In August 1943, one year after the Path Finder Force was formed, slightly belatedly Bennett sent a Special Order of the Day to his squadrons, saying that much had been achieved but more needed to be done. The text was copied into the squadrons’ ORBs.
Entered into 97 Squadron’s Operations Record Book on 22 August 1943:
Special Order of the Day by Air Commodore D.C.T.Bennett CBE, DSO, Commanding Path Finder Force
“To all ranks of the PFF. On the 15th August 1942, five squadrons, each representing a group in Bomber Command, assembled on allotted aerodromes to form the PFF. In one year the PFF has played a large part in showing the enemy how effective bombing can be as a direct means of breaking his morale and thereby winning the war. It is conceivable that he can crack up tomorrow. On the other hand his Gestapo rule may make it possible for him to continue indefinitely. Bombing is our most rapid and effective method of preventing his continued struggle but only if it is effective. The PFF have done much but they must do more. The quality of our bombing is in your hands. Keep at it and good luck to you all.”
Images above are of the Benton crew with their Lancaster, 97 Squadron, and Alistair Wood and Flying Officer Hicklin with their Mosquito, 105 Squadron. Both photographs taken at RAF Bourn, one year apart (1943 and 1944).
Bennett did not send a similar message to the men, women, squadrons and stations under his command until the war was over, almost three very difficult years later.
To: The Path Finder Force
From: Air Vice-Marshal D C T Bennett, CB, CBE, DSO
Great Britain and the Commonwealth have made a contribution to the civilised world so magnificent that history alone will be able to appreciate it fully. Through disaster and triumph, sometimes supported and sometimes alone, the British races have steadfastly and energetically over many long years flung their forces against the international criminals. They have fought the war from end to end without a moment’s respite, in all theatres, and with all arms — land, sea and air.
Bomber Command’s share in this great effort has been a major one. You, each one of you, have made that possible. The Path Finder Force has shouldered great responsibility. It has led Bomber Command, the greatest striking force ever known. That we have been successful can be seen in the far-reaching results which the Bomber offensive has achieved. That is the greatest reward the Path Finder Force ever hopes to receive, for those results have benefited all law-abiding peoples.
Whilst you have been hard at work through these vital years, I have not interrupted you, as I would like to have done, with messages of praise and congratulation. You were too busy; but now that your great contribution to the world has been made, I want to thank you each man and woman of you personally and to congratulate you on your unrelenting spirit and energy and on the results you have achieved.
Happiness to you all — always. Keep Pressing On along the Path of Peace.
Headquarters, Path Finder Force, European V-Day, 1945
Bennett (second from right) at the VE Day celebrations at RAF Wyton, 8 May 1945.