04.08.1944 No. 635 Squadron Lancaster III ND811 F2-T Sqn Ldr. Ian Willoughby Bazalgette VC, DFC
Operation: Trossy, Lyaud, France
Date: August 4, 1944 (Friday)
Unit: No. 635 Squadron - Motto: Nos Ducimus Ceteri Secunter (We lead, others follow)
Badge: In front of a roundel nebuly, a dexter gauntlet holding three flashes of lightning
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Downham Market, Norfolk
Location: Crash-landed at Senantes (Oise)
Pilot: Sqn Ldr. Ian Willoughby Bazalgette VC, DFC 118131 RAFVR Age 25 - Killed (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. George Richard Turner 1500098 RAFVR Age ? - Evader (2)
Nav: Fl/Lt Geoffrey Goddard 158895 RAFVR Age 22 - Evader (3)
Air/Bomber: Fl/Lt Ivan Alderwin Hibbert DFC 149827 RAFVR Age 29 - Killed (4)
W/Op/Air/Gnr.: F/O. Charles Randall (Chuck) Godfrey DFC 146099 RAFVR Age 22 - Evader (5)
Air/Gnr: F/Sgt Vernon Victor Russell Leeder Aus/419272 RAAF Age 28 - Killed (6)
Air/Gnr: F/O Douglas Cameron DFM MiD 146616 RAFVR Age 34 - Evader, joined French Underground (7)
Baz: The Biography of Squadron Leader Ian Willoughby Bazalgette
'Bazalgette' is pronounced 'Baz-el-jet'.
by T.C. ‘Hamish’ Mahaddie DSO DFC AFC
...Ian had very good reports from the various sections at Warboys and once he joined 635 Squadron he progressed with some speed through the various stages of the Bennett tactics and was soon assessed as a potential Master Bomber.
...Please-to-remember there was a change of aircraft at the last minute and indeed Ian volunteered to do that sortie when he should have been starting his leave quota.
Measured against the highest PFF standard, Baz and crew set a high water mark in operational ability and leadership. His zest for flying was infectious throughout the squadron and his natural boyish personality made his passing very hard to bear, more especially in the period just before victory was achieved.
...Thus, the heroic endeavours of Squadron Leader Ian Willoughby Bazalgette VC DFC RAFVR will serve as a benchmark to the youth of Canada to serve their country with the same verve and dedication as Baz - A GENTLEMAN AT ARMS.
At a Dedication Ceremony on 27 July 1990, Avro Lancaster FM-159 became the 'Ian Bazalgette Memorial Lancaster.' The Nanton Lancaster Society brought together relatives, crew members, a fellow pilot, a senior officer, and friends to remember the respected Royal Air Force officer they all had known well. Members of the Society, guests, and through the media, tens of thousands of others were introduced to an Alberta-born hero who had been virtually forgotten.
The following year Ian’s Lancaster was rolled into the newly constructed building that would become the Bomber Command Museum of Canada. During the years since, hundreds of thousands have come to know of Alberta’s World War II Victoria Cross recipient during visits to the museum and its website, and through museum publications and promotional work…
The honouring of Squadron Leader Bazalgette VC DFC, both in his being awarded the Victoria Cross and his being honoured by the Dedication of the Ian Bazalgette Memorial Lancaster, must be viewed as a tribute to all who served.
In 1910 Charles Ian Bazalgette emigrated from London to the Hardisty area 175 kilometres southeast of Edmonton, Alberta and farmed on the east bank of the Battle River. That same year James Bunn emigrated from Ireland and worked the west bank.
Ian met and married his daughter, Marion Edith Bunn. Two children were born while they were still on the farm, Deryck and Ethel ('Allie/Ally').
When war was declared in 1914, Ian enlisted with the 51st Edmonton Battalion and served overseas with the 44th Winnipeg Infantry Battalion. At the front he was injured and suffered from poison gas exposure. Subsequently he developed trench-mouth and encephalitis complicating a vaccination. Following several months recuperating in England he returned home: 'Medically unfit for further service.'
In February 1918 the family moved to Calgary. Ian Willoughby Bazalgette was born on October 19, 1918. In order to avoid confusion he was referred to as 'Will'. The family moved to Toronto in 1922 where Will attended the Balmy Beach School.
Over the next three years Ian’s health deteriorated and he decided to return to England to be close to his family, settling in New Malden, Surrey. Here Will received his formal education at Rokeby Preparatory School and Beverley Boys Secondary School. His interests included photography, reading, painting, music (banjo and ukulele) and roses. During his teen years he maintained an intimate relationship with his Grandfather Bunn.
When he was thirteen he was afflicted with tuberculosis. This proved to be a difficult and challenging time for him. Treatment required admission to the Harpenden Sanitorium and four months in the Royal Seabathing Hospital, Margate.
With war clouds building, Will, age twenty-one, was employed by London County Freehold & Lease Properties Ltd. In early 1939 he left the company to become a soldier for six months: ‘An effect of the Military Training Act.’ On July 16, 1939 he enlisted in the Royal Artillery and was commissioned, serving with the Highland Searchlight Regiment. [London Gazette 23 September 1940]
Realising that this would offer little hope of active fighting, in March 1941 Will applied to the Edinburgh Board for transfer to the Royal Air Force. 2nd Lieutenant Bazalgette was rewarded with a commission in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve to begin training and duty as a pilot.
Baz was called up on June 7, 1941 and learned to fly at 22 Elementary Flying Training School, Cambridge. He took his first dual flight on July 24, 1941 in a De Havilland Tiger Moth and soloed on August 3rd. After a “C.O.’s Test with W/C May he was assessed 'Above Average' as a pilot. At the course’s conclusion on September 3rd, the decision was made that his military career would be as a multi-engine pilot. In the process he would develop an insatiable appetite to take the war to the enemy.
On September 15, 1941 he was posted to RAF Cranwell College for a four month course at the Service Flying Training School on Airspeed Oxfords. At this time the RAF ensured that he had written his will. He graduated with his coveted pilot’s wings, multi-engine rating and rank of Pilot Officer. [Commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 24 January 1942 - London Gazette 7 April 1942]
This was followed by a two week course in March 1942 at RAF Scampton: 18 Beam Approach Training School.
His next posting was to 25 Operational Training Unit RAF Finningley to crew up and prepare for the grim tasks of operational flying. His crew included Bill Bowen, navigator; George Ross, bomb aimer; George Roberts, wireless operator and Trevor 'Tom' Malloy, rear gunner. Training flights were carried out in operationally retired Wellington and Manchester aircraft. In the final month of O.T.U. at RAF Bircotes he was confronted with making a flap-less landing on August 17th: '…To my relief and joy, I had the good luck to do an absolute beauty. Most of the instructors were out to see the fun and the Squadron Leader said nice things to me afterwards.' On completion of this course Baz was again assessed 'Above the Average'.
It is interesting that throughout his military career, Baz sent his laundry home for his mother to mend and wash. As a non-smoker he included his allotment of cigarettes with his laundry for his father. 'Herewith the usual collection of soiled intimacies wrapped around father’s cigarettes. By the way did I thank you for the perfect flying boot socks you knitted for me?'
In a letter home he provided insight of his long term plans: 'I can’t decide whether I shall find my future career in Canada, Rhodesia, USA or for reconstruction in Burma or some place.'
His introduction to operations came with his crew’s posting to No. 115 Squadron RAF Marham, Norfolk, equipped with Wellington III’s. The portent of his operational career was set during the outbound leg of his ‘second dickie’ trip with Sgt. Pate on September 19, 1942 en route to Saarbrücken. Intercepted by a pair of FW 190 fighters, one dispatched by the rear gunner, and losing altitude they were forced to return to base. His second ‘second dickie’ op two days later, a gardening mission near Kiel, was uneventful.
After his eighth mission to Cologne he was granted leave, spent with his family celebrating his twenty-fourth birthday. His sister, Ethel ('Allie/Ally') remembered that her brother was very enthusiastic about gardening, in particular flowers. He had planted all the roses in their mother’s garden and was always keen to see how they were doing when he was home on leave.
On return to the Squadron he increased his ops tally, acquired a regular aircraft, KO-N, and was promoted to Flying Officer. His thirteenth trip was an eight hour, twelve minute ordeal to Turin, Italy: 'Good visibility over the Alps and target' and a 'Feeble defence.' In a letter home on November 27th he shared his philosophical thoughts on the risks involved: 'This operational life is the most fascinating existence ever – no matter what may happen it has all been very worthwhile. Nothing can profit a man so much as knowing his own reactions when faced with life or death and working with fine men of a like mind for the sake of a principle. With those essential facts always in the balance I have just had a couple of beers, hence this rather high-faluting verbiage.'
On February 19, 1943, No. 115 Squadron, now stationed at RAF East Wretham, converted to Lancaster Mk II’s. Baz soloed after thirty-five minutes of circuits and landings. Two additional crew members were acquired: Pete Skinner, flight engineer and Arthur Milton, mid-upper gunner.
Their first op as an expanded Lanc crew to St. Nazaire on 22/23 March, was aborted when they were recalled fifteen miles off the French coast. However, their next mission to Duisburg, 26/27 March, proved more eventful: '10/10ths cloud - large fires - crash landing.' Flak damage to the undercarriage necessitated a belly landing. Despite striking a tree, the crew walked away unscathed. This was followed by two sequential raids on 27/28 and 29/30 March to Berlin, 'The Big City', one of the most feared targets, involving a long flight over occupied Europe and heavy defences.
At the other end of the spectrum Baz found himself enjoying the peaceful English countryside and his focus often turned to the young ladies encountered. This is reflected in letter of 30 April to his mother: 'The moorhens have hatched now. They keep their brood in shallow water amongst the reeds, but the pike snaffle an odd chick I fear. The nightingale has begun to sing on warm, clear nights, the estate abounds with lilac hedges and lambs, and everything is a very “pastoral symphony".
Tonight we hope to be free to have a party; the feminine element will be supplied by nurses from Ely Hospital. I have staked a claim on a clearing in the lilacs where the scent hangs heavy and the nightingale sings. Yoo-hoo, can’t find me!'
His close friend Eric Briggs recounted: 'His favourite opening remark when introduced to new charmer was, as best as I can remember, "Has anyone ever told you that you have eyes like the fish pools of Hesperus?"'
Following leave at home, a letter to his mother on June 1 provides insight of his enjoyment and gratitude, as well as the devil may care attitude of an experienced bomber pilot, content with his lot: 'Just a brief note with my soiled drawers. The train journey went very smoothly and a group of us took a taxi to the camp. Everyone in the mess was in a very good mood – bags of laughter and dirty songs. A new WAAF officer too, quite attractive, the wolves are on her trail already. On the whole, everything quite pleasant but rather bleak after leave.
Thank you so much, all of you, for the thoughtfulness and trouble that makes my leaves so enjoyable. It manifests itself in so many ways –a 'gen' record index, whiskey and soda, good food and snacks on the train, and any amount of things which are noticed and appreciated.'
It is noteworthy that on July 1, 1943, Acting Squadron Leader Bazalgette was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross before completing his first tour of operations:
'This officer has at all times displayed the greatest keenness for operational flying. He has taken part in many sorties and attacked heavily defended targets such as Duisburg, Berlin, Essen, and Turin. His gallantry and devotion to duty have at all times been exceptional and his record commands the respect of all in his squadron.'
