My father was born in Johannesburg but spent a large part of his younger years in Rhodesia. My grandmother lived near Bulawayo for most of her life.
My father joined the Royal Rhodesian Air Force and qualified as an Air Gunner in May 1942 at Moffat, Southern Rhodesia. He came to England and joined the crew at 16 OTU at Upper Heyford. His Log Book records that he crewed up with Kenneth Brown in October 1942 and they trained in Wellingtons.
In December they spent a short time training in Manchesters and then Lancasters for 6 days. On completing their course they moved to Woodhall Spa and joined 97 Squadron sometime in December.
My father died on 28th April 1987 and among his possession I found numerous photographs and 3 cards for bombing raids on Lorient, St. Nazaire and Milan.
I don’t know why my father left the crew at the end of April 1943 while they were at Bourn nor have I been able to find out why he was sent to the Re-selection Unit at Brighton. I wonder if it could have been because he was ill. I do know that he had peritonitis during the war and almost died. I wonder if this was the reason he stopped flying?
After some weeks of anxious waiting, Susan at last received her father’s service record and was at last able to answer the question of why her father had left the Brown crew at the end of April 1943. Susan emailed Jennie Gray in March 2008 as follows:
My big excitement of the day was the arrival of my father’s service record in a big A3 envelope! I have spent the morning with my book of RAF abbreviations deciphering all the information in the record and have now, I think, been able to answer a lot of my questions about what happened to him when he left 97 Squadron.
What has puzzled me all along is why my dad left the crew and didn’t seem to continue flying. Well the reason was because he was reselected for pilot training!
3/6/43 97 Squadron Aircrew Re-selection Wing 54 at Eastchurch.
16/6 AG u/t P.N.B
19/6 4 Initial Training Wing
10/9 29 Elementary Flying Training School
9/10 U/T Pilot (An entry in his logbook says that he did 20 hrs in a dual control Tiger Moth with Sgt. Plint)
He then left Eastchurch and, from what I have been able to work out for myself, went back to Rhodesia for further training.
23/1/44 Hillside Camp Bulawayo
The next entries are very sad because from 24/1/44 – 25/5/44 he was in various hospitals in Johannesburg and when he was discharged was medically boarded A1.2.3 on 3/8/44 and that was the end of his flying career!
He then finished the last few months of the war as an Aircraft Recognition Instructor at Cranborne near Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia.
Jennie Gray, Additional Notes
On Lionel’s original mustering details the following is noted “AG u/t [under training] PNB”. PNB stood for the core group of any Lancaster crew: Pilot, Navigator, Bomb Aimer, and thus the note shows that Lionel would train for one of these high status roles when there was a place. Some young men did not want to wait for a place and joined up rather than waste time. My father’s rear gunner, Leslie Laver, did this (see Thackway crew) – he was accepted for pilot training but did not want to hang about. The training period for gunners was much shorter than the other crew trades, and thus it was not seen as wasting resources but just that they were very keen types.
At the beginning of May 1943, the following entry appears in Bourn’s ORB:
778952 Sgt L.C.Boyton AG To Aircrew Re-selection Unit, Brighton 3.5.43.
For the last page of Boyton’s logbook for 97 Squadron, see below.
The Brown crew went on flying with a new rear gunner, William Thomas Saunders, who was lost with them on 4 October 1943.Crew Brown (Kenneth)