Black Thursday Bear on BBC Website

The tattered (but now somewhat rejuvenated thanks to the BBC programme “The Repair Shop”) teddy bear known as Bobby Bear has now achieved national fame. It is a great pleasure to see this as he belonged to Joe Mack of the Thackway crew who are the reason why this Archive originally began Today Bobby Bear is featured on the BBC website: BBC NEWS

See also: Wound Stripes and the Thackway Crash

Mosquito Crew, Lost in Italy

We have been contacted by Lorenzo Saggioro, who is looking for information for two Mosquito aircrew buried in Padua in Italy. It turned out after initial investigation that these were members of 256 Squadron, Fighter Command, and so well off our usual beaten track. However, there is something very moving and intriguing about this particular story, and we hope that anyone who belongs to forums or Facebook sites on Fighter Command may be able to track down some information on these aircrew. They died on 25 April 1945 and their names were:

Pilot Officer Roy James George Beard – Pilot

Flight Sergeant D Maddock – Navigator (unusually no Christian name is given on the CWGC site)

Further information about this crew is on our sister site, AFTERMATH: Missing Research, War graves and Remembrance, see Mosquito Crew, Buried in Italy

Aviation Fuel Burns, Science Museum Exhibition

There is a very interesting new exhibition at the Science Museum on treating the wounded in wartime. This covers far more than the Second World War but there is a section on treating the terrible burns that some aircrew suffered.

By the Second World War, mobile maxillofacial units saved the lives of many soldiers with early surgery. But a new challenge arose with the growth of aerial combat, as pilots trapped in cockpits suffered terrible burns from aviation fuel.

The surgeon Archibald McIndoe treated 4,000 men with burns from aviation fuel. Each patient had an average of 12 operations. The surgery rebuilt hands and faces, and many of the men went back to fly again.

Of course, on the heavy bombers all the crew were at risk of serious burns if their aircraft crashed. One of the men whom McIndoe treated was Ernest Deverill’s loyal gunner who had served with him in a previous tour. James Benbow, who had severely burned hands, was the only survivor of the Deverill crash on Black Thursday.

Kenyon Crash Site Memorial

The last two Christmases we have published a post in memory of the Kenyon crew who died on Christmas Eve just after take-off from RAF Graveley – see: Kenyon Crew, Christmas Eve 1944. A local group are now fund-raising for a memorial to the crew, See this article in the Hunts Post which gives fund-raising details. You can also contact the Great Paxton History Society by email at:

Pathfinder Memorial, National Memorial Arboretum

We recently have had a few enquiries about why this memorial is not yet in place at the NMA. John Clifford advised us a few weeks back:

The main issue is moving 5 ton of marble from Peterborough to the NMA!  I’ve had promises of moving it over the past year and a bit 3 times now and all have reneged, mainly the Army. […] I’ll just keep trying.

To which JMG replied, somewhat frivolously:

5 tons of marble – pfff!!  I’ll chuck it in the back of my car.

On a more serious note, if anyone can help with this problem, please get in touch.

Bobby Bear – Ready for Another 75 Years

In May we published a post about Bobby Bear, the childhood toy of Joe Mack who survived a horrendous crash on Black Thursday, 16/17 December 1943. This post has since been updated with more information about wound stripes: Wound Stripes and the Thackway Crash

The purpose of this new post is to tell everyone that the restored Bobby Bear is on this coming Tuesday’s episode of The Repair Shop on BBC1 which hopefully will tell something of the background to Bobby Bear, his wound stripe, and the RAF’s worst night of the war for bad-weather crashes.

BB repaired 2

Part of the blurb for the programme reads:

And teddy bear repair duo Amanda and Julie welcome a 100-year-old RAF mascot bear called Bobby. Dressed in a replica uniform, the bear belonged to a brave airman who survived a horrific plane crash during the Second World War.

Below is a picture of Joe Mack on home leave in the summer of 1944 after months in hospital and rehabilitation. It can be seen that the uniform he was wearing hung very loosely on him as he had lost so much weight during the months in treatment. His medical care was exceptionally good and they saved his leg which had been very badly mangled. See also: Why the Archive Began

joe mack


Deverill Collection: Fund-Raising

Two years ago, the RAF Pathfinders Archive bought the Deverill Collection to ensure that it would not go into private hands and possibly end up being sold off in separate parts. Since the Archive acquired the Deverill Collection, it has been on loan to the Heritage Centre at RAF Wyton, where it can be seen by the public, by appointment.

The Deverill Collection’s future as part of RAF history, and in particular the history of the Pathfinders and Black Thursday, 16/17 December 1943, is now assured. However, the Archive still has to raise £4,280 – 10% of the purchase price – to settle the remaining balance of the interest-free loans taken out to finance the purchase. Clearing the balance will enable us to look to the future when we may be able to acquire other suitable Pathfinder items. These too will be loaned for display at RAF Wyton, and will enhance the wonderful collection already there.

We are launching an appeal to all our supporters to help us clear the outstanding balance of the Deverill Collection purchase. Please contribute what you can to help us settle the last debts for this outstanding pilot and ‘Knight of the Air’.


We are giving away a free pair of Black Thursday booklets to anyone who contributes £30 or more.

The Black Thursday booklets

Deverill RH smaller

Above: the new Black Thursday display at RAF Wyton. See this page: The Deverill Collection at RAF Wyton

Website Typos, Omissions, Errors …

We have received two messages in the last day about typos on the website, and this seems as good a time as any to say that we welcome any such feed-back in the interests of historical accuracy. With our slender resources, there is an enormous time-pressure on keeping the website up to date as well as dealing with everything else – a huge email correspondence, charity admin, research, cataloguing, etc – so there is bound to be the occasional mistake or imperfection. Many thanks to those who wrote in. Offending typos duly corrected!