We have recently received a haunting image of Eric Skinner of the Burns crew who was captured by the Germans on 31 August 1943. All but one of the crew had baled out of the aircraft when, according to the Bomber Command loss card, the aircraft blew up at 18,000 feet with the full load of bombs. Of the crew of seven, two died and Burns, the skipper, was so badly wounded that he would be repatriated. For the full image of Eric Skinner and details of the Burns crew, see: Burns Crew
Last visit to RAF Upwood for the moment. The film ‘Appointment in London’ was filmed at the station in 1952, only seven years after the war, and it is probably the closest one can get to seeing the station as it was in the Pathfinder era. All the old equipment and vehicles are there, including the Sanitary Squad lorry with dustbins on board, not to mention four bona fide Lancasters.
The story line is compelling and accurate (within the bounds of dramatic licence) because it is based on the operational career of John Wooldridge, a highly experienced RAF bomber pilot. The ops scenes are gripping and the Upwood ambiance is matchless.
Starring Dirk Bogarde, Ian Hunter and Dinah Sheridan, it can be bought on DVD.
What is thought to be the worst accident involving ground crew on a Pathfinder station took place on 9 September 1944 when bombs detonated during a routine job. Seven men were killed, and of these three vanished without trace. See: Catastrophic Explosion at RAF Upwood
The village of Warboys has a fine parish church called St Mary Magdalene. In it there is a beautiful memorial window to the Pathfinders, commemorating the various PFF squadrons or training units which were based at Warboys and nearby Upwood. (See the first few items on our page: Training the Pathfinders)
Andrew Laing, who sent us the photograph of the Pathfinder window, writes:
Hidden behind Warboys village adjacent to the A141, lies RAF Warboys, an airfield that played a major part in the Second World War.
His Trail 17 – Aviation Trails leads through RAF Warboys and its environs, including the adjacent village where St Mary Magdalene and its remarkable window can be found. Information is also provided about RAF Upwood, with many atmospheric photographs.
Further to the previous post on the loss of the Emerson crew, there is also a new page containing biographical details of the two South Americans on the crew. All the crew were killed on 21 February 1944 after their aircrew broke up in the air at their home airfield.
In two days time it will be the 76th anniversary of the loss of the Emerson crew. The crew suffered a horrific accident on 21 February 1944. Their aircraft, which had been severely damaged over the target, broke up in mid-air on the edge of RAF Bourn and crashed, at twenty to eight in the morning, with the loss of the entire crew.
The various items on this website about Donald Bennett, the highly gifted leader of the Pathfinders, have now been gathered on one central page: Donald Bennett, The Pathfinders’ AOC. At the bottom of this page is a link to the IWM sound recordings – Donald Bennett, IWM Sound Recordings (1986) – of Bennett discussing his life and RAF career shortly before his sudden death in September 1986.
Our second IWM item this morning, also sent by IWM volunteer Richard Maddox, concerns Pathfinder aircrew and ground crew, and the provisions made for them once the war in Europe had been won and the RAF was beginning the process of equipping its surplus personnel for civilian life.
With its usual genius for publicity, the Air Ministry provided the Press with a series of photographs of this process in the Pathfinders, at least some of which appear to have been taken at Downham Market where 635 Squadron (Lancasters) and 608 Squadron (Mosquitoes) were based. The photographs have a long accompanying blurb which reads:
Within No.8 Group of R.A.F. Bomber Command – the Group which embraced the famous Pathfinder Force Squadrons – a different form of “pathfinding” is now being undertaken. No longer are the Pathfinders flying over enemy territory, pinpointing objectives with target indicators and markers; their targets are at home, on their own airfields, and with as much thoroughness as they carried out their wartime jobs the men and women who created and maintained Pathfinder Force are pinpointing targets indicated by the initial letters “E.V.T.” These three initials are already firmly established in the R.A.F’s own peculiar vocabulary, are an abbreviation of Educational and Vocational Training – a somewhat ponderous designation for a highly practical scheme, which, in Service language, would be well described as the “Civvy Street Course”. That is, in fact, what E.V.T. is – a course designed to equip every R.A.F. and W.A.A.F. man and woman as adequately as possible for return to civilian life. These particular photographs, which give an indication of the scope and variety of E.V.T. activities, were taken, appropriately enough, at Pathfinder stations, but E.V.T. is active throughout every branch of the R.A.F. There are mobile classrooms for small units where permanent E.V.T. centres are impracticable. Subjects taught cover an extraordinary range – from landscape gardening to cookery; from carpentry to music.
For the blurb and featured photograph in the IWM collection, click HERE.
The full range of 30 photographs in the IWM collection can be found HERE.
Two items from the IWM this morning, both from Richard Maddox who is a volunteer at the museum. The first concerns Bomber Command generally. It is a link to Richard’s post on the IWM Volunteer website about the man who is thought to be the oldest flyer in Bomber Command. This was Viscount Stansgate, who trained as a rear gunner and flew operationally in the last year of the war – at the astonishing age of 67.
A Facebook post by David Layne today reminded me of this page: Valentine Card It has been on our website a long time, having first been posted in 2009 and then updated in 2011. It relates to Robert Crowe, a 15 Squadron gunner, who died in July 1944.