Remembering Uncle Chris
It’s more than seventy years since Flight Sergeant Christopher Bolger lost his life in Hannover – and yet his niece Margaret Hall (nee Bolger) has helped perpetuate the man’s memory long after Germany’s unconditional wartime surrender.
Margaret, who lives not far from the College’s Bundoora campus, recently saw fit to forward precious photographs of Chris Bolger for inclusion in Parade’s archive - in recognition of that young man’s early years as a student through the late 1920s.
She also took time to prepare the following story of her uncle’s all too short existence.
Christopher Kevin Bolger was born in the inner-city Melbourne suburb of North Fitzroy on September 12, 1915 to George Kevin and Rose (Sheahan) Bolger who at the time lived in 16 Kneen Street. Chris was the elder brother of Bernard George Bolger (who later fought for the 2/8 Australian Field Regiment and Moira Joan, who was adopted by cousins of the family after her mother died shortly after Moira’s birth.
Christopher’s RAAF application papers reveal that he attended St Mary’s School Thornbury, CBC Parade East Melbourne, St Kevin’s East Melbourne and finally St Patrick’s Sale. He completed his intermediate year whilst at CBC and his leaving at St Pat’s.
In 1931, Christopher relocated with his parents and siblings to 116 Dundas Street, where his father lived until his death in 1960. The site, on the corner of Victoria Road, is now occupied by a service station, but back then George ran it as a poultry farm.
Through 1934, Christopher worked in sales for the city sports centre Hartley’s Ltd. of 270 Flinders Street. Four years later, he studied Modern Merchandising by correspondence with Hemingway and Robertson in Melbourne’s Bank Place, and at the time he applied to join the RAAF listed his employment in retail cycle and radio.
An active sportsman, Christopher also played cricket and football with Preston CYMS and he swung the golf club for Hartley’s.
On August 12, 1940, Christopher joined the 5/60 Battalion as Private. On May 1 the following year, he joined the RAAF and was subsequently trained at Somers and Sale in Victoria, as well as Cootamundra and Parks in New South Wales.
Christopher embarked for Canada in November 1942 and for the next four months was attached to the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was then committed to the Royal Air Force until August and ultimately with 46 Squadron bomber command.
On the evening of September 27, 1943 678 allied bombers took off from bases in Great Britain to attack the German city centre of Hannover. Amongst them was a Lancaster JA 861, which departed RAF Binbrook at 1939 hours. Aboard the Lancaster were crew members Pilot Leo Dargie, Navigator Stuart Cole, Wireless Operatior Air Gunner Frank Whiteside, Flight Engineer Arthur Barnes, Mid Upper Gunner William Thornhill, Rear Gunner Cyril Jeffcock and Mid upper Gunner Christopher Bolger in only his fourth mission.
Also aboard was a 1x4000lb bomb, 3x1000lb bombs, and 48x30lb and 840x4lb incendiaries. and twenty of the squadron’s aircraft took part in the raid.
Tragically, the Lancaster crashed in the target area with all seven crew members killed. Those men, Christopher Bolger included, were interred in the Hanover War Cemetery.
Christopher’s father George was later given the grim news in writing. “Your son carried out his duties in a very keen and conscientious manner, and his loss will all the more deeply be felt in the Squadron,” Commanding Officer Rathburnan wrote.
On learning of his son’s death, George, then occupying a property in Wattle Glen, vacated the property and never returned.
“Very little was spoken about Uncle Chris, only that his plane was shot down over Germany. He was very clever academically and he never married, and how sad that none of his family ever got to meet him,” Margaret said.
“But thanks to the wonderful records kept at the National Archives, his nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews know a little about our family hero.”
Margaret’s own father Bernard survived the Second World War and lived to the ripe old age of 88. As she said: “Dad died two days prior to his 89th birthday and only six months before he was still cutting down fruit trees in the backyard”.
Today, Margaret is committed to perpetuating the memory of the uncle she never knew – and as for her own father, “My sister Patricia always marches for his squadron on Anzac Day”.