Tag Archives: Runnymede Memorial

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.


(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.

25/iii/44 – Loss of F/O C.M. Wilson & F/O A.W. Wilson

Early in the morning of 25/iii/44, Pilot Chisholm Martyn “Chris” Wilson and his un-related namesake and Navigator, Alan William “Kiwi” Wilson went missing while on a coastal patrol in Mosquito HK222. Information from the GCI Sector Operations confirmed that they were closing in on a fleeing Luftwaffe aircraft, and as Hunt puts it, “… just as the ‘Tallyho’ was expected, the plots ceased and nothing more was heard from our crew.” 

Their last known position was off the North Foreland (near Ramsgate in Kent). The ORB later reported that there was “…no evidence available to account for the loss of this crew. A sad blow to ‘A’ Flight and to the Squadron”.

The bodies of the Wilsons, both New Zealanders, were never recovered; and so their names are recorded on the RAF Memorial at Runnymede (Panel 263).

Fg Off Chisholm Martyn "Chris" Wilson, RNZAF

Fg Off Chisholm Martyn “Chris” Wilson, RNZAF


Fg Off Alan William “Kiwi” Wilson, RNZAF

Their names are duly recorded in the Roll of Honour

(Both photos are from the “The Weekly News”sourced from http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/)

25/xi/43 – Loss of S/Ldr Hobbis & P/O Hills

On 25/xi/43, S/Ldr Dudley Hobbis, the Commander of “A” Flight and his Navigator P/O Oliver Hills were killed when after their Port engine caught fire during a Patrol. Hobbis ordered Hills to bail out, and tried to nurse the damaged aircraft back to base. Unfortunately the Starboard engine also failed. The last radio message to control was from Hobbis who said he was also bailing out. Despite an Air Sea Rescue search, neither man was found, and were therefore presumed killed.

The body of P/O Hills was found some eight months later, and he was laid to rest in Epsom Cemetery. The body of S/Ldr Hobbis was never recovered, and his name is recorded on the Runnymede Memorial.

Their names are duly recorded in the Roll of Honour

16/x/43 – Loss of P/O Green & F/Sgt Creek

On 16/x/43, P/O Green and F/Sgt Creek were killed when their aircraft crashed into the River Blackwater near Bradwell Bay.

P/O Green was buried in his hometown of Boston, Lincs on 22/x/43 with members of the Squadron in attendance. The body of F/Sgt Creek was never recovered, and his name is recorded on the Runnymede Memorial.

Their names are duly recorded in the Roll of Honour

15/ix/43 – Loss of F/Lt Gunn & F/O Affleck

15th September 15:50
Bristo Beaufighter VIII MM868 (A/I Mk VIIIA)
Pilot: F/O Hall
Navigator (R): Self
Navigator (R): F/Sgt Riley
A/I Practice
Mk VIII Practice – Weapon Bent

Sadly 15/ix/43 saw the first casualties of Broody’s tour. Jimmy Gunn and Jock Affleck were killed during an exchange of fire with a Heinkel bomber. Leslie Hunt recalls in his history of 488 Squadron “Defence until Dawn” that Gunn and Affleck’s hunt for the enemy aircraft was being monitored on the radio in dispersal. There was enthusiasm all round as Gunn first engaged the target. The Heinkel’s loss was witnessed by airmen at a coastal Radar station, and the news passed back to 488’s dispersal to great excitement. Sadly, nothing further was heard from Gunn, and it soon became aparent that they would not return.

All casualties of 488 Squadron during Broody’s tour appear in the Roll of Honour