Fatal Mission is the story of Australian navigator Oscar Furniss, just one of 55,000 young men who perished while flying for Bomber Command during World War II. Lovingly crafted by his nephew, Mal Elliott, this book brings to life a young man whose name was never spoken by his family and who was a stranger to his modern-day descendants. Elliott follows Oscar from his carefree childhood in the Blue Mountains through his training over the vast emptiness of Canada to the mist-shrouded patchwork landscapes of Britain and on to the hostile skies of occupied France. He uses the accounts of the two surviving aircrew to piece together the events of the fateful night that saw most of the crew of Lancaster JA901, affectionately know as Naughty Nan , perish as pilot Colin Dickson heroically manoeuvred his burning aircraft away from the towns and villages that dotted the landscape. This has been a difficult book for Elliott to write as it contains a harrowing description of his uncle’s last moments. The terrible impact of the deaths of the aircrew are vividly described alongside the miraculous tales of the two survivors. But for the family of Oscar Furniss there would be no miracle, just the lingering weight of deep and lasting grief. This is a story that moves beyond the technical descriptions of bombing missions to describe the human toll of conflict. It underlines the crucial importance of commemoration, of refusing to allow those who perished in war to be forgotten. Theirs was a sacrifice that we who live in freedom should never forget.
Mal Elliott was born in Katoomba in 1948 and grew up in Wentworth Falls and Sydney. Both his parents served in the Royal Australian Air Force during World War 2. He was educated in Sydney and his first career path was as a Mechanical Engineering cadet with Hawker De Havilland. His next career was as a Surveyor and he continued working as such until late 2018. Mal has always had a strong interest in the military and its history; travelling extensively to visit battle fields where Australians have served and fallen. He served in school cadets for 2 years and then for 15 years with the Australian Army Reserve; both in the Royal Australian Engineers and then the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. Since 2009 Mal has volunteered as a tour guide with the Australian War Memorial.