207 SQUADRON ROYAL AIR FORCE HISTORY
Dining In Night at RAF Linton on Ouse 1 June 2007
to celebrate last year's 90th Anniversary of the Squadron
which formed as No.7 Royal Naval Air Squadron in 1916
A signed copy of the Menu (page not shown) was obtained for Wallace McIntosh DFC* DFM, probably
Bomber Command's top scoring Air Gunner who was gravely ill in hospital in Aberdeen.
Sadly he died on Monday 4 June before it could be sent to him, but it has been delivered to the family.
Copies have been made for the Squadron and Association Archives.
L-R: Nat Bury DFM (Flight Engineer 3/43-9/43) - Jack Pegrum DFM (Wireless Operator 3/43-9/43)
Chelvin Hibbert (Pilot 4/75-8/77)
Former OC 207R Sqn Ldr Al Dolding (Pilot 7/02-9/04), now XO 100 Sqn at Leeming, with Mrs Jane Haslam
Frank Pollard (Navigator 11/44-5/45) - Lt Rich Sambrooks RN, QFI and Flight Commander
Mrs Jacqueline Box - Mr John Box, whose father Cyril was a pilot on 207 in 1919, with Mrs Kath Glynne-Owen
L-R: Miss Claire Burton - Fg Off Mark Scott - Mrs Gill Bell - Colin Bell (GD/Nav 5/58-1/63)
Flt Lt Claire Whitmore, about to return South, with Chelvin Hibbert: not long ago they were on the same course
Jane Haslam - Frank Pollard - Mrs Diane Mawby
Alan Mawby OBE (Pilot 7/02-12/04) and a previous OC 2 Sqn 1FTS - John Box
Raymond Glynne-Owen - Alan Mawby
Mrs Shireen Shuster - Mrs Diane Mawby
L-R: John Scullard (Pilot 5/58-4/61) - Sqn Ldr Al Dolding - Sqn Ldr Jack Christen OC207R - Frank Pollard
Flt Lt Claire Whitmore and Sqn Ldr Steve Whitmore
Adjutant Julia Barrell and Neil Barrell
Mrs Jane Haslam - Frank Haslam - Flt Lt Claire Whitmore
Frank Pollard (Navigator 11/44-5/45)
I have been asked to say a few words on comradeship on 207 Squadron back in 1944-45. To get things in perspective, that was just one third of the way to the 90th Anniversary which we are marking this evening.
After two years in training as a Navigator, I arrived at Spilsby to join the squadron as a member of Tiger Rowell's crew. We had crewed up at Operational Training Unit in a most haphazard but proven way. The whole course was let loose in a hangar. The skippers picked their crews one by one purely on face value. From there on we were a team, relying totally on each other, and on the ground crew out there at dispersal in all sorts of weather.
Aircrews normally kept together for the whole tour. In our case we lost our rear gunner after 16 trips, not to enemy action, but to a duodenal ulcer. Crews, at that time, consisted of commissioned and non commissioned officers. Although we were divided on the base into the two messes, once in the air rank was of no consequence, with the skipper in charge. Socially, off base we would keep together as much as possible. We had made a good start in that all the crew attended our rear gunner's wedding on 7th October 1944 and mine on the following Saturday.
207 Squadron at that time has been described as one of the elite squadrons of 5 Group. 5 Group had a certain amount of autonomy within Bomber Command and had its own Pathfinder Force. Within its squadrons were some of the most colourful characters of the war. What a basis for comradeship.
Although each trade had its own office where we met to exchange views and up-dates, the real friendships were within the crew. After four trips we were allocated our own Lancaster, EM - M for Mike, which we used from thereon. Unfortunately, she was lost with another crew one night on the Dortmund-Ems Canal. We had a replacement within a few days - this time a brand new Mark Ten built in Canada. WHAT A BEAUTY !!!
At that time 5 Group normally operated some two hundred Lancs on particular targets such as the Canal embankments every six weeks, oil installations & once on an SS Barracks. Not usually as part of the main force. We had a strict code on 'line-shooting' so please excuse me quoting one case of how important crew co-operation was.
