Although Pathfinder Mosquito crews did not have the same attrition rate as those flying in Lancasters and Halifaxes, their work was still highly dangerous. The light-weight Mosquito aircraft was liable to break up in an accident, as happened on 4 November 1944 when the crew of Edward Wallace and Robert Soutar lost their lives.
It seldom happens that a photograph with unknown aircrew in it gets even partially identified, but amazingly this has happened with the photograph we featured almost exactly one year ago of an unknown Pathfinder crew at a wedding.
The man second from the right has been identified by his children as John Graham Walters, a bomb aimer, who was with 35 Squadron at Graveley. See the revised page on the photograph.
For the colourised photograph of the wedding photograph, our thanks are due to Paul Smith who sent the black and white version originally.
In January this year we featured a magazine cover with a lovely picture of a bulldog posing as ‘Pilot Officer Prune’ and his unknown human friend, a pilot. We later discovered that the pilot was Flight Lieutenant Leslie Barr.
A very interesting article appeared in The Telegraph two days ago about Barr’s crew, who were shot down on 10 September 1942 near Echt in Holland, west of Dusseldorf, the target of that night’s operation. Only two men out of the crew of eight survived. Barr and another crew member are buried at Jonkerbos War Cemetery, but the bodies of the four remaining crew members had sunk deep into the marshy ground, and they are remembered at Runnymede. The article in The Telegraph concerns these last four crew members and one Dutch family’s long crusade to have the bodies recovered from the mud and honourably buried.
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.
Working on the post yesterday on the condolence letter to Jespersen’s father reminded me of another condolence letter, this time written on the Pathfinder station at Oakington in December 1943. It concerned a friend, Bob Butler, who was stationed with 97 Squadron at Bourn. The condolence letter was addressed to his mother, Ellen Butler.
From an unknown official to Jespersen’s father: The Air Force refers to your visit some time back and it is with sorrow that we have to confirm that your son, Lt. Finn Varde Jespersen, was shot down during the night of 5th and 6th June 1944. When the accident occurred, your son was serving as leader and captain (Pilot) of a Lancaster four-engined night-bomber that belonged to No. 97 (Straits Settlements) Squadron. See the rest of the letter …
See also the memorials to the Jespersen crew on our sister site: War Graves and Remembrance
A new method of cataloguing has been adopted which it is hoped will finally clear the log-jam of names and crews we would like to see online. Pages will be added as and when they are completed. Amongst the first to go online will be the latest additions to the Archive, although there will also be some from a few years back, depending on what we are working on at the time.
The first entries in the new catalogue can currently be found on the left-hand column at the foot of this page.
Jack Blair was a highly dedicated officer who flew more than his fair share of ops. In 1943, he was a member of John Sauvage‘s crew on 97 Squadron; in 1944, having moved to 156 Squadron, he was flying with a pilot named Ward when the crew were shot down on their return journey. Thanks to Arjan Wemmers and many others, a wonderful collection of material has been assembled on the Ward crew, and in particular on Jack Blair. (See catalogue item: Ward Crew and Squadron Leader Blair.) We are very pleased to have this collection in the Archive.
We are starting a new method of cataloguing the Archive, and in time the website will be reorganised to reflect this, but time being short and hands being few it is going to take a while. The first page from the catalogue is for a 156 Squadron crew, and details of this are on the post which will appear immediately after this one. Jack Blair was originally a member of John Sauvage‘s crew.
This fabulous radio-controlled model Lancaster may make you smile, standing so proudly in front of the tomato plants, though she is sure to be a very different beast when she flies.
There is a tragic background story to this icon of a real wartime Lancaster …
The model aircraft’s markings are PB517, GT-O, standing for 156 Squadron O-Orange. They were chosen by Owen Gomersall to commemorate the Lancaster flown by his grandfather, Lionel Williams, who was on our last post. ‘Tom’ last flew this aircraft on 28 January 1945. Two months later, on 31 March, tragically close to the end of the war, Lancaster PB517 was lost with all its crew on a Hamburg operation. Those who died were:
F/L A C Pope, DFC
F/O G A J Morrison
F/L L E Munro, DFC, RCAF
P/O E H Marlow
F/O T M McCabe
F/S K Antcliffe
P/O I W Kelly, RCAF
P/O R C Fletcher, RCAF
It was the second Lancaster which was lost from 156 Squadron that night, the other being that flown by Flying Officer H F Taylor. Again the entire crew was lost.
F/O H F Taylor, DFC
P/O H Woolstenhulme
Sgt J P Williams
Sgt L H Joel
F/O R L Martin, DFC
F/O L A Cox, DFC
F/Sgt K A L Mitchell
Sgt R Goldsbury
This loss of 14 young men from Upwood in a single night only five weeks before the war ended must have been a serious blow to those living and working on the station.