Remembrance – North Luffenham churchyard and our values

Every year at the Remembrance Sunday service, the ‘act of remembrance’ takes place over the 40 Commonwealth war graves in the churchyard. The Kohima address is read and the last post is played to signal the start of the minute silence.

If you are interested in who the fallen are at North Luffenham, there are 2 posts on this blog which provide information. In addition to the British airmen, we owe a debt to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya and Ireland (others I am sure but I have not identified). The contribution of the Commonwealth and other nations to the defeat of the Nazi’s is signalled in the churchyard.

There is a post concerning the World War 2 airmen graves – see this link. http://www.rafnorthluffenhamheritage.me.uk/?p=133

The second post concerns the Canadian Cold War related graves – see this link http://www.rafnorthluffenhamheritage.me.uk/?p=372

It should be noted that this only a percentage of the losses sustained and those captured in World War 2 in the operations from RAF North Luffenham and RAF Woolfox Lodge. For a wider view of losses from the operations of 61, 144 Squadrons RAF and 408 Royal Canadian Air Force over a 10 month period – see this link. http://www.rafnorthluffenhamheritage.me.uk/?p=1

Losses were also sustained in training and some of the aircrew resting in North Luffenham were from training accidents from other units. North Luffenham presumably being the nearest RAF station to the crash site.

For me every year the number of airmen who have unkown graves particularly seems to provide hurt to me. We know of the unknown soldier in the First World War but we have our own lost airman from North Luffenham and Woolfox Lodge.

Lest we forget their sacrifice for our today.

We have been reminded through the global pandemic that we need strong values and ideals and that in many cases we take these for granted. I have a view that we need strong and resilient nation states and allies to oppose dictator led states. They do not share our values and frankly are not benign to us and their own citizens. If we forget this we will be condemed to repeat our past.

On our today – despite what is happening where our armed forces are taken for granted and seemingly not backed by the state – I hope this will pass. For reassurance, what I see on Remembrance sundays, is the solid and in many cases quiet majority that provide the bedrock of this nation’s resilience and strength.

The more I research what happened at North Luffenham and Woolfox Lodge the more humbled I become. The people stories are in some cases incredible and very moving and reflecting extreme bravery – if you click the tab ‘people stories’ I have recorded some I have found. There are many and an example is the airmen flying the Avro Manchester. http://www.rafnorthluffenhamheritage.me.uk/?p=69

Per Ardua

Names to be commemorated in any development – work in progress

Names for the possible St Georges Barracks development

RAF North Luffenham and RAF Woolfox Lodge are battlefields. When a development takes place we will need to name significant buildings, roads (roadsigns to have QR codes telling the story) and areas. Further research is required on medals and awards made.

So Names will all be related to the history of the battlefield. This is my rolling list. The list is far from finished.

Names.

Valentine . RAF Leader. Tragic loss of 2 of the North Luffenham leaders – night of 2nd September 1941 . Gp Capt Barrett DSO+bar, DFC & Wg Cdr Valentine DSO and their crew.

Barrett. RAF Leader. Tragic loss of 2 of the North Luffenham leaders – night of 2nd September 1941 . Gp Capt Barrett DSO+bar, DFC & Wg Cdr Valentine DSO and their crew.

Conti. Canadian cold war flyer – representing the Sabre aircrew lost in the Cold War – he has no known grave. Royal Canadian Air Force graves in North Luffenham Churchyard 1952, 1953 and 1954

Dickson. Royal Canadian Air Force Leader. Squadron Leader James Donald Dickson RCAF. DFC. AFC. DFM. CD . WW2, Korea – bomber, transport and Sabre pilot

Matthews. Outstanding bravery. a brave and tragic story – pilot officers Matthews and Williams – 9/10 Jan 42

Williams. Outstanding bravery. a brave and tragic story – pilot officers Matthews and Williams – 9/10 Jan 42

Stevens/Hein. The identity stolen by the only German jew (Hein) to fly for the RAF. Example of escaper and the great escape. Squadron Leader Peter Stevens MC – a remarkable story – a German jew flying for the RAF

Wright. An example of an RAF evader. An evader from North Luffenham. It was a long way home for Sgt Albert Wright

Mullet. Irish volunteer. Resting in North Luffenham churchyard

Thompson. Survivor from Op Gisela attack. Operation Gisela. Succesful German night fighter attack Woolfox Lodge – night of 3-4 March 1945

Malin. Airman representing the other ranks of groundcrew and support staff – aged 20 killed by a Hampden landing back at base after ops hitting the airfield control cabin. Resting in North Luffenham churchyard

