In May we published a post about Bobby Bear, the childhood toy of Joe Mack who survived a horrendous crash on Black Thursday, 16/17 December 1943. This post has since been updated with more information about wound stripes: Wound Stripes and the Thackway Crash
The purpose of this new post is to tell everyone that the restored Bobby Bear is on this coming Tuesday’s episode of The Repair Shop on BBC1 which hopefully will tell something of the background to Bobby Bear, his wound stripe, and the RAF’s worst night of the war for bad-weather crashes.
Part of the blurb for the programme reads:
And teddy bear repair duo Amanda and Julie welcome a 100-year-old RAF mascot bear called Bobby. Dressed in a replica uniform, the bear belonged to a brave airman who survived a horrific plane crash during the Second World War.
Below is a picture of Joe Mack on home leave in the summer of 1944 after months in hospital and rehabilitation. It can be seen that the uniform he was wearing hung very loosely on him as he had lost so much weight during the months in treatment. His medical care was exceptionally good and they saved his leg which had been very badly mangled. See also: Why the Archive Began
The uniform of George Walker (usually known in the RAF as Johnny after the whisky) was recently donated to the Pathfinder Collection at RAF Wyton by his son, Mick. They also have a copy of George’s logbook.
George remained in the RAF until 1969, and the picture below is of him shortly before his retirement, in the rank of Squadron Leader, still proudly wearing the Pathfinder badge.
The most famous Bomber Command pet is Guy Gibson’s Labrador, Nigger. However, other dogs appear in photos of Bomber Command aircrew, some of whom traveled with their owners on bombing sorties.
Frank Smith was with 97 Squadron at the end of the war, flying as a rear gunner with a pilot named Harrison. The celebratory photograph below may either have been taken when they finished their tour or when the war ended.
Patch the dog appears with Frank (they seem to have been inseparable) in a number of photos. It is thought that Patch was brought back from Belgium after the war ended and that the crew hid him on the plane in order to get him back.
The photograph below is one of the best informal photos we have seen of the quiet life back at base. Patch appears on the far left, held safely by Frank.
Ralph Cecil Saunders, a navigator with 97 Squadron, was one of only two survivors of the crew of Kenneth Painter, which was shot down on 20 October 1943. The other survivor was Tom Andrews, the wireless operator.
Saunders spent the rest of the war at Stalag IVB at Mülhberg, south-west of Berlin. This was liberated by the Red Army on 23 April 1945; however, the bulk of the prisoners were not released by the Russians until around 22 May. (See Footsteps on the Sands of Time, by Oliver Clutton-Brock.)
Although we have not yet traced official records, it appears that a number of Soviet prisoners were also kept at Mülhberg, one of them being Alex Polewoj. Generally speaking, Soviet prisoners were kept separately from British prisoners, and treated abysmally. Saunders made friends with Alex Polewoj through the wire, and in gratitude the Soviet soldier gave him the cigarette box.
Despite the appalling conditions in which the Soviet prisoners were held, Saunders would later recall potatoes (presumably cooked and therefore edible) being thrown through his window by them when he was in the “cooler”.
There will be more on Ralph Saunders and Tom Andrews on another post.
Doug Jones’ crew is one of those I have known about for several years, but have only just got round to putting more of the information on the crew online. This had been largely prompted by the arrival here of Maurice Hemming’s memoir, Achieve Your Aim – Maurice was the Flight Engineer. My thanks to Rob Churchyard for sending the memoir.
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.