Why The Website Was Set Up

By Jennie Mack Gray

This website, although not in this particular form, has been going since 2001, an eternity in website years. The original inspiration for the website was researching my father’s life in the RAF; this research eventually became my book Fire By Night, The Story of One Pathfinder Crew and Black Thursday, 16/17 December 1943.  

My father’s name was Peter Mack but his nickname was ‘Joe’. Details of his crew can be seen on the Thackway crew page.

joe mack
Joe Mack, 1944. Mack family archives.

In November and December of 1943, the Thackway crew was stationed at Bourn, flying with 97 Squadron and the Pathfinders. Their first operation was to Berlin on 16/17 December. Returning safely to England, they crashed in a horrific accident caused by fog. Five of the crew were killed, including the pilot, Ted Thackway. My father was critically injured but recovered; he was lucky and survived the war. So many others did not, including the Rear Gunner on his aircraft at the time of the crash, Leslie Laver.

Les, as he was known to his loving family, was the only other survivor of the crash; he suffered only minor abrasions and shock. Returning to operations one month later, he was killed on his second operation, flying with the Steven crew.

This website commemorates all the crews of 97 Squadron, but it particularly remembers the Thackway crew because of the horrific experiences they suffered in their very short flying career.

Leslie Laver, probably 1942. Laver family archives.


Website designed and maintained by Jennie Mack Gray

Copyright 2017

LOVE, FELLOWSHIP, AND LOSS: RAF Bomber Command Aircrew, Their Families, and Their Friends