We have recently received a haunting image of Eric Skinner of the Burns crew who was captured by the Germans on 31 August 1943. All but one of the crew had baled out of the aircraft when, according to the Bomber Command loss card, the aircraft blew up at 18,000 feet with the full load of bombs. Of the crew of seven, two died and Burns, the skipper, was so badly wounded that he would be repatriated. For the full image of Eric Skinner and details of the Burns crew, see: Burns Crew
On Remembrance Sunday, we remember not only those who died but the relatives and friends who suffered a lifetime of grief at their loss.
As the cemeteries were completed and the Imperial War Graves Commission prepared to erect the permanent headstones, each bereaved family would have been sent the specimen form included here which showed them what the headstone would look like and the space for their own four lines of tribute. (Only New Zealanders were not allowed this tribute for historical reasons to do with the First World War.) The form tells them that the inscription cannot be more than 60 letters. It is easy to imagine how hard it must have been to say all one wanted to say in such a small space.
This is a rather blurry digital copy, but it is unique in the Archive and very appropriate for this Remembrance Sunday.
The papers were amongst those preserved by the family of Norman Edmondson, a twenty-year-old Canadian, lost on the infamous Nuremburg raid of 30/31 March 1944.
Images courtesy of Gordon Edmondson.
Norman’s aircraft 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. By a miracle, the pilot Lindley survived to become a prisoner of war.
Pilot: 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 (age not known)
All Pathfinder squadrons carried out a constant programme of on-the-job training. The squadrons varied greatly in how much detail they gave in the ORBs about the programmes, which included exercises such as Fighter Affiliation and Y Bombing Runs. See this new page: Training on the Squadron, 635 Squadron
As part of the reorganisation of the website, we have grouped all the pages about Pathfinder training in one place, so that topics can be scanned through quickly. All future posts about Pathfinder training or training accidents will be added to this page. See: Training the Pathfinders
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.
Earlier this year we received a very nice colourised version of the lovely photograph of Hugh Baker, standing outside a rather grand house in Hastings in 1942. Due to much dedicated local sleuthing, the actual house has been identified. See the update on THIS PAGE
In May 1941 105 Squadron was flying Blenheims and was based at Lossiemouth, Moray, Scotland. The war graves in this photograph on our sister site are for two members of the squadron who were killed that month in Norway.
In August 1942, 105 Squadron became one of the foundation squadrons of the Pathfinders. Based first at RAF Marham, Norfolk, it was transferred to RAF Bourn in Cambridgeshire as 97 Squadron left.
Joan Beech, in her biography One Waaf’s War (Costello, 1989), describes the day that the squadron’s Mosquitoes arrived at Bourn:
On the morning of March 23rd 1944, as I cycled up the hill to work, the new aircraft started to arrive, ‘beating up’ the airfield to make sure we were aware that 105 Squadron was here. They were small, twin-engined planes which, as they circled and landed, looked so tiny next to the hulking great Lancs.
The ‘Wooden Wonders’ had arrived.
We have been sent this lovely photograph of the D-Day commemorations for the Jespersen crew, who were shot down and all killed on 6 June 1944. The memorial is north-west of Osmanville in the churchyard of St Clements. With thanks to David Wold, who accompanied the 97 year old Norwegian veteran Trygve Hanse from Canada to the ceremony. Hanse was a sailor on the destroyer Stord on the morning of 6 June 1944.
We are beginning to collect a little information about Finn Varde Jerspersen, who was at ‘Little Norway’ in Canada for some time and there taught other pilots how to fly.
97 Squadron lost its charismatic Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Carter, on D-Day.
It also lost the Jespersen crew, most of whom were Norwegians.
Whilst there were other Pathfinder casualties on that day, for me these two crews are amongst the most memorable, especially on this 75th Anniversary of D-Day.
JENNIE MACK GRAY
Last Christmas Eve, we included details of the Kenyon crew from 35 Squadron at Graveley, who crashed just after take-off on 24 December 1944. Very recently, we were sent a detailed dossier on the crash compiled by Paul Herod. Here is one particularly vivid story from the dossier, about Low Farm, Great Paxton, where one of the bombs of the wrecked Lancaster came to rest.