Don Charlwood's Twenty Men

Rob Davis, Telford, Shropshire UK

Throughout World War 2, the Royal Australian Air Force sent many volunteer aspiring members of aircrew for training in Canada under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.  One such group, which was formed at Bradfield Park, on the outskirts of Sydney, Australia, on May 23rd 1941, after basic training and assessment set sail for Canada in the US liner Monterey in summer 1941.  (Three of the 20 had completed Initial Training at Somers.)

This group, which started with a complement of 26 men, became members of No 35 Observers Course, at No 2 Air Observer and No 16 Elementary Flying Training School, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on October 10th 1941.  On November 25th, after early suitability tests, two men were repatriated; two more (Guy Herring and Jack Harris) who required further training were dropped back a course.  Herring was killed with Bomber Command; details of Harris are further down this page.

Their story was described by one of their number, Don Charlwood, who after flying with Bomber Command, wrote two outstanding classics of the Bomber War, No Moon Tonight and its sister volume Journeys Into Night.  These two books taken in conjunction give a view into wartime flying which is unparalleled in their frankness and appraisal of the effects of flying operations on young members of aircrew.

Both Don's books are available from the Australian publishers, Burgewood books.

These two books, in my opinion, rank as equals to W/Cdr Guy Gibson's Enemy Coast Ahead and Paul Brickhill's The Dam Busters.

The Twenty Men of Don's course almost all went on to become Navigators with Bomber Command, and I can't express in words how much I have come to admire these men, and their uncountable brothers in aircrew, for their deeds in the dark nights over Germany. I am sure that all those whose props have stopped turning are in the finest of company, and "seated far above the salt."

This is a tribute to the Twenty Men.

(Photographs courtesy of Don Charlwood's family)

In chronological order, with + signifying a fatality and pow meaning taken Prisoner of War:-

Joe Turnbull

Killed on the night of 13th/14th September 1942, with No 27 Operational Training Unit, Lichfield, as his training drew to a close.  Called "Joe Turner" in No Moon Tonight.

The aircraft was a Vickers Wellington Mk 1c, serial number L7815, codes unknown.

Operation : Bremen

Pilot : Fletcher, W (Bill) J P Sergeant RAAF+

Crew : Sergeant Joe A Turnbull RAAF {nav}+, Sergeant F W Lewis+, Sergeant J G Milne RAAF+, Sergeant F Thompson+

Details: Took off from Lichfield (aka Fradley), and turned back with a faltering port engine.  Stalled whilst turning finals, spun and crashed 2340, bursting into flames on impact.  Don Charlwood states that Joe Turnbull was the eldest of the Twenty Men, rubicund and vociferous, who might easily have passed as a bookmaker, or stage comedian.  He continues "Joe's prediction that he had a week to live was correct.  A couple of hours after the crash, their bombs exploded, killing four of the guards placed on the wreckage.  The crew were buried in Fradley churchyard."

Max Bryant (see later) witnessed the incident, and wrote in his diary that "At about 2350 … there was a shout that an aircraft was coming in with an engine on fire … he seemed to do a steep turn on his one engine, and then suddenly the [wingtip] light dashed straight into the ground.  There was a loud crash … and immediately a great cloud of flame burst into the air, leaping skyward and there were bright flashes as flares and ammunition blew up.  About 2400 hours there was a terrific explosion as the rest of the bombs went.  In this, four ground crew lost their lives.  "

Several new streets in Fradley were named after the airmen who were killed, including Joe Turnbull.  Some of the graves appeared briefly on the Australian documentary "Wings Of The Storm".

Col Miller

Killed on the night of 17th/18 January 1943, with No 12 Squadron, Wickenby

The aircraft was an Avro Lancaster Mk 1, serial number W4789, codes PH:E.

Operation : Berlin

Pilot : Morphett, Doug C Flight Sergeant RAAF+

Crew : Sergeant L E Austin+, Flight Sergeant Col McD Miller {nav} RAAF+, Sergeant J Corke+, Sergeant J K Bond RAAF+, Sergeant D B Pollitt+, Sergeant W R Maunder+

Details : Took off from Wickenby at 1626.  Lost without trace; all crew remembered on the Runneymede Memorial to those of No Known Grave.  Col Miller was a graduate of Melbourne University.

