Sidney Mathews was a flight mechanic at RAF Station Bourn, who in the early hours of 17 December 1943 was instrumental in saving the life of Peter Mack (Joe), the wireless operator of the Thackway crew. Sidney was cycling back from Cambridge when he came across the crash of Thackway’s aircraft, which had caught fire immediately after landing. Together with Leslie Laver, the rear gunner of the crew, who was unhurt, Sidney managed to get Joe out of the burning wreck.
He would later be awarded a medal for bravery. The details for the citation would have been noted down on the same day as the crash, or very soon afterwards, by Sidney’s commanding officer, and then forwarded on to the appropriate authority with a recommendation for the medal.
It is even possible that it was Bennett himself, the Commanding Officer of the Pathfinders, who insisted that Sidney’s’ name should be put forward for the medal despite the fact that Sidney had been breaking Standing Orders (by being off base without permission) when he came across the crash. Bennett, who went to the crash with a group of his senior officers, would have been well aware of the circumstances of Joe Mack’s rescue. Bennett was not a man to let bureaucratic red tape interfere with how he felt the Path Finder Force should be run and who should be rewarded for extraordinary acts of courage.