Simond. Wg Cdr G F Simond.(MID.) OC 144 Squadron killed during Operation Fuller 12 Feb 42 – the Channel Dash. No known grave – lost with 4 others. Empty chairs and empty tables – Operation Fuller – 12 February 1942 ‘the Channel Dash’

Nightingale. Sgt E I Nightingale DFM. killed during Operation Fuller 12 Feb 42 – the Channel Dash. Crashed crippled Hampden bomber at Norwich and died. The rest of the crew survived. Sgt Ivo Nightingale was from Kenya. Empty chairs and empty tables – Operation Fuller – 12 February 1942 ‘the Channel Dash’

Rhodesia. Johnson. Pilot Officer D H Johnson. From Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia. Died night of 10/11 February 1942 on a raid on Essen. Buried in Hannover War Cemetery. Do not know cause of crash.

More work required to find representatives –

Prisoner of war. Representative of the fate of the aircew

Royal Australian Air Force. Representing the RAAF – to be found.

Royal New Zealand Air Force. Representing the RNZAF – to be found

South Africa Air Force. Representing the SAAF To be found.

Other Commonwealth/Dominion/Allied names. To be found.

Aircraft names.

Hampden, Manchester, Wellington, Lancaster, Horsa, Stirling, Tiger Moth, Hamilcar, Whitley, Albermarle, Halifax, Dakota, Valetta, Devon, Anson, Meteor, Harvard, Sabre, Balliol, Brigand, Hunter, Thor, Bloodhound, Rapier

Army.

Recent casualties – Army dog handlers killed on service in Afghanistan. Others? Details to be added

Current Street names to be respected and relocated as required.

Woolfox Lodge specific names. TBD

Valentine . RAF Leader. Tragic loss of 2 of the North Luffenham leaders – night of 2nd September 1941 . Gp Capt Barrett DSO+bar, DFC & Wg Cdr Valentine DSO and their crew.

Thompson. Survivor from Op Gisela attack. Operation Gisela. Succesful German night fighter attack Woolfox Lodge – night of 3-4 March 1945

Royal Canadian Air Force graves in North Luffenham Churchyard 1952, 1953 and 1954

There are 11 RCAF Commonwealth Graves in the Churchyard.

On 15th November 1951 the station was handed over to the RCAF The station commander was Group Captain Hale RCAF. The Canadians stayed until 1 April 1955 when the Wing was deployed to Germany.

The best reference I have found about the post war Canadians is in a book called ‘Wings over Rutland’ by John Rennison. There were other casualties suffered by the RCAF squadrons at North Luffenham.

The graves are as follows:

18.4.52 Flying Officer (Fg Off) A E Rayner

24.7.52 Leading Aircraftsman (LAC) R A McNeilly

28.1.53 Flt Sgt E K Churchil (CD – mentioned in dispatches)

26.7.53 Sqn Ldr J D Dickson DFC, AFC, DFM. CD see link to more information. http://www.rafnorthluffenhamheritage.me.uk/?p=372

4.8.53 LAC C H Rosin

12.11.53 LAC K S Wilkings

16.12.53 Fg Off D G Tracey

11.9.53 Fg Off L J Elphick

12.9.54 Fg Off A M Gillies

14.12.54 Fg Off P V Robinson. Killed in a crash when his Sabre crashed near Holme Moss TV Station mast on the top of the Pennines near Huddesfiiled.

27.12.54 Sgt A M Laing

Missing airman – no grave in North Luffenham churchyard – not sure where he is commemorated 1.7.52 Fg Off Digger Conti – missing ten miles east of Flamborough Head. No trace ever found.

We will remember them. Lest we forget

References: Wings Over Rutland by John Rennison. St Georges flawed masterplan for development https://www.stgeorgesrutland.co.uk/the-masterplan/

Memorials in North Luffenham and Edith Weston

RAF North Luffenham stained glass memorials in Edith Weston and North Luffenham churches

Church windows in Edith Weston and North Luffenham. The champion who made this happen was Rev Brian Nicholls (he had served in the RAF).

RAF North Luffenham
Memorial windows in Edith Weston Church
RAF North Luffenham – memorial stained glass in Edith Weston church
Memorial on the Edith Weston Church gate to crashed Lancaster in Edith Weston
Gates presented to the village of North Luffenham in commemoration of the RAF finally leaving the station. The gates are located near the Fox pub and guard the entrance to the cricket ground.
Swift to reply – RAF North Luffenham station crest

Remembrance – Resting in North Luffenham churchyard

Commonwealth war graves in North Luffenham churchyard from RAF North Luffenham

Bomber Command Memorial in London

There are 40 Commonwealth Wargrave headstones in North Luffenham churchyard and the graves fall into 4 time periods:

World War 1 – 2 Army Privates – Adams and Steel – details not recorded in this blog.

