- RAF Conningsby during the Second World War -
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RAF Coningsby opened in 1940, and is in Lincolnshire, about 14 miles North-East of Sleaford.
Today the site is still in use by the RAF and is home to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
Squadrons stationed at
- No: 97 Squadron. 1941 and from April 1944.
- No. 83 Squadron from April 1944
- 106 Squadron. 23 Feb 1941 to 1 Oct 1942
8th Sep 1941 Aircraft Lost
13th Sep 1941 Aircraft Lost
15th Sep 1941 Aircraft Lost
20th Sep 1941 Aircraft Lost
20th Oct 1941 Aircraft Lost
8th Jan 1942 Aircraft Lost
22nd Feb 1942 106 Squadron Hampden lost
1st February 1944 Relocated
15th April 1944 On the move
24th April 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
26th April 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
26th April 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
26th April 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
3rd May 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
8th May 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
22nd May 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
6th Jun 1944 Lancaster Lost
21st June 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
21st June 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
July 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
16th July 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
26th July 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
6th August 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
12th August 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
12th Aug 1944 Bomber lost
12th August 1944 Bomber lost
14th August 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
18th August 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
25th August 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
25th August 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
25th August 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
26th August 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
29th August 1944 conngby2 83-raf2
22nd Dec 1944 Crashed in fog
If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.
Those known to have served at
during the Second World War 1939-1945.
- Bailey Garnet James. Sgt.
- Beaton Jack.
- Bell Frederick James. (d.22nd Dec 1944)
- Blanche J. J.. W/O.
- Butler Richard William. Sgt. (d.26th Jul 1942)
- Chapman Frank. Sergeant (d.19th May 1942)
- Clinch DFM.. J. J.. F/Sgt.
- Culley Clem. Flt.Sgt.
- Evans Des.
- Evans Des.
- Garrett Arthur Thomas. Flt Sgt. (d.25th Feb 1944)
- Gleeson DFC.. Peter Augustine. P/O. (d.13th Aug 1944)
- Hardy DSO, DFC & Bar.. Ronald J. W/Cdr.
- Herd DFC. Thomas Brodie. F/Lt. (d.8th Nov 1941)
- Jones DFM.. Norman. Flt Lt
- Jones Sidney James Holroyd. Sgt. (d.8th Nov 1941)
- Jordan Thomas William.
- Lapsley MID.. William Hamilton. Sgt. (d.4th July 1941)
- Lodge DFM.. Richard. W/O
- Machin Alan. Flt.Sgt.
- McDonald DFM.. Alan. F/O.
- Mitchell . Sqn. Ldr.
- Moore Clayton C.. P/O.
- Parker DFM.. Gerry.
- Siddle DFC.. William Elliott. F/Lt.
- Stenner Lester.
- Stoffer Harry Murdoch. P/O. (d.24th Apr 1942)
- Weller Peter John. Cpl.
- Williams Eric. P/O.
- Wilson DFM.. Alan.
- Worswick DFC.. John Alan. P/O. (d.2nd Jun 1942)
The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List
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Flt Lt Norman Jones DFM. flight eng. 9 Sqd.My father was born on the 12th of December 1921, the only on of farming parents. The farm was just outside the Roman village Ventra Silrum, better known as Caerwent. Dads father was a lay preacher and a follower of John Wesley, he did not approve of dad joining the R.A.F:- He never inherited the farm.
Dad first tried to join the R.A.F after a little girl playing by the Severn tunnel junction was killed by a German plane flying overhead. Nothing else was around at this time. Dad was eventually recalled in February 1941 and was told that he would need to be prepared to fly. He trained as a fitter engineer at R.A.F Cosford and worked on Hampdens, Manchesters and Lancasters. He was then posted to Swinderby in 1942 and left in charge of a major overhaul team working on Lancasters, attending Rolls Royce in Derby to qualify as a test engineer.
In May 1943 due to a shortage of flight engineers, he joined a Lancaster crew to take part in operational rids flying over Germany. Dad’s role as a flight engineer included controlling engine pressures, temperatures and fuel consumption, assisting the pilot and taking over the controls as and when required. He also had to plot a navigational course using the stars, send emergency radio signal and man the gun turrets. Before he earned his Pathfinder badge he was required to carry out the visual bomb aiming.
The crew he flew with consisted of 7 young men:- Pilot squadron leader-Mitchell (who later became group captain,) a Canadian Flight engineer- Norman Jones (dad), Navigator, Bomb aimer, Wireless operator, Mid upper Gunner, Rear gunner-Known as “tail end Charlie,” a very lonely position.
In June 1943, the crew were posted to No. 9 Squadron Bardney Lincoln. The Lancaster was U-Uncle. By then Dad had completed his first operational tour, which consisted of 30 operations flying over enemy territory mainly at night, 7 to 8 hours through search light and enemy flak. From the minute they flew over France they were under attack and often returned to base with a damaged plane.
Dad was then invited to join the Pathfinders along with his Lancaster crew, and joined 83 Pathfinder squadron. The Pathfinders were the Lancaster crews who flew in first, dropping flares to mark targets for the bombers. They circled around and above the target until the last bomber left. Sometimes the Pathfinders had to re-mark the targets before finally flying over and dropping their load. They were the crews that went in first and were the last to leave.
The crew were very close, in fact Mitch, Dad’s pilot, refused to fly without him. They practiced “the corkscrew” to evade enemy fighters. They would complete this move by closing the throttle so that the plane would drop, and then increase the throttle on the climb. This would cause the plane to corkscrew. No mean feat when you consider the size of the Lancaster, 69 feet and 6 inches in length, with a wingspan of 102 feet and 4 large Merlin engines, plus fuel.
