156 Squadron, RAF Warboys/Upwood Losses
The 156 Squadron was formed at Alconbury in February 1942 as a medium-bomber squadron equipped with Wellingtons, and for the 1st few months operated with No. 3 Group. When the Pathfinder Force (No. 8 Group) was formed in August 1942, No.156 was one of the 4 squadrons selected to form the nucleus of the new force. It remained with the Pathfinder Force for the rest of the European War and, still flying Wellingtons at 1st and then Lancaster’s, and played a major part in Bomber Command’s offensive. Base: Warboys, then Upwood from March 1944 Aircraft: Wellington, converted to Lancaster from January 1943
156 Squadron Losses
Sgt James Walter Gilbert 1178418 who was killed on 24/25th Feb 1944. He was Mid-upper gunner on Lancaster JB 479 GT-K piloted by W/Cdr Eric Frederick Porter. This was on the raid at Schweinfurt. Just the week before he died he learnt that he was going to be a father. His birthday was on 23rd February. He was killed the next night. The 32-year-old James Walter Gilbert was the husband of Marjorie Vera Gilbert, of Market Harborough, Leicestershire and is buried with his crewmates at Durnbach in Germany. His skipper, 35-year-old Eric Porter, an Old Haltonian, had been Commanding Officer of 156 Squadron since November, 1943.
Officer in Command ~ Wing Commander A J L Craig ~ 10th April to 25th September 1945
The Runway Ghost
There was rumoured to be a female ghost on the Airfield. Several planes came in to land making perfect landings but then veering suddenly off-course with 2 crashing, one with fatal results. The Pilots were questioned independently, one finally admitting that as he came into land, he saw the figure of a little girl crossing the Runway right in front of them. Others subsequently independently advised of the same thing. Not long after, the shallow grave of a young girl was found close to the Runway. She was never identified and was removed and properly buried in a nearby Churchyard. Her ghost was never seen again after she had been properly buried.
Bomber Command casualties by year
For any given 100 Aircrew in Bomber Command, 1939-1945 the statistical breakdown was:-
Killed on operations 51
Killed in crashes in England 9
Seriously injured 3
Prisoner of War 12
Evaded capture 1
Survived unharmed 24
At a time when RAF bomber crews were living on powdered eggs and adrenaline, knowing that more than 40% of their number would never return from a Mission during WW2, they had a grim little breakfast ritual. Each Squadron Member would get one fresh egg per week, obtained from local English Farms. There was a special mess rack, bearing everyone’s names, just for those eggs. So if you were flying that night and a colleague wasn’t, a favourite expression was to tell him, ‘If I don’t come back, you can have my egg,‘ – That was the joke.”
There’s a saying among Airmen: “The only worse than being down here wishing you were up there, is being up there wishing you were down here“ – and that must have been very true for those men trying desperately to see the Runway in the Fog, with Fuel running low.