Thanks to Mike Garbett for confirming the serial of this aircraft.

Wilf Burrows

Also killed on the night of 17th/18th January 1943 with No 12 Squadron, Wickenby. 

The aircraft was an Avro Lancaster Mk 1, serial number W4372, codes PH:G

Operation : Berlin

Pilot : Withell, E B Sergeant RNZAF+

Crew : Sergeant J S Hunter+, Flight Sergeant Wilf G Burrows {nav} RAAF+, Flight Sergeant A F Neale RAAF+, Sergeant R B Mullinger RAAF+, Sergeant A Mitchell+, Sergeant L H Richardson+

Details : Took off from Wickenby at 1634.  Presumed lost over the sea.  Sergeant Mitchell buried Ebsjerg Fourfelt Cemetery, others Runneymede.  Sergeants Hunter and Richardson on attachment from 100 Sqdn.

Keith Webber

Killed on the night of 21st/22nd January 1943 with No 103 Squadron, Elsham Wolds. 

The aircraft was an Avro Lancaster Mk 1, serial number W4335, codes PM:F

Operation : Essen

Pilot: Laing, Sergeant E V (Ted) RAAF (406693)+

Crew : Sergeant Keith R Webber {nav} RAAF (411562)+, Sergeant Douglas G Williams {b/a} RAAF (411566)+, Sergeant F L Boyd RAAF {w/op} (412101)+, Sergeant A M (Tony) Willis {f/e} (925963)+, Sergeant Stanley C Brewer {m/u} (1600029)+, Sergeant R Taylor {r/g} (648472)+

Details : Took off from Elsham Wolds at 1743.  Shot down by night fighter (Fw Theodor Kleinhenz, III/NJG1) on outward trip at 19:30, crashed 1935, 10 miles from EnschedeCrew all buried in the Eastern Cemetery. 

Keith Webber's grave is tended by a local family, who wrote to his mother in 1946.

Harry Waddell

Killed on the night of 7th/8th February, 1943, with 44 Squadron, Waddington.  The "cheerful pessimist" of No Moon Tonight.

The aircraft was an Avro Lancaster Mk 1, serial number W4832, codes KM:U

Operation : Lorient

Pilot : Skinner, D Flight Sergeant+

Crew : Sergeant J Hunter+, Sergeant Harry Waddell RAAF {nav}+, Sergeant G T Vincent+, Sergeant A Knight RAAF+, Sergeant A Howells+, Sergeant R Walton+

Details : Took off from Waddington at 1802.  Shot down at 2030, crashing into the sea off the French coast.  Flight Sergeant Skinner is buried in Guidel Communal Cemetery; others Runneymede.  Harry Waddell was formerly an accountant in the Probate Branch of the Public Trust Office in New South Wales.  Sergeant Vincent's brother, Maurice Howard Vincent, died on active service.

Harry and George Loder worked together pre-war.

Ian Heatley

Killed on the night of 3rd/4th March, 1943, with No 12 Squadron, Wickenby

The aircraft was an Avro Lancaster Mk 1, serial number W4855, codes PH:D

Operation : Hamburg

Pilot : Simmonds, K R W Sergeant+

Crew : Sergeant L Burnett+, Flight Sergeant D Kerr RAAF+, Flight Sergeant Ian V Heatley RAAF {nav}+, Flight Sergeant H H Brien RAAF+, Sergeant R V M Davenport+, Flight Sergeant A J Marfell RAAF+

Details : Took off from Wickenby at 1858.  Crashed near Rotenburg, where on March 6th all were laid to rest.  Since 1945 their remains have been taken to Becklingen War Cemetery.

Bill Charlton

Survived a crash landing on the night of 22nd/23rd March 1943, with No 460 Squadron RAAF, Breighton

The aircraft was an Avro Lancaster Mk 1, serial number W4879, codes UV:D

Operation : St Nazaire

Pilot : White, D E Sergeant RAAF

Crew : Sergeant B Knilands RAAF, Flight Sergeant W R K (Bill) Charlton RAAF {nav}, Flight Sergeant F H Ward DFM RAAF, Flight Sergeant A K Parker RAAF, Flight Sergeant A K Smith, Flight Sergeant R H Baker RAAF, Sergeant N R Simpson

Details : Took off from Breighton at 1858.  Badly shot about by a Ju88 intruder and crash landed 0025 at South Cerney aerodrome, Gloucestershire.  No injuries.  It is believed this was the first all RAAF crew involved in a bomber write off in 1943.  Crew were subsequently lost on the night of April 16th/17th 1943, in Lancaster ED711 (see later).

Tom McNeill

Killed on the night of 29th/30th March 1943, with No 460 Squadron, Breighton

The aircraft was an Avro Lancaster Mk 1, serial number ED391, codes UV:E

Operation : Berlin

Pilot : Charlick, D H V Flight Sergeant RAAF+

Crew : Sergeant P Perry+, Sergeant Tom H McNeill RAAF {nav}+, Flight Sergeant E N Cooper RAAF+, Flying Officer F J Falkenmire RAAF, Sergeant W P D Chapman+, Flight Sergeant G V Hampton RAAF+

Details : Took off from Breighton at 2145.  Shot down by a night fighter (Lt August Geiger, III/NJG1) and crashed 0446 at Lievelde, 4 km NNE of Lichtenvoorde, where those who died are buried in the General Cemetery.  Don Charlwood states that McNeill had been too badly wounded to bale out, and asked to be left in the aircraft as it went down.  The crew's only survivor, Frank Falkenmire, died in the 1980s.

See the entry for Blue Freeman

Ron Wheatley

Killed on the night of 14th/15th April, 1943, with No 35 Squadron, Graveley. 

The aircraft was a Handley Page Halifax Mk 2, serial number HR678, codes TL:N

Operation : Stuttgart

Pilot : Wilkes, R E Pilot Officer DFM+

Crew : Sergeant T L Brown pow, Flight Sergeant T G O'Shaughnessy pow, Pilot Officer Ron Wheatley RAAF {nav}+, Flight Sergeant F Hay+, Flight Sergeant F W Vincent pow, Flight Sergeant M A E Bradford RAAF+

Details: Took off from Graveley at 2128.  Shot down from 18,000 feet by a night fighter.  Dead buried Rheinburg War Cemetery.  Pilot Officer Wilkes won an immediate DFM, Gazetted 15-Jan-43, for his outstanding airmanship during operations to Duisburg in late December 1942.  He was a bomber captain of exceptional ability.

Bill Charlton

Killed on the night of 16th/17th April 1943, with No 460 Squadron, Breighton. 

The aircraft was an Avro Lancaster Mk III, serial number ED711, codes UV:U

Operation : Pilsen

Pilot : White, D E Flight Sergeant DFM RAAF+

Crew : Sergeant J S Stewart RAAF+, Sergeant B Knilands RAAF+, WO W R K (Bill) Charlton RAAF {nav}+, Flight Sergeant F H Ward DFM RAAF+, Flight Sergeant A K Parker RAAF+, Flight Sergeant A K Smith+, Flight Sergeant R H Baker RAAF+

Details : Took off from Breighton at 2059.  All rest in Durnbach War Cemetery.  Flight Sergeant White and Flight Sergeant Ward won immediate DFMs displaying great skill and fortitude during operations to St Nazaire in March 1943, after which they crash landed W4879.  This was the aircraft's second operational flight.  Sgt Stewart, the 2nd Pilot, had just arrived on the squadron.

In an RAF chapel in Sydney, Australia, there is a memorial window to Bill.

Max Bryant

Killed on the night of 11th/12th June 1943, with No 156 Squadron, Warboys. 