It was thought that the low level attack on Turin, Italy, led to this award.
Baz and his crew flew the last trip of their tour on August 12, 1943 to Milan, Italy: 'Enjoyable over London and the Alps; Otherwise a bind.' W/C F.F. Rainsford, CO No. 115 Squadron assessed his abilities as a heavy bomber pilot as 'Above the Average'. In a letter to the Nanton Lancaster Society W/C Rainsford described his off-duty nature and activities:
'I remember him as a cheerful, friendly officer with a most attractive smile. He loved to gather with others around the piano in East Wretham Hall which we used as an Officers Mess and he led the singing of bawdy songs. But he was not a rowdy type, could hold his beer with any man, and because of his real gift of leadership, his warm personality, and his fine operational record, he was liked by everyone.'
His rear gunner, Tom Malloy, recalled:
'Despite joining in at some of these boisterous activities, I always had a feeling that Baz’s heart was not really in it, there was a sense of holding back. I gained the impression that these boyish, frivolous "goings-on" were against his true nature but he took part occasionally because it was expected of him. He certainly never wished to be and never was, to all appearance, an odd man out.
Looking at him on more than one occasion when he did not appear to be enthusiastically taking part I guessed that he would have preferred to be in his room listening to music, reading, or dreaming of his roses at home.'
After a tour of duty that extended over eleven months, it was time for the crew to go their separate ways. Most would be posted to operational training units to pass on lessons learned to the rookie crews yet to see action.
Sqn Ldr. Bazalgette found himself posted as a Flight Commander to RAF Lossiemouth located on the north coast of Scotland. His flying duties were severely curtailed and he expected to spend a great deal of his time 'watching the mountain goats bounding through the swirling wreaths of mist'. His role at No. 20 Operational Training Unit was to supervise the training and preparation of raw new crews for their first tour of combat flying over Occupied Europe. On September 3, 1943, he flew himself to OTU in a Lanc II.
Baz was not enthused with his role at OTU and aspired to return to the excitement and challenges of operational flying, in particular, participating in the role of the Pathfinder Force (PFF) marking the target for the main force. While at OTU, on a weekly basis, he beseeched Group Captain Hamish Mahaddie with telephone calls and letters for a posting to the PFF:
'16 Sycamore Grove 24 August, 1943 New Malden, Surrey
Sir: I understand from my telephone conversation yesterday with Flt. Lt. Rogers that Air Cdre. Kirkpatrick of No. 3 Group requested that the PFF should not claim me, as there was a "special job" for which I was required.
No. 115 Squadron have informed me by letter that I am posted to Lossiemouth on a routine exchange for a Flight Commander from that station, with effect from the 1st September.
The actual position, as I see it (and writing very unofficially), is that No. 3 Group cannot obtain the particular replacement for me they require without offering me in exchange. The upshot is that my application for the PFF is quietly squashed whilst I am on leave on the grounds of a "special job." The only work that I have heard of is either an OTU or a Stirling Conversion Unit.
The real point is where can I be of the greatest value, and I am convinced that a PFF tour does more good than a Flight Commander’s job at an OTU.
My personal angle is that anyone missing ops this autumn and winter has "had it". I entreat you to rescue me before the 1st September if I can be of use to PFF.
Again, I must apologise for bothering you with my personal affairs, but the incentive is very strong.
I am, sir, yours faithfully
Ian W. Bazalgette'
While at OTU Baz had the fortune to encounter F/O Douglas Cameron DFM who was the experienced Gunnery Leader of his flight. He would finish the war with a total of 122 sorties, in four tours of operations! On November 28, 1942, and well into his third tour, he served as the rear gunner for Stirling pilot, F/Sgt. R.H. Middleton RAAF, on the Turin raid. Hit by flak on the return leg, F/Sgt. Middleton sustained severe facial injuries and his co-pilot was totally incapacitated. Despite this he was able fly to the Kent coast where four of the crew baled out. Unfortunately, F/Sgt. Middleton and two of his crew perished when their aircraft crashed into the sea. For his valiant efforts he was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously.
F/O Cameron would remember Baz as:
'An officer who was equally at home with his peers and other ranks, who earned the respect of all by his pursuance of carrying the offensive to the enemy, who won the affection and gratitude of his subordinates for his care and promotion of their welfare, not less than the approval of his fellow and senior officers.'
When describing his work effort at OTU, F/O Cameron recalled:
'Although Baz didn’t relish idling his time on a training unit, he immediately applied himself to his new task with all the energy he possessed and the knowledge he had acquired, with such a degree of professionalism that all ranks became aware that a presence had arrived.'
Intent on returning to operations with a Pathfinder squadron, Baz screened the senior instructors at OTU to fill the positions of his future crew. In the process he cherry-picked those individuals who were compatible with himself and had at least one tour of ops. The following four agreed to return to the fray with Baz at the controls: Fl/Lt. Ivan Hibbert DFC, bomb aimer; Fl/Lt. Geoff Goddard, navigator; Fl/Lt. C.R. 'Chuck' Godfrey, wireless operator and F/O. Doug Cameron DFM, rear gunner. Flight engineer and mid-upper gunner would be added with squadron posting. F/O Cameron recounts his perspective of this encounter:
'One day Baz came into my office and asked if I was quite happy at the OTU. I told Baz that I would like to go back on ops but that the air force had told me that I had done enough and to let some others operate against the Germans. Baz told me not to worry about that and that he had friends in high places and if I would like to come he would like to have an experienced crew. I know now that G/C Mahaddie had a hand in getting Baz back on operations.'
Baz and his crew underwent their Pathfinder training and selection at RAF Warboys on April 27, 1944. This included four 'mock ops' in the Lancaster Mk III. Fl/Lt. Bob Hurnall was chosen as the crew’s mid-upper gunner. They successfully completed this conversion course on April 30 and were posted to No. 635 Squadron at Downham Market where they were joined by Sgt. George Turner, flight engineer, to complete the crew. He had completed his training at 1658 Heavy Conversion Unit and was relatively inexperienced with just one op prior to his Pathfinder posting. He first flew with Baz’s crew on May 4.
From the content of his first letter to his mother from Markham Down it is apparent that he is content to be ‘back on ops’:
'Life here is extremely pleasant. The weather is glorious, and we are training day and night. I always seem to be in an aeroplane, in bed, or tight. Grand.
My crew are all extremely keen and hard-working. I was very lucky to be able to hand pick them as I did. And we are all as happy as a bee with a bum full of honey. The general crew standard is higher than my first tour.'
Chuck Godfrey had fond memories of Baz’s dry sense of humour, making him one of the most popular mess members, in particular his expertise at performing 'The Muffin Man':
'This feat involves placing a pint of beer on one’s forehead while standing. The next step is to sit down and eventually to lie flat on your back, all the time of course, balancing the pint of beer on your forehead. If you are successful to this point, you simply have to regain the standing position. Baz was a real expert at that.'
Sqn Ldr. Bazalgette and crew flew on their first op from Downham Market on May 6/7, 1944, attacking the railway marshalling yards at Mantes-Grassicourt. Despite a night fighter attack, they returned unscathed. They carried out four more raids in May, three as 'Supporters'. By May 15 Baz had his own Lanc, ND850, F2-M 'Mother', for almost all training and operational flights. On May 27/28 they were detailed to attack the enemy airfield at Rennes and Baz noted in his log book: 'First Marker Trip'. This was noted to be a successful raid with much damage and a large explosion, possibly a bomb dump. Despite flak damage to one engine they returned safely to base.
Baz and crew had their first trip in June, 5/6, D-Day. They participated in the attacks on the enemy’s coastal batteries. Log book entry: 'D-Day – Longues Coastal Battery – Supporter – Channel full of shipping – Sky black with Lancs.'
His mother wrote a letter to him on D-Day, apparently aware of the events unfolding across The Channel:
'Just a short letter to tell you my thoughts, prayers, hopes, and wishes are with you today –and tho’ you are seldom out of my thoughts, these critical days will be busy one’s for you, or I suppose I should say nights in your case.
We have been listening at intervals to the news and getting on with work in between times, which is the best way to pass the time. On Sunday night, just at 10 pm, a Lancaster went over here, very low, with a light on. I stood outside the drawing room door and waved, pretending to myself ‘twas you, it was soon out of sight in the haze. We shall be anxious to hear from you as soon as it’s possible. I can understand how you felt when you decided that NOTHING would keep you out of this.'
On June 7, Baz was ordered to attack an enemy tank concentration holed up in the Forêt de Cerisy, showing initiative but disobeying orders, he released the bomb load at 800 feet, in the process earning commendations from the Army and a chewing out by senior RAF officers. As F/O Cameron recalled: 'All the enthusiasm of a "sprog" (novice) pilot'.
By June 12/13 Baz and his crew had gained sufficient experience to be delegated Deputy Master Bomber for the first time, when the Squadron was detailed to attack the railway marshalling yards at Cambrai, France. It is noteworthy that during this raid that Canadian mid-upper gunner, P/O Andrew Mynarski, of F/O Art de Breyne’s 419 Squadron Lanc, would fail in his attempt to free his rear gunner from the flames trapping him in his turret, parachute out of reach. Miraculously, with the exception of P/O Mynarski, the entire crew survived to become POWs. P/O Mynarski died of his injuries shortly after landing on French soil. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross on October 11, 1946. To read the story of this loss click here
One week after D-Day the first V-1 Flying Bomb was launched from northeast France: Target-London. Within a month one hundred a day were unleashed on southeast England. Each V-1 had an explosive load just under two thousand pounds and a range of 370 kilometres. Approximately 35,000 were produced and 9251 successfully launched. By the time the dust had settled 22,892 British citizens had lost their lives as a result of this terrifying weapon.
The losses would have been greater if Bomber Command High Command had not introduced Operation Crossbow with the sole purpose of targeting the ground fixed launching sites of enemy’s long-range weapons program or 'vengeance' weapons. If there was ever a purpose for precision daylight bombing this was it.
Baz had a personal interest in this Operation as his parents lived in London and often described in their letters to him the horror of being on the receiving end. As a result he was strongly motivated to ensure that Crossbow eliminated this threat as soon as possible. As a Pathfinder pilot these targets would monopolise the remainder of his tour of operations.
On June 23/24 and 24/25, Baz and crew were detailed to attack two Crossbow targets at Coubronne and Le Grand Rossignol before being rewarded with a period of well deserved leave. It was customary for Baz to spend the first two days with his crew, 'having a bash', with the remainder to recover with his family. His sister Ethel (Ally) recalls his last leave:
'The Germans were sending a lot of flying bombs over. Will was on leave and he was quite amazed, appalled really. There were so many coming over this last night that I remember my mother and father went into their shelter and Will and I went under a mattress in the hallway. That was the last memory I have of him. The thing that struck me was that this raid [the Victoria Cross Flight] was bombing the flying bomb sites at Trossy St. Maximin and there seemed a connection because the last time I saw him was when these flying bombs were raiding us.'
His mother’s next letter also referred to the ongoing bombardment by the V-1s:
'Here is some more of your laundry, I shall hope to get your soiled clothes in exchange soon.