On one occasion whilst flying, there was a group captain who was on board as an observer. The rear gunner called out “corkscrew right,” so immediately dad and his pilot carried out this procedure, dad then glanced over his shoulder to see his “special passenger” dangling in the air due to the force of the corkscrew, and then of course when they came out of it he landed rather forcefully! On return to base he gave the crew an excellent report and stated “they will be the crew that survive.” On the worst night 17 planes took off and only 7 came back, a total loss of 70 men from No. 9 squadron.
The D.M.F was awarded to dad in 1944 for courage and coolness of a high order. Prior to D-day he was involved in clearing the beaches ready for the landings. On June the 6th 1944, he took off at 01.45am to bomb La Paenelle; this was the start of the invasion. The following night he flew to Caen and on the 8th to Auranches. When he had completed his 2nd operational tour, dad had to accept being posted as a flying instructor to R.A.F Wigsley on Stirlings. You were considered lucky to complete 5 ops in all, dad completed 60. His next posting was to R.A.F Hendon as a second pilot, where he flew VIPs in Dakotas to visit the concentration camps. He also completed a trip to Lagos in West Africa.
Dad was commissioned in October 1944, and this relatively easy posting was not to last for long. The next posting was training on rescue gliders and a trip to Burma to carry out this work. He served in Mingladon and Akyab, making many friends along the way. Whilst serving in the Far East he became very ill with Dinghue fever and jaundice. Dad still worried bout his friends in Burma to this day because of the political state of the country. My father remained in contact with Mitch until approximately 2 years ago, when he received a goodbye letter. Naturally this was very upsetting. Trying to gather information about dad R.A.F experiences has been an uphill struggle, because for many men of my father’s age it is not an easy subject.
I feel that I must mention here, because so much has been written about bomber command, that on all bombing missions it was instilled in the crews that they must aim for targets, e.g. Hamburg, where the U-boats were held in pen, factories, communications and marshalling yards. Never once did the crew think they were bombing civilians. During this operational tour they flew to Berlin, Hamburg, Nuremburg, Hanover, Munich, Essen, Manheim, Munchen, Gladbach, Remscheid, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Kassel and Milan. Over 55,000 bomber crew lost their lives, sometimes whilt training in this country. I know my father still has nightmares about his wartime service, and you can only begin to imagine what it must have been like night after night, returning to base, going to bed to catch up on sleep and awaken to see empty beds next to you.
My mother also served in the R.A.F and this is where my parents met. They married in Yorkshire in January 1944 then travelled to Chepstow on honeymoon, only to find a telegram waiting calling dad back to service. They went on to have 3 children, myself and a younger sister and brother. Ad continued in the R.A.F until 1946 and remained in the reserve until 1960. He also ran the A.T.C until we moved to West Wales. He now has 6 grandchildren, 7 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great grandchildren, who are all extremely proud of him!Teresa Lloyd
Sqn. Ldr. "Mitch" Mitchell pilot 9 Sqd.Sqd Ldr Mitchell, a Canadian was pilot of my Father's crew (Norman Jones), they flew with 9 squadron from Bardney and with 83 Pathfinder Squadron. They remained in touch for many years.Teresa Lloyd
Sgt. Garnet James Bailey 106 SquadronLooking for details of Sgt.G J Bailey RAAF, lost on Gardening mission off Bordeaux 25/26 July 1942. I have details from CWGC and AUS. Roll of Honour but can't find his Aircrew Category or the cause of the loss of the aircraft, Lanc R5680 based at Coningsby at the time it was lost. Two of the crew became POW, and the body of one other was recovered and is buried at Pornic in France. The other four crew members were not found. Any information would be appreciated.R Easener
Flt Sgt. Arthur Thomas Garrett 61 Squadron (d.25th Feb 1944)My uncle served in 61 sqdn and I am trying to find out some more details about his service. The family story goes that when he and his fellow crew were shot down there was some confusion as to who was on the aircraft. My grandparents were told a number of stories and this only led to more confusion. If anyone can throw some light on this tale for myself and my family we would be very grateful. Unfortunatly all my grandparents letters and papers have been lost over the years.
Editors Note: RAF Bomber Command Losses records that Lancaster DV294 QR-K took off at 18:28 on the 25th of Feburary 1944 from Coningsby and crashed at Menil-Annelles in the Ardennes, 10 km South East of Rethel. The crew all lie at Liesse Communal Cemetery.
- F/O F.J.Nixon
- Sgt W.Craig
- F/S J.W.Devenish
- F/s A.T.Garrett
- Sgt J.E.Chapman
- Sgt H.W.J.Pain
- Sgt H.F.BoreLisa Rust
Sgt. William Hamilton Lapsley MID. 106 Squadron (d.4th July 1941)William Lapsley was my Grandmother's youngest brother. He was killed on a mission to Dortmund. They took off at 23:00 on the 4th of Jul19 41 from RAF Conningsby in Hampden AD914 and were shot down by Flak near Heesch, Noord Brabant, crashing in the southern outskirts of Oss, Holland. All the crew were killed are buried in Eindhoven General Cemetery.
