WW2 vet left behind historic Falcon Field photos The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

WW2 vet left behind historic Falcon Field photos

WW2 vet left behind historic Falcon Field photos

By Zach Alvira
Tribune Staff Writer

A slew of historic images depicting military aircraft, personnel and other historic landmarks from Falcon Field has been left behind by a Royal Air Force World War II veteran.

Bertram Charles Whittle passed away on his 99th birthday on April 26 in Joondalup, Western Australia.

Known as Bert by family and friends, the veteran grew up Ipswich, United Kingdom and decided to enlist in the R.A.F. shortly after his older brother, Peter, announced he would do the same. The two were inducted in 1938. Peter joined as a trainee wireless operator while Bert joined the R.A.F. Photographic School at Farnborough before taking on the pilot training course.

He captured numerous moments through his lens during his time training and in combat. Now, Bert’s son, Eric Whittle, is hoping to share some of the photographs his father took while at Falcon Field with Mesa residents.

“He had a special affinity with Americans after his experience in Arizona while training to be a pilot, and I’m sure they would have gravitated to him also,” Eric said. “More and more he would pause and tell stories about characters in his log or the photo album, and in the telling he became a different man to the one we knew when growing up.

“If anyone should recognize themselves or an ancestor in the Bert’s photos please get in touch on the website or through this publication; I would very much like to pass on my personal best wishes.”

Eric hopes not only to share the photos with historians, but family members of other WW2 veterans as well. He feels not only is their value in piecing together history, but for families of those loved ones who fought in one of the most significant wars in history.

Several pictures depict aircraft the R.A.F. used during training at Falcon Field in 1941. There are also several pictures of soldiers from both the R.A.F. and American forces. Additionally, images from all over the world are also available in the online portfolio Eric has created.

At 21 while fighting in Holland in 1942, Bert was taken as a prisoner of war. He returned to England three years later but without his brother. Peter, some of Bert’s close friends and several thousand fellow airmen lost their lives in the war.

Eric believes this was one of the reasons he took the photos was to show his children what he had been through. He said it wasn’t until Bert’s later years that he was able to relax and have an open dialogue.

“Bert very rarely directed anecdotes of the war directly to his children,” Eric said. “On occasions, he would swap stories with a friend who had also served and been through similar experiences. It was only in later years that Bert could relax with his war stories, and we could relax with him. He used them with goodwill and humor — can we say as a way of laying his demons to rest.”

Bert settled down with his family on their dairy farm in southwestern Australia and became a “champion of the arts and an educator.” He became the director of the Western Australian Art Gallery for many years and was an accomplished artist.

Eric said he feels both pride and relief when thinking about all his father went through.

“Pride because many people have benefitted directly and indirectly from his knowledge in the field,” Eric said. “And relief in the sense that if he hadn’t survived and continued his love affair with mom then I wouldn’t be here to enjoy this conversation.”

Eric has contacted the Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum to share the more than 300 photos his father took during the war. But he hopes Mesa residents will also find them enjoyable, just like his father.

“I think Bert would be quietly satisfied to know this process was going on in his name,” Eric said.

The photos can be found on Eric’s online gallery on Flickr.com by searching his username, “ericwhittle7.”

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