Over the years, in my capacity as Archivist of the Aircrew Association, I have been privileged to meet many veterans of the Second World War and, in some cases, tape record their experiences. Some very generously allowed me to relate their stories and were kind enough to let me photograph their medals and copy photographs.
In recent years, with the passage of time, they have faded away but some families have donated memorabilia to the Archive Trust held at the Association’s archive at the Allied Air Forces Memorial, the Yorkshire Air Museum, where a selection of their medals and photographs are on display. Some of their stories are included in the series.
Below is a brief outline of the articles, which are listed in the order that they were produced. It is planned to continue the series.
Whitleys, Wellingtons and Weirdos – Welch Foster AFC DFM
An observer who flew on the earliest Whitley raids over Germany and Italy with No. 51 Squadron. He later completed a bombing tour on Wellingtons in North Africa before spending three years as a test observer at Farnborough flying trials on a wide variety pf aircraft, which resulted in the award of the AFC.
Coastal Strike Pilot – Peter Branton DFC
A pilot who flew forty-two operations in Beauforts attacking shipping in the North Sea and coastal targets in Norway. During a second tour, this time on Beaufighters, he flew with the Langham Strike Wing on shipping strikes off the Dutch and Norwegian coasts using torpedo, rockets and cannons. He completed seventy-two operations.
From Greek Tragedy to Night Intruder – Len Page DFM & Bar
An ‘airman gunner’ on Hinds who became an observer on Blenheims of No. 211 Squadron. After operations in North Africa he flew operations on the ill-fated Greek campaign when the squadron was virtually wiped out. After returning to operations in Syria, he and his pilot joined the Strategic Reconnaissance Unit operating over the desert flying the Maryland. After his pilot was severely wounded, Page flew the aircraft back to base and was awarded an immediate Bar to his earlier DFM. After returning to the UK he flew night intruder operations over NW Europe in Mosquitos.
The Magnificent Seven – Sydney Smith DFM
A mid-upper gunner in a crew on their first operation, a mining sortie over the Baltic Sea. Whilst returning, their Lancaster was severely damaged and set on fire. Some of the crew, including Smith, were wounded. Smith attempted to put out the fire. The severely damaged bomber was brought back to England to crash land. The seven sergeants that made up then crew were all awarded an immediate DFM. Smith later returned to operations but was killed in action over Hannover.
Coastal Patrol Pilot – Nelson Webb DFM
An ex-Halton apprentice who trained as a pilot and flew Ansons at the beginning of the war with No. 217 Squadron. He attacked a submarine and during the Battle of Britain he shot down a Heinkel He 59 floatplane near Jersey. He converted to the Beaufort and flew mining operations before being shot down and killed over over Lorient.
A ‘Brat’ Turned Fighter Pilot – Tom Morris DFC
An aircraft apprentice who trained as a fighter pilot. Initially he flew Gladiators as the war opened in north Africa. After converting to the Hurricane he was heavily engaged against the Italian Air Force and was credited with destroying four enemy aircraft. He was killed during a ‘rest’ tour flying Martinet aircraft on a target-towing training sortie.
Air Drop Ace – Lew Cody DFC, AFC, DFM
Initially an observer on Blenheims he flew operations over France during the withdrawal of the BEF. Cody the trained as a pilot and flew Hudsons and Dakotas in the Middle East, including the airborne operations in the Aegean before returning to the UK to fly Dakotas dropping paratroopers on D-Day, at Arnhem and on the Rhine crossings.
Late Arrivals Club – Dennis Bebbington MM
Wellington pilot shot down over Tobruk on his ninth operation and crash landed behind enemy lines. He and his crew spent twenty-eight days marching over 300 miles through the desert to return to Allied lines. On his final sortie he was later posted as missing over the Mediterranean.
Low Level Attacker – Dickie Gunning DFC, DFM
Made one of the first attacks against a German U-boat whilst flying a Blenheim. Took part in numerous operations in support of the BEF and the withdrawal from Dunkirk. After an instructor’s tour converted to the Boston pilot flying hazardous low-level bombing operations over Holland and northern France before being shot down and spending the rest of the war in Stalag Luft III.
