the Australian War Memorial’s quarterly magazine Wartime. Click here and then turn to page 28
While Kelly endeavoured to make it to London for the unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial he was upset that the commonwealth government did not take up the costs for all the remaining veterans who wished to attend. He was a vocal advocate for the cause as indicated by his appeal on ABC news in 2012.
As the Wartime story indicates when he did make it and was reunited with one of his former aircraft. Both had survived.
In February 2015 Kelly was among four veterans who accepted the award of Legion d’honneur at the French embassy in Melbourne on behalf of his crew-mates and those who had passed on during and after the war. Click here to read the full story and see the story from ABCs 7:30 report