S/L Dunnicliffe (above and at the bottom of the page with his crew in March 1944) was the acting Commanding Officer on the night of Black Thursday, 16-17 December 1943.
He had only taken over from Group Captain N H Fresson on 15th December when Fresson was posted to RAF Snaith. Dunnicliffe was well-liked and a very capable officer, but his was only a temporary caretaking appointment – Wing Commander E J Carter would succeed him as CO three weeks later, on 7th January 1944.
After Black Thursday, the terrible task befell Dunnicliffe of sending 28 letters to the bereaved families, and a further 8 letters to the families of the Brill crew who were missing (and later were confirmed as all killed over Berlin). It is his signature that appears on all the condolence letters.
97 Squadron joined 8 Group in April 1943. The Air Staff had decided that the PFF must be strengthened and on 15 April the RAF stations at Oakington, Bourn and Gransden Lodge were transferred to 8 Group. 2 days later, 97 Squadron moved from Woodhall Spa (5 Group) to Bourn. The entries below in the ORB detail how the squadron arrived at Bourn.
Operational Records Book – April 1943
15.4.43 Bomber Command has ordered the move of this squadron from Woodhall to RAF Station Bourn (satellite to Oakington) with effect from 17 April. The squadron is to move all personnel, aircraft, MT and technical equipment on charge, complete to establishment WAR/BC/249A under arrangements made by HQ 5 Group in conjunction with No 8 (Path Finder Force) Group. The advance party by rail under P/O Pratt, moved off today, also all stores and equipment were loaded onto transport and sent by road to Bourn. The officer i/c reported by phone that everything was in order on arrival at Bourn.
16.4.43 No flying. Some equipment still being transported to Bourn.
17.4.43 The main party, under the command of F/L Holden, moved off by rail to Bourn. W/C G.D.Jones DFC, Squadron Commander, travelled by road, also did F/L L.G.Hind, Squadron adjutant, and P/O Henry, i/c secret and confidential documents.
18.4.43 The airborne party under the command of S/L Burns DFC, consisting of 15 Lancaster aircraft and crews, arrived at Bourn airfield today, having flown from Woodhall in formation.
19.4.43 One more aircraft arrived today from Woodhall.
20.4.43 The rear party arrived by road today under the command of P/O Hodkinson. Also S/L Nind reported to the Squadron Commander after completing the final handover at Woodhall. The move is now complete except for one Lancaster under major repair and the groundcrew.