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Heroic Endeavour – article by Sean Feast

Sean has written an article for the Archive’s website about the costly operation against Cologne on 23 December 1944 in which Bob Palmer won the VC, one of only three VCs won by the Path Finder Force. It was a posthumous award, as Bob Palmer lost his life together with the crew he was flying with, the Milne crew of 582 Squadron pictured here. At that time, Bob Palmer was actually a Mosquito pilot with 109 Squadron, but the particular requirements of the operation meant that he was flying the aircraft at the time it was shot down. For the full article read here: Heroic Endeavour – Cologne, 23 December 1944

Sean Feast & Meet The Team

We are delighted to welcome Sean Feast as a Trustee of the Archive. Sean is a keen supporter of the military with a passion for aviation. Amongst his many books is The Pathfinder Companion, which was published in association with the Pathfinder Collection at RAF Wyton.

With Sean’s arrival, we have set up a Meet the Team page which gives details of who is behind the scenes at the Archive.

Charles Owen Diary Entry, D-Day

Charles Owen‘s diary records of this day:

6 June 1944

Target: St Pierre du Mont – Coastal battery A/C Lancaster ND961 N-NAN

Time: 3.50

We thought the briefing sounded a little odd for this trip, and sure enough when we broke cloud over the French coast the Channel was full of ships. The army had pulled its finger out at last and D-Day was on. We bombed at 05.00 just as it was getting light, and had a grandstand view of the Americans running in on the beach. First-class prang on the battery, but saw Jimmy Carter shot down by a Ju88 over the target. Marvellous sight coming back as the sun came up, we on the way back and the Americans on the way out.

Landed back in time for breakfast, but very disappointed that there was nothing on the 8 o’clock news.

D-Day – The Loss of the Carter Crew


 

Jespersen Crew, D-Day

Jespersen Condolence Letter

Research Enquiries

Unfortunately, due to the ever-increasing number of enquiries and our slender resources, not to mention the complications brought by COVID-19, we can no longer undertake research enquiries except for a selected few. These are the ones which promise to add interesting information to the Archive. For further information on what the Archive is interested in and how you can undertake your own research, see our new page: RESEARCH ENQUIRIES

The Pathfinders’ World

Just a quick note, prompted by a comment on our Guy Gibson post yesterday, to say that over the coming months we will be substantially increasing information on the background to the Path Finder Force’s war. This is because the Path Finder Force cannot be seen in isolation from the world in which it operated, which self-evidently had a profound effect on how the Force developed and what its personnel thought about serving in it.

Our tagline has always been:

Pathfinder Aircrew, their Friends, their Families, and the World they Knew

For more about our research aims, see the ‘Sourcing the Archive’ section of The Archive

Guy Gibson, the Dams Raid, and the Pathfinders

Today is the anniversary of the Dams Raid, the most famous Bomber Command raid of the war. Guy Gibson received the Victoria Cross for his leadership and the account in the London Gazette is still thrilling today, 77 years later.

Although the Pathfinders had no part in the Dams Raid, several of our aircrew had flown with Gibson earlier in the war. Amongst these was Donald Margach, a navigator, who was to lose his life flying with 582 Squadron in July 1944. See: Donald Margach and Guy Gibson

Another man who flew with Gibson was Oliver Lambert, a gunner, who would lose his life flying with 97 Squadron in August 1943. See: Burns Crew

Some Pathfinder aircrew worked with Gibson after the Dams Raid. This was at 54 Base, centred at Coningsby, which provided target-marking and illumination for 5 Group operations. It was ‘a place of tactical innovation’ (Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995, p.252), and the place for the cream of RAF pilots. John Simpson had moved there from 97 Squadron (by then, of course, in 5 Group), as had Charles Owen, another 97 Squadron superstar.


See also:

Gus Walker, Wally Layne and Christmas

 

VE Day, 1945 – Victory at the Pathfinders

VICTORY MESSAGE

To: The Path Finder Force

From: Air Vice-Marshal D C T Bennett, CB, CBE, DSO.

Great Britain and the Commonwealth have made a contribution to the civilised world so magnificent that history alone will be able to appreciate it fully. Through disaster and triumph, sometimes supported and sometimes alone, the British races have steadfastly and energetically over many long years flung their forces against the international criminals. VE Day, 1945 – Victory at the Pathfinders

Victory in Europe: Avoiding Damage to Public Property

All the Pathfinder squadrons and units recorded in their ORBs on 8 May 1945 that Victory in Europe had been achieved. Above is our favourite entry.

The full page of the ORB, which is that of the NTU (National Training Unit) at Warboys, is below: (see also Training the Pathfinders)

It is interesting to note that the Pathfinders clearly knew that victory had been declared on 7th May, one day before the public announcement.

VE Day Warboys NTU , marked up