Hal Mettam, RAAF Bomber Pilot

Today we are adding to the Library on our new website an article by Tim Willasey-Wilsey, Visiting Professor of War Studies at King’s College London. It concerns Hall Mettam, a member of the RAAF, whom Tim met in Beirut in 1974 just before the civil war which tore Lebanon apart. Hal was flying Boeing 707s for Middle East Airlines, but had once been a Pathfinder pilot. Hal and his wife Elizabeth eventually retired to England and Tim kept in touch with them until they died. It was only then that Tim saw Hal’s logbooks, and was able to paint the full picture of his career in the RAAF, including his time with the Pathfinders. An Australian Pathfinder Over Germany

Photograph shows Hal, left, and Keith Saladine, his bomb aimer, a fellow Australian. (Mettam family photograph)

Remembrance: Black Thursday

On Thursday and Friday this week we remember the 50 Pathfinder aircrew who were killed in crashes in England on Thursday and Friday 78 years ago.

The crews had just returned safely from that night’s operation to Berlin when a series of fatal accidents occurred due to dense fog, difficulties in landing and petrol shortage.

For the names of all who were lost, see our new website page: Pathfinder Losses on 16/17 December 1943

Updates to New Website

There have been a number of additions to the new website, including a section for articles written by relatives or by members of the public. Below you can find links to the two new articles which have been posted today, one on Mark Gleed, a Mosquito navigator with 139 Squadron, and the other on Geoff Baker, a Lancaster pilot on 97 Squadron.

If you would like to propose an article for publishing on the website, please get in contact at our new site, details at the end of this post.

Remembrance Sunday

The total wartime losses for the Path Finder Force were given by their commander, Donald Bennett, as being 3,618 men.[1] It was a large figure for a small Force which only came into existence in the fourth year of the war.

Today we feature just one of those lost Pathfinders, Flying Officer Lewis Walter Castle Austin, who was killed by flak on the night of 7/8 March 1945 and brought home by his crew, that of Owen-Penny, flying with 582 Squadron. The crew were very fortunate to survive the severe damage to the aircraft.

In his letter of deeply-felt condolence to Lewis’s wife, his commanding officer Wing Commander John Clough wrote of how exceptionally popular Lewis has been, and of his ‘great charm of manner and his keen sense of humour’. He also wrote:

I am particularly to express the sincere regrets of his captain, Squadron Leader V G Owen-Jones, and of the of the crew who flew with him in his last sortie in the loss of a real colleague and friend.

Photograph and information courtesy of Helen Austin


[1] Bennett, Pathfinder, p.259.

Migration to the New Website

This post provides a permanent link to our new website, which has been under development for a few months now. Although there is a great deal more to do, it is shaping up well. The catalogue system has already proved its worth; it would have been impossibly long-winded to superimpose such a system on this old website, which was one of the major reasons for the move.

We hope you will enjoy the new website.

Kind Regards – The TRUSTEES

Pathfinder Aircrew

This book has been 14 years in the making; it contains many personal stories, letters and photographs from the Archive, and has been written by our Chairperson, Jennie Mack Gray.

For full details, including table of contents, page and photo samples, please go to our new website: PATHFINDER AIRCREW: Courage, Love and Loss in Bomber Command’s Elite Force.

Free shipping for a limited period.

Hardback, 300 pages including 16 page illustration section, 37 colour illustrations. Price £25.

Ken Newman – RIP

It is with great sadness that we must pass on the news that Ken died from COVID on 31 January. Tragically, he was diagnosed with the virus on his 100th birthday on 13 January.

Our thoughts are with his family at this very difficult time. Due to the virus they were unable to be with him in his last illness and his birthday was the last time they saw him.

Ken with his copy of Kevin Bending’s book on 97 Squadron. Photograph by his grandson, Danny Newman.

Ken Newman’s 100th Birthday

It seems that there may have been a mix-up about the exact date of Ken’s birthday. One source (family) said 21 January, another 13 January. We are checking but in the meantime please send your goodwill messages in as soon as possible and don’t leave them until the 15th which was the original cut-off date!