The crew were:
- F/S N.E.Bowering MID
- F/S D.S.Bagnall
- Sgt W.H.Lapsley MID
- Sgt I.L.T.ReisRobin McCully
Sgt. Sidney James Holroyd Jones 106 Squadron (d.8th Nov 1941)Sergeant (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner) Sidney James Holroyd Jones RAFVR of 106 Squadron RAF was killed in action on 8th November 1941. At 01.05 on the 8th of November Handley Page Hampden AD932 took off from RAF Conningsby in Lincolnshire to lay mines in Oslo Fjord. A radio message was received that the aircraft was down in the sea 48 miles East of Wick, one of three 106 Squadron aircraft lost on this operation.
Sergeant Jones is buried in Kirwall (St Olaf) cemetery in Orkney. The other three crew members have no known grave and are commemorated on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede.
Sgt. Richard William Butler 106 Squadron (d.26th Jul 1942)My father was a Lancaster pilot with 106 Squadron, based finally at Coningsby in Lincolnshire. His squadron leader at that time was Guy Gibson. My father and mother both volunteered in 1939, my mother joined the WAAF and at the time of my father's death was also based at RAF Coningsby. My father was trained as a pilot in Medicine Hat in Canada, then at OTU Kinloss. He was lost on a bomb laying operation in the Bay of Biscay at the mouth of the Gironde River near Bordeaux. Only two of the crew survived, Adams and Church, the rest were killed when the plane was shot down by a flack ship. Coningsby was the last posting for my mother as she left the WAAF on compassionate grounds because she was pregnant. Prior to that she had been based at Stafford and occasionally used to commute (beyond the permissible distance) at weekends to visit my father at RAF Kinloss. RAF Conningsby was their first posting together.Richard Butler
P/O. John Alan Worswick DFC. 106 Squadron (d.2nd Jun 1942)My Father Alan Worswick piloted Hampdens, Manchesters and Lancasters in 34 Ops over Germany and France. He was due for leave when on the night of the 14th /15th of April 1942 he force landed Manchester 7317 at Lee the Solent on return from raid on Dortmunde. On the 15th he and his crew were retrieved and flown back from Tangmere to Coningsby by W/C Guy Gibson in Manchester 7485. On the 30th of May Father piloted Lancaster 5848 on the first 1000 Raid to Cologne. On the 1st of June 1942 he piloted Lancaster 5844 on the second 1000 Raid to Essen. Father should not have been flying that night but at the last minute was ordered to take over S/L Lester Stenner's aircraft and crew as for some reason Stenner had declared himself unable to fly. I believe his may have been the the first Lancaster lost from Coningsby, Father was killed just before I was 2 years old.
Pre-war he was a keen racing Motor Cyclist racing in the Manx Grand Prix in 1937 and 1938. They were on the boat in Douglas Harbor in 1939 but as war was imminent it returned to England as the races were cancelled.E.Worswicke
P/O. Peter Augustine Gleeson DFC. 83 Sqd. (d.13th Aug 1944)The Lancaster took off from Coningsby at 21.07 to target Brunswick but the flight was hit by nightfighters over Hodenhagen (Germany) and 5 of the crew were killed and 2 taken POW:
All are buried in the Becklingen War Cemetery in Germany
- Flying Officer Cyril Erritt age 24
- Flight Sergeant Goronwy Jones age 19
- Warrent Officer Edwin Alexander Taylor age
- Warrent officer Robert William Callagher age 28
- Pilot Officer Peter Augustine Gleeson age 21
Pilot Officer N P Delayen and Warrent Officer J McWilliamson were taken POW.
Peter Augustine is in my wife's family line and his family have a long tradition of duty. His father was a Lieutenant in WWI as was an uncle (both being awarded both service and bravery awards). Another uncle was killed in action in France in 1917. Peter's grandfather was also a regular soldier and Lieutenant and died in 1900 in South Africa during the Boer War. A brother of Peter's Grandfather (Andrew Fitzwilliam Gleeson) was also a career soldier being a Lt.Col and awarded an OBE. This line of the family also gave service with two of his sons serving in WWI and one of them being killed on action in WWII.
Whilst Peter Augustine does not belong in my family I am very proud of him.Ray Denham
P/O. Eric Williams 106 Sqd.I am trying to find out more about Rick Williams to help my mother whose memory, at 92, is sadly lacking. Rick was her wartime fiancée and left this life on one of the many raids from Conningsby around 1943/44. Sorry I can't be more specific, can anyone help me?Lynn Goodman
Sergeant Frank Chapman 106 Sqd (d.19th May 1942)My uncle was Frank Chapman and he took off from RAF Coningsby on May 19th 1942 in Manchester I Serial L7418 code ZN on a navigation exercise. The plane and crew were missing presumed lost at sea off the coast of Pembroke. The crew were:
I was born in 1946, so never knew Frank - but after much researching was grateful to receive this information from a World War 2 ex RAF website some time ago. Also to know that his name is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial along with the other crew members. Any other information would be much appreciated - if available. I do not know if planes were ever found or recovered in these situations.
