Operation Lancaster

Operation Lancaster ~ 1946
35 ‘Pathfinder’ Squadron, Goodwill Tour of USA


TL-D – TW872 – F/L Clarine – Aircraft in the Background in the Squadron Group Picture with W/C Craig Centre Front

Also known as the XXXV Madras Presidency Squadron, No.35 Squadron benefited from donations from the Madras Presidency (an administrative subdivision of British India) and was formally named “No. 35 (Madras Presidency) Squadron” in June 1942.  It is understood that No. 35 Squadron was presented with at least 3 Handley Page Halifax by the Madras Presidency and the following markings were shown on the side of these Aircraft (serial numbers unknown):

  • Madras Presidency Coimbatore
  • Madras Presidency Kistna
  • Madras Presidency West Godavari

The term “Madras Presidency” was formally dropped from the Squadron’s title in June 1952.  Madras Presidency included the districts of Coimbatore, West Godavari & Kistna (now Krishna) in the present day states of Tamil Nadu & Andhra Pradesh. The latter 2 Districts were named after the Rivers that flow through them.


Concept & Planning:
No.35 Squadron ~ ‘We Act With One Accord’
Gen_Ira_Eaker.jpgThe idea of a ‘Goodwill Tour’ of the USA seems to have been born in February 1946 after discussions with USAAF General Ira Eaker, who had Organised & Commanded the US 8th Air Force in the UK during WW2.  General Ira Clarence Eaker (13th April 1896 – 6th August 1987) was a General of the United States Army Air Forces during WW2.  Eaker, as 2nd-in-Command of the prospective 8th Air Force, was sent to Britain to Form & Organise its Bomber Command Collaboration.  However, while he struggled to build up his Air Power in Britain, the Organisation of the Army Air Forces kept evolving and he was named Commander of the 8th Air Force on 1st December 1942.  Group Captain Richard C M Collard was then placed in Charge of ‘Operation Lancaster’ which would involve 16 Lancaster’s of 35 Squadron plus an Avro York (for the Special Advance Party and also loaded with Aircraft Spares).

C in C Sir Norman Bottomley was also to Attend at the Long Beach Celebration in California.  It was planned for July & August 1946 to coincide with US Air Force Day celebrations in the USA.  Pathfinder Charles Owen DSO who was the Pilot of a specially modified Lancaster TW909 ferried the AOC-in-C Bomber Command Air Marshal Sir Norman Bottomley (The Old Man) on the 1946 Goodwill Trip in a VIP Soundproofed Cabin for the Highlight of the Tour at Long Beach, Ca) and Set out from RAF Marham, (Nr Kings Lynn) Norfolk & Returning via Prestwick to Abingdon.


Formation Flying

35SqdnCrestOperation Lancaster a Goodwill Tour to the USA was to show the Americans some of the ‘British Flyer Boys‘ of Bomber Command that had helped win the War.  The 16 Aircraft detailed for the Goodwill Tour were painted in Tiger Force white with black undersides and wore the ‘Squadron Crest’. The Tiger Force colours FE (Far East) were already there for the Japan Theatre in earlier pictures but the Flying Horse Crest was added, on both sides of the Cockpit, just before their Departure for the US.

UniformsCommentThe paint scheme, White & Black, was originally meant for Tiger Force, (also known as the Very Long Range Bomber Forcethe proposed RAF Aerial Attack on Japan at the end of WW2.  No.7 Squadron, like No. 35 Squadron, was earmarked for that Operation and so, presumably, was also painted in those Colours. Tiger Force was to have been based on Okinawa and would have used Avro Lancasters, Avro Lincolns (the latest development of the Lancaster) & Consolidated Liberators.  The 16 Lancaster’s of 35 Squadron that went on the Goodwill Tour were the Squadron’s own Aircraft with a couple of late additions from other Squadrons.  In preparation for the Trip, all Airmen were fitted out with 3 Sets of Made to Measure Saville Row Dress Uniforms. See News Comment

35 Squadron –  Lancaster B.Mk.I FE Sqdn Code TL-F – TW880 W/C A J L Craig, DSO, DFC.
In WW2 its Halifax’s & Lancaster’s were coded “TL ” and the codes “TL ” remained in use until 1951 or thereabouts.
During the early months of the ‘Washington Period’ used the codes “FB“. (American post-War Military Assistance Programs loaned the RAF enough Superfortresses to equip several RAF Bomber Command Squadrons. The Aircraft were known as the Washington B.1 in RAF Service and served from March 1950 until the last Bombers were returned in early 1954) 35 Squadron FE’s was equipped for Fighting against the Japanese alongside the USAAF.


