Belgians will honour a hero from Wagga this Saturday who was killed in action 70 years ago, in a ceremony that has marked the anniversary since 2000.
RAAF Flying Officer Robert Bruce Meiklejohn was 21 when he managed to wrestle with his stricken Stirling bomber and save it from crashing into the village of Achel on the night of June 21-22, 1943, sparing civilian lives.
Mr Meiklejohn and his New Zealand navigator Charles Redwood died in the crash, following a dogfight with German aircraft, while five of the seven crew abandoned the plane mid-air under Meiklejohn’s orders.
Peter Meiklejohn was only six when his brother Bruce died.
“I was here (at the family farm at Downside) and I can remember the night they rang to say he was missing and about 10 days later a telegram came through to say he was killed,” he said.
Mr Meiklejohn said the family didn’t learn about the details of Bruce’s death until many years later and he visited the memorial site in 2006.
“To this day the Belgians are very grateful for what the allies did for them,” he said.
“You get that feeling when you go over there, even from the next generation down.”
Nephew David Meiklejohn, who runs the farm where Bruce once lived, attended the ceremony in 2000 in which a plaque was unveiled at the memorial dedicated to his uncle.
“It’s similar to our Anzac march,” he said.
“One of Bruce’s nieces is going to the one that’s on this year. I think it’s lovely that people remember the involvement of Australians in WWII and the sacrifice they made.”
David Meiklejohn said three of the crew who escaped the crash had visited his farm and the annual ceremony meant a great deal to his family.