Pathfinder Club – Mayfair

Pathfinder Club –
115 Mount Street, Mayfair, London W1

Mayfair takes its name from the ‘May Fair’ held there annually until well into the 1700s. The area came into the Ownership of the Grosvenor family in 1677 but it was not until the mid 18th Century that the Land started to be Developed into what was to become the most fashionable District of London in which to Live, Work and Play.

635SqnFlLtAlexThorneFounder and Secretary – Squadron Leader George Alexander Thorne DSO & Bar, DFC, Master Bomber, one of the founder Pilots of the Pathfinder Force No. 635 Squadron.  He is seen here  with his Pathfinder Badge
On Opening –
Life drifts along here apace. ……This place (the Pathfinder Club, Mayfair) is bloody good because I see so many of the old types and we are doing a roaring business.  Most places in London are desperately short of booze but I’ve managed to keep up to high watermark here in everything from Drambuie to Lemonade. Matches are pretty scarce and the Kerbside Market is just about to be nationalised, so that’s out!……”
A personal dig at Labour’s Post War Government and extensive nationalisation of Major Industries

The Basement Club was situated in a vaulted cellar below Pavement Level near a small U shaped Mount Street Mews which ran between with 115/116 on one side and the Butcher Shop corner entrance at 117 Mount Street.  The local builder John Morris erected Nos. 115–116, which was, by contrast, faced entirely in a lighter terracotta; and the Construction of Nos. 117–120 in normal terracotta was done by William Weir, who had previously been in South Audley Street and was said to be ‘experienced in building works’

The 2 Guineas Membership of the Pathfinder Club could be paid in 2 instalments in those austere times; it was operated by the Pathfinder Association at 115, Mount Street, London, W1, was open to all Serving and ex-Service members of the RAF and Commonwealth and Allied Air Forces. Pilots visiting London are invited to become Guest Members and to use the Club Rooms.  (S/L G A Thome, DSO, DFC, the Secretary, is seen near the Bar).  New Residential premises for Provincial members were officially opened at 118, Mount Street, Manageress of the Residential Quarters just beyond the Butcher’s Shop (No.117) was Miss Hilda Godsmark.
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markermagcover
The Marker‘- was the Official Newsletter of the now disbanded Pathfinder Association and the name was inspired by the parachute Target Indicator. Ted Jenner of 142 Squadron was the Editor

The Pathfinder Club
115mountstmayfairFollowing a recent meeting of the Council of the Pathfinder Association, the Pathfinder Club has become the first London organization of its kind to provide for members and ex-members of all ranks of the R.A.F. The Club was founded in 1944 to foster and maintain the spirit and fellowship of the Pathfinder Force. The Association states:
“A bold step has been decided on. … The decision is to extend membership of the Club to all serving and ex-members of the R.A.F., believing that such facilities are vitally necessary in helping to maintain a healthy interest in the Service.  “This change of policy . . . will place at the disposal of all those who are accepted the complete services of a responsible club with close Air Force and civil aviation affiliations. The amenities for members and their guests include restaurant and snack bar, residential service, and bar (at mess prices !). “The Council are determined that the highest possible standard of service and comfort should be maintained, at the same time keeping the subscription within reasonable limits. It has therefore been decided that the scale of membership fees shall be: town members – 2 guineas; country members – 1 guinea.”
Full details of membership may be obtained from
The Secretary,
Pathfinder Club,
115. Mount Street,
Berkeley Square,
London, W.1

From 1944 George Alexander Thorne ran the Pathfinder Club (at No.115 near the Berkley Square end ) until about 1956. There was a club bar and dining area in the basement extending under a Butcher’s Shop (Allan’s) and overnight accommodation available above and in the building next door to the Butcher’s Shop (118).  “Down Your Way” (BBC Home Service programme) visited the Pathfinder Club and there was a 78 rpm disc of the programme.  Letters were written by G. Alex Thorne DSO DFC, Master Bomber, one of the founder pilots of the Pathfinder Force 635 Squadron to his Navigator Boris Bressloff DFC who was then stationed in Bangalore.  Later in life he wrote “Lancaster at War 4: Pathfinder Squadron” published by Ian Allan ISBN: 0-7110-1882-0. When I first read the book, I sat up till 3 in the morning wondering if he got back from the various missions!  Statistically he should have been killed 3 times over.

PathfinderClubCuffLinksRobin Richardson, the club chairman had brought his wife Bunny to the closing party. He met her when she was a WAAF driver and could siphon petrol to put into his old Morris car. Remember we used to sleep in that little 2ft 6in bed? She said, nudging him. We weren’t married. Remember that night when 2 bombers collided on the circuit and they thought it was a raid? He had to hide me in the bathroom. She looked again, fondly at him. Marriage can be built on worse foundations.

