The night of 16/17 December 1943, afterwards known as Black Thursday, saw the worst RAF bad weather losses of the whole war. A heavy fog caused severe problems for home-coming aircraft and there were multiple fatal crashes. Amongst the dead were 50 Pathfinder aircrew.
Our two commemorative booklets for the 75th Anniversary of 16/17 December 1943 are published today. Together they create a unforgettably vivid picture of the dramatic events of that night which led to so many deaths in the Pathfinders and Bomber Command.
All profits from the sales go towards the RAF PATHFINDERS ARCHIVE and in particular to the funding of the DEVERILL COLLECTION, which we bought with the benefit of supporter-loans last year.
For full details of pricing and how to buy these publications: 75th Anniversary Black Thursday Publications
Brought round by my neighbour Susan this morning – her great-uncle Lawrence Williamson was first in the Lancers and then in the RFC as an Observer (the ‘O’ on his tunic can be clearly seen). He survived the war and lived to be 92 years of age.
One hundred year old photographs looking a little battered!
JENNIE MACK GRAY
Cecil Macgown, the Group Medical Officer of the Pathfinders, usually known as Doc Macgown or ‘Mac’, was in the RFC during the First World War. In one momentous letter to his sister in 1917, he wrote: “Still alive and getting along fine. Very fed up at being out of everything. A shell hit my machine at 3000 feet up and I hit the ground rather forcibly.” To read more, see: Doc Macgown in WWI
Re: our commemorative post on the RFC and the RAF in WWII, we are grateful to have been reminded about the First World War contribution made by the men of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).
The RNAS was under the control of the Admiralty for its (not quite) four year existence, which ended on 1 April 1918 when it was merged with the British Army’s Royal Flying Corps to form the RAF.
The merge was recommended by the much respected South African soldier-statesman Jan Smuts, who foretold the need for an independent air force specifically to deal with the new dangers and tactics of aerial warfare. Smuts believed that this new air force should not be tied to the tactical needs of the Army and the Navy.
His plan was adopted and implemented with remarkable speed. However, because both the Army and the Navy resented their flying wings being taken away from them, the new Service, the RAF (which was often referred to as the Junior Service), had a difficult first few years. Even during the Second World War, the old complaints were being made about the RAF’s independence. But that’s another subject for another day …
With Remembrance Sunday tomorrow falling exactly on the 100th Anniversary of the end of the First World War, we remember all the pioneering airmen of those days of conflict, and those who followed after them in the Second World War.
IWM: Q 67792
Arrangements are firming up for the Black Thursday 75th Anniversary commemorations at the Pathfinder Collection, RAF Wyton. There will be a considerable change to the existing display and some new storyboards.
In addition, we are delighted that Charles Owen’s family have placed on loan his impressive set of medals, his logbook, pilot’s wings, and Pathfinder badge. Owen’s ops diary is held at the Imperial War Museum in London. The photo with this post shows the logbook open on the 16/17 December 1943 page.
There were only a limited number of places for the lunch and tour of the Collection on 16 December this year, and unfortunately these have all gone. However, if anyone wishes to attend the memorial service in the morning, probably to be held at 11 o’clock (we are not yet been able to confirm the timing due to complicated Station arrangements), please let us know.
In Norman McIntyre’s photo album there is a photograph of him with three of Australian friends in the RAAF. Photographs of the graves of Vince, Jeff, and Norm have been posted on the WAR GRAVES AND REMEMBRANCE website: Four Australian Friends
Norman McIntyre of the Brill crew, who was killed on 16 December 1943 over Berlin, kept a small photograph album which has pictures of the earlier part of his life in the RAAF. It ends abruptly with photographs of the funerals of two of his friends, but before this, the photographs show someone who was clearly enjoying his new glamorous life.
See Norman McIntyre’s Photo Album
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Le Creusot op, one of the most daring of the war, when 94 Lancasters flew in formation across France to wreck the Schneider arms plant 170 miles south-east of Paris. One of those flying on the operation was Ernest Deverill.
Jennie Mack Gray, our Chairperson, who began the Pathfinders Archive website with 97 Squadron in 2001 and has placed all her material on permanent loan with the Archive, now has a new website, PER ARDUA, which will be covering various other aspects of RAF and Bomber Command history, such as the following: