John Sauvage, a P.S.

The explanation for the mix-up about nationality is now explained. As John’s son-in-law explains:

The Seychelles used to be French , but we won them as “spoils of war “ at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. The locals speak a version of French (especially the old ones like John) when ever they get together. We have comments from 97 Squadron mates who say he cut a swathe through the local ladies of Cambridge with his “French “ accent !!! Say no more.

Above: John (centre) with his crew

John Sauvage, 100th Birthday

John Sauvage, one of 97 Squadron’s most distinguished pilots, is 100 years old this weekend. The main image on this post is of John with his crew discussing arcane matters next to their Lancaster at Bourn in the summer of 1943. He can also be seen below with his ground crew in front of his 97 Squadron aircraft.

We were told years ago that John was French. In fact, we have learned this morning that he is Seychellois (from the Seychelles), which was a British possession from 1814 under the Treaty of Paris, and became a Crown Colony. He is now a naturalised British citizen.

In the ground crew photo John looks every inch the dashing young pilot. Below the photograph can be found the link to his citation for the Distinguished Service Order in the London Gazette of 30 November 1943 (second column, third down), which makes particular mention of his leadership qualities which inspired others to follow his high standard. We all join in wishing John the very best wishes for his birthday on Saturday.

London Gazette, 30 November 1943

TEE EMM

The link wasn’t working on yesterday’s post and it now is. However, here it is again. TEE EMM & PILOT OFFICER PRUNE.

TEE EMM, as previously stated, was the technical manual for the RAF, which contained a huge number of tips on the best way to fly. Pilot Officer Prune was called that intentionally, due to prunes well known laxative effect. As the cartoon states, Prune was to take TEE EMM regularly as it prevented that ‘thinking feeling’.

Desecration of Bomber Command War Memorial, London

Like everyone with any respect for our war dead, we were horrified by the attack on the Bomber Command Memorial in London on 21 January. We hope the police catch whoever was responsible as soon as possible.

The RAF Benevolent Fund are the guardians of the memorial and their Chief Executive made this comment:


This is the worst example of vandalism we have seen at the Memorial and it is utterly heart-breaking to see the memory of all those brave airmen disrespected in this way. This despicable act took just moments but will take considerable time and resources to put right. But like the remarkable men who the Memorial commemorates, we will not rest until we have finished the job.

The full cost of repair work is yet to be determined but is likely to run into thousands of pounds. The RAF Benevolent Fund’s latest press release details the public response to the attack.

Ken Newman, 97 Squadron

Ken Newman (second from right) who flew with the Steven crew and missed their fatal flight on 14 January 1944 due to a bad skin complaint, will be 98 years old this coming Sunday. Ironically, that is only four days off the 75th anniversary of the crash. If anyone would like to send a message to Ken via us, please send an email as soon as possible. He doesn’t do computers, so it will have to be printed out and posted to him.

Ken has always felt deeply grieved by the loss of the crew and of Leslie Laver who took his place on that last night.

He has a very clear memory of some of those old long-lost days. One very interesting little story he told me was about Ace’s girlfriend at the time (Ace is on the left of the photograph). She was an artist and she painted the Steven crew as the seven dwarves. Ken was Dopey and Steve ‘would have been Doc’, but he doesn’t remember the others at the moment. They were going to get it painted on the nose of their aircraft but it probably didn’t happen.

Please make sure that we receive any messages for Ken by Thursday morning at the latest. The usual email address, i.e.: info@raf-pathfindersarchive.com.

JENNIE MACK GRAY

Wakey-Wakey Pills

Here is a fascinating 2016 article on the use of Benzedrine, colloquially known as Wakey-Wakey pills, by the RAF. As most people who follow this website will know, operational bomber aircrew sometimes used such pills to keep themselves awake during their long and dangerous night operations.

In November 1942, Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) approved the use of amphetamine sulphate, known by its brand name, Benzedrine, for use on operations by its aircrews. The substance, a powerful stimulant with the ability to promote both wakefulness and well-being, had been subject to a strict policy of prohibition in the RAF since September 1939. The decision to reverse this policy was the culmination of a lengthy process within the Service, driven by laboratory and operational testing in conjunction with scientific, medical and military debate.

The Royal Air Force, Bomber Command and the use of Benzedrine Sulphate: An Examination of Policy and Practice during the Second World War. James Pugh, University of Birmingham. Copyright: Author / SAGE / Journal of Contemporary History.

Film: Lancaster

We were sent the link to this film by Philip Stevens a couple of days ago. Although it seems to have been released 5 years ago, none of us had seen it before. It is short (12 minutes) but very powerful. Don’t watch it if you don’t want to cry!

LANCASTER

One criticism would be that all the crew have voices which are educated and posh whereas many crews came from working-class backgrounds, or indeed from overseas. But that is perhaps nit-picking when this is such a moving piece of film.

Illustration: a still of the navigator from the film

Request for Info

Here is one for the sleuths. Can any one identify where this wonderful illustration of a Lancaster with all its radar and wireless aids has come from? It was clearly in a magazine article because of the numbering on the picture. No 10. shows the way in which SBA operated, SBA having been one of the few landing aids available on Black Thursday. We would like to trace the original publication.

Den Burg Cemetery, 24 December

On 24 December in the late afternoon, volunteers from the Aeronautical and War Museum on Texel, the Netherlands, placed candles on all the war graves at Den Burg Cemetery. This enchanting and poignant ceremony of Remembrance was led by Bram van Dijk and Jan Nieuwenhuis. Their helpers included school children with their parents.

This was a very touching tribute to the war dead who are buried there, who include my father’s rear gunner, Leslie Laver, and four other members of the Steven crew, who had flown from 97 Squadron’s base at Bourn on 14 January 1944.

Leslie Laver

See also the memorial to the Steven crew on Texel.

Many grateful thanks to everyone concerned, and to Jan Nieuwenhuis for permission to use the photograph.

JENNIE MACK GRAY