Pathfinder Club Tie
As fast as they received new supplies of Pathfinder Club ties they sold out.  Early ties were made from a woolen mixture but later supplies were made of pure silk.  These were in dark blue or maroon (both with the Golden Eagle of course) and were available to members from July 1950 for 18s/9d post free.
1 – The tie, was maroon in colour with diagonal rows of the PFF badge in gold.
2 – It has a navy background with blue and gold diagonal stripes.(blue wider than the gold). In between each row there is a diagonal row of gold Pathfinder Badges. (or Eagles).
Makers name Toye Kenn & Spencer.

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J.R. Gaunt & Son

The firm of J.R. Gaunt & Son was established in 1884 when John Richard Gaunt and his eldest son, Charles Frederick, left their employment with the long established London military buttonmakers Firmin & Sons to set up on their own. The firm, originally based at the intersection of Clifford Street and Furnace Lane in the Birmingham district of Lozells, prospered and began to supply badges and buttons to uniformed organisations all over the World. By 1895 the business had moved to the city’s Warstone Parade; 4 years later it was incorporated as a limited company and by 1905 had opened a London office in Conduit Street. After the First World War they purchased a number of other insignia manufacturers, including in 1924 Jennens & Co Ltd, the prestigious family firm of Royal button and Military Ornament makers founded in London in the early years of the 19th century and whose buttons were made at the Jennens-owned Deritend Button Works. With the acquisition of the Jennens business Gaunts moved their London base to Warwick Street.

The Pathfinder Club eventually merged with Edith Sitwell’sSesame Club’ as did the Goldfish Club (for Ditched Airmen) and all the old PFF Squadron Badges were removed before the last night party held for the Master Bombers.  They moved into the premises of the Sesame Club which occupied No. 49 Grosvenor Street and its mews buildings at the rear (now No. 18 Mount Row).  The hushed atmosphere within the Sesame Club was that of a dignified refuge for the elderly, solicitously served by old retainers. With younger members and club servants away on military duties, it was a backwater harbour for old ladies, a shelter from the clattering impact of wartime outside. Edit Sitwell, with her aristocratic style and magnificent presence, always excited their curiosity, not least on that day when she entered the dining-room attended by a fireman – young, tall and handsome, but nevertheless a fireman. One could sense their dismay at her social effrontery.

TPathfiinderClub3he gunsmith James Purdey,was presented with an opportunity to be part of Mount Street. Purdey took the prestigious corner spot on South Audley Street and is still there today. During the inter-war years, crippling taxes forced many Mayfair residents to sell up. Only the rich could afford it anymore – and for them, it was party time. It was the place to be seen for bohemians and aristocrats. Evelyn Waugh and John Betjeman were part of the scene, as was Coco Chanel, the Duke of Westminster Hugh Grosvenor’s lover, who opened a boutique on Davies Street. Their carefree decadence ended abruptly with the start of the WW2, during which Mount Street took several direct hits. Grosvenor Square was another target, with its bombed western side bulldozed in the 1950s to make way for the US Embassy.  The ending of WWII in 1945 was time for abrupt change again. Many Mayfair houses were abandoned or badly damaged, and many companies in the City of London had been left without offices, due to bomb damage. So the aftermath of war saw Grosvenor adopt a new stance: to convert residential properties into offices by introducing Temporary Office Permissions, turned from being an elegant enclave of townhouses to London’s new commercial quarter.  Mount Street is the historic high street of Mayfair, which is London’s most prestigious city-village. When you walk down Mount Street you could be on a smart high street of a rural market town or affluent village outside of the capital, yet you are actually walking in the very heart of London. To walk down Mount Street is to experience a rural village ambience without actually having to leave the city. It’s a very special and unique experience in the capital. It’s also where you can enjoy the world’s most luxurious brands from the worlds of clothing, fine jewellery, watches and accessories.”

PathfiinderClubDuring WW-II a few bars in London were very popular with RAF-aircrew. among them were The Brevet Club, Oddenino‘s and The Shepherd’s Club.  The Boomerang Club, which is for for Aussies (RAFA), was the best serviceman’s centre in London. It was a really swell place if one wanted to meet another cobber – it was a good place.  “The Orchard” in Ruislip, next to RAF Northolt was the favourite of Polish crew stationed there.  Pilots frequented the Trocadero on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Windmill Street. The Café Royale on Regent Street just off Piccadilly Circus. Established in 1865 by a French wine merchant, was considered one of the more famous and glamorous restaurants in London in the 1930s, and is still in business today.  The Shepherd’s Tavern a smallish corner pub, with an upstairs restaurant and function room. Licensed in 1737 and known variously as the Ducking Pond, Dog & Duck and Crown until 1769, when it became the New Chesterfield Arms until rebuilt in 1938. Close to the RAF Club in Piccadilly, this pub was a main drinking haunt of Fighter Command in WW2.