The aircraft was an Avro Lancaster Mk 1, serial number ED935, codes unknown

Operation : Munster

Pilot : Lay, Ken L W Flight Sergeant RAAF+

Crew : Flying Officer J A Cowley DFM +, Pilot Officer Robert Maxwell Bryant RAAF {nav}+, Sergeant W J Drake+, Sergeant R E Ratcliff+, Sergeant D C Bauman+, Sergeant J R Curtis+, Sergeant W Furster+

Details : Took of from Warboys at 2338.  Crashed into the Ijsselmeer.  The body of Flying Officer Max Bryant was recovered from the sea at Urk Dike, Friesland, by a Dutchman, Jan Rus, who died a year later in a concentration camp.  Four of the crew buried in Dutch cemeteries; average age 23.  Flying Officer Cowley had previously flown with 70 Sqdn in the Middle East; his DFM gazetted 5-Aug-41.

Don adds (21 March 2010) "Something you might be interested in is that a Dutchman, Dick van Zomeren, tends Max Bryant’s grave in Holland, and keeps in regular contact. After reading No Moon Tonight he sought Max’s grave and visits it regularly."

Guy Herring

Dropped back a course for further training, and killed on the night of 20/21st April 1943, with No 100 Squadron, Waltham (Grimsby).

The aircraft was an Avro Lancaster Mk III, serial number ED557, codes HW:Y

Operation : Stettin

Pilot : Jones, W A F/L+

Crew : Sgt D R Ling+, F/O G B Herring RAAF+, Sgt C Walker+, Sgt B W D Cooper+, Sgt A M Hodges+, Sgt S J Houston+

Details : TO 2157 GrimsbyCrashed 0131 into the Baltic.  Six, Runneymede; Sgt Walker buried 1 May 43 in Copenhagen Cemetery, having been washed ashore at Sjero Island two days earlier.  Average age 23.  F/O Herring, a graduate of Hawkesbury Agricultural College, was an outstanding sportsman, gaining Blues for cricket, football, and rifle shooting.

Jack Harris

My correspondent Tony Mumford from the Australian Port Stephens Veterans Network has been able to trace Flight Sergeant A J Harris who served with 460 (RAAF) Squadron and was shot down and taken prisoner on 23rd/24th May 1943 during an attack on Dortmund, being seriously injured. Repatriated after the war, he was discharged as a Warrant Officer and subsquently returned to and lived in Australia. We are not 100% certain that this is 'Jack Harris' but his service start date and transit details to Canada coincide with Don Charlwood's. The aircraft in question was Lancaster W4986, AR:F, the caue of the loss being unknown. The crew were all taken PoW: Pilot F/S G L Stevens RAF, F/E Sgt J C Waldron RAF, Nav F/Sgt D L Stubbs RAAF, B/A F/Sgt J A Harris RAAF, W/Op Sgt E L Jones RAAF, M/U F/Sgt T S Easton RAAF, R/G F/Sgt P H Sara RAAF.

George Loder DFC

Killed on the night of 20th/21st December 1943, with No 156 Squadron, Warboys, on his 45th operation.

The aircraft was an Avro Lancaster Mk 1, serial number JA674, codes GT:O.  There is a photograph of this aircraft in the air in LANCASTER AT WAR 5, page 26, taken at a time when the Lancaster was captained by F/Lt Sullivan.  George Loder is likely to be aboard.

Operation : Frankfurt

Pilot : Sullivan, Mick A Flight Lieutenant DFC RNZAF+

Crew : Warrant Officer C W Knox DFC RAAF+, Flight Lieutenant George B Loder {nav} DFC RAAF+, Flight Lieutenant R H Wedd DFC RAAF+, Pilot Officer Eric W Ritchie DFC RAAF {w/op}+, Flight Sergeant G E Mason DFM+, Warrant Officer W L C Hickling DFC RAAF+

Details : Took off from Warboys at 1715.  All buried in Hannover War Cemetery.  On 18 January 1944, the London Gazette published details of the DFM awarded to Flight Sergeant Mason.  The crew were on their 45th and last operation and were shot down by night fighters near Laubach, with the aircraft exploding in mid air.  Wreckage was strewn over a wide area.  Don Charlwood says that Sullivan was a "genial, rock steady New Zealander".

