Pathfinder Aircrew, their Friends, their Families, and the World they Knew
Author: RAF PATHFINDERS ARCHIVE
The Archive covers many aspects of life in RAF Bomber Command from 1942, the year in which the Path Finder Force (the PFF, later known as 8 Group) was formed. However, the Archive's specific focus is upon the Pathfinders as they were generally called. Historically, this Archive has always been centred around 97 Squadron, which belonged to the Pathfinders for one year. However, we are now looking to substantially increase the Archive to include all PFF squadrons, PFF HQ, and the wider Bomber Command and Home Front milieus. The aim of the Archive is to provide an in-depth illustration of what life - and death - were like for Pathfinder aircrew, their working comrades, their friends, and their families.
The total wartime losses for the Path Finder Force were given by their commander, Donald Bennett, as being 3,618 men. It was a large figure for a small Force which only came into existence in the fourth year of the war.
Today we feature just one of those lost Pathfinders, Flying Officer Lewis Walter Castle Austin, who was killed by flak on the night of 7/8 March 1945 and brought home by his crew, that of Owen-Penny, flying with 582 Squadron. The crew were very fortunate to survive the severe damage to the aircraft.
In his letter of deeply-felt condolence to Lewis’s wife, his commanding officer Wing Commander John Clough wrote of how exceptionally popular Lewis has been, and of his ‘great charm of manner and his keen sense of humour’. He also wrote:
I am particularly to express the sincere regrets of his captain, Squadron Leader V G Owen-Jones, and of the of the crew who flew with him in his last sortie in the loss of a real colleague and friend.
Photograph and information courtesy of Helen Austin
This post provides a permanent link to our new website, which has been under development for a few months now. Although there is a great deal more to do, it is shaping up well. The catalogue system has already proved its worth; it would have been impossibly long-winded to superimpose such a system on this old website, which was one of the major reasons for the move.
It seems that there may have been a mix-up about the exact date of Ken’s birthday. One source (family) said 21 January, another 13 January. We are checking but in the meantime please send your goodwill messages in as soon as possible and don’t leave them until the 15th which was the original cut-off date!
During the war, public opinion in Britain and the Dominions was firmly on the side of Bomber Command. However, there was also some determined criticism of Bomber Command’s campaigns, not least by George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, who argued the case against area bombing in the House of Lords. Wartime Oppostion to Bombing
Ken Newman (second from right) who flew with the Steven crew but who missed their fatal flight on 14 January 1944 due to a bad skin complaint, will be 100 years old on 21 January. If anyone would like to send a message to Ken, please send us an email via our usual email address (email@example.com) or a message via our FB site. He doesn’t do computers, so what is sent will be printed out for him.
Ken has always felt deeply grieved by the loss of the Steven crew and of Leslie Laver who took his place on that last night.
Please make sure that we receive any messages for Ken by 15 January at the latest.
The last post of 2020, which looks at a little known subject related to yesterday’s theme of Propaganda and Public Information: what RAF bombers dropped in addition to bombs. On the new website there are two new pages about this subject, see: RAF Bombers Deliver More than Bombs …