A BATHURST woman’s emotional family reunion features in a new book written by a retired teacher in England.
The Mallon Crew, by Vic Jay, includes the story of 88-year-old local woman Patricia Colley being reunited with her family in New Zealand and learning of the tragedy that befell the family during World War Two.
Mr Jay’s quest to find out what his father did in the war began as a blog and grew into a book that, according to the author, details a series of tragedies but also “amusing and heartwarming episodes”.
He said the project started in 2012, when a “brief taxi run in a Lancaster” reignited his curiosity about his father’s relationship with that aircraft.
Bob Jay, a flight engineer with No. 75(NZ) Squadron, had died in 1974 at the age of 55, leaving his son Vic with nothing more than his log book and the name of his New Zealand pilot, Bill Mallon.
They were able to visit the house that Alec had built.
Nearly 40 years later, Mr Jay discovered the names of the rest of the crew and embarked on a four-year voyage of discovery to trace their families.
Bill Mallon’s father, Alec, was Ms Colley’s great uncle (her grandmother’s brother).
He served in the Boer War with the New South Wales Mounted Rifles and migrated to New Zealand in 1910.
“She remembers vividly, as a small child in about 1930, waving off her grandparents as they sailed from Sydney to visit ‘Uncle Alec’, who by that time had married his sweetheart, Dora, and had four children,” Mr Jay said.
“The families lost touch, but Patricia remembers her grandmother showing her a 1940 newspaper report of one of Alec’s sons missing in action in Europe.
“Incredibly, as a result of her son-in-law’s diligence and some research I had undertaken for the book The Mallon Crew, she discovered the shocking scale of the tragedy that had befallen Alec’s family.”
Ms Colley and her family travelled to New Zealand in 2016 for what Mr Jay described as “an emotional family reunion” with her second cousins and their families, relatives she had no idea existed.
“They were able to visit the house that Alec had built shortly after arriving in New Zealand over a hundred years earlier. When asked later why her trip was so important to her, a tearful Patricia said ‘it had joined up the family circle’,” Mr Jay said.
The Mallon Crew is available from Amazon, Kindle, Booktopia and Fishpond.