Your leave seemed more than usually short and I am missing you, I hope the next weeks ‘tween leaves go by quickly. I hope your journey was comfortable and went smoothly. We had a nice lull on Monday night, lasting all night. Yesterday began with one flying bomb coming down on a cottage in Traps Lane, our nearest yet. Houses on our opposite side had glass broken and ceilings down. We were lucky, only blackout blinds down. There were no casualties, one old lady crawled into the Morrison [a type of indoor bomb shelter] and was taken out unhurt; though considerably shocked. They came over at intervals all day, but only a few during last night, two were in Malden.
The milk rounds woman left you a nice pint of milk yesterday. I wish you were here to enjoy it!'
Following leave Baz and his crew were back in the fray in short order, completing fourteen ops in the next four weeks. Two of these were attacks on V-1 targets at L’Hey and the storage caves at Nucourt on July 9 and 10.
A Canadian pilot, F/Sgt. Larry Melling, joined 635 Squadron in May and was impressed with Baz the first time that they met in the Flight Office:
'He had a tremendous sparkle in his eye is the best way to describe it. He stood out amongst the people who were there. He was an inviting sort of a person, a person that you wouldn’t hesitate to approach. I had no hesitation at all introducing myself to him and then through him to the rest of the guys who were there.
He was a very open, very outgoing type of a person, always ready for fun and games whatever that might be.
He was always the first to volunteer for a job, no matter what sort of job it might be. Even though he was a Squadron Leader he wasn’t above pushing a car to get it started or pumping up someone’s bicycle tire . . . He was just an all-round great guy — he really left an impression.'
Before long F/Sgt. Melling was sharing a common steed with Baz, Lanc 'F2-M'. As he recounted, his first encounter with their ground crew was rather curt:
'We did our target marking blind, by instruments, and they did their target marking visually, by actually seeing the target. If it was visual Baz would go, if it wasn’t, I would go with my crew.
His ground crew had a great respect for him and when I first went to fly his aircraft they were very very insistent that I take care of the bloody airplane and not bend it or scratch it or do anything like that. I think they were a little leery of me being just a flight sergeant taking the squadron leader’s aircraft.'
F/O Melling also participated in the July 9 raid on L’Hey, albeit in a different aircraft. It proved to be a most eventful trip. There was heavy flak over the target and suddenly 'one almighty "Bang" '. A quick inspection of the port wing revealed the port inner trailing white smoke, indicative loss of coolant, and all that remained of the port outer were some cables dangling from a bare firewall! Maintaining control of the aircraft with the two starboard engines required full right rudder, aileron trim and starboard wing down attitude. After an hour and a half ordeal, the remainder of the crew turned down the option of baling out before their Skipper pulled off a textbook landing at RAF Manston. After repairs their Lanc was returned to 635 Squadron to resume ops. Her serial number and code were: ND811, CF-T, 'T' for Tommy.
Baz wrote his last letter home to his mother on July 12, 1944:
'My last leave was an amazing experience and you were all utterly delightful to me as usual. I do feel that I leave you in greater danger than I am called upon to undergo. A very sad thought — my fingers are permanently crossed for you all.
Work has been very interesting since I returned, and in general we have had a grand time. One very good dance at Ely Hospital — bags of nice nurses with starched white jerkins. Tonight I am going to see "Gone with the Wind" with a WAAF officer — my next victim. My crew are all happy and raising lots of hell. We seem to create more trouble than anyone else on the camp, but we do have fun.
There seems little else to write about. My navigator on my first tour, Bowen, put up a frightful black. It seems he was sent back on ops as a punishment for absconding from the RAF for three months! Very strange.
My mid-upper gunner has had it and will not be allowed to fly on ops again. He was found sick in bed when required for a job at short notice and has remained there. I have not been given a substitute as yet.
Love to all, Will.'
Baz’s replacement mid-upper gunner was F/Sgt. Vernon Leeder RAAF.
On July 14/15 Baz and his crew were detailed to participated in an attack on the railway marshalling yards at Revigny sur Ornain. When the target could not be identified, the Master Bomber cancelled the raid. His log book entry reflects his frustration: 'Master Bomber "Boobed", flown 1300 miles for S.F.A'.
On July 15/16 they were 'Illuminators' for raid on the V-1 storage caves at Nucourt and on July 20/21 had the honour of Master Bomber for an attack on the V-1 facility at L’Hey and paid the price: 'Port wing holes, accurate flak, no fresh damage at L’Hey'.
Baz’s appetite for action and adventure would be well fed in the following weeks. He and his crew would be treated to three tough German targets in three consecutive days, 23/24 July - Kiel, 24/25 - Stuttgart and 25/26 - Stuttgart again! On 28/29 July they were on the Battle Order again, target Hamburg. Baz’s log book entry indicated that this was no cakewalk: 'Lots of fighters'. Apparently he was forced to fly violent corkscrew evasive manoeuvers all the way back. His spare rear gunner made the following comment when safely home: 'I’ve never had a trip like that. I don’t how I stood it'. (The price of life!)
Description of Corkscrew Manoeuvre
It is symbolic and prophetic that Will and his mother wrote letters to each other on the same day, July 12, 1944:
'Darling Will: I expect you, as well as I, shall be remembering five years ago to the day, next Sunday. Can it really be five years ago! In some ways it seems like a lifetime, in others like yesterday. How splendid a record you have for those five years, but yours is the individuality which would get on in anything and anywhere you had a fair chance. And you are the link in the chain which keeps this family together, very often, for instance a letter from you will often restore the happy atmosphere to this household like the magic wave of a wand, no, this is not a hint. The mere fact that your value has in no way spoiled you, further adds to your personality.'
Flight Engineer, George Turner, prepared a summary of Baz’s ops, for his mother, while serving with 635 Squadron. This is his description of the July 30, 1944 raid:
' . . . your son’s most successful raid. It was an army support raid near St. Lo. He carried out the duties of Master Bomber and brought all the main force down to 2000 ft. The bombing was very well concentrated. Your son was first at the target and last to leave; the raid was a great success and no aircraft were lost.'
Baz’s log book entry for this op: 'M.B. at Point ‘F’, Marking and bombing were grand.'
Baz and crew’s next trip on August 1 was disappointing but most eventful and significant. They were the designated Deputy Master Bomber for a daylight raid on Chapple Notre Dame. However, the raid was cancelled by the Master Bomber due to weather. As George Turner recounts they had a 'close call' on the return leg:
'We were on the way back from the target and had just about reached the French coast. We always considered that sort of a safe point on the return journey. Suddenly Doug’s voice came over the intercom, 'Skipper there’s a fighter to port.' Baz said, 'All right, keep your eyes on him.' A few moments later the mid-upper gunner called and said, 'There’s a fighter to starboard.' Baz replied, 'All right, keep your eyes on him.'
We were going along, nice and quiet, when all of a sudden there was a shout, 'Skipper! Dive to port! Now!' At that moment Baz stood the aircraft down to port and tracer bullets came up over the starboard wing. They just got the outboard starboard propeller. That was all. The first two were acting as decoys for the one that attacked from underneath. Baz dived the aircraft 8000 feet. I consider Doug Cameron saved all our lives that time.'
When asked to describe Baz’s emotional state following this extremely close call and the 8000 foot dive, George Turner laughed,
'We levelled out in some clouds at 4000 feet and Baz asked me to pour him a cup of coffee. We were safe for the time being.
We decided to go out between Dunkirk and Boulogne, missing the two defences. So we did that and just as we got out to sea between the two - the flak ship was awaiting us. He threw up everything but the kitchen sink. Tracers went everywhere. It’s amazing after all that how nothing gets you, as if it’s your lucky day.'
There can be no doubt that F/O Cameron’s action during this encounter saved their lives allowing them to return to Base to fight another day. His experience and hyper-vigilance were critical to their survival. He did as his Skipper ordered, kept an eye on the fighter on the port side. But he smelt a rat and maintained a continued scan behind and below for the anticipated schräge musik attack. This would have constituted a continual traverse of his turret from port to starboard beam to scan below the wings for the tell-tale wing tip of a fighter. On spotting the fighter tucking in below the starboard wing, he shouted his instructions to Baz for the appropriate evasive manoeuver. Baz, pumped with adrenalin, reacted instinctively at the same moment as the fighter pilot thumbed the fire button of his 20mm cannons. Instead of hitting fuel tanks and engines he nicked the starboard outer propeller! If this had been a night raid the outcome would have been quite different. One can only imagine the radio chatter between the three fighter pilots. More later on F/O Doug Cameron. JEA
REASON FOR LOSS: THE CHOP
The hair-raising Chapple Notre Dame raid encounter was to be the last for Baz and his crew, and they were in the process of preparing for a well deserved leave on the evening of August 4, 1944. However, the fickle finger of fate would intervene with a chain of events that would verge on the unbelievable.
The Squadron was detailed to attack the V-1 storage caves at Trossy St. Maximin, forty kilometres north of Paris.
George Turner recounted the details of this day attack as it unfolded:
'We were due to go on leave and we were not on the Battle Order to start with. But one of the other pilots had taken an aircraft to York and hadn’t got back because of fog. So we said, "We’ll get another one in before we go on leave". It wasn’t going to be a long hop. The target was just north of Paris. It wouldn’t take long.'
This was to be Baz’s fifty-eighth op, close to completing his second tour, and he and his crew had already volunteered for a third! Due to circumstances their regular steed, F2-M, 'M for Mother' was already assigned on the Battle Order and they had to settle for F2-T, “T for Tommy” with her two new port engines, following F/Sgt. Melling’s previous saga less than a month previous!
Wireless operator, Chris Godfrey expressed his reservations of this choice:
‘T for Tommy’ was usually flown by Red Henson who used to, ‘cook his engines.’ If he went on a raid, ‘T-Tommy’ was always the first one back. Comments were made about, 'Drawing the short straw'.'
Baz and his crew were airborne at 11:15, with nine other 635 Squadron Pathfinders, detailed to mark the target for the sixty-one main force Lancs. It is most significant that this target had been bombed on the preceding two days and the enemy air defences were primed and ready. As F/O Cameron noted:
'When we arrived, a solid sea of flak filled the width of the bombing run.'
Despite this, the Pathfinders flying straight and level at 12,000 feet maintained their course in order to mark the target accurately. Deputy Master Bomber, F/L R.W. Beveridge DFC, was a half-mile ahead of the formation when a direct flak hit blew off his Lanc’s tail. The aircraft burst into flames and fell to earth, killing eight airmen. Master Bomber, W/C C.D. Clark, dived to 8,700 to take over the marking role but was put out of action when flak struck the length of his aircraft’s fuselage and damaged the starboard elevator.
Next in line to mark the target was Baz and his crew in “T for Tommy”. Their duty as the 'Primary Visual Marker' was quite clear — to mark the target. Flying level at 8,000 feet their aircraft suddenly shook violently.
Chuck Godfrey recalled:
'It went right through our starboard wing. It set the petrol tanks on fire, and both engines were knocked out.'
At the same time flak struck the front of their aircraft and the bomb aimer called on the intercom: 'I’ve been hit.' He had sustained a near total amputation of his right arm at the shoulder.
