This tattered object is Bobby Bear. He can perhaps be seen as an emblem of the few who survived the crashes on Black Thursday but were seriously injured.
He was the childhood toy of Joe Mack, of the Thackway crew, 97 Squadron, and sometime in the late 40s or early 50s Joe’s devoted mother Kathleen made him an RAF uniform of sorts together with a row of Joe’s medal ribbons. The yellow stripe on Bobby Bear’s left sleeve is a wound stripe, reflecting the serious injuries suffered by Joe in the Thackway crash in the early hours of the morning of 17 December 1943.
Bobby Bear can currently be seen at the Pathfinder Collection at RAF Wyton as part of the Black Thursday display.
In 1944 the Mack family contributed a new font cover to their local church, Christ Church at Radlett, in gratitude for Joe’s survival. All that survives of this now is the handsome drawing in the Hertfordshire records office. In the sixties, the vicar took a dislike to it and had it removed to the lumber shed, where it was eaten by woodworm and eventually burnt.
Joe never fully recovered from the crash and in the last years of his life suffered serious problems from his badly healed leg as well as from traumatic memories.
He can be seen below as a very young man in the summer of 1944, recovering from the loss of all his crew and coming to terms with his own miraculous survival. The Pathfinder badge can be seen on his breast pocket.
Arrangements are firming up for the Black Thursday 75th Anniversary commemorations at the Pathfinder Collection, RAF Wyton. There will be a considerable change to the existing display and some new storyboards.
In addition, we are delighted that Charles Owen’s family have placed on loan his impressive set of medals, his logbook, pilot’s wings, and Pathfinder badge. Owen’s ops diary is held at the Imperial War Museum in London. The photo with this post shows the logbook open on the 16/17 December 1943 page.
There were only a limited number of places for the lunch and tour of the Collection on 16 December this year, and unfortunately these have all gone. However, if anyone wishes to attend the memorial service in the morning, probably to be held at 11 o’clock (we are not yet been able to confirm the timing due to complicated Station arrangements), please let us know.
There will be a gathering at RAF Wyton on 16 December this year to honour the 75th anniversary of Black Thursday, and of the death of Ernest Alfred Deverill and so many other fine aircrew.
The exact details and timings are being finalised but it is planned that there will be a memorial service in the morning, lunch, and then an extended tour round the Pathfinder Collection at the Heritage Centre, including viewing the Deverill Collection.
The RAF Pathfinders Archive bought the very expensive (but, in terms of true value, priceless) Deverill Collection at the end of 2017. By purchasing it, we have ensured its future as a single Collection when today similar collections are being broken up to gain the maximum commercial value. We still need to raise another £11,000 to fund the purchase, which was made possible by means of interest-free loans from supporters.
Before the 75th Anniversary, we will be publishing “Ernest Alfred Deverill, the Pathfinders, and Black Thursday”, which will be available in November. All profits from this publication will go towards settling the outstanding loans. The price will be £10 plus postage.
Numbers for the 75th Anniversary gathering are strictly limited, so please notify us as soon as possible of your interest. If you would like to attend the gathering, preorder “Ernest Alfred Deverill, the Pathfinders, and Black Thursday”, or make a donation, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or use the Support Us Page
Please note, the Heritage Centre is inside the Wyton base, which operates at a high security level. For further details see OUR PARTNERS
Further to our post yesterday about Billy Colson, on Black Thursday he had taken the place of Ivor Glyn Stephens as bomb aimer on the Mackenzie crew. Stephens would survive the war, as would Keith Kirby, who had been in the aircraft with Billy Colson when it crashed. Severely injured, he seems to have made a full recovery. He married in a double wedding in which Glyn married Keith’s sister and Keith married her best friend.