“’Stay low, stay on track, and stay alive’ was the motto of the RAF’s most secret Station, Tempsford. That’s exactly what Geoffrey Rothwell did ‒ DFC & Bar, 1939-45 Star, Aircrew Europe Star with France/Germany Clasp, Defence Medal, Victory Medal, Order of Leopold II & Palme, Croix de Guerre 1940 & Palme, Bomber Command Medal, POW medal, La Légion d’honneur ‒ from Bomber Command via SOE to Stalag and back.”
In episode 53 I talked to Gabrielle McDonald-Rothwell about the SOE agent Diana Rowden. After we had stopped recording Gabrielle told me about her husband Geoffrey Rothwell, was the last surviving pilot for SOE during the war. At the time she was in the process of checking through a biography of Geoff’s experiences.
Tall young pilot Geoffrey Rothwell flew Wellingtons and Short Stirlings in WWII; and anyone who knows anything about that task will understand the significance of the fact that he completed more than 60 bombing missions. But the story doesn't end there: as a Flight Commander on No. 138 (Special Duties) Squadron Geoff dropped agents and supplies into enemy-occupied Europe. On his 71st mission he crashed in Holland and became a guest of the Third Reich in the freezing Stalag Luft 1 on the Baltic coast. He starved, but survived until the moment a drunken Russian officer on a white horse arrived to invite the prisoners to a night of revelry in the local village. As a member of Bomber Command, Geoffrey is one of the last of the many; as an SOE pilot he is the last of a very few. This is his amazing story.
Sadly since then Geoff has passed away, but Gabrielle has managed to complete the book recounting his life and wartime experiences and its been released, the title is ‘Last Man Standing’.
In this bonus episode of the podcast I talk to Gabrielle about Geoff’s life.