PathfiinderClub2On 31 October 1918 the first Lord Cowdray made a gift to provide a permanent building to house the Royal Air Force Club; and by the middle of 1919 the buildings which make up the present Club were acquired.  The Piccadilly frontage was originally the Ladies Lyceum Club and was built in the 1800s, whilst the rear half, facing Old Park Lane, was stables. Between 1919 and 1921 extensive reconstruction took place, largely financed by Lord Cowdray.  The Club operated very successfully during the 1920s and 1930s with about 2,000 Members. With the outbreak of the Second World War Membership rose to approximately 4,000; a figure it maintained until the late 1950s

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Architect Smith’s design seems chiefly appropriate for the butcher Edgar Green, who took the corner shop at No. 117 Mount St opposite Baily’s. It was Edgar Green who, on the personal intervention of the Duke, won a famous fight allowing him to display his carcases prominently. Though Green died soon after and was succeeded by Robert Allen, carcasses have been hung up here ever since, and the traditional shop displays there and at No. 116 provide one of the familiar sights of this part of Mount Street. Above the Facade in 2016

Allens_of_Mayfair_butchers_shop_2012

“It was like a dream to suddenly own the oldest butchers in England and one with the most prestigious history. There is no other meat supplier with such heritage and credibility and much of this is owed to its magnificent location in the heart of Mayfair. There is most definitely a ‘Mayfair Community’ and Mount Street often feels like its own little village. This is most apparent at weekends when the offices are shut and the streets are less hectic. You can recognise and chat to regular faces and really get a feel for who’s a ‘local’. But we cater for a varied clientele through the week, from foodies travelling far and wide to buy at an iconic butcher to Taxi Drivers keen to grab a deal on what they know will be exceptional quality.”  118 Mount St was next door to the Butchers Shop.

INITIAL STRENGTH of Pathfinder Force – The PFF initially consisted of 5 squadrons:
7 Squadron – August 1942 from 3 Group, flying Stirlings;
Base: Oakington
Aircraft: Stirling, converted to Lancaster from July 1943
35 Squadron –
from 4 Group,
Base: Graveley
Aircraft: Halifax, converted to Lancaster from March 1944
83 Squadron – Move to 5 Group, the only Squadron flying Lancasters;
Base: Wyton
Aircraft: Lancaster
Transferred (‘loaned’) to 5 Group April 1944
109 Squadron –
from 2 Group, flying Wellingtons, but shortly to be re-equiped.
Base: Marham, then Little Staughton from April 1944
Aircraft: Mosquito (Wellingtons prior to August 1942)
156 Squadron – from 1 Group
Base: Warboys, then Upwood from March 1944
Aircraft: Wellington, converted to Lancaster from January 1943
INCREASED STRENGTH of Pathfinders Force
97 Squadron – April 1943 – 
Base: Bourn
Aircraft: Lancaster – Transferred (‘loaned’) to 5 Group April 1944
105 Squadron – June 1943 – Later in that same month the PFF HQ was moved from Wyton to Castle Hill House in Huntingdon, where it remained for the rest of the War.
Base: Marham, then Bourn from April 1944
Aircraft: Mosquito
571 Squadron – 
November 1943 (Formation Date)
Base: Downham Market, to Graveley from April 1944
Aircraft: Mosquito
405 (RCAF) Squadron
Base: Gransden Lodge
Aircraft: Halifax, converted to Lancaster from August 1943
1409 Meteorological Flight

Base: Oakington, then Wyton from January 1944
Aircraft: Mosquito
Note: These were unarmed Mosquitos, light and very fast, whose Prime Duty was to ascertain the Weather Conditions over the Targets before an Operation.
139 Squadron
Base: Marham, then Wyton from July 1943, Upwood from February 1944
Aircraft: Mosquito
627 Squadron
Base: Oakington
Aircraft: Mosquito – Transferred (‘loaned’) to 5 Group April 1944
692 Squadron
– January 1944 (Formation Date)
Base: Graveley
Aircraft: Mosquito
635 Squadron – March 1944 (Formation Date)
Base: Downham Market
Aircraft: Lancaster
Note: 97 Squadron was broken up in March 1944, C’ Flight going to 635 Squadron.
582 Squadron – April 1944 (Formation Date)
Base: Little Staughton
Aircraft: Lancaster
128 Squadron – reformed September 1944,
Base: Wyton
Aircraft: Mosquito
142 Squadron – reformed October 1944,
Base: Gransden Lodge
Aircraft: Mosquito
162 Squadron – reformed December 1944,
Base: Bourn
Aircraft: Mosquito
608 Squadron –
reformed August 1944,
Base: Downham Market
Aircraft: Mosquito
163 Squadron –
reformed January 1945,
Base: Wyton
Aircraft: Mosquito
The Pathfiner Force would eventually be entirely equipped with Lancasters and Mosquitoes, the most suitable Aircraft for its Task.

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