Monday, September 27, 2010

Aircrew - RAF No. 626 Squadron Lancaster - 1945

Further to my posts below, here is some information provided to me courtesy of Dave Stapleton of "The 626 Squadron Research Project". Here is the roster of my dad's crew-mates on a 626 Squadron Lancaster bomber:

Pilot Officer A R Screen - RAF - Pilot
Flying Officer R J Lovell - RCAF - Navigator
Warrant Officer E A Ellum - RAF - Wireless Operator
Flying Officer D H Mitchell - RCAF - Bomb Aimer
Sergeant W R Bradley - RAF - Flight Engineer
Sergeant H W St. Laurent - RCAF - Mid-Upper Gunner
Sergeant C Rodger - RCAF - Rear Gunner

As indicated by the listing, RAF bomber aircrews were made up of men from different Commonwealth countries, not just from the U.K. Hence four Canadians. If memory serves, my father told me that Sergeant Rodger was from Toronto.

Those guys were a brave bunch. When I was in my late teens or early 20s, I would bellyache something like: "Ohh... where's the bus? My feet are cold." Okay, jerk, try the following: Cold or even frostbitten hands (if you were a gunner); flak exploding all around; getting 'coned' in searchlights over a city; coming under attack from a lurking night fighter, with your pilot sending your bomber into a violent corkscrew maneuver -- as the gunners open fire and fill the inside of the fuselage with fumes of cordite -- to increase your chances of seeing home that night; a bomb dropped by a friendly bomber above hitting your own aircraft, and right beside where you are sitting (that happened to my dad on a trip); wondering if you might end up bobbing about on the North Sea in the middle of the night, or having to bail out over enemy territory....

Those cold feet don't seem to be so bad, after all.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spring Cleaning '10

This blog started on May 28th, 2008. After reviewing my past postings -- mainly the first bunch -- I decided to clean house. Too much early rubbish... to the bin.

A few of the early postings will be reinserted in the near future with some minor editing.

As I mentioned in the very first posting I have a regular website:

Hopefully, things will pick up soon in the production end.

IMDB (Internet Movie Database) listing is here:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Royal Air Force 626 Squadron - May 1945

Dave Stapleton of supplied me with the above picture to help identify my father. It was taken on May 30th, 1945, and shows RAF 626 Squadron airmen wearing their "Best Blues".

Just a few weeks before, my dad and his crew flew twice to Rotterdam as part of "Operation Manna", a series of sorties which involved air-dropping sacks of food for the starving Dutch population.

Those were different times.

Nothing's changed, eh? How we never learn.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

626 Squadron - Royal Air Force

I’m just old enough to have had a father who served in World War II. I say this as when the subject comes up I am asked how I can be the offspring of a Second World War veteran – I’m 48, and I am one of the second batch as my late father had been married before.

In reference to that great opening speech in one of my favourite movies, Patton (1970), where George C. Scott as George S. Patton addresses an unseen crowd of soldiers, my father did not ‘shovel shit in Louisiana’. He served in RAF Bomber Command; specifically as an Air Gunner on Lancasters with number 626 Squadron. I say this, I suppose, partly in the hope to snag those former aircrew who might be surfing the Net after keying “626 Squadron” into their search engines. My dad’s “Skipper” was Pilot Officer A. R. Screen; referred to by his crew as “three engine Screen” as their Lanc often lost an engine on sorties.

As I discovered a few years ago after keying the said search I found out that there is a British gentleman, by the name of Dave Stapleton, who dedicates time to researching the very same squadron – he too has a connection to 626. Last week Dave sent me a nice panorama shot which had been taken of the squadron's crewmembers a couple of weeks after VE-Day. These large-format photographs were taken of the squadron previously during the war (as they were for other squadrons) but what is interesting about this one is that these guys survived the war. My dad is in there somewhere but, as the picture does not come with a “key”, I have to corroborate this one with the siblings.

Not to go on too much about the subject, Dave also supplied me with my dad’s Operational Record, but I will end with this: “This raid on Berchtesgaden was the last operational sortie flown by 626 Squadron, and the last major raid of the war in Europe. Two targets were identified for the raid, the Eagles Nest itself and the SS Barracks nearby. 626 Squadron’s target was the SS Barracks.”

Thanks again to Dave Stapleton for his fine research work:

* The photo above is of the very Lancaster that my father flew in on the ‘Berchtesgaden’ operation; in addition to two earlier raids, including one on Bremen three days before. (The crew pictured here is not his crew.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sea Things

Like many artists I draw what Archie Bunker might call "normal tings": Humans, buildings, oxen pulling plows, and a house cat playing with a ball of yarn.

However, I remind myself that I am not afraid to conjure up strange things. Fastened above, from my archives, is a pencil sketch that I commissioned myself to render back in December of 1984. It is titled, simply enough, "Sea Thing (on the beach)". The original is approximately 8" by 8".

Looking at the drawing now, the workmanship is not particularly good, but it is an example of what I can pull out of my hat... well, the subject matter, not the actual subject. Cripes, if I were to pull that out of my hat...

My excuse is that when I was in my formative years I was living in West Germany. As anyone would tell you who was in that lovely country back in those days (1960s/1970s) there was a lot of kids, around my own age, who were physically deformed, some horribly. All thanks to a little drug called Thalidomide. Pretty upsetting stuff.

It was very common to see children with flippers for arms, or malformed legs.

I remember my family driving across the German countryside and my mother blurting out with some emotion, "oh, look at that little boy, he's horribly deformed". Due the speed that my dad was driving, I was not able to see anything -- probably a good thing. The description my mother gave me was more interesting than anything else. Kids are inquisitive.

And some of them go on to draw and paint. I've drawn more offbeat things than just this, but it is a sampling.

Next: "My Mind"