Francis Reginald Law

Francis Reginald Law – The Story Behind the Stone

Born in Chadwell Heath, Romford Essex on the 10th December 1911, the oldest of 3 children, a brother Richard served with the Transport Police and a sister Nancy who served as a driver with the ATS.

Francis married in 1937 to Dorothy Chasney, they had no children and on the outbreak of war Dorothy returned to her home village of Rock near Kidderminster

Francis enlisted on 10th July 1940. After all the initial training he joined 14 OTU at RAF Cottesmore on the 14th July 1941. From there he was posted as an AG/W-Op to 50 Squadron at Swinderby on the 13th October 1941.

He flew his first Op with pilot, Ivor Mapp, on the 20th October 1941, his first 7 Ops were as AG all with Ivor Mapp – though other crew members were changed. On the 30th November for his 8th Op he moved to the W/Op seat for a bombing run to Hamburg, the crew for this op was Mapp, Webber Law and Lane and this was the crew for the next 6 ops – taking Francis to 13 ops

The 14th Op, 21st February 1942 saw another crew change – Ivor Mapp as pilot, Hector Thompson as navigator – his first op with 50 Sqn having been posted from RAF Wigsley, Francis flew as Wireless Op and Philip Sydney Ballard flew as Air Gunner – his 12th Op, he was posted from 16 OTU RAF Upper Heyford on the 29th October 1941.

Flying in Hampden AE394 (for the first time) They took off from RAF Skellingthorpe at 18.40 on a bombing op to the Rhine Valley, Coblenz.

The run to target was trouble free and weather conditions good. Problems started on the return journey – the navigator fell ill and the pilot set the course for home. As they approached the English Coast the icing conditions got bad and one engine cut from lack of fuel. Unable to find an airfield and as the second engine cut the pilot gave the order to bale out.

Philip Ballard left the aircraft but his parachute failed – he died near the Haxby Road York and is buried at Chartham in Kent

Ivor Mapp baled and made a safe landing – he survived a second tour and the war.

Hampden AE394 crashed on Haleys Terrace York at about 2.20am on 22nd February 1942, Hector Thompson and Francis Law were still on board and died in the crash.

They rest in a joint grave at St Germaine Thurlby – just a couple of miles east of Swinderby

Francis is remembered on the memorial at Rock (on the A456)as Frank Law

Francis was my mothers brother – killed before I was born. I grew up knowing that he had died – but nothing else was said.

I started my search for more details when CWGC went online in 1996 but searches for the crash site were unsuccessful until I discovered the online ORBs at the National Archive – this gave me the aircraft serial number and led me to the crash site. On the journey to find these details I acquired a lot of general knowledge about Bomber Command and this included the work of the IBCC – which I visited in October 2016, 75 years since the date Francis joined 50 Squadron. A permanent stone at the IBCC seemed a good marker for his life.

It reads “Sgt FR Law – 50 Squadron – Lest We Forget”

The family inscription on his grave reads – “He Gave His Life For Freedom”

 

Air Ministry Squadron Operations Records

For more information on the Ribbon of Remembrance please click here

To send us the story behind your stone please email here

RAF Slang

 RAF Slang Challenge

How well do you know your World War II RAF slang?

Have a look at the lists below.  Can you match the slang words to the definitions? You could even challenge someone to compete against you.

When you think you have got them all right, open the document at the bottom for the answers- no cheating!

SLANG WORDS DEFINITION
Gong

Char

Piece of cake

Second dicky

Scramble

Elsan

Square bashing

Tug

Gone for a Burton

Meat Wagon

Observatory

Mae-west

Scrounge

Queen Mary

Prang

Nursery

Brassed off

The drink

Heat wagon

Tail-end Charlie

Flap

Kite

Happy valley

Fruit salad

Navvy

Goggle Goblin

Mossy

Touch bottom

Pancake

Tally-ho

Umbrella

Silver Sausage

Lady bird

Tangled up in soup

Use you loaf

Plaster

Strafe

Pull your finger out

Bandits

Bogey

Wimpey

Enemy Aircraft

Unidentified Aircraft

Order to take off quickly

Order to return to base

Notification that a pilot is beginning his attack

Medal

Ribbons with the medal

Nickname for a Wellington Bomber

Tea

Use your brain/think about it

Parachute

Aircraft to which gliders were attached

To make a crash landing

To be lost

Rear-gunner

To attack

Training or drill

A Barage balloon

The sea

WAAF Officer

Aeroplane

Ambulance

Fire Engine

Life Jacket

Nickname for a Mosquito bomber

Elementary Training/Flying School

Navigator

To chat/talk

Astrodome on Aircraft

Easy

Crash Landing

To bomb heavily

Hurry up

Hurry up

To obtain illicitly

Reserve pilot on an aircraft

Aircrew nickname for the Ruhr Valley, Germany

Dead

Night-fighter pilot

Panic/excitement

Chemical toilet on an aircraft

Down/Depressed

How do you think you did? You can find the answers here

RAF Slang Challenge- the answers!

Find out more about RAF Bomber Command and the people who supported them on our online Digital Archive

There are new blogs uploaded regularly and a wide range of topics already discussed on our blog page.

Work Placement at the IBCC

During my one-week work placement at the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincolnshire I was involved in various projects and activities.