Night Fighter Navigator Ace – Nat Addison DFC, DFM
A radar operator who flew in Blenheims during the Battle of Britain before converting to the Havoc on No. 85 Squadron. With his pilot. Gordon Raphael, they become the top scoring Havoc crew with four destroyed, one probable and one damaged. After re-equippingg with the Mosquito, they added another confirmed destroyed. Addison went on to fly night intruder sorties on the Mosquito and a was involved in shooting down a Junkers 188 and two V-1 flying bombs.
Bismarck Hunter – Percy Hatfield DFC, AFC
Former Halton apprentice and Cranwell graduate who flew London flying boats from Gibraltar and attacked an Italian U-boat. Posted to Catalinas from Oban when he shadowed the Bismarck in its final attempts to shake off its pursuers. Later commanded a Sunderland squadron in West Africa and post-war in Singapore.
Burma Star – Gerry Osborne DFM
He flew Blenheims from UK, Malta, Syria, North Africa and Burma. In Malta he scored direct hits with his bombs on two Italian freighters, which both sank. In Burma he converted to the Vengeance and ldd many dive-bombing sorties and later converted to the Spitfire completing 108 operations in Burma.
Jungle Supply Pilot – Bill Perry DFM
Pilot who flew over seventy re-supply sorties during the early Burma campaign in his Dakota before returning to the UK to join a new Dakota squadron preparing for the airborne assault of Normandy. On the night of D-Day he dropped men of the 9th Bn Parachute Regiment. He flew re-supply sorties throughout the Normandy campaign. He towed a glider on Operation Market, the ill-fated Arnhem operation. On the next day he was shot down over the dropping zone. He remained at the controls as his crew baled out but he failed to escape.
Conspicuous Gallantry – Stuart Sloan MVO, DFC, CGM
Sloan was the bomb aimer of a Wellington. Over the target his aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and the pilot and a gunner baled out. He took control of the damaged Wellington and flew it back to the UK to make a crash landing. He then trained as a pilot to fly the Halifax on thirty bombing operations and finished his career as a pilot on the King’s Flight.
Master Bomber – Dennis Witt DSO, DFC, DFM
Witt was an aircraft apprentice who later trained as a pilot. His first tour was on Whitleys flying on the ear;list wartime sorties. Hefei on the first Stirling operations with No. 7 Squadron and later volunteered for a third tour. he became a Master Bomber on Lancasters and after completing his 100th wartime bombing operation, he was grounded. He served post-war as a Canberra squadron commander and died in service as a group captain.
Gallant Wing Walker – Surtees Elliott AFM
A Halton apprentice who became an airman gunner and who flew operations in Vincents over Eritrea. On a flight in Aden his aircraft caught fire and he climbed on to the wing to douse the flames. He trained as a flight engineer on Catalinas and flew eighteen long-range patrols. His aircraft attacked a surfaced U-boat in the Mozambique Channel and was shot down by the submarine’s gunners.
Fighter Recce Pilot – Peter Perry DFC
A former Army Officer who transferred to the RAF. Flew Hurricanes on tactical reconnaissance operations during the North African campaign and in Syria before converting to the Spitfire. Je was a flight commander on No. 208 Squadron during the Italian campaign and completed 150 operational sorties.
Biscay Fight Pilot – Jimmy Duncan DFM
Pilot who flew Beaufighters on a Coastal Command fighter squadron. After seeing action the Mediterranean, he flew patrols over the Bay of Biscay and was credited with destroying three enemy aircraft. he also attacked a submarine. After transferring to the Royal Navy at the end of the war, he flew with the RN Service Trials Unit and later with the Fleet Requirements Unit.
Malta Blenheim Nav – Freddie Deeks DFC
Blenheim navigator who flew at the height of the Battle for Malta before returning to UK and converting to the Boston. He flew many daylight low-level bombing operations over the Low Countries and France. He ended the war flying night intruder stories in the Mosquito.
