Category Archives: Other Squadrons’ activities

In memory of Sgt Jimmy Thornton

As we spend the day remembering and giving thanks to those who gave their lives in conflict, I thought it timely to share another poem that was included in my grandfather’s collection of war memorabilia.

As with the last poem I published, I am not sure of the author. It is unlikely that my grandfather was the author, as the poem makes reference to time spent in Canada and Harrogate. Broody was not stationed at either of these locations.

“Jimmy”

(In memory of Sgt Jimmy Thornton)

From forty one to forty three
We lived our lives as one.
We trained and talked, drank and walked.
Our lives were in the sun.

From Blackpool, Brid to Heaton Park
And Aston Down as well.
Each station brought us near our goal
‘Though some of it was hell.

Wintered in Canadian snows
Our brevets and tapes to earn.
Then back home to Harrogate
And still much more to learn.

Then the parting of the ways,
Our paths no more to cross.
From OTU to HCU
Then a crew for a squadron loss.

We flew, we fought by night and day
Our duty must be done
Without a thought for future years
Till the fight was won.

I tried to found out where you’d gone,
‘Gone missing ‘, so they said.
Then I found in later years
Your name among the dead.

Your name is now emblazoned
On Runnymede’s great wall
In letters clear of shinning gold
Your death reminds us all –

You lie in some forgotten field
Or in a watery grave.
Now I, who live, am humbled
By your young life you gave.

I’m sure you’ll agree this is a very moving piece of writing – a personal tribute from one airman to another who trained together and then went their separate ways to fight in the air war.

Some research of the CWGC database only lists one James Thornton as remembered on the Runnymede Memorial [Panel 277], a Sgt. James Dennis Thornton (1317255) of 36 Squadron.

For much of the war, 36 Squadron had been based in the Mediterranean and North African theatres, but in January 1945 the Squadron was flying Wellington Mk XIVs out of RAF Chivenor, on Anti-Submarine patrols with RAF Coastal Command.

The Squadron’s Operations Record Book for 24/i/45 reports that at 01:39, aircraft NB880 took off on patrol duty LV42. The crew for that flight were:

F/Lt Walter George Edward Becker (62695)
F/O Harry Edwin Hastings (189139)
F/Lt Stanley Walton (125847)
W/O Henry Thomas Large (1384700)
F/Sgt James Murray Smith Richie (656758)
Sgt James Dennis Thornton (1317255)

There is no “Down” time recorded in the ORB. The entry reads:

“This aircraft failed to return. F/Lt Becker and his crew are missing. Later reports state that a fire was seen at sea. P/407 sighted oil patches and wreckage (thought to be pieces of fabric) in position 5302N 0450W.”

(This is a position approximately 18 Nautical Miles SSW of RAF Valley on Anglesey)

Please spare some time today to remember, among the thousands of others, these 6 young men who have no grave except the Irish Sea and who gave their lives so we could have a better tomorrow.

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Stanley Alfred Isham – 463 (RAAF) Squadron

As there is a bit of a lull in Broody’s flying logs for a couple of weeks, I thought I’d go off on a bit of a tangent and share the following story with you.

An old friend commented on a photo of Broody that I posted on Facebook on the 70th Anniversary of D Day. She said:

“My great uncle was a navigator on a Lancaster – part of an Australian squadron – unfortunately he and his crew (3 Aussies, 4 Brits) didn’t make it. He was with 463 squadron. I don’t really know much of his story; he didn’t fly many missions before being shot down at the age of 21. I have his crew list; they are all buried in Liesse Communal Cemetery. One guy was 33 but the others ranged in age from 19 to 23. I have a pic of 6 of the 7 of them standing in front of a Lancaster, and another pic of their graves”

The temptation to delve into the story was too great to resist, so armed only with a name and a place of interment, I set out to see what I could discover about Fg Off Stanley Alfred Isham.

This is what I found:

He enlisted in the RAFVR between Apr/Oct 1941 . His service number was  1610904.

He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer (General Duties Branch) from Leading Aircraftman on 30/04/43. His Commissioned service number was 151994. (Gazetted 13/07/43 – P3162)

He was promoted to War Substantive Flying Officer on 30/10/43 (Gazetted 05/11/43 – P4863)

I could not find any record of him with any Operational Training Units or Conversion Units, but knew from the initial information I had that he was posted to 463(RAAF) Squadron at RAF Waddington. There is no record of his arrival in the ORB for 463 Squadron, but he was not part of C Flight, 467 (RAAF) Squadron who formed the initial core of 463 in November 1943. Based on flights by McKnight as 2nd Pilot in December 1943, it is likely that was his date of arrival.

In total, he flew 7 Operational missions as detailed below. The first 6 were successfully completed, but the final flight on 25/02/44 was sadly the one he did not return from. There are no corresponding Luftwaffe / German AA claims for this aircraft, so most likely cause was a crash due to AC failure

DATE AC SERIAL CODE TARGET TIME UP TIME DOWN
05&06/01/44 DV274 JO-R STETTIN 00:11 09:05
14&15/01/44 JA973 JO-O BRUNSWICK 17:09 22:50
15&16/02/44 LL790 JO-O BERLIN 17:35 00:43
19&20/02/44 DV280 JO-S LEIPZIG 00:01 07:14
20&21/02/44 DV280 JO-S STUTTGART 00:03 06:55
24&25/02/44 LL790 JO-O SCHWEINFURT 20:40 04:26
25&26/02/44 DV274 JO-R AUSBERG 18:45 DNR

The crew of DV274 on 26/02/44, were as follows:

RANK NAME ROLE SERVICE #
PO Kevin Harold McKnight (Pilot) 415347
FO Stanley Alfred Isham (Navigator) 151994
FO Clifford James Johnson (Bomb Aimer) 418425
Flt Sgt Stanley James Nelson (Wireless Operator Air Gunner) 410710
Sgt Leslie William Roberts (Flight Engineer) 1603695
Sgt Thomas Winn (Air Gunner) 938040
Sgt Kenneth Linford (Air Gunner) 1477129

 

All done with the power of the Internet – Thanks to all those who helped! What I did discover is that the National Archives in Australia have made publically available some ORBs for RAAF Squadrons. The national Archives in Kew should take note of this insightful step by the Aussies, as it makes historical research a lot easier and more accessible to all! You can search these records at http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/search/

So now we know a bit more about Stan Isham’s war time service – but can we expand on the story and fill in the gaps between enlistment in 1941, through training and conversion until he joined 463 (RAAF) Squadron in early 1944? And of course there is the photograph that Nic shared with me. The photo is not annotated, but can we identify the others in the picture?

Stan Isham (2nd from right) and his crew-mates in front of aircraft DV274 (JO-R) of 463(RAAF) Squadron.

Stan Isham (2nd from right) and his crew-mates in front of aircraft DV274 (JO-R) of 463(RAAF) Squadron.


Operation Jerichco – Attack on Amiens prison

On 18/ii/44, Nineteen Mosquito Mk.VI Fighter Bomber aircraft of 487, 464 ,21 Squadrons and the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit carried out an attack on Amiens Prison. 487 (New Zealand) and 464 (Australia) Squadrons were both Article XV squadrons.

For a good account of this Operation, I suggest you read this article on the RAF website


487(NZ) Squadron also in action on this day

The linked post below is from The People’s Mosquito blog, and records a daylight precision attack on the Gestapo Headquarters at Aarhus in Denmark by 487(NZ) squadron who operated Mosquito FB.Mk.VI’s

This mission took place on 31/x/44

487(NZ) Squadron raid at Aarhus