2019/05 – 35 Squadron Memorial Stone Unveiling

The unveiling of a 35 Squadron memorial stone in the Ribbon of Remembrance at the International Bomber Command Centre, Lincoln on 14th May 2019

Nearly 40 people were present for the unveiling of a 35 Squadron memorial stone in the Ribbon of Remembrance at the International Bomber Command Centre, Lincoln on 14th May 2019.

In glorious sunshine, padre Charles Thody conducted a memorable ceremony, using the following script:

Ladies and Gentlemen

It was back in 2012 that a chance conversation at a dinner table, started a chain of events, which has resulted in us gathering here today.

One of the people at that table was Carol Ferguson, who had learned, at the age of four, that her father was “presumed dead, following air operations on the 4th February 1945”.

A faded photograph was the only reminder that she had of her Dad and she had no idea how he had lost his life on that tragic night.

The resulting search on the internet and in reference books revealed that there was very little information about his service with the RAF Volunteer Reserve, nor about No. 35 Squadron, the squadron that he, and thousands of others, had served with.

And so, began, a labour of love, aimed at ensuring that other families have access to the history of the squadron,from its earliest beginnings during World War I, through to its disbandment in 1982.

Over the last seven years, documents and photographs have been gathered from all over the world and the material has been used to construct a website, which now contains over 1000 pages about the squadron’s aircraft, personnel and activities

The information has also been used to assist more than three hundred families to research their loved ones and to help various museums and memorial rooms with the labelling of their displays.

Money has been raised to purchase a number of wreaths, which have been laid at memorial events in the UK and in Europe, to honour squadron personnel.

……. today sees the culmination of the latest project to honour those that served.

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Here at the International Bomber Command Centre, our focus is on commemorating the bravery and sacrifice of those who served and supported Bomber Command during World War II ……. but today, we remember all those who served with No. 35 Squadron throughout its history.

We remember the men that served during World War I, flying flimsy aircraft over hostile terrain, observing and photographing enemy defences, troop movements and the effects of artillery fire.

Men like Moses Boyd, who was killed when his aircraft lost flying speed during a training exercise in 1916

….. and men like Harold Cotterill and George Devenish, whose aircraft was brought down in flames by heavy artillery whilst on a Patrol on the 6th June 1917; neither of them survived.

We remember those that served between the two world wars, flying the Fairey Gordon, the Vickers Wellesley, the Fairey Battle and the Bristol Blenheim.

Men like Frank Essam, Thomas Newton and Jack Read, who lost their lives in the Sudan whilst on a Reconnaissance Flight during the Abyssinian Crisis in the 1930s

……. and men like Bernard Connor, Ewart Looker and Geoffrey Rhind, who were killed in a training accident here in the UK.

We remember those that served in the post war years, flying the Lancaster, the Lincoln, the Washington, the Canberra and the Vulcan.

Men like Flying Officers Redman and Mansell, who were killed in a Canberra crash during a Diversion Practice.

……. and the seven-man crew of a Washington, who lost their lives when their aircraft crashed into Morecambe Bay

I know that many of you here today served during the “Vulcan Era” and we thank you and your colleagues for your service to this country.

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When we talk about squadrons, we tend to focus on the aircrew, but we must not forget the ground trades, such as the tinsmiths, sailmakers and riggers from World War I, nor the latter day trades such as the flight line mechanics and technicians, working outside in all weathers to ensure that each aircraft was repaired, refuelled and armed, ready for the next flight.

We must not forget the store keepers, the intelligence gatherers and the clerks, working away in the background, ensuring that equipment, kit and information was always available.

And so today, let us remember those that lost their lives on the squadron’s airfields.

Men like Arthur Dale, Kenneth Marloth and Hector Meeson, who were killed during an airfield attack at Linton-On-Ouse in 1941

… and women like Rosina Hardcastle, who died on active service with the squadron at the age of 18

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Returning to the main focus of the International Bomber Command Centre, we pick up the story of Carol’s father, Cecil, who, despite being in a reserved occupation, volunteered for service in March 1943.

Having been selected for aircrew training as a Flight Engineer, he was kitted out and introduced to the rigours of service life.

With fitness improved, discipline instilled and aggressive spirit roused, he was posted to a School of Technical Training to learn the skills needed to operate in his designated aircrew trade.

Once qualified, he was posted to a heavy conversion unit and it was here that he crewed up with a newly qualified pilot, navigator, air bomber, wireless operator and air gunners to learn how to work as part of a team to operate a four-engine heavy bomber.