- 1367218 Sergeant Alexander McHardy age 20 from Aberdeenshire
- 938995 Sergeant Kenneth Gill age 21 from Harborne, Birmingham
- R/96124 Flight Sergeant Raplh Ainsworth Post RCAF age 21 from Manitoba, Canada
- 404899 Sergeant Ralph Warren age 22 of Waverley, New South Wales, Australia
- 1056809 Sergeant Frank Chapman age 27 of Whaley Bridge, DerbyshireLesley Hammond
Jack Beaton 83 Sqd.Just received my uncle Jack Beaton's log book and want to know as much information as I can. I was told he was in the Pathfinders. He was with 83 Squadron in Conningsby, Lincolnshire and 44 Sqd at Dunholme Lodge, Lincolnshire. In the log book shows all his training in and around Lincolnshire starting with the Ansons then Bolly, Wellingtons, Stirlings and then finishing up with the Lancasters to the end of the war. His pilot almost throughout was P/O Cartwright. Jack was air bomber (armament),(navigation, bomber moving targets).Tracy
P/O. Harry Murdoch Stoffer 106 Squadron (d.24th Apr 1942)My uncle, Pilot Officer Harry Murdoch Stoffer flew Manchester bombers for 106 Squadron, operating out of RAF Conningsby. At 22.00 hours on April 23rd, he took off on a raid on Rostock in Northern Germany. The mission went to plan but on his return, the aircraft was hit by flack over Denmark and the port hand engine caught fire. Harry ordered his crew to bale out and those using the forward hatch had a desperate struggle to open it against the air stream. They finally departed the aircraft at around 2,000 ft and all landed safely.
Harry remained at the controls and the aircraft hit the ground at a flat angle before bursting in to flames. Local people could see Stoffer sitting in his seat but had no chance of getting to him due to the intensity of the blaze. Only when the fire had burnt out could the Germans retrieve his remains and he was laid to rest at the Aabenraa Cemetary in Denmark. Touchingly, a German eight man squad fired a volley at the end of the ceremony out of respect for his bravery. His crew were all captured and became POW's.
He was just 20 years old and I have a framed photograph of him hanging in my home. Looking impossibly youthful in his RAF uniform, the photo has a handwritten note from him reading 'To Mother, with all my love. Harry'. That photo was the most prized possession of Kitty, his mother and sat as a central shrine in her living room in Streatham, South London. It was then equally prized by his sister who was my God Mother in her home in Dingwall, Scotland. Harry's grandfather (and mine) was Captain Duncan Finlayson who was for many years the Chief Constable for Ross and Cromarty.Ian Dickens
F/Lt. Thomas Brodie Herd DFC 106 Squadron (d.8th Nov 1941)Thomas Brodie Herd was the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Herd of Broughty Ferry, Angus, Dundee, Scotland. My Grandmother Mary Jane Herd's Uncle was Thomas Herd, Chairman of the Distillers Company (Limited) Edinburgh. His son F/Lt. T.B. Herd DFC, served with 106 Squadron and died, aged 24, on Saturday, 8th November 1941. The information I have is that F/Lt. Herd was killed when his aircraft, a Handley-Page Hamden, Serial Number AD932 of No 106 Squadron Coningsby, failed to return from a raid on Essen. F/Lt. Herd was the pilot of the aircraft. The other three crew members also perished on this operation. I do not have the names of the other crew members.
I would be most grateful for any information on F/L Herd's operations on 106 Squadron.Fergus Hood
W/Cdr. Ronald J "Ronnie" Hardy DSO, DFC & Bar.The New Boy by Ronnie J Hardy DSO DFC (Written on 11th June 1941)
Two short days ago I travelled down from home with Millward my Navigator, and thanks to a little map reading and frequent questioning of road sweepers and farming people on the Lincolnshire lane, we managed to locate our new aerodrome. Everyone seemed anxious to help, and it was not long before we sighted the large water tower which indicated the proximity of our new home.
On arrival we reported to the adjutant, and went through the depressing ritual of filling up arrival forms. Somehow the ‘next-of-kin’ form always makes me feel a bit wretched, and I always picture my form being taken out of the file at some future date for the purposes of confirming my home address prior to the despatch of a telegram. Fortunately the mood very quickly passes, but I always think it a most unhappy introduction to a new station. I was then ushered into the presence of the Station Commander, a small elderly man, with greying hair, and clear penetrating eyes, which suited well his alert manner. He seemed very glad to be getting an addition to the squadron, and the few minutes talk I had with him did a great deal towards making me feel at home, and dispelling my dreadful feeling of newness and incompetence. After informing me that the squadron was known as the ‘fighting 106th, he wished me the best of luck and indicated that the interview was at an end. I discovered that I knew one or two of the squadron members vaguely, but as they were all from senior courses to myself, I sensed in them a feeling of superiority, and I hesitated to ask them what it was like ‘over their’, although I should have dearly loved to have heard anything they might have to say, especially in view of the fact that some of them had operated at least half a dozen times since I last saw them at Upper Heyford. There was an ‘Op’ on that night, and one or two of them were reading or playing shove halfpenny, which seems to be a very popular game here, and an ideal way of passing the time before take off. I was told that they were operating frequently, as the weather is good, and it is the moon period, which makes target identification less difficult.
The next morning I spent settling down, and meeting the Squadron Commander and Flight Commander, they are both first class types, and they too seemed very pleased to be receiving a new addition to the squadron. The Squadron Commander does not believe in wasting time, and he told me that he thought it would be a good thing to break the crew in right away, and that we should be flying that night. He suggested that because we were new he would give me another wireless operator in place of my own one who had done ten trips, and who would be able to give me the benefit of his experience. I thought this a good idea, although I was very sorry to lose my own WOP. I met the new wireless operator in the crew room, and heard someone say ‘Christ, are you flying with a Sprog?’ The new wireless operator informed me that a Sprog was another name for a raw recruit, which made me feel a bit small, but Sgt. Lynn, that was his name, said that he didn’t mind flying with me, and this rather praiseworthy show of confidence did a lot to make me feel better.
