103 and 576 Squadrons + No.13 Base

 Members' Announcements

Alison Cheek

A few weeks ago, we learned that member Alison Cheek had passed away late last year, aged 92. A native of Australia, she never lost her accent despite spending a lot of her life in the USA (latterly in North Carolina). She was sister of Air Gunner Malcolm Western RAAF, who was posted as missing on 16 December 1943 and is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. His Identity Disc was found on the site of the old airfield in 2001.


Alison visited the UK and attended the 2004 Reunion and is noted for being one of the first ordained women in the North american Anglican Church. For this she was awarded the accolade of being one of the 'Time Women of the Year' in 1975 and appeared on the front cover of the magazine.

Added 1 July 2020

Margaret Bailey, President

A few days ago, David Bailey advised that his mother, Margaret, slipped away on the afternoon of 12 March, after a short stay in hospital with failing health, folllowing a mild heart attack, early in the year. A full obituary will be published in a future Newsletter.


It had been hoped to hold Margaret's funeral, in Swindon, on Thursday 2 April 2020, but this has now been cancellled, due to the currrent health crisis. A Private cremation will take place on Friday 3 April, with a Memorial Service and Celebration of Margaret's life on a future date, to be determined when the current challenging situation is over.

Added 21 March 2020


Sylvain Blaise
It is with great sadness that the Association learned of the death of French member, Sylvain Blaise. Although he lived in Nancy (Meurthe-et-Moselle) with wife, Raymonde, Sylvain was a leading light in the GHCPC (Geneology and Historical Centre of the Charmes Region), around 25 miles south (in the Vosges Department). He helped reconstruct the story of Joe Moss and the crew of Lancaster PB147,
involving local mayors and others. As a result of this work he made contact with Joe Moss's niece, EWA member Ann Hume, and subsesequently also became a member of the Association  Every year, the society is instrumental in commemoratating the tragic events of July 28/ 29 1944, a night when Elsham Wolds lost eight aircraft. Sylvain also worked with Ann and crew descendants to establish a permanent memorail to the crew in Xaronval, the small village closest to the crash site, which was inaugurated in 2004.

A patriotic Frenchman, Sylvain always saw those who gave their lives to help liberate his native country from Nazi occupation, as being the impetus for a united, modern Europe.

An appreciation will included in the next Newsletter, due for publication in early August.

Added 1 July 2018

John Curnow
Last week the Association received a letter from Joan Curnow, advising that her husband, John, had died in late March. John was the sole survivor in Johnny Roper's crew who were shot down during the night of 9/ 10 March 1943, near Lavannes (12km NE of Rheims) in France. He became a PoW . . . and a serial Escaper, finally gaining freedom on his last attempt, when he hid under a hut in a Prison Camp that was being evacuated, two years later.

Although raised in NW London, John spent most of his post-war life overseas. Initially, India beckoned, where he managed tea plantations, before moving to the USA, iving in both Texas and, more recently, Ohio. Many will fondly remenber John and Joan's attendance at several Reunions, where John's eloquent addresses as a lay preacher were always most apposite. John was a gentleman, in every sense of the word, and one was always aware of his warm personality and engaging presence.

A Memorial Service will be held in his honour on 30th June: the day that would have been John's 95th birthday. A fuller obituary will be published in the next Newsletter.

Added 19 June 2018

Gordon Mellor, President

Earlier this month, Paul Mellor advised that his father, Gordon, had passed away on 9 January, at the Nursing Home where he had been living for several months. Gordon, aged 98, had recently spent several weeks in hospital and bore the several ailments that were to prove his final illness with great fortitude and courage - no less than one would expect from a former Halifax Navigator who evaded capture on being shot-down over Belgium on 6 October 1942. A full obituary will be published in Newsletter 54.


Gordon's funeral took place on Tuesday 30 January 2018 at 11.30am in  Chilterns Crematorium, Amersham, Bucks. Afterwards, a large number of family and friends, including a sizable contingent from the Association, gathered at Hit or Miss, Penn Street Village, Nr Amersham to share reminiscences and marvel at some of the albums Gordon compiled over the years, chronicling his life and wartime experiences.

