I was going through another one of the boxes I had brought home from mother's. This one was filled with letters from her favourite cousin in the early 1940's. He had signed up to serve in the RCAH and trained a as bomber navigator, flying in a Short Stirling bomber. Those planes were reportedly hated by their crews, as it had a short ceiling, had difficulty climbing, and were frequently destroyed on bombing missions as they would be hit by bombs droped by higher flying planes. But Mother's cousin, or 'cuzzin' as he called himself, was thrilled to be in the air.
There were several letters from the young man. Many came with in RAF letterhead, complete with the motto per ardua ad astra- with effort, to the heavens. In a letter from May of 1942 he reported that the men were getting crewed up, and he wrote the names of his crew home to mother. They were as fine a group of men as had ever been, and he was proud to be counted among them.
He and those fine men would be dead two months later. They were flying a training mission and flew into a cliff in the north of England. Eyewitnesses said the crew had been throwing heavy equipment out of the plane in order to make it a little lighter and help the plane to climb just a little higher. Only the tail gunner survived the crash, and not for long.
RIP, cousin I never knew.