Millennium Evader – Bunny Evans DFM
Air Gunner who flew in the Wellingtons of No. 70 Squadron during the North African campaign. He also flew operations over Iraq. He returned to the UK to be a gunnery instructor and was detailed to fly on the first Thousand Bomber raid when his aircraft was shot down over Belgium. With the aid of members of the Belgian Comet Escape Line he was taken to Spain and returned to the UK via Gibraltar.
Keen to Serve – Ken Edingborough DFM
Air Gunner who flew his first tour on Wellingtons attacking targets in the Ruhr. during his ‘rest’ tour as an instructor, he flew on the ‘First Thousand Bomber Raid’. His second tour was on Venturas when he took part on the low-level raid against the Philips Radio Factory at Eindhoven. He also attacked targets o ‘circus’ operations and completed fifty-two bombing operations.
Rocket Typhoon Pilot – Ken Brain DFC
He attacked V-1 sites in the build-up to D-Day before his squadron landed in Normandy just after the Allied invasion. He attacked German armour and transports with rockets as the squadron followed the ground forces into the Netherlands. Railways, canal traffic and road communications were attacked and when he was rested in February 1945 he had completed over 100 sorties.
Stirling Work – Fred Fray DFM
A former Halton apprentice who trained as a flight engineer to fly Stirlings. His aircraft was severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire and he and his captain coaxed the aircraft back to a crash landing. He volunteered for a second tour and flew Stirlings then Lancasters with the Pathfinder Force. His aircraft was shot down on his fifty-first operation and he became a POW.
Aegean Sea Strike Pilot – Harold Yates DFM
Beaufighter pilot who attacked shipping and coastal targets in the Aegean Sea with bombs, cannons and rockets. Flying from Egypt, the Beaufighters were regularly attacked by German fighters and Yates was wounded in one attack but later returned to operations. With fewer shipping targets Yates and his squadron attacked radar installations on Crete. he finished the war as an instructor in Egypt.
Low-Level Recce – Sandy Webb DFC & Bar
Webb flew Blenheim and Spitfires throughout the war on low-level photographic reconnaissance sorties. He commanded No. 140 Squadron and then No. 34 (PR) Wing when he took the famous photographs of the Arnhem airborne landings. Determined to keep flying, he was appointed wing commander flying of a Typhoon Wing and was killed in action on 2 May 1945, the last Typhoon casualty.
Jungle Hurricane Pilot – Doug Nicholls DFC
Battle of Britain pilot who later fire Hurricane night fighters. He went as a reinforcement to Singapore and flew during the disastrous retreats in Sumatra and Java. He avoided capture and flew continuously for fourteen months on ground-attack operations in support of the 14th Army in Burma.
Determination and Dash – Del Wright DFC
Flew Coastal Command Blenheims and then Beaufighters in the North Coates Wing on anti-shipping operations. He led a section of Torbeaus and scored a hit on a 3,000-tom merchant vessel. On another sortie he hit a5,200-ton vessel. Post-war commanded a Canberra bomber squadron during the Malayan Emergency and was a flight commander of a Valiant squadron and bombed an airfield during the Suez campzign.
Daylight Attacker – Charles Patterson DSO, DFC
Patterson survived a tour on Blenheims on early hazardous daylight low-level operations over France and Holland including the famous Knapsack raid. He flew on the first Mosquito low-level raids including the Phillips Radio Valve factory at Eindhoven. He was selected to fly a specially adapted Mosquito to take cine film from very low level on post-attacks reconnaissance sorties.
Supplying the Partisans – Jack Strain DFM
An observer who flew bombing operation of No. 70 Squadron during the North African desert campaign. For a second tour he transferred to Dakotas navigator who flew operations in North Africa and then, operating from Italy, supplied the Yugoslav and Polish partisans including Operation Wildhorn II to the Poles. Decorated by the Polish Government.
Mosquito Photo Recce – Frank Bayliss AFM
A Mosquito PR navigator who flew many operations over Europe, including the period around D-Day when he photographed the V-1 sites, beach defences and the French railway system. he also photographed targets in Norway and Poland often landing in Italy after the latte. He remained in the RAF and flew on Mosquito PR aircraft in the Middle East.
