Category Archives: Obituaries


IMG_6671 copyCharles Clarke was a Lancaster bomb-aimer shot down in February 1944.  By early March he had reached Stalag Luft III a few weeks before the mass break out that saw 76 men escape through a tunnel.  All bar three were recaptured and 50 were murdered by the Gestapo.  Throughout his life he worked hard to commemorate their memory and returned to the remains of the camp on a number of occasions, the most recent just three months before he died on May 7.  After the war he had a long career as a supply officer seeing service overseas including the withdrawal from Aden in 1967.  He donated much of his retirement to RAF charities including the Bomber Command Association, the RAF POW’s Association and the RAF Benevolent Fund.

In the photograph he is in the back row second from the right.

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merlin_140672619_e60591fd-5582-41d6-a918-2b631ce4a735-jumboRichard Cole, who has died aged 103, was the last survivor of the 80 US airmen known as the “Doolittle Raiders” who carried out the first bombing raid against Japan in the Second World War.  Cole was the co-pilot to James Doolittle, the leader of the raid.  Sixteen Mitchell bombers were loaded on the US aircraft carrier Hornet and they were launched from the 600-foot flight deck when they were 650 miles from the Japanese coast.  They bombed Tokyo before heading for Nationalist China.  Cole and his crew baled out after crossing the Chinese coast and eventually were returned to Allied lines.  He later flew transport aircraft in support of the campaign in Burma, served in Korea and retired in 1967.  He was awarded the DFC and two clusters.  In 2016 he attended the naming ceremony of the USAF’s latest bomber called ‘The Raider’.

In the photograph Cole is second from the right with Doolittle second from the left

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Image (29).jpgBryan Colston and his colleagues on 225 Squadron moved to North Africa in November 1942 as part of Operation Torch, the Allied landings in Algeria.  Equipped initially with Hurricanes, Spitfires began to arrive in early 1943 and these were assigned to Colston’s flight.  Flying from advanced airstrips in the fighter reconnaissance role, the squadron supported the British 1st Army as it advanced towards Tunis.  Colston carried out many reconnaissance and low level strafing sorties, which resulted in the award of the DFC.  He supported the liberation of Tunis and later flew over the island of Pantelleria Island and dropped a message instructing the garrison to surrender.  Invalided home with typhoid fever he later instructed navigation and fighter reconnaissance tactics at a Spitfire OTU.

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TJM Irving jacket copy 2Tom Maxwell was only nineteen years old and the rear gunner when he was forced to bale out of his Lancaster bomber over northern France.  The aircraft was returning from an attack on Stuttgart when it was badly damaged and had to be abandoned on the return flight.  He was sheltered by farmers before being taken to Paris and then by train to the Spanish border near Pau.  Together with some USAAF airmen, a guide took him over the Pyrenees into Spain.  After returning to England, he continued to fly on operations and was awarded the DFC.  He later served as an air traffic control officer before spending ten years in the Sultan of Oman’s Air Force.

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JHS and groundcrew-1John Sauvage flew sixty-four operations in Bomber Command and was decorated three times.  His first tour was on Hampdens with 44 Squadron and after a spell as a bombing instructor he was recruited to the Pathfinder Force.  He attacked Hamburg, Peenemunde and Berlin in addition to targets in the Ruhr and in Italy.  He marked the old Zeppelin sheds at Friedricshafen, where key radar components were being manufactured.  His Lancaster was badly damaged and he flew on to Algeria where he landed safely.  After his second tour he joined Transport Command and flew the York.  On one sortie he took ‘Monty’s Double’ to Gibraltar and North Africa in an attempt to deceived the Germans a few weeks before D-Day.  After he left the RAF he flew on the Berlin Airlift and was a pioneer of the air charter and holiday tourist airline business becoming the the managing director of Britannia Airways and chief executive of Thomson Travel Group.

In the photograph, John Sauvage is on the left with his ground crew and his Lancaster.

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IMG_20190407_105154969 copyFrank Griffin was decorated twice as a Pathfinder pilot in Bomber Command.  Initially he trained as an air observer and flew anti-submarine patrols over the Atlantic and North Sea.  After training as a pilot he flew Lancasters and attacked Berlin numerous times.  In December 1943 his aircraft was badly damaged but he carried on to the target and returned safely.  He was awarded the DFC.  With 103 Squadron he attacked the Ruhr and targets in north France prior to D-Day.  He was awarded the DSO – the citation concluding “he was a fearless and determined captain”.  He joined British South American Airways after the war and searched for the Avro Tudor Star Tiger, which was lost in the Bermuda Triangle with the wartime commander Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham on board.  Griffin was 99 when he died in March.

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Air Commandant Felicity Hill, Director Women’s Royal Air Force (DWRAF), 1966.Dame Felicity Hill was the first female to hold the rank of Air Commodore after members of the WRAF assumed RAF ranks.  She started her service in 1939 and spent her early years as an instructor at the new-entry depot.  After being commissioned she served on numerous stations before being attached to the Polish section of the Directorate of Allied Air Forces Liaison.  After the war she re-enlisted into the permanent women’s element of the RAF.  She served overseas including the HQ of the Far East Air Force in Singapore.  She held senior appointments and rose to become Director WRAF in May 1966.  She retired in 1969 when she was appointed DBE.  She was aged 103 when she died.

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