Their regular bomb aimer was Vince Givney who fell off a vehicle after commissioning celebrations, breaking an arm.  This hospitalised him and he was anyway tour-expired, so he did not fly on the operation on which the crew were killed.

George Loder, the "Imperturbable" 's Distinguished Flying Cross was, on 5th August 1944, handed to Elizabeth, the daughter he never saw.  She was later Elizabeth Webby, Professor of Australian Literature at Sydney University, who launched Don Charlwood's JOURNEYS INTO NIGHT.

Harry Waddell and George worked together pre-war.

Johnnie Gordon DFC

Survived a first tour of operations and then volunteered for the Dam Busters Squadron, 617.  Killed on 13th February 1944, with No 617 Squadron, Woodhall Spa, having gained a DFC.

The aircraft was an Avro Lancaster Mk 1, serial number DV382, codes AJ:J

Operation : Transit (returning from Ford, after an abortive attack on the Antheor Viaduct)

Pilot : Suggitt, W S/L DFC RCAF+

Crew : Pilot Officer Johnnie Gordon DFC RAAF {nav}+, F/S John Pulford DFM {f/e}+, F/O N J Davidson RCAF+, P/O S G Hall RAAF+, F/S J P Riches+, F/O J McB Dempster DFM RCAF+, S/L Tommy W Lloyd DSO+

Details : On returning from Ford aerodrome after an attack on the Antheor Viaduct, the weather was very bad and S/L Suggitt (A Flight Commander) elected to return to Woodhall Spa at low level.  His aircraft hit a tree at Littleton Down, at 836 feet above sea level the highest point on the South Downs of Sussex.  First on the scene was George Scutt (awarded King's Commendation) a tractor driver at Duncton Hill Farm.  All crew killed on impact except S/L Suggitt who died a few days later, without regaining consciousness.

Johnnie Gordon had been married for less than six weeks.  John Pulford DFM had been Guy Gibson's f/e on the Dams Raid.  Also aboard was S/Ldr Tommy Lloyd DSO, Woodhall Spa's Intelligence Officer. Don Charlwood 21-March-2010 adds "Johnny had a BA Dip Ed"

Alan Cooper in BEYOND THE DAMS TO THE TIRPITZ states "The Lancasters left Ford the next morning to return to Woodhall Spa.  At about 0830, Squadron Leader Bill Suggitt reduced height, came through the clouds and hit the ground … George Scutt found wreckage everywhere, the aircraft having hit a tree at the top of the hill which smashed one of the wings, swung it round as it hit the ground where it disintegrated.  All the crew except Suggitt died instantly.  Suggitt was still strapped in his seat shouting "Turn the engines off".  He died two days later without regaining consciousness."

Paul Brickhill in THE DAM BUSTERS states "Tommy Lloyd had flown to Ford and interrogated them, and then the weather worsened and it looked as though they were stranded for a while.  Suggitt thought he could make it to Woodhall Spa all right and offered a seat in his aircraft to Lloyd, a gallant and revered World War I veteran.  The immaculate Lloyd accepted but insisted on having a shave before take-off.  A little later, spruce and monocled, he climbed into J Jug with Suggitt and five minutes later the aircraft flew into a hill and everyone was killed instantly except Bill Suggitt, who lingered a couple of days before he died."

Jack Braithwaite

Broke a leg whilst training in Canada and his training was delayed, then killed with 463 Sqdn, Waddington, 24/25 April 1944, Lancaster LL848 JO:X, Munich.

PILOT : Page, E W Pilot Officer RAAF (killed).  CREW : Sergeant S R Crate (killed), Warrant Officer 2 T W Fair RCAF (killed), Flying Officer Jack S Braithwaite RAAF (killed), Flight Sergeant E R Brown RAAF (killed), Sergeant R Guile (killed), Sergeant G H Noakes RAAF (killed)

DETAILS : Shot down by night fighter (Oblt Lembeke of the Fuhrer-Kurier-Staffel) and crashed 1½ miles south-east of Suizemoos, 8 miles west north-west of Dachau.  All buried in the Munich-Westenfriedhof, since reinterred at the Durnbach War Cemetery.

