Sadly the following members have died since publication of the last newsletter. We extend our deepest sympathy to their families and friends.
Mrs J Hathaway
D J Hickin
Mrs J Rawcliffe
D D Wood
Charles Leonard Woolly
From Geraldine Dent
My father, former Flight Engineer John Dent, 2206473, passed away on 25th June. He was 95 and had had a difficult few months and was ready to head to the skies and find one of his beloved Lancasters
War Veteran James Froud
An extract from an obituary posted in the East Anglian Daily Times
James Froud, a young plumber, became a rear gunner with RAF Bomber Command. He flew in Ansons, Wellingtons, Stirlings and Lancasters. A survivor of 30 wartime missions, he served with 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron at Dunholme Lodge in the summer of 1944, before transferring to a Pathfinder squadron at Conningsby.
His nephew, a resident of Australia, recalled a visit to Canberra by his uncle, during which they went to see the Australian War Memorial, where there is a Lancaster bomber on display. "Jim in his quiet and unassuming way helped out the tour guide, explaining some of the finer points of the aircraft. The tour showed its appreciation of Jim's efforts with a round of applause - particularly as they were made aware of his RAF service as a rear gunner on the aircraft. Jim, with his quiet persona, was a touch embarrassed with this response but nonetheless pleased.”
For a rear gunner like Jim, flying over occupied territory was a lonely and exposed experience. With a heavy bomber such as the Lancaster, Jim had to squeeze into a tight goldfish-bowl of an unheated perch at the very tail of the plane. As the bombs fell, the fires burned below and the smoke and flak rose, his view must surely have been like looking into the mouth of hell.
Jim's flying log tells in short handwritten sentences the stories he rarely expressed verbally. July 26 1944, over Lyons, France: “Engine badly damaged. Petrol tank holed.” Another entry, over Wesserling in north-eastern France: “Hit by flak. Seventy holes.” The heavy bomber squadron with which he served, No. 44, is said to have suffered the third-highest number of casualties within RAF Bomber Command. On one July night in 1944 they had to abort an attack on Stuttgart when they lost an engine. The pilot reported: "Turned back because it was impossible to climb or maintain correct speed on three engines.” The next night: "We were fired on by another bomber on return route and sustained considerable damage.” Danger was ever-present and life a lottery. No wonder many servicemen tried afterwards to bury their memories in the dark corners of their minds.
Jim began a seven-year apprenticeship in plumbing at the age of 14, helped by a bursary. His mother, Avis, died when he was 17. As soon as Jim finished his apprenticeship, he volunteered for the RAF and joined Bomber Command in 1943. September and October saw him on a gunnery course at RAF Stormy Down, west of Bridgend in Wales. He then spent a few months at other airfields in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire before joining No. 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron at RAF Dunholme Lodge, near Lincoln. Lancaster bombers had recently arrived on the airfield. At the end of August 1944, Jim began a 14-month spell with No. 83 Squadron at RAF Coningsby, in Lincolnshire. It was part of the Pathfinder Force - aircraft that flew out to the target ahead of the main force and laid flares to improve the bombers' accuracy. Pathfinders would often return to the target area after the raid, taking photographs and assessing the success of the mission. This activity would have increased the chances of being shot down by enemy fighters or anti-aircraft fire.
A family member said that one of the biggest upsets for Jim was that Winston Churchill effectively turned his back on Bomber Command after the war. There had been little mention in Churchill's Victory in Europe speech of its achievements and sacrifices. Bomber Command's supporters pointed to the fact the raids shortened the conflict by weakening the Nazi war capability and tying up forces that might otherwise have been sent to do damage elsewhere. The controversy may have been one of the reasons that her father was reluctant to talk about the war for many years afterwards. The planned campaign medal for aircrew like him had also failed to be struck in the aftermath of the conflict.
