Tales from the Archive this month is on Wally Layne’s wartime log. Wally was a member of a 97 Squadron crew which was shot down over Germany in September 1943, and he spent the rest of the war as a prisoner. His logbook is one of the best surviving examples of the many thousands of logbooks which were made by British prisoners of war.
Tales from the Archive 5. 22 February 2018
Wally Layne has his own website, created by his son David, with an immense wealth of documentation and images, see: WALLY’S WAR
There has been a bit of a delay in announcing the good news but the Charity Commission has now been updated with the details of our new trustee, and we are delighted to welcome on board John Clifford, Senior Curator at the Pathfinder Collection, RAF Wyton.
John has an immense fund of knowledge about the Pathfinders, and was the key man in setting up the Black Thursday display at RAF Wyton last December, just in time for the 74th anniversary, a massive achievement considering how short of time we all were to get the Deverill collection purchased and on display.
Further details of our partnership with RAF Wyton.
This image is from the notebook of John Conybeare Landon (see The Stories Behind the Gravestones on our sister site: RAF MISSING RESEARCH, WAR GRAVES, & REMEMBRANCE). Landon trained as a navigator in Canada and subsequently became a bomb aimer with Main Force.
If you have any documents or photographs about the RAF’s training programme, from initial training camp to Bomber Command Conversion Unit, please get in touch. We are planning an online exhibition this year on Bomber Command training, and all contributions will be gratefully acknowledged.
Our sister site, RAF MISSING RESEARCH, WAR GRAVES, & REMEMBRANCE, has published a page on The Air Ministry Casualty Branch in Oxford Street, which dealt with many thousands of aircrew casualties – killed, missing, and wounded – during the years that the Pathfinders were in operation.
From time to time we include details of the air war which form the background to who the Pathfinders were and what they did.
This particular oddity is such fun that we cannot resist it. It comes from RAF Station Tain, and celebrates those who had made it through the war and were about to be demobbed. As the certificate says, it is a token of remembrance made between brothers in arms, the person named on the certificate being about to become ‘a mere civilian’.
It was sent by David Wingate, and it had originally been awarded to one of his relatives who was a Section Officer in the WAAFs.
Referring back to one of our December posts Christmas Eve 1944, 35 Squadron on the loss of the Kenyon crew, we recently had an email from R Maddox who wrote:
Just to add to information about the Christmas Eve 1944 crash at Great Paxton (post ‘Christmas Eve 1944, 35 Squadron’), the Form 540 notes that ten aircraft were detailed to take off in the late afternoon to mark and bomb the marshaling yard at Nippes, Cologne. The companion Form 541 records that Pilot Officer Arthur Kenyon’s aircraft (PB366/’S’) was designated a ‘Supporter’ aircraft. They took off at 15.35.
More information on the incident and crew can be found at: Aircrew Remembered
The Aircrew Remembered site has photographs of six of the crew and states that the aircraft was taking off with the assistance of FIDO and almost immediately crashed into trees. This would fit with the eyewitness report about the aircraft appearing out of dense fog.
Here is a good old-fashioned needle-in-a-haystack query, but one which is funny and endearing as well. Around 1988, a little boy of about 10 years old, flying home from holiday, found himself sitting next to a ‘hefty, square built man who had an arm missing’. This man turned out to have been a Lancaster pilot in the Pathfinders during the war. Below is the report that the little boy wrote afterwards.
The question is obviously can anyone say who this Pathfinder pilot was?
It’s worth adding that we were contacted about this mystery Pathfinder by the little boy’s father, who told us: “My son is now a GP and still mad about planes”.
We are planning to do a small online exhibition on aircrew training overseas, but here is one sneak preview item, a rare survival of what must have been many hundreds of such telegrams, sent home by proud young men who had just qualified in their chosen trade.
This is the first such telegram we have ever seen. It was sent by John Conybeare Landon (who would serve with Main Force) to his younger sister, June.
With many thanks to his nephew, David Wingate.
When the website for the Archive was set up, there was some debate as to whether to also include on it Jennie Gray’s huge archive on RAF missing research, but in the end it was decided it was best kept separately. This separate but linked website is entitled “RAF Missing Research, War Graves, & Remembrance”, and we will be sharing relevant posts from it on our Facebook page.
See: “RAF Missing Research, War Graves, & Remembrance”
Some Pathfinders just stand out – whether from their striking personality, unusual looks, outstanding bravery, or the dramatic incidents which occurred whilst they were flying with the PFF. One such is Frank McEgan, to whom the latest issue of TALES FROM THE ARCHIVE is dedicated: Tales from the Archive 4. 18 January 2018
See also Frank McEgan‘s page, and the film of him in 1943.