Model Lancaster, O-Orange

This fabulous radio-controlled model Lancaster may make you smile, standing so proudly in front of the tomato plants, though she is sure to be a very  different beast when she flies.

There is a tragic background story to this icon of a real wartime Lancaster …

model lanc 2

The model aircraft’s markings are PB517, GT-O, standing for 156 Squadron O-Orange. They were chosen by Owen Gomersall to commemorate the Lancaster flown by his grandfather, Lionel Williams, who was on our last post. ‘Tom’ last flew this aircraft on 28 January 1945. Two months later, on 31 March, tragically close to the end of the war, Lancaster PB517 was lost with all its crew on a Hamburg operation. Those who died were:

F/L A C Pope, DFC
F/O G A J Morrison
F/L L E Munro, DFC, RCAF
P/O E H Marlow
F/O T M McCabe
F/S K Antcliffe
P/O I W Kelly, RCAF 
P/O R C Fletcher, RCAF

It was the second Lancaster which was lost from 156 Squadron that night, the other being that flown by Flying Officer H F Taylor. Again the entire crew was lost. 

F/O H F Taylor, DFC
P/O H Woolstenhulme
Sgt J P Williams
Sgt L H Joel
F/O R L Martin, DFC
F/O L A Cox, DFC
F/Sgt K A L Mitchell
Sgt R Goldsbury

This loss of 14 young men from Upwood in a single night only five weeks before the war ended must have been a serious blow to those living and working on the station.


Update to Lionel Williams’ Page

We have received some very interesting details about Lionel Williams, a pilot in 156 Squadron, from his son, amongst which was the classic story of how his name in the RAF became Tom. ‘When he was recruited he was asked for his first name. When he said “Lionel” he was then asked if he had any other names. When he said “Thomas” he was told “Right you’re ‘Tom’ now” Updated page

Colin Drew and Sugarpuss

It’s always good when one answers one’s own questions about ten seconds after posing them in a mystified manner.

This appears to be the right Colin Drew in the Supplement to The London Gazette, dated 7 December 1943. And it is undoubtedly the same man who is flying with Flight Lieutenant Chick in September 1943 (see ORB below). He is a gunner not a navigator, but clearly has been at the game a long time as he is a decorated Flying Officer.

Lancaster Art: Sugarpuss, 83 Squadron

This rather fabulous photograph (it’s a great pity about the poor condition) shows what is thought to possibly be the 83 Squadron crew of Colin Drew (third from right, and possibly a navigator) standing next to their gloriously decorated Lancaster Sugarpuss. This is a fine example of Lancaster art. If anyone can supply any further information on this crew, please let us know.

Photograph courtesy of Bruce Reeves

O Valiant Hearts

Ernest Deverill, the much-decorated 97 Squadron pilot killed on Black Thursday, whose medals, logbooks and other memorabilia are on display at RAF Wyton, is buried at St Mary’s, Docking, Norfolk. The epitaph on his gravestone comes from the same hymn as the one for Arthur North, of the 105 Squadron crew buried at Bergen, Norway, who were mentioned on yesterday’s post. For details of the epitaphs on these gravestones and of the hymn from which they were taken, see O Valiant Hearts.

105 Squadron: War Graves, Bergen, and RAF Bourn

In May 1941 105 Squadron was flying Blenheims and was based at Lossiemouth, Moray, Scotland. The war graves in this photograph on our sister site are for two members of the squadron who were killed that month in Norway.

In August 1942, 105 Squadron became one of the foundation squadrons of the Pathfinders. Based first at RAF Marham, Norfolk, it was transferred to RAF Bourn in Cambridgeshire as 97 Squadron left.

Joan Beech, in her biography One Waaf’s War (Costello, 1989), describes the day that the squadron’s Mosquitoes arrived at Bourn:

On the morning of March 23rd 1944, as I cycled up the hill to work, the new aircraft started to arrive, ‘beating up’ the airfield to make sure we were aware that 105 Squadron was here. They were small, twin-engined planes which, as they circled and landed, looked so tiny next to the hulking great Lancs.

The ‘Wooden Wonders’ had arrived.

Films on the Air War

News about three films on the Air War, the first with direct Pathfinder connections, the other two concerning other interesting aspects of the Allied bombing campaign.

Firstly, the docudrama Hero which has recently been released. Filmed on a shoestring budget, it has no major distributor, so is being screened in only a handful of cinemas. It is about Ulric Cross, the most decorated black serviceman of the Second World War. Hailing from Trinidad, Cross volunteered for the RAF in 1941. He eventually joined 139 Jamaica Squadron of Pathfinder fame. Nicknamed “The Black Hornet” by his comrades, Cross was a navigator, flying in Mosquitoes. For more on Cross and the film, see this recent Telegraph article.

Also on a newspaper link is this amazing story of the conservation and repair of wartime footage of the American Air Force flying from bomber stations in England. Watch how the film editors did this, including ‘Before’ and ‘After’ shots, and you will be astonished at what they achieved. See this article in The Sun.

Lastly, Lancaster Skies, the link being for the trailer.

Apparently this film was also made on a shoestring, for only £80,000, and as they have done extremely well with such a limited budget and the film certainly has some excellent moments, it seems a bit churlish to criticise it too heavily. Nonetheless, some of the implausibilities are rather hard to take. For example, the incorrect claim that the height of the bomber war was in spring 1944, the landscape in the airfield scenes being clearly mid-summer, and lastly the massed Lancasters of the finale taxiing and taking off from a grass field.* However, if you can suspend disbelief in certain places, this film is well worth watching, and indeed at times it is very gripping and moving. Its heart is certainly in the right place. (Illustration is a still from the film.)

* Lancasters could take off from grassland if there were very dry conditions, but all the major bomber airfields would have had concrete runways by this stage of the war. 

Update: Finn Varde Jespersen, D-Day

To add to the previous information on Finn Varde Jespersen, the Royal Norwegian Air Force pilot who was lost with all his crew on D-Day when flying with 97 Squadron, we have a very interesting photograph of him and fellow Norwegians when they were in training in Canada in 1941. For more details: Jespersen Crew, D-Day

We would still like to find information about where Jespersen and the Norwegian members of his crew are buried in Norway.