Donations in his memory can be made as detailed in the Order of Service, or by contacting The Editor.

Updated 30 January 2018

Syd Marshall

It is with great sadness we received the news from Syd's Daughter, Frances Taylor, that he passed away peacefully on Monday 11th December surrounded by his family. Sergeant Marshall flew 36 missions from Elsham Wolds as a Flight Engineer with 103 Squadron, in the crew of Canadian, Lou Morgan. Until recently Syd gave talks on his WWII experiences, in his role as a BBMF Guide and will also be remembered for his 2014 flight in the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum Lancaster, 'VeRA', over the Derwent Dam, as tribute to The Dambusters.

For any Member(s) wishing to attend, Syd's funeral will take place on Friday 22 December at 2:30pm, in Boston Crematorium.

Updated 15 December 2017

Peter F Powell DFC

Last weekend the Association was advised by Peter's family that this former 103 Squadron pilot passed away on 30 November, in his 95th year. It is hoped to include an obituary in the Spring 2018 Newsletter.

Added 5 December 2017

Group Captain Tim Nicholl

It is with heavy heart that we heard that former member Tim Nicoll passed away on 20 August 2017. A private Memorial Service is planned and a full obituary will be included in Newsletter 53.

Added 5 September 2017

Group Captain Eric Cropper

The Association recently learned that the funeral of Eric Cropper took place on 19 April 2017. A full obituary was published in Newsletter 52.

Added 26 May 2017

Nell Charlwood

We have been informed by Doreen Burge that her mother, the widow of Don Charlwood, passed away peacefully in a Melbourne care home, in her 98th year. An obituary, documenting her multi-continent life, is included in Newsletter 51. - Added 26 May 2017

Cyril Charles 'Mick' Rollins DFC

On Monday 6 March, we said farewell to 'Mick' Rollins (also known as "Rolly" by his comrades) at a service in Poole Crematorium, with a distinctly RAF theme (including a hymnsheet featuring a fine photo of him sitting in the cockpit of Lancaster 'Just Jayne').  Mick had passed away on 5 February, just one month short of his 96th birthday.  Born in Surbiton, south west London, he started training as a surveyor on leaving school, before volunteering for RAF service. After pilot training in Canada, he joined 103 Squadron in autumn 1943 and transferred to 576 Squadron on its formation in late November that year, where he completed the full quota of 30 ops. Towards the end of his RAF career as an Instructor, by which time he had been promoted to Flight Lieutenant, Mick met Enid (a WAAF meteorologist) whom he marrried in September 1946. They set up home in Kent, where he established a building business and their two daughters were born.  On retirement, they moved to Dorset and Mick continued his life-long passion for the outdooors and ornithology.  He will be remembered for his sense of humour (such gems as 'it was so quiet, you could hear a mangle drop'!) and also much missed by a family, that now includes three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. - Added 8 March 2017


Kenneth Stott

Recently the Association was informed by son, Tim, that his father had passed away in August 2016. Unfortunately, no further details are availabe.

Added 8 March 2017

A C 'Bob' Blackie DFC

Bob Blackie passed away peacefully on 6 November near Church Stretton, in Shropshire, aged 93. Born in Tooting, south London, on 24 June 1923, he joined 576 as a Sergeant Pilot in January 1944.  During his five months with the Squadron, he married Win, who became his wife for 68 years.

