The Pathfinders & the World they Knew

Items from the RAF Pathfinders Archive

The Pathfinder Eagle

The Pathfinders, the RAF’s only elite Force, had a special emblem of an eagle badge. The badge was worn on the left-hand-side breast pocket of the RAF uniform, under any decorations.

pathfinder badge

dudley archer uniform

Above: the post-war uniform and impressive decorations of Dudley Archer, a distinguished navigator (the O insignia stands for Observer, another term for a navigator). The tiny rosettes meant that he had won those particular decorations twice. Uniform kindly donated to the RAF PATHFINDERS ARCHIVE by Stephen Dixon and Sue Crowle.

The Pathfinder eagle was awarded on a temporary basis, generally after six successful operations but it was on a discretionary basis according to the recommendation of the Squadron Commander. Like all awards, including medals, it was sanctioned by Bennett personally.

Symbolising the unique identity of the Pathfinders within the RAF and Bomber Command, the badge was a sign of excellence.

temporary award of PFF badge

The award became permanent only on completion of the standard Pathfinder tour of forty-five operations, at which point a signed certificate was given to the recipient.

Alistair Wood - Pathfinder badge (permanent award) - Copy

Alistair Wood’s certificates, courtesy of Brian and Muriel Knights.

The Pathfinder eagle was also awarded permanently, on a discretionary basis, to aircrew whose Pathfinder career had been cut short, either because they had been shot down and captured or killed, or if they had been severely injured. Peter Hughes Mack, known as ‘Joe’, was awarded the badge when in RAF Hospital Ely after barely surviving a horrendous air crash in December 1943. He had only flown one operation for the Pathfinders. All his crew died in the crash except for the rear gunner, Leslie Laver, who was uninjured, went back to flying, and was killed in January 1944 when flying with another crew.

joe mack with pff badge 1944

Joe Mack at the family home, Little Kendals, Radlett, Herts, summer of 1944 after months spent in hospital and at a rehabilitation unit, The Leas at Hoylake, Liverpool. JMG.

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