Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Isaac 'Ike' Hewitt - Co. 5 Air Gunners

Obituary: Hewitt, 99, kept diary close to the heart (By Daniel Pearce - Simcoe Reformer November 10, 2015) As the end neared for Ike Hewitt — who was shot down over Europe in the Second World War and survived three-and-a-half years as a POW — a horrifying image re-emerged that he couldn't shake. It was the sight of the rear gunner of his bomber trapped in flames as the plane went down. “He couldn't get to him to save him. He couldn't get it out of his mind,” said Bob Castles, a lifelong friend of Hewitt's who regularly visited him in the Delhi retirement home where he lived at the end of his life. Unlike the gunner, Hewitt did survive. He bailed out but cut away his parachute too soon as he floated to the Atlantic Ocean below, crash landing into the freezing water. Unconscious, he was pulled to safety by Germans and spent the rest of the war behind barbed wire. After the war, Hewitt, who died Sept. 15 age 99, returned to the Norfolk County area. He lived a quiet life, raising a family and working as a buyer for Imperial Tobacco. It wasn't until he was in his 90s that he came to prominence following the release of his wartime diary: an amazing compendium of photos, drawings, and paintings that captured life in a German POW camp. Hewitt had used cigarettes he got in Red Cross packages to get other prisoners to give him their artwork and photographs. The diary became so valued he kept it with him, hiding it from the Germans as he was moved from camp to camp. One time, he risked his life by stuffing it under his shirt during a forced march from Poland to Berlin, a winter ordeal many of the prisoners didn't survive. The prisoners were told to discard everything they were carrying in order to make the trip go easier or face execution. In 2012, local residents realized the value of the diary and turned it into a book and a DVD video. Hewitt was feted at an official opening at the Simcoe Legion for the book and was the special guest at the Warriors Day parade at the Norfolk County Fair in 2011. In an interview in 2012, Hewitt said he hadn't purposely kept the diary a secret all those years. “I wanted to show people what we went through when I came home, and then nobody was interested,” he told the Simcoe Reformer. Hewitt's images from the camps painted a positive picture of life as a POW. There were photos of hockey games on a frozen pond, theatrical productions with sets and costumes (men played the women's roles) as well as humorous paintings and drawings. But life in the camps was also “inhumane,” local resident Harry B. Barrett, himself a Second World veteran and the author of the book on Hewitt's diary, said in 2013 interview. In his post-war years, Hewitt never talked about his war experiences either good or bad, said his daughter Pat Tarcza of Midhurst, Ont. “He kept it to himself,” she said. It wasn't until 17 years ago after his wife Kay died that “he changed and talked about things,” said Tarcza. After that, local residents decided to do something with Hewitt's vivid and historic record – and the man got the recognition he deserved. December 18, 1941 Op Brest Manchester R5795 shot down (60345) P/O Neville George Stokes Aussie with RAFVR (P) missing (AUS400298) Sgt Gwynne Pryce Thomas (P/FE) PoW (AUS402283) Sgt Thomas Michael Wade (N) PoW (R/64413) F/S Isaac 'Ike' Hewitt R/64413 RCAF (BA) PoW +(989237) Sgt. John Robert Conn RAFVR (WOP/AG) missing +(R/76013) Sgt. Morton Ralph Heinish RCAF (MUG) missing +(641560) Sgt. George Gardiner Fell 641560 RAF (Rear AG) missing

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