We at last have two images of Jeff Pelletier, one of the last three pilots flying on 16/17 December 1943, Black Thursday, for whom we did not have a photograph. He was identified this year as being one of a group of pilots in a photograph sent by Wilfred Riches’ family ten years ago.
Mandy Lyell, his grand-daughter, who identified him, also sent a picture of Jeff in 1945, after he had become a test pilot.
Jeff was one of 97 Squadron’s top pilots.
Of the 21 pilots and 4 second pilots flying on Black Thursday, we are now only missing photographs for David Brill and Victor Flack with his second pilot Roderick Emerson.
If anyone can find anything on these two elusive pilots, please contact us.
I am very sad to inform you all that Eric Rimmington of the Benton crew passed away on 9th October 2016. He was 95 years old.
As his daughter Joan wrote, Eric was ‘a wonderful, much loved and respected man by all that knew him’.
I was in correspondence with Eric for several years, but the only time I met him was at the old airfield at Bourn in the summer of 2014. He was so extremely modest that he did not want to wear his medals until he was pressed to do so – everybody wanted to take a photograph of him with them. He was such a lovely gentleman, and the word ‘gentleman’ suited him perfectly.
The Emerson crew all died in a horrific accident on the edge of Bourn airfield in February 1944. This new page contains both a contemporary diary account, the official report, and the much later recollections of a flight mechanic stationed at Bourn on the loss of A-Apple.
Although this crew was not lost on Black Thursday, their page has been updated today partly because of the fineness of their memorial, deep in the woods at Solwaster in Belgium. This is almost certainly the finest memorial which was ever set up for a lost crew from 97 Squadron. Meanwhile, a memorial to all who were lost on Black Thursday in England still has not yet found the necessary funds. Will it ever happen?
As part of the Black Thursday commemorations, we are adding a much better photograph of Billy Colson, who was killed with the Mackenzie crew on the northern perimeter of Bourn airfield after their aircraft crashed in the fog.
I am posting this on the evening of 16th December, seventy years after the tragic events which took place late that night and in the early hours of the following morning.
It is now just after 5 o’clock, and by now all 21 of 97 Squadron’s Lancasters would have taken off for the very long flight to Berlin. They would arrive there around 8 o’clock, and not return to their airfield until around 11 o’clock at night, only to find it almost impossible to land. For 5 crews, there was to be no safe landing, and we remember them tonight, including the handful of survivors, most of whom were seriously injured:
Sidney Mathews was a flight mechanic for JB176-OF-K, the aircraft of the Thackway crew. On Black Thursday, he went to Cambridge to see his wife, against Standing Orders, and on his return to base in the early hours of the morning was witness to the crash of the aircraft which he had serviced before the Berlin operation. For his bravery in dragging crew members from the blazing wreck of the aircraft, he was awarded the British Empire Medal.