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’.
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 (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.: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
For the next seven days we will be posting about aspects of the terrible night of 16/17 December 1943. There will be a commemoration at RAF Wyton next Sunday, details of which have already been given on this website, but also at Thorpe Camp, kindly organised by Mark Howard of the 97 Squadron Association. This will consist of a wreath-laying at 1pm at the propeller memorial at Thorpe Camp, as the 97 (Straits Settlements) Squadron memorial is in the process of refurbishment during the winter. 97 Squadron, of course, suffered the greatest losses of any squadron that night. For details of this event, please see the 97 Squadron Association website.
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.