Our third trip to the synthetic oil plant at Politz was dogged by delayed take off and nav instrument failures.
My log book reads: Held by searchlights g minutes, attacked by Ju. 88, Trip duration 10 hours 40 minutes.
My Nav log reads: Bombs gone 22.22 at 14,750 feet. Fighter sightings 22.25, 22.28, 22.29
During corkscrewing we were coned by the master beam and slave searchlights, almost blinding the skipper. Eventually he conceded defeat saying he was too near the ground to take further avoiding action. However the navigator's altimeter still showed 10,000 feet, being of a different type to the pilot's altimeter, which went round twice, allowing us to get away.
Frank Pollard with Sqn Ldr Jack Christen OC 207R Sqn after the three ship flyover of many of
207's former bases on the occasion of the 90th Anniversary of the Squadron in 2006
Recently, I was involved in a discussion comparing navigation of a Lancaster in WW2 with GPS navigation and weapons duties in a Tornado over Iraq. Comradeship in the present day Royal Air Force came through just as strongly. We agreed that we all needed a good share of LADY LUCK, but it was COMRADESHIP that got us through. May I say, on behalf of us 'Old'uns', that our spirit of comradeship continues through 207 Squadron Association. We value our links with to-day's squadron. Thank you.
John Scullard (Pilot 5/98-4/61)
Gp Capt Hopkins, Sqn Ldr Christen, Members of 207 Squadron, Ladies & gentlemen. First of all thank you very much for inviting us here this evening to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the foundation of 207 Squadron and making us so welcome. It is a great pleasure to be here.
I am reminded that it was 46 years ago this week that I was 'dined-out' on leaving 207 Squadron. Among those present on that occasion were some extremely elderly getlemen dressed, as I am now, in DJs. They were some of the original founder members of the Sqn. The disturbing fact is that they were a good deal younger then than I am today! But is does highlight the continuity as one generation gives way to another.
I was posted to 207 Squadron in 1958 on graduation from Cranwell where we had done our entire flying training. The V Force was manned by some extremely experienced aircrew, and it was a requirement that co-pilots should have a least 1 or preferably 2 tours on Canberras under their belts before being considered.
It was therefore quite a shock when, on an experimental basis, some us were posted direct from getting our wings, into the V force. That found me at Gaydon which was the Valiant OCU. A lovely area in Warwickshire, but a terrible station - mostly SECO huts, with very few brick built buildings.
We had proper winters then with lots of snow, and very cold indeed, and there was a notice stating that we were allowed to wear our greatcoats in the Mess at breakfast!
I was lucky to be crewed up there with Flt Lt Ken Marwood AFM, who was taking over a 207 crew at Marham, having been a co-pilot on 148 Sqn also at Marham. He is of course now Wg Cdr Ken Marwood, the 207 Squadron Association President. I learned a very great deal from him in the 4 years that we were together.
The main feature about a V force station was that, after the youthful environment of Cranwell, the Squadron seemed to be composed of very much older men - most of them WWII veterans. Every tenth pilot seemed to be wearing the ribbon of the DSO, and every 3rd the ribbon of the DFC.
On one occasion I stood behind a Wg Cdr at the bar while he collected his round of drinks, and as he turned I glanced down to see the distinctive ribbon of the VC! We were in very privileged company. I was extremely proud to have served on a Squadron with such a great history, and I was conscious of the fact that the Squadron had lost over 950 aircrew during WW2.
I wish you all well, and I know that you are within a very short time of getting your Wings. That was one of highlights of my life, as I am sure it will be of yours. We were invested with our wings the night before our Passing Out parade, by the Commandant at Cranwell, Air Cdr TAB Parselle CBE - a former CO of 207 Squadron. The Assistant Commandant was Gp Capt HNG Wheeler CBE DSO DFC, a pre-WW2 member of the Squadron - later ACM Sir Neil Wheeler.
I wish you all well in your future careers, and once again I thank you for having us here on this great occasion.
Sqn Ldr Jack Christen RAF OC 207R Sqn
207 Squadron Dinner 1 June 2007
Station Commander, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this the 207 Squadron’s 90th Anniversary Dinner.
