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.
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
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)
Can anyone help us locate a copy of the article in ‘Aviation Heritage’ written by Johnny Nicholls? (Nicholls Crew page) We have a photocopy of part of the article but are missing pages 151 and 152 in particular. Here is a photocopy of the cover details.
Sean has written an article for the Archive’s website about the costly operation against Cologne on 23 December 1944 in which Bob Palmer won the VC, one of only three VCs won by the Path Finder Force. It was a posthumous award, as Bob Palmer lost his life together with the crew he was flying with, the Milne crew of 582 Squadron pictured here. At that time, Bob Palmer was actually a Mosquito pilot with 109 Squadron, but the particular requirements of the operation meant that he was flying the aircraft at the time it was shot down. For the full article read here: Heroic Endeavour – Cologne, 23 December 1944
We are delighted to welcome Sean Feast as a Trustee of the Archive. Sean is a keen supporter of the military with a passion for aviation. Amongst his many books is The Pathfinder Companion, which was published in association with the Pathfinder Collection at RAF Wyton.
With Sean’s arrival, we have set up a Meet the Team page which gives details of who is behind the scenes at the Archive.
Charles Owen‘s diary records of this day:
6 June 1944
Target: St Pierre du Mont – Coastal battery A/C Lancaster ND961 N-NAN
We thought the briefing sounded a little odd for this trip, and sure enough when we broke cloud over the French coast the Channel was full of ships. The army had pulled its finger out at last and D-Day was on. We bombed at 05.00 just as it was getting light, and had a grandstand view of the Americans running in on the beach. First-class prang on the battery, but saw Jimmy Carter shot down by a Ju88 over the target. Marvellous sight coming back as the sun came up, we on the way back and the Americans on the way out.
Landed back in time for breakfast, but very disappointed that there was nothing on the 8 o’clock news.
D-Day – The Loss of the Carter Crew
Jespersen Crew, D-Day
Jespersen Condolence Letter
The ground crew on Bomber Command squadrons were the unsung heroes, working hard in all weathers. It is good to see in this remarkable photograph of ‘A’ Flight of the Pathfinders’ 109 Squadron that the ground crew are standing alongside the men whom they kept in the air: 109 Squadron, A Flight, October 1944 – Aircrew and Ground Crew
Just a quick note, prompted by a comment on our Guy Gibson post yesterday, to say that over the coming months we will be substantially increasing information on the background to the Path Finder Force’s war. This is because the Path Finder Force cannot be seen in isolation from the world in which it operated, which self-evidently had a profound effect on how the Force developed and what its personnel thought about serving in it.
Our tagline has always been:
Pathfinder Aircrew, their Friends, their Families, and the World they Knew
For more about our research aims, see the ‘Sourcing the Archive’ section of The Archive
Today is the anniversary of the Dams Raid, the most famous Bomber Command raid of the war. Guy Gibson received the Victoria Cross for his leadership and the account in the London Gazette is still thrilling today, 77 years later.
Although the Pathfinders had no part in the Dams Raid, several of our aircrew had flown with Gibson earlier in the war. Amongst these was Donald Margach, a bomb aimer, who was to lose his life flying with 582 Squadron in July 1944. See: Donald Margach and Guy Gibson
Some Pathfinder aircrew worked with Gibson after the Dams Raid. This was at 54 Base, centred at Coningsby, which provided target-marking and illumination for 5 Group operations. It was ‘a place of tactical innovation’ (Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995, p.252), and the place for the cream of RAF pilots. John Simpson had moved there from 97 Squadron (by then, of course, in 5 Group), as had Charles Owen, another 97 Squadron superstar.
Gus Walker, Wally Layne and Christmas