Doug Cameron from his rear turret observed:
'Both starboard engines were put out of action and the wing was a mass of flames.'
Streaming flames and with only his port engines, Baz managed to accurately release his markers and bomb load from the cockpit. Suddenly, the aircraft entered a spin and lost considerable altitude before Baz was able to regain control.
Turner and Godfrey managed to move F/L Hibbert from the nose to the rest bed located aft of the main spar. Chuck Godfrey administered morphine.
From his position back in the cockpit, George Turner described their dire situation:
'The starboard wing was one mass of flames, with pieces flying off it. In fact it was looking more like a skeleton.'
It was also apparent that the fuel tanks had been badly damaged as he observed the fuel gauge needles for the starboard tanks on his panel dropping as the petrol drained out and was burned.
According to Chuck Godfrey:
'Baz knew we couldn’t make the Channel so we headed towards the area where our army was pushing across France.'
In the rear turret, Doug Cameron, heard a tapping on his turret door. Looking back into the fuselage he saw F/Sgt. Leeder standing in six inches of petrol that had drained in from the damaged starboard tanks. From experience he was acutely aware of the severity of their situation:
'Removing my oxygen mask, I shouted to him to get down to the front and await the order from the skipper to bail out. 'This aircraft is going in and it won’t be long.' He nodded and moved away. I shut the door and turned the turret to the beam. I could not believe my eyes. The starboard wing was like a herringbone after all the flesh has been eaten off it. I could hardly believe we were still flying. I knew we were a doomed aircraft.'
At the same time Turner recalled:
'Baz was asking the navigator for a course to take us to the nearest airfield.'
He had managed to fly west for approximately forty-five kilometres towards allied lines when the port inner engine failed. George Turner told his pilot:
'You’ll have to put her down Baz.' I told him that we had no chance, only to get out of the aircraft as quickly as possible. With that he gave the order to put on parachutes and jump. We were just a flying bomb. The rear fuselage was awash with fuel swishing around. It only wanted a spark from the starboard wing to make contact and we would all have been blown to bits.'
Abandoning his two incapacitated crew mates was out of the question. Baz requested his flight engineer to cinch his seat belt before he left the cockpit.
By this time 'T - Tommy' was below one thousand feet, westbound with the French village of Senantes dead ahead. It was early afternoon, weather was sunny and clear.
F/O Cameron was the first to bale out of his rear turret after retrieving his parachute from the fuselage. He was temporarily knocked unconscious by a piece of debris, recovered to find himself floating earthward: 'I thought I was dreaming, it was so peaceful.'
The remainder of the crew left via the nose escape hatch in the following order: Turner, Goddard and Godfrey. Chuck Godfrey had been tending to the injured bomb aimer and noted: 'It wasn’t until I saw the navigator beckoning me forward that I realised we were getting out.' They had almost waited too long!
The residents of Senantes watched the drama unfold. Nine year old Siméon Desloges watched in terror from the front of their farmhouse, 1.8 kilometres north of the village, as Baz made a 360 degree turn to port to line up for a forced landing in a nearby field. Sixty-four years later he vividly remembered the aircraft passing directly overhead, at a couple of hundred feet and trailing a huge flame.
Baz had selected a field 800 metres south of the Desloges farm and one kilometre north of the village of Senantes for his forced landing.
Chuck Godfrey recalled:
'I could see it all. He did get it down in a field about two fields from where I landed, but it was well ablaze. And with all the petrol on board it just exploded.'
The huge fireball killed the three on board, leaving a crater in the field.
The citizens of Senantes had observed the four chutes billow open below the flaming Lanc and quickly swung into action to aid the survivors.
Geoff Goddard recalled:
'My main memory is of bailing out and expecting to be taken prisoner.'
Landing near the edge of the village, Chuck Godfrey sustained a chest injury after hitting the ground hard as a result of the low bale out:
'I landed in a corn field and Geoff was in the next field hanging by his parachute in a tree. I hid my parachute and went and helped Geoff down. Then a lady came running across to us. We didn’t know if she was friend or foe. She beckoned to us to come over and we went into the garden of the schoolmaster’s home and lay down among rows of vegetables and potatoes. Within minutes we were provided with civilian clothes to wear instead of our uniforms.
After dark we went into the schoolmaster’s house. A man came to the door and was given our escape photographs. The next morning he reappeared with forged French identity cards.'
They were taken by cart to a farm where they spent ten days picking apples and making cider. Resistance members checked on them daily. They were then moved to a forest camp to await liberation by the British Army. On return to the UK Chuck Godfrey wrote a letter to Baz’s mother, dated September 6, 1944:
'Dear Mrs. Bazalgette:
No doubt you have been notified that Ian, your son and our skipper, was unfortunately killed when our plane crashed in northern France on August 4th. It’s a very sad thought as he was a real good captain, and everyone in the crew really owe everything we have to him.
Geoffrey Goddard, George Turner, Douglas Cameron, and myself were lucky enough to escape by parachute thanks to the excellent piloting of a helpless aircraft by Ian. After a month in hiding we managed to evade capture and returned to the U.K. last Sunday having been liberated by the army.
The French people informed us after about a week that Ian had lost his life, but I’m afraid I’ve no further details as to where his body lies in peace. I do know that the Germans took F/L Hibbert and F/Sgt Leeder, the two remaining crew members, to Beauvais and I’m told that they were apparently buried in the military cemetery.
If I can give you any further information I shall be very pleased to do so, but I think the other boys will be writing to you. Please accept my deepest sympathy. Our skipper was a grand fellow and I wish that he could have been with us still and carry on with the work we have to do.
Yours Sincerely, C.R. Godfrey, F/O'
Chuck Godfrey would return to Downham Market to complete thirty-six more ops with 635 Squadron, and two 'Operation Manna' flights to drop food to starving Dutch people. The last being his ninety-ninth op of an outstanding wartime career.
George Turner landed in a cornfield just east of Senantes, injuring his back. As a memento of his good luck he cut off a piece of his parachute cord, intending to carry it for the rest of his life. The French Underground concealed him in a hayloft and then a house where he managed to evade capture on two occasions by German soldiers. He also was liberated by the British Army but was unable to return to operational flying due to his back injury.
Doug Cameron took a more circuitous route before returning to England. Upon landing he managed to escape into a nearby forest after encountering German soldiers with blazing machine guns and tracking dogs. After contacting the French Underground he was given the option of remaining in hiding or becoming a saboteur living by the gun. He chose the latter, blowing up railway lines and causing inconvenience whenever possible for the enemy. As he had removed his RAF battledress, if captured almost certainly would have been executed on the spot. With this in mind he had been provided a suicide capsule.
After returning to England George Turner visited Baz’s mother to give her an update of the events after the August 4, 1944 op. Following this Marion Bazalgette wrote a letter to Vernon Leeder’s father in Australia:
'The French people went to the plane and brought Vernon and F/L Hibbert into the little church where they held a service [on 6 August]. Following the service, the villagers walked to the field where the Lancaster had exploded and placed their flowers at the site.
The remains of Vernon and Hibbert remained in the church until the next day when the Germans came and took them to Beauvais Military Cemetery where they rest in peace. The French wanted to keep the bodies and bury them at Senantes but the Germans would not permit it.
After the Germans had gone, the French people searched the burned out plane and found all that remained of my darling son and placed them in a little casket.'
At the fiftieth anniversary of the flight in August 4, 1944, the chairman of the local veterans association gave a speech which provided some clarification of the events:
'In the afternoon [of 4 August], two corpses were drawn out of the wreck, namely F/L Hibbert and F/S Leeder, two coffins were ordered, and the community intended to honour them with funerals and to bury their remains in our village cemetery on Sunday August 6 afternoon, but on this very Sunday morning, the Germans came and fetched both coffins of the heroes to bury them in the military cemetery of Marissel nearby Beauvais. The village people had already gathered together for the funerals, which were cancelled, so, all flags leading, a cortege headed to the wreckage to lay flowers on the Lancaster and take photographs while looking out for any coming again of the Germans.
Later, when the wreckage of the aircraft was removed from the field, some remains of the ill-fated S/L Bazalgette were discovered.'
The citizens of Senantes hid Baz’s remains in a cellar, under guard, in order to honour him at an appropriate later date.
Three weeks later the Allied armies reached Senantes and it was time to plan their service. Coincidentally, Baz’s sister Ethel had been working for the American Military and was the secretary of the Commanding Officer of the Intelligence Section 9th American Air Force. Recently she had been posted to a base just fifty kilometres south of Senantes. On October 4th she was able to visit the village. She wrote a letter to her parents to provide an update:
'4th October, 1944
Yesterday I went with Colonel Eisele and Captain Shaw, who speaks fluent French, to where our beloved Will’s plane crashed. We arrived at the little village where the first thing I saw was the church steeple that Chuck told us about. We were directed to the schoolmaster, and he met us on the steps to the school. Captain Shaw introduced us and he, the schoolmaster, knew our name at once. He invited us in, and dismissed the school. He then told us the story just as we heard it from Chuck.
The boys who parachuted out landed just behind their garden, while Will stayed with his plane as it flew dangerously low over their village, and they are loud in their praise of him for saving them from a crash in the village. The Germans came and took Hibbert and Leeder and buried them, and we visited their graves at the place Chuck mentioned in his letter. The particulars are recorded in the files of the guardian of the cemetery. The Germans made only a superficial examination of the wreckage of the plane. The French people held a service, for the airmen, and then marched out to the plane carrying bouquets and wreaths, and laid them on the wreckage.
Then, after Chuck and the boys had gone, and after the Germans had gone, the French searched the wreckage and at the position where the pilot’s cabin would have been, had it been intact, - indeed, at the helm – they found some ashes of our precious Willoughby. They placed them in a casket and were awaiting what they called a “Crown” from Paris before holding a service and this had just arrived and they planned to hold the service on Sunday next, the 8th October. As I was here, they said they would hold it any time I can be there, so I am going, darlings, next Sunday at 2:30. It is all so, so agonizing – I only pray that I will bear up as he would have liked. But, it is so wonderful that I have arrived in time, and it must be arranged so by some power we cannot understand. I will take some flowers for Will, and some for Hibbert and Leeder too.
The schoolmaster asked if we wished the burial to be permanent, at any rate till the end of the war, and I said “Yes,” because it will not be possible to make other arrangements till the end of the war and even so it may be that Will would have liked to remain there permanently.
The Frenchman took us to the wreckage, which is quite untouched. It is just completely shattered. What made me ache with the poignant beauty was that all around the wreckage and even amongst it, in that green field, were flowering lovely blue crocuses, profusely. It is nature’s tribute, because they were nowhere else.
Will cannot have felt anything, that is certain, my darlings.
The Frenchman gave me a set of the photographs he took of the service they held at the plane and church. He also gave me the shoulder piece showing the three rings of the Squadron-Leader. I am not sending the photographs now but will do so when I hear from you asking me to send them. Perhaps it would be better for me to keep the epaulette till I see you, but just as you say.
If only we could be together now but I pray it won’t be so long till I can come over and see you.
The schoolmaster also gave me some money of Hibbert and Leeder, and a set of photographs each for their people. I am not sending that either or writing to them till I hear from you what I should do.
The French people are so kind and wonderful.
