Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were days like any other for Pathfinder and Main Force aircrew.
The village of Great Paxton is just west of RAF Graveley, at perhaps a mile’s distance from the old airfield. The peaceful-looking village scene above was the scene of a wartime tragedy, marked by the blue ‘X’, which occurred on Christmas Eve 1944 at about twenty to four in the afternoon.
Colin Stocker, who as a boy lived at Yelling on the outskirts of the wartime airfield, sent Jennie Gray this photograph around 2007. On the back Colin had written the story.
TL-S Lancaster, 35 Squadron, taking off from Graveley crashed at Great Paxton behind four council houses in London Lane. The wing of the plane ripped off tiles of roofs. Stanley Jackson was feeding his hens, saw the bomber coming through the dense fog and ran into his house. After the bomber crashed, he found all the hens dead.
George Carrol pulled one of the aircrew out of the wreckage. He was just alive. All the others were killed. Bombs were strewn in all directions.
Sadly, the man taken from the wreckage also died.
In Bomber Command Losses, 1944, Chorley recorded the crew as being:
F/O A T Kenyon
Sgt L Williams
Sgt A Thomas
F/S A H Cousins
F/S C L Blundell
Sgt C A Winter
Sgt R F A Yallop
This evening, 74 years ago, saw the death of all eight members of the Brill crew when their Lancaster was hit by flak and exploded over Berlin.
Tales from the Archive No. 3 is dedicated to the extraordinary story of Robert Butler’s prayer book, which was in the aircraft with him when it was hit by flak.
Tales from the Archive – 3. 16-17 December 2017
Just in time for the 74th anniversary of Black Thursday, which begins tomorrow, the senior curator at the Pathfinder Collection, RAF Wyton, has created a display around the Deverill collection and other very evocative mementos of the night of 16/17 December 1943. Time was very short to arrange this display, and we are most grateful to John Clifford and other members of the Heritage Centre staff for managing to put on such an attractive display at such short notice. FULL DETAILS
As there has recently been so much information centred on Coningsby and 54 Base, a page has been set up and some photographs have been added of the briefing room for 97 Squadron at that station.
The Coningsby page is under our menu on RAF Stations, where RAF Stations Bourn and Woodhall Spa are already found.
Another copy of TALES FROM THE ARCHIVE is now available, which has details of the Reid crew, the loss of Wing Commander Edward Leach Porter on the Stettin Bay Mining Operation, and the Missing Research and Enquiry Service.
Tales from the Archive – 2. December 2017
For more extensive details of the STETTIN BAY MINING OPERATION, which demanded the most enormous courage from the Controller, Porter, and the two marker Deputies, Squadron Leader Parkes and Squadron Leader Locke, follow the link.
A little later than intended, the first TALES FROM THE ARCHIVE is published this afternoon. It contains more information about Norman Edmondson, mentioned in the last post, together with details of two interesting oddities in the Archive. There are also details of 97 Squadron at Coningsby when it had been loaned to 5 Group.
Tales from the Archive – 1. November 2017
Lost on 30/31 March 1944 on the infamous Nuremburg raid. This was one of four 156 Squadron aircraft, flying from Upwood, which were shot down that night. The aircraft was brought down by a night fighter and crashed at Oberirsen, in Western Germany, east of Bonn. By some miracle, the pilot Lindley survived to become a prisoner of war.
Capt: L Lindley
F/E: Ronald Thomas Harper, aged 21
Nav: John Waite Henry, aged 28
BA: Bankole Beresford Vivour, aged 24
W/Op: John Esprey Bates, aged 22
M/U: Norman Thomson Edmondson, RCAF, aged 20
R/G: Dennis Bertram Bloomfield (no age on CWGC)
Norman Edmonson’s nephew, Gordon, recently sent us some photographs of a small notebook that Norman used to carry with him, which was kept in its own little leather zip-up folder stamped with an Air Force crest.
According to Chorley, Vivour was a Nigerian, an unusual nationality for Bomber Command.
We very seldom hear about what life was like for children on Bomber Command or PFF bases. For a wonderful child’s eye view of life on a Pathfinder base, including a fabulous anecdote about the legendary Mahaddie at a party given for the children of PFF personnel at Warboys, see The Engineering Officer at Warboys.
The purchase of the DEVERILL collection was finally completed last week. This is the first major acquisition of the RAF Pathfinders Archive.
It was very important to buy the collection not only because of Deverill’s iconic status in Bomber Command, 97 Squadron, and the Pathfinders, but also because it would be a huge loss to history if this collection was broken up, as often happens nowadays.
Deverill’s Air Force Cross, DFM, and double DFC, together with other important items, in particular his two logbooks which cover his service from 1938 to December 1943, are now at the Pathfinder Collection at RAF Wyton. As Wyton is still a military base, the Deverill collection benefits from the very high level of security there. The phrase ‘guarded by men with guns and dogs’ pretty much sums up the situation.
The Deverill medals and logbooks will be on display at RAF Wyton by the 74th anniversary of the loss of Deverill and six of his crew, which occurred on BLACK THURSDAY, 16/17 December 1943.
We have two unusual requests for information to post this morning.
One concerns Jurik Herman, a Polish airman who flew as a Navigator in a Mosquito squadron.
The other concerns an unknown airman whom we hope someone can identify, his wartime photograph was kept by the young woman in the photograph above. SEE FULL DETAILS