B.I(FE) In anticipation of the needs of the Tiger Force Operations against the Japanese in the Far East (FE), a Tropicalised Variant was based on late Production Aircraft. The B.I(FE) had modified Radio, Radar, Navigation Aids, and a 400 gal (1,818L) Tank installed in the Bomb Bay.  Most were painted with White Upper-Surfaces developed to reflect Sunlight and thus lower the internal temperatures in the Tropical Sun (This gave little comfort when flying across the USA), and Black Undersides with a low demarcation between the Colours, completely omitting any Red Colours on the National Insignia in all cases to avoid confusion with the Hinomaru Insignia of the Japanese.

GoodwillTourAnnouncedThe RAF accepted the Invitation from the USAAF to send 35 Squadron of RAF Bomber Command to Visit the USA to take part in Airforce Day on 1st August 1946 at Long Beach, California.  The Squadron is equipped with Lancaster Aircraft of the type which was used in massed assaults against Germany and was to have formed part of the ‘Tiger Force’ which had been organised by the RAF for the Air Offensive against Japan from Okinawa.

The Officer in Charge will be Group Captain R C M (Dickie) Collard DSO DFC Station Commander of RAF Graveley, Huntingdonshire.  Collard then 35yrs old he was shot down over Germany in 1942 one of his Engines was out of action but he still tenaciously Bombed his Target.  He remained a Prisoner of War until liberated by the Russians.
The Squadron was to be Commanded by Wing Commander Alan John Laird Craig, DSO DFC.  The Lancaster’s would leave from Graveley about the end of the 1st week in July.  They would fly 2 Flights of 8 to New York.  The Route would be via St Mawgan (Cornwall), Lagens (Azores) & Gander Newfoundland.  Collard and a party of Ground Crew would travel by Air in an Avro York C-1 Aircraft Piloted by S/L Anthony B J Pearson.
No.35 Squadron was Operational during the greater part of the War and was engaged in many of the Major Attacks on the German War Industry.

This Squadron was the only Heavy Bomber Squadron to take part in the RAF’s Massed Flypast of London on VE-Day on the 8th June 1946.  35 Squadron’s S/L M J Beetham had Daily Telegraph reporter Mr Townsend aboard his Aircraft (TL-A – SW315)


VE-Day Formation over Trafalgar Square

Scheduled for July & August 1946, 35 Squadron Pathfinders Force RAF were due to carry out a Goodwill Tour of the USA with 16 Lancaster Bombers and an Avro York in Support.   The 1st Visit of Foreign Aircraft to the US since the Italian Aircraft visited the World Fair in 1933.  Craig developed Formation Flying in initially 3 Lancasters and built up from that to 6, 9 & finally 12 Aircraft. The 1st 12 Formation Flypast was Abroad on 4th May 1946 on the 1st Anniversary of the Liberation of Holland a much appreciative Nation after Operation Manna.  The nightly sounds of Raiding Bombers Flying over Holland during the War gave them ongoing hope of Liberation during the German Occupation.

My father Flt Lt Ron Thompson went on a Goodwill Tour of the USA with 35 Squadron just after the War (USAAF Day at Long Beach, California was the reason), and was also part of the 1st Fly-past over London to commemorate the end of the War (VE-Day). I have a photograph of all the Aircrew of 35 Sqdn in front of a Lancaster and his album of the Trip to the States.  He died in 1996.

The 18 Aircraft involved are identified as follows:-
‘A’ Flight ~
TL-A – SW315 – F/Lt M J Beetham, Group Captain
TL-B – SW313 – F/O Barker
TL-C_Take Off.png


Tender Loving Care from the Ground Crew

TL-C – TW657 – F/Lt Ron Mathers
of 143 Maybury Road, Woking, Stuart Edmund Lucas Sturgeon was Navigator 1
TL-D – TW872 – F/L Clarine – Aircraft employed as the Background in the Squadron Picture
TL-E – TW979 – F/O Hampson,
TL-F – TW 880 – W/C A J L Craig, DSO, DFC.
Flight Crew,
F/Lt Hardy, F/Lt Felgate, F/L Walton, F/L Hawes, F/L Kennedy, W/C Craig, F/L Davidson, F/L Cooper.  Ground Crew Sgt Tompkins, LAC Punt, F/S Blake & LAC Trainer
TL-G – TW869 – F/L Greig – (replaced by PA436)
Replaced by No.115 Squadron’s PA436 due to undercarriage retraction problems at the start of the Tour.

