Further to our previous post, we are now publishing the seventh issue of TALES FROM THE ARCHIVE, which is on the RAF’s PR war, and how the Augsburg raid was covered in the Press. It also shows how the existence of the Pathfinders was revealed in November 1943, just prior to the start of what came to be known as the Battle of Berlin.
Ernest Alfred Deverill, who was lost due to fog on Black Thursday, 16/17 December 1943, survived many hazardous operations in his time but perhaps none more so than the Augsburg raid on 17 April 1942.
Tales from the Archive this month will be on the Augsburg raid and the RAF’s PR war.
There is a commemoration for this raid taking place in Leicester in 11 days time.
Further to our recent post about Frank Smith and Patch the Dog, Frank’s son-in-law has kindly sent a copy of Frank’s logbook and there is a very interesting entry on 4th May 1945 which reads:
13.10 Base to Juvincourt
and then on the next line:
17.15 Juvincourt to Dunsfold, evacuation of 23 ex P.O.Ws
The flight from Juvincourt took one hour and forty-five minutes, and the Harrison crew returned from Dunsfold to base (Coningsby) on the same very eventful day.
It is thought that this may very well be the day that Patch was brought back from the Continent.
Juvincourt was one of the largest Luftwaffe airfields in Northern France before it was seized by the Allies after the Normandy invasion. It is some distance from the Belgian border, but family history recounts that Patch came from Belgium. Given the very short timeframe, it seems unlikely that the crew had time to go to Belgium, so perhaps one of the ex-POWs had him and gave him to the crew, and in particular to Frank Smith, for safe-keeping. The POW would have been entering the extensive programme of care for ex-POWs which was waiting for them when they came home, and the chances of being able to keep the dog were minimal.
For details of Operation Exodus, the evacuation of POWs, see this page.
Further to our post yesterday, I remembered that somewhere in the Archive there was another 97 Squadron dog. And here he is, a spaniel who belonged to the pilot Peter Clayton, DSO, DFC. Unfortunately the copy of the photo we have is very low resolution, but you can just make out the dog sitting between Clayton’s legs.
The crew were flying with 97 Squadron in 1943, and on 27/28 September, for example, the crew members were:
JB238A F/L R.F.Clayton, Sgt L.Palmer, F/L F.W.Chandler, F/Sgt A.E.Newbegin, W/O W.Halsey, F/Sgt J.Woods, W/O P.O.Bone.
Des Evans, who used to run the 97 Squadron Association website, emailed me way back in March 2006 about Peter Clayton’s dog. (I am not sure, by the way, why Clayton’s initials in the ORB are ‘RF’ and not ‘P’ – a small mystery there.)
Talking of Dogs yesterday. I had a great email from Kevin [Bending] last Night. He has been in touch with Peter Clayton , knocking up the years a bit now. However he is going to let us have a log book for his Spaniel which flew on a few trips with him and his crew. They evolved a logbook for him.
I wrote what a good story it was and asked if all the crew survived. Des responded: ‘To my knowledge they all survived including the Dog. Peter Clayton is still alive and well.’
Unfortunately I don’t know whether the spaniel’s logbook was ever copied.
The photograph above was sent to Des by Darren Rigsby, whose Grandfather was Pilot Officer Peter Bone, DFC (extreme left in the photograph). P/O Bone was the mid-upper gunner in the crew.
The most famous Bomber Command pet is Guy Gibson’s Labrador, Nigger. However, other dogs appear in photos of Bomber Command aircrew, some of whom traveled with their owners on bombing sorties.
Frank Smith was with 97 Squadron at the end of the war, flying as a rear gunner with a pilot named Harrison. The celebratory photograph below may either have been taken when they finished their tour or when the war ended.
Patch the dog appears with Frank (they seem to have been inseparable) in a number of photos. It is thought that Patch was brought back from Belgium after the war ended and that the crew hid him on the plane in order to get him back.
The photograph below is one of the best informal photos we have seen of the quiet life back at base. Patch appears on the far left, held safely by Frank.
With many thanks to Margaret and Jeffrey Bossons.
Ralph Cecil Saunders, a navigator with 97 Squadron, was one of only two survivors of the crew of Kenneth Painter, which was shot down on 20 October 1943. The other survivor was Tom Andrews, the wireless operator.
Saunders spent the rest of the war at Stalag IVB at Mülhberg, south-west of Berlin. This was liberated by the Red Army on 23 April 1945; however, the bulk of the prisoners were not released by the Russians until around 22 May. (See Footsteps on the Sands of Time, by Oliver Clutton-Brock.)
Although we have not yet traced official records, it appears that a number of Soviet prisoners were also kept at Mülhberg, one of them being Alex Polewoj. Generally speaking, Soviet prisoners were kept separately from British prisoners, and treated abysmally. Saunders made friends with Alex Polewoj through the wire, and in gratitude the Soviet soldier gave him the cigarette box.
Despite the appalling conditions in which the Soviet prisoners were held, Saunders would later recall potatoes (presumably cooked and therefore edible) being thrown through his window by them when he was in the “cooler”.
There will be more on Ralph Saunders and Tom Andrews on another post.
With thanks to Peter Saunders.
Some Pathfinders just stand out – whether from their striking personality, unusual looks, outstanding bravery, or the dramatic incidents which occurred whilst they were flying with the PFF. One such is Frank McEgan, to whom the latest issue of TALES FROM THE ARCHIVE is dedicated: Tales from the Archive 4. 18 January 2018
This evening, 74 years ago, saw the death of all eight members of the Brill crew when their Lancaster was hit by flak and exploded over Berlin.
Tales from the Archive No. 3 is dedicated to the extraordinary story of Robert Butler’s prayer book, which was in the aircraft with him when it was hit by flak.
As there has recently been so much information centred on Coningsby and 54 Base, a page has been set up and some photographs have been added of the briefing room for 97 Squadron at that station.
The Coningsby page is under our menu on RAF Stations, where RAF Stations Bourn and Woodhall Spa are already found.
The Steven crew are commemorated on the Dutch island of Texel, where their aircraft was shot down. Texel has some very dedicated researchers, who have spent years ensuring that the memory of Allied aircrew is honoured.