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Obituary: Belfast chemist spent two years as PoW after bomber shot down

Published 13/05/2015

Navigator: John McFarland
Navigator: John McFarland

Wartime airman John Edward Lithgow (Paddy) McFarland, who has died at 93, spent nearly two years as a German prisoner-of-war after he baled out of his Stirling bomber after it had been shot up by an enemy nightfighter.

He was held in infamous Stalag-Luft III camp, which was featured in the film The Great Escape.

Navigator Paddy was on his way home from a raid on the shipping port of Kiel when his Belfast-built aircraft came under fire in the skies over occupied Denmark in 1944. He and two other members of the crew who also jumped landed safely in a field, but four others perished.

Paddy was given refuge for eight days by the Carstensen family of farmers who hid him in a hayloft. But time ran out for the No 75 (NZ) Squadron navigator and he was eventually picked up and spent the rest of WWII as a Stalag prisoner.

This son of a Londonderry farmer served in the Home Guard in 1940 before being called up the following year and eventually posted to Millom in Cumberland after training in Air Observer School in Winnipeg and assigned to No 75 Squadron, whose aircraft were Short Stirlings.

The young McFarland, whose pharmacy studies were interrupted by the war, returned to his career back on civvy street when the hostilities came to an end in 1945 and opened a chemist's shop in Shaftesbury Square.

In 1984, 40 years after he was a PoW, Paddy and his wife Elsie travelled to the Danish town of Gram to attend a memorial service for his four dead comrades and to be reunited with the Carstensen family who had given him shelter.

Belfast Telegraph

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