News

4th May 2022. Visit to Beamsley Beacon

On 3 March 2022 we climbed Beamsley Beacon to pay our respects to Pilot Officer Walter Frederick Conley RCAF who died there on 5th November 1945.

He was the pilot of Avro Lancaster RA571 that crashed on the south side of the hill in bad weather. He was one of four of the eight crew on board the aircraft who sadly died and they are buried at the nearby Harrogate Stonefall Cemetery.

The hill is north of Ilkley in Yorkshire and south of the A59 Harrogate to Skipton road, overlooking Wharfedale. The memorial plaque on the trig point is all thanks to the work of local man Sam White.

Above. The trig point with the plaque to commemorate the crew of Avro Lancaster RA571.

RA571 was a Lancaster Mk 1 of 429 Squadron RCAF based at RAF Leeming (near North Allerton in North
Yorkshire). The crew were all in the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force):

  1. Pilot Officer Walter Frederick Conley (pilot). Killed.
  2. Flight Sergeant Arnold Emerson Stinson (flight engineer). Killed.
  3. Flying Officer Wallace Land (bomb aimer). Killed.
  4. Flying Officer Alan Coleman (navigator). Injured.
  5. Flight Sergeant Frank Moran (wireless operator). Injured.
  6. Sergeant Joseph Balenger (tail gunner?). Injured.
  7. Leading Aircraftsman Reg Henderson (passenger?). Injured.
  8. Acting Corporal William J. Ellis (passenger?). Killed.
Above. The plaque commemorating the crew of RA571.

5th October 2021. Ride in Lancaster NX611

On Saturday 25 September 2021 I had an amazing tour and taxi ride in Avro Lancaster NX611 ‘Just Jane’ at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre based at East Kirkby near Spilsby in Lincolnshire. My wife Gaynor has been secretly planning the trip for some time and when she spotted a cancellation on the previous Wednesday, she quickly booked it. We also booked two nights at the nearby Petwood Hotel in Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire, once home to 617 Squadron, the Dambusters. It was a very special weekend all thanks to my wife Gaynor.

Above. The Petwood Hotel in Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire.

Although I have studied and seen the Avro Lancaster many times this was my first time inside one. We have seen Lancaster PA474 of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) at lots of flying displays and saw it flying alongside the Canadian Lancaster FM213 at Southport in 2014 with my dad Leslie and family. Altogether we have seen the following Lancaster bombers:

  • Lancaster Mark 1 PA474 of the BBMF (built at the Broughton factory in Flintshire during 1945 where I worked for 17 years in the 1970’s and 1980’s).
  • Lancaster Mk. X FM213 of the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.
  • Lancaster Mk. X KB889 at the IWM at Duxford in Cambridgeshire.
  • Lancaster Mk. VII NX665 at the MOTAT museum in Auckland, New Zealand.
  • Lancaster Mk. I DV372 (nose only) at the IWM in London.
  • Lancaster Mk. VII NX611 ‘Just Jane’ at East Kirkby.
  • We have not yet seen Lancaster Mk. I R5868 at the RAF Museum in Hendon, London.

There were nine of us on this tour and we were given a group briefing then watched the health and safety video. We then walked across the concrete taxi way to the waiting Lancaster NX611. After entering through the main crew door on the rear starboard side we were given the guided tour. I sat in each of the crew positions: Pilot, Flight Engineer, Bomb Aimer, Wireless Operator, Navigator, Tail Gunner and my dads position Mid-Upper Gunner. Dad had told me how difficult it was to climb over the main wing spar that bisects the centre of the fuselage and I can now confirm this!

Above. This is me in the cockpit of Avro Lancaster NX611 ‘Just Jane’ at East Kirkby.

I stayed in the Mid-Upper turret for the taxi ride around the grass airfield. The engines started one by one and the sound and feel of four Rolls Royce Merlin engines at full throttle is an unforgettable experience. Brakes off and we carried out a few circuits of the airfield bouncing around on the grass. Magic!

Above. This is me in the mid-upper turret of ‘Just Jane’.

Following the taxi ride we returned to the concrete area to disembark. As you can see from the picture below I didn’t stop smiling all weekend.

RAF Coningsby

On the way back to the Petwood Hotel we made a slight detour to RAF Coningsby, now home to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF). There had been a flying display earlier in the afternoon so Avro Lancaster PA474, the C47 Dakota, a Hawker Hurricane and a number of Supermarine Spitfires were on display. So we saw two Lancasters in one day so adding to the great weekend experience. RAF Coningsby is also currently home to RAF 12 Squadron who operate the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4. Below is a picture I took of Avro Lancaster PA474 of the BBMF at RAF Coningsby on the day.

International Bomber Command Centre

On our way back home we called at the International Bomber Command Centre (IBCC) just south of Lincoln to pay our respects to the 57,861 men and women who gave their lives supporting RAF Bomber Command. The picture below shows the Memorial Spire and Wall of Names on a hill overlooking Lincoln and its beautiful Cathedral. The cathedral has chapels dedicated to the RAF, Army and Royal Navy. The IBCC has a growing digital archive of personal stories and pictures that will be a key asset to future researchers into Bomber Command.