TL-H – TW878 –  F/O Timothy Lamb
(from London)

‘B’ Flight ~



Silver Star medal.png

TL-L – TW892 – F/O Frank (Francis) J Cheshire RAF No.1474273 (aged 25 yrs)
(Awarded American Silver Star (DFC ) for gallant support of  American Ground Force Troops in Normandy)  Frank received his Training at 1663 HCU at 7 Group Training Command RAF Rufforth from c.1944  Bombing/Fighter Co-op – Circuits & Bumps, Familiarisation, 3 & 2 Engine Landings, Bombing Practice, Local & Cross Country Flying.  He was Operational as Fl/Sgt with 158 Squadron from 26th October 1944 during the War flying the Halifax B Mk.III from RAF Lissett South West of Bridlington in the East Riding of Yorkshire c.1943 to August 1945.   Lisset was less than, 2 miles from the North Sea and made it the closest Airbase to Northern Europe.  Among its Halifax’s (and a great many passed through its hands) were 2 particularly distinguished specimens – Halifax IIIs LV907 “NP-F-Freddy”, or Friday the 13th, as it was named, and LV917 NP-C, Clueless, which was successively designated “NP-T-Tare“, “NP-H-Harry” and “NP-C-Charlie“.  These Aircraft both joined the Squadron in March 1944, and between then and VE-Day flew 128 & 99 (at least) Operational Sorties, respectively. Both of them participated in No.158 Squadron’s final Wartime Operation – an Attack on Wangerooge on 25th April 1945.


158SqdnCrest.gifA Memorial Sculpture to 158 Squadron in the form of 7-No. 8ft Tall Silhouetted Airmen made of 15mm thick Steel has been erected on Gransmoor Road, (RAF) Lissett to the Memory of the 851 Airmen who did not return from Operations at that Airfield.  The 7 Chain Links and the Motto ‘Strength in Unity’ signify the combined Strength & Co-operation of the Aircrew & Support Staff within the Squadron.   The Crew were Posted out to 35 Squadron on 17th December 1944.
Crew: Pilot Sgt Francis Cheshire, Navigator Sgt Ralph Kirk Raper, Air Bomber Sgt Kevin Juckes, Wireless Operator F/O Donald Joseph Lawrence RAAF,  Mid Upper Gunner Sgt D McMillan. Rear Gunner Sgt S J Smith, Flight Engineer Sgt D P Adamson

tl-mTL-M – TW659 – F/Lt Pennington, R W Thompson, W/Op
TL-N – TW660 – F/O Carradine


TL-O – TW882 – F/Lt Dawson – Flying in Formation with TL-C in foreground

TL-O (Oboe) TW 882 – F/O Wilf Haig & Crew W/O Tipper, W/O Brooks, W/O Reeve & W/O Stevens, remained with this Unserviceable Aircraft while at Long Beach

TL-P  – PA411   – S/L T S Harris DFC (Shorty)
TL-Q  – PA414  – F/Lt Pete Stockwell, of Robin Hood Bay, Yorks
TL-R – TW870 – F/O John Edward Robinson:
Earlestown, Lancs, d.1988
(Later to be the ill-fated Aircraft Piloted by  F/Lt Stockwell of the Gander Incident)


TL-R John Edward Robinson’s Crew: W/O Sparling, F/O Wilson, F/S Angel, F/O Robinson, F/L Bullen, F/S Watson, W/O Vaughan.

TL-S – PA835 – F/O Francis P (Paddy) Leadon – Francis b.1923 is still enjoying an active life at 96 years of age.

Avro York C Mk1 – MW234 Left Graveley on Friday 5th July with the Advance Party of Aircrew Piloted by S/L Anthony B J Pearson & the Ground Crews and also included Group Capt Richard C M (‘Dickie’) Collard DSO DFC, as Officer in Charge of Operation Lancaster.