Eyes for the Guns – Aubrey Young DFC
A Royal Artillery officer who flew Austers on AOP sorties and artillery shoots during the Allied attack on Monte Cassino and the Gustav Line. As the Allied armies advanced up Italy his squadron was based on strips a few miles behind the lines supporting Canadian artillery.
Night Prowler –Guy Fazan DFC
A Beaufighter and Mosquito night fighter navigator who saw action over North Africa and in Europe after D-Day and was credited with four ‘kills’. Shot down late in the war but evaded capture.
Leading from the Front – Guy Lawrence DSO, OBE, DFC
Pilot who flew Whitleys and attacked the German capital ships in Brest docks and completed thirty operations on his first tour. He converted to the Halifax and flew during the Battle of the Ruhr went on to command No. 78 Squadron during the Battle of Berlin. In five years he was promoted from pilot officer to group captain.
Carrier Attack Pilot – Walter Thomson DSC
Fleet Air Arm pilot who flew Fulmars during the Madagascar operation before converting to the Firefly. He flew on attacks against the Tirpitz in Norway before heading for the Far East on HMS Indefatigable. He attacked the oil refinery at Palembang in Sumatra before bombing operations against the Japanese in the Pacific. He was credited with shooting down a Kamikaze aircraft.
Escape from Italy – Roy Marlow MM
Wellington air gunner shot down over North Africa and taken prisoner and transferred to Italy. Made numerous escape attempts and finally succeeded. He walked south and finally was given shelter remaining in hiding with Italian farmers. Finally reached Allied lines after eight months on the run.
Over Madagascar and Italy – John Harris DFC, AFC
A former Army officer who became an RAF pilot who flew Lysanders during the Madagascar campaign and later was a flight commander on a Baltimore squadron attacking targets in Italy. he frequently led formations of twelve aircraft in daylight to attack targets in support of there Allied armies advance.
Spitfires to Moonlighting – Bob Large DFC, L d’Honneur
Spitfire pilot who flew with the Bader Wing and on rhubarbs over France before transferring to special duties Lysanders to fly with No. 161 Squadron – the Moonlight Squadron – to deliver and collect agents from fields in France.
Conspicuous Gallantry over Biscay – Charles Corder CGM
Navigator who flew Beafighters with the legendry French pilot Max Guedj, ‘Maurice’. Over the Bay of Biscay there aircraft was very severely damaged but they managed to return and scrape over the cliffs of Cornwall to crash land when Corder tackled the blaze. He later flew Mosquitos with the Banff Wing attacking targets in Norway with rockets and cannons.
The Sea Shall Not Have Them – David Jones DSC
Master mariner who joined the RAF to be a skipper on air-sea rescue launches. He operated in the Straights of Dover (Hellfire Corner) and the southern North Sea saving many downed aircrew including downed glider crews during Operation Market, the airborne assault on Arnhem.
A Halton ‘Brat’ Goes to Sea – Arthur Brett DSM
A former Halton apprentice who flew many hours as an ‘airman gunner’ during the inter-war years. Early in the Second World War he was seconded to the Fleet Air Arm where he saw much action. First aboard HMS Implacable during operations against the Tirpitz before sailing to the Far East to join the British Pacific Fleet for attacks against Japanese targets in the Pacific.
Night Fighter ‘Ace’ Navigator – Arthur Hall DFC & Bar
Night fighter navigator who flew Beaufighters in North Africa and in support of the Sicily landings. He and his pilot, Got Lt Leslie Stephenson, claimed six aircraft destroyed including three in one sortie. Transferred to UK to fly Mosquitos. With the same pilot he shot down a further four enemy bombers and a V-1 flying bomb.
Flying Boat Wing Leader – Donald MacKenzie OBE, DFC
Pilot who flew Blenheims, Wellingtons and Liberators in Coastal Command and went on to command the Far East Flying Boat Wing in Singapore with three Sunderland squadrons when he flew some twenty operations in Korean waters.
