Frank Smith & Patch the Dog

The most famous Bomber Command pet is Guy Gibson’s Labrador, Nigger. However, other dogs appear in photos of Bomber Command aircrew, some of whom traveled with their owners on bombing sorties.

Frank Smith was with 97 Squadron at the end of the war, flying as a rear gunner with a pilot named Harrison. The celebratory photograph below may either have been taken when they finished their tour or when the war ended.

frank smith and possibly harrison
Frank Smith, left, probably with his pilot Harrison

Patch the dog appears with Frank (they seem to have been inseparable) in a number of photos. It is thought that Patch was brought back from Belgium after the war ended and that the crew hid him on the plane in order to get him back.

The photograph below is one of the best informal photos we have seen of the quiet life back at base. Patch appears on the far left, held safely by Frank.

with patch the dog

With many thanks to Margaret and Jeffrey Bossons.

frank and patch

1409 Met Flight

1409 Met Flight’s primary duty was to ascertain the weather conditions over the targets before a bombing operation. They also checked weather conditions over the British Isles, which were critical to the safe take-off and landing of operational aircraft. This might seem like a dull routine job, but it was anything but. The dangers which the crews faced were extreme,

The new page on 1409 Met Flight gives a brief outline of its work.

It also includes details of the Maurice Briggs and Baker crew, together with links to some of the extensive research which has been carried out about them.

Soviet PoW Gift

Ralph Cecil Saunders, a navigator with 97 Squadron, was one of only two survivors of the crew of Kenneth Painter, which was shot down on 20 October 1943. The other survivor was Tom Andrews, the wireless operator.

Saunders spent the rest of the war at Stalag IVB at Mülhberg, south-west of Berlin. This was liberated by the Red Army on 23 April 1945; however, the bulk of the prisoners were not released by the Russians until around 22 May. (See Footsteps on the Sands of Time, by Oliver Clutton-Brock.)

Although we have not yet traced official records, it appears that a number of Soviet prisoners were also kept at Mülhberg, one of them being Alex Polewoj. Generally speaking, Soviet prisoners were kept separately from British prisoners, and treated abysmally. Saunders made friends with Alex Polewoj through the wire, and in gratitude the Soviet soldier gave him the cigarette box.

Despite the appalling conditions in which the Soviet prisoners were held, Saunders would later recall potatoes (presumably cooked and therefore edible) being thrown through his window by them when he was in the “cooler”.

There will be more on Ralph Saunders and Tom Andrews on another post.

With thanks to Peter Saunders.

saunders cigarette box

Adding Pages for each PFF Squadron

We are gradually adding individual pages, or groups of pages, for each PFF Squadron.

Just added today is the summary list for the 20 PFF Squadrons by type, that is to say ‘Heavy’ (Lancaster, Wellington, Stirling, or Halifax – all were flying Lancasters by August 1943) or Mosquito.

The total of 20 squadrons includes 1409 Meteorological Flight, which flew unarmed Mosquitoes on survey flights.

RAF Pathfinders Archive, “Tales”, No. 5

Tales from the Archive this month is on Wally Layne’s wartime log. Wally was a member of a 97 Squadron crew which was shot down over Germany in September 1943, and he spent the rest of the war as a prisoner. His logbook is one of the best surviving examples of the many thousands of logbooks which were made by British prisoners of war.

Tales from the Archive 5. 22 February 2018

Wally Layne has his own website, created by his son David, with an immense wealth of documentation and images, see: WALLY’S WAR

 

 

New Trustee: John Clifford

There has been a bit of a delay in announcing the good news but the Charity Commission has now been updated with the details of our new trustee, and we are delighted to welcome on board John Clifford, Senior Curator at the Pathfinder Collection, RAF Wyton.

John has an immense fund of knowledge about the Pathfinders, and was the key man in setting up the Black Thursday display at RAF Wyton last December, just in time for the 74th anniversary, a massive achievement considering how short of time we all were to get the Deverill collection purchased and on display.

Further details of our partnership with RAF Wyton.