Working on the post yesterday on the condolence letter to Jespersen’s father reminded me of another condolence letter, this time written on the Pathfinder station at Oakington in December 1943. It concerned a friend, Bob Butler, who was stationed with 97 Squadron at Bourn. The condolence letter was addressed to his mother, Ellen Butler.
More on Joan Beech’s book One Waaf’s War and the pages which describe 105 Squadron. Here is a priceless anecdote about a pilot named Jimmy Mills whose navigation skills when driving a car seem to have been slightly off-whack. Joan Beech and 105 Squadron
In May 1941 105 Squadron was flying Blenheims and was based at Lossiemouth, Moray, Scotland. The war graves in this photograph on our sister site are for two members of the squadron who were killed that month in Norway.
In August 1942, 105 Squadron became one of the foundation squadrons of the Pathfinders. Based first at RAF Marham, Norfolk, it was transferred to RAF Bourn in Cambridgeshire as 97 Squadron left.
Joan Beech, in her biography One Waaf’s War (Costello, 1989), describes the day that the squadron’s Mosquitoes arrived at Bourn:
On the morning of March 23rd 1944, as I cycled up the hill to work, the new aircraft started to arrive, ‘beating up’ the airfield to make sure we were aware that 105 Squadron was here. They were small, twin-engined planes which, as they circled and landed, looked so tiny next to the hulking great Lancs.
The ‘Wooden Wonders’ had arrived.
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
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
Some Pathfinders just stand out – whether from their striking personality, unusual looks, outstanding bravery, or the dramatic incidents which occurred whilst they were flying with the PFF. One such is Frank McEgan, to whom the latest issue of TALES FROM THE ARCHIVE is dedicated: Tales from the Archive 4. 18 January 2018
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.
If anyone can find anything on these two elusive pilots, please contact us.
RAF Station Bourn was the home of 97 Squadron for one year. This new page contains images, old and new, of the station.
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.