Sourcing the Archive

penny crewSourcing the Archive:

This Archive would not have developed so far without the continued help, support and encouragement of people who still care strongly about the wartime RAF. The Archive relies on you for further pictures and information on the Pathfinders, their ground crew, their friends and their families. Anything however small is of interest.

We have an informal, friendly, and enthusiastic approach, and a never-ending curiosity about what life was like in Bomber Command, the Pathfinders, and 97 Squadron, so please contact us with whatever you would like to share, using the form on the CONTACT page to send the initial email.

About the Archive

The Archive covers many aspects of life in RAF Bomber Command from 1942, the year in which the Path Finder Force (the PFF, later known as 8 Group) was formed. However, the Archive’s specific focus is upon the Pathfinders as they were generally called.

Historically, this Archive has always been centred around 97 Squadron, which belonged to the Pathfinders for one year, from April 1943 to April 1944. During this period the squadron was stationed at Bourn in Cambridgeshire.

Much of the material on this website relates to 97 Squadron, and it is by far the richest resource. However, we are now looking to substantially increase the Archive to include all PFF squadrons, PFF HQ, and the wider Bomber Command and Home Front milieus.

The aim of the Archive is to provide an in-depth illustration of what life – and death – were like for Pathfinder aircrew, their working comrades, their friends, and their families.

Seward - Uncle Phil & Auntie Kay

The objectives of the Archive are:

  • to collect and conserve memories, photographs, documents, and artefacts relating to the RAF Path Finder Force of the Second World War;
  • to digitise the material and provide access via the internet to the widest possible audience;
  • to arrange displays with suitable museums to which the public have access, and to loan or donate relevant material to such museums;
  • to promote the use of the archive for education into the British, Dominion, Empire, and Allied wartime heritage.


Our previous websites were the 97 Squadron website, the Black Thursday (16/17 December 1943) website, and the Pathfinders website. The following addresses are now obsolete.

Why the Archive Began

By Jennie Mack Gray

The Archive has its roots in a tragedy which occurred on 16/17 December 1943, Black Thursday. At that time, the Thackway crew was stationed at Bourn. Their 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. My father, Joe Mack, 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 Pathfinder aircrew, but it particularly remembers the Thackway crew because of the horrific experiences they suffered in their very short flying career.

Many other Pathfinder aircrew were lost due to fog on 16/17 December 1943, and it was a disastrous night for Bomber Command. The research I carried out for my book on that night, Fire By Night: The Story of One Pathfinder Crew and Black Thursday, 16/17 December 1943, was the genesis of the website which grew into this archive.