We receive a number of emails from people who are starting research about a relative who was in the RAF, possibly in the Pathfinders, but who have no information about dates or squadrons. By far the easiest place to start, if their relative died, is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records. Prompted by an email enquiring about a death in an RAF plane crash in December 1949, a new page has been set up on our sister site, AFTERMATH, which gives details of which service people were included in the burial and commemorative programme run by the British (and who therefore can be found in the CWGC records). The page also explains why the date for inclusion ran up to 31 December 1947, two and half years after the war had ended in Europe. Inclusion in the National Commemorative Programme
Many Pathfinder aircrew had experienced very dramatic times in their tours before they became members of the PFF. One of the most dramatic we have come across is the story of John Henry Allen’s crew, 83 Squadron, who on 12 February 1942 set off to attack the German battleships in the Channel Dash. See our sister site, PER ARDUA: The RAF & the Channel Dash
Detail from a painting by Paul Wharmby
Before Wally Layne of the Fletcher crew became a Pathfinder, he served on 50 Squadron. His CO was the legendary Gus Walker, who would lose part of his arm in a bomb explosion whilst trying to ensure that nobody would be hurt.
When Walker left 50 Squadron for 106 Squadron, he sent the NCOs of 50 Squadron a Christmas Card. For the story of Gus Walker’s accident and the Christmas card, see our new page: Gus Walker, Wally Layne, and Christmas
Bill Phillips was stationed with 35 Squadron at Graveley, and amongst the wealth of material which is now preserved by his daughter is this menu from Christmas 1944. We will be featuring more on Bill next year, but in the meantime here is a reminder of the way things were 75 years ago.
With many thanks to Lisa Phillips.
The Caterpillar Club, for aircrew whose lives had been saved by a silken Irvin parachute, is well-known. Less so is the Goldfish Club, for aircrew whose lives had been saved by an emergency dinghy. Few of the aircrew who ditched in the sea survived, but one of the lucky ones was Robert Butler, who won the badge on 28 February 1942 whilst in training. See: Robert Butler Wins a Goldfish
We would like to share this wonderful cover for the RAF journal Air Mail, which was published in October 1948. It makes an antidote to the tragic stories often told on this website.
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.
John’s funeral took place yesterday, on 29 April 2019, and we have asked permission from the family to publish this very touching, and sometimes very funny, EULOGY of John, written by his son Paul. It tells a great deal about this extraordinary man who flew for the Pathfinders in 1943.
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.
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’.