James Frances Henry (left, in the pale overalls) with other ground crew in front of a 1409 Met Flight Mosquito. RAF Pathfinders Archive.
The ground crew who worked on Pathfinder aircraft were the unsung heroes of the bombing war, working hard through all weathers. Although they were not documented as comprehensively as aircrew, there are many photographs of them in the Archive and its PFFAO catalogue.
Mosquito ground crew had a particularly close relationship with their aircrew, mainly due to the Mosquito loss rate being a fraction of that for the ‘heavies’ so people had time to get to know one another better. However, the small intimate size of the aircraft must also have played a part.
We have picked out two Mosquito ground crew for this article, James Frances Henry and Arthur Jackson.
James Frances Henry, seen in the feature photograph above and detail below, was with 1409 Met Flight from 31 March 1943 to 19 June 1944, working as an aero engine specialist. Older than most of the ground crew in the photograph, he had been in the Royal Flying Corps in 1917, then the newly formed RAF in 1918. Placed on the reserve prior to the Second World War, he was called up on 25 August 1939 when war became inevitable.
Details and photograph courtesy of Michael Henry.
Arthur Jackson, detail from ‘A’ Flight 109 Squadron photograph. RAF Pathfinders Archive.
ARTHUR JACKSON was with 109 Squadron in 1944. This remarkable photograph of of ‘A’ Flight of 109 Squadron, taken in October 1944, shows Jackson and his fellow groundcrew standing or sitting alongside their aircrew in recognition of their outstanding contribution. Every man is named.
‘A’ Flight, 109 Squadron, October 1944 (Jackson is top row, far left). RAF Pathfinders Archive.
Roger Jackson wrote of his father in April 2020:
He never really talked about his service other than a few old yarns about his time with his best mate Jimmy Funnell who is also in the picture at bottom centre. He came out of the RAF with just his demob suit which went into the wardrobe and was never worn again. I remember it as a child.
He was one of three brothers who each went into different services, one the Navy and the other the Army. My father enlisted in the Air Force with his friend but they ended up being posted to different squadrons. He always joked that the Air Force put everyone in the wrong job. My father had engineering skills while his friend was a chippy, he ended up as an airframe fitter, which [on a Mosquito] was all woodwork, while his friend became an engineer.
The only times he flew were on test flights when they needed a fitter on board. He never saw action but I remember him telling that he had been chased by a German fighter once. The Mosquito was unarmed but had the speed to outrun it.
Above: Arthur Jackson, top right, with ground crew chums and a very nice piece of nose art on the Mosquito.
Below: Arthur Jackson (centre) with the same man as in the picture above and another unknown member of ground crew. Note the nose art on the Mosquito. This is the same Mosquito as in the ‘A’ Flight photograph, see detail from that photograoh at the foot of this page.
Details and photographs courtesy of Roger Jackson