This detail from a photograph shows part of the funeral procession for 405 Squadron members, mostly Canadians, who were buried on 22 December 1943 at Cambridge City Cemetery. At the rear are Bill Bessent (nearest the camera) whose twin brother Bob was amongst those killed, and the one surviving uninjured crewmember from Bob’s crew, Les
On Thursday and Friday this week we remember the 50 Pathfinder aircrew who were killed in crashes in England on Thursday and Friday 78 years ago. The crews had just returned safely from that night’s operation to Berlin when a series of fatal accidents occurred due to dense fog, difficulties in landing and petrol shortage.
The Archive has its roots in a tragedy which occurred on 16/17 December 1943, afterwards known as Black Thursday. At that time, the crew of Ted Thackway were serving with 97 Squadron, which was stationed at Bourn in Cambridgeshire. The crew’s first operation was to Berlin on 16 December. Returning safely to England, they crashed in
One of the reasons why 16/17 December 1943 was so disastrous was the extreme limitations of landing aids. The only facilities available for such severe bad weather conditions were FIDO and a system known as SBA. Read the Full Article: 16/17 December 1943 – FIDO & Landing Aids
The disastrous night of 16/17 December 1943 came just one month into the Battle of Berlin, Bomber Command’s all-out attempt to win the war by attacking the German capital and other key cities. But it was not the Germans who were responsible for the heavy losses that night, but the RAF’s eternal enemy, the weather. Read the
Above: Temporary grave marker for the Coates crew, killed 25 March 1944, RPA/H97/Coates The total Pathfinder losses, incurred from August 1942 to May 1945, were given by Donald Bennett, their Air Officer Commanding (AOC), as being 3,618 men. As the AOC of the Pathfinders, Bennett was in the best position to know the sacrifices which
The epitaphs on many aircrew graves came from the hymn “O Valiant Hearts”. This remarkable and deeply poignant hymn is connected with the death of the outstanding pilot Ernest Deverill, seen here with his wife Joyce on their wedding day.