Whilst I consider myself reasonably capable at most things, flowers seem to pass me bye – I can’t grow them and certainly can’t place them into an eye pleasing fashion. Therefore it is with great respect that I thank the Mess ladies for the wonderful flower arrangements we have here this evening. We are also very fortunate in having an exceptional Mess Manager that manages extremely well, We always have first class service and first class fayre on such occasions and I would like to thank Mr Medlicott and his staff for an excellent evening.
I have a confession to make, this is not really the 90th Anniversary, as it was over ninety and a half years ago since No.7 Royal Naval Air Squadron was conceived from which 207 was formed. Let us hope that whoever organizes the Centenary celebrations uses timing more akin to Accurist than the sundial I inherited! Nevertheless, I hope this is a joyous occasion and I thank you all for attending and for signing the menu card this evening.
I stipulated a maximum of 4-5 minutes per speaker and I sincerely intend to stick to that myself. I will not be giving you a potted history of this distinguished Squadron, more an update of what we have achieved recently and a few congratulations.
207 Squadron has always been at the forefront of the public mind and today is no exception. Perhaps not as special as 3 Sep 43 when a BBC reporter, Mr Wynford Vaughan Thomas famously gave a live broadcast from F for Freddie whilst on a bombing raid over Berlin.
We too have our moments, some which the Station Commander may wish to forget such as the students support of the recent Eurovision Song Contest – imagine them pretending to be aeroplanes flying towards the camera and you can see how cringeworthy that was. It was however, publicity!
For those of you who watch Emmerdale, which of course I do not – no time! Next time look at the wall of the snug in The Woolpack and you will see a signed print of a 207 Squadron Tucano hanging there. There have also been numerous newspaper articles featuring members of 207 Squadron in the local community, most recently one of Jamie Bevan at Skipton Girls High School pressing the flesh so to speak. Over one hundred certificates to hand out with the same number of grip and grin photographs. A difficult job but somebody had to do it! Station Commander, all I would say is watch out for the Yorkshire Post in the near future, especially the Post on-line!
Now for some disturbing news – I believe there is a conspiracy within the Squadron. There have been a number of very important occasions on the Squadron, all planned for when I have not been here – surely it can’t simply coincide with the odd few days I have had!
The first was from Richie Sambrooks who ostensibly went off to Florida to sort out his villa with his fiancé Julie and came back to confess he had actually got married – congratulations to you both and about time too. There then arrived a very grand invitation to a wedding in Aberdeen – again, I was going to be away so could not congratulate Mark and Nicola Wharry on their special day.
This was fairly shortly followed by the wedding of Mike and Leslie Waring – this time I was up a mountain in Austria! They are now enjoying their honeymoon in South Africa and I pass my congratulations on to them. It was all starting to get too much for me, especially when another Squadron member felt he had to leave the Squadron prior to his forthcoming wedding this summer. Stewart and Claire Campbell, we wish you all the best for your forthcoming happy occasion. Weddings were not the sole events this year. Dickie and Debbie Parsons foolishly decided to swap those peaceful nights sleep for the delights of a baby daughter. We wish you and Daisy a speedy path to normality.
And there’s more, not content with securing a lucrative job with British Airways, Martin Colley will soon master the delights of becoming a father. Martin and Jo we wish you all the best for the future. But it’s not just the instructors who are having wild moments, the students are jumping on the wagon too. Jamie Bevan, its high stakes getting married just so you can have reasonable living accommodation at Valley, so please accept this bottle of champagne for you and Priscilla to crack open in your new surroundings.
It is not often we get the opportunity to say goodbye to an instructor, but on this occasion we do. Now, the fast jet instructor is brash, very confident shouts a lot and expects the student to be the same. Surprisingly, this is not always the best way to teach, although it does have its merits. The modern way is to be sympathetic, caring and understanding and devote time to ensuring that all is well with the individual. This is the approach Claire Whitmore takes and a very successful one it is too. Claire, whilst you have been with us for less than a year you have made your mark. Now go and do the same with 32 Squadron as they certainly need some guidance – we wish you and Steve all the best on the front line and I would now like to give you a small token of our appreciation.
