Acquisition of the Deverill Collection

At the end of 2017, the RAF Pathfinders Archive acquired the Deverill collection because it was 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.

The Deverill Collection is now at RAF Wyton, where it can be viewed by appointment.

Current display at RAF Wyton

Original display at RAF Wyton.

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. For further details of the Augsburg raid, see TALES OF THE ARCHIVE, NO. 7 Tales from the Archive 7. 17 April 2018

Above: photograph taken from Deverill’s aircraft, on either the Milan or the Le Creusot operation in October 1942.

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 on Black Thursday, 16/17 December 1943.

See: Deverill Crew on 17 December 1943

See also our publications on Ernest and the night of his death: Black Thursday Booklets

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.

The Deverill collection is thought to have been sold by Deverill’s nephew to a private collector towards the end of the 1990s. The collection was then privately owned for 18 years, and 2017 was the first time that it had come onto the open market.

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 forms the centrepiece of a small exhibition on Black Thursday.

It is intended that a much larger  exhibition will be in place by the 75th anniversary of Black Thursday. It is planned that material in the exhibition will include items of aircraft wreckage from the crash of various PFF Lancasters that night, including that of the Deverill crew.