REUNITED: Bob Smith, 94, and Ian Innes, 96, meet up for the first time in 75 years.
REUNITED: Bob Smith, 94, and Ian Innes, 96, meet up for the first time in 75 years. Patrick Woods

The tale of two heroes

AGAINST all odds, Bob Smith and Ian Innes made it out of the Bomber Command in one piece but three quarters of a century passed before the two reunited.

The navigator and bomb aimer in the Royal Australian Air Force were lucky enough to survive the 'Chop Rate', which is used to describe the six-and-a-half men in every 10 who didn't return home from World War II.

"We often say 13 out of 20, because the Germans didn't do things in bits," Mr Smith said.

Mr Smith lives in Mooloolaba with wife Alma, and Mr Innes recently moved from his home in Sydney to Peregian Springs.

They pair met for lunch last week at the Peregian Golf Course.

After training side-by-side in Canada, the gentlemen were separated at deployment and a friendly rivalry began as the two became divided by the planes they flew.

"Halifax don't talk to Lancaster," Mr Innes joked.

His aircraft was gunned down during combat, and he spent two-and-a-half months making his way through France.

The bomb aimer lost his shoes on the descent but was luckily found by a farmer who gave him enough supplies to embark on a 200km walk to the Swiss border.

He remembered basic French from the "exciting" novels his teacher used to bring for them to read in school.

It became his most useful skill for making his way back home.

"If I didn't know any French, I would be dead," Mr Smith said.

When he returned home he was one of four from the Royal Australian Air Force to receive a Military Medal in the war for the information he was able to pass on from his adventure.

Mr Smith departed after completing 31 sorties behind enemy lines.

Men were able to retire from service after 30 sorties. However, most crews were gunned down by 13.

The two remembered their time fondly, despite the hardships that came hand-in-hand with serving in the war.

"We would do a couple of corkscrews and be in trouble when you got back because you would have popped a couple of rivets," Mr Smith said.

"When you look back on the squadron, it was a great family," Mr Innes said.

The International Bomber Command Centre will open the United Kingdom's tallest war memorial next month.

Mr Smith and Mr Innes won't attend but will be avidly admiring from home here on the Sunshine Coast.


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