My encounter with Phil Lamason’s amazing life — the Kiwi who saved 167 fliers in Buchenwald
By Hilary Pedersen
It’s remarkable now to look back to a time when I had never heard of Phil Lamason. For the last almost three years this man and his exploits have taken over my life.
The story of kiwi pilot Phil Lamason saving 167 airmen from the Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp isn’t well known in New Zealand, even among military personnel.
For me, objectivity flew out of the window early.
Confronted by the tapestry of a story with as many threads as Phil’s demanded only one response. Bury yourself in it.
Like Joseph’s coat Phil’s life had an amazing range of colours.
Think family, flying and farming. Think hot, sunny yellow for the love of his wife and children, blue for the sky, green for pastures.
As the title ‘I Would Not Step Back’ indicates Phil was, above all else, a man of courage. Think lion-hearted red.
In the context of ‘lily –livered’ there is no white in his story. But neither white nor red would be mentioned were it not for the multitude of dark grey and black threads in this life tapestry. The colours of doom.
Extraordinary heroism at Buchenwald Camp
So now think Buchenwald concentration camp and 168 Allied airmen. Phil’s heroism and leadership demonstrated among the conditions of hell and depravity into which these men were dumped at the end of a five day journey in a cattle truck, are the testament for his story.
Facing down a German officer, an Alsatian dog and a firing squad, Phil defied the odds.
But read too of his lighter moments, his farming and community life and of the Hugenot –influenced forebears who shaped the man.
A cast of characters, writers, designers and supporters
Read of the cast of characters with whom he came in contact. Among them is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.
‘I Would Not Step Back’ is the result of a team effort including other writers. It is topped off by the breathtaking design and layout expertise of Wellington photographer and creator Sal Criscillo.
Thanks go to the members of the Phil Lamason Heritage Trust, the Lamason family and Glenys Scott whose friendship with Phil and interviewing tenacity made this project possible.
If you are interested in purchasing the book, go to www.phillamason.com. The fascinating story is beautifully presented and lavishly illustrated.
(KIN will have a review of ‘I Would Not Step Back’ in late May – early June.)