Update: Finn Varde Jespersen, D-Day

To add to the previous information on Finn Varde Jespersen, the Royal Norwegian Air Force pilot who was lost with all his crew on D-Day when flying with 97 Squadron, we have a very interesting photograph of him and fellow Norwegians when they were in training in Canada in 1941. For more details: Jespersen Crew, D-Day

We would still like to find information about where Jespersen and the Norwegian members of his crew are buried in Norway.

Harris’s Office, Bomber Command HQ

Further to the previous post and the Bryan de Grineau drawings in The Illustrated London News, 26 February 1944, it has suddenly become clear that the drawings are closely related to the Press photograph of Harris using a stereopticon which was on the link included in the post. See this further link Harris’s Office, Bomber Command HQ, which quite apart from the fascination of looking at Harris’s office shows once again how adroit the RAF were at PR.

Photography in the Air War

In February we featured Captain Bryan de Grineau’s drawing of Lancaster gunners ‘Hotting-up‘ which was published in The Illustrated London News in December 1943. Now here is another fascinating Bryan de Grineau drawing, also from The Illustrated London News, of the underground room at Bomber Command which housed the Photographic Interpretation Section of the Intelligence Department. This drawing was published on 26 February 1944.

Sir Arthur Harris, the C-in-C, is shown examining a mosaic of the latest reconnaissance photographs taken over Berlin. In the bottom right of the drawing is an officer using a stereopticon. More about Harris and stereopticons.

The text tells us that ‘The Chief’ was on one of his visits from his office. Deputy C-in-C, Sir Robert Saundby, is the figure standing with his back to the artist, just to the right of Harris.

The WAAF officer in the foreground of the left side of the picture (below) is working on an enlarged photograph, outlining a forthcoming target for the Operations Room. It is perhaps her artistry which leads to The Illustrated London News to comment that the Photographic Interpretation Section ‘has more of the atmosphere of a studio than is usual in a command headquarters’.

La Spezia, 13 April ’43, Carrier Pigeons

We have recently been sent a number of very interesting photographs of the Montgomery crew (97 Squadron) which we will display on the website shortly. However, one particular detail on one of the photographs immediately jumped out in view of our recent posts on carrier pigeons. This photograph was taken at Woodhall Spa prior to the La Spezia operation on 13 April 1943. The crew are waiting to board the aircraft and with them are two boxes for carrier pigeons. This answers some of the questions posed on our page A Lancaster is Going to Germany.

Montgomery Crew at Woodhall Spa, 13 April 1943, prior to La Spezia operation

Photograph courtesy of Robert Granger.

Lancaster Gunners ‘Hotting-up’

Before flying on ops, gunners got into their electrically heated flying suits, and it seems this process required quite a bit of help. A recent acquisition for the Archive is an Illustrated London News drawing which shows a Nissen hut in December 1943 where the gunners are undergoing their last preparations before the take-off. Some are already fully dressed up, wearing their parachute harnesses and flying helmets, and carrying their parachute packs. Others are being ‘valeted’ into their extraordinary clothing. See new page: Lancaster Gunners: Hotting Up

Pilot Officer Prune, Again

During the massive clear-up of the office, this amusing little document turned up in a stray copy of EVIDENCE IN CAMERA, the wartime RAF photographic publication.

The document is Transport Command, not Bomber Command, but whoever drew up the spoof sheet clearly was fond of Pilot Officer Prune and his navigator Flight Sergeant Offtrack. There is no date but it seems to have been written sometime before November 1943, when 267 Squadron moved to Italy.

The journey details appear to be based on a real flight, and Warnham Clock Tower definitely existed, and still does.

More on Pilot Officer Prune

Further to yesterday’s post, we have now included a page on TEE EMM, with two rather wonderful cartoons of Pilot Officer Prune, one with his dog.

As we said yesterday, we were checking up on the identity of the man in the magazine cover. John Clifford at the Pathfinder Collection has said that this is Flight Lieutenant Leslie Ronald Barr DFC*, a pilot with 7 Squadron of the Pathfinders, who was unfortunately killed on 7 September 1942 along with his Second Pilot and four other members of the crew. One of the surviving crew members evaded and the other became a prisoner of war.

Pilot Officer Prune

Pilot Officer Prune was a fictional character, hapless and inefficient, who mainly starred in TEE EMM, the technical memorandum which was circulated in the Air Force.

It is the dog who is being called Pilot Officer Prune in the magazine cover below, not the chap. This copy of the cover is at RAF Wyton, and the chap is thought to have been in the Pathfinders, but we are checking up on this.

Tomorrow an extract from TEE EMM

Bennett on the PFF Mosquitoes

“The experts on the Air Staff who turned down the Mosquito as a type in the early days might be interested in the argument which subsequently became current to the effect that one Mosquito was worth seven Lancasters. For those mathematically minded, here is the exercise: A Mosquito carried a little over half the bomb load of a Lancaster to Berlin. Its casualty rate was about 1/10th of that of the Lancaster. Its cost was 1/3rd of the Lancaster, and it carried two people in its crew instead of seven.”

To read more, see our new Page: Bennett on the PFF’s Mosquitoes