My father Leslie Faircloth served as an air-gunner in RAF Bomber Command during World War II. Over the years he has built up an extensive library of books on the subject. In 2003 I was reading details of my father and his crew in his copy of the excellent book ‘RAF Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War 1944‘ by W.R. Chorley. On page 305 there is the reference to the loss of his Lancaster ND424 G for George on 27/28 June 1944, listing the names of the crew and whether they were ‘evd‘ (evader) or ‘pow‘ (prisoner of war).
In Appendix 9 – ‘Escapers and Evaders‘ on page 544 were the names of six 12 Squadron personnel who evaded capture. This included three of the four evaders from the crew of ND424 including my father. Alongside were some curious reference numbers, e.g. file 3321 report (-) 2069. The introduction above these references explained their use:
Retained at the Public Record Office Kew are a series of documents officially referred to as the Escape Reports. Grouped under their class reference of WO208, these fascinating papers describe in some detail the evasions of Royal Air Force, Commonwealth and Allied air forces personnel, principally from those areas of Europe under Nazi domination…
I then began the internet search for the National Archive at Kew (formerly the Public Record Office) and soon found their online catalogue (then called ProCat). After many searches using various criteria and combinations I eventually found what I was looking for, a reference to my father‘s escape report WO208/3321 report 2069. I ordered and paid for an online copy and a few days later it arrived. I printed it and gave my father a huge surprise by presenting him with a copy that he had never seen and was written nearly 60 years earlier.
I later requested copies of the escape reports for two more of the evaders, the fight engineer and the wireless operator. On subsequent searches I found and requested a copy of the crash report for their Lancaster. In early 2010 I requested a copy of Leslie‘s service record from RAF Cranwell. In summer 2010 I found references to the POW (Prisoner of War) reports for the pilot and tail gunner and requested copies. I then found a reference and requested a copy of the escape report for the bomb aimer. In February 2011 we spent two days at the National Archive where we made copies of many original documents relating to the crew, the aircraft and the operations in which they took part. In January 2015 we requested and received copies of documents relating to Lancaster ND424 from the RAF Museum in Hendon. In September 2015 we requested and received a copy of Leslie’s ‘Casualty File’ from the RAF Air Historical Branch at RAF Northolt.
When l began this project my father Leslie did not know the fate of the rest of his crew. After extensive research we now know each of their war stories and what happened to them. We also managed to track down some of the crew who were still alive and the families of others who had sadly passed away.
Lots of people provided vital assistance along the way and I would like to say many thanks for all your help.
This kind of research would have been very difficult without the internet. The research continues and this website contains the information gathered so far.