I just can’t tell you how good to me Colonel Eisele, and Captain Shaw, and Colonel Rogers who lent me his car, are being. They are doing more than one could ever hope to repay. I think today you may have had a phone call from a Wing Commander here, who was going over for a day, and said he would call you as I am so worried about the lack of mail. Colonel Eisele hopes to go over next week and he too will call you.
It is terrible just now that the mail should be so delayed. I haven’t had any yet at all.
My dears, I think I have told you everything. Please write and ask me anything and everything. I try hard to think of everything I should ask the schoolmaster, but if there is anything we want to know in the future we can write or I will be able to go again, especially when civilian transport gets going. I know this letter will make you feel as I am feeling, but bear in mind as I am trying to do, the wonderful heroic thing that he did for everybody, and that he was happy being "in ops" again.
And, too, remember how wonderful it is that I have been able to come here, and above all, to be present on Sunday.
Be proud and strong.
All my love to you both, Allie'
Four days later, Ethel returned to Senantes for the service, October 8, 1944 2:30 pm.
Following the service she wrote to her parents:
'October 8, 1944.
Darling Mother and Dad,
I don’t know how to begin to tell you about today. It has made me proud & humble & full of wonder at the kindness of people. My thanks have seemed & are so inadequate.
I will just begin at the beginning & describe it as best I can.
We had some four cars from the Post & a Jeep & almost the whole section came & Colonel Rogers. They brought such lovely flowers. Through the F.G.I. & of course Col. Eisele, I got a spray of red carnations for Will & a bunch of mixed flowers for each of the other boys. I put a note on the carnations from all of us.
The service was at 2.30 this afternoon. As we neared the village we passed French people coming along the roads carrying flowers. We reached the school and everything was arranged there so very, very beautifully. They had a small Union Jack and a French flag & we placed the big Union Jack we had borrowed there with the French flag on it. Darlings, it was so lovely & I’ve never seen so many flowers. All the people were there with flowers.
The schoolmaster and his wife and children are charming & so young & and have been so wonderful. The Mayor was there. And then a Major of the French Forces arrived. He is a Liaison officer nearby & arrived to represent the French Forces & he was most helpful and considerate. He speaks English & told me what to do all the time. He has an English wife in the ATS & wants me to write to her. Then, ten men of the Royal Artillery arrived. Wasn’t that wonderful.
Squadron-Leader Martin of our Post came to represent the R.A.F., French Army men of the last war were pall-bearers & we formed a procession to the pretty little church. The service was beautiful & all sung. The RA men stood to rigid attention beside the coffin which was covered with the flag & heaped with flowers everywhere. There is so much beauty and detail which somehow I cannot write but which will always be vivid to me & I will be able to tell you about when we meet. We again formed a procession out of the church & round the churchyard to the grave, where we stood and the service was finished.
Then the Mayor made an address to me in French, from the people, and Commandant de Chauvigny, the French Liaison Officer, very kindly addressed them for me in French, to try & express our thanks and gratitude & he told them that by their kindness and friendliness I didn’t feel it was a foreign country but might have been England. The Commandant then said a few words to me in English & I tried to say “Thank you” but was really speechless.
Then darlings, I had to stand at the gate while the people went past & shook hands. God must have indeed given me strength today but I kept on telling myself how Will would hate any public demonstration of emotion & how he would have appreciated the beauty & simplicity & sincerity, & so I think I pretty well managed to keep my chin up most of the time. I thought of you both too & how I was there, by the Will of God, for you too. Outside in the little village, the schoolmaster gave me a letter to us all. These things I am having translated & will send you copies but hesitate to send any originals in case they get lost, but if you ask for them I will send them.
We were then asked back to the school & two officers of the Royal Artillery had arrived. They had only just heard about it, so arrived too late for the service. The French officer & the R.A. officer took my name and Will’s & my address here & at home & will let me know anything, as the R.A. officer said they would be going to the crashed plane for a search for identity. Would you please, darling, let me have Will’s number in this connection.
The schoolmaster & his wife gave us wine and cake. Oh, they have been so very, very good. I just can’t tell you how good & how wonderful everybody has been. I have their names! They have said that if ever I return they would like me to stay with them, & they can always provide a meal. I told them I would return and that we will come there after the war. Commandant de Chauvigny gave me his phone number and says any time I want to go there to ring him up & he will come and fetch me by car and bring me back. I have the nicest letter too from the Sergeant of the R.A.
I don’t know how to describe to you the wonderful, wonderful way in which everything was done. The way the officers and men of our Section turned out & all they have done and said & the lovely flowers they brought, all move me beyond words & I only hope you get an inkling of what I feel towards them for this.
The sincerity of today I shall never forget. It is a dear little village & our beloved Willoughby will rest in peace there near the door of the little church. The French people say they will never leave the grave unattended to.
On the way back we stopped at the cemetery where Hibbert & Leeder lie & left the flowers for them. I have also a letter from M. Labert, the schoolmaster, to their families. I keep these till I know what to do. The money which I told you about previously, which was theirs, I may have to turn over to the RAF here who are handling things now.
Photographs were taken today and in time I will send copies. I have copies of the other photographs for Chuck and Geoff & will be writing to them.
Mother and Dad – isn’t it an amazing thing that I am here and that I arrived in time for this service today.
Take great care of yourselves.
Very best love
A TRANSLATION OF THE SPEECH BY THE MAYOR OF SENANTES TO ETHEL BAZALGETTE
The population of Senantes, for whom I am speaking, has assembled in this spot to give your brother, Squadron Leader Bazalgette, the supreme farewell worthy of a noble hero.
On Friday, 4 August 1944 about 1:30 p.m. a Lancaster in flames rent the heavens above our countryside. Parachutes opened at a very low level and the plane crashed a short distance from here. Quickly reacting to its first impulse, the population seized the four who had escaped and stealthily hid them from our common foe. Soon, alas, we were to learn that there were victims over whom to grieve. We recovered them on the same day, two comrades of your brother, Aviators Leeder and Hibbert. We wished to keep them, but the enemy, this cruel enemy, would not leave them with us. The next day we succeeded in freeing the pilot from the wreckage, your brother, whom we have fiercely guarded in order to be able to honour him as free and grateful Frenchmen and to return him to his Fatherland.
Mademoiselle Bazalgette, English officers and soldiers, we therefore return to you today this hero so beloved by his crew, this brave soldier and magnificent comrade who has preferred to die rather than to abandon his wounded subordinates. We sincerely share the grief which you are experiencing at the loss of a brother, of such a courageous soldier. May his example guide us in the complete accomplishment of our duty, may his bravery excite the hearts of all the soldiers of Liberty, may his kindness and sense of justice be imbued in the soul of our leaders, then, yes then, his noble sacrifice will not have been in vain. Then humanity will know the brotherhood for which are flowing these waves of blood which the barbarous German, with savage resolve, makes gush forth from the wounds of humanity.
To you Commandant Bazalgette, soldier of the Liberation of the World, a Norman from across the Channel, who comes to rest at the premature end of your glorious career among your brothers, the Normans of France, we express to you our deep gratitude and we assure you that we shall piously keep you until the day when you return to Great Britain, the day of our common victory.
To the family of this hero we all extend our deepest sympathy and condolences. To you, English officers and soldiers who combat for the good cause, we swear in this sacred spot and at this sacred hour that we shall be by your side to avenge our dead until the victory of justice and truth.'
It was unusual for a Canadian to be laid to rest in a French churchyard. The Bazelgette family could have insisted that Baz be buried in a military cemetery. However, a strong bond had been forged with the citizens of Senantes and Sqn Ldr. Bazalgette. Ethel made it clear to the French that:
'He was lying forever in 'our' village graveyard in Senantes.'
AWARDING THE VICTORIA CROSS
In due course the events of the final op by Sqn Ldr. Bazalgette came to light and he was awarded the British Empire’s highest award for valour 'in the presence of the enemy', posthumously. The citation for the Victoria Cross was composed by Wing Commander Artie Ashworth DSO DFC & Bar AFC & Bar. He had never met Baz and gathered his information from the French and his crew:
George Turner praised Baz as a natural leader:
'He was a disciplinarian and he had complete control at all times. I think I can speak for all the crew, that everyone felt comfortable, safe, and in his confidence at all times.'
Doug Cameron’s opinion of his Skipper:
'Pride, so often the spur to self-confidence, feeds on the ability of and respect for comrades sharing the same hazard. Baz and his crew were, like most crews, a very close and tightly knit unit. Above all, Baz had the diplomacy to consult individual crew members on any issue concerning their responsibility, and the decision taken always appeared to be that of the particular member, thus promoting the collective confidence of the crew.'
The citation by W/C Ashworth described the events of August 4, 1944 and concluded:
'His heroic sacrifice marked the climax of a long career of operations against the enemy. He always chose the more dangerous and exacting roles. His courage and devotion to duty were beyond praise.'
The award was formally announced on August 17, 1945 and the family received the following telegram from Sir Arthur Harris:
'HIS MAJESTY THE KING HAS BEEN GRACIOUSLY PLEASED TO CONFER THE VICTORIA CROSS UPON YOUR SON IAN STOP ON EVERY OCCASION YOUR SON PROVED HIMSELF A DETERMINED FIGHTER AND A MOST GALLANT RESOLUTE CAPTAIN OF HIS CREW STOP ON HIS LAST MISSION HE SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED THE VITAL TASK ALLOTTED TO HIM WITH GREAT COOLNESS AND COURAGE DESPITE SEVERE DAMAGE TO HIS AIRCRAFT STOP THEREAFTER HIS ONLY THOUGHT WAS THE SAFETY OF HIS CREW STOP THIS HE ACHIEVED AT THE COST OF HIS OWN LIFE STOP HIS DEVOTION TO DUTY AND COMPLETE DISREGARD FOR HIS OWN SAFETY WILL REMAIN AN EXAMPLE AND INSPIRATION TO US ALL STOP SEND MY HEARTFELT SYMPATHY IN THE LOSS OF SUCH A GALLANT SON AND TRUST THAT THE SUPREME AWARD, SO HEROICALLY EARNED WILL SERVE IN SOME MEASURE TO COMFORT YOU IN YOUR GREAT SORROW.
AIR CHIEF MARSHAL SIR ARTHUR HARRIS AIR OFFICER COMMANDING IN CHIEF BOMBER COMMAND'
Ian’s mother and sister Ethel were presented with the Victoria Cross by King George VI at an investiture on 18 December 1945.
Baz’s aunt living in Viking, Alberta, was interviewed by the Toronto Star after the awarding of the VC:
'When he grew older he (Baz) always talked about Canada in his letters, and how much he wanted to come back. We felt so badly when he was killed a year ago. His grandfather, James Bunn, 95, who lives all alone in Viking, didn’t get over it for a long time. He was so proud of the boy and corresponded with him regularly.'
In a letter to his daughter, his maternal grandfather, James Bunn wrote:
'Yes Darling, I had dreams, of seeing him in the body, but I am quite satisfied that I will meet him in the Spirit World, by and by.'