27th July 2020. E-mail from Texas

I have received an e-mail from George Cozens a researcher with the No. 1 British Flying Training School Museum in Terrell, Texas, USA. He has provided details and photographs of Michael Alexander Guilfoyle, the last pilot of Avro Lancaster ND424, who carried out his pilot training on Course 11 in 1942 at No. 1 British Flying Training School.
George said that sadly the records of the No. 1 BFTS were destroyed by fire after being placed in storage late 1945, but he did send me Mike’s cadet picture and class picture plus some other related photographs as follows:

  • Picture of cadet of Michael Guilfoyle taken from the No. 1 British Flying Training School yearbook, Detached Flight Vol. II.
  • Mike and other cadets in their class photograph taken from the above yearbook.
  • The No. 1 BFTS terminal and flight line with AT-6 Harvards, the final aircraft he would fly at the training school.
  • Cadets marching in front of Bass Drug Store, a favorite off-duty destination of the cadets. Like many US drug stores of the day, it had a lunch counter where one could order hamburgers, hotdogs, sandwiches, French fries, Coca-Cola or Dr. Pepper, and ice cream.

I have sent e-mails to the Guilfoyle family in Australia to let them know.

27th July 2020. Wing Leader Book Releases

Further to the news item below on Luftwaffe night fighter combat claims.  Another very interesting series of books being published are the ‘Nachtjagd Combat Archive’ (NCA) written by Theo Boiten covering different periods of WW2.  In simple terms, the NCA is a comprehensive record of over 6,000 Luftwaffe night fighter claims and over 2,100 flak (anti aircraft) claims which have been painstakingly matched to RAF Bomber Command losses.  The editions already published are:

  • The Early Years Part One (1939 to 12 July 1941)
  • The Early Years Part Two (13 July 1941 to 29 May 1942)
  • The Early Years Part Three (30 May to 31 December 1942)
  • 1943 Part One (1 January to 22 June)
  • 1943 Part Two (23 June to 22 September 1943)
  • 1943 Part Three (23 September to 31 December 1943)
  • 1944 Part One (1 January to 15 March 1944). Copy bought
  • 1944 Part Two (16 March 1944 to 11 May 1944). Copy bought
  • 1944 Part Three (12 May 1944 to 23 July 1944).  Copy bought.
  • 1944 Part Four (24 July to 15 October 1944).
  • 1944 Part Five (16 October to 30 December 1944).

The series will be concluded with volumes covering 1945 and the night air war over the Russian and Mediterranean theatres. For further information see the Wing Leader website at: https://www.wingleader.co.uk/series/nachtjagd-combat-archive

3rd May 2020. 75 Years Anniversary

It is 75 years since the POW’s from Avro Lancaster ND424 were liberated , nearly 10 months after they flew their last operation on 28th June 1944.

  • 29th April 1945 – Joe Sonshine liberated from POW camp Stalag 7A at Mooseburg near Landshutt, north-west of Munich by the American 3rd Army.
  • 3rd May 1945 – Mike Guilfoyle and Doug Jordin liberated at Trenthorst near the Baltic port of Lubeck, Germany by the British Armoured Division. They were flown back to the U.K. on 7 May 1945.

3rd April 2020. Research Guide Update

Added a new section to the Research Guide ‘7. Commonwealth War Graves Commission’. This website is used to search for details of those personnel killed in action in both World War One and World War Two. Their website is at https://www.cwgc.org/find/find-war-dead/

28th June 2019. E-mail Sent to Families

I sent an e-mail to the families of the crew to remind them that it was 75 years since the last crew of Avro Lancaster ND424 ‘PH-G’ completed their 17th and final operation to attack the railway marshalling yards at Vaires-sur-Marne on 28th June 1944. None of the seven crew are with us today but they will still be in our hearts and our thoughts.

  • Pilot Officer Michael Alexander Guilfoyle (Pilot)
  • Flight Sergeant John Smith Johnston Stephen (Bomb Aimer)
  • Warrant Officer Robert Edgar Yates, RAAF (Radio Operator)
  • Sergeant Hugh David Davies (Flight Engineer)
  • Sergeant Leslie John Faircloth (Mid Upper Gunner)
  • Warrant Officer 2 Joseph Sonshine, RCAF (Navigator)
  • Sergeant, Douglas Foster Jordin (Tail Gunner)

23 June 2019. Luftwaffe Combat Claims

I have bought a copy of the book ‘Luftwaffe Night Fighter Combat Claims, 1939-1945’ by John Foreman, Simon W. Parry, Johannes Matthews (2004). ISBN 0-9538061-4-6. This book may allow me to carry out research to ascertain the possible Luftwaffe crews who may have attacked Lancaster ND424 or our crew on:

  • 15-16 March 1944 – Stuttgart. ND424 heavily damaged by a night fighter attack (Flown by pilot P/O H. Adams and crew, not our crew).
  • 3-4 May 1944 – Mailly-le-Camp. Our crew in combat in ME644 with a JU88 night fighter.
  • 27-28 June 1944 – Vaires-sur-Marne. Possible damage from an unknown night fighter attack.