World War 2, RAF, RNZAF, RAAF, RCAF – 18 graves.

Cold war – Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) – 11 graves.

Remainder Other Royal Air Force and Services graves, all post war.

This post provides details about the 18 World War 2 graves: 16 aircrew. 7 RAF (including an Irishman), 6 Canadian, 4 New Zealand, 1 Australian and 2 RAF groundcrew. This is minor fraction of men killed – see post the butchers bill this blog. Also men killed in crashes – were often sent home to be buried in their home parishes. Youngest man buried in North Luffenham was F/sgt Campbell at 19 years old and oldest was Sgt Douglas at 30 years old. The average being about 23 years old.

This is what I have found out about the men so far. Most of the information comes from the books Royal Air Force – Bomber Command Losses – 1941, 1942 and Volume 7 Operational Training Units (OTU) by W.R. Chorley. Also the Bomber Command War Diaries by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt provide information about the wider effort on a particular day.

7.9.41 Sgt Eric Horton RAF 943238 Wireless Operator/air gunner. 144 Sqn RAF. One of four crew killed in a crash of Hampden AD936 on takeoff for Berlin at 20:52. Crashed on the Empingham to Ketton road. I don’t know where the rest of the crew is buried.

The raid that night consisted of 197 aircraft and 15 aircraft were lost – 8 Wellingtons, 2 Hampdens (including AD936), 2 Whitleys, 2 Stirlings and 1 Manchester.

Sgt E Horton

20.9.41 Sgt Harold Douglas Weaver RCAF R62250 Air Observer. 144 Sqn RAF. One of four crew killed in a crash of Hampden K3030 on approach to land after an operation to Frankfurt at 22:05. Crashed into high tension cables alongside the Mortcott to Uppingham Road some 2 miles SE of the airfield. I don’t know where the rest of the crew is buried.

K3030 was one of 34 aircraft sent to Frankfurt but they were recalled because of worsening weather, some did bomb Frankfurt, no aircaft were lost but 3, including K3030 crashed in England. On the main raid to Berlin of 74 aircraft, none reached Berlin and 3 Wellingtons and 1 Whitley failed to return and 12 more aircraft crashed in the UK! Bad weather leading to many casualties, including Sgt Weaver.

Sgt Weaver RCAF

9.11.41 Aircraftsman 1st Class – George Roberts RAF and Aircraftsman 2nd Class – Frederick George Malin. RAF. These 2 ground airmen were killed in the airfield control caravan by an aircaft landing which ‘swung’ into the caravan. The 2 airmen were killed and another injured.

The Hampden (AE311) had been on operations to Hamburg and crashed at 23:43. The crew were not recorded as being injured. There were 106 aircraft on the raid and 1 Welligton was lost.

AC1 G Roberts RAF
AC 2 F G Malin

25.1.42 Sgt Albert Barclay Wright RAF Wireless Operator/air gunner. 408 Sqn RCAF. One of four crew killed in a crash of Hampden AD782 on takeoff for Brest to bomb the German capital ships at 1737. Crashed after stalling at 1500 feet and eye witnesses said it dived straight into the ground near the Lyndon to Wing Road. Cause unknown. I don’t know where the rest of the crew is buried.

The Bomber Command War Diaries say that 61 aircraft were dispatched and no aircraft were lost. ( I have yet to cross check this with other records)

Sgt A B Wright RAF

9.3.42 Flight Sergeant Fernand Fagan Mackinnon RCAF. Wireless Operator/air gunner. and Sgt William Douglas Morris RAF Wireless Operator/air gunner. Three crew killed in a crash of 408 Sqn RCAF Hampden AD842 on takeoff to go ‘gardening’ i.e laying an anti shipping mine at 01:52. Target area was the Friesian Islands, north Germany. The Bomber Command War Diaries say that no aircraft were lost which does not tally with this loss.

Sgt Morris’s headstone also records the loss of his brother, Thomas, lost at sea 14 Oct 41. Engine Room Artificer 4th Class – on HMS Fleur-de-Lys -Thomas Cope Morris aged 32.

Stalled after takeoff and struck an ‘armadillo’ on the airfield and burnt. The pilot escaped with injuries. (wikepedia says an Armadillo was an extemporised armoured fighting vehicle produced in Britain during the invasion crisis of 1940-1941. Based on a number of standard lorry (truck) chassis, it comprised a wooden fighting compartment protected by a layer of gravel and a driver’s cab protected by mild steel plates. Armadillos were used by the RAF Regiment to protect aerodromes and by the Home Guard.[1] )

Flt Sgt F F Mackinnon RCAF

Sgt W D Morris

12.4.42 Flt Sgt David Lloyd Carnegy Liddell RNZAF. Crash of 144 Sqn Hampden AT155 on an air test at 1540 – crashed at Ridlington – 2 killed.

