Lest we forget
This website is dedicated, as its title suggests, to just an ordinary crew of Bomber Command in World War II. They wouldn't have regarded themselves as heroes, nor in the commonly accepted sense, were they. But like thousands of other young men from across the world they chose to volunteer to serve as aircrew in the RAF, the RAAF, the RNZAF and the RCAF, knowing that from the outset even of initial training, their lives were in danger and that many, many of them would eventually pay the supreme sacrifice. It is an attempt to tell their stories as far as I can ascertain them and to show the many ways in which, in their ordinariness, they, along with thousands of their colleagues, were all extraordinary. Their like will never be seen again.
My hope and intention is that within this website, I can show the various paths that each of these ordinary men took: the rigorous, arduous and often dangerous training that each had, and the vagaries of life that could effect each of them and their like on their route to becoming an efficient bomber crew. Although they only spent slightly less than a month on their squadron doing what they had been trained to do, there is much to tell of the preceding two or so years. This, as far as I can tell it, is their story and also of the equally courageous men who fought against them.
I've been aware of Max Venton all of my life....I am, after all, named after him, but it wasn't until the advent of the internet and the relative ease of researching that it brings, that Max became a "living" person in my life.
Max and my father volunteered for service in the Royal Air Force in 1941, within a year they were both pilots-under-training in Southern Rhodesia, initially flying Tiger Moths then latterly either Oxfords (in Max's case) or Harvards (in Dad's case). In 1943, after gaining their "wings", Max was posted back to England, whereas Dad, to his disappointment, was kept in Rhodesia as a flying instructor. Dad lost contact with Max, but heard in 1945 that he had been killed whilst on operations flying Lancasters, he thought with an Australian squadron. Sixty years later, and one simple search of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website on the internet, gave us much more information including the cemetery where he was buried and the exact position of his grave. I immediately felt the need to visit his grave at the Reichswald War Cemetery near Kleve in north-west Germany, hoping Dad would come with me, but it was a bit too much for him at 82, so I went on my own in August 2005. I noticed the graves alongside Max's were all dated the same and wondered if they were connected in some way, deciding to investigate this further on my return home. Several years later, I am still discovering information about the crew (it was indeed their graves), Bomber Command and its role in WW 2 and the enemies who fought so hard against them in the turbulent skies over wartorn Europe.
Rowland Telford Ward RAAF pilot
Maxwell Venton RAF
Flight Engineer and pilot
Harry Callaghan RAF Navigator
Colin Hill Terras RAAF
Ronald Victor Smith RAF
William Chatters RAF
Mid upper gunner
Thomas Edward Drennan RAF
June 2016: my second visit to the Reichswald War Cemetery, placing a poppy cross by the graves of all the members of 467 and 463 squadrons lost on 3 March 1945.
The boys' graves:
together forever in death.
May they rest in peace.
I hope that this website will give a good idea of what a typical bomber crew endured on a day to day basis, of the determination that each needed just to become operational and of the spirit that ultimately helped overcome the Nazi threat.
This website is their story; it is based upon the information, the anecdotes, the details that I have gathered since 2005, and will no doubt continue to do. It's a tale of heroism, of tragedy, of sadness, sometimes of boredom and frustration, but overall of the ultimate futility of war. However, those who gave their youth and their future in those far off dark skies must not, and will not, be forgotten.
If you wish to contact me (further information and comments/suggestions are always welcome) please use the Guest Book form available as part of "The Present" section. Thank you....Max Williams, Dorset England.