This fledgling crew flew their first operational sortie with No. 35 Squadron in September 1944, just a few weeks after completing their training. Five months later, they took off in Lancaster ME334 on their 31st sortie and “failed to return”.

Their relatives received a telegram the following day reporting them “missing as a result of air operations on the 4th February 1945”

……. and in October 1945 they learned that it was likely that they had all lost their lives and been buried in a local graveyard near Bonn.

After the war, their remains were exhumed, identified and reburied in a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, “in the country that they fell”, in accordance with Government policy at the time.

And so today, as well as unveiling a stone to remember all those who served with No. 35 Squadron, we will unveil a stone to remember Carol’s father, and another to remember that seven-man crew,

  • Allan Johnson
  • Gerald Thomas
  • Harry Coulton
  • Roy Jenkins
  • Raymond Neale
  • Doug Hadland
  • and Cecil

Their names are on the Walls of Names here at the IBCC, which records all those that lost their lives serving with, or supporting Bomber Command, during World War II

Nearly two thousand men flew operational sorties with No 35 Squadron after completing their aircrew training

…………………….. the names of over six hundred and sixty of them are listed on the Walls

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It is impossible for us to sit here today and imagine the sights, sounds and smells that each airman experienced, nor the emotions that he felt, as he flew over the continent night after night.

We can’t imagine how it felt to bale out of a burning aircraft, thousands of feet in the air, or to ditch in the sea in total darkness

We can’t imagine how it felt to be captured and imprisoned in a hostile country, not knowing when captivity would end

….. nor can we imagine the suffering of those on the long march from prison camps in the winter months of 1944

And so, today, as well as remembering those that lost their lives, let us also remember the survivors, the injured, the escapers and the prisoners of war, who returned to their families, many carrying their physical and mental scars with them for the rest of their lives.

Men like Victor Hobbs, who had reconstructive surgery for his burns at East Grinstead hospital and became a member of the Guinea Pig Club.

…… men like George Lambert, who evaded capture for ten months, with help from one of the many escape lines.

…… and men, like Ernest Holmes and Derrick Coleman, who, after evading for a month, were captured and imprisoned for the remainder of the war.

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I will now read out a very short poem, after which we will take a few moments to reflect

High up in the air they flew, a heavy bomber, a seven-man crew

Freezing cold and with eagle eye, they watched for fighters in the sky

Searchlights threw a beam of light, is that the target for tonight?

“Bombs Away” then heading back, the aircraft judders, hit by flak

It splutters on, engines hissing, mothers are told “your son is missing”

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I would now like to ask Carol (Cecil Butler’s daughter), Brenda (representing the relatives of the crew of Lancaster ME334) and Jenny (representing all who served with No 35 Squadron) to step forward and unveil the stones

We bless and dedicate these stones to the memories of those who lost their lives in ME334 and to all who have served with 35 Squadron throughout its years of service. For those whom we knew, for those whose memories we treasure today, we give thanks and pray that these stones may continually act as reminders of that service. Amen

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Could I now ask you to follow me down to the spire where we will observe two minute’s silence and lay a wreath in remembrance of all those that lost their lives whilst serving with No 35 Squadron

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Earlier, I mentioned Ernest Holmes, who at 97 years old, is one of the few remaining members of 35 Squadron that served during World War II. Sadly, he was not able to attend the unveiling today due to ill health.

However, as a prelude to two minute’s silence, I would like to read out three lines that he wrote whilst in captivity, to honour the five members of his crew that lost their lives.

When the sun sets, and darkness falls, I will remember

When the sun rises, and another day is born. I will remember

For remembrance is all that I possess, of those I knew so well

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LAST POST / TWO MINUTES SILENCE / REVEILLE

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Those that lost loved ones during the war, received a message of sympathy from Buckingham Palace which expressed the country’s gratitude “for a life so nobly given to its service”.

The laying of this wreath today demonstrates our continued gratitude.

Almighty Father, whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the king of all: govern the hearts and minds of those in authority, and bring the families of the nations, divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin, to be subject to his just and gentle rule; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Amen.

Almighty and eternal God, from whose love in Jesus we cannot be parted, either by life or death, we give you thanks for all whom we remember this day, and ask that you would so work your good purposes in us that we might honour those who have gone before us and share with them in your eternal joy.

Amen

The Peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of our Lord Jesus Christ. And the blessing of the God of Life, the blessing of the Christ of Love and the Blessing of the Spirit of Peace, be with you and remain with you now and always.

Amen