In Canada the awarding of the Victoria Cross to Sqn Ldr. Bazalgette made headlines in Alberta and across the country. A letter from the Prime Minister of Canada was immediately sent to Baz’s father:
POSTWAR AND THE NANTON LANCASTER SOCIETY
At war’s end the surviving members of Sqn Ldr. Bazalgette’s crew went their separate ways, their duty done. Sadly, three of the crew would not be able to savour the rewards of their efforts: Sqn Ldr. Ian Willoughby Bazalgette VC DFC, F/L Ivan Alderwin Hibbert and F/Sgt. Vernon Victor Russell Leeder.
George Turner would enjoy a thirty year career as an overseas representative for British Aerospace in India and South America. Chuck Godfrey returned to his pre-war career, completing forty years of service as a local government administrator in England. Over the years George and Chuck returned to Senantes on several occasions to honour their Skipper and visit their French friends who helped them evade capture.
Douglas Cameron settled in his native Scotland to continue his career as a gamekeeper. He named his only daughter, Margaret Middleton Bazalgette Cameron, as his tribute to the two pilots he had flown with on Victoria Cross flights.
Geoff Goddard also named his son Ian in memory of his courageous pilot.
Ethel Bazalgette met John Broderick in France while they were associated with the United States Army Air Force and served with him until war’s end. They married in Pennsylvania and spent the remainder of their lives there. Their son is named Willoughby and grandson, Ian.
In 1949, a mountain northeast of Jasper, Alberta, was named Mount Bazalgette.
In 1970, the Calgary Board of Education named a new Junior High School in Ian’s honour.
In 1974, Ian Bazalgette was inducted into the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame.
Despite these honours Baz was virtually forgotten in Canada. The main reason for this is that as a Canadian he enlisted and served his military career as a member of the Royal Air Force, not the Royal Canadian Air Force. By birth he was a Canadian Citizen. Even in some listings of Canadians awarded the Victoria Cross, his name is omitted.
During 1985, the founding year of the Nanton Lancaster Society, members through association with the Canadian Warplane Museum in Hamilton, Ontario, learned of the story of P/O Andrew Mynarski VC and the plans to restore a Lancaster to flying condition, to carry the markings of his aircraft — 'VR-A'.
With this in mind, a society member browsing through a book on Canadian war heroes stumbled onto a photograph of Ian Bazalgette, not only another Canadian VC recipient who flew Lancs, but one who was born in Alberta, only eighty kilometres north of Nanton! Obviously here was the perfect candidate to associate with the Society’s objectives, which included building a museum and preserving and restoring the Nanton Lancaster bomber.
In 1987, a Nanton resident presented the Society with a book entitled, “Memoirs of an Accidental Airman”, by Air Commadore F.F. Rainsford, Commanding Officer of No. 115 Squadron when Baz completed his first tour. Unable to assist he recommended Hamish Mahaddie through the RAF Club, Piccadilly, London. Despite his interest, a search for information proved futile.
However, luck was with the Society when in the January 1989 issue of 'Airforce', Canadian magazine, carried an article entitled 'Our Forgotten V.C. Winner' — written by Douglas Cameron with the assistance of Gordon Fraser. Contact was established with Mr. Cameron who 'was interested in doing anything to highlight this brave airman’s life.' He was able to provide Chuck Godfrey’s address and coincidentally had just had a visit from George Turner two weeks earlier. His letter stated:
'It was the first time I had seen him in 42 years when I warned him of a German patrol in our area.'
Letters were sent to S/L Bazalgette’s former crew mates asking for information, which they were pleased to provide.
The Society had now located three surviving crew members (Navigator Geoff Goddard having passed away), and two senior officers who had known Baz well. A formal decision was made to dedicate the Nanton Lancaster in memory of Squadron Leader Bazalgette VC DFC and plans were made for a special dedication day to be held on July 27, 1990. There was only one missing link, a member of the Bazalgette family. Plans proceeded for the dedication day and a press release was prepared at the end of May for the upcoming events. Coincidentally, the day before the press releases were to be mailed, a letter arrived from Chuck Godfrey with news that he had located Ian’s sister, Ethel Broderick — providing her address and telephone number in Pennsylvania! She was contacted by the Society, advised of its plans and invited to participate. It was clear that, for her, the past had suddenly been opened up. Since war’s end she had not heard from anyone who had known her brother, had never met his crew members, did not know Hamish Mahaddie who was so involved in Ian’s reassignment to operations with PFF or this Society from a small, southern Albertan town! Provided with additional information she agreed to attend the dedication ceremony with her daughter, Marion Hildebrand.
The press release was revised and mailed, setting the stage for a very special, emotional event in Nanton, Alberta.
The Dedication of the Nanton Lancaster Bomber to the memory of S/L Ian Willoughby Bazalgette VC DFC was a memorable event to all concerned.
The evening prior to the dedication ceremonies, a reception was held at the home of George and Dori White. It was George’s idea of acquiring the Lancaster bomber for the town in 1960, and fittingly, he was the founding president of the Nanton Lancaster Society. During the evening several of the people who had played major roles in Baz’s life met for the first time.
The Dedication Ceremony was conducted during the late afternoon, next to the Lancaster which had yet to be placed in a hanger. Nanton-born Wing Commander Duke Warren DFC, who together with his identical twin, flew Spitfires during the war, read the Victoria Cross citation. Baz’s crew members, Chuck Godfrey DFC and George Turner, then unveiled the freshly painted markings, 'F2-T', on the sides of what then became the Ian Bazalgette Memorial Lancaster. Ethel Broderick unveiled a plaque honouring her brother and commemorating the occasion.
At the conclusion of the ceremony the Canadian Armed Forces’ salute included a CF-5 jet fighter thundering over site—low altitude, high speed,. This was followed immediately by a four-engine 407 Squadron Aurora, flown from CFB Comox on Vancouver Island to be involved in the ceremony. During the 1950’s, the Society’s Lancaster had served with 407 Squadron in a maritime reconnaissance role.
Following a banquet, with Duke Warren as Master of Ceremonies, the evening program began with George Turner and Chuck Godfrey expressing their appreciation to the Society for honouring their 'Skipper'. Guest speakers Larry Melling DFC and Hamish Mahaddie DSO, DFC, AFC and Bar, held the audience spellbound with their recollections of commitment and sacrifice. During Hamish’s speech it was obvious that the loss of Baz and so many others of those whom he had personally selected to Pathfinders, was still felt very deeply even forty-five years since war’s end.
Throughout the day the poise and quiet dignity of Ethel Broderick impressed all who were there. Her character and the qualities she demonstrated were similar to those that her brother undoubtedly had. Through her presence, all who attended this special day felt close to the man who was being honoured. In an interview following the ceremonies, Mrs. Broderick said with laughter and a smile:-
'I sometimes get a strange feeling that Will is up there, somehow witnessing all this and getting quite a kick out of it, and finding something funny to say about this tremendous gathering.'
'You really did start something, something wonderful - right here in Nanton.'
Completion of the Bomber Command Museum of Canada’s building in 1991 ensured protection of the Ian Bazalgette Memorial Lancaster from the elements, permitting restoration to wartime configuration, as a taxiable aircraft with operating engines.
In 1992 Chuck Godfrey and George Turner returned to Nanton for the official opening of the museum building. George presented the museum with his flight engineer’s wings and his 'lucky' parachute cord talisman — a memento of his safe landing on the outskirts of Senantes on afternoon of August 4, 1944.
On August 4, 1994, the mayor of Senantes hosted a ceremony commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the fateful flight. Wreaths were laid on Baz’s grave by George Turner, Chuck Godfrey and Margaret Cameron, the daughter of Douglas Cameron. Following this, villagers and members of the French Resistance movement, unveiled a memorial cairn on the roadside adjacent to the field where Sqn Ldr. Bazalgette crash landed 'F2-T'.
Since the dedication of the Ian Bazalgette Memorial Lancaster, the Bomber Command Museum of Canada has clearly become the Canadian museum taking the lead in honouring Canadians who served with Bomber Command. A most impressive indication is the presence of Canada’s Bomber Command Memorial at the museum’s entrance. The 10,659 names on the wall includes all of the Canadians serving with Bomber Command, who failed to return.
As the museum is very focused on the history of Bomber Command, every visitor leaves the facility with the knowledge of this important history and a sense of the huge effort and sacrifice made. The story of Ian Bazalgette VC exemplifies the sacrifice made by the young Canadians involved in this effort.
The actions of Sqn Ldr. Ian Willoughby Bazalgette VC DFC will not be forgotten.
CITATION FOR THE AWARDING OF THE VICTORIA CROSS
On August 4, 1944, Squadron Leader Bazalgette was master bomber of a Pathfinder squadron detailed to mark an important target at Trossy St. Maximin for the main bomber force. When nearing the target his Lancaster came under heavy anti-aircraft fire. Both starboard engines were put out of action and serious fires broke out in the fuselage and the starboard main plane. The bomb aimer was badly wounded. As the deputy master bomber had already been shot down the success of the attack depended on Squadron Leader Bazalgette, and this he knew. Despite the appalling conditions in his burning aircraft he pressed on gallantly to the target, marking and bombing it accurately. That the attack was successful was due to his magnificent effort. After the bombs had been dropped the Lancaster dived practically out of control. By expert airmanship and great exertion Squadron Leader Bazalgette regained control, but the port inner engine then failed and the whole of the starboard mainplane became a mass of flames. Squadron Leader Bazalgette fought bravely to bring his aircraft and crew to safety. The mid upper gunner was overcome by fumes. Squadron Leader Bazalgette ordered those of his crew who were able to leave by parachute to do so. He remained at the controls and attempted the almost hopeless task of landing the crippled and blazing aircraft in a last effort to save the wounded bomb aimer and helpless air gunner. With superb skill and taking great care to avoid a small French village nearby, he brought the aircraft down safely. Unfortunately it then exploded and this gallant officer and his two comrades perished. His heroic sacrifice marked the climax of a long career of operations against the enemy. He always chose the more dangerous and exacting roles. His courage and devotion to duty were beyond praise.
London Gazette, 17 August, 1945
It should be noted that although the critical aspects of Sqn Ldr. Bazalgette’s actions are correctly presented, there are two errors:
The first stating that Baz was the 'Master Bomber'. By default, following the shooting down of the Deputy Master Bomber and the disabling of the Master Bomber, he assumed the role of Deputy Master Bomber, successfully marking the aiming point.
The second is reference to a fuselage fire, that according to the crew members involved, did not occur.
Taking into account the details of Ian Willoughby Bazalgette’s life and military history, including his actions in combat, there can be no doubt that he was Canadian to the core.
TWINNING OF THE VILLAGE OF SENANTES WITH THE TOWN OF NANTON
As part of the museum's celebration of Canada's Centennial of Flight, a special event was held on 15 August 2009. "Remembering Baz" commemorating the sixty-fifth anniversary of Sqn Ldr. Ian Bazalgette's Victoria Cross flight and celebrated the official 'Twinning' of the Village of Senantes, France with the Town of Nanton, Alberta. The museum’s special guests included the Mayor of Senantes, Christian Gavelle and his wife Sylvie and Siméon Desloges and his wife Nelly.
Mayor Gavelle and John Blake, Nanton's mayor, signed the twinning document that, 'acknowledges that a firm bond exists between the two communities,' and refers to the hope that Sqn Ldr. Bazalgette VC, 'will not be forgotten and that a special relationship between the citizens of the two communities will continue to develop into the future.'
