W/O. Charles Arthur Conway Wanbon DFM
Born: Farnham, Surrey 8th June 1923. Died: Catford, London, England 5th October 2017 - age 94
Bomber Command remained the defining experience of his life!
Above image Copyright Keith Collman 2012
As rear gunner with "C" Charlie 78 Squadron, he and his band of brothers completed 35 operational sorties from September 1943 through to June 1944, and were based at RAF Breighton, Yorkshire.
Operational in 4 Group Bomber Command from July 1940 with Whitley and later Halifax bombers, they served with tremendous distinction until the end of the war and beyond, and were all awarded DFCs and DFMs respectively.
Left: Charles Conway and Keith Collman at RAF club, June 2016. (copyright: EB-M/ Keith Collman)
Charles was awarded his DFM personally by King George at Buckingham Palace in 1946.
Charles, Eddie, Cyril, Joe, Ken, Peter and Jon remained in close contact throughout the post-war years, attending commemorative events together and sharing a bond that could never be broken.
Right: Sketch by Esther Beresford-Muravyeva 2012
His proudest day in recent years was his attendance at the Bomber Command Memorial unveiling in 2012, by which time sadly only Peter "fingerwind" Jones (navigator) had survived to old age. With Peter unable to attend due to ill-health, it fell to Charles to represent his noble colleagues: an event to which I was humbled and privileged to accompany him.
Above: circa 1941 2nd from left, with Jon, Jan and Eddie
More recently, we attended the memorial service for Sir Michael Beetham which was held at St Clement Danes in June 2016. There was a special poignancy for Charles as he knew Sir Michael very well, and his surviving family were touched and delighted to share special memories at a reception at the RAF club (which overlooks the Bomber Command Memorial site at Hyde Park Corner).
Right: At the Bomber Command Memorial unveiling ceremony - June 2012. copyright Mark C. Kehoe (senior photographer, Sunday Express)
Charles loved music of all kinds, and was passionate about animal welfare, having been a devoted dog owner all his life. The loss of his beloved Shia tzu Monty-who attained the great age in human years of 17! - was a particularly cruel and difficult moment, but as usual Charles soldiered on with fortitude and sunny optimism.
A lifelong Arsenal supporter, we laughed and were occasionally aghast about the ups and downs! A wry and sparkling wit and wisdom characterized our conversations about anything from world politics to Strictly Come Dancing, and he had an energy, inquisitiveness and capacity for life that remained completely undiminished.
Charles was an exceptional man: a man of valour. A man of honour. A man of selflessness and humility. Quiet and humble, kind and gentle. Twinkling RAF blue eyes, alight and alive with humour even upon his last day.
He slipped away peacefully, a richly deserved blessing for a long life so well lived.
"Nemo Non Paratus" (78 Squadron motto: Nobody unprepared)
Esther Beresford-Muravyeva (friend)
RAF Breighton. 78 Squadron Halifax "C" Charlie. September 1943 - June 1944.
Pilot: Fl/Lt. J.R. Gordon-Davis - Distinguished Flying Cross. (Jon, Argentinian, known as Gordon/ Skipper)
Navigator: P/O. P.R. Jones - Distinguished Flying Cross. (Peter, known as Pete/ Fingerwind
Wireless Operator: P/O. K.L.K Gillam - Distinguished Flying Cross. (Ken, nickname Gill)
Flight Engineer: Fl/Sgt. J. Stark - Distinguished Flying Medal. (Joe, nickname Hammer)
Air Bomber: Fl/Sgt. C. Laws - Distinguished Flying Medal. (Cyril, nickname Nipper)
Mid Upper Gunner: Fl/Sgt. E. Charles - Distinguished Flying Medal. (Eddie)
Rear Gunner : Fl/Sgt. C.A.C. Wanbon - Distinguished Flying Medal. (Charles, known as Charlie/Wang)
Aircraft: "C" Charlie, Halifax IIA and III
Sorties: 35 Operational Sorties with 78 Squadron, 3 September 1943 to 15 June 1944 at RAF Breighton Yorkshire.
Raids Flown: Whitleys- 163 bombing. Halifaxes - 323 bombing, 32 minelaying.
Sorties and losses: Whitleys - 1,117 sorties, 34 aircraft lost (3 per cent) Halifaxes - 5,120 sorties, 158 aircraft lost (3.1 per cent)
His funeral took place on the 03rd November 2017 and was attended by Andrea Ruddick on behalf of Aircrew Remembered.
Points Of Interest:
78 Squadron flew the most sorties in 4 Group. Suffered most losses and highest percentage losses in any Halifax squadron. Suffered most losses in 4 Group and third heaviest overall losses in any Bomber Command squadron. Believed to have dropped the greatest tonnage of bombs in 4 Group, approximately 16,900 tons.
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