SHOWBIZ: Heroes to remember


To commemorate Malaysia Day, History channel will premier special programmes about the nation and its people


THIS special documentary is a story of courage, determination and patriotism. Airing today at 9pm, it tells the story of two pilot brothers — Henry and Cyril Tallala — who to this day were among the very few known Malaysians to fly for the Royal British Air force during World War II.

Henry, 24, a fighter pilot for the RAF since 1941, flew rocket-carrying Typhoons for the 182nd squadron, while his brother Cyril, flew the Spitfire for the 118th Squadron.

In July 1944, Henry took off with four British Typhoons to provide air support to the Allied ground troops fighting the Nazi defence line south of the city of Caen, northern France. Henry’s squadron was tasked with attacking a concentration of tanks at Fontenay Le Marmion and pin back the German defence formation south of Caen. This would allow the Americans to launch Operation Cobra, designed to breakout from the Nazi defence line in the west.

Henry’s was the third aircraft in a group of four Typhoon aircraft. During the 60-degree dive and after firing his rockets, Henry came under heavy anti-aircraft fire from Nazi ground support and disappeared from formation. Henry had been shot down and crashed 18km away from his target. Hearing the news, his brother Cyril flew alone over northern France in his mustang back into the battle zone. Desperately searching for his brother, he traced Henry’s flight path but found nothing.

Twenty one days after the crash, French farmer Louie Bree found a grave by the side of a wrecked aircraft, presumed to have been dug by the French resistance movement.

After the war in 1945, Henry’s father, with some information about the aircraft from the British Minister of Defence and the French local police, flew to France and tracked down Louie Bree’s farm which led him to Henry’s grave. Fifty years later, the British government exhumed Henry’s body and transferred it to the military cemetery in Banneville Le Campaigne.

Every year since then, the small village of Airan have paid tribute to this Malaysian hero in a ceremony. One member of the Tallala family will always be there.

In 2013, 69 years later, one of his last remaining brothers makes his final journey to pay tribute to Henry, and for the first time, the Malaysian flag flies above the Allied memorial at Noyers Bocage accompanied by the Malaysian national anthem.

Lost Over France: Malaysia’s Unsung Hero is also the story of one of the most cutting-edge planes of its time — The Hawker Typhoon, the forgotten wartime aircraft that always flew in the shadow of the glamorous and highly revered Spitfire and Hurricane.

The documentary also reunites some of the key storytellers of that period. From Henry Tallala’s surviving brothers and nephews, to some of World War II’s last remaining British Typhoon pilots. Alongside photos from the Tallala personal collection, you will also see unique archive footage of the Typhoon’s role in World War II from the Imperial War Museum London and high-octane graphic re-enactments reliving the last journey of Henry.

Two pilot brothers, Henry (left) and Cyril Tallala, were among the very few known Malaysians to fly for the Royal British Air force during World War II.

The last photo of Henry.

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