Bennett & the Tirpitz – Bennett’s Mae West

The information about the Channel Dash in April 1942 has reminded some readers of the attacks on the Tirpitz in 1942, in which aircrew who would one day become Pathfinders also took part. We have posted before about Donald Bennett’s involvement in these attacks. He was shot down on the night of 27/28 April 1942, and made a successful escape through Norway, reaching England exactly one month later. Two months later he was given command of the Pathfinders. See:

Bennett and the Tirpitz

Bennett and the Sinking of the Tirpitz

Ian Campbell in Australia sent us yesterday a link to the Australian War Memorial at Canberra which now owns the Mae West which Bennett was wearing when he was shot down. Bennett had buried this Mae West and his parachute under snow once he was safely on the ground.

bennett's mae west

 

See AWM Item: REL34487

bennett's mae west 2

The museum’s website tells us that a local villager named Fordal preserved the Mae West faithfully (the museum’s text includes three variants of the Norwegian’s Christian name):

Within hours, both were safely recovered and hidden by local villager, Redier Fordal. Most of the parachute materials were salvaged and used by the village, but Reidel kept the Mae West hidden from the Germans until the end of the war. […]

Don Bennett died in 1986. In 1992, Bennett’s widow, Mrs Ly Bennett, visited Trondheim on the 50th Anniversary of the raid and was presented with this Mae West by Reider Fordal, who had kept it safe for 50 years in the hope he could present it personally to Don Bennett. The Mae West was then donated to the Pathfinder Force Association (Queensland) upon Ly Bennett’s death in 2000, before being offered to the Australian War Memorial in 2006.

 

A Family’s Pride: George Granger’s DFM

Surviving congratulatory telegrams about a medal award, sent by one’s old Commanding Officer, seem to be somewhat rare. George Granger’s family must have been enormously proud of the high honour which George had received when he was awarded the DFM because they carefully preserved the telegram, together with the invitation to the investiture and one of the tickets to Buckingham Palace.

A Family’s Pride: George Granger’s DFM

105 Squadron Mosquito Navigator, Alistair Wood

Alistair McKenzie Wood was a Pathfinder navigator who had first completed a somewhat dramatic tour on Halifaxes with 76 Squadron of Main Force before retraining for Pathfinder duties in a Mosquito. See the first of several pages linked to our very interesting archive of material related to Alistair’s two tours: Alistair McKenzie Wood & 105 Squadron, Bourn

Dixie Dean, CO of PFF NTU

Wing Commander Dixie Dean, the commanding officer of the Pathfinders Navigation Training Unit, was so well thought of that in February 1944 he received a letter of the highest praise from Air Commodore Donald Bennett, AOC of the Path Finder Force. Bennett was not a man given to praise or hyperbole, which makes the letter all the more striking. See our new page: WingCo Dixie Dean, CO of the Pathfinders NTU

Barr Crew, 7 Squadron

In January this year we featured a magazine cover with a lovely picture of a bulldog posing as ‘Pilot Officer Prune’ and his unknown human friend, a pilot.  We later discovered that the pilot was Flight Lieutenant Leslie Barr.

A very interesting article appeared in The Telegraph two days ago about Barr’s crew, who were shot down on 10 September 1942 near Echt in Holland, west of Dusseldorf, the target of that night’s operation. Only two men out of the crew of eight survived. Barr and another crew member are buried at Jonkerbos War Cemetery, but the bodies of the four remaining crew members had sunk deep into the marshy ground, and they are remembered at Runnymede. The article in The Telegraph concerns these last four crew members and one Dutch family’s long crusade to have the bodies recovered from the mud and honourably buried.

The PFF & H2S, continued

Earlier this week we posted a page on H2S, a radar aid used extensively by the Pathfinders. Two connected pages concern the wartime death, in a Halifax crash, of Alan Blumlein, the inventor of H2S, and what was done after this tragic accident to keep the project going. The two pages are:

H2S and the Blumlein Crash

Bennett & the Development of H2S

There has been a very committed campaign to create a memorial to Blumlein in the last few months, led by the Hereford Times, which wrote in January 2019:

We plan a permanent memorial to Blumlein and his colleagues in the form of a metal plaque mounted on a plinth near a riverside path overlooking the site of the tragedy. Our appeal has the support of the Blumlein family and Jerome Vaughan, on whose land the memorial will be placed. It is being spearheaded by Garth Lawson, the Hereford Times walks writer, who has long believed a tribute to Blumlein was overdue.

It is believed that the money for this memorial has now been raised, partly by a generous donation from EMI with whom Blumlein was working when he was killed.

Bennett & The Russians, continued

In January we posted on Bennett and the Russians, not realising that there is a rather wonderful story in Bennett’s autobiography Pathfinder to which we should have drawn attention. So here it is at last. It is presumably the explanation why Bennett was awarded the Order of Alexander Nevsky, which had always seemed a bit of a mystery before.