I had been allotted a new aircraft, X for X-ray, and we wandered out to look it over in order to check up on anything which might be different from the old training Hampdens I had been flying from Upper Heyford. There was one addition, the automatic pilot, and I got one of the ground crew to give me a few words of instruction on it as I had every intention of making use of it that night. The aircraft was new, and there was a grand feeling of pride of possession in the knowledge that here was our own machine which would be kept in first rate condition, and only fly when we did. The ground crew were just as enthusiastic, they were anxious to meet their new aircrew, and lost no time in giving us details of their last skipper, who apparently had the misfortune not to return. He was a good type they said, but assured us that with this aircraft, and their servicing, we should not suffer from the same trouble. We left, feeling that we had been lucky in our allotment of ground crew, and also feeling pleased that we had a new aircraft with which to commence our tour of operations.
When we arrived back in the crew room, we found the orderly room NCO busy filling up the board for the night’s effort, and it was with a tingling and a short intake of breath that I saw my name up there in the pilot’s column and opposite X for X-ray.
The briefing was quite a novelty and the target, we discovered, was Aachen. Immediately after the briefing the Squadron Commander took me to one side and advised me to hang about on the edge of the target and await for someone else to get caught before I flew in and dropped the bombs. I assured him that I would do this, but felt that as I couldn’t imagine what the target would look like I might have some difficulty in knowing just where the edge was. The take off was at ten o’clock just before dark, and I had the doubtful pleasure of filling in my time from briefing until then, a procedure which I found most trying. I spent it writing a few letters, trying to picture just what it would all be like, and hoping that at least we should be allowed to complete one trip in order to make some contribution towards the cost of our training.
Getting dressed in the crew room prior to take off was an interesting experience, the most outstanding thing about it being the atmosphere of forced humour. Somehow everything that was said seemed funny, the aircrews laughed and joked with each other, and although their jokes would have received a very poor reception at any other time, here they were eagerly listened to and appreciated. One crew was on it’s last trip and their superior knowledge seemed to be accepted by all. Odd pieces of advice which they tendered were lapped up by other crews, especially by mine, and I found myself thinking that the first thing I would do on return would be to look out for this crew and sincerely hoped that they would be allowed to complete their trip safely. Their gunner, a little Scotsman, said that the worst trips were the first three and the last three, this was confirmed by the rest, and several cases were cited which went to prove the truth of the saying, but little to inspire more confidence into my already turbulent mind. At last all was ready, and we piled into our trucks, strongly reminiscent of tumbrels, for transport to our respective aircraft. One by the crews got out with a final ‘See you at breakfast’, or ‘See you in Church’, until the driver shouted ‘X-ray’, and we were there. Our departure was more staid than the others, not because we were new, but because we were the last ones to leave the truck.
The ground crews were there to meet us and we had about an hour before take off. An hour can be a long time, but on this occasion it seemed hardly long enough. It was a beautiful evening and round the airfield we could see the other aircraft each with it’s own little crowd of people, some chatting, others making a last minute check of their machine. I had a hurried few draws at a cigarette, a few words with the NCO in charge of our aircraft, and then he assisted me with my parachute. Mine of course was the large seat type pack, whereas the others were using the smaller chest type which allowed more freedom of movement when inside the aircraft. The Hampden is a grand machine but built more on the style of a fighter, narrow and streamlined, and comfort has been sacrificed for efficiency. Once you are in there is no moving about, but if the pilot suffers from lack of space then it is only a fraction of what the rear gunner has to endure in the ‘tin. Sgt. Hunter, my rear gunner, is a well built fellow, not designed for the rear turret of a Hampden, but such is his Scottish make up that he never utters any word of complaint. Millward, the navigator, was just as excited as I, and he was busy stowing away his plotting board, maps ,charts and sextant in the cramped up compartment which was to be his domain for the next six hours. The wireless operator proved to be a worthy asset to the crew, he divided his time between giving us words of advice and singing a song which was very popular at the time called ‘Yes my darling daughter’, the piece about what if there’s a moon Mother darling?’ seemed very appropriate.
Time passed quickly, and clutching gloves and rations I was assisted by the ground crew up the short ladder, scrambled along the wing moving awkwardly on account of my heavy parachute, and with more assistance dropped down through the open hatch into the pilot’s seat. As I did so the thought flashed through my mind that when I next climbed out of that seat I should do so as a different person. No longer would I be the ‘Sprog’ without a single trip to my credit, and no longer would I try to picture what a target looked like. Six more hours and I would be able to mix more confidently with other members of the Squadron and perhaps put in a word when the previous nights operation was being discussed. It was a significant moment for which I had worked for twelve months, and the opportunity to put into practice what I had been taught: it was not lost upon me. The airman helping me with my straps would not guess what I was thinking, to him I suppose it was just another trip. A last rub of the windshield, and a ‘Best of luck Sir’ and he was down off the wing, and helping the others to prime the engines. The remainder of the crew were in position each checking his own equipment and I settled down to the routine check of controls and instruments, and asked Millward for the first course to steer. It was a strange thing but after getting into the cockpit there is no room for imagination. The job on hand holds first priority and I knew then that the worst was over, the waiting was finished and from then on it was routine work leaving no room for any thought but that of getting the aircraft safely into the air. ‘Contact’ from the ground crew, ‘Contact’ I replied switching on, the propellers turned and the engines roared into life. The running up was over, the chocks removed, and with a final wave and a thumbs up from the ground crew we moved out.
There were no runways and we took off in threes, my position being number three on the left of the leader. I was surprised to see that they both became airborne before I did and it was only after I staggered over the fence that I realised that I had omitted to use flap. It was a stupid and dangerous mistake and one that I will not make again but it served as a curt reminder that whatever the circumstances the brain must think clearly as mistakes do not always have such light consequences.