Finally, I would now like all past and present members of 207 Squadron to rise and drink a toast to 207 Squadron.
Sqn Ldr Ian Hampton RAF(Retd), Navigator & Commanding Officer Feb 1983-June 1984
[Copies of this were made available in the Ante-Room before the Dinner]
I am sorry that I cannot be with you tonight. It is useful to start with a perspective of where the Squadron, in its communications role, stood in the bigger picture of the whole RAF.
The Service was very much larger than today, with multiple Commands and Groups responsible for over 70 active airfields in the UK (and that's only from my logbooks). The movement of people, equipment, classified documents and communications generally was a major undertaking. At one time it was the responsibility of five squadrons, outwith the front-line assets. Eventually this contracted to two squadrons, both based at Northolt.
Many will look back to those years as the 'sunshine' years, with a peacetime atmosphere and ample resources. However, the 'Cold War' was then at its most intense and the RAF was permanently involved in Quick Reaction Alert-type operations in a variety of operational roles. The operational tempo was unremitting (but steady) and most flying had an obvious focus, training for a known and clear threat.
In the midst of this sat 207 Squadron, equipped in the main with elderly aircraft and flown by generally elderly aircrew who brought lots of experience gained in all roles and many, many aircraft types.
In my time the background types included: Lightning, Hornet, Javelin, Hastings, VC10, Hercules, Piston Provost, Gnat, Beverley, Andover, Vulcan, Valiant, Britannia, Swift, Hunter, Meteor, Brigand, Shackleton and I'm sure many more.
The flying was varied and although the common perception that it was "only flying AOCs around" did have a grain of truth, there were many other roles in which the Squadron was involved. Much of the flying was out of the public eye and away from our home base, which meant that the aircrew were often unsupervised and left to just get on with the task in hand. This was where the experience and varied background came into its own. The reputation was for a job always well done, with the minimum of fuss and maximum flexibility.
Clearly, it wasn't all hard work and 207 also had a reputation for 'playing hard'. This no doubt was also a reflection of the maturity and experience available to us. Parties varied from the excellent to the awesome and some tales are probably still protected by the 30-year rule!
When I arrived at Northolt in the Spring of 1983, my predecessor Robbie Lunn and Ben Lyon were already in the planning stage for a reunion of Ken Letford's Lancaster F for Freddie crew with former BBC War Correspondent Wynford Vaughan-Thomas in September 1983. It would be the fortieth anniversary of their famous 3rd September 1943 Berlin trip. As part of the initial search the crew, Ben had advertised in various publications and 'old-boys' groups and this had triggered a response from other ex-207 guys.
Some had flown together and they wrote and asked if they could visit the Squadron. Obviously, I said "Yes". They duly arrived and had a great day during which the seeds were sown for the Squadron Association. Professor David Balme DSO DFC was the obvious first President. We had regular visits from the old-boys from various crews. The word was out 'on the streets' and it didn't take long for the numbers to grow.
The originally planned get together was a resounding success. Ben Lyon did sterling work and found that all but one of the Letford crew had - hugely against the odds - survived the war. All were in the UK except Ken himself who was in Vancouver. Unknown to us at the time, Ken was terminally ill and his family decided that this reunion was something he should not miss. They bought him and his wife Sherri a pair of tickets as a surprise gift. The crew had never got together after their time on 207 and had not been in contact with one another.
Wynford was up for it and Ben had found his BBC sound engineer on the raid (Reg Pidsley) retired and living with his son in North London. Reg's family had never had any contact with the military apart from his one flight in a Lancaster, which they knew nothing about. They were very sceptical about involving this frail old wheelchair bound chap in anything. Eventually, they were persuaded that we meant no harm and Reg and his son were brought to the dinner on the Saturday night. It was an eye-opener for the son. He had no idea what his father had done and we played excerpts from the recording during various speeches.