Work Placement Day One

On the first day of volunteering at I took a tour of the centre’s exhibits and displays to familiarise myself with the core values and principles of the centre. They acknowledge the efforts, sacrifices and commitment of the men and women, from sixty-two different nations, who came together in Bomber Command during WWII. I was then invited to view the centre’s collection, select a number objects that peaked my interest and create posts to showcase the objects on social media. This was an interesting task to be involved in because I was given access to a variety of items that told the often-sobering stories of ordinary people who served with Bomber Command that I wouldn’t have otherwise had access to. For example, some of the log books I was examining came to an abrupt end with the words ‘missing in action’ printed in red. This hands-on experience also helped me to gain an appreciation for the real lives behind these stories which can often be hard to connect with by just simply looking at objects or trying to imagine what something was like.

Day Two

I helped in the Collections room, here I scanned family memorabilia relating to Bomber Command sent in by the public for preservation in the IBCC Digital archive. This task gave me insight into personal family stories, details of bombing missions, the many different roles performed by aircrew and the extreme danger they were exposed to. Furthermore, it was sobering to view aircrew engaging in activities such as ice skating during their down time in Canada – serving with Bomber Command gave many the opportunity to travel abroad which they may otherwise have never done. Scanning old photographs gave me insight into archiving techniques.

Day Three

I helped prepare for a Dutch school visit in March. This visit is of special importance as it marks the 75th anniversary of Operation Manna. For many who took part in Operation Manna, it was their last operation of the war. The Germans blockade had stopped food getting into western Netherlands and as a result many thousands had starved to death during the ‘Hongerwinter’. In response the RAF filled their four engine heavy bombers with food, not bombs, to drop on the Netherlands. We were working on a walking tour of Lincoln for the school. This experience opened my eyes to this incredible operation.

Day Four

On my final day, I undertook a trial run of the tour route, a crucial part of trail development. We discovered an Operation Manna memorial outside of Lincoln bus station featuring a wooden Lancaster surrounded by plant pots of tulips, it is missing a plaque but will be a welcome addition to the tour. At the centre I helped present collection items to a masters student who was researching the representation of aircrews. This was interesting as I was able to handle clothing and equipment worn bomber crews, again helping to tell their story. Later, I returned to the Collections room, my time there was  cut short due to technical issues with the scanner. This gave me more time working on the walking tour, we eliminated unnecessary information and highlighted other parts that need more research.

Doing a work placement at the IBCC was an extremely valuable experience, it gave me an insight into potential career paths within the heritage sector which directly apply to the history degree I am currently studying. I realised how important it is to maintain the memory of all of those who suffered and served with Bomber Command for education.

Daniel Wright

University of Lincoln

Are you interested in becoming an IBCC volunteer? Click here for more information.

Daniel had a first hand insight into the treasure we keep in our collections. Our Digital Archive allows you to view these no matter where you are in the world and is available here

Alice’s Potato Scones

Potato scones

Alice’s Potato Scones

Alice, one of the IBCC’s Duke of Edinburgh volunteers, has put together a blog post all about VE Day, including a delicious recipe for potato scones. 

The  75th anniversary of VE Day is rapidly approaching – the 8th of May having been a time of great celebration amongst the allies of World War Two ever since 1945. It marks the day of celebration, and recognised national holiday, after the announcement that the war had ended with Europe was broadcast to the British people on the radio on the 7th of May 1945.

Fun Facts about VE Day 1945:

–    Queen Elizabeth (Princess at the time) described it as being ‘one of the most memorable nights of my life’.

–    In New York, 15,000 police officers were needed to control the celebrating crowds.

–    VE Day did not signify the end to the war, as the allies were still fighting Japan. VJ Day on August 15th (1945) celebrates the day Japan surrendered.

Rations

During the war, supplies including food and fabric were rationed heavily and people were not free to buy whatever they desired. A typical weekly food allowance for 1 adult during the war was:

  • 100 grams of bacon and ham
  • 2 small chops of other meat
  • 50 grams of butter
  • 50 grams of cheese
  • 100 grams of margarine
  • 100 grams of cooking fat
  • 1.5 litres of milk
  • 250 grams of sugar
  • 50 grams of tea
  • 1 egg
  • 100 grams of sweets

Additionally:

  • 1 packet of dried milk per month
  • 450 grams of jam every 2 months
  • 1 packet of dried egg per month

A child would be allowed half of these ration amounts.

Potato Scone Recipe

Potato scones

A recipe you could try to make in celebration of VE Day 75 would Potato Scones. These would have been a treat for people to make out of their rations, and would have been eaten in the 1945 VE Day celebrations, as rationing carried on until 1954.

Recipe: Makes 8 scones

Ingredients:

  • 170g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 110g mashed potato
  • 60g butter
  • 30g of caster sugar (if you would like sweet scones)
  • 4-5 tbsp. milk

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Mix  plain flour with  salt and  baking powder.
  3. Add the mashed potato to the dry ingredients.
  4. Mix in butter until well combined (use of hands may be necessary). Add caster sugar if you are making sweet scones.
  5. Add 4 – 5 tablespoons of milk and mix to form a soft dough.
  6. Roll the dough out to about 1cm thick.
  7. Cut the dough into circles or triangular wedges and brush the tops with milk or egg.
  8. Bake them at 180 degrees for around 15 minutes.

Happy baking!

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How Volunteering Saved My Life…

Volunteering saved my life

How Volunteering Saved My Life…

Volunteering saved my life. It all started on 24th August 2014, two Avro Lancasters and my natural curiosity led me to Google, and to learn that the Lincolnshire Bomber Command Centre was asking for volunteers.  My love of history and having grown up with stories from grandparents, how could I resist?

My first foray was to research the losses database, from which I discovered a renewed passion for World War 2 history and the people who had served. Both my grandfathers served, though neither in the RAF.  So, I actually blame Richard Todd and the Dam Busters movie for that.

Fascinated by history and learning that Bomber Command had been ignored and vilified after the war made me angry. I believe that anyone who serves their country is due respect. If volunteering at the IBCC could help right the wrong, then I was going to do it.

Once I had done the losses database the foundation for the centre, I began spreading my wings. One of these was interviewing veterans for the archives. What a pleasure and honour that was. Many-a-happy afternoon chatting with a veteran who didn’t believe that had anything to say. That their story was not of interest. Only to find a few hours later and they had told their entire life story.  Often having told stories and escapades that even their own family didn’t know about.

It was, and is, a lovely feeling knowing that I am helping to build a memorial and archive that can serve their memories for now and for future generations. What better way to learn history than to hear it from the people who were actually there? They are the ultimate storytellers of events that soon will become faded to many people. Too many generations between today and then.

I found the more I volunteered, in whatever capacity, the more addicted I got. The more I needed to know and learn. When I first began, I knew very little, now my nickname is ‘The Oracle’. I spend my days answering questions or solving genealogy puzzles.

Not only did I volunteer for the archives, but I needed my fix more often, and so began helping at events and functions. I was travelling a round-trip of 320 miles about every two months to be able to assist where possible, and when the opening came, I was here for a whole week. But with the opening came the knowledge that my volunteering days would be coming to an end. 

I was bereft and lost. I was still on contact with people at the archives and centre, but something was missing. So, on a whim, I ‘jokingly’ asked “Give us a job”. Two days later, they asked if I was serious, as it obviously meant moving to Lincolnshire from Essex. Nine weeks later, I had left my old job, moved to Lincolnshire and begun a job I could only dream about.

Now my days are spent front-of-house, meeting and talking to visitors and family to the centre. It is an utter pleasure and joy to be able to follow my dream through. It still feels like a dream. I have met wonderful people, heard amazing stories and had opportunities that I could never done before.

The volunteers I have worked with, and who are a massive part of the centre are amazing. They are a family who love the same things as I do. They are informative, friendly, supportive and fun. Life is pretty good now, and all because of Richard Todd and the two Lancaster’s.

Start your romance with the people who suffered and served with Bomber Command and listen to their extraordinary experiences here, on our Digital Archive

Want to find out about becoming a volunteer?  Click here

The Reluctant Researcher

Di Ablewhite author

The Reluctant Researcher

Roughly 21 years ago in a previous life I was working as a mobile Surgical Chiropodist, most of that work involved seeing people over 75 on a regular basis. Several clients rapidly became friends as it’s hard not to sit for an hour in someone’s house and not hear part of their life stories. More often than not WW2 popped up in conversation, this was not a subject we’d covered more than briefly in school and not coming from a family with any military background or history it was an area I knew little if nothing about.

My main hobby at that time was amateur archaeology, and our local area did seem to have quite a lot of both known and unknown Roman activity, and I’d been involved in several local projects exploring and recording Roman sites. So, when one of my regular farmer clients announced he had boxes of fragments of Roman Pottery he’d picked up over a period of 50 years in his barn, and would I like to look at it, I couldn’t wait to get out there to have a look!

True to his word there were several large boxes of different size shards of amazing pottery, I was in my element, but he was more interested in a piece of metal on top of one of the boxes, it looked like a bit of old tractor to me!!!

He kept coming back to this piece of metal and in the end distracted my attention away from the pottery with a request, the village he lived in wanted to do a Millennium exhibition in the Church to mark historic events and he felt this piece of metal was important to the history and could I research it for him.

All he knew about it was it was part of wreckage from a WW2 accident on one of his fields. He had no idea of the date, just that it was winter, dark and very cold, he thinks there were 6/7 men killed as he’d had the terrible job of assisting the recovery team and he thought it was a Wellington.

With so little information to go on my only option was to read Chorley’s Bomber Command Loss books page by page….all of them….twice….as my first reading showed no Wellington’s lost there, and as Newark Air Museum found for me, the piece of wreckage was from a Lancaster. I can’t describe the emotions I experienced reading through those books, page after page of lists of names, I was shocked at my total ignorance of this event and humbled by some of the stories.

Along with a couple of others we did unpick the full story of Lancaster W4270 QR-T, although it took 11 years to find relatives for all the crew, we built a Memorial, and recorded a short film to tell their story, and I remember saying in the voice over how we wished all could be commemorated in such a similar way.

From that day on barely a day goes by when I don’t find/get a request for help, sadly the most common request is for photos and as my fellow researchers will know they are often the most difficult to find, I always hope that we can trace other crew members relatives who may just have one. So, from really not being at all interested in Bomber Command research it is now very much part of my daily life, still with probably only a 50% success rate, but hundreds if not thousands researched, but like many other similar researchers I now
know some of the first places to look!

This is why to me the IBCC is so important, the walls and Memorial are wonderful, a fitting tribute, but to me the importance is it has created a fantastic free to use and easily accessible research resource where families can send copies of any crew photos/documents, any research we do now as time move on needs recording if future generations are to be able to access and learn from it.

To search the archive click here

To find out more about the IBCC and how you can support our work please click here

Operation Gratitude

We are recruiting you for Operation Gratitude, to join us in our fight against loneliness. Can you to write a letter or make a card to a veteran to let them know they are not alone in these challenging times?

You could:

Write about your day
Share your Favourite Jokes and stories
Draw a picture of where you live
Draw a picture of a Bomber Crew
Make a VE Day Card
Write about your hobbies

Don’t forget to include your first name and age inside the card so we know who you are! Then pop it in an envelope with another blank, stamped envelope and post it to:

Operation Gratitude

International Bomber Command Centre
Canwick Avenue
Lincoln
LN4 2HQ

If you can’t get to a post box, why not email your work to learning@internationalbcc.co.uk

SEARCHING FOR PROOF

SEARCHING FOR PROOF

This photograph means a lot to me because it led, eventually, to me discovering the Dad about whom I knew so little.  He had only been in my life for three short years, and one of those was away from home, so I only had one or two very vague memories of this kind and gentle man.

I first found the photo when I started secondary school, after being embarrassed and whispered about. It seemed that I was the only person in my class who had to admit to not having a father when questioned by the teacher about our families

As soon as I arrived home from school that day, I delved into cupboards and drawers and there found this small, rather crumpled picture. I asked Mum about the photo and realising it was important to me, she said I could keep it. I put it in my purse and carried it everywhere, and I still do. It wasn’t until fifty years later that I wondered if it was possible to discover anything about his life and what became of him.

STARTING FROM SCRATCH.
Just by applying for his death certificate, I discovered enough information to continue my search. He was a pilot with 57 Squadron in Lincolnshire and had died in Trebbin, Germany on the 2nd of December 1943.

I set off by contacting the RAF, Bomber Command and 57 Squadron associations and advertised in various magazines connected with the airforce. They were all a great help and then I started to hear from the wonderful veterans who told me their own first hand experiences . We kept in touch for many years and one of these kind gentlemen had even flown on several operations with Dad. What a find,

DISCOVERIES
From this I  discovered that Dad, although in a reserved occupation and married with two young children, had enlisted in 1941 and then found himself sent to America for his pilot training which kept him away from home for over a year.

On return to England, now a Sergeant Pilot, there was just time for a quick reunion  with Mum before several more months of rigorous training where eventually, he was qualified to fly the Lancaster bomber.

PREPARING FOR WAR
Now, with his chosen crew of six brave young men, they were posted to 57 squadron in Lincolnshire, in July 1943. Firstly at Scampton, before their transfer to East Kirkby. Their ages ranged between 20 years old and 29 and they were now thought ready to brave the dangers of war !

FAMILIES
Once I discovered the names of this young crew I started searching for their relatives so I could share any information that I may uncover. I was lucky enough to find a relative of every one of them, even the young Canadian rear gunner. After their initial surprise at hearing from me they were delighted and we became good friends sharing photos and stories about their loved ones.  One of these young men had only recently married and another had been due to marry just days after they were lost. Apart from one member of the original crew the other six stayed together and they died together. FOR US.

FLYING ON OPS.
They completed 21 missions altogether flying to places like Düsseldorf and Hamburg, on the code-named ‘Operation Gomorrah,  Milan and Turin also Stuttgart and to Hanover, where they were attacked by two Junker 88’s. One of which they managed to shoot down and the second was scared off. Then there was the well known. Peenemunde raid and of course the many trips to Berlin including the ‘Battle of Berlin’.

It was on their 22nd Operation on the 2nd of December 1943 that tragedy struck and  they all very sadly lost their lives. Once again their target was Berlin. They were attacked by a JU 88 over the small town of Trebbin and their Lancaster caught fire and exploded. There were no survivors.

SUMMING UP
I only tell this story because if, like me, you have lost a much loved family member or friend, whilst serving with Bomber Command, then please do not let them be forgotten like I nearly did. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you know about them if they served and lost their lives then it is important that they are remembered with the honour they deserve.

Life had not been easy for Mum bringing up, not just her two young children then aged seven and three, but also the baby son born three months later and never to see his daddy. She would be so proud to know that Dad has now been recognised and his details safely preserved at long last.

There is no finer place equipped to do this than at the International Bomber Command Centre at Canwick Hill, Lincoln.

In Memory of Pilot Officer Ernest H Tansley 149542 57 Squadron and his brave young crew.
.
To see Ernest’s entry on the IBCC Losses Database click here

To order your Ribbon stone, or find out more about them, please click here

Land’s End to John O’ Groats

Land’s End to John O’ Groats

As a volunteer Tour Guide at the International Bomber Command Centre I am very aware of the need for fund raising for the centre.  Therefore on April 23rd 2020 I intend to replicate the Land’s End to John O’ Groats cycle ride I undertook 47 years ago to the day.

As you can imagine there are now new challenges attached to it – age is one, I’m not getting any younger and the fact that the majority of today’s A class roads, if not all, are now too dangerous to utilise.

