Forbes WWII pilot's ID tags back in family hands

The identification tags of a Forbes serviceman who died in World War II have been returned to family members, 76 years after his death in Europe.

Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said he was honoured to present the family of Flight Lieutenant Kevin Fell's family with his identification tags at the Australian War Memorial.

"Flight Lieutenant Fell was praised as a brilliant pilot with zeal and determination to get on with the job and I was honoured to present his relatives with his identification tags, which were discovered in France," Mr Chester said.

"The tags were recovered from a previous local Red Cross headquarters and in 2019 were returned to the Sir John Monash Centre at Villers-Bretonneux by the French Remembrance Committee in Héricourt.

The identification tags were presented to Flight-Lieutenant Fell's half-brother and nephew, both also named Mr Kevin Fell, and half-sister Mrs Gai Winter.

"Although we never knew him, my sister Gai Winter and I both witnessed as growing children the grief experienced by our father, Lindsay James Fell, and his pride and love for his eldest son," Flight Lieutenant Fell's half-brother Kevin said.

"We remember also today his young widow Elsie Fell, who never remarried, and the loss of her beloved husband. And how we heard from people in Forbes of a smart, energetic young man who laughed a lot."

Nephew Kevin Fell was only a young child when his uncle flew out to serve.

"I remember him once, my grandmother had a party before he went to the UK," he said.

"I remember him sitting on the stairs with his wife, who was a Forbes girl, Elsie Gavin."

Elsie had sent the Flight Lieutenant's flight log book, shoulder boards and an exercise book from his training.

Nephew Kevin says the family now plan to bring these items to Forbes to be kept in the museum.

Nephew Kevin described the efforts of the French community where his uncle's plane crashed as "absolutely amazing".

"They have gone to a lot of trouble," he said.

"It's very touching and quite emotional that the people of Héricourt would treat these items with such honour."

On 15 March 1944, Flight Lieutenant Fell joined a large-scale attack on the German industrial centre of Stuttgart when his Halifax failed to return to base in Yorkshire, and later that year in June the British embassy confirmed his death.

"The news of Flight Lieutenant Fell's tragic death confirmed his wife and family's fears, and rocked his community of Forbes - they were grief stricken," Mr Chester said.

"I thank Flight Lieutenant Fell for his service and sacrifice and his family who shared the effects of loss and sacrifice."

The Advocate reported the tragedy on Friday, June 16, 1944.

"Kevin, as he was familiarly known ... returned to Forbes to join the clerical staff of the Municipal Council at the age of 17.

"He enlisted in the RAAF and went into camp on August 16, 1941, at Bradfield Park with other Forbes boys Jack Low (this week reported missing over France), Jeff Kevin (now in India as a fighter pilot), Brian Kevin (recently arrived in England) and Keith Hodge (in England for some considerable time"

"While in training at Narromine, the gallant airman was married to Miss Elsie Gavin, of Forbes, who is now receiving widespread sympathy in her sad loss.

"Besides his parents, one brother (Les), two sisters (Gloria and Mrs M McGinty all of Sydney) are grief-stricken with the official notification."