Tag Archives: Wellington

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.


Summary for August 1944

SUMMARY for AUGUST

TOTAL MOSQUITO DAY 12H15M
TOTAL OXFORD DAY 9H45M
TOTAL WELLINGTON DAY 12H50M
TOTAL DAY FLYING 34H50M
TOTAL MOSQUITO NIGHT 27H45M
TOTAL NIGHT OPERATIONS 27H45M

Training on the new A/I Mk. X system saw an increase in day flying hours for Broody this month – up from 9:10 in July. Night Operational hours were also up by just over 7 hours, which equates to an additional 2 patrols this month.

Again, this month was, the most successful to date for the Squadron, with a total of seventeen enemy aircraft destroyed and four damaged.

The ORB reports that this tally is just one less than the previous best month (July 1944), and put 488(NZ) Squadron on top of the leader board for 85 Group.

Enemy aircraft were destroyed by the following pilots during the month.

F/Lt AE Brown – 4
F/Lt GE Jameson – 2
F/Lt  PFL Hall – 2
W/Cdr RC Haine – 1
W/O TGC Mackay – 1
W/O GS Patrick – 1
F/O AL Shaw – 1
F/Sgt TA Maclean – 1
F/Lt JAS Hall – 1
F/O OJ McCabe – 1
F/O RG Jeffs – 1
F/O DN Robinson – 1

(See entries 37 to 53 on the Squadron Victories page for more detail)


26/viii/44 – A/I Mk X Exercises III, IV & V

26th August 14:40
VICKERS ARMSTRONG WELLINGTON XI MP535 (A/I Mk X)
Pilot: F/Lt Smith RAAF
Instructor: F/O Keating RAAF
U/T Navigator (R): Self
U/T Navigator (R) F/Lt Watson DFC
U/T Navigator (R): F/S Brock
U/T Navigator (R): F/O Grant
A/I Mk X – EXERCISE III
A/I U/S. Stalling “demonstration” by pilot
1:10

17:40
VICKERS ARMSTRONG WELLINGTON XI MP525/G (A/I Mk X)
Pilot: F/Lt Hollowell AFC
Instructor: F/O Keating RAAF
U/T Navigator (R): Self
U/T Navigator (R) F/Lt Watson DFC
U/T Navigator (R): F/O Grant
U/T Navigator (R): F/S Brock
A/I Mk X – EXERCISE III
Crossing contacts with elevation difference
A/I Mk X – EXERCISE IV
Target weaving in elevation
A/I Mk X – EXERCISE V
Target weaving in Azimuith
Blip interpretation, commentary, handling of controls & simple interception.
2:05

The table below, replicated from Broody’s journal, lists the content of each A/I Mk.X Exercise

Ex. No. Mk. X Exercises

I

Blip-Interpretation, Commentary, handling of Controls

II

Setting-up & Simple Interception on various courses

III

Crossing contacts with Target below Fighter

IV

Target weaving in Elevation

V

Target weaving in Azimuth

VI

Target corkscrewing in Azimuth & Elevation

24/viii/44 – More A/I Mk.X training and a patrol off Le Havre

24th August 14:20
VICKERS ARMSTRONG WELLINGTON XI MP535 (A/I Mk X)
Pilot: F/O Collier
Instructor: F/Lt Clemo DFC
U/T Navigator (R): Self
U/T Navigator (R) F/O Skudder
U/T Navigator (R): F/S Brock
U/T Navigator (R): Sgt Tuffill
A/I Mk X – EXERCISE II
Crossing flights – target straight & level
2:00

19:50
DH Mosquito XIII MM558 ME-E (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
NFT & A/C TEST
All Ok.
0:35

23:45
PATROL – GCI 15121 (Legion)
On North & South line, South East of Le Havre at 8000ft. Lively sea activity, but nothing in the air.
2:40


28/v/44 – Type 16 GCI Practice

28th May 15:10
DH Mosquito XIII MM558 ME-E (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
TYPE 16 PRACTICE – Ventnor
2 runs at 1000ft: 1 run at 200ft: 1 run at 0ft – Over the sea off the isle of Wight – Excellent runs.
2:05

Sadly, later in the evening of 28/v/44, one of 488 Squadron’s aircraft shot down in error 2 Wellingtons, under the firm belief that they were enemy aircraft. To add to the confusion, it had been reported that Luftwaffe aircraft were coming in with Allied bombers.


7/i/44 – Bullseye Exercise and Patrol

7th January 14:35
DH Mosquito XII HK227 ME-E (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: P/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
NFT & Cine-Gun
0:35

19:30
MASS-RAID BULLSEYE & PATROL – Searchlights
12 murders: 4 Lancasters – 3 Halifaxes – 2 Whitleys – 2 Wellingtons – 1 Stirling
8 of them in 22 minutes. All great fun. Blown on our back by a Halifax. “Indications” towards the end, but no joy
2:15

A “Bullseye” exercise was a bombing practice exercise for Allied Bomber Command aircraft. On this occasion, Broody and Jack were able to test their A/I and search & destroy skills amongst a mass of allied bombers. A good result from the crew demonstrate their ability to track down and destroy aircraft extremely well. A casual reference to HK227 being blown onto her back by a Halifax bomber shows both how close these aircraft got to each other, and the skill of Jack Scott in recovering from the situation to ensure they both landed safely. “All great fun”? It sounds frightening to me!

Halifax-mk3

A Halifax Bomber – similar to the one that flipped HK227 onto her back.