THE REINCARNATION OF FM159/RX159 AS ND811
'THE IAN BAZALGETTE MEMORIAL LANCASTER'
In 'The Avro Lancaster', Francis K. Mason provides the following synopsis for Lancaster FM159:
Avro Lancaster Mark X
Second production batch of 130 aircraft (from an order of 200) built by Victory Aircraft Limited Malton, Ontario, Canada. FM100-FM299 (Aircraft built after KB-serial batch)
Packard built Rolls-Royce 28, 38 or 224 engines. Majority of aircraft shipped to Britain between March and May 1945, some of which served with R.C.A.F. Squadrons in Britain and most flown back to Canada in August 1945.
FM159 to United Kingdom 5-45. Stored at No. 22 MU Silloth. Returned to Canada 9-45. Modified to Mark XMP. No. 407 Squadron, RX159. Based at Comox, B.C. 1952. S.O.C., 4-10-60.
FM159, construction number 3360, was built at Victory Aircraft, Malton, probably in the latter half of May 1945. She was the 360th of 430 Lancs built in Canada. She was flown to England after VE Day, between May 29 and 31, 1945. After two months at No. 20 MU Aston Down and No. 32 MU St Athan Maintenance Units she was flown back to Canada on August 30, 1945, to RCAF Scouduc, N.B. and then on to Yarmouth, N.S. Due to fear of salt-air corrosion she was ferried to the B.C.T.P. Air Field at No. 2 Flying Instructor School, RCAF Pearce, Alberta. After six years marking time at Fort McLeod she was flown to No.6 Repair Depot at RCAF Trenton, ON in August 1951. In March 1953 she was shuttled to Malton, ON, for overhaul and conversion by de Havilland to a maritime reconnaissance (MR) version. This included installation of a co-pilot position, radar sonobuoy capability, additional fuel capacity and blister observation windows.
In October 1953 RX149 was assigned to flying duties with No. 103 Search and Rescue Unit, Greenwood, N.S. Then, after radar system upgrade, she was transferred to No. 407 (MR) Squadron, Comox, B.C. to patrol the Pacific Ocean. In April 1956, her crew carried out a simulated bomb run on Spokane, Washington, U.S.A. and was successful prior to USAF F-86 Sabres’ interception – a small ‘bomb’ was painted on her fuselage for a mission accomplished!
In December 1958 RX149 was flown to Calgary, AB and then on February 12, 1959 to RCAF Vulcan, AB by a civilian crew. After eighteen months in storage she would begin the next chapter of her life.
Three citizens of Nanton, Alberta, George White, Howie Armstrong and Panton Garrett, were the driving force behind the conception and germination of The Bomber Command Museum of Canada, located on the outskirts of town. On August 19, 1960, the Nanton group became the proud owners of war surplus Lancaster, FM/RX 159 for the princely sum of $513.00! They were now confronted with the monumental task of the transit over seventeen miles of farm fields and the Little Bow River, between RCAF Vulcan and Nanton.
Confronted with the logistics of main undercarriage wider than the rural gravel roads and numerous telephone poles, the only solution was to tow FM/RX159 through the farm fields to Nanton.
With farmers’ permission and crops harvested off the fields, FM/RX159 in a most undignified fashion began her last 'cross-country' trip — tailwheel secured to a flatbed truck, two logging chains attached to the main gear for security and towed backwards across the prairie fields!
It took an armada of volunteers two days to complete the journey — filling ditches, removing wire fences, with someone riding shotgun on the top of the fuselage to ease the aircraft beneath telephone wires. At the end of the first day an unplanned overnight delay was required to obtain permission to cross the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks, two miles short of destination. On September 28, 1960, a triumphant procession entered Nanton. FM/RX159 was parked by Highway No 2, an eye-opener for passing traffic!
Unfortunately, souvenir hunters and vandals soon reduced her to a state of dereliction with broken Perspex, stolen instruments, damaged turrets and torn fabric control surfaces.
In 1962 the ‘three preservers’, with community support, formed a committee to save FM/RX159 from total destruction. Engines and props were mounted to the fuselage and in 1963 she was secured to steel mounts with the tail raised to level attitude. Volunteers with the aid of a chain link fence perimeter, maintained her for the next twenty years.
In 1985 Nanton town council approached George White to poll citizens and organizations to preserve and care for a very unique, historic aircraft. The response was overwhelming. This included a permanent building as a museum, with FM/RX159 as the centre piece of the collection.
‘The most important aircraft in the museum will be the well known Nanton Lancaster Bomber, which will be restored to its wartime configuration and to a “taxiable” status.’
The Nanton Lancaster Society (NLS) was formed to become FM/RX159’s caretaker.
In 1989 the town of Nanton provided an interest free loan, reinforced by numerous individual donors.
In 1990 the Nanton Lancaster Society dedicated FM/RX159 to a local unknown hero who served with RAF Bomber Command. 'Everything the Museum stands for is centred on the ‘Bazalgette Lancaster’.'
'The Nanton Lancaster was dedicated in a ceremony on Friday 27 July 1990 to the memory of Sqn Ldr. Ian Willoughby Bazalgette VC DFC, a local "Albertan boy".'
His sister would officially name the Nanton Society’s FM/RX159 Lancaster as the Ian Bazalgette Memorial Lancaster.
In 1991 FM/RX159 was removed from the static supports and towed into the unfinished hanger.
In 2002 John Phillips was made a director of the NLS with a mandate of refurbishing the Lancaster. Between 2004 and 2013 the engines were restored and brought up to working condition:
2004 - No.3, starboard inner.
2008 - No.4, starboard outer.
2012-13 - No.2, port inner.
2013 - No.1, port outer.
The original museum engine crew expanded to seven by 2010 and the museum was named The Bomber Command Museum of Canada, becoming the permanent home of the Ian Bazalgette Lancaster.
On August 24, 2013 all four engines were running in unison for the first time. Greg Morrison, aircraft maintenance engineer, had the rare distinction of performing taxi trials. He had the foresight to overhaul No. 3 first to provide DC generator and air compression for braking. He carried out the first start on this engine in over fifty years! His next project was to revive the hydraulic system which brought the bomb bay doors and flaps up to serviceable status. Greg also drew up the checklist for the ensuing taxiing demonstrations. As he noted the pneumatic breaking system is less efficient and predictable compared to the hydraulic version, with a definite time lag before the aircraft would come to a stop.
Taxiing trials began in August 2013 and on August 4, 2014 the citizens of Nanton were rewarded with a taxi demonstration with the four Merlins purring in unison — the reincarnation of Lancaster FM/RX159 as 635 Squadron F2-T, 'T' for Tommy, ND811, was complete. The Ian Bazalgette Lancaster was reborn and his memory would live on.
Dave Birrell is the Bomber Command Museum of Canada archivist and librarian. He was one of the original founding directors of the Nanton Lancaster Society. He has worked as a geophysicist, teacher and interpretive guide in the Canadian Rockies . He had a job with the local school of Nanton and has been involved with the museum for over thirty years. He is a prolific author with publications on Canadian wartime aviation, and has written five books regarding the mountains of the Canadian Rockies.
Baz: The Biography of Ian Bazalgette VC
Johnny: John Fauquier DSO and 2 Bars DFC, Canada’s Greatest Bomber Pilot
Nose Art: The Clarance Simonsen Collection
Big Joe McCarthy: The RCAF’s American Dam Buster
People and Planes: The Stories from the Bomber Command Museum of Canada
FM159: The Lucky Lancaster
Bomber Command Museum of Canada
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
1. Sqn Ldr. Ian Willoughby Bazalgette VC, DFC, see text above.
2. Sgt. George Richard Turner - nothing known, if you have any information please contact our helpdesk
3. Fl/Lt. Geoffrey Goddard was born on 22 Oct 1921 at Redcar, North Riding of Yorkshire the son of Frederick Goddard (a Boot Shop Assistant) and Ada Goddard nee Brown. He had two siblings: Frederick C. Goddard born 1916 and Brian Goddard (1927 - 2004)
In 1939 the family lived at 3 Balmoral Terrace, Gosforth, Northumberland
1098268 Flight Sergeant Geoffrey Goddard was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 7 October 1943 (London Gazette 30 November 1943). He was promoted to Flying Officer (war subs) on 7 April 1944 (London Gazette 5 May 1944) and to Flight Lieutenant on 7 October 1945 (London Gazette 9 November 1945)
He remained in the RAF until retiring from the Photographic Interpretation Branch on 15 July 1975 when he relinquished his commission (London Gazette 27 July 1975).
Geoffrey Goddard died in 1984 at Newcastle upon Tyne
4. Fl/Lt. Ivan Alderwin Hibbert was born on 16 January 1915 at Huthwaite, Nottinghamshire the son of George Stephen Hibbert and Hannah Hibbert nee Radford. He had five siblings: George Stephen Hibbert born 1916, Grenville Hibbert born 1918, Jean Hibbert born 1921, Colin Hibbert born 1923 and Gordon Keith Hibbert born 1931
In 1937 he married Edna Gelsthorpe at Huthwaite, Nottinghamshire.
In 1939 the family lived at 48 Carnarvon Grove Huthwaite. Ivan Hibbert was a Silk Frame Worker - Hosiery
Their daughter Elizabeth A. Hibbert was born in 1944.
1436351 Sergeant Ivan Alderwin Hibbert was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (war subs) on 13 July 1943 (London Gazette 14 September 1943). Confirmed in this appointment and promoted to Flying Officer (war subs) on 13 January 1944 (London Gazette 14 January 1944)
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross as promulgated in the London Gazette of 30 November 1943 whilst serving with 10 Squadron. The citation reads:
'As air bomber, Pilot Officer Hibbert has participated in very many sorties and has displayed great skill, coolness and devotion to duty. On several occasions his aircraft has been damaged by enemy action but, unperturbed. Pilot Officer Hibbert has executed his bombing tasks with accuracy and determination. He has displayed great confidence throughout, setting a very fine example.'
He is commemorated on the Huthwaite War Memorial
5. F/O. Charles Randall Godfrey was born on 26 September 1921 at Sandon Hertfordshire the son of Charles Edward Mark Godfrey (a Police Constable) and Ethel May Randall. He had one sibling, Alice Lucy Godfrey born 1923. Charles Godfrey senior was killed on 12 April 1924. He died from injuries sustained when he was knocked down by a lorry whilst stopping and checking drivers in a general search for travelling criminals in London.
In 1939 Alice Godfrey lived with her two children Charles and Alice at 16 Northaw Road West, Hatfield, Hertfordshire. At that time Charles was a Local Government Clerk
1281391 Flight Sergeant Charles Randall Godfrey was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency on 28 April 1943 (London Gazette 13 July 1943), confirmed in this appointment and promoted to Flying Officer on probation (war subs) on 28 October 1943.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 27 March 1945 as promulgated in the London Gazette of that date.
On 28 April 1945 he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant (war subs) (London Gazette 25 May 1945).
He was awarded a Bar to his DFC on 21 September 1945 as promulgated in the London Gazette of the same date.
London Gazette 22 April 1947
Forfeiture of seniority.
