Frank Lloyd, 582 Squadron

After a catastrophic accident in which a full load of bombs was dropped on his aircraft, Frank Lloyd somehow managed to save the Lancaster and get all the crew safely home. The only crew member who did not get back was David Mansell-Playdell. Immediately after the disaster, he baled out, on captain’s orders, which Frank revoked a few moments later but too late to stop David. See: Frank Lloyd, 582 Squadron

We are most grateful to Sean Feast for the photographs of Frank Lloyd and for the many other 582 Squadron photographs he has donated to the Archive. The full story of Frank Lloyd can be read in Sean’s book: Master Bombers, The Experiences of a Pathfinder Squadron at War, 1944-1945, published by Grub Street in 2008.

Black Thursday Bear on BBC Website

The tattered (but now somewhat rejuvenated thanks to the BBC programme “The Repair Shop”) teddy bear known as Bobby Bear has now achieved national fame. It is a great pleasure to see this as he belonged to Joe Mack of the Thackway crew who are the reason why this Archive originally began Today Bobby Bear is featured on the BBC website: BBC NEWS

See also: Wound Stripes and the Thackway Crash

Frostbite and Flying Boots

When putting the photograph of Donald Margach with a Lancaster crew on the website (see Donald Margach and Guy Gibson) my eye was drawn to the fact that the gunners were wearing their flying boots. As four of the crew are wearing parachute harnesses, it is probable that this photograph was taken immediately before or after flying.

Donald Margach with lancaster crew

In fact, the wearing of flying boots now seems to be a fairly good indication of whether such photographs were taken very close to flying operations or practise flights. A whole new perspective on the wearing of flying boots is gained by reading a medical report written after the war about the physical dangers confronting aircrew (leaving aside, of course, the main threats – flak, fighters, and bad weather), one of which was frostbite of the feet. The medical report makes it obvious that aircrew were expected NOT to wear flying boots casually around the camp.

It is not only the gunners who wore flying boots, but in their case frostbite of the feet was a major peril, given their unheated turrets. This is what the medical report has to say:

A frequent source of trouble in this area was the tendency for all air crew to wear flying boots about the camp, from the messes, etc. The waiting before take off resulted in sweating, or alternatively the socks put on were not properly dry, which greatly increased liability to frostbite.

The writer says that ‘every effort was made’ to correct this, but Medical Officers had a very uphill job in getting aircrew to listen to them.

Another complaint in the same report is that there was ‘considerable laxity on the part of all aircrew’ in keeping their oxygen masks clean and in good condition.


Medical report: Investigations and Observations Made during Operations by PFF at RAF Wyton from August 1943 to August 1945, by Wing Commander K G Bergin

See also: Lancaster Gunners: ‘Hotting-up’

Palmer Crew, 97 Squadron – The pilot, Robert Palmer, (centre), is wearing flying boots

Palmer crew
Palmer Crew – (L-R) unknown, unknown, Harris, Palmer, Datta, unknown, King


Donald Margach and Guy Gibson

Donald Sinclair Margach was a navigator who, in 1943, served on 106 Squadron when it was commanded by Wing Commander Guy Gibson. Donald did not go with Gibson when he formed 617 Squadron, which in May 1943 carried out Operation Chastise, the audacious raid on the dams. In 1944 Donald was flying with 582 Squadron of the Pathfinders when he lost his life. See Donald Margach and Guy Gibson

Mosquito Crew, Lost in Italy

We have been contacted by Lorenzo Saggioro, who is looking for information for two Mosquito aircrew buried in Padua in Italy. It turned out after initial investigation that these were members of 256 Squadron, Fighter Command, and so well off our usual beaten track. However, there is something very moving and intriguing about this particular story, and we hope that anyone who belongs to forums or Facebook sites on Fighter Command may be able to track down some information on these aircrew. They died on 25 April 1945 and their names were:

Pilot Officer Roy James George Beard – Pilot

Flight Sergeant D Maddock – Navigator (unusually no Christian name is given on the CWGC site)

Further information about this crew is on our sister site, AFTERMATH: Missing Research, War graves and Remembrance, see Mosquito Crew, Buried in Italy

“DUCIMUS” – 405 Squadron

Still on the subject of Latin mottos (yesterday’s being VIGILATE ET VIRTUTE, “Vigilance and Power”), what could be better than the motto of 405 Squadron: DUCIMUS – “We lead” – how appropriate for a Pathfinder squadron. Apart from its tragic experiences on Black Thursday, 16/17 December 1943, we have not yet posted much on this squadron on the website but here is what Bennett had to say about its national mix: Bennett and the Canadians – 405 Squadron


Vernon Smith was born in 1924 in Canterbury, Kent, the son of George and Flo, and the sixth of eleven boys. He became a rear gunner on Flash McCollah’s crew in 7 Squadron.

The crew from L-R in the photograph are:

Eric Wilkin, MU/G

Harold ‘Lucky’ Hudson, Navigator

Hughes, W/OP

‘Flash’ McCollah, Skipper

Gordon Graham, Radar Nav

Vernon Smith,  Rear Gunner

Sid Moors, Flight Engineer

After the war, Vernon belonged to the Air Gunners Association, which had the fabulous motto: VIGILANTIA ET VIRTUTE. The Association’s badge of a bullet with wings is a gem.

Air gunners assoc badge

Photographs and information courtesy of Lorraine Brown.



Aviation Fuel Burns, Science Museum Exhibition

There is a very interesting new exhibition at the Science Museum on treating the wounded in wartime. This covers far more than the Second World War but there is a section on treating the terrible burns that some aircrew suffered.

By the Second World War, mobile maxillofacial units saved the lives of many soldiers with early surgery. But a new challenge arose with the growth of aerial combat, as pilots trapped in cockpits suffered terrible burns from aviation fuel.

The surgeon Archibald McIndoe treated 4,000 men with burns from aviation fuel. Each patient had an average of 12 operations. The surgery rebuilt hands and faces, and many of the men went back to fly again.

Of course, on the heavy bombers all the crew were at risk of serious burns if their aircraft crashed. One of the men whom McIndoe treated was Ernest Deverill’s loyal gunner who had served with him in a previous tour. James Benbow, who had severely burned hands, was the only survivor of the Deverill crash on Black Thursday.

Kenyon Crash Site Memorial

The last two Christmases we have published a post in memory of the Kenyon crew who died on Christmas Eve just after take-off from RAF Graveley – see: Kenyon Crew, Christmas Eve 1944. A local group are now fund-raising for a memorial to the crew, See this article in the Hunts Post which gives fund-raising details. You can also contact the Great Paxton History Society by email at: