Y4168961 Sgt John ‘Johnnie’ Patrick Walker was a member of the Royal Air Force, serving as a Firefighter in Malaya, Aden, Cyprus and the UK.  Also serving in the RAF Aircrew Selection Centre, at RAF Cranwell and Careers Office, in London. 

In 1983 he transferred as a Motor Vehicle Technician, at RAF Odiham.  John retired from RAF with 29 years service leaving with the rank of Sgt, in 1985. 

He was a very happy person who would go above and beyond to help anyone and everyone.  He served his country well, took great pride in his service and his work, gaining his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, on the 11th May 1973. 

He sadly passed away on the 17th February 2020, at King’s Lynn Hospital, Norfolk.  We are very proud of him, he was well loved and now greatly missed. 

May he Rest In Peace.









Flt/Sgt Peter A. Atkinson

Fl/Sgt Peter A. Atkinson. Navigator 622 Squadron

Flt Sgt Peter A Atkinson  head and shoulders in RAF uniform
Flt Sgt Peter A Atkinson

Peter served in 622 Squadron as a Navigator operating from Mildenhall, Suffolk, with an operations tour on Lancaster bombers from March to July 1944.  He married Pauline Clark on 10th February 1945.

Peter Allison Atkinson was born 7th February 1923 in Wimbledon, and from 2 years old lived in Selsdon, Surrey.  He gained work in Westminster Bank after leaving Middle Whitgift School, Croydon.  He and Pauline met at a dance in Selsdon in October 1941.  He had joined the Local Defence Volunteers and the RAF Volunteer Reserves.  On 2nd March 1942, he was called up to join the RAF for basic training at St John’s Wood then to Stratford-on-Avon for pilot training.  However, selection at Heaton Park then Hastings led to training as a Navigator, his own preference, for which he was based in Harrogate.

Pauline was working in the typing pool in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Soho Square, travelling to London from her parent’s home in Selsdon by train.

Peter was sent by sea from Clyde in The Queen Elizabeth liner for training at the Central Navigation School, Rivers, Manitoba in Canada from November 1942 to March 1943.  Here he had intensive training on Anson aircraft.  He learned to use navigation equipment and to navigate by the stars.  He built up experience of navigating during day and night flights in all weathers.  He completed 68 hours of daytime and 37 hours of night-time flying.  Passing his exams as an Air Navigator and Flight Sergeant was celebrated by a dinner and Wings Parade on 4th March 1943.  He returned after a five-day journey on a scarily overcrowded Queen Elizabeth carrying American and Canadian soldiers. The liner had to dodge a flotilla of enemy submarines before arriving on 3rd April.  A rather shaken Peter was back in barracks at Harrogate the next day.  He had a welcome fortnight’s leave from 9th April for visiting his and Pauline’s grannies and their families and friends.

He spent 5 weeks in Witney Bay with instruction on De Gaulle’s resistance ‘French Forces of the Interior’, lectures, drills, physical training and sport; rifle, Sten and Lewis gun firing and bayonet work with unarmed combat, fieldcraft, assault courses and taking down barbed wire, even experience of going through a gas chamber.

On 7th June he was based in Carlisle and started flying on De Haviland ‘Rapides’ for transferring skills to navigating in European flying conditions where he also learned Compass Swinging.  During July he moved to Penrhos in North Wales flying in Anson planes.  Here he met Flight Sergeant Walker, trainee pilot, with whom he later flew on wartime operations.   In mid-August he was at Wing near Leighton Buzzard flying 4+ hour longer distance flights around Britain in Wellington aircraft and preparing for bombing operations with 26 Operational Training Unit.   Here he was crewed up under pilot Jock Walker.

During a short leave, Peter proposed to Pauline Clark and they were engaged on 7th September 1943.

In December, Peter joined the 1651 Conversion Unit for training on Stirling aircraft at Feltwell, Norfolk for intense work on circuits and landings.  By the end of this, Peter had clocked up 150 daytime and 96 night-time flying hours.  However, Squadrons like 622 were converting to the larger, long distance Lancaster Bombers so Peter was sent back to Feltwell on 16th January 1944 for a Lancaster Finishing School.

On 2nd February 1944, Peter joined 622 Bomber Squadron at Mildenhall airfield in Suffolk for a month of crew flight tests on Lancaster bombers.  By March, the US Airforce joined attacks on Nazi positions with daytime raids, whilst the RAF mostly undertook night-time raids.  At this time, RAF Bomber Command switched much bombing to more southern cities in Germany associated with aircraft building.

Peter’s first combat night operation was to Stuttgart on 2nd March with the crew of Fl/Sgt’s “Jock” Walker: pilot (later Flying Officer), Peter Atkinson: Navigator, Bert Hodgson: bomb aimer, Peter “Tommy” Pearce: mid-upper gunner, and Sgt’s Bill “Andy” Anderton: wireless operator, Eric Brown: rear gunner and Mickey Herbert: flight engineer.

The crew were mostly together through 30 operations and one aborted one.  More often than not, they flew the same Lancaster aircraft that they first air tested on 14th April, ED474 nicknamed ‘Bat Out of Hell’.

The crew’s next early operations were challenging ones to Frankfurt on 18th and 22nd March and to Berlin 24th March.  Following heavy losses on similar raids in January and February, a new route to Berlin was chosen across Denmark north of most fighter bases, avoiding the heavily defended Ruhr to the south.  However, previously unrecorded high altitude wind speeds that night threw out navigation calculations radioed from HQ. Devastatingly, this caused many flights to veer too far south.  Peter stuck with the higher windspeeds in his calculations and stayed on the planned track and they returned safely to Mildenhall.  Leave for the crew meant they escaped other huge losses of the Nuremberg raid on 31st March.  On their return from leave, they were sent to bomb Aachen on 11th April.

Crew image set above an image of the aircraft

Letter writing between Peter and Pauline provided great support though they were also fortunate in opportunities to meet up on his leave and in some gaps caused by non-operational episodes when time off base was allowed.  Then, they enjoyed walks, meals out and visiting the cinema.

From this time, many operations were targeted away from long-distance attacks into Nazi Germany.  Instead, they were diverted to support Eisenhower’s ‘Transportation Plan’.  The idea was to bomb road and rail links in France to hinder routes Nazis were likely to use to fend off the Allies intended ‘Overlord’ invasion.  276 Lancasters including Peter’s crew were sent to Rouen on 19th April to target railyards.   Sadly, poor accuracy led to many civilian casualties and damage to historic sites.  For Peter’s crew now flying ED474, this proved a short diversion from longer distance flights: they had to journey through heavy flak and risk of fighter plane attack to Cologne on 20th, Dusseldorf on 22nd, Karlshuhe on 24th, to large armament factories in Essen on 26th and to a tank gear making factory at Freidrichshafen on 27th.

In May, the focus was changed to preparations for ‘D-Day’, starting for Peter in an attack on gun batteries at Cap Gris Nez on 8th May, though the reinforced targets were not destroyed.  On 11th May the target was marshalling yards in Louvain in Belgium.  After some leave, the next action was on 24th to Aachen, close to the border with France on the Nazi defensive Siegfried Line with important rail links into France, followed on 28th by more marshalling yards at Angers in western France.  On the next raid on 31st, rail installations at Trappes, SW of Paris, were badly damaged, which dealt a big blow to the Nazis.

Interestingly, on 2nd June Peter records a coastal map reference near Calais as the destination for a two-hour flight, probably under ‘Operation Cover’ to deceive the enemy over the location of invasion force landings.  They returned to the Calais area the next night.  On D-Day night 6th June, Peter’s crew were sent to Lisieux in Normandy where the city was severely damaged with loss of many civilian lives.  The justification was the presence of the brutal 12th Panzer division of SS troops and tanks though these were not strongly affected.  The next day, the crew were sent to Massy-Palaiseau to target more infrastructure, returning safely despite significant aircraft losses from night fighters.  On 10th, June they participated in a highly successful attack on the railway at Dreux, west of Paris.

On 12th June, GelsenKirchen, close to Essen in W Germany, was the first in a new campaign to destroy Nazi oil plants whose damage had a highly significant effect on their war effort.  A new target again on 14th June was the U-boat pens in the harbour at Le Havre where severe damage was inflicted by accompanying 617 Squadron dropping Tallboy bombs on the massive pens.  On 15th June, the more familiar target was of rail yards at Valenciennes.

Pauline wrote in her diary that the first V1 doodlebug was dropped in London on 13th June and it was on 24th June that Peter’s operation was to one of these flying bomb sites at Rimeaux.  The even more deadly V2 rocket was about to be deployed by Hitler and Peter’s raid on 5th July to Wizernes was to the vast concrete dome being prepared to house the V2.  This may have helped to delay the first V2 to fall on London that happened on 8th September 1944.  Their plane was attacked by a Ju88 fighter as they returned over the Channel but they managed to return to base.  On 9th July, the crew had their first daytime raid on a V1 construction site at Linzeux, followed by their second on the 12th to rail yards at Vaires, though this was abandoned by the Master Bomber because of total cloud cover.  18th July saw a large dawn raid on five fortified villages by nearly a thousand planes in the Caen area, through which the British Second army troops were about to make an armoured attack, ‘Operation Goodwood’.  This greatly damaged Luftwaffe and Panzer divisions and helped the Allies advance.  On the same night bombers were sent out and Peter’s crew attacked railyards in Aulnoye.  Peter’s final operation was to a synthetic oil plant at Homberg on 20th July.  This mission successfully curtailed oil production although 20 of 147 Lancasters were lost in the attack.

By the end of his tour, Peter had flown 235 hours on operations at night as well as 184 hours of daylight flying on testing and similar exercises and the two operations.

Peter and Pauline married on 10th February 1945 at St John’s Church Selsdon, friends rallying with rations, a cardboard cake, a borrowed dress, a red carnation bouquet and a black cat charm, with Peter looking stunning in his RAF uniform.

Peter Atkinson and his wife, Pauline
Peter Atkinson and his wife, Pauline

Peter continued in the RAF as a navigator trainer and was expecting a second tour to SE Asia that did not materialise due to the end of war with Japan.   Peter transferred to Transport Command, mainly flying to northern India, now Pakistan, to repatriate troops.  He was demobbed on 20th September 1946.

In 1947, Peter and Pauline purchased a plot of land in Sanderstead where her father, William Clark built them a bungalow: ‘Sandbanks’ (their honeymoon destination) 48 Church Way.  Peter returned to his career in the bank.  Tony Peter Atkinson was born on 12th September 1948 and Susan Pauline Atkinson on 18th July 1951.  Peter and Pauline continued to enjoy ballroom dancing.  Peter was a keen gardener and Pauline made clothes, knitted and was a competent cook.  They were generous hosts and often had parties in their home for the wider family.  They ran a church homegroup and church bookstall at All Saints, Sanderstead.  They were avid supporters of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and won a national award for their work in the Croydon Group on sales of goods and informative slideshows.  Veteran Peter and Pauline regularly attended the annual Mildenhall Register reunion and kept in contact with others from 622 Squadron.   Peter and Pauline represented the Register on 17th May 2003 at the inauguration of the Lachalade Memorial in L’Argonne in France where 622 Squadron’s Stirling EF128 was lost on 18th November 1943, with only one survivor.  Peter and Pauline made many more friends from holidays, especially from many years visiting Scotland.

Peter died on 8th January 2005, aged 81, and many tributes were received to celebrate his life.  Pauline continued life stalwartly and a 90th birthday party at St John’s Church Selsdon was arranged in 2012 to celebrate her birthday of 15th August, allowing her to hear tributes of a well-lived life.  She lived close to 70 years at 48 Church Way, moving to be close to family to Tonbridge House Care Home three years before her death on 26th January 2022, aged 99.

For a fuller account of Peter and Pauline’s wartime experience contact



Sqn Ldr C Downes

Christophe, known as Chris, joined the RAF in 1973 as an apprentice dental technician. He reached the rank of Ch Tech and did tours in the UK, as well as RAF(H) Wegberg, during the Cold War. He was attached to the Royal Navy twice, during his time as a dental technician. Chris was part of the implementation team setting up Tactical Medical Wing (TMW) at RAF Lyneham.

He was commissioned in 1999 at the ripe old age of 42, but still managed to keep up with the younger cadets on his squadron; as a Medical Support branch officer. Chris did operational tours in Iraq (Op Telic) and Afghanistan at Nato International Security Assistance Force HQ (ISAF HQ CMED). He did a tour as the adjutant at 612 auxiliary squadron in RAF Leuchars and enjoyed this tour with fond memories.

Chris’s final tour before retiring was at Whittington Barracks tri-service HQ. His father was also a Sqn Ldr and served in bomber command during the Second World War.

He met his wife Fiona, who was also in the RAF. She was a dental nurse. They married in October 1983 and were blessed with a son, Alistair and a daughter, Gemma.

He was a published author and an artist. Some of his paintings can be found hanging in Sergeants/Officers messes around the country.

He is sadly missed every day. 28/07/57 – 30/03/23

Flt. Lt. George William Milson DFC

Flt. Lt. George William Milson DFC 18 & 84 Squadrons RAF

George Milson was born in Lincoln and lived in Coningsby from the age of 7 years old. His father was the founder in 1923 of H H Milson’s bus company. George was educated at Coningsby CE School and Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Horncastle.

In September 1939, he enlisted in the RAF – training as pilot and going on to fly Blenheim Mark 1 Bombers. He was stationed in Norfolk with 18 Squadron and took part in raids and shipping sweeps over Europe before flying to the Middle East to join 84 Squadron in The Western Desert.

George at home in Coningsby

In 1941, he was sent with 84 Squadron to The Far East; ending up in Java where he was captured by the Japanese. When Kalijati airfield came under attack, George escaped and walked 50 miles across Java to regroup with his squadron in Tjilatjap. From there an escape to Australia was attempted but it was not to be. George and many others were stranded on a beach at Nusa Kambangan in Java for over a month.

Western Desert – George seated first left.
Mosul July 1941

It was from here that George was captured as a Far East Prisoner of War (FEPOW). He endured solitary confinement and spent time in several POW camps in Java until he was sent on the “hell ship” Macassa Maru to Singapore. He was interned in Changi POW Camp and spent the last 6 months in Kranji POW Camp. In all he spent three and a half years as a FEPOW. After liberation in August 1945 he was repatriated back to the UK on the MV Tegelberg in October 1945. He then took up his pre-war life in the family bus business in Coningsby.

Unfortunately his pilot’s log book was destroyed by the Japanese but we know from a signed document of 26th October 1945 that he flew a total of 63 operational sorties – 54 daylight sorties and 9 night operational sorties, flying 191.05 hours. His total flying hours on service being a huge 549.40 hours.

To mark the 82nd Anniversary of his capture on 8th April 2024, George’s family have published his memoirs which include many documents, diaries and letters relating to his experiences of life in POW camps



F/O Peter J W Hutton


PILOT, RAF 1943-47

DIED 14 JUL 2015, AGE 90


Peter James William Hutton was 18 in January 1943 at the height of Bomber Command’s assault on Germany and mainland Europe.  He had received his “Selected for Aircrew” letter in the preceding December but had to wait until he was 18 and three months before he could be “called up”.

So determined was he to serve that when he found out inadvertently that the temporary job he had taken on the Liverpool docks was a reserved occupation he was worried he had stymied his chance to serve.  Fortunately, an exemption was made for aircrew.

His formal RAF service began on 19th April 1943.  While at Initial Training Wing in Babbacombe, Devon he was caught up in a German “Nuisance Raid” which saw many civilian casualties including 21 children killed when the church they were in for Sunday School was bombed.  Having been caught up in the raid he was then involved in the rescue and clear-up operation.  Ironically, given his chosen occupation, it was to be the closest he would come to enemy action.

His experience in training was to be one of repeated delay.  He was transferred to Canada in November 43 but did not move to a training base, EFTS#32 in Bowden, Alberta until January of ’44.  His solo was on 11th March 1944.

Further delay followed.  With fewer losses being suffered on operations course duration for new aircrew was lengthened and when in May ’44 he was transferred to SFTS#11 in Yorkton, Saskatchewan he found to his frustration it was a training centre being wound down for closure.  Training proper, then, did not resume until he moved to SFTS#10 in Dauphin, Manitoba at the end of July ’44.  Eventually, he was awarded his Wings on 2nd March 1945 and commissioned to Pilot Officer.

Peter JW Hutton with newly awarded wings
Peter JW Hutton with newly awarded wings

Of course, by then the war was coming to a close.  For VE Day he was in Summerside, Prince Edward Island undertaking additional navigator training and was back in the UK in Harrogate for VJ Day.

Thereafter, he was posted to 160 Squadron in what was then Ceylon.  The squadron was being readied for a transfer back to the UK which entailed disposing of munitions and armaments.  While there he gained some experience flying Consolidated Liberators ladened with such cargo which was dumped into the Indian Ocean.

When 160Sqn moved to the UK he was transferred to a non-flying role in Singapore and thereafter (by which time he had been promoted to Flying Officer) to command a base (albeit without aircraft) at Kota Bharu in the North East of Malaya, infamous for being the landing site for the Japanese invasion in 1941.

In mid-1947 he was transferred to the UK and demobilised (service no. 167865) on 15th May 1947.

Thereafter, he remained in the Volunteer Reserve, notching up the required number of hours flying each year until released in the early 1950s.  By then he was working for a shipping company, the Clan Line, in Liverpool.  In his spare time he was a decent amateur cricketer (medium, fast bowler).

He was married in August 1957 to Jean who he had met at ballroom dancing classes and who also worked at the Clan Line.  Soon after, he joined a shipping agency and they moved to Surbiton, Surrey where in 1961 they had their first child, a son.  A move to Thundersley in Essex, which was to remain the family home for the rest of their lives, and a second child, also a son, came in 1963.  They had a third son in 1970.

Peter lived a clean, honest life; his eagerness to serve and RAF days unsung.  Upon his death in July 2015 at the age of 90 the most used description of him by friends and relatives was “a gentleman”.

The stone at the International Bomber Command Centre has been laid with love, gratitude and admiration from his sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren.

Flt Lt George A Hicks



George joined the Royal Air Force in 1947 with the aim of becoming a pilot, and his training took him to various countries.  When George received his ‘wings’ and Commission, he was posted to RAF Hemswell; the home of Bomber Command. There, George was to fly Lincoln bombers of 83 Sqn.  He flew to Hong Kong, Singapore, Cocos Islands and Norway.  Returning to Hemswell, George was stationed with Bomber Command.

In 1951 it was discovered that flying was giving George leg cramps and was advised to give up flying.  Keen to keep a connection with the aircraft he so loved, he retrained to work in Air Traffic Control. In 1955 George went to RAF Shawbury to complete is training and remained with ATC until his retirement in 1976.

George’s love of the Lincoln/Lancaster bomber, and pride of serving in the RAF, was to remain strong until his death in 2003.   His family are very proud of him.

  1. PS. His claim to fame was that he was an ‘extra’ in the film The Dambusters; playing the part of a crew member. Every time we watch the film, we think of him.





Norman was born on 30 September 1899 in Chiswick, Middlesex.  He was an only child.  We believe he was educated at a local Blue Coat School.

On 3 October 1917 he enlisted as 3rd Class Air Mechanic with the Royal Flying Corps.  He was discharged to a commission on 22 February 1918 and on 23 February 1918 he was granted a temporary commission as 2nd Lieutenant on probation, on the General List of the Royal Flying Corps.

On 1 April 1918 he was transferred to the Royal Air Force.

He graduated as 2nd Lieutenant Flying Officer on 14 June 1918 Aeroplane and Seaplane Officer.

Following his training at Halton Park with 64 Training Squadron he was an RE8 pilot with 12 Squadron British Expeditionary Force.

We know that on active service he was shot down and suffered injuries to both legs.  He was lucky enough to be returned to the UK for treatment at a military hospital after which he was discharged to the unemployed list on 27 April 1919.

After WW1, Norman had a varied life.  He married a lady from New Zealand and together, in  1927,  they emigrated to Canada for a life in farming but he returned to the UK on his own in 1932.

We have little information about what he did on his return from Canada until the late 1940’s when he met and eventually married Mary Kelly (nee McCrindle).  Norman was 50 when their daughter, Sheila was born, and 53 when twin sons, John and Richard, were born.

We do know that, for a few years, he worked with his father, William Edgar Bain, who ran a small building company in Lincoln.  When the business went into liquidation he took a job in administration for Clayton Dewandre, an engineering firm in Lincoln.

Amongst his hobbies and other pursuits he enjoyed gardening and stamp collecting.  He encouraged his children to collect stamps and we still have some albums from those early years.

We remember Norman as a jolly and interesting father and we really wish we had been able to talk to him about his life when we were adults but he died in 1962 when Sheila was 13 and John and Richard were 10.

Thanks to IBCC and The Ribbon of Remembrance, we have the opportunity to mark his contribution to WW1 and to life in general, which is a privilege and is very much appreciated.

Sheila Phillips (nee Bain), John Bain, Richard Bain





Flt/Sgt G Clifford Owen

Flt/Sgt G Clifford Owen, Navigator, 100 Squadron at RAF Grimsby, Waltham.

The path to joining up

Cliff Owen, a native Welsh speaker, was born on 17 October 1923 in the South Wales mining village of Glanaman, in the Amman Valley. He was the youngest of 4 children to Thomas John and Margaret Owen.

Securing a Scholarship in 1936 kept Cliff in school and out of the mines. On completion of the Scholarship, shortly after the outbreak of the War, a job in Swansea beckoned.

Cliff soon saw one brother serving in the Navy and the other brother in the army with the BEF. In 1940 Cliff persuaded the manager of the Magnesium Metal Company where he worked to agree to remove the ‘reserved occupation’ status of his work, enabling him to enlist for the RAF. He passed the aircrew entrance exam and, like so many of his peers, reported to the Aircrew Receiving Centre at Lord’s Cricket Ground, spending the first night in the Long Room. From here he went for initial training in Cambridge.


At Cambridge University Cliff spent 6 months accommodated in the top of a garret in Trinity House College, whilst he successfully undertook a crash course in Navigation and Aeronautics. He was delighted to receive the highest marks of his Flight.

After training to fly solo in a Tiger Moth, it was on to Heaton Park, a form of holding centre before boarding the American ship, Thomas H Barry, for transfer to New York. Next a train across Canada to Bowden, Alberta, where training began in earnest. Cliff used to remark one of his abiding memories of Canada was the warmth of the welcome of every Canadian he met.

In Bowden, Cliff again soloed in a Tiger Moth and later in a Stearman. However, realising he was a much better Navigator than he was a pilot he transferred on to the navigators’ course at No 9 Air Observer School, St John’s Quebec. Along with 17 others he was presented with his “Wings” on July 8th 1943.

He returned to the UK, sailing on the Aquitania into the Clyde and back onto rations. Proudly wearing the blue of the officers’ jacket, Cliff was transferred from Clydeside to Harrogate and then to Millom in Cumberland. Here the aircrew were introduced to the Avro Anson and to experience flying in blackout conditions and, for the Navigator, skilling up on getting the plane back on track using bearings, pinpoints and dead reckoning.

Then came the move to Child’s Ercall to gain high-level bombing practice in an operational class aircraft, the Wellington Bomber, together with experiencing a flight over enemy territory in France (called a nickel) and the opportunity for the Navigator to use the Gee box.

Leaving Child’s Ercall, Cliff moved in early April 1944 to No1667 Conversion Unit in Sandtoft, Lincs, for practice in the Halifax Bomber. As a result of a hand problem Cliff had to cry-off one practice on one day – it was to practice take offs and landings so not essential for the Navigator to be aboard. Sadly, the plane crashed at Moors End colliery, with one fatality and extremely serious injuries to all the other crew.

At the beginning of June 1944, Cliff joined another crew in need of a Navigator. They were posted to No 1 Lancaster Finishing School, Hemswell, Lincs for practice, practice, practice.

Training over, early in July 1944 the crew arrived at 100 Squadron, Waltham, Grimsby – RAF Grimsby. The crew were just inspecting the outside of their Nissen hut accommodation when the noise from engines of soon-to-depart Lancasters was interrupted by a large explosion and a molten piece of metal the size of a man’s hand crashed into the side of their hut. A bomb had fallen out of its cradle and exploded. It was a most forbidding welcome to RAF Grimsby!

Clifford Owen

70n Course Quebec
70n Course Quebec
Graduation Day
Graduation Day




Following some 2 weeks of crew assessments, acclimatising to longer trips and fighter affiliation experience, on the night of 23/24 July 1944 the crew was briefed on its first operation, departing at 23.05 hours to bomb the Naval Yards at Kiel. Briefing was followed by specialist briefings for the navigators, including route plotting on a Mercator projection, working out wind directions and speeds, the course to fly and route distances. There would then just be time to make for the van to deposit crews at dispersal points.

It wasn’t unusual to find one or more of the navigation aids wasn’t operating properly. However, the H2S airborne, ground scanning radar system was both exceptional and was operating most times. What was not known at the time was that, allegedly, the pulses from the H2S could be picked up by enemy fighter and followed. H2S could be potentially treacherous in giving away the Bomber stream position, significantly increasing risk to crews*.

The Navigator’s main roles lay in determining which courses to fly, checking and maintaining the correct flight path, ensuring the plane arrived over the target at the crucial time and, of course plotting the return to base. Good communication between the Navigator and pilot was crucial. A plane veering off track was an invitation to enemy fighters. It seems the enemy would often light up with parachute flares where they thought the bombers track lay and position fighters nearby ready for the kill. On one occasion Cliffs plane was saved from this aerial trap by their mid-upper gunner hitting a FW 190 night fighter broadside on.

Another significant risk was of mid-air collisions, especially flying at night-time. On an operation to Hopsten Airfield, evasive action needed a steep turn and a near miss with a plane from the Squadron. Unfortunately, mid-air collisions did happen.

After 3 operations the crew agreed they worked well together; so important under the circumstances. The pilot ensured that each of the crew knew their jobs and provided him with information essential to the running of the plane. Whenever it was requested, there was to be no dithering. Crew members’ performances had not been affected by searchlights, bursting shells or machine gun fire.

Operations continued for just over 3 months, with their frequency ranging from daily to every few days. Targets included flying bomb sites, gun sites and batteries, oil refineries, marshalling yards, troop concentrations, Naval repair installations, Stuttgart, Russelheim, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Emmeline, Cologne and Duisburgh. After completing their “final” operation, the crew was asked to do one further, to Cologne.

The operations crew of Lancaster HW B LM 644 between 11.7.44 and 31.10 1944 was as follows (l to r in photo):

F/O Healy                Captain                      Australian

SGT E Kitchin          Flight Engineer         Yorkshire

SGT G C Owen        Navigator                  Welsh

SGT A S G Wilson   Bomb Aimer             London

SGT R Morgan        Wireless Operator   Welsh

SGT C G Webb        Mid Upper Gunner  USA

SGT J R Buchanan  Rear Gunner             Australian

This crew completed 31 ops at RAF Grimsby, Waltham, with 100 Squadron.

Post war statistics show that the survival rate for aircrew for the period 1943/44 was less than 40% I.e. under 4 out of 10 survived.

Owen Crew

Post – Ops

Following completion of ops, like many other crew members, Cliff moved into Transport Command. He wrote: “It became evident that the Allies would have ‘to take on’ Japan and that war could take a long time. Many felt it unwise to lose experienced aircrew when only half the job had been done. Transport Command would be an ideal situation for Pilots, Navigators and Wireless Operators. Their skills could be honed and there would remain a reservoir of aircrew easily available for transfer to RAF Bomber Command should that need arise.”

The need did not arise and Cliff spent nearly 2 years in Transport Command, supplying services, moving military personnel and VIPs. He was promoted to Warrant Officer, which was his rank on Discharge.

He visited many far-flung places he may not have opportunity to visit in future. Each trip became a marvellous geographical experience he always treasured.

Cliff served in the RAF from 16.2.42 – 8.10.46.

Post war

He went on to work for the Ordnance Survey, updating OS Maps. He met and married Margaret and moved into Local Government, becoming Chief Planning Officer with a North Wales Authority. He had 2 children, Anne and Gerald.

In writing about Cliff, I have deliberately sought to identify the places he went and training he undertook with RAF Bomber Command. Some of the place names and activities may correspond with and enhance other reader’s knowledge of their own relatives training, some may be new. Many airfields can still be seen on Google Maps. I have deliberately avoided detailing individual operations and/or their consequences. This, I think is what Cliff would wish for. It would best reflect his modesty about having voluntarily served so selflessly in the RAF, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. Like so many, he never spoke of ops and didn’t dwell on the past. He preferred always to look forward with a positive attitude and outlook on life. We don’t need to read the detail. We all know that he, his fellow crew men and all the service men and women were real heroes of their time. We should always be so grateful to each and every one.

Gerald Owen


*RV Jones British Scientific Intelligence 1939/45, p631

Rex Wheeldon & Roy Gould

I am Roy Gould’s godson.

He and my father, Rex Wheeldon, grew up together in Clacton between the wars and remained best friends until they died within a few months of each other in 2011 or 2012. Living some 150 miles apart, they had not seen each other for some time.

Three model-aircraft-mad friends, the other being Maurice Carter, left school in the early thirties and parted company when Rex left to sign up for the RAF in 1936.  Roy continued his studies to qualify as an architect in his father’s footsteps.  Maurice also joined the RAF on being called up, but unfortunately was killed when his glider crashed during the Normandy landings.

By the outbreak of WW2, Rex was already flying Battles, which he later flew on ops in France, after a spell on Tiger Moths in the Communications Squadron during the phoney war.

Roy was called up in the Autumn of 1940, applying to join the RAF, and succeeding in gaining his wings in 1941.  He was persuaded to record his flying career from then until the end of the war in a self-published book, written 65 years after his last flight, in 2006.

His flying record was extraordinary, working his way up to a full tour on Lancasters, and flying fifteen different types, including the Spitfire and the Hurricane.  He was always based in the UK, spending much of his time in Lincolnshire, and came through the war unscathed, but not without several ‘moments’.  He landed at 51 UK airfields, and one in Germany, Gatow, during the Berlin Airlift.  Roy accumulated 1755 hours flying time by the end of the war, and only once took the controls of an aircraft afterwards, when his daughters bought him a flight out of Clacton airfield for his 90th birthday.

Rex brought one of the few surviving Battles back from France, and then converted to Wellingtons when 12 Sqn were based at Binbrook.  In 1942 he was posted to the BAT Flight, teaching pilots to ‘fly the beam’, the early radar landing system.  After the war he was taken off flying duties and joined the Secretarial branch of the RAF until his retirement in 1967. While based at Bentley Priory in the early 60’s he gained his PPL and bought a Hornet Moth which he flew back to land on the farm near Lincoln, weather permitting, then keeping it at Binbrook until retirement.

Was it a coincidence that he sold it after I gained my licence at 17?  Perhaps not!

Rex became an AFI at the Lincoln Aero Club, adding another 600hrs flying time, bringing his total to just under 3500hrs.

I was born just after the war and Roy became my godfather, as my parents were godparents to his daughters.  I have very little recollection of him, but do remember visiting the family in Clacton when I was probably 10 years old.

Roy had sent my father a copy of his Memories, which I acquired on my father’s death, but which, to my chagrin, I have mislaid, probably lending it to a friend and both of us forgetting.

I live not far from the IBCC and have watched it develop, visiting regularly.  The last time I determined that I would like to add a dedication to my father on the Ribbon of Remembrance, the inscribed stones lining the path to the Memorial.  There are already hundreds of these, and it is virtually impossible to take them all in.  So it was a great surprise when I saw one dedicated to my godfather, particularly when I had such difficulty finding it again, even though I thought I knew more or less where it was!

This gave me the opportunity to get back in touch with Roy’s daughters, Christine and Paula, who very kindly sent me their father’s own copy of his Memories.

Roy and Rex with partners


Eric caught the flying ‘Bug’ aged 10 in a Fox Moth over Cleethorpes. 

At 18, in the ATC, he had his first flying experience in the rear turret of a Lancaster.  From there, at the RAF recruiting office, he was accepted for pilot training and in 1943 gained his ‘Wings’ in Canada. 

 Eventually he found himself flying Lincolns at RAF Hemswell in March 1952. 

 In early 1954 four pilots were chosen from his Squadron to replicate flying sequences for the Dambusters Film.  Although experienced in formation flying, he found the prospect of very low altitude flying daunting. Most of his Lancaster flights were in NX673 painted to represent Micky Martin’s P-Popsie. 

 In 2005 the publication of “Filming the Dambusters” by Jonathan Falconer sparked new interest and led Eric to fundraise for RAFBF.  Giving talks at schools/groups, signing books/paintings at Air Shows and other venues raised money to support the Bomber Command Memorial in London and the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln.   

 During this time, he gave talks alongside Sqn Ldr George “Johnny” Johnson, and they became friends. 

 On one occasion he was invited to talk at a Service in Lincoln Cathedral (YouTube) 

 To celebrate his 90th Birthday Eric flew several ‘Runs’ down the Derwent Dam alongside a private pilot friend. 

Sqn Ldr George “Johnny” Johnson, Eric’s daughter Sue and Eric Quinney

John Arthur Richards

John was born on the 26th June 1922 in Subiaco, a suburb of Perth. He joined the RAAF in 1941 and began training as a fighter pilot. When posted to England, to continue his training, he was told immediately that he would be needed to fly bombers. Reluctantly he accepted this posting after saying, in his own words, “I won’t accept the responsibility of a crew, as a fighter pilot if my plane goes down then it’s only me at risk”.

Conversion training began on two engine Wellington bombers, then on to the four engine Stirling before finally on to, again John’s words, “that great aircraft the Lancaster “.

Posted to 467 Sqn at Waddington his baptism of fire was to begin as a Lancaster bomber pilot. Thirteen sorties over the next few months saw operations bombing targets in Germany, France and also providing daylight support for the armies fighting their way into France. On the night of the 29th/30th August 1944, John and his crew were shot down over Konigsberg and two of his crew perished. The next day John and other survivors were picked up by the Germans and spent the rest of the war in Stalag Luft 1 as prisoners of war.

Upon liberation, John returned to Australia and over the next three years he married, started a family and completed an Arts degree at the University of Western Australia as well as successfully applying to join the WA Education Department. He retired from teaching in1982, in Albany. His first wife died from cancer in 1985 and John returned to Perth.

John returned to Lincolnshire on a couple of occasions, the first in 2014 where he returned to RAF Waddington to “complete his mission” as he put it and, again in 2018 for the official opening of the IBCC, where he paid his respects to his two lost crew members.

John died at his home in Joondalup on the 12th August 2021.

Sgt Donald Hall DFM

Sgt Donald Hall DFM – Navigator 101 Squadron RAF

Originally from Bideford, Devon, Donald Hall worked at the Investigation Branch of the Post Office, in London. He got married the day before the Second World War was announced.  Aged 25, he was not amongst those to be conscripted but he volunteered in 1942.

He completed initial training in Torquay, then RAF Coningsby, before training as a Navigator at RAF Bridgnorth and moving onto RAF Bobbington and RAF Wymeswold.  Here Donald trained in Wellington Bombers and was paired with Pilot Officer David McConnell.

Following training in Halifax and Lancaster bombers at Blyton Base, Donald was signed to Bomber Command’s 101 Squadron, at Ludford Magna.  He carried out Lancaster bombing missions throughout Germany between 12 August 1943 and 15 February 1944.  Donald’s crew flew as part of the secretive Airborne Cigar (ABC) operations, carrying an 8th man to intercept and disrupt enemy transmissions.

Towards the end of their first tour, during the Battle of Berlin, their aircraft was shot down by a night fighter. The Pilot and two Air Gunners were killed in the attack.  The Flight Engineer was unable to gain control of the Lancaster, so the remaining crew bailed out.

Donald took a parachute to a crew member and helped him out.  When he went to get his own parachute, he couldn’t find it as the aircraft was spinning.  He sat on the steps leading to the open escape hatch, watching the clouds lit by the fires underneath, twisting round and round, wondering whether to jump or stay.  Suddenly, the Lancaster put its nose down and he heard his parachute sliding towards him.  Quickly putting it on, he went out through the escape hatch.

He landed in the middle of their target, Berlin railway station, injuring his back landing on the tracks.  The Germans were near and took his possessions.  They smoked his beloved Player’s cigarettes but, after the war, the rest of his things were returned to him.

Lancaster DV236 to Berlin shot down, 15 February 1944:


Wing Commander R I Alexander wrote of Donald:

“He was a very popular member of a fine crew and a great asset to the Squadron.  He has proved himself a most competent and efficient Navigator of aircraft and his many sorties over enemy territory have always been carried out with splendid courage and tenacity.”

Donald was taken to Dulag Luft, Frankfurt, and on to Stalag Luft 6, Heydekrug, on 2nd March 1944. He then went by cattle train and on foot to Stalag 357, as part of the Long March.  He was first marched to Thorn in July 1944, before being moved to Fallingbostel the following month.  (At one point, they were mistaken for Germans by the Allied aircraft, who fired on the marching prisoners.)  Leaving Fallingbostel in April 1945, he was taken to the Military Lazarette, Voisingburg, 2 weeks later.

Of his time in the camps, he recalled: that the bunks were hard and uncomfortable, as some slats were used to keep the fires going; that the prisoners had little more than swede and potato soup (because of this, both veg were more or less banned at home for a long time); that he continued to wash regularly, despite the water being icy cold; and that he was able to keep his beloved wedding ring safe by hiding it in a tin of condensed milk.

Upon liberation, Donald was sent to Cosford Hospital.  He was emaciated and had pneumonia but, fortunately, was able to fully recover. Like many who have been through such things, he didn’t talk much about his wartime experiences until many years later.  He did, however, keep in touch with some of his friends from that era and attended many of the reunions.

Donald was a wonderful, intelligent and kind man and was incredibly lucky to return home, whilst so many didn’t.  He returned to work at the GPO and was very active in his local community.  He was a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather and lived to see his 90th birthday.

The crew of G for George


The Coughlan Stones

F/O Maurice Claude Coughlan – 658172 (Known as ‘Mike’)

1938    Territorial Army

1939    Call up, Royal Engineers

1941    Transfer to RAF

My Father commenced training to be a pilot in December 1941, as part of the ‘Arnold Scheme’, in Canada (Manitoba, Alberta and Ontario) and the USA (Georgia).  He continued his training as a bomb aimer and navigator throughout August and September 1942.

My Father completed his overseas training and returned to the UK in 1943.  One of his UK training bases was RAF Tilstock, Whitchurch, where he met his future wife, WAAF Doreen Audley.  There he also teamed up with Pilot F/S Julian Rabchak (‘Red’).  This partnership endured throughout their training and operational missions.

Between February 1944 and June 1944, as part of 103 Squadron based at RAF Elsham Wolds, this crew flew and survived 30 successful missions over Germany and France.  My Father was demobbed in 1946 and married Doreen in 1947.

My parents had 2 children and 4 grandchildren.  My Father did not talk about the war and much of what we know was discovered after he died in 1979 at the age of 62.

LACW Doreen Audley – 484116

My mother was an only child raised in the Wirral.  She enrolled in the WAAF in 1943 at the age of 21 as an Administration Clerk in Payrolls.  She was stationed at RAF Tilstock where she met F/O Mike Coughlan her future husband. She subsequently served over 2 years between 1944 and 1946 in Egypt based just outside Cairo at RAF Heliopolis.  She shared a tent in the sand with another WAAF and had to check daily her shoes and bedding for scorpions.  I believe that she was also at RAF Turah III MU where she told us that they used limestone caves for storage that had been used to quarry the pyramids.

Whilst in Egypt she was able to visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Beirut, Luxor, The Valley of The Kings, Aswan and the beach at Alexandria.  She returned by ship to the UK in 1947.

My Mother, who had 2 children and 4 grandchildren, died in 2015 aged 93, at which time she was a great grandmother twice over.

Albert Fletcher & Thomas Denton

A few years after my wife and I were married I decided to research our family histories and to our surprise we found that both of our grandfathers had died on the same day, 17th June 1940 in northwest France. Both men were part of the allied forces trying to escape France as it was overrun by German forces, some of the 50,000 that didn’t make it off the beaches at Dunkirk. My grandfather Thomas Fredrick Denton was a sergeant in 98 squadron RAF and made it as far as the Lancastria which was anchored in the bay at St Nazairre. The Lancastria was bombed by German planes and sunk with a loss of life running into the thousands. Karen’s grandfather Albert Fletcher was a corporal in the North Staffordshire Regiment of the Army, and whilst some reports suggested he may have also made it to the Lancastria, it is believed he died in the Luftwaffe bombing of the railway station at Rennes, the bomb struck a munitions train creating a massive explosion resulting in the loss of over 800 lives.


Bombing of Rennes railway station
Survivors of the Lancastria
The sinking of the Lancastria


After we were married and before we knew our grandfathers story we had a family holiday in northwest France, my wedding ring was lost in the sea and we purchased a new ring from a small shop in Quimper. This year we will be married 25 years and like to romantically believe that the spirit of our grandfathers sealed our bond with the ring we purchased and we want to bring them together in a memorial stone.



Mark and Karen Denton ( maiden name Fletcher )

Professor Allan D S Barr

Professor Allan D. S. Barr
11th September 1930 – 11th February 2018

Allan David Stephen Barr was born on the 11th September 1930 in Glasgow. His father, also Professor Allan Barr, was a highly respected theologian and a moderator of The United Free Church of Scotland. His grandfather was Rev James Barr MP, a pacifist, a great advocate of home rule for Scotland, the Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and a moderator of the United Free Church of Scotland.

Allan was nearly 9 years old, and living with his family in Edinburgh, when World War 2 started. The first bombs of the war were in fact dropped on Edinburgh by the Luftwaffe as they tried to destroy the Forth Rail Bridge. Their bombs fell well wide of their target, hitting Edinburgh Zoo, which is on Corstorphine Hill, less than half a mile from the family home. The only casualties were a number of monkeys killed as their enclosure was hit. Allan was to comment years later that it was clearly a cynical attempt by Hitler to wipe out the Edinburgh intellectual elite. Shortly after this raid, children were evacuated from Edinburgh. Allan went to stay with friends of the family in their country house in Alloa, in central Scotland. He enjoyed it, living and playing in the countryside. A few months later however the evacuees returned to Edinburgh as it became clear the city was no longer being targeted.

Allan was always a bit concerned that he had stepped away from the then family line of professions which generally were those relating to the church, to medicine or to the arts. He went initially to Bristol and undertook a Student Apprenticeship at the Bristol Aeroplane Company, successfully completing this along with an ONC (Ordinary National Certificate) in Engineering. This gave him the practical foundation he desired and was a factor in him thriving in his engineering degree course at the University of Edinburgh, where he graduated in 1952 with 1st Class Honours. Allan’s excellence in academia and his thirst for understanding led him to becoming a Carnegie Research Scholar at the University of Edinburgh, completing his PhD in 1956, and subsequently lectured at the university.

Prof Allan D S Barr

Allan learned to fly as a member of the University Air Squadron at Edinburgh. He flew Chipmunks, Prentice and Tiger Moth aircraft. His passion for aircraft and flying came largely from the Second World War where his older brother, Jim, flew Swordfish aircraft. Allan did manage to “crash” a plane: the front wheels dug into soft grass so that when he applied power the tail lifted high into the air and the nose and propeller dug into the grass, largely destroying the aircraft, so much so that he had to write a letter of apology to the King. We are not sure if he got a reply, but he did continue to love aircraft and flying! For Allan’s eightieth birthday his family got him a flight in a Tiger Moth at RAF Duxford. He took the controls for a while, and he loved it.

In 1964, along with his family, Allan went on a sabbatical as a Fulbright Scholar and visiting professor to Cornell University, in New York state. On his return, he was appointed a Senior lecturer, then a Reader, and in the early 1970s acting Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Edinburgh. In 1972, Allan took up post as Professor and Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Dundee, a position he added to from 1983 to 85, becoming Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. In 1985, Allan and his wife Eileen moved to Aberdeen where he took up the Jackson Chair of Engineering, at the University of Aberdeen, becoming the Head of the Department of Engineering, and ultimately Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Mathematical & Physical Sciences. He was made Emeritus Professor of Engineering in 1996.

Allan was bright, quick witted, intelligent, funny, and with such a broad range of interests that he pursued to a high level. He retained a desire to understand how things worked, particularly things mechanical. He had a real passion for motorcycles as well as cars, although at times he seemed to spend more time under them than in them. That practical side to his engineering knowledge and capability made him an even more complete professional engineer. Allan was a self-taught and accomplished pianist, able to read music. He enjoyed playing jazz the most.

Before Allan retired, he and his wife Eileen moved to their house at Auchattie, near Banchory, in Scotland. Their shared passion for gardening led them to develop a creative and beautiful garden. Allan’s interests and passions flowed naturally in his retirement; working lovingly on his old cars, from Land Rovers to Alfa Romeos; salmon fishing with friends on the River Dee; walking up Scolty Hill and in the stunningly beautiful Deeside; reading from his wide range and vast number of books; still doing academic work, with A3 sheets spread across his study desk covered in detailed calculations; feeding the birds and red squirrels by hand (although the grey ones got shot); more applications for his practical engineering skills too, with the sceptic tank being a big feature; he became a local church elder (as he had done wherever he lived); he enjoyed visits from family and friends, including in particular from his sister Margaret.

Allan was never one to boast or to blow his own trumpet about anything, not least his excellence in his profession as an engineer, an academic and a teacher: But let us do a bit here on his behalf:

Professor Allan D. S. Barr was a great Scottish academic, and leading researcher, with over 50 publications on his principal research area, that of dynamics and non-linear vibration. He also related his academic knowledge to practical applications. He secured numerous research grants and externally funded programmes (many of which are still classified) including work for the US Department of Defence (relating to military aircraft structures), and work for the UK Ministry of Defence (relating to submarine survivability to underwater shock), and work for Rolls Royce plc (relating to the optimisation of gas turbine blade design).

Allan was highly supportive of all of his students, including mentoring dozens of successful PhD students. He was a great, respected and dedicated lecturer and teacher, able to simplify challenging concepts, relate them to practical applications and experiences. He was an external examiner to a number of other UK Universities’ Engineering Departments, including the University of Newcastle, the University of Southampton and the University of Belfast.

Allan was a strong supporter of his profession and he did receive significant recognition from his peers. Over the years he has been:

  • The Chairman of the Scottish Branch and a Member of the Council of The Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
  • A Member of both the Technology and Scottish committees of the University Grants Committee.
  • A Member of the Scottish Committee of the University Funding Council.
  • A Member of the Council of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
  • A Member of the Executive Group Committee of the Engineering Council.

He was a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Allan David Stephen Barr; beloved husband to Eileen for over 63 years, father to David, Richard and to Christina. Grandfather (Grandpa) to Laura, Andrew, James, Tom, Emily, Lewis, Euan, Heather and Eilidh.

Allan is in many ways a very hard, nay impossible act to follow. A very complete life, a very complete man. Here there is no honorary degree, nothing we can physically award to Allan. Our tribute must lie in our hearts, in our memories and in our prayers of thanksgiving. It is left to sum up his life and his family’s love for him and his memory in the words applied to top graduates – summa cum laude – with first class honours.

David, Richard & Christina

October 2022

Kenneth Wrigley (1922-2007)

Kenneth Wrigley Stone
Kenneth Wrigley
Kenneth Wrigley

At seventeen, my father, selected from Manchester Grammar School, joined the Air  Ministry  Experimental  Stations responsible for the Chain Home Radar and ‘top secret’ Type 100 projects which enabled the Battle of Britain to be won. Their work on Radar remained unrevealed until well after the war, even up to the present day where aspects are still used in modern aviation. Secrets in those years were well kept, so much so that my father told me he felt Radar personnel had been forgotten and he often wondered whether he had contributed to the war effort at all. He had an undying regard for his friends who fought in physical combat on the front lines.

The Chain Home teams had to climb extraordinarily high Radar masts. He confessed to shutting his eyes frequently during the process, feeling terrified and quite faint while his friend raced to the top of the structures waving wildly in glee, making him decidedly ill.

When it came to Mathematical problems, my father feared none. The more complex and difficult, the more he thrived. A mental gymnast, he was typically British, self deprecating with a wonderful sense of humour and duty, duty,duty, so characteristic, so admirable of the war generation. What had to be done was done whatever was felt. In this capacity he was Involved with Bomber Command perfecting target accuracy in an attempt to limit numbers of civilian casualties.

He always maintained the Radar Division appeared to have no military head. However, coming under the RAF, The Radar personnel adopted Air Chief Marshall Dowding as their superior and my father held him in high esteem.

After the war he lived in Central Africa for a number of years teaching at local schools and colleges. How difficult he found adapting to the ordinary life I shall never know. It was just another secret he kept. He was particularly outstanding with special needs children having infinite patience with anyone who was willing to learn or showed a curiosity for understanding concepts. He wrote a Mathematics tome and gained two PhDs, eventually lecturing part-time at Exeter university.

In his retirement Chess kept him fascinated, long walks were a daily exercise and ‘egg and chips’ at a greasy spoon made him happy. Humble, intense, very protective and supportive of his children, when he passed away I felt as if the rock behind me sank beneath the sea, but…he walks beside me still…

Alison Dos Santos ( neé Wrigley)(eldest daughter)








Dad was born at home at number 7 April Street, Hackney, London in 1921. Educated at Stoke Newington Central School until the age of 16, he subsequently found a job as a Junior Office Clerk with the shipping company Furness Withy & Co Ltd at their offices in the Surrey Commercial Docks, Rotherhithe.


Even before war was declared in September 1939, a number of the older male staff at Furness Withy began to join up, enlisting with the Territorial Army so that they would be the first to called up for active service. Being too young but also wanting to make some sort of contribution, Dad joined the Home Guard. When he turned 19 in November 1940, Dad thoughts turned to joining up and he recalled in some notes about his own life how he decided to proceed:


It was time for me to consider what service would suit me. Certainly not the infantry to experience what my father had gone through; I couldn’t swim so that ruled out the Navy. So it had to be the RAF and to make sure I volunteered and duly went to the RAF recruiting office at Duke Street, Euston to undergo a strict medical exam & also a Maths and English exam. My parents did not know.


Dad reported first to RAF Cardington near Bedford. He went on to Skegness for “square bashing”, then to RAF Harwell as station defence pending signals school training and on to RAF Hampstead Norris.


By February 1942, he had learnt morse code and went to No. 1 Signals school at RAF Yatesbury for training in maintenance of radio equipment (transmitters & receivers).  He was subsequently posted to No 4 Signals School at RAF Madley for flying instruction. After 16 flights and 17 hours, 10 mins flying time, he passed out as Wireless Operator. In October 1942, he was posted to No 3 AGS (Air Gunnery School) at RAF Castle Kennedy in Scotland spending his 21st birthday there the next month. After only 8 flights and 6 hours flying time, he passed out as Air Gunner and so became “Sergeant, Aircrew”. After a short period of leave, he was sent to RAF Finningly to crew up.


In early 1943 he reported to 27th OTU Lichfield doing “circuits and bumps” in Wellington bombers. His first recognised “Op” was on 04 March 1943 to the Lille area of France to drop leaflets. He was then posted to 1656 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Lindholme by which time his first crew had been made complete.


In late April/early May he was posted to 101 Squadron at RAF Holme on Spalding Moor where he completed his next 6 ops before transferring to RAF Ludford Magna where he completed his first tour.


Dad spoke to me quite a bit about his experiences on his first tour with 101 Squadron, but what was striking was that in almost any story he recounted to me, he spoke with such admiration of and gratitude for his skipper and pilot known to the crew as “Scrym”, full name William Alexander Scrymgeour-Wedderburn, D.F.C.


There is an account of Dad first meeting and crewing up with Scrym in the short story “The Pilot Rebel” contained within the book “Hell on Earth” by Mel Rolfe, a substantial part of the material of which was gleaned by Rolfe from information provided by Dad when he was contacted by the author. The short story recounts an 11 hour+ op to Turin in July 1943 as well as some hairy moments over the Ruhr. On 6th September 1943, the crew completed its 30 op tour with a trip to Munich. Dad’s crew was the first on the squadron to successfully complete its first tour. The whole crew were awarded Distinguished Flying Medals (DFM) and Scrym the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). The Skipper paid for a slap-up party. Later that month Dad was introduced to a friend of Scrym, Flight Commander Sandy Greig, whose son Tony would go on to captain the England cricket team in in the 1970s.


Dad sitting 2nd from left and the skipper 3rd from left standing


Reunion around the 1980s – from l to r: Dad, Sandy Greig, Scrym, unknown

In October 1943, Dad was posted to 30 OTU at RAF Hixon and then to its satellite base RAF Sleighford as an instructor. At this point, the news came through that Dad had received a commission to become “Flight Lieutenant”. At Sleighford Dad regularly flew a Wellington Bomber with Wing Commander Doug Parker to get fresh supplies for the mess. What was remarkable about this is that just the two of them who carried out these flights, navigating from sight. While here working as an instructor, Dad first met a man called Joe Brogan who was to become the skipper of his second crew and second tour, this time as part of 171 Squadron. Dad was sent back to RAF Hixon and then on to RAF Langar to crew up but this time not as the Wireless Operator but as a Special Wireless Operator (SWOP) in an eight-man crew. After around a week, Dad was sent on ahead of the crew to RAF North Creake to be instructed in the operation of “Mandrel”. One of his new duties was to operate this new radar jamming device. This from the RAF Historical Society:

As to the other jamming units, No 199 Sqn was operating Stirlings and No 171 Sqn Halifaxs, both equipped with MANDREL. The primary role of these two squadrons was to present the German early warning radars with a continuous concealing screen on a line parallel to and some 80 miles from the frontier or the front line. The aim was to ensure that all movements coming from behind the screen remained obscured from the early warning radars.

The rest of Dad’s crew followed on but not before the first operation of Dad’s second tour. And so it was that on 23 December 1944, Dad flew op number 31 to Frankfurt with Flight Sergeant Brown and for the first time flew in a Halifax bomber. The operation had to be aborted as the hydraulics become “u/s” (unserviceable) but still counted as the first of this second tour.

As a shy and inexperienced crew member on his first tour with 101 Squadron, Dad was very much a junior member of the group, and his skipper Scrym was a man for Dad to look up to admire. By the time Dad started his second tour with 171 Squadron, he was almost a veteran and the stories he told and memories he recorded reflected this. Later in life, Dad kept in touch with 3 members of this second crew for many years. Dennis Telfer (“Telf”) the Wireless Operator, Charlie Kaye, the Navigator and Joe Brogan, the Pilot and skipper. This second crew got a reputation on the base for being a “boozy” lot while Dad gained a reputation as the “sober one” who used to make sure they all got back to base safely after a night out. There were stories of pubs running dry in Fakenham, the nearest town to RAF North Creake as well as a story of the whole of the phonetic alphabet being parodied on the blackout boards in the mess. In the manner of “A for ‘Orses” and “C for yourself” when it got to “Q”, the suggestion read “Q for beer – Brogan’s Crew”.

 ‘Brogan’s Crew’ at North Creake. Standing from l to r: unknown, unknown, Telf, Joe Brogan, Dad, unknown, Charlie Kaye. Seated: all unknown

 Of the 6 unknowns, I believe 2 are ground crew and the four other flying crew are “P A Moore” (bomb aimer); “F Meller” (air gunner); “J H Moore” (air gunner); “L W Ley” (Flight Engineer)

 ‘Brogan’s Crew’ at one of many reunions – this one around the early 1990s. Dad, Joe Brogan and Charlie Kaye all wearing Bomber Command jumpers knitted by Mum

 On 17 April 1945, Dad completed his second tour of 20 ops on a mission to Ingolstadt in Bavaria. Dad explained to me that as the end of the war was imminent, the crew agreed to carry on until peace was declared and so four more ops were carried out, the last being on 02 May to Kiel. For that final op, two crews from 199 Squadron (also based at North Creake) were loaned to 171 Squadron. These two crews collided in the air over Kiel killing all 16 men of the 2 crews. It was the final operation that 171 Squadron made in the war.

Five days later the German surrender was signed and in typical style, Brogan’s crew went out to celebrate; that night in Norwich, the next night in Cambridge and then on a trip to watch the 2000 Guineas run at Newmarket. A horse called “Court Martial” won the race and Charlie Kaye was put on a charge for stealing the squadron commander’s bicycle.

Dad was demobbed in 1946, and for many years, like so many other ex-servicemen, spoke very little of his wartime experiences. Gradually as he got older and especially when I showed more of an interest, he talked a little more. He kept in touch with a few old crew mates and as he got older, he made more and more effort to get in touch with those crew mates. He met up at least 3 or 4 times with Bill “Scrym” Wedderburn, in both Scrym’s native Scotland and then at 101 Squadron Association Reunions. And he met up with “Joe, Charlie and Telf” from “Brogan’s Crew” on an ad hoc basis and then later for a weekend once a year together with wives and/or partners. As the years passed by, the connection to his time in the war years grew ever more important to Dad. He joined various additional associations including 100 Group and Bomber Command. He contributed to books written about the RAF and sent away for his own enlistment and service papers. In the last years of his life Dad joined the local Air Crew Association and went to social events with Mum. He had seen more action than most of the other – often slightly younger men – had put together but Dad enjoyed the company and the reminiscing. At Dad’s funeral in May 2002 five of six members from that Association attended and made a guard of honour at the door to the chapel to show their respects to Dad. At the end of the service, I had the Royal Air Force March Past played. As it started up, I heard one of the old airmen burst into tears.

When I was a small boy and first learnt that Dad had flown as a wireless operator for Bomber Command on 54 missions over enemy territory, even though I did not really understand what this meant, I was really impressed. And when I then learnt that he had gone to Buckingham Palace to receive the Distinguished Flying Medal from George VI, I was even more impressed. But Dad was always at pains to tell me that, he did not get the DFM for any act of bravery but because he was just lucky enough to survive. Dad did not want me to think of him as a hero.

But I did….because he was….they all were


Squadron Leader Peter Billyeald MBE DFC

Squadron Leader Peter Billyeald MBE DFC

Peter joined the RAFVR in 1938 at the age of 20 “to learn to fly at somebody else’s expense” as he put it. He learned to fly at Tollerton Aerodrome, near his home town of Nottingham.

At the outbreak of war he was sent to Flying Training School at Peterborough where he flew the Hawker Hart & Hawker Hind – biplanes developed in the 1920s & 30s.

In July 1940 Peter was posted as a Pilot Officer to 40 Squadron at Wyton, Cambridgeshire, which had been operating Blenheim bombers in France and had suffered heavy losses. Peter flew his first operational sortie in a daylight attack on Caen aerodrome in September. More daylight raids followed but these soon turned to night raids after further losses became unsustainable.

In early 1941 the squadron welcomed the conversion to Wellington bombers – the Blenheim was unsuited to night flying as well as being slow, cold & outdated. The extended range of the Wellington led to raids into Germany and on his 29th operational sortie Peter’s aircraft was hit by flak over Berlin damaging the hydraulic system. On his return to base he had to land without flaps and without brakes, he ran out of runway and was only able to stop the aircraft by hitting the back of the gunnery range. The Wellington was destroyed and it was fortunate that no one was killed, although two of the crew were injured.

Wellington R1166 crashed at Alconbury on return from a raid on Berlin 23/24 March 1941

Having completed his first tour, and having destroyed one of its aircraft, the RAF sent Peter to Moreton-in-Marsh (21 OTU) as an instructor! He spent the next 18 months training pilots to fly Wellingtons. He also met his future wife, Flt Officer Paddy Barr, who was a WAAF serving as Assistant Adjutant at Moreton. Peter was recommended for an AFC which was downgraded to a Mention in Despatches in the 1943 New Year Honours List.

In November 1942 Peter was posted to 464 Squadron at Feltwell, Norfolk as a Squadron Leader for his second operational tour. 464 was an Australian squadron operating Lockheed Venturas on escorted daylight raids on Northern France and the Low Countries. Peter led many of these raids. During this time the squadron took part in Exercise Spartan in March 1943. The prime purpose of the Exercise was to develop Army / RAF co-operation in readiness for the invasion of northern Europe. Peter led several of the raids during the Exercise including the high-level raid on Pangbourne on 7th March, as well as others on Sonning, Goring, Didcot & Wallingford.


Ventura AE939           S/L Peter Billyeald and crew

Peter completed his second operational tour of 19 sorties in May 1943 for which he was awarded the DFC. He was posted to Staff College and then to HQ of 2nd Tactical Air Force, where he remained until the end of the war. Peter received a second Mention in Despatches and was appointed MBE in the 1946 New Year honours list.

The citation for his DFC reads as follows:

“Squadron Leader Billyeald is an outstanding officer who has completed numerous operational missions, most of them as flight commander. He has invariably displayed keenness, determination and leadership of an exceptional nature. His earlier operational experience, which extended over a long period, has contributed much to the efficiency and spirit of his present squadron. His example both on the ground and in the air has been most praiseworthy.”

Peter died in April 2004 and his ashes were scattered over Tollerton Aerodrome and thus the final entry in his log-book has a similarity to the first.

Paddy died in 2016.

This summary of Peter’s RAFVR career has been compiled by his sons Stephen, Patrick & Guy.



Brothers-in-Law Remembered


F/O Frank E. Claydon 166 Sqn

F/Lt Frederick (Freddie or Derick) T Knight 149 Sqn

Frank married Violet Masters in July,1937

Derick married Evelyn Masters Sept,1939

Derick joined the RAF after leaving school ( Woodhouse, Finchley, London) and was an early prisoner- of- war, being shot down over Aalborg, Heligoland in April 1940

He died in King Edward Vll sanatorium in Midhurst, Nov 1944,  having been repatriated by the Red Cross because he had caught TB in the camps.  He left behind Evelyn and a 4 yr son Peter who he only saw briefly in his last few days. He was 26 yrs old.

Derick and his father-in-law, Walter Masters, had developed a code that was used by the Air Ministry for delivering information to and fro the prison camps including that of The Great Escape at Stalag Luft lll. He was presented with the MBE for his services to the country.

Frederick Thomas knight

Frank lived in Totteridge, North London. He was a Barnet Councillor and was employed by the RCA Rail union. He volunteered to serve and joined Bomber Command after much conscience searching. A pacifist, but he didn’t believe it was right for others to risk their lives while he stayed home.

Frank was killed on a raid over Brunswick,13/14 January 1944, leaving behind 3 yr old Patricia and pregnant Violet. The baby, Frances Jane, was born the next May. His mother, Frances Mary, who had been widowed when Frank was just a young boy, was distraught having worked so hard to raise him. (No benefits then, she would put her two children to bed, and work nights at the PO Sorting Office in Camden, to be home in time to get them up for school!) Frank died aged 36 years.

Frank E Clayton

Two men of conscience,

Two widows,

Three fatherless children!

Simon Stevens

Simon Stevens

Simon Stevens was a kind, caring and thoughtful husband, who sadly lost his battle with cancer aged 38.

Simon was an active man who enjoyed biking, snowboarding, skiing, and camping, but his main passion was motorbikes.

Simon was born and raised in Stamford, Lincolnshire, attending St Gilberts Primary School and the Robert Manning School in Bourne.

He Joined the Royal Air Force at 19, serving for 12 years as an aircraft technician at RAF Marham in Norfolk, and RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. He also served in the Falkland Islands, Oman, and Iraq.

After leaving the service in 2014 he began a job with Jaguar Land Rover, in Birmingham, where he lived with his partner, Lynne, whom he married a few days before he died.

Simon & Lynne are proud owners of a Greyhound and have also adopted three more from the Daybreaks Trust in Solihull, they both volunteered for the Trust and one of Simon’s last wishes was to raise funds to help them, a fundraising page was set up in his name and it hit £10,000 just days before he died.

Simon died on Saturday the 13th of November 2021.

Alfred John Simmons

Alfred John Simmons Stone

Alfred John Simmons, known as Jack, was born on 29/7/1922, the second of four children of Henry and Katherine Simmons. All children were born in a two-roomed cottage in Haywards Heath, Sussex.

Jack’s first connection with the RAF was when he joined the A.T.C. 172 Squadron, Haywards Heath.

After leaving school Jack worked as a delivery boy for a local fishmonger and then he enlisted with the R.A.F. V.R. on 29/7/1940 and trained as an air gunner, allocated svc. no.1357238.

Alfred Simmons
Alfred John Simmons

He was attached to 207 Squadron as a rear gunner and his first sortie appears to have been on the 12/13th June 1943 with the ‘Ebert’ crew.

On their 24th sortie, whilst based at R.A.F. Spilsby, Lincs, they flew to the target of Stettin, Germany, where sadly their Lancaster aircraft, ED596 EM-F, crashed and all the crew were killed. They were initially buried locally but were later re-interred at Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery, Poland.

Jack’s name can be found on panel 97 on the IBCC’s Walls.  To see his entry on the IBCC Losses Database, click here.

To honour your ancestor with a stone on the Ribbon of Remembrance click here

Jack's Family Photo
Jack’s Family Photo



RAF 1956-81

MOD 1981-99

My Father, Denis Read, joined the RAF at the age of 21 in 1956 to complete his National Service. This had been delayed to enable him to finish his apprenticeship as a carpenter. However, he never returned to his first trade, preferring to stay in the air force which was to be his ‘home’ for the rest of his career. He told me that he stayed in the air force because he thought it offered a better life than the one he’d had previously. While he remained proud of his Lancastrian roots, tours of duty to places such as Malta must have seemed very exotic to a lad from the smoky terraced streets of Blackburn.

His trade, throughout his time in the RAF and Ministry of Defence was supply/logistics. In the early stages of his career this involved air movements both in the air and on the ground and latterly, the use of computer systems to ensure efficient distribution of equipment. Along with so many air movements personnel, he spent time at Brize Norton and Lyneham, but also experienced a number of postings abroad to places such as Bahrain, Libya, USA, Malta and the ‘hotspots’ of Aden and Northern Ireland.

Denis was a keen sportsman and took full advantage of the opportunities the RAF offered in this realm, excelling at football as well as competing successfully in cricket, boxing, swimming, water polo and table tennis.

He progressed through the non-commissioned ranks to be a Flight Sergeant and Acting Warrant Officer in his final posting at Stafford and received an AOC Support Command  Commendation in 1981, the year he left the service.

On leaving the RAF, he became a storeman at RAF Stafford though was quickly promoted to Station Warden, a role he occupied until retiring in 1999. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1986 though confounded the doctors by returning to work after chemotherapy in just six months before being forced into retirement by the return of cancer in 1999. He would confound the doctors once again however, living another 12 years before finally succumbing in 2011. The fact that he lived for 25 years after a terminal diagnosis, including 12 years in a responsible role with the MOD epitomised the positivity and determination that had enabled him to have such a varied and successful RAF career.

His daughter and son, Denise and David benefitted from the experience of living abroad owing to Denis’ RAF service, in Bahrain (Denise only), Libya and Malta. They are both immensely proud of the service he gave and the person he was.

Sergeant John Elwyn JOHN

IBCC Ribbon of Remembrance Stone to John Elwyn JOHN

In memory of Sergeant John Elwyn JOHN RAFVR, 1153102 and the crew of ED989

No. 5 Group, RAF Bomber Command, No. 57 Squadron

This is dedicated to my Great Uncle John Elwyn JOHN, to his crew on Lancaster ED989, and to all RAF air and ground personnel who without hesitation put their lives on the line day and night during World War II.  Also, with gratitude to the people of Lincolnshire, who made space in their hearts and lives to support all those that served in Bomber Command.

Until the pandemic hit in 2020, John Elwyn had just been a photograph in the hallway at my father’s house.  A smiling 21-year-old air gunner who lost his life on Lancaster ED989, August 1943.  The following has been compiled from interpreting John’s MOD records, National Archive documentation, extremely helpful members of various Bomber Command/Lancaster social media groups, and many a late night researching the internet.

John Elwyn JOHN was born on 22 January 1922 at 1 Howells Terrace, Heol Las, Glamorgan, Wales.  His father was David Llewelyn JOHN, a Tin Plate worker and his mother was Margaret (nee BODYCOMBE).  He was their fifth child; his older sister Ruby Elvira JOHN is my paternal grandmother.

At the time he was born, Heol Las was a small close-knit and hardworking Welsh village.  The main source of income for men came from working in either a coal mine, a tin plate works or in agriculture, though economically times were becoming very challenging.  John Elwyn lived within a stone’s throw of his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  He went to the local Council school in the next village of Birchgrove.  The family were heavily involved in local chapel worship.  I have found newspaper articles about the JOHN family from the 1910s and their activities at Capel Saron, Birchgrove, with his aunts and uncles winning awards for recitals and singing in the choir.

In a transcript from John Elwyn’s maternal aunt, Deborah BODYCOMBE recorded in 1976, she mentions her sister Margaret (John Elwyn’s mother) used to travel to Llansamlet, the next village bringing her seven children to visit their grandmother Mary.  Deborah said that when the grandchildren came to visit, their grandmother used to buy a cow’s tongue, which she stuffed and slow cooked on the open fire.  She then thinly sliced the tongue before serving.  By all accounts it was delicious, and everyone looked forward to this family meal!

In his early years, John Elwyn experienced close personal loss.  In 1934, his younger sister Rita Eileen passed away with pneumonia aged 3½.  His mother Margaret passed away with cancer in January 1939, aged 45.  This was two weeks before John Elwyn’s 17th birthday.  On the 1939 register taken on 29 September his occupation is listed as “Colliery Worker Sumpmans Mate (Above ground).”  With local employment opportunities diminishing within the tin plate works, his father had moved to Ebbw Vale to work in the steel industry.  John Elwyn and his younger siblings remained in Heol Las as World War II broke.

John Elwyn became a RAF Volunteer Reserve as an Aircraftman 2nd class (AC2) aged 18 years.  He was based at RAF Cardington, Bedfordshire from May to August 1940.  He then moved to No. 951 Squadron in Bristol, which later merged with No. 927 Squadron.  On 4 February 1941 he became an Aircraftman 1st class (AC1), then promoted to Leading Aircraftman (LAC) on 8 August 1942.  The following month he was attached to No. 11 Balloon Centre at Pucklechurch, 7 miles from Bristol City Centre.

In October 1942, he travelled to London to the Air Crew Recruiting Centre (ACRC).  Here, recruits completed a basic induction, undertook a series of rigorous medical checks, and completed tests to identify roles for which they would be suitable.  For John Elwyn this was as an air gunner.

He was posted to No. 14 Initial Training Wing (ITW) at Bridlington, East Riding of Yorkshire.  Here the recruits took physical training on the sea front and went to training classes in the Spa Royal Hall.  They were billeted in requisitioned local people’s homes, boarding houses, and hotels.  Two months later he moved further north to No. 4 Air Gunnery School (AGS) based at RAF Morpeth, Northumberland.

From the book RAF Morpeth: A Forgotten Airfield in Northumberland by Graeme Rendall (2021), I have discovered that John Elwyn was possibly part of No. 21 course that arrived on 22 December 1942.  It says that “December 1942 had seen plenty of bad weather, including plenty of thick haze, with no less than 11 days being regarded as completely unfit for flying.”

On 27 February 1943 John Elwyn received his temporary sergeant stripes and on 2 March 1943, he commenced his Air Gunner Occupational Training at No. 12 O.T.U., RAF Chipping Warden, Northamptonshire.  This was the point when the recruits formed an air crew of five which included a pilot, navigator, bomb aimer, wireless operator, and a gunner.  The usual method for “crewing up” was putting all the trainees from the various occupational training schools into an aircraft hangar and leaving them to sort themselves out! The flight engineer and an additional gunner usually joined later at the heavy conversion training, making up a crew of seven able to operate on a Lancaster.

I have identified from archive photographs that S/L Benjamin Southam AMBROSE (Pilot) and Sgt Donald Edwin NYE (Wireless Operator) were at RAF Chipping Warden at the same time as John Elwyn.  On 22 April 1943 John Elwyn moved to RAF Swinderby, Lincolnshire, part of No. 1660 C.U. for heavy conversion training.  It was here that his crew were joined by an additional gunner, F/S James Lawrence LAMB RCAF.  For a brief period, John Elwyn was attached to No. 1485 (Bomber) Gunnery Flight based at RAF Dunholme Lodge, Lincolnshire.

On 9 June 1943 John Elwyn moved to No. 467 (RAAF) Squadron, RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire.  In the Operations Record Book of No. 467 (RAAF) Squadron from the National Archives (AIR-17-1930-11), John Elwyn is listed in the “Personnel – Posting in” from No. 1660 C.U. with all his other crew members and pilot S/L Benjamin Southam AMBROSE.

Sadly, S/L AMBROSE ( was the 2nd pilot on Lancaster ED4983 who set off to Dusseldorf on 11 June 1943 at 22:25.  He and his crew were recorded as “Missing with no news received.”  Later it was discovered that the plane had been hit by flak battery I./514 and crashed at Frenz, Germany.  He is remembered at the Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany.

In the same Operations Record Book, there is an entry “The evening of 11 June 1943 the Squadron held a dance in the gymnasium for the benefit of the Squadron Sports Fund.  It was very well attended and was voted an extremely popular affair.  Many of the men we would have liked to see there, however, were off on the first operation this month, the attack on Dusseldorf.”  I feel this would have been a much-needed respite for the base from the demands of the war effort, but sad knowing S/L AMBROSE was one of the casualties from that raid.

A week later, John Elwyn and the remaining crew were posted to RAF Wigsley, Nottinghamshire to join No. 1654 C.U. for further heavy conversion training.

On 28 July 1943, his final posting was to No. 57 Squadron at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire.  The Operations Record Book of No. 57 Squadron from the National Archives (AIR-27-538-35) states that Wing Commander Walter Ralph HASKELL DFC took over from Wing Commander Frederick Campbell HOPCROFT DFC.  It goes on to say “W/Cr. HASKELL DFC & crew posted to Squadron.”  I assume that John Elwyn and his crew had already been allocated to fly with W/C Walter Ralph HASKELL before they came to No. 57 Squadron.

I have found six sorties for John Elwyn from his time at No. 57 Squadron, the final one he and the crew never returned.  Their first sortie together was on 29 July 1943 on Lancaster JA914, target Hamburg City Centre with John Elwyn in the position of rear gunner.  This sortie had a 2nd pilot on-board, S/L Malcolm CROCKER (  S/L Malcolm CROCKER later went on to become a Wing Commander and DFC.  Tragically he lost his life 21 June 1944 as part of No. 49 Squadron attack on the synthetic-oil plant at Wesseling.  He and his crew never returned, he is remembered at the Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany.

Memorial in Primrose Park, Llansamlet
Memorial in Primrose Park, Llansamlet

On his future sorties John Elwyn was in the position of mid-upper gunner, all the same crew.  These sorties included:

  • 30 July 1943, Lancaster JA914, Remscheid
  • 9 August 1943, Lancaster ED827, Mannheim (Sortie not completed as rear turret unserviceable)
  • 10 August 1943, Lancaster JA914, Nuremburg
  • 12 August 1943, Lancaster ED698, Milan

His final sortie was 17 August 1943, leaving RAF Scampton at 21:44 flying into a moonlit sky.  This was part of Operation Hydra; the target was the German V2 rocket factory at Peenemünde.  He flew on Lancaster ED989, DX-F, Frederick III.  The Operations Record Book of No. 57  Squadron from the National Archives (AIR-27-538-38) states “Missing, lost contact after take-off.”  The plane was in the third wave of Lancaster bombers leaving the UK that night.  When returning from Germany, ED989 was understood to be the 32nd or 33rd plane to be shot down.

The crew of ED989 is listed below.  They had a 2nd pilot on board, F/S Cyril BUTTERWORTH who transferred into No. 57 Squadron on 14 August 1943:

John Elwyn is also remembered in the commemorative book at Scampton Church, panel 98:

As a family we are immensely proud of him, what he achieved during his RAFVR career and his dedication to serving his country, may he and his fellow service men and women never be forgotten.

Sent by his Great Niece Bev Davies.  With a special thanks to Richard JOHN from the extended family in South Wales for providing invaluable information about Heol Las and keeping John’s memory alive by visiting the local war memorial in Primrose Park, Llansamlet on behalf of the family.


Flt Lt W F Martin DFC

W F Martin DFC Stone

Flt Lt W F Martin DFC – Story Behind the Stone

“On the night of 21 June 1944, Lancaster Mk III ND 471 “A-Able” of No 57 Squadron took off from RAF East Kirkby at 2302 as part of a raid on an oil plant at Wesseling, Germany.  It did not return, although its crew did, being forced to ditch in the North Sea in the early hours of 22 June, having completed their mission and taken flak returning over the Dutch Coast, which holed the fuel tanks and steadily cut the engines.  The Navigator was Flying Officer William Fisher Martin who, for his actions on this and other missions, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.  The raid on Wesseling was one of 32 operational missions he completed with 57 Sqn, based at RAF East Kirkby. Having completed this operational tour he went on to be the Navigation Leader for 617 Sqn, based at RAF Woodhall Spa, and deployed to the Far East in early 1945 as part the Tiger Force effort preparing for War with Japan.

These are his memories of the night they ditched:

We huddled together in the rocking dinghy, seven very scared, very wet and very much at sea airmen.  We watched with a sense of loss the large starboard wing of good old A for Able sinking lower in the water.  She had carried us safely through our last 15 ops and she was now going down into the depths of the North Sea, leaving us on the surface, crouched miserably in our all too small dinghy, still only half realising our predicament.  It had all happened very quickly. One minute we were happily wending our way homewards, 5,000 ft, 175 on the clock and the contented feeling of another ‘job’ successfully completed”. 

“It had been a tough one, with four separate attacks by a rocket-firing night fighter and we had been very very thankful when we crossed, safely as we thought, the Dutch coast, and headed out to sea. Suddenly, for no accountable reason, A for Able swung round in a semi-circle and headed East again.”

The fuel tanks had been holed and both starboard engines had stopped.  The Flight Engineer soon found that fuel tanks which should have contained more than 200 gallons were now empty.  The port inner engine had also stopped and the last remaining engine was coughing badly.

“The Skipper’s voice came quietly to us over the intercom. “Prepare to ditch.” A few minutes while everyone collected their remaining wits about them and made their respective preparations.  I hastily fixed our position and passed it in message form to the Wireless Operator, who had immediately commenced distress signals.”

“All too soon came the dreaded order “Ditching stations!”  We took off our harnesses, inflated our Mae Wests and scrambled back to our crash positions.  “Escape hatches off!” “1000 feet”, “500 feet”, “200 feet”, “Prepare for impact!” – we braced ourselves for the crash – and then oblivion!”

“When I scrambled to my feet the water was up to my knees and ‘Snow’ the Bomb Aimer was thrusting the dinghy packs into my hands.  Automatically in pitch blackness I stumbled to the upper escape hatch and thrust them up to the awaiting hands – dinghy and radio followed and then I scrambled up through the hatch and breathed a sigh of relief as I saw the Skipper crawling along the top of the cabin – good old Nick – were we all out then?  A quick scramble on to the wing – already awash – and then into the dinghy, steadying it to help Nick aboard (she was already floating) “all present?” “Jack?” “Geoff?” “Johnny?” – all correct! “OK, cut the line” – momentary panic as A for Able keeled over on her nose and stood threateningly above us, a huge mass in the darkness. “Paddle! Paddle for God’s sake!” It seemed hours until we worked our way by pushing on the wing and thrusting off from the clear wing tip and then we were left, watching her go down – our trusty old kite – damn Jerry anyway”.

“Slowly we quieted ourselves and tried to take stock.  The Skipper’s face was a mess, he was bleeding freely and was a bit dazed.  Someone fumbled in the darkness for the first aid kit.  Then we realised there was more water in the dinghy than we would like.  Snowy tore off his flying boot and we began to bale.  Eventually we got organised, rigging the mast for the portable radio transmitter and turning the handle, which gave us a ray of hope.  The occasional wave broke over us and soon we were cold and miserable and feeling very sorry for ourselves.  Dawn came slowly, after we had been in the water for nearly 3 hours”.

“At about 8 o’clock, we were roused by the sound of engines and saw, low and well to the South, a couple of aircraft speeding Eastwards, probably off to photograph the damage we had done the previous night.  Time dragged by until we heard engines again and saw a large aircraft below cloud and well to the South.  Miserably we watched it turn away and disappear.  Later we heard it again and I took the flare pistol from my battle dress.  As it turned some distance from us I fired off a cartridge. It carried on.  They hadn’t seen it!”

“Shortly before noon it reappeared and I waited until it seemed near enough and fired off another cartridge.  Again it turned away and we sat back, our hopes dashed.  Then it turned and, this time, seemed to head straight for us.  I reloaded hastily and fired again, and this time there was no mistake.  They had spotted us!  Scrambling to our feet we cheered and waved as they banked and flew over us. A bigger dinghy was dropped and inflated on impact. We paddled over to it and climbed aboard.  It was wonderful, the lift in morale, once we felt safe”.

“The aircraft kept station above us and signalled that help was on its way. Sometime later it headed away East, then swung round towards us again and soon after we saw the bow waves of a naval launch approaching. When it arrived we were helped aboard, given dry clothing and a large mug of naval rum. Never had a drink been more appreciated, and I remember little else until we docked at Yarmouth later, having been in a deep sleep”. 

“The Skipper and I spent a couple of nights in a naval hospital and then we were driven to the nearest airfield and flown back to East Kirkby, where the rest of the crew had already arrived. We learned that the base had lost 11 aircraft that night and morale was low, so that our arrival had brought a great boost to the Station as a whole, and I can well appreciate the hopes raised by our return”. 

Downed at 0210, and spotted by an Air Sea Rescue aircraft around midday, when they boarded the rescue launch they had been afloat for 12 hours.  An investigation revealed that their emergency calls had not been heard and that they had been lucky to have been rescued so soon.  The aircraft that spotted them was on a separate mission looking for dinghies that had been dropped the previous day, but once they were seen the air-sea rescue system swung quickly into action.

On the afternoon of the flight, the crew had carried out the usual pre-ops check flight, a short trip to make sure that everything was working correctly and flown early enough to allow the engineers to fix any snags.  It was a bright, sunny day, and the trip was uneventful.  After they had made their way back to their parking spot, the pilot made an unusual decision that was to prove vital to their survival that night.  He decided they should practice their ditching drill. Ignoring the hoots of derision from their colleagues and groundcrew in the June sunshine, they went through the ditching routine, even extracting the dinghy from the fuselage and carrying it out onto the wing.  The Skipper could not explain why he decided to run the drill but, when debriefed, the crew attributed their safe escape to the fact that they had just practiced for the event.  It was a message quickly passed to other bomber units.

The Wesseling raid itself was a disaster for 5 Group; of 133 aircraft that were airborne that night, 37 were lost, mainly due to night fighters that intercepted the bomber stream over Holland.  200 men lost their lives, 44 became prisoners of war and 9 evaded capture.  RAF East Kirby alone lost 11 aircraft that night;  A-Able’s crew was the only one of those to return.

Flt Lt William Fisher Martin’s DFC citation reads as follows:

This officer has participated in many operational sorties against a variety of targets. He has proved himself a most efficient navigator, and has always displayed outstanding courage and determination throughout his operational tour. His fine technical skill has largely contributed to the success of many  missions. In April 1944 his aircraft was detailed to attack Schweinfurt. On the outward flight it was attacked and damaged by an enemy fighter. The rear gunner was wounded and the inter-communication system and the elevator were damaged, both turrets also being rendered unserviceable. Flying Officer Martin calmly navigated the damaged aircraft to the target, which was bombed, and safely back to this country, where a successful landing was accomplished. Again, in June 1944, during an attack on a target in West Germany, his aircraft was damaged by anti-aircraft fire and the petrol tank was holed. On the return flight, owing to lack of fuel, the bomber was forced down on to the sea. After more than twelve hours in the dinghy, the crew were rescued. Despite slight head injuries, Flying Officer Martin’s cool courage and cheerfulness were a source of inspiration to the rest of the crew”. 

Happily, Bill Martin survived the War and, although he died not long after retirement in 1980, he was able to meet up with the rest of his crew in 1979 at the first reunion of 57 and 630 Squadrons. He had 3 daughters, Margaret, Sheena and Alex. His granddaughter Wendy joined the RAF in 1991 and is still serving today (2022).

“In June 1944, my Mother Mary was six months pregnant with me.  Safe at home on her parents’ farm in Scotland her world was shattered on 22nd June by the arrival of a telegram advising that my Dad was missing following operations on the night of 21st June.  The thought that he may never return nor see his first child must have been devastating.  On 23rd June however, a second telegram arrived bearing the joyful news that Dad had been safely rescued at sea.

I arrived on 1st December, 1944 and it was several months before we met due to his continuing wartime service.  From the time that he was demobbed until his death in 1980 we enjoyed a loving and special father and daughter relationship.  He was indeed a remarkable man and he taught me much about the natural world, patience and kinship.”  Margaret Rothery née Martin

“My Dad was my hero. Not because he was a war hero, just because he was my Dad. He WAS a DFC, MiD, Goldfish Club war hero, but we heard little about that growing up as, like so many other survivors, he didn’t talk much about his wartime service. However, I knew there was something important about him, that he had a medal –  once, when I was about 9 or 10, I “borrowed” his DFC & took it to school for show & tell, but didn’t tell anyone. Of course, my mother chose that day to clean the china cabinet ………. !

Growing up, he was just like every other good dad – our mentor,  our teacher.  He taught me about the night sky, without me realising at the time that was how he had navigated his Lancaster Bombers. He once got me up, again in the night, to see the Northern Lights on a rare occasion they were visible where we lived.

My dad passed away when I was 26 & pregnant with my first child, so he never met my children. But I KNOW he has watched over them. My first born regaled us with tales of his “dreams” until he was in his early teens. In those dreams, my father came to play with him & took him in his plane, showed him his navigator’s station (and my son described it in accurate detail, which even I didn’t fully appreciate until I saw it for myself in Just Jane some 30 years later).

To us he was, and will always remain, quite simply our much loved, always missed, ever-present hero dad.”  Sheena Cowan née Martin

“I arrived in 1964 when my dad was 50!  I only had him in my life for a very short 16 years…never had him walk me down the aisle.  So my memories of my hero my dad are short and limited however he was the most lovely caring softly spoken Scotsman that I will never forget.” Alex Martin

“I was just 12 when my Grandfather died in 1980, but was fortunate enough to be present with my parents the previous year at East Kirkby at the inaugural gathering of the 57/630 Squadrons Association when he was reunited with the other 6 members of his crew. I recall there was a lot of laughter that weekend as memories were recounted and stories told of derring do.  Although I did not know then that I would join the RAF some years later, I remember thinking what a marvellous organisation it must be! The horrors that my Grandfather’s Crew endured would only become apparent many years later as I researched their 32 operational missions.  The stories my Grandfather told undoubtedly left their mark and provided the inspiration for me to follow in his footsteps and join the RAF, and here I am more than 30 years later. I have been attending the annual 57 and 630 Squadron Association reunions annually since 2010 and have been fortunate to have met many of the men and women who served at East Kirkby at the same time as my Grandfather: heroes one and all. Per Ardua ad Astra.” Air Commodore Wendy Rothery