What's New on the 97 Squadron, Black Thursday, & PFF Websites
Email Addresses: jennie.gray@97squadron.co.uk or jennie.gray@firebynight.co.uk

The Pathfinders, 97 Squadron, & Black Thursday
Please be aware that due to various changes to the website over the years, some of the links in the entries below are no longer working. If you cannot find a page you want, just email me (email address above) and I will send you the new link.

WHAT'S NEW ARCHIVE - March 2006 to May 2009
1 November 2012 - Website Transfers
This website and its associated websites on the Pathfinders and Black Thursday have been running in one form or another for nearly twelve years now. It is high time that they were smartened up, reorganised and updated on an entirely new website platform.

This perilous process has now been embarked upon. The three existing websites will continue to function for months to come, but in the meantime new pages, news and updates, will take place on the new site www.RAF-Pathfinders.

There will be a form on the new website which you can use to contact us, or please continue to email to the usual addresses, all of which can be found on the new site.

We would be very glad of any comments!

Best wishes


6 August 2012
Although the website has once again not been updated for some months, all is not static behind the scenes. I am now catching up with some of the new information and photographs which have come in.

Firstly, we have been fortunate to be contacted by Jim Penny, who was shot down in November 1943. Jim has given us new information about the shooting-down, together with a photograph taken in August 1943 just before his first operation from Bourn. Please see Penny crew.

Secondly, David Layne has managed to track down a superb picture of 97 Squadron's CO for much of 1943, Group Captain Noel Fresson, usually dubbed 'Press on Fresson'. It is published here by kind permission of Anthony Fresson, Noel Fresson's son. See Commanding Officers.

There will be another update shortly with some more new information.

22nd April 2012
First of all, my sincere apologies for not updating this website for four months. I have been so busy completing my mammoth book on Anthony Cotterell and in studying for a Masters in War, State and Society, that there has been no time for RAF matters.

This is about to change completely, as for the next four months I am dedicating my time to my Masters dissertation on 97 Squadron, and in the process of writing this I will be sorting out all the material on 97 Squadron which has been collected, via this website, over the last 10 years. It is proposed that this material will then be offered to a museum for their archives. This has always been the plan, and the only reason why it has not yet been accomplished is that there aren't enough hours in the day.

My dissertation on 97 Squadron will be supervised by Professor Richard Overy, one of Britian's top historians, and I am delighted that he will be advising on this subject which is so close to all our hearts.

Speaking of closeness and hearts, the latest news on the 97 Squadron memorials at Bourn and Hardwick is now on the memorial page. It includes information on how to make donations, and how it is  now proposed that the dedication ceremony will be held in June of next year, in order to ensure that we can have a Lancaster flypast.

Lastly, I have now updated the Armstrong crew page with a picture of David Williams, the w/op. We now have all the crew with the exception of the pilot himself, George Wesley Armstrong.

David Williams grandson, Mark Hart, has also set up his own beautifully designed tribute to David, which can be found on:
21st December
As many of you will know by now, there are plans afoot for a memorial to 97 Squadron at Bourn.

David Layne has identified the photograph of Lancasters moving towards the runway (see entry for 16th December) as being a still from "Night Bombers", a film made in 1943 about No. 1 Group Bomber Command at RAF Hemswell in Lincolnshire.  Though it is not of Bourn, it is entirely representative of what these extremely dramatic massings of Lancasters prior to a raid were like.

It only remains to wish you all a Happy Christmas and a very good 2012!


16th December
It is the 68th Anniversary of Black Thursday, on 16-17 December 1943. Please remember our crews, and all the other crews who were lost.
This photograph of a squadron of Lancasters moving towards the runway prior to an operation is so evocative of just such an evening as Black Thursday.

15th December
An update on the charming Valentine from a Lancaster Crew Member which we put on the site 2 years ago.

6th December
I have today added a page for the Callan crew, all of whom were killed in March 1944.

30th October
I have today added a page for the Treacy crew, who were one of the very small band where an entire crew survived their tour. To see other survivors, go to the Survivors Page.

26th October
Time marches on, and there has been a large gap in updating the website due to my finishing my book on the soldier-journalist Anthony Cotterell. This will be published next summer, and more details will be on the website then.
Anyway, back to RAF matters. I am now having to try to pick up the pieces after a long gap, so will be doing updates as and when I work out where I last left off.