By the end of a full tour, he had reached the rank of Pilot Officer and was awarded the DFC. In June 1944. Later that year he was promoted to Flying Officer, subsequently achieving the rank of Flight Lieutenant in February 1946. He was laid to rest in Shrewsbury on 22 November 2016. - Added 12 December 2016


David Henry DFC

It was recently learned that David Alexander Henry DFC passed away on 3 August 2016, aged 97. He was the last survivor of three Australian brothers who served with 103
Squadron in 1944/ 45. Born on 23 December 1918 in Armidale, New South Wales (around 400km north of Sydney), he was raised there with his three brothers and sister, Betty. After arriving at 103 Squadron on 29 October 1944, the youngest brother, Gaven, found himself alongside Sqn Ldr Hague the following evening, flying to
Cologne on the same operation as his two elders. This was much publicised in the national press, several days later. From Squadron records, David and John flew several sorties on the same ‘op’. On cessation of hostilities, David returned to Australia, where he married Edna, who pre-deceased him, and eventually settled in Wamberal on the NSW coast, c50km north-east of Sydney.  He is survived by their three married children, three granddaughters and four great-grandchildren. A celebration of his long life was held at Green Point, Avoca, on Monday 15 August. - Added 12 December 2016   


Ted Mawdsley

Edward (Ted) Mawdsley was born on 23 October 1920 in Witham, Essex.  In 1940, he signed up for RAF service, initially volunteering for aircrew, but was turned down for this due to colour blindness.  After training as an “instrument basher”, his first posting was to Coastal Command, serving in Southampton, Pembroke and “freezing” Greenock, maintaining flying boats.


In 1942, Ted joined 103 Squadron at Elsham Wolds, where he worked on his beloved “Lancs” and forged friendships which were to endure  throughout his life.  One of his longest standing friends was former comrade ‘Bas’ Lowe, whom he remained in touch with and met at EWA Reunions for many years [see obituary in Newsletter 44].  The following year, he was posted overseas, first to North Africa and then to Southern Italy, where he was to later recall seeing a Catalina landing majestically in the bay at Sorrento, as if by magic, and feeling like being reunited with an old friend.


Whilst on three weeks’ leave, at the end of the war, he returned to England to marry Ethel, with whom he celebrating his 70th wedding anniversary on 14 November, last year.  After becoming a Member of the Association in 1991, Ted decided to write a book about his time with 103 Squadron at Elsham Wolds: ‘An Erks-Eye View Of World War Two’.  The book proved very popular, and was reprinted twice, selling over 500 copies to former airmen and enthusiasts alike. 


As well as being ‘a man of letters’, Ted was an accomplished painter, and played a mean harmonica – something he learnt during his time stationed in Italy.  Most importantly, he was a devoted husband, a wonderful father and grandfather, and a loyal friend to many.  He was immensely proud and had very fond memories of his time with 103 Squadron and, as one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the Association, always looked forward to Annual Reunions.  He will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.  (K D Macrae) - Added August 2016


Hilary Robinson

In May we said farewell to a much loved former WAAF, who was an Association stalwart and a most active member.  Born in Rotherham on 19 August 1923, Hilary Mary Robinson was the second child of Clifford Greaves, a bank manager, and his wife Ida, reputed to be one of the most beautiful women in the town.  Most young girls of her generation would have craved a dolls pram but not Hilary, who wanted a pedal car - the start of her love of driving.  At age 11 she went to Bridlington High School as a boarder and after initial  homesickness, formed life-long friendships.

With the advent of World War II, Hilary was anxious to play her part and initially volunteered for the Wrens because she liked the uniform but, fortunately for the RAF, they were full! Being a WAAF was her second choice and she became an MT driver at Elsham Wolds.  Despite the traumas of war, the next few years were some of the happiest and most memorable of her life.  Hilary recalled taking her test on a three ton lorry with a gate change  in the middle of Blackpool (that she loved explaining to people), dancing on tables at The Oswald in Scunthorpe and an illicit ride in an Avro Lancaster.  Her connection continued with the friendships made and by attending Annual Reunions.


