Last Man Standing
Geoffrey Rothwell, Survivor of 71 Missions, POW and Last of the SOE Pilots
- Gabrielle McDonald-Rothwell
15th August 2018
'Stay low, stay on track, and stay alive' was the motto of the RAF's most secret Station, Tempsford. That's exactly what Geoffrey Rothwell did ‒ DFC & Bar, 1939-45 Star, Aircrew Europe Star with France/Germany Clasp, Defence Medal, Victory Medal, Order of Leopold II & Palme, Croix de Guerre 1940 & Palme, Bomber Command Medal, POW medal, La Légion d’honneur ‒ from Bomber Command via SOE to Stalag and back.
Tall young pilot Geoffrey Rothwell flew Wellingtons and Short Stirlings in the Second World War; and anyone who knows anything about that task will understand the significance of the fact that he completed more than 70 missions. But the story doesn't end there: as a Flight Commander on No. 138 (Special Duties) Squadron Geoff dropped agents and supplies into enemy-occupied Europe. His luck finally ran out when in September 1944 he crashed in mysterious circumstances in Holland and became a guest of the Third Reich in the freezing Stalag Luft 1 on the Baltic coast. He starved but survived ‒ until the moment a drunken Russian officer on a white horse arrived to invite the prisoners to a night of revelry in the local village. Even after the war, Geoffrey diced with death as a rubber planter in Malaya during the Emergency, dealing with poisonous snakes and gunmen with the same efficiency.
As a member of Bomber Command, Geoffrey was one of the last of the many; as an SOE pilot he was the very last of a very few. This is his amazing story. Sadly, Squadron Leader Geoffrey Rothwell passed away in November 2017, before this book went to print. He knew it was on its way: his wife, the author, was checking details with him until the end.