Re: our commemorative post on the RFC and the RAF in WWII, we are grateful to have been reminded about the First World War contribution made by the men of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).
The RNAS was under the control of the Admiralty for its (not quite) four year existence, which ended on 1 April 1918 when it was merged with the British Army’s Royal Flying Corps to form the RAF.
The merge was recommended by the much respected South African soldier-statesman Jan Smuts, who foretold the need for an independent air force specifically to deal with the new dangers and tactics of aerial warfare. Smuts believed that this new air force should not be tied to the tactical needs of the Army and the Navy.
His plan was adopted and implemented with remarkable speed. However, because both the Army and the Navy resented their flying wings being taken away from them, the new Service, the RAF (which was often referred to as the Junior Service), had a difficult first few years. Even during the Second World War, the old complaints were being made about the RAF’s independence. But that’s another subject for another day …
With Remembrance Sunday tomorrow falling exactly on the 100th Anniversary of the end of the First World War, we remember all the pioneering airmen of those days of conflict, and those who followed after them in the Second World War.
IWM: Q 67792
Arrangements are firming up for the Black Thursday 75th Anniversary commemorations at the Pathfinder Collection, RAF Wyton. There will be a considerable change to the existing display and some new storyboards.
In addition, we are delighted that Charles Owen’s family have placed on loan his impressive set of medals, his logbook, pilot’s wings, and Pathfinder badge. Owen’s ops diary is held at the Imperial War Museum in London. The photo with this post shows the logbook open on the 16/17 December 1943 page.
There were only a limited number of places for the lunch and tour of the Collection on 16 December this year, and unfortunately these have all gone. However, if anyone wishes to attend the memorial service in the morning, probably to be held at 11 o’clock (we are not yet been able to confirm the timing due to complicated Station arrangements), please let us know.
In Norman McIntyre’s photo album there is a photograph of him with three of Australian friends in the RAAF. Photographs of the graves of Vince, Jeff, and Norm have been posted on the WAR GRAVES AND REMEMBRANCE website: Four Australian Friends
Norman McIntyre of the Brill crew, who was killed on 16 December 1943 over Berlin, kept a small photograph album which has pictures of the earlier part of his life in the RAAF. It ends abruptly with photographs of the funerals of two of his friends, but before this, the photographs show someone who was clearly enjoying his new glamorous life.
See Norman McIntyre’s Photo Album
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Le Creusot op, one of the most daring of the war, when 94 Lancasters flew in formation across France to wreck the Schneider arms plant 170 miles south-east of Paris. One of those flying on the operation was Ernest Deverill.
Jennie Mack Gray, our Chairperson, who began the Pathfinders Archive website with 97 Squadron in 2001 and has placed all her material on permanent loan with the Archive, now has a new website, PER ARDUA, which will be covering various other aspects of RAF and Bomber Command history, such as the following:
The Flying Control buildings on PFF airfields were at the centre of numerous dramatic incidents and tragedies. It is good to read of one potentially very dangerous episode at RAF Graveley which ended happily, not to say amusingly, for all concerned. We tend to forget that there could be a comical side to the Air War. See our new page: 35 Squadron, the Erk and the UXB
There will be a gathering at RAF Wyton on 16 December this year to honour the 75th anniversary of Black Thursday, and of the death of Ernest Alfred Deverill and so many other fine aircrew.
The exact details and timings are being finalised but it is planned that there will be a memorial service in the morning, lunch, and then an extended tour round the Pathfinder Collection at the Heritage Centre, including viewing the Deverill Collection.
The RAF Pathfinders Archive bought the very expensive (but, in terms of true value, priceless) Deverill Collection at the end of 2017. By purchasing it, we have ensured its future as a single Collection when today similar collections are being broken up to gain the maximum commercial value. We still need to raise another £11,000 to fund the purchase, which was made possible by means of interest-free loans from supporters.
Before the 75th Anniversary, we will be publishing “Ernest Alfred Deverill, the Pathfinders, and Black Thursday”, which will be available in November. All profits from this publication will go towards settling the outstanding loans. The price will be £10 plus postage.
Numbers for the 75th Anniversary gathering are strictly limited, so please notify us as soon as possible of your interest. If you would like to attend the gathering, preorder “Ernest Alfred Deverill, the Pathfinders, and Black Thursday”, or make a donation, please contact us on email@example.com or use the Support Us Page
Please note, the Heritage Centre is inside the Wyton base, which operates at a high security level. For further details see OUR PARTNERS
Research often turns up the strangest connections. I was looking for information about Frederick Denzil James Thompson, a PFF Navigator with DFC and Bar, who was the son of Churchill’s bodyguard, Detective Inspector Walter Henry Thompson. Thompson senior had a distinguished career, first acting as bodyguard to Lloyd George, and then later to Churchill almost continuously from 1921 to 1945. I had heard that Frederick Thompson the son, had lost his life, flying on PFF operations. SEE THIS PAGE.