When the Crouch family home burned down in 1957, James Crouch used his father’s handwritten notes and other sources to recount his father’s time during World War II serving as an Aussie RAAF pilot in Squadron 97 of the legendary Bomber Command.
As a fifteen-year-old boy growing up in Sydney, Francis Norman ‘Norm’ Crouch knew he wanted to be a pilot after he saw his first airplane-a low-flying Tiger Moth Biplane. He was so transfixed he crashed his bike into a nearby thicket. It was a fascination which led him to become a trainee pilot in the RAAF where he became notorious for his low-flying antics.
Part of an early group of Australian airmen who went to Canada with the Empire Air Training Scheme, Norm survived the perilous Atlantic crossing to Scotland. He was then sent to Coningsby, England in 1941 to join Squadron 97 where he became the first Australian to fly a Lancaster bomber in air raids over Germany.
“It was the air force that incurred the highest casualty rate of all Allied forces in WWII. Of the 50,000 killed in action 3,480 were Australians.”
Norm also survived the war and was one of the lucky few to return home.
“Of those Australians who left in early 1941 and completed a full tour, 30 missions or more and then spent the rest of the war flying and training others in Operational Training Command, only 8% returned.”