29.9.42 Sgt Ronald George Walters RCAF. 29 OTU training accident. Wellington DV834. Swung on take-off and crashed and burnt. It was thought that the pilot’s slender build was a contributory factor in the accident. Flt Sgt L. L Jones RCAF was killed and the other crew injured. Sgt Walters died the day after of his injuries. Flt Sgt L L Jones was born in Toronto Canada – however, after the accident he was ‘claimed’ by Cornish relatives and he is buried in St Just Cornwall.

Sgt R G Walters

7.2.43 Sgt Leonard Francis Croker 413031 Air bomber RNZAF and Sgt Tom Lindley Pilot RNZAF

Crash of Wellington N2761 From 11 OTU from RAF Westcott, Buckinghamshire on a training flight. Crashed at Fletcher Field near Ashley 5 miles WNW of Corby – 3 killed and 2 buried at North Luffeham. Luffenham must have been the closest RAF base and therefore, recovered the men.

RAF North Luffenham

27.2.43 Flt Sgt Richard Hubert Lewis – Air Gunner RCAF and Flt Sgt Keith Lauchlan Cambell – Navigator RCAF

Killed in Wellinton BK268 of 427 Sqn from RAF Croft. Crashed on Ops to Koln, Crashed while returning to Croft with one engine on fire. Crashed near Woolfox Lodge – 5 killed 1 injured. That night 427 aircraft were dispatched and 4 Wellingtons, 3 Lancasters, 2 Halifaxes and 1 Stirling were lost.

RAF North Luffenham
Flt Sgt R H Lewis RCAF
RAF North Luffenham
Flt Sgt K L Campbell

5.3.43 Sgt Brendan Francis Mullet RAF – Wireless operator/air gunner and Sgt Kenneth Hughes Long – Pilot RAF

Killed in 29 OTU Wellington BK390 on a training flight – took off at 0159 from North Luffenham and crashed into houses in North Coates, Cambridgeshire, 4 killed and 1 injured. Sgt Mullet was one of the Irish Volunteer Legion. One of up to 200,000 Irish Volunteers serving in armed forces in World War 2.

Sgt B F Mullet . Irish Volunteer Legion

Sgt K H Long RAF

12.5.43 Sgt John Angus Douglas RAAF. 29 OTU from RAF North Luffenham – killed in crash of Wellington BK123. Tookoff at 1215 on training . Crashed at 1240 at Scottlethorpe – 5 miles SSW of Sunthorpe – 3 killed.

2.5.42 Flt Sgt J R Young RCAF – Pilot and Sgt H Morrison RNZAF Observer. Killed in the crash of Belnheim L9206 from 13 OTU. Took off from RAF Bicester on a navigation exercise and crashed at 11:35, 3 miles east of Billesdon – 8 miles SSE of Leicester. Dived into ground and exploded killing all 3 crew.

Flt Sgt Young RCAF

Sgt H Morrison RNZAF

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.

The lost and unknown graves in an 8 month period

Using the books : Bomber Command Losses 1941 and 1942 – I put togther this table and it is a source of hurt that there is a high percentage of crew with no known grave. These are recorded on the Runnymede Memorial. The Bomber Command memorial in London is a specific tribute to the members of Bomber Command. A very moving memorial.

Bomber Command memorial in Piccadilly, London

Why so many unknown graves – the missions at this time were a mix of bombing and mine laying – mostly at night and in bad weather. Some aircraft hit by flak or nightfighter cannon fire exploded when main fuel tanks or bombs were hit and even though the wreckage was on land remains were not recovered. This was at a time when night navigation was difficult and also meterology information was rudimentary at this stage of the war. No airborne radar navigation or GPS – just maps, compass, airspeed indicator and stopwatch, so 1dead reckoning’ navigation. Also the forceast and meterology were primitive by modern standards. Flying in winter and having severe icing must have also caused many casualties. Planning and dead reckoning at night must have been extremely challenging for the young men. Some radio direction finding equipment – but not sure what was available to 61 and 144 Squadron at the time we are looking at.

A table showing the figure for operations at North Luffenham and Woolfox Lodge. Killed, POW, no known grave and airframes.

There were recorded occurances of pilots and naviagtors reading the compass wrongly and compass design was changed. So a course flown 180 degrees out – meaning hundreds of miles into the Atlantic. The cross bar should be toward the red north pointer.

Bomber compass – correct orientation – the cross tag aligned to north.
Bomber compass – wrong and probably fatal setting of a compass – easy to be 180 degrees out
Aicraft compass – later design, maing it harder to set incorrectly