What hasn’t changed, except for running repairs because parts are difficult to obtain, is the bike.  I will be using the same Claud Butler that has transported me thousands of miles over the last 50 years. It normally doesn’t come out if it’s raining now!

To give you a little background to how all this came about I have to go back to 1972. I owned a rather tired looking B.S.A. pushbike whilst stationed at RAF Thorney Island on the Hampshire coast. As my RAF mates kept reminding me at the time that the initials stood for Bits Stuck Anywhere I thought I would upgrade.

So I gave it away and bought a second hand Claud Butler for £14 and stripped it down and rebuilt it in the confines of my barrack block bed space at the base. Problems occurred every time there was a C.O.’s room inspection as I had to hide various parts in wardrobes and lockers.  I had previous history in this department as 12 months prior I had done exactly the same restoring a tandem – now that was difficult to camouflage.

Once the bike was complete word soon spread of my desire to do an End to End as a solo challenge. But you can’t do anything quietly on a RAF camp and within days I had a riding companion and a 2 man crew towing the Station Commander’s caravan.

The trip was made official and completed in six and a half days and a cheque was presented to the Sunshine Home for the Blind in East Grinstead.

Winding the clock forward now to October 2019 and a thought kept surfacing as to whether it could be done again as it approached the 50th anniversary. Mentioning it to my son brought the response ‘Well if you are going to do it, do it before it’s too late.’ Never has he said a truer word as three years ago I underwent a major 5 hour operation for prostate cancer – but that’s another story.

So on Wednesday 23rd April 2020 the pushbike will be wheeled out – it had better not be raining!- and using country lanes , B class roads and GPS we will see together whether we can add another thousand miles to the clock.

To follow Roger’s story and other blogs please click here

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The Squadron Apple

The Squadron Apple

Raised by Doug Campion and planted at Easton Walled Gardens, Lincolnshire.

In 2002, right at the beginning of the restoration of Easton Walled Gardens, the phone rang.  It was Doug Campion, a neighbour from Colsterworth and a keen amateur tree grower asking if I would like any trees. Of course, I said Yes. Despite being in his 90s, he helped me plant an oak and a walnut. Then, one day, Doug arrived with a small apple tree he had grown from a pip. We planted it together and waited.

The first fruits soon came and much to our surprise they were good. Large, firm, yellow-green apples festooned the tree in October and November. It looked like this new variety was a keeper. Each year, the tree continued to grow and produce fine, healthy crops.

What should we call it? Doug was proud to have been a RAF engineer and my grandfather had been in 12 Squadron during WW2 and flown Lancasters and Wellingtons from sites across Lincolnshire. After two years of flying missions, his flight navigator recorded in his log book: ‘Pilots’ 21st birthday.’  He met my grandmother while she was serving in the WAAF and they were married for over 50 years.

Meanwhile in Lincoln, Tony Worth was coordinating an international drive to commemorate those in Bomber Command who had fallen. At an inaugural fundraising event surrounded by a Lancaster, veterans and young airmen and women, it seemed obvious to me that we should honour those who had risked and given so much. After some discussion, we called it ‘The Squadron Apple.’

But we only had one tree. Apple varieties have to be cloned to keep them true which means taking a small piece of wood (‘the scion’) from the parent tree and grafting it on to a new rootstock. The first year produced rather scrappy results (none of the gardening team at Easton had ever tried to propagate trees like this before) but in 2018 we made some good clean unions and began to keep a small stock of these trees for RAF commemorations.  The newly finished International Bomber Command Centre found out about our offer and on 30 January 2020 we delivered three trees to site manager, Roger Williams. The trees will be planted in the grounds in the next few weeks. Eventually they hope to make crumbles for visitors to the restaurant using their own apples.

To find out more about the Easton Walled Gardens visiteaston.co.uk

Bomber Command Memorials

In the quest for visiting and recording Bomber Command Memorials I have literally traveled thousands of miles and actually dread to think exactly how many miles I have clocked up in the process, either my car or my wife’s 4×4 (obviously essential for visiting sites in rural areas, you understand!) In the ten years since I have made making researching Bomber Command memorials a significant project in my spare time, I have visited most parts of the UK, although many areas have so far eluded me. When visiting family relatives, I am guilty of creating the most indirect and obscure routes from Sleaford to where they live in order to visit and record a particular memorial location whilst en-route!

Whilst living in “Bomber County” has allowed me to visit all the local sites with relative ease, a direct drawback of this is that I now have to transit even further to reach previously unvisited areas. During winter months I tend to visit only one or two relatively close sites as lighting conditions deteriorate noticeably early afternoon. However, during the Summer months, the benefit of longer hours of daylight gives more opportunities and I plan to complete roughly about three long “memorial tours” during this time period.

Currently anything up to a 3 hour drive just to reach the first site on a specific tour of a distant area is “normal”. As an example, one Sunday in the Summer of 2019, I left Sleaford at 6AM and returned at 9PM having driven about 500 miles on a route roughly based on; Sleaford > Felixstowe, Felixstowe > Lowestoft and Lowestoft > Sleaford. Despite the distance and time, I visited over twenty memorial sites in Suffolk and Norfolk, all for the “Greater Good!”

As of March 2020, I believe I have personally visited over three hundred separate memorials (probably more) and have at least one thousand separate images stored on my laptop (with a copy on an external hard drive just in case of IT failures!) This interest and passion, really is an ongoing labour of love and dedication, especially as I have to re-visit distant areas on a regular basis as new memorials are also being dedicated at a steady rate. However, the potential for the long-term future is both immense and exciting as there are so many possibilities of where this will ultimately lead!

Memorials to Bomber Command can literally take any form and can be dedicated to; an individual, a crew, a Sqn or unit or an airfield; A selection are as follows;

Main Image: The village sign in North Killingholme, Lincolnshire remembers all who served on 550 Sqn

A plaque in the village hall in Bishop Monkton, North Yorkshire remembers a crew lost in training which included a member of the USAAF

A window in Holy Trinity Church, Sibford Gower, Oxfordshire remembers F/O Major killed on 25-26/06/43 (Ops Gelsenkirchen) serving with 78 Sqn

 

To read more about Tony’s search and some of the stories behind the memorials see our Blog Space

 

A Passion for Memorials

A Passion for Memorials – From a very young age, I have always had an interest in the exploits of Bomber Command and during my thirty-year long RAF Career I was fortunate and privileged enough to have both served on several former Bomber Command airfields and also a former Bomber Command Sqn itself. Even more so, I had the unique privilege of meeting several veterans and listened to their stories with great interest. Of note, Wherever I have been posted to, my “library” of Bomber Command related books always came with me and for “inexplicable reasons” has always expanded in the process!

Some ten years ago, I was based at RAF Benson, Oxfordshire, serving on 78 Sqn (a former 4 Whitley and later Halifax Sqn of 4 Gp Bomber Command) Towards the end of my three-year tour, I re-read Martin Middlebrook’s epic work “The Nuremburg Raid” and concurrently also became aware of the existence of a memorial to a Halifax that crashed in the Chilterns Hills with the loss of all its crew on its return from the infamous raid of the night of 30th – 31st  March 1944.

Noting that the location of this memorial was less than thirty minutes away from Benson, on my next free week-end I drove to the site with the intention of just visiting it.  There then followed at least an hour of wandering aimlessly round in varying sized circles in the depths of Cowleaze Wood before I literally stumbled onto the memorial. Pausing to read the names and remember the seven crew who died at this site, I simply decided to take a couple of photos of it . . .

This specific aircraft, 51 Sqn Halifax LW579 MH-V, was the last of no fewer than six Halifax’s lost by 51 Sqn on this Op. As it turned out it appears that this aircraft was highly likely to be attempting to make an emergency landing at Benson when it was lost.

On return to Benson, I then wondered just how many other Bomber Command memorials existed in the local area. After several hours of pre planning routes and researching each of the individual back stories, I began to venture out again on subsequent weekend to visit increasingly more memorials sites. Fairly rapidly, one memorial became two, and after ten years of work on the subject, several memorials eventually became an awful lot more!

For information on the crew of LW579,  please click here

To read more about Tony’s search and some of the stories behind the memorials see our Blog Space

Main image:

Memorial Stone in Cowleaze Wood, on the Buckinghamshire / Oxfordshire county boundary remembers the crew of 51 Sqn Halifax LW579 MH-V who were killed here on the night of 30-31/03/44

This was the first memorial I visited in 2010. These particular images were taken during a return visit in 2019 – and I managed get lost on the second visit as well!

Tony Hibberd, IBCC Memorials Archivist

Brocklesby Lancaster crash 75th Anniversary commemoration event

Brocklesby Lancaster crash

Wednesday 4th March 2020

As well as being a Volunteer Tour Guide at the IBCC, I’m also a member of the 44(Rhodesia) Sqn Association.  I flew on 44 (R) Sqn from 77 to 82, during the Vulcan era, and became an Association member as it was formed when the Sqn was disbanded in the mid-80’s.  It was through this connection that I became involved in the 75th Anniversary commemoration of the crash of Lancaster ME442 of 44 (R) Sqn at Brocklesby on 4 March 1945.

44 (R) Sqn Association was contacted some months ago by Garry Mahon, who is a nephew of Fg Off John “Jack” Ryan, the RAAF Captain of the ME442 on that fateful day in 1945.  Garry was attempting to organise a 75th Anniversary commemoration, to mirror the 50th Anniversary commemoration in 1995, and sought the Association’s help.  With the Association’s Chairman – Gp Capt (Retd) John Laycock and Secretary – Sqn Ldr Henry Horscoft’s help, Garry made contact with Lord Yarborough’s Brocklesby Estate Office and Flt Lt Terry Marsden RAFVR (Retd), the local RAFA representative at Kirmington.  With Lord Yarborough’s kind permission (as the woods are not normally open to the public at this time of year), Flt Lt Marsden’s terrific support and everyone involved pulling together, the event was organised for Wednesday 4th March at 11:00 at the crash site Memorial located in Brocklesby Mausoleum Woods.  At this point, as neither John Laycock or Henry Horscroft could attend the memorial service in the woods, due to ill health and the rough terrain in the woods, I was asked if I would represent the Association and was only then told I would have to make the introduction on the day! However, with Peter Jones support from the IBCC digital archive, writing the introduction became an easy task.

