A local historian is calling for a poignant tribute to a young airman from Wigan who was cruelly murdered by the gestapo.
Thomas Walsh, writing in this week’s Observer, has uncovered the tragic story of Ronald Walker who volunteered for aircraft training on his 18th birthday, on October 9, 1940.
He received his pilot’s wings two years later but was shot in the back by German gunmen as he tried to surrender. Ronald, or Ronnie as his family knew him, had spent Christmas at home in Springfield in 1943 before returning to action but was shot down on June 22, 1944, with seven crew aboard, six of whom perished.
Ronald told Dutch resistance he didn’t remember leaving the aircraft and must have been unconscious during his fall. Ronnie was able to evade capture for several weeks thanks to the brave members of the Dutch resistance and after several moves between safe houses eventually finished up in the home of Coba Pulskens, known by everyone as Aunt Coba.
Aunt Coba was a single woman aged 60, who had already defied the occupying Germans by hiding Jews and Allied airmen in her home. When asked to harbour two airmen at her home at Tilburg while on their journey to Belgium, she immediately agreed to help, a decision which would cost her her life.
But as Canadian Airman Roy Carter, Jack Nott an Australian and Ronnie sat down to eat an evening meal, German soldiers burst into the house, forced them into the garden, lined them up against a wall and shot the three men more than 100 times in cold blood.
When Aunt Coba was asked for a blanket to cover the bodies, in an extraordinarily brave act of defiance, the old lady produced a Dutch flag which she had kept hidden ready for the eagerly awaited liberation and laid it over the bodies.
That flag now hangs in the Airman’s Chapel in Lincolnshire, but Mr Walsh believes it would be fitting if it was to be sent on loan to St Anne’s Church, in Beech Hill, because that is where
Ronnie celebrated Christmas with his family before returning to action for the final time.
Mr Walsh said: “It would be moving and proper if the flag could one day hang in St Anne’s for a brief time, Christmas would seem an apt time because on his last Christmas he worshiped there or the anniversary of his death in June."
You can read Thomas's full feature on Ronald Walker in this week's Wigan Observer, available until March 13.