Remembrance is time Harry thinks of crewmates who died when he was shot down

PUBLISHED: 07:00 08 November 2015

Harry Penny (inset), now 93, shot down in his RAF bomber over Occupied Europe, but survived

Harry Penny (inset), now 93, shot down in his RAF bomber over Occupied Europe, but survived


Remembrance Sunday is the time Harry Penny thinks of his crewmates who died when his plane was shot down over enemy-held territory.

Harry, now 93, was a young Bomber Command crewman when his plane was hit over Nazi-Occupied Holland.

Gay and Harry... married 71 yearsGay and Harry... married 71 years

He spent the next 10 weeks in peril dodging German patrols in a daring escape across Occupied Europe.

Harry, a working-class lad from London’s East End, joined up at 18 when war broke out in 1939 and was prepared to sacrifice his life for his country, a sentiment that rankles with him today because he is having to live on a meagre State pension that was frozen in 1970, the year he emigrated to Australia with his young family.

“It’s quite unjust,” he says. “It’s the principal—I fought for my country.

“But I wasn’t aware that my pension would be frozen when we emigrated, or I would have thought twice about moving overseas.

Harry and Gay in retirement in QueenslandHarry and Gay in retirement in Queensland

“Life gets more expensive the older you get, which makes things tough.

“We get no help from the Australian government at all. I now live on my pension being frozen for the rest of my life.”

His UK State Pension is £39.50 a week, while his wife Gay, who is 92, picks up £24—that’s just £63.50 the couple have to live on.

It’s not much for a war hero who was 22 when he was shot down during at RAF raid.

He survived the crash and managed to contact the Resistance who smuggled him through Holland, Belgium and France before getting him across the Pyrenees to neutral Spain.

He finally reached Gibraltar, where he was able to get a message to Gay saying he was alive and well. Gay had already been told by letter that he was “missing in action”.

Harry continued serving in the Armed Forces long after the war, receiving the OBE for service in Iraq tackling an uprising and being decorated in Singapore during the Indonesia conflicts in the 1960s.

He and Gay now live in retirement in Queensland. They have been married 71 years. Gay was 15 when they met in 1938.

The couple emigrated in 1970 with their three children when Harry took up a job as personnel manager for a knitting-yarn company in Tasmania.

He continued paying into his UK pension fund—but unaware it had been frozen at the 1970 rates because he was no longer living in Britain. He qualified at 65 for the ‘frozen’ pension in 1987.

His wartime memories flood back every Remembrance Day. November 11 is poignant, with memories of the four crewmates killed when he was shot down over Holland in 1943.

But Harry now finds it physically difficult attending Remembrance Day services in Australia, let alone returning to Britain.

Having his pension frozen for 45 years he feels is unjust.

It doesn’t make him regret serving his country in war—but angry that the government can “treat someone prepared to lay down their life” by freezing their only income.

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