Operation Lancaster

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

Concept and Planning:

No.35 Squadron ~ ‘We Act With One Accord’
The 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 and commanded the US 8th Air Force in the UK during WW2.  General Ira Clarence Eaker (April 13, 1896 – August 6, 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 and 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 December 1, 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 and 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 (Long Beach, Ca) and set out from RAF Marham, (Nr Kings Lynn) Norfolk and returning via Prestwick to Abingdon.


Gen_Ira_Eaker.jpgOperation 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 badge’. The Tiger Force colours FE (Far East) were already there for the Japan Theatre in earlier pictures but the Flying Horse  ‘badge’ was added, on both sides of the cockpit, just before their departure for the U.S.

The paint scheme, White and Black, was original meant for Tiger Force, the 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. The 16 Lancaster’s of 35 Squadron that went on Goodwill 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.

35 Squadron – ~ Lancaster B Mk1 FE Sqdn Code TL-F TW880 W/C Craig
In WW2 its Halifax’s and 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 .

The 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 35 yrs old he was shot down over Germany in 1942 one of his engines was out of action but he still Bombed his Target.  He remained a Prisoner of War until liberated by the Russians.
The Squadron will be Commanded by Wing Commander Alan J Laird Craig, DSO DFC.  The Lancaster’s will leave from Graveley about the end of the 1st week in July.  They will fly 2 Flights of 8 to New York.  The Route will be via St Mawgan (Cornwall), Lagens (Azores) and Gander Newfoundland.  Collard and a party of Ground Crew will 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 VJ- Day on the 8th June 1946.  35 Squadron S/L M J Beetham had Daily Telegraph reporter Mr Townsend aboard his Aircraft (TL-A SW315)


Scheduled for July and 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 Lancs and built up from that to 6, 9 and 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 Lanc 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

TL-C – TW657 – F/Lt Mathers
TL-D – TW872 – F/L Clarine
TL-E – TW979 – F/O Hampson,
TL-F – TW 880 – W/C A L J 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 and 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 and Bumps, Familiarisation, 3 & 2 Engine Landings, Bombing Practice, Local and Cross Country flying.  He was Operational as Fl/Sgt with 158 Squadron from 26th October 1944 during the War flying the Halifax B Mklll from RAF Lissett SW 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 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 and 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.  A Memorial Sculpture to 158 Squadron in the form of 7 x 8-feet tall silhouetted Airmen made of 15mm thick steel has been erected on Gransmoor Road, 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 and co-operation of the Aircrew and support staff within the Squadron.   The crew were posted out to 35 Squadron on 17 December 1944.
 Pilot Sgt Francis Cheshire RAF VR
 Navigator Sgt Ralph Kirk Raper RAF VR
 Air Bomber Sgt Kevin Juckes RAF VR
 Wireless Operator F/O Donald Joseph Lawrence RAAF
 Mid Upper Gunner Sgt D McMillan RAF VR
 Rear Gunner Sgt S J Smith RAF VR
 Flight Engineer Sgt D P Adamson RAF VR
tl-mTL-M – TW659 – F/Lt Pennington
TL-N – TW660 – F/O Carradine 
TL-O – TW882 – F/Lt Dawson
Also TL-O (Oboe) TW 882 – F/O Wilf Haig & Crew W/O Tipper, W/O Brooks, W/O Reeve and 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
TL-R – TW870 – F/O John E Robinson:

Air Crew: W/O Sparling, F/O Wilson, F/S Angel, F/L H G Bullen, F/S Watson, W/O Vaughan.
(Later to be the ill fated aircraft piloted by  F/Lt Stockwell of the Gander Incident)
TL-S – PA835 – F/O Loudon? 

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 and Ground Crews and also included Group Capt Richard C M ‘Dickie’ Collard DSO DFC, as Officer in Charge of Operation Lancaster.


Other Squadron Personnel Members

W/O Stephen Appleyard – Scarborough
W/O Dennis Baker
F/O Syd Barker
W/C Arthur Bernard? or Brenard
W/O Brooks
W/O Peter Bentley – Liverpool
F/O Benton
F/L Ken Clarine
F/L Jack Cornelius
W/O George Davis – Kidderminster
F/O W A Forsythe late of 2/4 Cockspur Street London, SW1
F/O Francis – Could be Francis J Cheshire if news photo caption is wrong
F/O Gardiner
F/L Gardner
F/O Gourlay
Sgt Grayson
Cpl Gumbrell
F/O Wilf Haig
LAC T F Harnaday
LAC Norman Hayward – Plymouth
F/O Hulbert
L/A James Hunter – Donnegal
F/O Jenkins
F/O F P Leadon
F/L Leonard
F/L Lewis
F/Sgt R E Lewis
Cpl McDuff
F/L McKenzie
F/L Martin
F/O Page
F/O Bill Philport
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
F/O Jack Smith
W/O Stevens
Cpl D C Sturman
W/O J T Tait Born in Helena, Montana~
F/O Thompson
F/L Ron Thompson
W/O Tipper
LAC Upsher
F/O Wilson
F/L Walmer
F/L Weedon

Ground Crew
Sgt William “Bill” Ashpool
was based at Graveley and went on the Goodwill Tour.
of the Ground Crew, working on the Maintenance of Radar Equipment on board the 16 Lancasters


3 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.


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