Working on the post yesterday on the condolence letter to Jespersen’s father reminded me of another condolence letter, this time written on the Pathfinder station at Oakington in December 1943. It concerned a friend, Bob Butler, who was stationed with 97 Squadron at Bourn. The condolence letter was addressed to his mother, Ellen Butler.
From an unknown official to Jespersen’s father: The Air Force refers to your visit some time back and it is with sorrow that we have to confirm that your son, Lt. Finn Varde Jespersen, was shot down during the night of 5th and 6th June 1944. When the accident occurred, your son was serving as leader and captain (Pilot) of a Lancaster four-engined night-bomber that belonged to No. 97 (Straits Settlements) Squadron. See the rest of the letter …
See also the memorials to the Jespersen crew on our sister site: War Graves and Remembrance
A new method of cataloguing has been adopted which it is hoped will finally clear the log-jam of names and crews we would like to see online. Pages will be added as and when they are completed. Amongst the first to go online will be the latest additions to the Archive, although there will also be some from a few years back, depending on what we are working on at the time.
Jack Blair was a highly dedicated officer who flew more than his fair share of ops. In 1943, he was a member of John Sauvage‘s crew on 97 Squadron; in 1944, having moved to 156 Squadron, he was flying with a pilot named Ward when the crew were shot down on their return journey. Thanks to Arjan Wemmers and many others, a wonderful collection of material has been assembled on the Ward crew, and in particular on Jack Blair. (See catalogue item: Ward Crew and Squadron Leader Blair.) We are very pleased to have this collection in the Archive.
We are starting a new method of cataloguing the Archive, and in time the website will be reorganised to reflect this, but time being short and hands being few it is going to take a while. The first page from the catalogue is for a 156 Squadron crew, and details of this are on the post which will appear immediately after this one. Jack Blair was originally a member of John Sauvage‘s crew.
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 …
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.
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
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.
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
Earlier this year we received a very nice colourised version of the lovely photograph of Hugh Baker, standing outside a rather grand house in Hastings in 1942. Due to much dedicated local sleuthing, the actual house has been identified. See the update on THIS PAGE