Six years ago the Government offered a clasp, rather than a medal. Jim was very derogatory about that, in common with many veterans and their families. The Royal Air Force Bomber Command Memorial was unveiled in London's Green Park seven years ago this month. Jim could have attended the ceremony, but didn't feel well enough to sit through it all. However, he was taken there the following weekend and he considered the memorial entirely appropriate.
Jim died peacefully at Haughgate House on June 8. He was 97 years of age. He’s described as a very quiet man with a determined nature; a serious person always friendly and helpful, and a true gentleman who lived by traditional values. He was also noted for his very dry sense of humour. He will be remembered for the love and care he showed his family and friends.
Mrs Joyce Rawcliffe died peacefully in her sleep in the early hours of 21st February 2019 at Glenholme Holdingham Grange Care Home, Sleaford. She was the widow of John Hardman Rawcliffe (also known as Jack Rawcliffe) who was a flight engineer on Lancasters during the Second World War and a member of No 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron. Joyce and her husband retired to Heckington, Linconshire, around 35 years ago and were active members of the RAF society, attending many events at Bomber Command prior to her husband’s death in 2003.
Joyce Rawcliffe left 50% of her estate (estimated at over £150,000) to the RAF Benevolent Fund. The executors of the estate are Sills & Betteridge Solicitors in Sleaford. Her funeral took place on Friday 22nd March at 12.30pm at Grantham Crematorium.
David Detroy Wood joined the Royal Air Force in 1967, at the age of 19, as an apprentice radio/radar fitter. His first posting was to RAF Church Fenton, but he was soon successful in his application to become airman aircrew. He trained as an Air Electronics Operator (AEOp) at RAF Topcliffe, then completed Nimrod Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) training at RAF St Mawgan. He was posted to the Nimrod MR2, No 120 Squadron at RAF Kinloss from 1970 to 1974.
Dave instructed on the Nimrod OCU at RAF St Mawgan from 1974 to 1976, before transferring to the Nimrod R1 with No 51 Squadron at RAF Wyton. In 1978 he completed officer training at RAF Henlow and was then posted to No 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron as an AEO on the Vulcan B2. When 44 Squadron was disbanded in 1982, Dave was posted back to RAF Kinloss and instructed in the Nimord simulator until 1984. From 1984 to 1988 he was a watchkeeper at the Joint Operations Control Centre (JOCC) and Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) at Episkopi in Cyprus. Dave’s final tour in the RAF was as a Flight Commander for Initial Officer Training at the RAF College Cranwell.
After retiring from the RAF in 1991, where his final dining-out night coincided with his son’s Initial Officer Training dining-in night, Dave went on to run a successful guesthouse in Ryde, on the Isle of Wight. He became a Justice of the Peace and was a respected and reliable magistrate in the island’s judiciary. Dave retired from his magistrate duties at the age of 70.
In his spare time Dave was a keen sailor. Qualifying as an RYA Yachtmaster with the Royal Air Force Sailing Association, he undertook numerous expeditions as both skipper and crew. He was also proud to be a member of MENSA. Dave passed away peacefully at St Marys hospital, Newport, on 17 July 2019.
Charles Leonard Woolly
We are grateful to the IBCC for notifying us of the death of Charles Woolley in their July 2019 newsletter. Although Charles was not a member of this Association, it is possible that some of our members may remember him.
On the 9th May Keith and Sheila Woolley, from Cheshire, visited the International Bomber Command Centre (IBCC) in Lincoln to mark the anniversary of Keith’s father, Plt Off Charles Leonard Woolley, a Wireless Operator with 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron. Charles was killed on the night of 9th/10th May 1944 during an operation to bomb the Gnome and Rhone engine works near Paris.
He lies at peace, alongside his crew, at Evreux Communal Cemetery, France. Mr and Mrs Woolley brought a collection of photographs and documents with them and the Collections team at the Centre digitised them during their visit. These items will be added to the IBCC Digital Archive once they have been processed by the team at Riseholme.
The visit proved to be very emotional but knowing that all of Charles’s items have been preserved gave comfort.