The Inscriptions on the Tombstones

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.

Edmondson grave headstone details (2)

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.

Edmondson photo
Norman Edmondson

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)

Jack Blair, Ward and Sauvage Crews

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.

105 Squadron: War Graves, Bergen, and RAF Bourn

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.

Jespersen Crew, D-Day Commemorations

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.

Kenyon Crew, Christmas Eve 1944

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.

Kenyon Crew, Christmas Eve 1944

William Johnson Vaughan, Valentine Baker Crew

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.