There was 8 of Fg Off Jack Ryan’s relatives in Garry Mahon’s party travelling from Australia and they also wanted to visit the IBCC during their visit to the UK, so I arranged to host them at the IBCC on Tues 3rd March.  They were all very impressed with the Centre and felt it was a very fitting tribute and memorial to all of the Bomber Command men and women who lost their lives.

So to the event itself on the 4th March.  It started in the car park in Great Limber village at 10:00, following an early morning drive over the Lincolnshire Wolds.  We were transported to the Memorial site, via a rough woodland track, in what can only be described as an agricultural trailer with seats down the sides, pulled by a 4-wheel drive.  Luckily the crash site Memorial, deep in Brocklesby Woods, was bathed in warm early Spring sunshine.   There were probably about 50 people at the commemoration as, in addition to the 8 Australians, there were also many family representatives from 5 of the 6 RAFVR crew members of the crashed Lancaster, who had made the journey from all over the UK to be there.  The RAF and RAAF also sent representatives, Barry Wallis represented the IBCC and the Earl of Yarborough also attended.  Following my introduction, the Act of Remembrance was led by Rev Lee Gabel and Flt Lt Terry Marsden RAFVR (Retd) and included prayers, exhortation by Garry Mahon, the Last Post, 2 minutes silence and Reveille followed by laying of crosses by the relatives of the crew members and the other organisations present.  The commemoration ran exactly as planned and everyone, including Lord Yarborough, were very moved, and said it was a fitting tribute to brave crew who lost their lives at Brocklesby Woods 75 years ago.

Following the Memorial Service, we all met up at the Marrowbone & Cleaver pub (the one owned by Guy Martin) in Kirmington for lunch, which gave us all an opportunity socialise with all the families of the crew.  Overall it was a lovely day which both my wife and I will long remember.  A list of the crew members of ME442 and copy of my introduction are printed below.  Also attached are pictures of the commemoration at the crash site and some pictures of the Australian visit to the IBCC on the 3rd March 20:

The Crew of Avro Lancaster ME442 – click on the names to see more information on each man from the IBCC Losses Database:

Fg. Off. John Ryan Pilot RAAF 

Sgt. Thomas. Jarman Engineer RAFVR

Flt.Sgt. Richard Russell Navigator RAFVR

Flt. Sgt. Hubert Terry Air Bomber RAFVR

Sgt. Harry Birch Wireless Op RAFVR

Sgt. Herbert Payne Air Gunner RAFVR

Sgt. William Rogan Air Gunner RAFVR 

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 INTRODUCTION BY WG CDR (RETD) PHIL DAVIES REPRESENTING 44 (RHODESIA) SQUADRON ASSOCIATION:

Lord Yarborough, Ladies and Gentlemen.

We are gathered here today to commemorate the lives, bravery and camaraderie of the seven 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron aircrew who flew Lancaster ME442, which crashed here 75 years ago today, in the early hours of the 4th March 1945.

At 18:42 on the evening of the 3rd March 1945 – the 2,000th night of the Second World War – their Mk 3 Avro Lancaster, coded KM-V, took off from RAF Spilsby, under the command of Flying Officer Jack Ryan of the Royal Australian Air Force, along with his six Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve crew.  They joined a raid consisting of 212 Lancasters and 10 Mosquitoes of 5 Group, to attack the Ladbergen aqueducts, part of the Dortmund – Ems canal.  The raid was successful, over 100 metres of canal bank was destroyed and both aqueducts were in ruins, putting the canal completely out of action for the rest of the war.

As they returned to their Lincolnshire air base, Flying Officer Ryan’s aircraft was intercepted by a Junkers 88C night fighter.  This was the first night of the Luftwaffe’s Operation GISELA, a new tactic by the Germans, whereby instead of attacking our bombers on their outward run, they targeted them as they returned home.  Approximately 200 German night fighters prowled the night skies over England, lying in wait for the returning bombers, attacking either as they landed or were circling in readiness to land.

Sadly, Flying Officer Ryan’s aircraft was shot down by the night fighter and crashed in flames at approximately 1AM in the morning on the 4th March 1945, tragically killing all seven crew members as it came to rest against this tree.

On behalf of 44(Rhodesia) Sqn Association, and all those who have served on the Squadron over the last 75 years, we salute this crew’s bravery, dedication to duty and ultimate sacrifice.  We will always remember them.

Per Ardua Eagle 2020 Update

Per Ardua Eagle 2020 Update

I have returned from a successful visit to Poland to commemorate the Long March from Stalag Luft 3, Zagan to Spremberg (80km NE Dresden). The Royal Air Force looked after me with mobile caterers to feed us, medics to look after feet, RAF Police and Regiment to keep us safe and young airmen to keep us amused.

The group of RAF personnel and I flew out to Berlin on Thursday 13 February and before going by coach to Zagan.  We visited the Military Cemetery in Berlin. There, I laid a wreath for the RAF’s ex-Prisoners of War Association on the central memorial. Small poppy crosses were laid by other members of our group on 20 individual graves. One of those was for Sgt Stan Chalklin buried with 5 other members of his crew. Coincidentally, Brian Chalklin (Stan’s great nephew) and his wife Lynne Chalklin visited the centre a couple of weeks before the trip, we found him on the walls and then I offered to visit Stan’s grave and sent them a photo.

Later in the afternoon we left Berlin for the Willa Park Hotel in Zagan for two nights while visiting the Stalag Luft 3 Museum. Part of the events that day were discussion periods where the RAF personnel had previously researched some topics relating to PoWs to introduce the topics.

At lunchtime all 49 personnel were on parade in the centre of Zagan for a commemoration event marking the Long March. The RAF contingent joined Polish army units, a Polish military band and some Polish veterans with UN service who were presented with medals. There were many local people and school children attending, despite the light drizzle. Wg Cdr Suzanne Senior laid a wreath on behalf of the RAF and I laid one on behalf of the Polish Airmen’s Association UK at the memorial wall in the town square.

On Saturday morning we assembled at the Stalag Luft 3 museum for a short Service of Remembrance before starting our 3-day march of 60 miles on the route taken by the PoWs in Jan 1945 from Stalag Luft 3 to Spremberg via Ilowa, Gozdnica, Lipna (night stop in the Barns), Przewoz , Leknica and over the border to Bad Muskau (nightstop in the sporthalle).

The final day marching started in Bad Muskau, on to Gablenz, Schleife, and finished at the railway station in Spremberg where the WW2 PoWs were loaded on to cattle trucks. This was where our march finished. We held a short remembrance service here during which Gp Cspt Mark Smith laid an RAF wreath and I laid one on behalf of the RAFs ex-PoW Association. We then took a coach ride back into Poland to Kliczkow Castle for a formal dinner. This was the first time some of the RAF personnel had experienced a formal occasion, at least three of them had been in the RAF for less than 6 months, and one man celebrated his 19 birthday!

Despite many blisters and aching legs everyone was able to celebrate our achievement, whilst calling to mind those who had suffered so terribly in 1945.

On Tuesday morning we then returned to Berlin for our flight home.

To find out more about Brian Chalklin and his crew, click here

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LONG MARCH 75TH ANNIVERSARY EXERCISE – PER ARDUA EAGLE 2020

For some years the RAF have taken a group of serving RAF personnel from different RAF stations, across different roles to participate in a force development exercise to Zagan, Poland and a 3-day march to Spremberg station in Germany.  The exercise aims to provide an opportunity for younger personnel to stretch themselves physically,  undertake research into parts of RAF history and heritage and remember those who, in the freezing winter of 1945,  were in the Long Marches across Europe.  This year sees the 75th Anniversary of POW Long Marches.

Those who survived and those who perished through hypothermia, starvation, exhaustion, dysentery, despair and through misidentification by Allied Air Forces.  For many years they have been accompanied by World War 2 RAF ex-prisoners of war (“Kriegies”), and in recent years Air Cdre Charles Clarke OBE had been the sole representative.  https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/show/229  . Charles died last May and the new president of the Royal Air Forces ex-PoW Association, Sqn Ldr Robert (Bob) Ankerson, is participating in this 75th anniversary march.

Robert has been a volunteer tour guide at the IBCC for over 3 years after an RAF career of 34 years, including flying tours on Vulcan and Tornado GR1.  During his second Tornado tour he ejected from a burning Tornado.  He was captured and was a POW in Iraq, qualifying him to join the RAFs ex-PoW Association.

A couple of weeks before departure for Per Ardua Eagle 20, Robert met a couple when they visited the IBCC.  Lynne and Brian Chalklin were looking to see Brian’s uncle on the memorial walls https://losses.internationalbcc.co.uk/loss/103910/.  While chatting to the couple, it transpired that Sgt Stanley Chalklin, Flt Eng, had been shot down over Berlin on 30 January 1944 in a No 207 Sqn Lancaster flying from RAF Spilsby.  Six of the crew were killed, Sgt Downey survived and was a POW.     Further details of the crew are on the IBCC Losses Database https://losses.internationalbcc.co.uk/

Stanley’s name was on a family headstone in England and it was assumed he was buried there.  When the last surviving brother died we learnt he was buried with crew members, in the CWGC Berlin War Cemetery.  Robert will be at the Cemetery with the RAF before travelling to Berlin airport to Zagan and Stalag Luft 3 (the Great Escape). On Thursday 14 February, Robert and the RAF personnel will lay crosses for Sgt Chalklin and his crew.

Two other crews will be recognised at the same time.  While preparing for the trip Robert found a piece written by the author Steve Darlow about Bomber Command and in it he mentions 3 individuals, one of whom is buried in Berlin, Pilot Officer Leslie Gill, IBCC Panel 169 https://losses.internationalbcc.co.uk/loss/210387/ .  On 2 January 1944, 421 Lancasters attacked Berlin, 28 were lost, 156 Sqn lost 4 aircraft with all aircrew killed.    Two of those aircraft were over Berlin and all crew members are buried in the Berlin War Cemetery, including Leslie.  The second crew were flying with Sqn Ldr Ronald Stewart, IBCC Panel 248 https://losses.internationalbcc.co.uk/loss/226957/.  Although these 20 men will be specifically recognised, all RAF men and women who died during WW2 will be remembered.

After a day at Stalag Luft 3 Museum, the group will start to march 60 miles over 3 days. They will stay the first night in a barn where PoWs sheltered from temperatures of minus 20 deg C.  Day 3, marchers arrive at Spremberg station where PoWs were loaded into cattle trucks to be taken to new camps.  The RAF group will be taken to a hotel for a formal dinner before returning to UK the following day.

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