Wireless Operator Ron W Thompson Log Entries for May 1946 reflect Formation Practice  on 2nd/3rd May, a Formation Fly-past in Holland 4th May, Formation Practice 6th, 8th & 9th May, Formation Flypast 25th May in Aid of St Dunstan’s Church (Fleet St?) and Formation Practice for the VE-Day London Flypast in Lancaster TL-M on 28th May 1946

W/Op R W Thompson Log Book Entry for May 1946

Other Squadron Personnel Members Gleaned from Articles to date – please advise if you have any corrections or additions

W/O Stephen Appleyard – of Scarborough
Sgt William ‘Bill’ Ashpool of Dewsbury, Yorks – Ground Crew – ‘Bill’ Ashpool was based at Graveley and went on the Goodwill Tour.  Part of the Ground Crew, working on the Maintenance of Radar Equipment on board the 16 Lancasters
Cpl George Barnes – Sowerby, Yorks
W/O Dennis Baker
F/O Syd Barker
W/C Arthur Bernard? or Brenard
Cpl Barns Ground Crew
W/O Brooks
W/O Peter Bentley – Liverpool
F/O Benton
F/O Francis J Cheshire of Fagley, Bradford
F/L Ken Clarine
F/L Jack Cornelius
W/O George Davis – of Kidderminster
Flt/Lt Gerry Dawson
W/O Dickinson of Leeds
LAC Dunnicliffe of Doncaster
F/O Fawcett of Sheffield
F/O W A Forsythe late of 2/4 Cockspur Street London, SW1
F/O Gardiner
F/L Gardner
F/O Gourlay
Sgt Grayson
Cpl Gumbrell
Cpl Hanley of York
F/O Wilf Haig
LAC T F Hornaday
LAC Norman Hayward – of Plymouth
F/O Hulbert of Middlesborough, Yorks
L/A James Hunter – of Donegal, Ireland
F/O Wilf Jenkins
F/O Jukes of Bradford
W/O Lambert of Sheffield
F/L Leonard
F/L Lewis
F/Sgt R E Lewis
Cpl McDuff
F/L McKenzie
F/L Martin
F/lt Oxtoby of Knaresborough
F/O Stan Page
F/O Bill Philpot
F/O Redmond
W/O Reeve
LAC Jack Rollit
W/O Montague Roberts
W/O Scull
F/O Seville
F/L Simpson
F/L Skingley
W/O Sparling of York
W/O Smith of Leeds
F/O Jack Smith
W/O Stevens
Cpl D C Sturman
Stuart Edmund Lucas Sturgeon
who was Navigator 1 on TL-C TW657
W/O J T Tait Born in Helena, Montana~
LAC Thomas of Barnoldswick, Yorks
F/O Thompson
W/Op Fl/Lt Ron W Thompson, of Acomb, Yorks (WAG)
W/O Tipper
LAC Upsher
F/O Wilson
F/L Walmer
F/L Weedon

7 responses to “Operation Lancaster

  1. What photo is it that you have?
    My Great Grandad was awarded the Path Finder Badge.
    I am collecting images of family to pass along generations to help them recognize where they came from.
    I appreciate your efforts


  2. Hi,

    Hope your well.

    Just noticed you’ve added that Frank was awarded a silver star. Don’t suppose you have any more info as to when he received that? Would love to know


  3. My father William “Bill” Ashpool was based at RAF Graveley and went to the USA on the Goodwill Tour. He seems to be missing from your list of personnel. Part of the Ground Crew, he was a Sergeant working on the Maintenance of Radar Equipment on board the Lancasters. I have a lot of Newspaper cuttings, Pictures and Souvenirs that he brought back with him.


  4. This is a wonderful tribute. TL-S – PA385 – F/O Francis P (Paddy) Leadon – my father. He is still enjoying an active life at 96 years of age. Sincerest thanks, Dr Desmond Leadon.


  5. Hi,
    My dad was John Edward Robinson, Pilot of TL-R. He was from Earlestown, Lancashire.
    Sadly died in 1988. Spoke fondly of this trip.


  6. Stuart Edmund Lucas Sturgeon who was Navigator 1 on TL-C TW657, completed ops with 582, 635 and 35 Squadrons including this Goodwill Tour of America, the VE Day Flypast in 1946 and the Battle of Britain Flypast, I currently have his logbook in my possession if logbook scans are required for research.


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