I am just finishing putting the finishing touches to two booklets related to Black Thursday and the night of 16/17 December 1943 when many RAF aircraft crashed due to thick fog. These are being done on behalf of the RAF Pathfinders Archive.
The first is called “The Mass Funerals at Cambridge, 22 December 1943”, and the second is on Ernest Alfred Deverill, an all-time RAF hero of mine, who was killed in a horrific crash in the early hours of the morning of 17 December 1943. Some of the material included will also appear in my forthcoming history of one year in the Pathfinders, 1943-1944.
At about the same time that Deverill’s aircraft crashed, the aircraft on which my father was the wireless operator also crashed, killing five of the crew. My father was dragged clear of the fire which engulfed the aircraft.
It was the events of that disastrous night which first set me on the path of RAF research after my father died 24 years ago. But in a sense I have lived with that night all my life, as my father used to tell us children a bedtime story about his crash. All the identifying details were kept deliberately vague, and it was only when I came to research that night, over 50 years after it had happened, that I realised my father’s crash was one of many.
Amazingly, amongst the information subsequently collected, was a photograph of the mass grave at Cambridge City Cemetery and the coffins of two members of my father’s crew, Sandy Grant and Tony Lawrence, who was my father’s best friend. That photograph can be seen above.
I am planning that the third book in the PER ARDUA LIBERTAS series will be a fictionalised account of Black Thursday.
For the full details about that night, see the RAF Pathfinders website on Black Thursday.