Today I have added details about Jim Copus of the Cooper crew, with an extract from his story of what happened when he was taken prisoner out of baling out of his burning Lancaster.

July 17th
Off to graduate in a minute (!), but just posting an additional page for the Comans crew.

July 2nd
Two crews who became interlinked by the rear gunner John Roberts were the Flack crew, which flew on Black Thursday, and the Wakley crew, which did not although they had been posted to the squadron at the beginning of December 1943.

After a shameful delay of many, many years, at last the memorial to the crews of Bomber Command will be built. Follow this link for the latest news:
Bomber Command Memorial

June 27th
The Uni course is finally over, and for anyone who is vaguely interested I got a First!
So now it is back to trying to get these three great sprawling websites into some kind of order. There is a huge backlog of things to do, and much research to finish, so please be patient if you are waiting for an update.
The latest crew page is one for the Allison crew, who were lost without trace at the end of January 1944.

May 8th
A long hiatus on this site whilst I have been finishing off my BA in History. I have done my dissertation on 97 Squadron (what else?!) and some of this work will form the nucleus of the long-promised study of 97 Squadron during the Pathfinder year which should hit the bookshelves in 2012, all being well.
I have a week of exams to go, and then will be making some major additions to this site. To anyone who has been waiting patiently to see material which they have sent in appear, my sincere apologies. Updates will begin towards the end of May.

January 16th
A new page has been set up for Hank Jeffery, who was lost with 97 Squadron's CO on D-Day. The page includes a brief biography of Jeffery by Ian Goodall, who knew his mother well, and additional photographs (courtesy of Bruce Blanche) of Jeffery's time in 9 Squadron, including fascinating photographs of him with the famous Lancaster 'Spirit of Russia'.

December 16th, 67th Anniversary of Black Thursday
The night of the anniversary of Black Thursday always means a great deal to me. And this year the date actually does fall on a Thursday. For the full story, see our sister site: http://www.firebynight.co.uk/Intro%20Black%20Thursday.html
The Brill crew was the only crew lost over Germany that night. Reports made after the war tell of the fate of the crew, see Brill page.
Please also take the time to look at the Black Thursday Memorial Page and reflect on the cost in young men's lives.

November 28th
Last update prior to my moving house. I hope to be back online in mid-December.
New information has come in about the Stevenson crew, lost in September 1943. For a photo of John Malaber, the mid-upper gunner, we are indebted to David Pickering. There is also new information on the crew, and their encounter with a Messerschmidt in June.
Also we have received most interesting information on Kit Highton of the Leader crew, and I have also added a photograph of Candy from the same crew. With many thanks to Ted Joynt and Brian Pears

November 7th
We at last have a photograph of Hank Jeffery - well, two actually, one from David Layne and one from Ian Goodall. This leaves only two members of the Carter crew to find, Dunning and Watson. Many thanks, David and Ian.

November 3rd 2010,
We at last have a photograph of Robert Leader, lost from 635 Squadron, and more photos and information to come. Many thanks to Ted Joynt.
Mick O'Donnell from Canberra, Australia, has kindly sent a photograph of pilot Geoffrey Charles Bucknell, who was killed with all but one of his crew in July 1944. Many thanks, Mick.
Other news is that I have finally begun to collate all the masses of material which will go to make up the 97 Squadron in-depth study. Click here for more information on this project.

August 15th 2010
Glyn Elston has sent a number of excellent modern-day photographs of crew graves or memorials. These are those for the Coates crew.

July 19th 2010
A very long gap since the website was updated, but I am currently sorting through a lot of new material which should be live on the site next week. Sincere apologies for the delay to anyone who has sent stuff in

May 2nd 2010 - 2nd entry
Not only a new laptop but a new version of the software. I am seeing a couple of oddities creeping into old website pages because of this and will fix them as I see them, but if you see any yourself please let me know.
A further change today is some amendments to the Roberts crew page.

May 2nd 2010
Oh the pains of trying to make a new laptop work! I am behind with my schedule of updates because of this.
However, today I have added further photographs of the Armstrong crew, together with incredible photographs of the aftermath of the shooting down of their Lancaster over the city of Utrecht. 

