Why the Archive Began

The two nearest coffins are those of Sandy Grant and Tony Lawrence, Thackway crew, killed on 17 December and buried together on 23 December 1943. Hind Archive.

The Archive has its roots in a tragedy which occurred on 16/17 December 1943, Black Thursday. At that time, the THACKWAY crew belonged to 97 Squadron, which was stationed at Bourn in Cambridgeshire. The crew’s first operation was to Berlin on 16 December. Returning safely to England, they crashed in a horrific accident caused by fog. Five of the crew were killed: Ted Thackway, Tony Lawrence, Sandy Grant, Jack Powell, and George Grundy. Joe Mack, the wireless operator, was critically injured but eventually 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.

FIRE BY NIGHT, The Story of One Pathfinder Crew and Black Thursday, written by Jennie Mack Gray, the daughter of Joe Mack (far right, above), was first published in 2000, with a second edition in 2011. The research carried out for the book, and the huge correspondence with the author which came out of its publication, became the genesis for the RAF Pathfinders Archive. This website commemorates all Pathfinder aircrew, but it particularly remembers the Thackway crew because of the horrific experiences they suffered in their very short flying career.