Victoria Cross: 23 December 1944

On 16 December 1944, German Panzers spearheaded a surprise attack in the Ardennes that smashed through thinly held Allied lines, catching the Allied commanders completely off-guard. The Allied fight-back included this extraordinary feat of heroism which won Bob Palmer one of the three VCs awarded to Pathfinders: Victoria Cross, 23 December 1944: “Heroic Endeavour” The story is told by Sean Feast.

Why the Archive Began

The Archive has its roots in a tragedy which occurred on 16/17 December 1943, afterwards known as Black Thursday. At that time, the crew of Ted Thackway were serving with 97 Squadron, which was stationed at Bourn in Cambridgeshire. The crew’s first operation was to Berlin on 16 December. Returning safely to England, they crashed in a horrific accident caused by dense fog. See Why the Archive Began on our new website.

Dominion Aircrew

There are three new pages on our new website, all to do with Dominion crew. This photograph of a rescued Wellington crew comes from Allan Templeton’s logbook, from the time he was with Air Sea Rescue. Allan was a Newfoundlander. The other two pages focus on Australian and New Zealander airmen in training.

Searby & The End of a Kiwi Gunner’s Tour

John Searby (left, with Bennett in 1944, IWM: CH 20628) was one of the best known and most revered of the Pathfinder squadron and station commanders. According to the dates in Bennett’s book Pathfinder, he was:

  • CO of 83 Squadron from 9 May 1943 until 2 November 1943
  • Station Commander at Upwood from 20 November 1943 until 10 February 1944.
  • Station Commander at Warboys from 3 June 1944 until 24 July 1944 (the June date is given as being in 1943, but this has to be a mistyping)

In September 1943, Searby wrote a note of commendation in the Flying Log Book of Pat Menzies. This is the first note we have seen like this in a logbook. See: Searby & the End of a Kiwi Gunner’s Tour

New Website for the Archive

At the RAF Pathfinders Archive, we have begun a review of this entire website: raf-pathfinders.com 

It has been added to and expanded for many years, and is now very much in need of an overhaul.

To facilitate the clean-up, a new website has been set up which has the marginally different address of: rafpathfinders.com

Whilst this is very much an ongoing project, it is probable that all the information will eventually be transferred to the new site.

On it, we are using a whole new cataloging system which should make subjects and groups of subjects very much easier to find. Much improved search facilities have also been installed.

All new material will be added there but for the time being posts will keep this old website very much up to date. 

Donald Margach and Guy Gibson

We always welcome corrections or additions to the information on these pages. Sometimes it is the smallest details which really count. Amongst other points, Clive Smith, who specialises in 106 Squadron on which Donald Margach served with Guy Gibson, has kindly pointed out that Donald Margach’s epitaph as recorded on the CWGC website, reads: DEAR HUSBAND OF GRETA, DADDY OF ALISON, LOVED SON OF MR. AND MRS. W. MARGACH – so this almost certainly clears up the identity of the unknown woman and baby in a touching informal portrait of Donald. See: Donald Margach and Guy Gibson

PFF HQ and Hamish Mahaddie

From: Jennie Mack Gray – It has been quite a while since this website was updated, due mainly to me taking a sabbatical to finish my book on the Pathfinders (this was delayed, like so much else, by COVID-19).The book is not yet entirely done but it is very close. The working title is

Belonging to the Elite: Courage, Love and Loss in the Pathfinders of Bomber Command

The website will have a number of updates in the course of the next few weeks, but tonight two pages have been added about the Pathfinder leadership:

Pathfinder HQ; Ops Room and Group Photo 1944

Hamish Mahaddie, IWM sound recordings (1972 & 1989)