April 24th 2010
Less than 24 hours after setting up the new Comans crew page, the mystery of what happened to the navigator Bowes was solved. Have a look at the bottom of the Comans crew page.

April 18th 2010
Its always good to find a crew who made it through all the horrors of the bombing campaign, and left for a new life in the training units or on other non-combatant postings. The Comans crew was one of these.

April 15th 2010
A number of additions will be made over the next week, starting with a page for the Stevenson crew which was shot down on the same day as the Fletcher crew in September 1943. Unlike the Fletcher crew, no one on the Stevenson crew survived.
I have also added some more information on the Snell crew, including a photo of the rear gunner on Black Thursday, Oliver Derek Wood.

January 10th 2010
I have added a page for 635 Squadron, to which several crews transferred from 97 Squadron in March of 1944. A number of these had flown on Black Thursday.
I have also finally found a photograph of the Snell crew. Though of very poor quality, I am hoping to get a better version of this soon. I am going to do a check on all the Black Thursday crews shortly, but so far as photographs of the pilots are concerned the only ones now missing are Brill and Flack - there is a photograph of Pelletier in the Australian archives which I should be able to get hold of if I pay them some blood money!

January 7th 2010
After a very torrid - and indeed horrid - time of house-selling and buying, all of which fell through this morning, I have finally managed to get the Van Raalte and Perkins crews online. These two crews were involved in a horrific training accident whilst formation flying in June 1944. Tomorrow I will be adding some photos to the Perkins page.

December 16th
Today is the anniversary of the Black Thursday crashes of 16/17 December 1943. Many people who visit the 97 Squadron site will know of the story of Black Thursday. Those who do not, please follow the link to the Memorial Page which has links to all the crew pages. Please remember all these very young men in your thoughts.
Over the following couple of weeks I will be doing some much needed updates to the site. So see you again soon. Jennie

October 3rd

Today I have added:-

        New photographs on James Parker McMillin, of the Moore crew, whose loss was described so movingly in Joan Beech's book.
        And new photographs of James Benbow, of the <spstyle="color:#8000ff;">Deverill crew</span>, together with a trophy card of an earlier operation of the Deverill crew in September 1942.

August 30th 2009, Part II.
I have now included photographs of Datta, the navigator, on the Palmer crew page. Many thanks to Jayeeta (Joyee Purkayasha).

August 13th 2009, Part II.
I have now included information on Operation Exodus, flown at the end of the war by 97 Squadron Lancasters who were collecting former PoWs from the camps.
Many thanks to David Layne for spotting that the Lancaster was a 97 Squadron one, and to Alex Bateman for the wonderful Beasley photograph - Beesley was with the Fletcher crew.

August 13th 2009
With sincere apologies for a long absence due to working on the Anthony Cotterell book. I am now beginning a long overdue series of updates.
The first update is a series of moving photographs on the graves of the Mansbridge crew at Heverlee Cemetery, taken by Graham Smith. 
And now a question. Does anyone know which church has the stained glass window memorial to Cliff Chatten and Bomber Command? - see the end of the Chatten page for the window.

Kevin Bending - call for info
I wonder if you could include an appeal about Flying Officer Jack Bendix DFC. He was killed on 13th July 1945, shortly after joining 97 Squadron, when his Lancaster crashed at Coningsby when trying to take off for a training flight. His grave is in a poor state at St Laurence's Church in Skellingthorpe. I would be keen to find out more about him and, here's a test for you (!) find a photo of him.

June 27th 2009
University term just about over, and the place is awash with Swine Flu so I won't be going in again if I can help it.

On a more serious note, I have just added a page for the Crew of F/Lt Seward, lost over Belgium in June 1943. The page is well worth reading for the very moving tribute made by a local Belgium dignitary at the dedication of a memorial to the crew. The memorial itself is most impressive, and the image of the broken aircraft is one which I personally find very attractive.
With many thanks to the son of the navigator, Eric Sanderson, and his neighbour John Woodhead.

June 9th 2009
My final exams for this year, so what happens? - the blessed email system breaks down. It should all be working again this afternoon, but if you are still having trouble getting in touch please email me at work at jennie.gray@cogito.co.uk.