Donald Margach and Guy Gibson

Donald Sinclair Margach was a bomb aimer 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:

Pathfinder Memorial, National Memorial Arboretum

We recently have had a few enquiries about why this memorial is not yet in place at the NMA. John Clifford advised us a few weeks back:

The main issue is moving 5 ton of marble from Peterborough to the NMA!  I’ve had promises of moving it over the past year and a bit 3 times now and all have reneged, mainly the Army. […] I’ll just keep trying.

To which JMG replied, somewhat frivolously:

5 tons of marble – pfff!!  I’ll chuck it in the back of my car.

On a more serious note, if anyone can help with this problem, please get in touch.

Bobby Bear – Ready for Another 75 Years

In May we published a post about Bobby Bear, the childhood toy of Joe Mack who survived a horrendous crash on Black Thursday, 16/17 December 1943. This post has since been updated with more information about wound stripes: Wound Stripes and the Thackway Crash

The purpose of this new post is to tell everyone that the restored Bobby Bear is on this coming Tuesday’s episode of The Repair Shop on BBC1 which hopefully will tell something of the background to Bobby Bear, his wound stripe, and the RAF’s worst night of the war for bad-weather crashes.

BB repaired 2

Part of the blurb for the programme reads:

And teddy bear repair duo Amanda and Julie welcome a 100-year-old RAF mascot bear called Bobby. Dressed in a replica uniform, the bear belonged to a brave airman who survived a horrific plane crash during the Second World War.

Below is a picture of Joe Mack on home leave in the summer of 1944 after months in hospital and rehabilitation. It can be seen that the uniform he was wearing hung very loosely on him as he had lost so much weight during the months in treatment. His medical care was exceptionally good and they saved his leg which had been very badly mangled. See also: Why the Archive Began

joe mack


The Inscriptions on the Tombstones

On Remembrance Sunday, we remember not only those who died but the relatives and friends who suffered a lifetime of grief at their loss.

As the cemeteries were completed and the Imperial War Graves Commission prepared to erect the permanent headstones, each bereaved family would have been sent the specimen form included here which showed them what the headstone would look like and the space for their own four lines of tribute. (Only New Zealanders were not allowed this tribute for historical reasons to do with the First World War.) The form tells them that the inscription cannot be more than 60 letters. It is easy to imagine how hard it must have been to say all one wanted to say in such a small space.

This is a rather blurry digital copy, but it is unique in the Archive and very appropriate for this Remembrance Sunday.

Edmondson grave headstone details (2)

The papers were amongst those preserved by the family of Norman Edmondson, a twenty-year-old Canadian, lost on the infamous Nuremburg raid of 30/31 March 1944.

Edmondson photo
Norman Edmondson

Images courtesy of Gordon Edmondson.

Norman’s aircraft was one of four 156 Squadron aircraft, flying from Upwood, which were shot down that night. The aircraft was brought down by a night fighter and crashed at Oberirsen in Western Germany.  By a miracle, the pilot Lindley survived to become a prisoner of war.

Pilot:   L Lindley

F/E:    Ronald Thomas Harper, aged 21

Nav:    John Waite Henry, aged 28

BA:      Bankole Beresford Vivour, aged 24

W/Op: John Esprey Bates, aged 22

M/U:   Norman Thomson Edmondson, RCAF, aged 20

R/G:    Dennis Bertram Bloomfield (age not known)