This extraordinarily beautiful landscape in mid-Wales was the scene of a terrible tragedy on 10 April 1944. A Lancaster from the Pathfinder Navigation Training Unit at Warboys broke up in the air some 200 miles west of Warboys and crashed, killing all of the crew. See our new page: NTU Lancaster fatal crash in Wales
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.
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
The PFF squadron pages are gradually being reorganised so that each squadron has its own page, or group of pages. 156 Squadron is one of the first to be set up, and of the two current pages one is on the Engineering Officer at Warboys and the other is a beautiful photograph of Lionel Williams and his daughter (click HERE for the full version).
Lost on 30/31 March 1944 on the infamous Nuremburg raid. This 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, east of Bonn. By some miracle, the pilot Lindley survived to become a prisoner of war.
Capt: 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 (no age on CWGC)
Norman Edmonson’s nephew, Gordon, recently sent us some photographs of a small notebook that Norman used to carry with him, which was kept in its own little leather zip-up folder stamped with an Air Force crest.
According to Chorley, Vivour was a Nigerian, an unusual nationality for Bomber Command.