Purely by coincidence, this post also concerns the crew of a pilot named Baker. Valentine Baker and his crew were lost on 11 August 1943. Those who were killed are buried at Durnbach Cemetery in Bavaria (Bayern), see the beautiful image here which is copyright of the New Zealand War Graves Project.
The Valentine Baker crew have always been a memorable crew, firstly because of their pilot’s Christian name and the fact that he was only 20 years old, and secondly because Valentine’s sister, a Wren, went to RAF Station Bourn after he went missing to try to find out more news of her brother. The aircrew there felt desperately sorry for her but could add nothing to the information already given to the family by the Air Ministry. (Information courtesy of Arthur Spencer.)
Unfortunately we have never been able to obtain any other information about this crew. This year we have been looking for information about a specific member of the crew. His name was William Johnson Vaughan, and he was the Flight Engineer. He was a Halton brat in 1928, and and at Southern Rhodesian Air Force Station Cranborne from March 1940, one of the very first intake of officers, NCOs and ORs. He was at St Athans in 1942, both at the School of Technical Training and at 1654 Conversion Unit which was equipped with Manchesters and Lancasters. He joined 97 Squadron on 27 March 1943.
His son David would very much like a photograph of his father. If anyone can help, please let us know.
Hugh Baker was killed on 30 July 1944 when his aircraft was shot down over France. Of the unusually large crew of nine, only three survived, including Squadron Leader Peter Stevens, who was 97 Squadron’s Navigation Officer.
At this stage of the war, 97 Squadron was under the control of 5 Group although it still nominally belonged to 8 Group, the Pathfinders.
Squadron Leader Peter Stevens was probably flying with the crew to refresh his flying skills (it was not uncommon for the ‘leaders’ of the various trades to fly in order to keep their skills up to date) or was with them as an observer. READ MORE
We have added a page to clarify what is a frequently misunderstood situation, how some Pathfinder squadrons could continue to act as pathfinders even though they had been transferred to 5 Group. Pathfinder Squadrons in 5 Group
The decision by Harris, the Commander of Chief of Bomber Command, to transfer these squadrons was hugely contentious. Bennett was furious with what he considered a seriously flawed decision:
‘It left us with very seriously reduced heavy marking strength to carry on and do the same job as we had been doing in the past.’
From “PATHFINDER: Wartime Memories” by D C T Bennett
The decision was a reflection of the intense rivalry between Cochrane, the leader of 5 Group, and Bennett, which we will be covering in the next few days.
Norman McIntyre of the Brill crew, who was killed on 16 December 1943 over Berlin, kept a small photograph album which has pictures of the earlier part of his life in the RAAF. It ends abruptly with photographs of the funerals of two of his friends, but before this, the photographs show someone who was clearly enjoying his new glamorous life.
See Norman McIntyre’s Photo Album
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Le Creusot op, one of the most daring of the war, when 94 Lancasters flew in formation across France to wreck the Schneider arms plant 170 miles south-east of Paris. One of those flying on the operation was Ernest Deverill.
One of the reasons why Bennett may have been late in sending the message about the first anniversary of the Pathfinders (see previous post) is that he may have been preoccupied with the Peenemünde raid, which took place around the same time. As the raid is so well known, we have looked at it from a slightly different angle: what happened after one particular crew left the target. Debriefing after the Peenemünde Raid, 17/18 August 1943
Further to our posts way back in March about Pathfinder pets, we have been given permission to use a much better image of Clayton’s crew with Clayton’s spaniel.
The man holding the dog is Tich Palmer, who later went on to fly with the Mansbridge crew on 635 Squadron and sadly was lost with the entire crew on 20 April 1944.
By kind permission of Medals of England, which sold the Titch Palmer collection a while ago: Titch Palmer Medals and Logbooks
A more detailed photograph of James White and Harry Page, together Wally Layne (with thanks to David Layne). This has been added to the Fletcher crew page, and also a link has been set up between Jack Beesley and the marvellous repatriation photograph (on a different page) in which Jack appears. In the Archive there are some reminiscences which Jack wrote about his time as a prisoner of war, and these will be added in the future when we do a feature on the website on prisoners of war.
A couple of updates to the Fletcher crew page: a picture of the crew, including James White who had just finished his tour when the crew was shot down, and Ken Foster who took White’s place and very sadly was one of three crew members killed on the fatal night of 23/24 September 1943.
The lure of flying for people growing up in the 1920s and 1930s is hard to appreciate now when commercial flying is so commonplace. Then, flying was ultra-modern and incredibly glamorous, and airshows (as in the photograph above) fed this fascination. Many of the boys who were aeroplane-mad in those years grew up to join the RAF and the Pathfinders. For more on this see our new page on the Lure of Flying.