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Adelaide WWII veteran makes social ANZAC connection

Community social restrictions haven’t stopped Adelaide World War II veteran Fred
Brown from connecting with his former RAF Lancaster bomber crewmate to
commemorate ANZAC Day.
Fred, a former “gunner” originally from England and who now lives at ACH Group’s
Kapara residential care home in Glenelg South, recently connected online via ‘Zoom’
with the crew’s pilot, Bruce Cunningham who resides in New Zealand.
Fred, 98, and Bruce, 100, who coincidently share the same birthdate, haven’t seen
each other for 75 years.
“I was very happy to hear Bruce’s voice again after all this time,” Fred said. “We will
always remember our time in Bomber Command and the Lancaster’s crash in
Fred and Bruce had incredible stories to share when they linked up on screen for a
chat which lasted 40 minutes.
They were among the crew of a Lancaster bomber when it was shot down during a
mission over Belgium in 1944. Fred parachuted to safety and hid in the home of a
local farming family before he was eventually caught and became a Prisoner of War.
Bruce also parachuted to safety, landing on the roof of a two-storey café but after
later emerging through a trap door where ten enemy soldiers were waiting, he too
was captured and became a Prisoner of War.
At a time of widespread community hardship and scarcity, the silk parachutes of both
men were made into wedding dresses by the respective daughters of the farmer and
the café owner.
After the war, Fred worked as an accountant and in the building trade while Bruce
built a career in his accountancy practice in Wellington.
For Bruce, it was an opportunity to hear how his old mate in Australia was going, “to
reminisce about our wartime experiences together, including flying over the white
cliffs of Dover as Vera Lyn sang”, he said.
Helping connect the two men was ACH Group’s Lifestyle Co-ordinator at Kapara,
Michelle Williamson, who with the help of Fred’s family was able to track down Bruce
and set up the onscreen meeting of mates.
“It’s lovely to see these two gentlemen connect, particularly at a time of social
distancing and restrictions,” Ms Williamson said.
“ANZAC Day is a significant time for many of our residents, many of who served our
country so selflessly during war.”
As part of its approach to Healthy Ageing in residential care, ACH Group helps
residents remain as physically, mentally and socially connected as possible. This
involves looking at innovative ways for social engagement based on their individual
experiences and interests.
“We recently organised for Fred to visit the Aviation museum given his love of
planes,” Ms Williamson said.
“It was great to see him enthusiastically recounting stories about flying and his time
in the Royal Air Force.
“The virtual meeting between Fred and Bruce is a great example of how technology
can bring people together regardless of their address or age.”

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