Pathfinder pets – Clayton and his spaniel

Further to our post yesterday, I remembered that somewhere in the Archive there was another 97 Squadron dog. And here he is, a spaniel who belonged to the pilot Peter Clayton, DSO, DFC. Unfortunately the copy of the photo we have is very low resolution, but you can just make out the dog sitting between Clayton’s legs.

The crew were flying with 97 Squadron in 1943, and on 27/28 September, for example, the crew members were:

JB238A  F/L R.F.Clayton, Sgt L.Palmer, F/L F.W.Chandler, F/Sgt A.E.Newbegin, W/O W.Halsey, F/Sgt J.Woods, W/O P.O.Bone.

Des Evans, who used to run the 97 Squadron Association website, emailed me way back in March 2006 about Peter Clayton’s dog. (I am not sure, by the way, why Clayton’s initials in the ORB are ‘RF’ and not ‘P’ – a small mystery there.)

Talking of Dogs yesterday. I had a great email from Kevin [Bending] last Night. He has been in touch with Peter Clayton , knocking up the years a bit now. However he is going to let us have a log book for his Spaniel which flew on a few trips with him and his crew. They evolved a logbook for him.

I wrote what a good story it was and asked if all the crew survived. Des responded: ‘To my knowledge they all survived including the Dog. Peter Clayton is still alive and well.’

Unfortunately I don’t know whether the spaniel’s logbook was ever copied.

The photograph above was sent to Des by Darren Rigsby, whose Grandfather was Pilot Officer Peter Bone, DFC (extreme left in the photograph). P/O Bone was the mid-upper gunner in the crew.




1409 Met Flight

1409 Met Flight’s primary duty was to ascertain the weather conditions over the targets before a bombing operation. They also checked weather conditions over the British Isles, which were critical to the safe take-off and landing of operational aircraft. This might seem like a dull routine job, but it was anything but. The dangers which the crews faced were extreme,

The new page on 1409 Met Flight gives a brief outline of its work.

It also includes details of the Maurice Briggs and Baker crew, together with links to some of the extensive research which has been carried out about them.

Lionel Williams & His Daughter

The PFF squadron pages are gradually being reorganised so that each squadron has its own page, or group of pages. 156 Squadron is one of the first to be set up, and of the two current pages one is on the Engineering Officer at Warboys and the other is a beautiful photograph of Lionel Williams and his daughter (click HERE for the full version).

Mystery Pathfinder

Here is a good old-fashioned needle-in-a-haystack query, but one which is funny and endearing as well. Around 1988, a little boy of about 10 years old, flying home from holiday, found himself sitting next to a ‘hefty, square built man who had an arm missing’. This man turned out to have been a Lancaster pilot in the Pathfinders during the war. Below is the report that the little boy wrote afterwards.

Talking to a Lancaster pilot

The question is obviously can anyone say who this Pathfinder pilot was?

It’s worth adding that we were contacted about this mystery Pathfinder by the little boy’s father, who told us: “My son is now a GP and still mad about planes”.

Christmas Eve 1944, 35 Squadron

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were days like any other for Pathfinder and Main Force aircrew.

The village of Great Paxton is just west of RAF Graveley, at perhaps a mile’s distance from the old airfield. The peaceful-looking village scene above was the scene of a wartime tragedy, marked by the blue ‘X’, which occurred on Christmas Eve 1944 at about twenty to four in the afternoon.

Colin Stocker, who as a boy lived at Yelling on the outskirts of the wartime airfield, sent Jennie Gray this photograph around 2007. On the back Colin had written the story.

TL-S Lancaster, 35 Squadron, taking off from Graveley crashed at Great Paxton behind four council houses in London Lane. The wing of the plane ripped off tiles of roofs. Stanley Jackson was feeding his hens, saw the bomber coming through the dense fog and ran into his house. After the bomber crashed, he found all the hens dead.

George Carrol pulled one of the aircrew out of the wreckage. He was just alive. All the others were killed. Bombs were strewn in all directions.

Sadly, the man taken from the wreckage also died.

In Bomber Command Losses, 1944, Chorley recorded the crew as being:

F/O A T Kenyon

Sgt L Williams

Sgt A Thomas

F/S A H Cousins

F/S C L Blundell

Sgt C A Winter

Sgt R F A Yallop