THE  DOVER WAR MEMORIAL  PROJECT

 

war memorial at dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper


Memorial

 

FOR DONALD JOHN HALKE, RAF VR

D Halke, courtesy Mrs CollorHalke, D. J.    
Donald John Halke, 1802238, was a Sergeant Flight Engineer in the RAFVR, joined to 460 RAAF (Australian) Squadron. He died on 25th February 1944, and is buried at Durnbach, Germany

Donald was born on 12th February 1923, and lived at 9, The Ropewalk, Dover. His father John was a boilersmith at the Packet Yard in Dover, and his mother, Amy, was a conductress with the East Kent Road Car Company. Phyllis was Donald's older sister; she was a year and ten months when Donald was born.

They went to the Pier infants' school, and Holy Trinity school. Donald left when he was 14, and worked at the jewellers, Gunn's, cleaning and delivering. He obtained a scholarship to the Dover School of Art in 1937. After a fall from his bike, ending in hospital, he went to Wenlock Whistler's, the accountants. From there he obtained a job in the ticket office at Dover Priory, and was then transferred to Deal. Later he went to Orpington, where he lodged with Mr and Mrs Smith. They looked on him as Amy, Donald's mother, courtesy Mrs Collora  "lovely boy", and he would help with chores, such as planting their potatoes. From Orpington, where he was working on the switchboards, he was called up for war service.     

Phyllis meanwhile, became a shorthand typist at the Dover Engineering Works. Her husband, Harold, whom she married in 1942, was on active service, and the Works were evacuated to Watford. As Dover was a front-line town, Phyllis needed a special pass to alight at Dover Priory; nevertheless she made many visits home and remembers Donald taking her heavy case for her on the handlebars of his bike when he came to the station to meet her one Christmas. Amy, their mother, meanwhile, continued with her job as conductress. Even late at night and during raids she would walk home from her shift, determined that Hitler would not keep her from her bed!

Amy and John, Donald's parents, courtesy Mrs CollorIt was in Watford that Phyllis received the news from her mother that Donald was missing. She came straight home, so distraught she fainted four times, and cannot remember the journey from the station to her home. In a Lancaster bomber, Donald had left Binbrook Aerodrome, Lincolnshire, on 24th February 1944, for a raid on a ball-bearing factory in Schweinfurt, Germany. The Pathfinders had gone over, and the enemy were then waiting for the raid.  The one o'clock news announced that 34 planes had been lost that night. It was to be six months before Donald's  death was confirmed. Even  when his possession were returned, his mother always hoped that he would come back. The 4d piece, of which he was so proud, was still missing. 

Donald lies with his crew, three on either side, representing different Commonwealth nationalities.   Phyllis, her husband, Harold Collor, and their son Nigel have visited the grave. Phyllis found writing in the visitors' book hard. Donald was just 21 when he died, and Nigel recalls his mother simply saying, "Weren't  they all so young".

Donald is remembered also at Lincoln Cathedral, at St Clements on the Strand, London, and there is a memorial for his squadron at Binbrook Aerodrome.  A tree has been planted at the National Memorial Arboretum.

To this day Phylllis remembers her brother by placing a cross in the Field of Remembrance at Dover Town Memorial. She keeps his photo in her room, with poppies laid on top. Hilary Whiteoak, Phyllis' daughter, says of her uncle Don, "We never knew you, but you were one of the family we grew up in." 

 filming the grave, courtesy Mrs Collor

Donald Halke once remarked that when they came back from a raid, no one would be there, not even to give them a cup of tea. As his nephew Nigel says, Donald was "just an ordinary young man, called up, who paid the ultimate sacrifice".

Phyllis' poppies, courtesy Mrs Collor

with thanks to Phyllis Collor
with thanks to Nigel Collor


This beautiful picture is of the infants at Holy Trinity School in the 1920s. Donald is in the centre of the front row, holding a balloon. In the third row from the front is his sister, Phyllis. She is second in from the right.

with very grateful thanks to Phyllis Collor


Notes:
Phyllis knew Maggie S-K's own family well. She was evacuated to Watford with Maggie's Aunt Doris, and, when she was a child coming home from school, was seen across the road by Maggie's granddad. The taller girl wearing the crown, in the third row from the back and eighth from the right, is Maggie's mother Vera. When Vera married, Phyllis lent her own wedding veil for Vera to wear.

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