She always enjoyed a challenge – running her farm anfter the premature death of husband, Brian, andbeing seen as the only one smiling at the end of the “Big Thunder Mountain” roller coaster on a family outing to Euro Disney.  Another trip to Centre Parks saw her continually exceed the speed limit on her mobility scooter.  Hilary always held strong opinions and being very patriotic and proud of her Yorkshire roots “always got her own way.” She was a person who touched many lives: once met, never forgotten [as many Members will know].  Determination and fierce independence made her a force to be reckoned with and enabled her to remain in her home until the end of her life on 28 April.  Just as she wanted.  (K D Macrae) - Added 13 May 2016

John Funnell

It is with extreme sadness we announce that the funeral of our Chairman took place at Barham, in Kent, on Monday 4 April.  John passed away on 16 March after a short battle with the various illnesses that had afflicted him for some time, although one would never have known from his positive atttitude to life.  John Funnell began his life in Dover on 30 July 1924 and left school at 14 to join a grocery business.  On the outbreak of World War II, he enlisted with the Home Guard and then joined the RAF, to complete Navigator training in Canada.  He was posted to 103 Squadron in the spring of 1945, flying six ‘ops’ with Flt Sgt Freddie Bishop to German targets, before completing more humanitarian sorties - dropping food supplies to the Dutch civilian population (Operation Manna) and repatriating Prisoners of War.  After ‘de-mob, John returned to work with his father in a motor repair garage before a change of career saw him move to the Automobile Association, working in Dover, Le Touquet, Maidstone and Jersey (where he opened the first AA office in the Channel Islands and met future wife Jill).  His working life finished when he retired from the English Tourist Board.  Known for his attention to detail (proof-reading the Newsletter for several years), a love of music and a certain fondness for the ladies, John will be greatly missed.  It is difficult to contemplate future Association events without his cheerful face and cheeky smile. (K D Macrae) - Added 13 May 2016


 Ron Pilcher

The last surviving member and Mid Upper Gunner of Pat Furlong's crew passed away on 4 February 2015, having completed a tour of 'ops' with 103 Squadron in August 1944.  Born in Folkestone on 5 May 1922 in Folkestone, Ron was to spend his life in Kent, marrying Frances (whom he met at RAF Lindholme) in Sellinge, and taking up residence in Wye for nearly 70 years after demob.   He  loved boating holidays on canals, the Norfolk Broads and River Thames; also sharing a touring caravan with his son (Ron Jnr) and was a true family man who became known for the greetings cards he would send to them from the early days of home computing. (K D Macrae) - Added 30 March 2015

John Ross-Myring

We recently learned from the 103 Sqdn Facebook page that this former pilot passed away in January.  His commission of 7 October 1944 was announced in the London Gazette of 19 December that year, with a posting to 103 Squadron from 71 Base in early March 1945.  A first sortie to Dessau, as second pilot Flt/Lt C H Short quickly followed on 7-8 March in Lancaster serial NG360.  He then flew four ops with his own crew before they were posted to 582 Squadron PFF in April 1945.  They did not fly operationally there and it is probable that they spent some time at a Path Finder Training unit as the Squadron ORB lists them as re-joining 582 on 5 May 1945. (K D Macrae) - Added 30 March 2015

Gordon Duckworth

Gordon was born in Southport on 19 March 1922 and attended the local Primary School in Norwood Road, where he lived.  When war was declared, he became a member of the Home Guard (1939-1941) and later enlisted with the RAF for aircrew duties to become a Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner based with 103 Squadron at Elsham Wolds.  There, he completed a tour of 31 ops as part of Danny Josey’s crew between May and September 1944. On demob from the RAF, he rejoined the railway and trained as a signalman, to retire after almost 50 years.  Gordon played crown green bowls in a Veterans league and became a member of the Aircrew Association (Southport Branch) when it was formed in 1991.  He was also gifted at DIY and gardening; always wondering where the brains in the family came from.  This very intelligent man passed away on 12 January 2015, after 66 happy years married to his wife, Eileen. (K D Macrae) - Added 12 April 2015

Basil Lowe

Basil Lowe died on 4 November 2014 and his friend Ted Mawdsley recalls that “we first made acquaintance at RAF Elsham Wolds in the winter of 1942/1943 in our capacity as ‘instrument bashers’ and our job was to service the aircraft instruments: ‘George’ the automatic pilot, the oxygen supply and compasses - all of which were vital in the performance of our Lancaster bombers. We shared so much in common with regard to our sense of responsibility and recognition of the air crews’ reliance upon us.