The journey out went well and it was dark as we crossed the enemy coast, the weather was good, searchlights were few and the flak was spasmodic, and after passing through this very first hazard we found ourselves flying almost unmolested with everything apparently peaceful. Ahead we could see bursts of flak but close at hand all was quiet and a feeling of confidence and well-being filled the members of the crew. The wireless operator however was to old a hand to be fooled by this and his warnings of ‘Searchlights’ let us know that we were not alone. We were approaching the ‘searchlight belt’ and thanks to my failing to take sufficient evasive action it was only a matter of seconds before we were fully illuminated by perhaps twenty searchlights; the time had come for action. Before I could dive or turn I heard our guns firing from the rear, and past the side of my cockpit flew a stream of tracer bullets. Although it cannot be possible I swear that I saw them and had the unpleasant sensation that they were passing right through me. The thought of the tough armour plating at the back of my seat gave me a great deal of comfort and crouching as low as possible I took the long delayed evasive action. At the same time there came a cry from the gunners and they reported that our attacker was down. I carried on with violent turns and dives until the searchlights were left behind, and the gunners reported that our adversary had hit the ground and was burning.
On arrival at the target area the scene was truly impressive. Already a large number of fires had been started which made an excellent landmark whilst every few seconds a string of white lights appeared on the ground frequently changing from white to a dull red glow indicating that more fires were being started by our incendiary bombs to the discomfiture of the inhabitants below. In addition to incendiaries the continuous flash of bombs could be seen amongst the fires and as we circled endeavouring to pick up some reliable pin-point we could see the smoke pall which was slowly rising and trying to blot out the results of our efforts. Meanwhile the enemy were not idle, their searchlights combed the sky, and in a very short space of time had succeeded in locating a target in the shape of an unfortunate aircraft. Sitting in the middle of a cone of lights it looked for all the world like a silver moth and in spite of all the manoeuvring was being held was being held with apparent ease. Most of the guns in the area were brought to bear on this solitary machine surrounding it with red bursts of heavy flak whilst up the beams of the searchlights snaked long streams of coloured tracer, reaching up from the ground like the tentacles of so many octopi seeking to drag him down into the inferno below. I found it difficult to withdraw my gaze from this fascinating spectacle but bearing in mind the instructions of my Squadron Commander I began my run up to the target. Millward had taken over and lying in the nose of the aircraft directed me in on a trouble free run. It seemed an age before he called ‘Steady’ and finally ‘Bombs gone’. There was little point in saying ‘Bombs gone’ because the machine lifted in my hands with a distinct jerk, and then happy in the knowledge that I had at least been instrumental in dropping one load of bombs on German soil I raised my eyes from the instrument panel and sought the best way out from the target. The cone of searchlights had gone and the episode I had been watching but a minute ago was over, but other duties had claimed my attention and I had not observed the final outcome. Losing height to gain more speed and weaving more violently than was necessary I breathed more freely when I had left the probing searchlights behind. One thing my first sortie had taught me is that searchlights although harmless themselves can be deadly when used in conjunction with fighters or flak, and I have decided that whatever the physical effort weaving may cost me I shall never take chances with them. We passed through the searchlight belt without further incident and when Millward reported that we were again over the sea I relaxed for the first time since take off.
Since the episode with the fighter (both the wireless operator and rear gunner had identified it as a ME 110) I had noticed that the machine was handling rather sluggishly on the controls but as it had stood up well to our evasive action I could only assume that all was in order and that perhaps my imagination was playing tricks. Engaging the automatic pilot which seemed to work very well I suggested to the crew that it might be a sound idea to have a cup of coffee and a biscuit but warned the rear gunner not to relax his vigil and report any aircraft sighted. All this was a wonderful new experience to be having early morning coffee over the North Sea at 10,000 feet, that, and the knowledge of a job well done behind us was sufficient to bring a song to my lips and I sang lustily the words and tune of ‘Yes my Darling Daughter’. It is a strange thing but although my oxygen mask was removed and I sang with all the power of my lungs, so great was the noise of the engines and so deadened were my ears that the words and tune could not be heard.
After this, time passed very slowly dawn was just breaking and my eyes were glued straight ahead for my first glimpse of the English coast. We crossed the coast on ETA north of the Wash but only spotted it through a break in the clouds which seemed to be building up below us. Some little time before I had noticed one or two dark patches on the wings and as the light improved they gradually formed themselves into alarmingly large holes. My mind went back to my encounter with the fighter and I realise how accurate his aim had been. From then on I handled the aircraft as though it were made of glass and received a message from the wireless operator with a certain amount of misgiving. The message was that our aerodrome was out in ground fog and we were to proceed to Upper Heyford where conditions were better.
We flew to Upper Heyford, circled it and were surprised to see that although we had not seen another aircraft since leaving the target here were a number of our squadron machines doing the same thing as ourselves; I suppose they also felt tired. The aircraft in front of us was flown by the crew who were on their last trip, we heard them calling their aircraft letter over the RT. When we were given permission to land, the wheels and flaps refused to come down but on final approach I operated the emergency lowering device which did the trick and we touched down heavily but safely and slewed round at the end of our run due to a burst tyre. We scrambled out and I must confess examined the damaged inflicted by the fighter with a certain amount of pride. It is difficult to explain this peculiar outlook, we had done nothing to be proud of but I think we felt we had been blooded and had passed our first hurdle in creditable style.
