Like many Pathfinder aircrew, Alistair Wood had flown on operations with Main Force before he joined the Pathfinders. His crew, piloted by Wilfred Elder, a New Zealander, had some particularly dramatic and dangerous times on their first tour. See the first of our two-part account of Alistair’s service in the RAF: Alistair Wood: Part One, 76 Squadron, Main Force
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
This report is not only of great interest because of the men involved in this particular accident, but also because it shows us the type of report which was compiled on flying accidents by the RAF. Unfortunately, due to the post-war ‘slash and burn’ attitude of the British towards their RAF records, this type of information is extraordinarily hard to obtain on RAF aircrew and it is usually only by going to the Dominion records (if a Dominion airman was on that crew) that one can get information on what happened.
See our new page: RAF Accident Reports: Parlato and Orchard
One of the reasons why Bennett may have been late in sending the message about the first anniversary of the Pathfinders (see previous post) is that he may have been preoccupied with the Peenemünde raid, which took place around the same time. As the raid is so well known, we have looked at it from a slightly different angle: what happened after one particular crew left the target. Debriefing after the Peenemünde Raid, 17/18 August 1943
Tales from the Archive, 6 goes back to the very beginning of the Path Finder Force, at a time when it was being proposed under the name the Target Finding Force. Harris’ pugnacious opposition to the idea only ended when he was given a direct order by the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. Tales from the Archive 6. 28 March 2018
Our sister website, WWII Missing Research, War Graves, & Remembrance, has published an account of how the London Press were used to identify one particular Main Force crew, who had been buried as unknowns in France in September 1942.
We are planning to do a small online exhibition on aircrew training overseas, but here is one sneak preview item, a rare survival of what must have been many hundreds of such telegrams, sent home by proud young men who had just qualified in their chosen trade.
This is the first such telegram we have ever seen. It was sent by John Conybeare Landon (who would serve with Main Force) to his younger sister, June.
With many thanks to his nephew, David Wingate.