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.
And here is another little fact about Bennett which I have been sitting on for some months. It follows on our post on 26 August last year about how Bennett was shot down whilst trying to sink the Tirpitz. He made it safely home to England, was decorated, and given the all-important job of forming the Pathfinders. The Tirpitz lived on until 12 November 1944, when RAF Lancaster bombers finally sunk it. (United News Broadcast).
Wing Commander William Anderson who was stationed at PFF HQ wrote in 1946:
They gave the Wing Commander a DSO and a far more important job even than sinking a battleship. But he still felt a little sore about it. And it was a relief to us [at the Pathfinders] when the Tirpitz was sunk in Tromso Fjord. For a picture of her used to hang in his office, and if ever she had got loose on the high seas I doubt if anything would have stopped him having a crack at the one thing that has so far got the better of him.
JENNIE GRAY MACK
Here are two curious little facts that I came across this afternoon whilst having a massive tidy-up in the office. Bennett, the AOC of the Pathfinders, was awarded the Order of Alexander Nevsky by the Russians, presumably just after the war had ended and before relations between the USSR and the western powers began to seriously deteriorate.
By 1948, the situation had become critical with the beginnings of the Cold War. And Bennett was one of the aircrew who flew on the Berlin Airlift
after the Russians had blockaded the city. He flew a Tudor II, a large passenger liner, built as all you aircraft buffs doubtless know by Avro, the makers of the Lancaster. Apparently on one occasion he nearly died, taking off before the externally attached wing elevator locks had been removed.
Below: Tudor II aircraft, from British Pathe newsreel.
Cecil Macgown, the Group Medical Officer of the Pathfinders, usually known as Doc Macgown or ‘Mac’, was in the RFC during the First World War. In one momentous letter to his sister in 1917, he wrote: “Still alive and getting along fine. Very fed up at being out of everything. A shell hit my machine at 3000 feet up and I hit the ground rather forcibly.” To read more, see: Doc Macgown in WWI
We very seldom hear about what life was like for children on Bomber Command or PFF bases. For a wonderful child’s eye view of life on a Pathfinder base, including a fabulous anecdote about the legendary Mahaddie at a party given for the children of PFF personnel at Warboys, see The Engineering Officer at Warboys.