Later after being interrogated we were flown back home in an Anson, having been welcomed and chaffed by our old instructors at Upper Heyford. I gave a full report to the Squadron Commander who tells me that the ME 110 was seen to crash by a number of crews and that we may count it as definitely destroyed. I apologised about the damage to our machine but he said that it did well to fly back as the damage sustained in our brief encounter will keep it on the ground for several weeks, so our ground crew will be getting another aircraft allocated to their tender care, and we shall come in for a certain amount of good humoured criticism when we meet them tomorrow.
It is not yet dark and I am sitting in my room overlooking the airfield. All is quiet and restful this evening and from my window I make out the shapes of the aeroplanes which are our link between the two extremes, it is barely twenty four hours since we took off for Aachen but so much has happened in that brief space of time. I am tired but not sleepy, I must try to sleep to prepare for tomorrow. As I undress I hum the strains of a now familiar tune, there will be a moon again tomorrow night and I now know why it is called a ‘Bomber’s Moon’.
RJH. 11 June 1941Mike Seymour
F/Sgt. J. J. Clinch DFM. 97 SquadronMy brother served at Coningsby, Linconshire with 97 squadron, he was F/sgt J.J.Clinch, D.F.M who flew with F/O F.E.Eustace D.F.C.Brian Clinch
Cpl. Peter John "Sam" WellerMy father Peter Weller served as a Direction guidance operator at RAF Conningsby from May 1942 - March 1944 and RAF Carnaby from March 1944 - March 1946. This involved him working from a small hut at the end of the runway. This hut was manned by three men on an eight hour shift system. While at Conningsby they had the use of bicycles owned by station and Peter would on occasion cycle to Boston with a friend for an evening out, a round trip of 26 miles!Mary O'Dell
Frederick James Bell 83 Squadron (d.22nd Dec 1944)My Grandad Frederick James Bell was in 83 Squadron RAF based at Conningsby. Freddie died aged 24, far too young, leaving his wife and 2 yr old son (my dad) and his brother and sister. He had just had leave and gone back on duty. When flying with Lancaster number PB533 on 22nd December 1944 they were diverted on the way home to Metheringham air base because of fog at Conningsby but unfortunately there was also fog at Metheringham and they crashed into a copse of trees. All the airmen had moved to the front of the plane to help see their way to land and all died; only the rear gunner stayed at the back of the plane and he survived.
Obviously I never meet my grandad but he lives on in my dad and me, I have done a lot of research into him and feel very close to him now and know him. I find his story very sad but will always keep his memory alive. We visit his grave regularly he is buried in Hampstead Norreys cemetery. He will never be forgotten, or the other airmen he died with. I have visited another one of the airman's grave that was onboard and hope to visit the others that I can get too.Teresa Lewis
F/Lt. William Elliott Siddle DFC. 9 SqdnWilliam E. Siddle, known as “Bill” came from Penrith, Cumberland, where he worked in the family hotel. He joined the RAF in 1941 or 1942 aged 22 and was trained to fly by the United States Army at their Flying School at Moody Field, Georgia, receiving his pilot’s Flying Certificate on 9th October 1942.
He was a Flight Sergeant when he attended operational flying training at Upper Heyford and he formed his crew there in June 1943:
- Navigator – Flight Sergeant Dick Lodge from Barking
- Wireless Operator – Flight Sergeant Clem Culley from Leicestershire
- Flight Engineer – Flight Sergeant Reg Moseley from Bristol
- Bomb Aimer – Pilot Officer Ken Mills
- Tail Gunner – Clayton Moore (RCAF)
- Mid Upper Gunner – Flight Sergeant Dick Jones from Wallasey
From 21st July 1943 the crew’s first operational posting was with 9 Squadron of 5 Group Bomber Command at Bardney, Lincolnshire. On their 8th mission on 6th September 1943 to Munich the plane was badly hit by flak. Bill was given priority landing as they were losing fuel and they nearly made it back to Bardney but Bill had to put the plane down in a field in Minting when all engines failed. Everyone survived, although Bill lost teeth from being flung through the windscreen; Moseley, Mills and Jones suffered back injuries; Lodge broke his arm getting off the downed plane. Moore was found still in his rear turret under a hedge and he suffered concussion. There is a picture of the crashed ED-975 in Clayton Moore’s book, 'Lancaster Valour'.
Moseley and Mills retired from flying duties as a result of their injuries. Their replacements were:
Flight engineer Alan (Jock) Wilson Bomb aimer Flight Sergeant Alan (Mick) Machin
Dick Jones (who had returned to the crew after recovering from the Minting crash) flew on 2nd December as spare mid-upper gunner with another aircraft (WS/C) which did not return. Gerry Parker, an American from the USAAC, was then added to the crew as mid-upper gunner.
After a first tour of duty (30 missions) the crew applied to join a pathfinder squadron and on the 26th January 1944 they were assigned to 83 pathfinder squadron at Wyton, Cambridgeshire. After a particularly difficult mission to Essen in adverse weather on 26th March 1944, Bill was awarded the DFC. The Squadron relocated to RAF Conningsby and, after a mission on 23rd July to St Vitry le Francoise, Bill was promoted to Flight Lieutenant and a bar was added to his DFC as: “By skilful and evasive tactics, Flight Lieutenant Siddle manoeuvred his aircraft and continued to make a steady run, although his aircraft was plainly visible in the light of flares around the target”.
Bill Siddle remained on active service until the cessation of hostilities having then completed more than 60 operational sorties. His last day of service was 1st April 1946. He died in Grimsby in 1970 aged 48.Peter Fuller
W/O Richard Lodge DFM. 83 SquadromRichard Lodge DFM came from Barking and was a navigator in bomber command from 21st July 1943. His first posting was to 9 squadron at Bardney, but he transferred in April 1944 to 83 Squadron Pathfinders at Conningsby. He eventually completed 60 missions and was demobbed at the end of hostilities. He subsequently worked at Heathrow and died on 23 Nov 1977.
