Historic photograph of Downham Market airmen preparing for final Second World War bombing mission

Brian Emsley discovered this picture of the last bombing raid of the Second World War in his father's photograph album
Brian Emsley discovered this picture of the last bombing raid of the Second World War in his father's photograph album
Share this article
Have your say

A photograph has been discovered of a bomber crew at RAF Downham preparing for the final raid over Germany.

Brian Emsley has shared a picture of his father Edward and his colleagues getting a Mosquito ready for the Kiel canal mission on May 2, 1945.

Edward, who died in 1979, was serving as ground crew with the 608 (North Riding) Squadron, the Light Night Strike Force, at Downham when the picture was taken, 70 years ago.

Two waves of Mosquitos from Downham were ordered to drop cookie buster bombs on the U-boat pens in Kiel.

Brian discovered the picture while looking through his father’s photograph album and went on to research the mission.

He said: “I had seen the pictures over the years but it was not until recently when I had checked it out that I was aware of the historical significance.

“I wished he was alive to tell me more.”

Talented carpenter Edward, who had moved to Hertfordshire from a coal mining community in the north east, could have stayed out of the fighting as he was working for the De Havilland aircraft factory in Hatfield.

But Brian believes that his father was spurred on to join up in 1941, after 25 to 35 people were killed at the factory in a German bombing raid.

The discovery of the photograph has excited Chris Coverdale, who is a historian of RAF Downham.

He has a similar picture of Flt Lt John Richard McCormach RNZAF DFC and Plt Off S D Wearn DFC with the bomb but this new photograph has revealed more information.

The plane was in fact V for Victor and had completed more than 100 operations, which is shown by the marks close to the nose.

Chris said: “From my point of view, it is amazing this photograph has surfaced.”

Information from Chris’ archives shows that V for Victor was crewed by Plt Of Turner and Flt Sgt Bryant.

They were among the first wave of Mosquitos to drop 4,000lb bombs over Kiel from 18,000 to 18,600ft in cloud cover. Only one plane, which was not V for Victor, was not able to release its bomb due to a technical issue.

RAF Downham was officially opened in 1942 and went on to host five operational squadrons including 218, its offshoot 623 and 214, along with Pathfinders 635 and 608, which was part of the Light Night Striking force.

Chris wants to create a permanent memorial for the 705 men who were based at Downham and gave their lives in the fighting. He has hopes to install a 15m granite and steel memorial on land close to Bexwell church.

Chris is releasing the fifth edition of his book, Pathfinder 635 Squadron, the definitive history from March 1944 to September 1945. This is available for pre-order from www.635squadron.com