Flight Lieutenant C. R. GODFREY, D.F.C. (146099) takes rank and precedence (with effect from l0 Mar. 1947) as if his appt. as Flight Lieutenant (war subs.) bore date 28th Oct. 1945.
Charles Randall Godfrey died in 2001 at Bridgnorth, Shropshire aged 79
6. F/Sgt. Vernon Leeder was born on 27 April 1916 at Prahan, Melbourne, Victoria Australia the son of Victor Sandford Leeder and Ruby Ida Leeder nee Russell of 123 Chapel Street Prahran, Melbourne, Victoria.
After leaving school he was employed as a Clerk
When he enlisted at Melbourne on 17 July 1942 he was 5'10¼" tall weighing 137 lbs with a medium complexion, brown eyes and medium (sic) hair.
After training at 2 Initial Training School, Bradfield Park, 2 Wireless and Gunnery School at RAAF Parkes New South Wales and 2 Bombing ad Gunnery School, Port Pirie, South Australia he was awarded his Air Gunner Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 29 April 1943.
He embarked for the UK on 25 May 1943 the day after his arrival (8 July) was posted to 11 Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre at Brighton. On 7 August he was posted to 27 Operational Training Unit at RAF Lichfield in Staffordshire and on 14 September to 1658 Conversion Unit at RAF Riccall in the North Riding of Yorkshire. He was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 29 October1943.
On completion of training on 9 January 1944 he was posted for operational flying to 102 Squadron at RAF Pocklington in the East Riding of Yorkshire. On 20 June 1944 he was posted to the recently formed 635 Squadron at RAF Downham Market in Norfolk
7. Fl/Lt. Douglas Cameron DFM, MiD, was born in 1909 at Kenmore Perthshire Scotland
He was awarded the DFM as promulgated in the London Gazette of 12 February 1943 as follows:
'Distinguished Flying Medal.
1366018 Flight Sergeant Leslie Anderson HYDER.
No 149 Squadron, 971446 Flight Sergeant Douglas CAMERON, No. 149
Squadron and 1130087 Sergeant Harold Wray GOUGH, No 149 Squadron.
On 28th November, 1942, these members of an aircraft crew took part in an attack on a target at Turin. Whilst over the target area, their bomber was repeatedly hit by anti-aircraft fire, and sustained much damage. A shell, which burst, in the cockpit, rendered the captain, the late Flight Sergeant Middleton, V C, unconscious and wounded the second pilot, Flight Sergeant Hyder, in the face and legs. Pilot Officer Skinner, the wireless operator, was also wounded in the leg. Despite his injuries, Flight Sergeant Hyder, took over the controls and succeeded in regaining control of the aircraft which had dived from 2,000 to 800 feet. Later the bomb load was released. Shortly afterwards, the captain recovered consciousness but Flight Sergeant Hyder, after receiving first aid, insisted on remaining beside him in case of emergency. On the return flight, when crossing the Alps, Flight Sergeant Cameron and Sergeant Gough greatly assisted the pilot to maintain height by jettisoning all movable equipment. Skilful navigation by Flying Officer Royde enabled the aircraft to be flown back to this country. Shortly after crossing the coast the aircraft had to be abandoned owing to lack of petrol. In the face of almost insuperable odds, these members of the aircraft crew displayed courage, fortitude and determination of a high order.'
971446 Flight Sergeant Douglas Cameron was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 12 May 1943 (London Gazette 20 July 1943) and promoted to Flying Officer on probation (war subs on 12 November 1943 (London Gazette 12 November 1943)
He was promoted to Flight Lieutenant (war subs) on 12 May 1945 (London Gazette 18 May 1945)
He was also Mentioned in Despatches as promulgated in the London Gazette of 8 June 1944
Douglas Cameron is thought to have died at Auchterarder, Perthshire in 1994 aged 84
1. Sqn Ldr. Ian Willoughby Bazalgette VC, DFC, was buried at Senantes Churchyard, Oise, France.
His epitaph reads:
Hath no man than this
That a man lay down
His life for his friends
2. Fl/Lt Ivan Alderwin Hibbert was buried at Marissel French National Cemetery, Oise, France - Grave 317
3. F/Sgt Vernon Victor Russell Leeder was buried at Marissel French National Cemetery, Oise, France - Grave 318
His epitaph reads:
1. S/L Ian Willoughby Bazalgette DFC: VC posthumously awarded.
2. Sgt George Turner: DFM, evader.
3. F/L Ivan Hibbert DFC: Bar to DFC, KIA.
4. F/L Geoffery Goddard: DFC, evader.
5. F/O Chuck Godfrey DFC: Bar to DFC, evader.
6. F/Sgt Vernon Leeder: DFM, KIA.
7. F/O Douglas Cameron DFM: DFC and Bar VC, four tours of operations, joined French Underground. (see text and Author’s Notes below).
If it had not been for a medical therapeutic gift from my brother-in-law, Phil Asher, this archive report would not have taken wing. The remarkable book 'The Lancaster' by Gordon A.A. Wilson, enlightened and exposed me to the life, RAF career and tragic death of Sqn Ldr. Ian Willoughby Bazalgette VC DFC, and the role played by the Nanton Lancaster Society and the Bomber Command Museum of Canada, in ensuring that he is never forgotten as a Canadian hero. I am most grateful to Dave Birrell for permission to extract from his publication, Baz: The Biography of Squadron Leader Ian Willoughby Bazalgette and sharing the photos and documents included.
Without the foresight of Sqn Ldr. Bazalgette’s mother, Marion, this story would not be complete. After war’s end she filed and stored all of his letters, family correspondence and pertinent documents in a wooden chest marked “Will” on the lid. In 2010 following the death of Will’s older brother, Deryck, the younger members of the family opened the chest to discover the contents after decades and shared them with the members of the Bomber Command Museum of Canada. As a result the additional documentation provided a much clearer picture of this close knit family and additional details of the loss of ND811.
One can only shake one's head in disbelief at the train of events, Lady Luck and the fickle finger of fate that led to the final tragic operation of Sqn Ldr. Bazalgette and his crew on August 4, 1944. They were most fortunate to return from their previous trip, volunteered at the last moment to participate in the Trossy raid, forced to take F2-T over their customary F2-M and by default became the sitting duck target as Deputy Master Bomber. Up to this point Sqn Ldr. Bazalgette had stacked the deck in their favour with a highly experienced crew. Despite this there was one risk factor that could not be avoided: a devastating direct flak strike.
Handicapped with an incapacitated bomb aimer and a crippled, flaming Lanc this determined young pilot was able to accurately drop his target markers and bomb load. To make matters worse he was then confronted with a sudden unpredicted spin. Incredibly he was able to regain control, with altitude to spare and avoiding catastrophic structural failure of the severely damaged starboard wing. This is testimony to Sqn Ldr. Bazalgette’s exceptional airmanship. There can be no doubt that his prompt action saved the lives of four of his crew mates. The unexpected unusual attitude was most likely the consequence of several factors: asymmetric thrust from the two port engines, aft shift of the centre of gravity from petrol siphoning into the rear fuselage, coupled with reduced air speed.
On recovery Sqn Ldr. Bazalgette set course to safety to the west. However, in short order the loss of the port inner engine would prove to be the death knell for F2-T and the Skipper reacted appropriately. He gave the order for those capable to abandon the aircraft and prepared to carry out a forced landing in order to give his incapacitated bomb aimer and mid-upper gunner a fighting chance.
The citizens of Senantes were adamant that Sqn Ldr. Bazalgette changed course to avoid crashing into the village and they were correct in this assumption. He circled the village in search of the most favourable field to optimise their chances: long, level and devoid of obstacles. There are several reasons for an aircraft crashing into a built-up area: incapacitated pilot, uncontrollable aircraft or night conditions and the village or city is blacked-out.
It is apparent that Sqn Ldr. Bazalgette was in control of F2-T to the point of touchdown. He would have intended to wait for the aircraft to come to a stop, release his seatbelt and aid his two crew mates to safety. However, a ditch across the field brought them to an abrupt halt, exposing fuel to flame, resulting in the catastrophic explosion that prevented any chance of survival.
There can be no doubt that this brave young airman deserved to be awarded the British Empire’s highest decoration for valour in conflict with the enemy.
During my youth my list of WWII heroes was short: Douglas Bader, Guy Gibson and Leonard Cheshire. In my senior years, after decades of reading and research it has expanded significantly, and now includes Alan Turing, W/C Ralph Viril Manning DFC, CD. , 1st Lt. Max Dowden, P/O. Roy Cook DFM, F/O. Lloyd Hannah, F/O. Jim Alexander, and now Sqn Ldr. Ian Willoughby Bazalgette VC DFC.
During my research it became apparent that often there was no rhyme or reason in the awarding of decorations to aircrew. It is understandable that the majority were presented to members of the RAF, usually officers. When an NCO was recognized it was always the result of heroism above and beyond the call of duty. On occasion, individuals were overlooked for obvious acts of valour and others decorated inappropriately. During my research and writing of 625 Squadron losses I have attempted to correct the former oversight by adding a Decoration Suggestions to each loss, in an attempt to rectify this. In the Addendum to the archive report on ME684 I have provided my reference guidelines for this process. P/O Andrew Mynarski and G/C Leonard Cheshire are the gold standards for the awarding of the Victoria Cross.
One member of Sqn Ldr. Bazalgette’s crew deserves special recognition as perhaps one of the most under-decorated members of the RAF — F/O Douglas Cameron DFM. By war’s end he had completed an amazing 122 operational sorties and before his last mission had volunteered for his fifth, unprecedented tour. He served as the rear gunner for two pilots awarded the VC posthumously and was confronted with baling out on two occasions. His actions during the aborted mission preceding the VC flight undoubtedly saved his crew for that event. It is noteworthy that after the second bale out, when given the options of being a protected evader or joining the French Underground with the certainty of execution if captured, he chose the latter. For sake of comparison, G/C Cheshire flew 120 ops, completed four tours, never baled out of a bomber or served with the French Underground. There can be no doubt that F/O Douglas Cameron was deserving of the VC.
It is understandable why a seasoned Skipper, when assigned to a ‘second dickie’ trip would usually choose two of his own crew to ensure that it would not be a one way ticket — his navigator and rear gunner, for obvious reasons. If the rookie crew failed to perform he could rely on the rear gunner to fend off night fighters and the nav to avoid flak batteries and plot a course home.
The members of the Nanton Lancaster Society and the citizens of Nanton deserve special recognition in their perseverance and determination in founding the Bomber Command Museum of Canada and in the restoration and dedication of the Bazalgette Lancaster. For a town with a population just over 2,000 this is a remarkable achievement! JEA.
The Lancaster, Gordon A.A. Wilson.
Baz: The Biography of Ian Bazalgette VC, Dave Birrell.
FM159: The Lucky Lancaster, Dave Birrell.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Website.
PHOTOGRAPHS: TITLES AND CREDITS
Baz: The Biography of Ian Bazalgette VC, Dave Birrell
FM159: The Lucky Lancaster, Dave Birrell
Reg Price DFC, 625 Squadron vet
Roy Wilcock - Aircrew Remembered
Submission by Dave Birrell and Jack Albrecht.
This archive report is dedicated to Kelvin and Stefan Young’s wisdom and foresight
as the founders of Aircrew Remembered.