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.

To read the full obituary click HERE


Harrier RM 1The Royal Mail have issued a series of four stamps to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Harrier Jump Jet.  The stamps form part of a an issue celebrating British Engineering.  The Harrier issue includes a medallion and an insert describing the development and operational use of the iconic jet, which is lavishly illustrated with photographs and a timeline highlighting the milestones in the aircraft’s service with the RAF ands the Fleet Air Arm.  I was pleased to be invited  for the second time (see RAF 100) to provide all the narrative.

Harrier RMFor further details click HERE and click on Engineering


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

To read full obituary click HERE


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.

To read full obituary click HERE


LearoydThis article in the May issue outlines the career of Wing Commander ‘Babe’ Learoyd who was Bomber Command’s first VC.  A pre-war regular pilot, he flew an operational sortie in his Hampden bomber of 49 Squadron on the morning that war was declared.  There was little activity during the “Phoney War” but operations intensified after the German occupation of the Low Countries and France in May/June 1940.  A target of special importance was the Dortmund-Ems Canal, used for the build-up of shipping and barges for the planned invasion of Britain.  On the night of August 11/12 a force of Hampdens attacked a key aqueduct, which was heavily defended.  Two of the five aircraft were shot down.  Learoyd was the last to attack and had witnessed the earlier attacks.  Despite the intense opposition he bombed successfully from 150 feet.  He then nursed home his badly damaged aircraft and waited until daylight to make a safe landing.  He was awarded the VC.  He later commanded a Lancaster squadron and left the RAF at the end of the war.  He died in January 1996.


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.

To read full obituary click HERE


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.

To read full obituary click HERE