A Carrick pilot’s amazing escape from occupied Europe during World War Two has been recalled during VE Day celebrations last week.
Tom Hutton was serving with the RAF in April 1943 when he was forced to bail out of a bomber plane over Belgium.
The young radio operator only managed to evade Nazis clutches with the help of resistance fighters.
His daughter Goffinet McLaren, who was born just weeks after the end of WWII, grew up in Carrick and attended the Model School.
Goffinet, who now lives in South Carolina, penned a remarkable account of her father’s escape and the people who helped him in ‘Tom: A Life Saved - Lives Lost.’
Members of Carrick’s Royal Air Forces Association welcomed the US resident and her husband Ian to the 2062 squadron ATC base last Thursday as the town prepared to mark Victory in Europe Day.
For every Allied airman who was saved, two or three resistance members were captured by the Nazis.Goffinet McLaren
Speaking at the event, Goffinet related how her father was returning from a bombing mission over Czechoslovakia when his plane was hit by flak.
Parachuting into the Belgian countryside, Tom was forced to go into hiding to evade German forces. Instrumental in these efforts was the secret resistance movement, which over a period of months smuggled Tom and a companion through Belgium, France and eventually Spain.
The journey was fraught with the danger of discovery - not only for the evaders, but for the network of resistance fighters, said Goffinet.
“For every Allied airman who was saved, two or three resistance members were captured by the Nazis,” she added.
“My father’s story is one that needed to be told, both for my family and the families of the brave members of the resistance, without whom I would not be here today.”
In a gesture of gratitude, Goffinet was named after a Belgian priest whose contacts within the movement proved vital in getting her father home.
Meanwhile, Tom’s great escape was mirrored by another County Antrim man, Alfie Martin, who bailed out over Belgium on the same night after his plane was shot down.
Alfie, who was based for a time with the Army at Kilroot, was an observer aboard a Halifax bomber. The 94-year-old veteran said: “My story is very similar to Tom’s, although I didn’t meet him until after the war. There were five ‘evaders’ in Northern Ireland and we had a few get-togethers.”
The event had extra significance for the Carrickfergus RAFA branch, which will celebrate its 75th anniversary this September. The branch pays tribute to Tom Hutton annually with a memorial trophy, awarded to the ATC squadron who does the most to support RAF endeavours.