From time to time we include details of the air war which form the background to who the Pathfinders were and what they did.
This particular oddity is such fun that we cannot resist it. It comes from RAF Station Tain, and celebrates those who had made it through the war and were about to be demobbed. As the certificate says, it is a token of remembrance made between brothers in arms, the person named on the certificate being about to become ‘a mere civilian’.
It was sent by David Wingate, and it had originally been awarded to one of his relatives who was a Section Officer in the WAAFs.
Referring back to one of our December posts Christmas Eve 1944, 35 Squadron on the loss of the Kenyon crew, we recently had an email from R Maddox who wrote:
Just to add to information about the Christmas Eve 1944 crash at Great Paxton (post ‘Christmas Eve 1944, 35 Squadron’), the Form 540 notes that ten aircraft were detailed to take off in the late afternoon to mark and bomb the marshaling yard at Nippes, Cologne. The companion Form 541 records that Pilot Officer Arthur Kenyon’s aircraft (PB366/’S’) was designated a ‘Supporter’ aircraft. They took off at 15.35.
More information on the incident and crew can be found at: Aircrew Remembered
The Aircrew Remembered site has photographs of six of the crew and states that the aircraft was taking off with the assistance of FIDO and almost immediately crashed into trees. This would fit with the eyewitness report about the aircraft appearing out of dense fog.
Here is a good old-fashioned needle-in-a-haystack query, but one which is funny and endearing as well. Around 1988, a little boy of about 10 years old, flying home from holiday, found himself sitting next to a ‘hefty, square built man who had an arm missing’. This man turned out to have been a Lancaster pilot in the Pathfinders during the war. Below is the report that the little boy wrote afterwards.
The question is obviously can anyone say who this Pathfinder pilot was?
It’s worth adding that we were contacted about this mystery Pathfinder by the little boy’s father, who told us: “My son is now a GP and still mad about planes”.
We are planning to do a small online exhibition on aircrew training overseas, but here is one sneak preview item, a rare survival of what must have been many hundreds of such telegrams, sent home by proud young men who had just qualified in their chosen trade.
This is the first such telegram we have ever seen. It was sent by John Conybeare Landon (who would serve with Main Force) to his younger sister, June.
With many thanks to his nephew, David Wingate.
When the website for the Archive was set up, there was some debate as to whether to also include on it Jennie Gray’s huge archive on RAF missing research, but in the end it was decided it was best kept separately. This separate but linked website is entitled “RAF Missing Research, War Graves, & Remembrance”, and we will be sharing relevant posts from it on our Facebook page.
See: “RAF Missing Research, War Graves, & Remembrance”
Some Pathfinders just stand out – whether from their striking personality, unusual looks, outstanding bravery, or the dramatic incidents which occurred whilst they were flying with the PFF. One such is Frank McEgan, to whom the latest issue of TALES FROM THE ARCHIVE is dedicated: Tales from the Archive 4. 18 January 2018
See also Frank McEgan‘s page, and the film of him in 1943.
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.