“The experts on the Air Staff who turned down the Mosquito as a type in the early days might be interested in the argument which subsequently became current to the effect that one Mosquito was worth seven Lancasters. For those mathematically minded, here is the exercise: A Mosquito carried a little over half the bomb load of a Lancaster to Berlin. Its casualty rate was about 1/10th of that of the Lancaster. Its cost was 1/3rd of the Lancaster, and it carried two people in its crew instead of seven.”
To read more, see our new Page: Bennett on the PFF’s Mosquitoes
Many of you will know that this December sees the 75th anniversary of Black Thursday, 16/17 December 1943, in which the Pathfinders lost 50 men killed and several seriously injured due to fog in England after the return from a Berlin operation.
We are seeking help with putting details and photographs to all the men flying that night. Whilst so much has been shared over the years, it is possible that we may have missed updates on certain aircrew. Please get in touch with us if you think you may have something we don’t know about.
We particularly need to know about aircrew flying with 83, 156, and 405 Squadrons. A list has not yet been compiled of all these men, although we have had one on 97 Squadron for several years. If anyone would like to help by providing a list of aircrew for a particular squadron flying that night, please let us know.
7 Squadron did not lose any crews due to accidents in England although they suffered the heavy loss of 4 crews on the operation. The Mosquito squadrons also escaped any bad-weather crashes. We will be looking to increase information about these squadrons for that particular night, but will make a separate announcement on this, probably next month.
All the information gathered will be shared with RAF Wyton, Pathfinder Collection, and either appear as part of the exhibition there on Black Thursday or become part of a supplementary booklet.
Many thanks in advance – Jennie Gray
We have been sent some sensational photographs of a Mosquito that made it safely to the ground in what can only be described as a tattered condition.
To see these pictures and possibly answer the great mystery about what happened, see our new page: How Did this Mosquito Land?
Nothing to do with the Pathfinders but also about a flying dog, this time in the wartime USAAF, which raises an interesting point connected to today’s earlier post on Pathfinder Pets
If these dogs were flying with their owners, how did they cope at high altitude without oxygen?
Perhaps Paradog Salvo was not flying above the altitude which requires oxygen – 8,000 feet – but Bomber Command aircrew certainly were and any dog they took with them would have had to do this too.
It is hard to imagine Bomber Command crew members having the time to keep an oxygen mask over a dog’s face during high altitude flying, and the idea of there being dog oxygen masks seems slightly preposterous, So perhaps the whole thing of dogs flying on Bomber Command operations is just a myth. Clayton’s spaniel had his own logbook, but that may have been in a supporting, ground crew type of way.
Any ideas or comments?
Further to our posts way back in March about Pathfinder pets, we have been given permission to use a much better image of Clayton’s crew with Clayton’s spaniel.
The man holding the dog is Tich Palmer, who later went on to fly with the Mansbridge crew on 635 Squadron and sadly was lost with the entire crew on 20 April 1944.
By kind permission of Medals of England, which sold the Titch Palmer collection a while ago: Titch Palmer Medals and Logbooks
A more detailed photograph of James White and Harry Page, together Wally Layne (with thanks to David Layne). This has been added to the Fletcher crew page, and also a link has been set up between Jack Beesley and the marvellous repatriation photograph (on a different page) in which Jack appears. In the Archive there are some reminiscences which Jack wrote about his time as a prisoner of war, and these will be added in the future when we do a feature on the website on prisoners of war.
A couple of updates to the Fletcher crew page: a picture of the crew, including James White who had just finished his tour when the crew was shot down, and Ken Foster who took White’s place and very sadly was one of three crew members killed on the fatal night of 23/24 September 1943.
Many photographs survive of Bomber Command men on one or more of the various course they took on the way to becoming aircrew. Most of these photographs have no names on them, which is always frustrating for researchers.
The photograph below is one of the rare records of a course which has nearly all the information that one could want. What is even more unusual about it is that the two men on the left, Peter Marsh and Godfrey Woolf, both went on to become Pathfinders, arriving at 97 Squadron on the same day in September 1943, having been posted there from different squadrons.
Unfortunately the story does not end happily.
Godfrey Woolf came from 106 Squadron on 10 September 1943 and was killed on 1/2 January 1944 when flying with the Mooney crew. He had been a survivor of Black Thursday when the Mooney crew abandoned their aircraft and took to their parachutes (see Caterpillar Club page).
Peter Marsh came from 61 Squadron on 10 September 1943 and was killed on 21/22 January 1944 when flying with the Roberts crew. He too had been a survivor of Black Thursday, but his crew had landed their aircraft safely.
It is not known what happened to Brett and Buchanun, and whether they survived the war. Buchanun is a very uncommon name and he does not appear in CWGC records. Brett is a great deal more common and there are several possibilities in CWGC records, but unfortunately the course photograph does not give initials, which rules out being certain what happened to our Brett, the man on 54 Course.
54 Course photograph courtesy of Peter Marsh, the nephew of the wartime Peter Marsh.
It’s always wonderful to see the men who maintained the Pathfinder aircraft, and this is a particularly nice photograph of James Frances Henry with other ground crew in front of a Met Flight mosquito. James was with 1409 Met Flight from 31st March 1943 to 19th June 1944, working as an aero engine specialist.
His grandson, Michael Henry, who sent the photograph, writes:
My grandfather first joined the RFC [Royal Flying Corps, the precursor of the RAF] as ‘a boy’ and on his birthday became ‘a man’ (quite a surprise to me how this was recorded – at the time it was quite normal !) ….. then on 1st April 1918 he was in the RAF.
At the end of WWI he was placed on reserve and called up on 25th Aug 1939 at the outset of WWII.
The Henry family would be delighted if anyone knew more about their grandfather’s war service, or who the other men are in the photograph. Please let us know if you have any information you can share.
See also: How Did This Mosquito Land?
The lure of flying for people growing up in the 1920s and 1930s is hard to appreciate now when commercial flying is so commonplace. Then, flying was ultra-modern and incredibly glamorous, and airshows (as in the photograph above) fed this fascination. Many of the boys who were aeroplane-mad in those years grew up to join the RAF and the Pathfinders. For more on this see our new page on the Lure of Flying.