What is thought to be the worst accident involving ground crew on a Pathfinder station took place on 9 September 1944 when bombs detonated during a routine job. Seven men were killed, and of these three vanished without trace. See: Catastrophic Explosion at RAF Upwood
Pathfinder and Main Force Lancasters had identifying squadron codes and individual letters which made them easy to recognise in the air. For example, OF-D stood for 97 Squadron aircraft D-Dog (D-Donald at a later date). For a list of PFF squadron codes, see Pathfinder Squadrons by Type. For the individual letters (and one of our all-time favourite ground crew and Lancaster photographs), see our new page: Aircraft Codes & Letters
There must have been many quiet acts of courage at the scenes of the crashes on the night of 16/17 December 1943. Most would have gone unnoticed except by those present, and we are not aware of any other medals for bravery than the one described here. This was the British Empire Medal, awarded to a member of ground crew at RAF Station Bourn for the rescue of the wireless operator Joe Mack, who featured in our 11 December post
for further info on Sidney Mathews see Sidney Mathews: A Portrait
It’s always wonderful to see the men who maintained the Pathfinder aircraft, and this is a particularly nice photograph of James Frances Henry with other ground crew in front of a Met Flight mosquito. James was with 1409 Met Flight from 31st March 1943 to 19th June 1944, working as an aero engine specialist.
His grandson, Michael Henry, who sent the photograph, writes:
My grandfather first joined the RFC [Royal Flying Corps, the precursor of the RAF] as ‘a boy’ and on his birthday became ‘a man’ (quite a surprise to me how this was recorded – at the time it was quite normal !) ….. then on 1st April 1918 he was in the RAF.
At the end of WWI he was placed on reserve and called up on 25th Aug 1939 at the outset of WWII.
The Henry family would be delighted if anyone knew more about their grandfather’s war service, or who the other men are in the photograph. Please let us know if you have any information you can share.
See also: How Did This Mosquito Land?
RAF Station Bourn was the home of 97 Squadron for one year. This new page contains images, old and new, of the station.