Sheer Humility – Courtney Willey MBE, MC
An RAF doctor who was awarded the MC during the Battle of Britain when he attended the wounded under fire during a bombing attack against RAF Tangmere. He was sent to Singapore but arrived as the Japanese took the city when he was forced to retreat with RAF forces to Sumatra and Java. He was captured and spent three years as a POW and gave great service in various Japanese POW camps for which he was appointed MBE.
Leading from the Front – ‘Kit’ North-Lewis DSO, DFC & Bar
Former army officer who flew Mustangs in the army co-operation role before becoming one of the RAF’s outstanding Typhoon wing leaders seeing service before, during and after D-Day. In the post-war RAF he commanded a Spitfire squadron and a V-Bomber base retiring as an air commodore.
Australian Beauforts over New Guinea – Charles Walsh DFC
A RAAF pilot who flew over thirty operations in his Beaufort during fierce fighting over New Guinea and i support of Allied landings in the area. During a second tour on the Mitchell, he flew a few operations during the re-occupation of Borneo and the Celebes.
North African Tac Recce – Bryan Colston DFC
Spitfire pilot who landed in Algeria during Operation Torch and flew vital photographic reconnaissance sorties from rudimentary landing strips in support of the British 1st Army until the Germans were ejected from Tunisia.
Air-Sea Rescue Crewman – Doug Sheppard DFC
A wireless-operator/air gunner who flew on many air-sea rescue operations, first in the Lysander and then the Walrus amphibious aircraft. By the time he was awarded an immediate DFC, he had completer ninety rescues including Crews from USAAF bombers. After the war he trained as a pilot and flew transport operations during the Malayan emergency.
Hurricane Ship-Buster – ‘Blondie’ Walker DFC & Bar
Flew Hurricanes in the desert war and then in Italy during the assault on Monte Cassino. He then devised ship-busting tactics using 60lb rockets and led attacks around Corsica and the west of Italy, some sorties on moonlit nights. He then switched to carrying out attacks off the Yugoslav coast.
Path to Berlin – Jock Cassels DFC & Bar
Bomber pilot who started operations on the Manchester on Guy Gibson’s squadron before the squadron re-equipped with the Lancaster. He later joined the Light Night Striking Force flying the Mosquito. He crash landed in Sweden and was released and returned to operations. He made over forty ‘visits’ to Berlin, some as a Pathfinder. He had a long career flying Hunters and Air Experience Flight Chipmunks amassing 11,308 flying hours.
Mediterranean Strike Pilot – Tom Freer DFC
Beaufighter pilot who attacked shipping in the Mediterranean from airfields in Tunisia and Malta. He later attacked targets in the Adriatic and the Aegean before being shot down over Trieste and incarcerated in Stalag Luft III. He had a long career in civil aviation and flew during the Berlin Airlift.
Rifleman to Air Commodore – Pat Kennedy DSO, DFC, AFC
Former soldier who flew Hurricanes in North Africa before commanding a Thunderbolt squadron in Burma and then in the campaign in the Dutch East Indies. He had a distinguished post-war career including command of a Vampire squadron, a Canberra PR squadron in Germany and a a V-Bomber base. He retired as an air commodore.
Chindits Air Drop – Peter Bray DFC
Dakota pilot who flew supplies over the ‘Hump’ between India and China. He air dropped supplies to the Chindits and the beleaguered garrisons at Imphal and Kohima before supporting the 14th Army advance to Rangoon.
Blenheims Over Greece – ‘Twinkle’ Pearson DFC
A former Halton aircraft apprentice, Pearson trained as a pilot and converted to the Blenheim. He flew operations in North Africa and throughout the debacle in Greece being one of the few survivors of his squadron, No. 211 Squadron. He was later killed as a test pilot.
Leap of Faith – Bill Aldridge AFM
Parachute jumping instructor who trained British and Allied paratroopers and also flew on special trials. He acted as dispatcher from balloons and aircraft and flew in support of the build-up of the operations into the Normandy beachhead.
Undaunted – Lionel Coles DFC
Hampden wireless operator/air gunner critically injured, and the only survivor, after a crash landing returning from his ninth operation. Recovered to fly in Lancasters against targets in Germany and Italy including the Battle of Berlin.