VIGILANTIA ET VIRTUTE

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.

 

 

Barr Crew, 7 Squadron

In January this year we featured a magazine cover with a lovely picture of a bulldog posing as ‘Pilot Officer Prune’ and his unknown human friend, a pilot.  We later discovered that the pilot was Flight Lieutenant Leslie Barr.

A very interesting article appeared in The Telegraph two days ago about Barr’s crew, who were shot down on 10 September 1942 near Echt in Holland, west of Dusseldorf, the target of that night’s operation. Only two men out of the crew of eight survived. Barr and another crew member are buried at Jonkerbos War Cemetery, but the bodies of the four remaining crew members had sunk deep into the marshy ground, and they are remembered at Runnymede. The article in The Telegraph concerns these last four crew members and one Dutch family’s long crusade to have the bodies recovered from the mud and honourably buried.

Condolence Letter from Pathfinder Gunner, 7 Squadron

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.

7 Squadron Pilot & Bomb Aimer, Reunited

Here’s an amazing story. We will let Peter Banting tell it in his own words:

Have just discovered your great website, may be interesting for you to learn that, as a radar navigator and bomb aimer with 7 Squadron, am in regular communication with our pilot, Kenneth Rothwell, an Aussie, also my age, 95, who secured our safety in 28 ops, until the war ended.

He lives in New England, I learnt that he was living in New England, and phoned every Rothwell there, until …..I said “Is that Ken Rothwell?” He replied …. “Hello, Peter”, he knew my voice.

Ken and Peter flew three flights in the iconic operations at the end of the war known as MANNA (see below) and EXODUS. The first was the dropping of food supplies in starving Holland, the second the bringing home of prisoners of war, in Ken and Peter’s case from Lubeck and Juvencourt.

Peter Banting in 1945

Below: Peter Banting and Kenneth Rothwell at the RAF Club in 2002, standing before a painting of Operation Manna.


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OPERATION MANNA: We will set up a page on this topic, but on one of our Facebook posts in December we included this info:


I found this whilst answering a comment just now about our post on the 97 Squadron page. Well worth looking at. Operation Manna delivered thousands of tons of food to the people of the Netherlands, many of whom died in what came to be known as the Hunger Winter. Great to see the magnificent Lancasters being used in this context.
https://www.youtube.com/watch…

More on Pilot Officer Prune

Further to yesterday’s post, we have now included a page on TEE EMM, with two rather wonderful cartoons of Pilot Officer Prune, one with his dog.

As we said yesterday, we were checking up on the identity of the man in the magazine cover. John Clifford at the Pathfinder Collection has said that this is Flight Lieutenant Leslie Ronald Barr DFC*, a pilot with 7 Squadron of the Pathfinders, who was unfortunately killed on 7 September 1942 along with his Second Pilot and four other members of the crew. One of the surviving crew members evaded and the other became a prisoner of war. Note 01/09/2019: see Leslie Barr and Crew