"Bas was a natural and consummate mechanic and engineer and I always had great admiration for his know-how and dedication. I will always remember his cheerfulness in spite of the environmental conditions and the extreme weather, all of which became part of the job.


“We parted company sometime in the early summer of 1943 and it was a truly wonderful moment when Bas and I met up again at the annual reunion of RAF Elsham Wolds Association and our previous comradeship picked up where it had left off way back then. Together with our wives, we have enjoyed so many years at the Elsham Wolds reunions, standing proudly side by side to remember, not only those airmen who did not return, but also that something very special that was RAF Elsham Wolds all those years ago.”

Stan (Peter) Slater DSO OBE DFC & Bar

After completing a first operational tour with 100 squadron at Waltham in March 1943, Stan Slater became a Flying Instructor for nine months before an extended tour of 57 missions, as Flight Commander with 576 Squadron, came to an end in October 1944 with the addition of a Bar to his DFC.  Remaining at Elsham as Operations Officer, a DSO followed for his leadership.  In March 1945 he was requested to fly a 'scratch' crew on a mine laying sortie off Denmark but the aircraft was attacked by a night fighter and they were forced to bale out.  With the aid of the local Resistance, Stan returned to Elsham after three weeks on the run: and a couple of close shaves.  At the end of the war he remained in the RAF with various postings including Officer Commanding 213 Sqdn, RAF Bruggen before three years as Deputy Commandant of Aircrew Selection at Biggin Hill during which time he was promoted to Group Captain.  With a lifelong interest in tennis, he remained very fit until his final years; passing his motorcycle exam at 75; buying a sports car at 80 before playing the final game of tennnis on his 85th birthday.  Stan passed away peacefully on 29 August 2014, aged 92.  (K D Macrae) - Added 30 March 2015


Ken Beardsall DFC

The youngest of seven children, Kenneth Bruce Beardsall was born in Leeds on 1 August 1921.  Like his siblings, he was educated at Richmond Hill School and from there won a scholarship to the Leeds Art School, before taking a position as an Architect with a local firm.


After the outbreak of World War II, Kenneth joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Following initial recruit training he was sent to the USA for the first stage of Observer/ Navigator training at the Pan American Airways School. Although celestial navigation was well-taught, practically no instruction was provided in crucial RAF skills such as map-reading, log-keeping and air plot techniques. After a period at No. 3 (Observer) AFU at RAF Bobbington, he qualified as a Navigator on 19 August 1942.

Following conversion training on to Avro Lancaster bombers at No. 1656 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU), RAF Lindholme, Ken Beardsall and the crew of F/O “Bill” Crich crew were posted to ‘B’ Flight, 103 Squadron, RAF Elsham Wolds on 27 February 1943. Beardsall completed 19 Ops with Crich, before he found himself with a new Skipper, Flt/Lt J E R Rawstorne, with whom he completed his tour with an op to Essen on 25/26 July 1943.


After nine months at to 1662 HCU at RAF Blyton, Ken was posted to RAF Ludford Magna for a second tour of operations with No. 101 Squadron. On 27 April 1944 during his third op (to Friedrichshafen) he was shot down and became a PoW in Stalag Luft III at Sagan (famous for the 'Wooden Horse' escape the previous year and the ‘Great Escape' in March 1944). In January 1945, with the Russians advancing, the camp was evacuated and the prisoners were force-marched for five days in sub-zero temperatures westwards to Spremberg, where they were loaded onto trains. On 5 February, after three days in filthy conditions they reached Marlag und Milag Nord PoW camp.  The advancing British Army forced another evacuation to Trenthorst, near the Baltic port of Lübeck, where the prisoners were liberated on 2 May 1945.


