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.
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.
Bad weather killed many experienced crews, including those who were only carrying out training duties. Icing could be particularly lethal. Today we have added a page about certain aspects of ICING as it affected aircrew, sometimes lethally. A reporting system was vital, so Air Ministry orders made it a duty for a pilot who had encountered ice formation to report this when he landed.
Referring back to one of our December posts Christmas Eve 1944, 35 Squadron on the loss of the Kenyon crew, we recently had an email from R Maddox who wrote:
Just to add to information about the Christmas Eve 1944 crash at Great Paxton (post ‘Christmas Eve 1944, 35 Squadron’), the Form 540 notes that ten aircraft were detailed to take off in the late afternoon to mark and bomb the marshaling yard at Nippes, Cologne. The companion Form 541 records that Pilot Officer Arthur Kenyon’s aircraft (PB366/’S’) was designated a ‘Supporter’ aircraft. They took off at 15.35.
More information on the incident and crew can be found at: Aircrew Remembered
The Aircrew Remembered site has photographs of six of the crew and states that the aircraft was taking off with the assistance of FIDO and almost immediately crashed into trees. This would fit with the eyewitness report about the aircraft appearing out of dense fog.
Lost on 30/31 March 1944 on the infamous Nuremburg raid. This 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, east of Bonn. By some miracle, the pilot Lindley survived to become a prisoner of war.
Capt: 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 (no age on CWGC)
Norman Edmonson’s nephew, Gordon, recently sent us some photographs of a small notebook that Norman used to carry with him, which was kept in its own little leather zip-up folder stamped with an Air Force crest.
According to Chorley, Vivour was a Nigerian, an unusual nationality for Bomber Command.