Sean has written an article for the Archive’s website about the costly operation against Cologne on 23 December 1944 in which Bob Palmer won the VC, one of only three VCs won by the Path Finder Force. It was a posthumous award, as Bob Palmer lost his life together with the crew he was flying with, the Milne crew of 582 Squadron pictured here. At that time, Bob Palmer was actually a Mosquito pilot with 109 Squadron, but the particular requirements of the operation meant that he was flying the aircraft at the time it was shot down. For the full article read here: Heroic Endeavour – Cologne, 23 December 1944
The ground crew on Bomber Command squadrons were the unsung heroes, working hard in all weathers. It is good to see in this remarkable photograph of ‘A’ Flight of the Pathfinders’ 109 Squadron that the ground crew are standing alongside the men whom they kept in the air: 109 Squadron, A Flight, October 1944 – Aircrew and Ground Crew
What a difference six days made! Less than a week after the Pathfinder Mosquito attacks on Kiel, and on the airfields in the Kiel and Lubeck area, Pathfinder Lancasters were back using the airfield at Lubeck to collect and bring home prisoners of war. One of the crews flying on 9 May was that of Flying Officer Coombes and Bill Lapthorn, his flight engineer, See: POWs brought back from Lubeck, near Kiel, 9 May 1945
After a catastrophic accident in which a full load of bombs was dropped on his aircraft, Frank Lloyd somehow managed to save the Lancaster and get all the crew safely home. The only crew member who did not get back was David Mansell-Playdell. Immediately after the disaster, he baled out, on captain’s orders, which Frank revoked a few moments later but too late to stop David. See: Frank Lloyd, 582 Squadron
We are most grateful to Sean Feast for the photographs of Frank Lloyd and for the many other 582 Squadron photographs he has donated to the Archive. The full story of Frank Lloyd can be read in Sean’s book: Master Bombers, The Experiences of a Pathfinder Squadron at War, 1944-1945, published by Grub Street in 2008.
Donald Sinclair Margach was a bomb aimer who, in 1943, served on 106 Squadron when it was commanded by Wing Commander Guy Gibson. Donald did not go with Gibson when he formed 617 Squadron, which in May 1943 carried out Operation Chastise, the audacious raid on the dams. In 1944 Donald was flying with 582 Squadron of the Pathfinders when he lost his life. See Donald Margach and Guy Gibson
Ruined or decayed wartime airfields are one of the most evocative sights in Britain. Inevitably many of them are now being built over. These pictures of Little Staughton, taken by Matt Barker in the summer of 2017, are full of atmosphere and the ghosts of the past. Little Staughton, 109 and 582 Squadrons