On 11 August that year Kenneth married Betty Cooke, at St. Mary’s Church, Whitkirk, whilst still in the RAF, by this time wearing the uniform of a Flight Lieutenant.  After ‘demob’, Kenneth took up the position of Civil Engineer with Yorkshire Copper Works in Leeds, before eventually opening a bookshop in Crossgates Shopping Centre, on the outskirts of Leeds.  Following the passing of his wife in 1988 Kenneth moved to Pontefract, West Yorkshire, where he died on 28 August 2014 ©David J. Beardsall 2012

Fred Mitchell

We are very sorry to announce that Member Fred Mitchell of Harrogate passed away recently. Fred was an Observer with 103 Sqdn and flew a tour with New Zealander Bill Steel in 1943. In recent years Fred has been very active in his local community and in 2007 made a sponsored Sky Dive for a Breast Cancer charity. ( See photo below ) He was also a long time Harrogate Hospital supporter and visiter. He was a top bloke and will be greatly missed by many people. To his family and friends our sincere condolences. (D W Fell) - Added 17 June 2014.


Donald Charles Bell

Sadly I have been informed of another former Elsham Wolds Airman who has passed away in recent times. Don Bell died in Canada in late 2013. He was originally from Laleham Surrey.  Don was a Flight Engineer who flew with 625 Sqdn before being posted to 103 Sqdn in late 1943.  He flew initially with P/O Len Young and crew which included former RAFEW Assn stalwart Norman Storey.  He then transferred to the crew of Glaswegian Frank Law; completing seven ops with Law ( incl. five to Berlin).  Unfortunately, the crew were shot down on their next trip to Liepzig on the 19/20 Feb 1944.  It is reported that four of the crew were killed outright in the first attack by the night fighter.  Don Bell and Air Bomber, Cecil Flowers, survived and both became POW.  Frank Law died attempting to crash land his badly damaged machine near the village of Atteln in Germany.  Our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Don Bell. (D W Fell) - Added 1 June 2014


Ronald Walker DFC

Ron Walker passed away in Canada in January 2014 at the age of 96.  He flew a tour of operations with 103 Squadron in the spring of 1944, was awarded a DFC and as the navigator in the same crew as our former President, the late Jack Spark DFM.  Ron retired from Allstate Insurance of Canada as Director of Industry Relations after a multi-decade career.  He was most proud of his efforts to promote vehicle safety standards and was a champion of both seat belts and air bags. (D W Fell) - Added 25 May 2014


Gerald Fremlin

We have been informed of the passing of Gerald Fremlin in Canada.  Gerald was an Air Bomber and flew with 103 Sqdn, 550 Sqdn and 582 Sqdn.  He was a most gifted and intelligent man.  After WW2 Gerry achieved a BA in English and Philosophy and MA in Geography at the University of Western Ontario after which he had a long career as a prominent cartographer/geographer.  Gerry was known for his lively curiosity and ready wit and was a philosopher, painter and poet with a taste for the absurd.  His widow, Alice Munro, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013. (D W Fell) - Added 25 May 2014


Peggy Lyons (nee Forster)

We have been informed by Doreen Burge in Australia that Peggy Forster passed away last year at the age of 91. Peggy was a former Elsham WAAF MT driver who emigrated to Australia after the war. She was a well known member for many years. (D W Fell) - Added 26 March 2014


Arthur Williams

We were  recently notified of the passing of Arthur Williams, who served at Elsham Wolds during WW2.  Although he had not been an Association Member since the 90s he maintained an interest in the old base and his former Squadron through his younger family members and the wonders of the internet.  Our sincere condolences to Arthur’s family and friends. (D W Fell) - Added 25 March 2014


John David Cormack

This Pilot/Engineer with 576 Sqdn at Fiskerton in 1944/ 45 passed away in Australia.  Condolences can be left at www.heavenaddress.com here.  The page includes a nice bio of John’s life but you have to register and sign in to access that. (D W Fell) - Added 8th March 2014


Eileen Henderson

Eileen Henderson, the widow of the late Flt Lt J.P. 'Johnnie' Whymark DSO DFC RAF Air-Gunnery Leader at Elsham October 1944 to October 1945 passed away on the 27th January 2014.  To Robert, Elizabeth and family we send our most sincere condolences. (D W Fell) - Added 30 January 2014