In Memoriam

Sadly the following members have died since publication of the last newsletter. We extend our deepest sympathy to their families and friends.

W C Brown

F Dawson

I P Gill

J Hall DFC

E Hartley DFC

E Hedley DFM

T N Tetley

Bill Brown
19 November 1911 - 4 October 2015

Our Senior member, Bill Brown, died at the end of October 2015, just three weeks short of his 104th birthday. He was a remarkable man, not just because of his great age, but because he brought joy to all those who shared time with him. He was an active member of the Association to the very end and attended the dedication of the new Bomber Command Memorial on 2nd October at Lincoln.

He served in the RAF during WW2 but carved out a history for himself which is astonishing in it’s content and variety. Already 28 when war broke out, he volunteered for active service in 1940, as the Battle of Britain began. He was commissioned as a signals officer and assigned to a training course at RAF Cranwell, but, while awaiting the course, he was sent to hold at RAF Benson and familiarise himself with the role of a signals officer on an RAF Station. Instead, because of his knowledge of firearms, he was checked out on the gun turret of a Fairey Battle and flew one combat sortie during the Battle with a Polish Air Force pilot who spoke no recognisable english. They flew over the south of England for two hours, searching for enemy aircraft, but returned to base empty handed.

After completing his training he was posted to RAF Waddington as 44 Squadron was becoming operational with the new Lancaster bomber. Out at the dispersal one cold, wet February evening, as the Lancasters were preparing for takeoff, he boarded an aircraft to deal with an equipment unserviceability and became so engrossed with his work that when he extracted himself from behind the pilot’s seat he was told by the pilot, who was unaware that Bill was in the aircraft, that they were airborne and on their way to Germany and he would be flying all the way with them. Unphased by the prospect of being on a dangerous combat operation, without a parachute, his main concern was the extreme cold he had to endure for eight hours. ‘Absolutely the coldest night of my life’, he explained at one reunion!

Another comment he made about his time at Waddington was that he felt that the war was passing him by and, at about the same time as his inadvertent visit to Berlin, he volunteered for special duties, unspecified, when a request for personnel with his qualifications appeared in Station Routine Orders. His action resulted in him being trained as a commando in Scotland and he became a founder member of the RAF Servicing Commando, a completely new force designed to open and operate airfields in the bridgeheads of amphibious invasion operations. After landing on the North African beaches as part of Operation Torch, Bill served with the RAF in Sicily and Italy, opening and operating airfields as the Allies advanced until the war ended in 1945. The story of this phase of his service life was written by Bill after the war and has been preserved for safe keeping by our secretary.

Bill received no recognition for his flight as a qualified Air Gunner during the Battle of Britain or his operational flight over Germany with Bomber Command. Technically, he qualified for both the Battle of Britain and the Bomber Command clasps, to add to his campaign medals, which must be unique in the history of the RAF Engineering Branch.

John Laycock
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Bill Brown doing what he did best

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