The Pathfinders & the World they Knew

Items from the RAF Pathfinders Archive

Bob Stewart and the Kirkwood Crew

Bob Stewart was killed in the fog of 16-17 December 1943. He was the navigator of James Kirkwood’s crew, 97 Squadron. All the crew died with him in the violent crash, in farmland next to Hayley Wood. This was not far from RAF Station Gransden Lodge, which was home to 405 Squadron, also in the Path Finder Force.

Kirkwood’s crew had probably been trying to locate the Gransden Lodge airfield. This was a close to impossible feat by midnight 16/17 December due to the dense fog and limited wartime navigational equipment. The aircraft is believed to hit some of the Hayley Wood trees before ploughing into the ground and catching fire.

L-R: Ted Hubbard, Bob Stewart, Reg (thought to be Ronald Cleeve), Len Madeley. Courtesy of Kenneth Bowe and Stanley Holding.

James Kirkwood, right, with RAF friends. Courtesy of Jim Kirkwood (son).

CREW
Pilot: P/O James Kirkwood
Killed 17-Dec-43, buried in Kilwinning Cemetery
Flight Engineer: F/S Edward George Hubbard, “Ted”
Killed 17-Dec-43, buried in Croxton (St Paul’s) Cemetery
Navigator: Sgt Robert Charles Stewart, “Bob”
Killed 17-Dec-43, buried in Braemar (St Andrews) Graveyard
Bomb Aimer: F/O George Alexander Wigley
Killed 17-Dec-43, buried in Carshalton (All Saints) Churchyard
W/Op: Sgt Ronald George Cleeve, possibly known as “Reg”
Killed 17-Dec-43, buried in Wyke Regis New Burial Ground
Mid-Upper Gunner: Sgt Leonard Madeley, “Len”
Killed 17-Dec-43, buried in Manchester Southern Cemetery
Rear Gunner: Sgt John Killen
Killed 17-Dec-43, buried in Hollinfare Cemetery

Bob’s parents were heartbroken. One of their neighbours in a kind attempt to console them, wrote this poem for them and their “Bobby”:

Bob’s mother sent the poem to Margaret, the wife of James Kirkwood, who kept it throughout her life with the extremely poignant letter which enclosed it. With many thanks to Jim Kirkwood (son).

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