The next day, when we had an informal afternoon at the Squadron, Reg and his son turned up again (they had always said that they would only be at the dinner). Reg presented the Squadron with the original aluminium disc that he had cut on a cumbersome recording machine lying prone in the belly of the Lancaster. A real hero! As an aside, Reg probably had the shortest active service posting to 207 Squadron as he was made Sergeant Aircrew for one day only in case he was shot down and captured.
The disc sat in my office for a couple of days. Since we couldn't play it on anything, I rang the BBC sound archives. When I finally got hold of one of their senior staff and described what I had in front of me, they couldn't get out to Northolt fast enough and reverently bore it away almost wrapped in cotton wool. Obviously, Reg had squirreled it away at sometime in his later career with the BBC.
Sadly, most of the Letford crew died in the next few years as did Reg and Wynford, so ours really was a magical weekend.
Ken Letford deserves a book on his own. Not only did he do a further tour on Lancasters, but after the war he stayed in the RAF. When flying Sunderlands in the Far East he was again a hero when he landed under fire on the Yangtse River to rescue the wounded from HMS Amethyst. He eventually left the RAF after crashing a Valiant (not 207's) and emigrated to Canada.
Enough of the old chaps!! We also shepherded the RAF's proud old aircraft. Flying alongside the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was always fun but was always different. We would have a couple of their groundcrew on board and would lead the navigation, looking after the communications during the transits.
BBMF Spitfire and Hurricane shepherded in this occasion by a 207 Bassett
We would make huge efforts to avoid bad weather - the Hurricane needed to avoid flying through rain as it would degrade the wooden propellor (not a problem in wartime - but a huge expense in modern times). It was the reason why my diplomatic skills were tested when trying to negotiate a short notice clearance across Cologne at 1000 feet for a formation of a Devon, Hurricane and Spitfire!
Some of the best flying was when we delivered all the cryptographic information around the remoter RAF stations. This was a monthly trip and in the summer we would do it at between 500 and 3000 feet and all at 160 knots. Northolt to St Mawgan (refuel) - Chivenor - St Athan - Brawdy - Aberporth - Valley (lunch in the Aircrew Feeder!). Valley - Bishops Court - Aldegrove - Prestwick (night-stop). Next day was Prestwick - Macrihanish - Benbecula - Stornoway (lunch) - Saxa Vord - Kinloss (night-stop). Next day Kinloss - Aberdeen - Leuchars - Turnhouse - Carlisle - Newcastle - Northolt. I'm tired even writing it all down, but it was a wonderful tour of the UK and you got to know the country like the back of your hand.
Devons of 207 Sqn on goodbye tour 1984
Fifteen years later, when flying on the Nimrod Display Crew for four years, they could never understand why I could recognise airfields, towns, and features all over the UK without needing a map!
Those here tonight are predominately aircrew (or ex-aircrew) so you will understand the pleasure of this type of flying in a Devon. However, you will also appreciate how hard it was in the winter months in an unpressurised, unheated aircraft with very limited navaids and of course below 10,000 feet!! This was some of the hardest and most uncomfortable flying I did in 37 years.
Take care and I shall be thinking of you all.
Frank Haslam, then Association Membership Secretary and Website & Newsletter Editor, Friend Member and son of a 207 Lancaster Wireless Operator who when shot down in June 1944 evaded capture, adds:
On behalf of our Committee, and Association members present many thanks to all who have made tonight's Dinner possible.
No.207 Squadron Association, which was founded in 1984, has a reputation and performance which is the envy of many other squadrons. Special mention must be made of our late President Air Vice Marshal David Dick and my tireless predecessor as Membership Secretary, Ron Winton for their long and dedicated service to the Association.
We are a proud family, treasuring our long history beginning in 1916 as No.7 Squadron Royal Naval Air Service. We are delighted to be here tonight among today's 207 and tomorrow's pilots. We hope that there will be some of you students and staff who will join your Association - please contact us via the 207 website via www.rafinfo.org.uk
You will help to ensure that we will continue to remember being SEMPER PARATUS
207 Squadron Flying on 1 Nov 2006 to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the Squadron
If you have other photos or stories to add about the Dinner, please contact the editor Frank Haslam .
page last updated 15 June 2007