An Account of most of his service is in Lancaster Valour by Clayton Moore
Flt.Sgt. Clem Culley 83 SquadronClem Culley came from Loughborough and was wireless operator in bomber command from 21st July 1943. His first posting was to 9 squadron at Bardney, but he transferred in April 1944 to 83 Squadron Pathfinders at Conningsby. He retired from operational flying in September 1944.
An Account of most of his service is in Lancaster Valour by Clayton Moore
P/O. Clayton C. Moore 83 SquadronClayton Moore came from Prince Albert in Saskatchewan in Canada. He was a rear gunner in Lancaster bombers from 21st July 1943. His first posting was to 9 squadron at Bardney, and on 7th September 1943 he was injured in a crash landing. He transferred in April 1944 to 83 Squadron Pathfinders at Conningsby. He eventually completed 45 missions but, due to belated after effects of injuries sustained in the crash landing in 1943 he resigned his commission in November 1944.
He went back to Canada but later returned to England and married Edith Jones, the widow of mid-upper gunner Dick Jones of the same aircrew, and settled in West Hartlepool.
Clayton Moore is author of Lancaster Valour, an account of his wartime service.
Alan "Jock" Wilson DFM. 83 SquadronFlight engineer Alan (Jock) Wilson from Glasgow flew in Lancaster bombers with 9 squadron. In February 1944 he transferred to 83 Pathfinder Squadron and continued until January 1945. He was awarded the DFM. After the war he moved to Nottingham where he died on 13th Dec 1981.
Part of his service is recorded by Clayton Moore in his book Lancaster Valour
Flt.Sgt. Alan "Mick" Machin 83 SquadronBomb aimer, Flight Sergeant Alan (Mick) Machin came from Spennymoor in Co. Durham. He completed 48 sorties in Lancasters, first with 9 Squadron and then with 83 Pathfinder Squadron and then transferred out of operational flying in October 1944. He left the RAF in 1949.
Gerry Parker DFM. 83 SquadronAmerican citizen Gerry Parker was a student at Oxford University at the outbreak of war and he subsequently joined the RAF as a mid-upper gunner. He served in 9 Squadron until February 1944 when he transferred to 83 Pathfinder Squadron. He was awarded the DFM. He transferred to the US 8th Army Air Corps in June 1944.
F/O. Alan McDonald DFM. 83 SquadronAlan McDonald came from Marble Mountain in Nova Scotia. He was a wireless operator serving on Lancaster bombers in 83 Pathfinder Squadron and was awarded the DFC. He remained in service until the end of hostilities in 1945, and then worked for ICI in Billingham. He married in 1947 to Bunty, the sister of his pilot, WE (Bill) Siddle, and they later emigrated to Marble Mountain where Alan set up business in radio repair. They had six children.
Part of his service is recorded by Clayton Moore in his book Lancaster Valour
W/O. J. J. "Paddy" Blanche 227 SquadronLancaster mid-upper gunner Paddy Blanche was from Northern Ireland. Having completed a tour of operations in N Africa, he joined 83 Pathfinder Squadron in 1944 before transferring in June 1944 to 617 (Dambusters) Squadron. Subsequently Paddy served in 227 squadron and was discharged on 12th December 1945. He died in London in the 1970s. Part of his service is recorded by Clayton Moore in his book Lancaster Valour
Thomas William Jordan 61 Sqdn.My late father, TomJordan served as navigator on Lancasters in 61 Squadron during 1943 - 45 prior to being transferred to Burma where he served on Dakotas.
He was the only Englishman on an otherwise all Canadian crew and, while he didn't like to talk about his experiences, he did tell a tale of having to bail out upon return from a mission over Germany because his plane was too damaged to land. They had lost all ability to navigate other than eyesight and dead reckoning so when they were over UK mainland they pointed the plane out into the North Sea and bailed out. They landed and were arrested by the home guard in Filey, North Yorkshire and when the North Yorkshire police phoned RAF Conningsby the following morning to confirm their story the base commander's only question was "What the bloody hell are you doing in Yorkshire?"Andy Jordan
Des Evans 97 Sqdn.I served with 97 Squadron RAF in 1943-45 at Coningsby and in 1945-47 at RAF Luqa, Malta.Des Evans
Des Evans 97 Sqdn.I served in 97 Squadron from April 1943 until February 1945, and then went overseas to Luqa in Malta, until demob in February 1947. All my memories are with 97 at Bourn, Cambridgeshire until April 1944 when we moved to Coningsby.
I was a fitter 2E on Lancasters and had the privilege of servicing a Lancaster for one of the RAFs great bomber pilots with a smashing crew - Wing Commander `Ted' Porter who, returning from leave two days early on 16/17th August 1944, took a scratch crew on a minelaying raid on Stettin. Tragically, all were killed.Des Evans
Lester StennerI lived in Lincoln during WWII. My father was stationed at Waddington, Swinderby, Skellingthorpe and Coningsby.Lester Stenner
Available at discounted prices.
Clayton MooreA very readable account of service in bomber command by Clayton Moore, RCAF, a tail-end gunner serving in Lancasters through 1943 and 1944. His first tour of duty was in 9 Squadron but he and his crew then transferred to 83 Pathfinder Squadron for a second tour until the effects of an injury sustained in a crash landing forced Clayton to stand down.More information on:
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