Acquisition of the Deverill Collection

Deverill after Augsburg

The Deverill collection is thought to have been sold by the brother of Deverill’s widow, Joyce, some years after her death in 1992. The collection has been privately owned for 18 years, and this year, 2017, was the first time that it had ever come on the open market.

The RAF Pathfinders Archive have acquired the collection because it is felt to be of great importance not only in the wartime history of 97 Squadron and the Pathfinders, but also in the story of Bomber Command and the air war.

Ernest Alfred Deverill was an outstandingly brave and highly decorated pilot who won the DFM and the DFC twice, and who was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross. In 1942, he took part in the daring Augsburg raid, which involved 12 Lancasters flying in broad daylight at 25-30 feet all the way across Occupied Europe to Augsburg, 500 miles into Germany. The raid demanded an immensely high degree of courage, navigational accuracy, and flying skills, and despite heavy losses was a PR triumph. Possibly the most audacious Bomber Command operation of the war, it has been overshadowed by the more famous Dambusters raid which took place a year later.

Deverill, who was known as ‘The Devil Deverill’ at his bomber station because of his utter contempt for enemy fighters and anti-aircraft defences, flew numerous other highly dangerous operations. It was one of the tragic ironies of war that it was the British weather which finally killed him.

The Deverill collection contains a wealth of outstanding material, much of it unique. Included are all his medals, together with the original boxes in which they were presented, and the two logbooks which cover Deverill’s entire flying career. There are numerous photographs, press cuttings, letters, and other items, all of which paint a portrait of the man whom they once called Devil Deverill.

Black Thursday Exhibition

BLACK THURSDAY was the name by which the tragic occurrences of 16/17 December 1943 came to be known. Late on the 16th and in the early hours of the morning of the 17th, the RAF lost numerous aircraft due to a thick fog blanketing England. Squadron Leader Deverill and five members of his crew lost their lives, as did forty-four other Pathfinder aircrew, all of whom had returned from an operation against Berlin.

Now that we have acquired the Deverill collection, it has been moved to our partners at the Pathfinder Collection, Heritage Centre, RAF Wyton, where it will form the centrepiece of an exhibition on Black Thursday.

The exhibition will be in place for the 74th anniversary of Black Thursday. Material in the exhibition will include pieces of the aircraft Deverill was flying that night, aircraft wreckage from the crash of the Thackway crew, photographs of many of the aircrew involved, and details of the loss of Deverill, including the telegram which was sent to his wife to tell her that he had been killed.

Time being so short this year as it has taken a while to complete the purchase of the Deverill collection, the initial exhibition will be comparatively small. However, it is planned that it will be substantially increased over the course of the next year to form a moving tribute to those who were lost on the worst night of the war in the Pathfinders and Bomber Command for bad weather losses.