5 May 2019. 75th Anniversary

It is 75 years since the last crew of Avro Lancaster ND424 completed their 17th and final operation in support of D-Day just three weeks earlier on 6th June.

3 February 2019. New Version Being Built

Due to unforeseen technical issues we have had to build a new version of www.lesfaircloth.co.uk and this time we are using WordPress.

21 February 2018. Search for the Crash Site of ND424

One of my ambitions is to locate the crash site of Avro Lancaster ND424 (PH-G). In February 2018 amateur WWII historian Franck Signorile offered to help, so he sent details to a local newspaper in the area where Lancaster ND424 crashed to see if local people can help us to locate the crash site.

The aircraft crashed to the south-west of Paris around 03:30 on the morning of 28th June 1944 following an operation to attack the railway marshalling yards at Vaires-sur-Marne to the east of Paris.

The full-page article was written by journalist Florence Chevalier and an online version of the article was posted on 21 February 2018 at 13:01 at https://actu.fr/ile-de-france/chevreuse_78160/histoire-appel-temoins-apres-crash-dun-avion-juin-44_15506942.html

Many thanks again for the help provided by Franck Signorile and for e-mailing me a scan of the newspaper.

So far we have had no response to the article but if you feel you can help please contact us using the ‘Contact Us’ page.

25 August 2017. Visit to the UK National Archive

We made another trip to visit the UK National Archive in Kew in June 2017.

18 March 2017. Sad News

Leslie Faircloth passed away in hospital aged 92.

05 December 2015. RAF Casualty File & New Medal Case

In September 2015 we received Leslie’s RAF Casualty File and we bought him a new case for his medals.

May 2015. Bomber Command Clasp

In May 2015 Leslie received his long overdue Bomber Command Clasp from the UK Government. We had completed the ‘Bomber Command Clasp Application Form’ and sent it with full details of Leslie’s RAF service to the MoD Medal Office at the Imjin Barracks in Gloucester. He received the clasp in May 2015 and it included a new medal ribbon for his 1939–1945 Star.

9 May 2015. 70 years since POW’s Released

Seventy years ago this month in 1945 the three crew of Lancaster ND424 who were POW’s were released from captivity.

2nd November 2013. Reunion of Leslie and David

To try to locate David Davies I sent an e-mail to the South Wales Argus, the local paper for the area that David was originally from in South East Wales. The article was placed in the paper on 10 February 2011. The following day I checked our phone and there were a number of messages from David’s sister Sylvia and one of his best friends. A short while later I answered the telephone and a voice said “My name is Hugh David Davies and I believe you are looking for me”. After my initial shock wore off we had a great chat about what I knew and about him and what he has been doing since June 1944.

On Saturday 2 November 2013 Leslie Faircloth and David Davies had their long awaited reunion. This was the first time they had met since 28 June 1944, over 69 years ago. They are the last two
remaining members of the crew of Avro Lancaster ND424 ‘PH-G’ of 12 Squadron, Bomber Command based at RAF Wickenby. David was the Flight Engineer and Leslie was the Mid-Upper Gunner.

We drove Leslie and wife Megan from Wrexham to David’s home in Faringdon in Oxfordshire. It was fantastic for the two old comrades to meet after such a long time. We also met David’s daughter Janne who also lives nearby in Faringdon.

Above. David, Leslie & Megan at David’s home in November 2013. Their first meeting in 69 years.

We had some interesting discussions about the details of the night they were shot down over Vaires sur Marne. David is certain that the Lancaster was hit by flak over the target that damaged and engine and was the main reason for the crew abandoning the aircraft to the south west of Paris.

12 December 2011. First Website Created

Website initially built in December 2011.

13 July 2008. Les and Doug Reunion

In 2008 I used the internet to search for the crew to see if any were still around. My wife Gaynor searched for ‘Jordin’ on the Electoral Roll and up popped a likely candidate. I then searched the BT web site and the name D.F. Jordin appeared, complete with address and telephone number. I passed this to my father Les and suggested he gave Doug a call so he did and the rest is history. I posted copies of the documentation we had gathered to Doug.

We arranged the long overdue reunion on Sunday 13 July 2008 at a pub near Warrington mid way between Wrexham and Poulton le Fylde. The last time they were together was 64 years ago in June 1944 when they were in a badly damaged RAF bomber descending rapidly towards the ground to the south of Paris. They were both just 19 years old. It was filmed by the BBC television programme ‘North West Tonight’ as both families were regular viewers.

Above. Megan Faircloth, Doug Jordin, Les Faircloth and Lucy Jordin at their reunion on
Sunday 13 July 2008 at the Stretton Fox pub near Warrington.