Ted “Blue” Freeman said : “I was great mates with this fellow in Canada while we were training.  When I was in 463/467 Sqn's at Waddington, Braithwaite suddenly appeared, I offered him a bunk space sharing with myself and Flt/Lt R (Bob) A Curtis DFC ... Curtis was the wireless op in W/Cr Bill Brill’s plane.  Braithwaite put his gear down, went to lunch, and then to a briefing for a raid that night. He never returned from that first op., that was ANZAC Day eve 1944 the night of 24/25 April.   He came from Griffith in central NSW, and was engaged to a girl called Williams, whose brother, Norm Williams was the highest decorated air gunner in RAAF bomber command ....... CGM, DFM and Bar.” (April 2001)

Owen Lloyd

Was repatriated, ill, from Edmonton, without completing the Navigator's course.

Don Charlwood

Don completed his tour of operations with No 103 Squadron, Elsham Wolds, and after spending some time as an instructor, was suddenly posted back to Australia.  In transit via Canada, he re-met Nell East, the girl he had courted whilst under training, and married her.  He was demobbed from the RAAF on July 31st 1945 and subsequently worked for 30 years in Civil Air Traffic Control.  Not long after the war he wrote No Moon Tonight as well as other books and articles, and in 1991 its companion volume Journeys Into Night.  He lived in Warrandyte, Victoria, Australia

I have heard from Don's family, via email, the last being news of Blue Freeman's (see lower down) death. On February 1st 2010 I learned that Don's pilot, Geoff Maddern, had died the day before, leaving three of the crew "with their props still turning."

On June 19th 2012 I learned that Don had died the previous day in his local hospital in Australia; sad news because although I only met him once, we had over the years corresponded via post and email and he was ever helpful in answering the questions I put to him.  His books I can pick up and read from any point and enjoy them as if on the first reading.  I salute this man and his fellows and mourn his passing. 

Harold ("Tib") Barker DFC & Bar

Tib was the course senior in Canada, and completed a (shorter than usual) tour of twenty-five operations on Lancasters at 467 Squadron, Bottesford, and then graduated to Mosquitos on Path Finder Force.  Here he completed many target marking sorties and then many more as navigator to the Master Bomber, completing a triple tour of duty with a total of 90 operations, 25 on Lancasters and 65 on Mosquitos.  He won the DFC and bar, surviving the war. 

Tib suffered a coronary occlusion on Long Reef golf course near Sydney on March 1st 1969, and died soon afterwards, aged 56, leaving a wife, since deceased, a son, and two daughters.

Ted "Blue" Freeman DFC

Known for his irreverence and high spirits, Blue survived his first tour of operations on 103 Sqdn Elsham Wolds, often flying as a spare navigator, and then a second tour on 467 Squadron, serving as navigator to W/Cdr Bill Brill on a very torrid tour.  Surviving the war with 50 operations to his credit, he was awarded the DFC and returned to Australia.  I received emails from a close friend of his, at Easter 1997, when he was living at home in Brisbane.

Although not in good health, in December 1997 he made a special effort to attend the funeral of course-mate Colin Cooper's funeral.

Interestingly, Blue Freeman is mentioned by F/O Cliff O’Riordan’s diary (GUNS IN THE SKY by Chaz Bowyer, pp125-131) as Cliff, a fellow Australian was a pre-war barrister and KC, defended Blue at a Court Martial on April 21st 1943.  The event’s President was G/Capt Hughie Edwards VC DSO DFC, and Cliff’s skills at cross-examination secured an acquittal on every charge.  Cliff, whose diary notes that he was defending Blue "since Tom McNeill has gone" sadly was killed on an operation to Hamburg, 29/30th July 1943, with 460 Sqdn.  Cliff had also operated very briefly with 103 Sqdn at Elsham Wolds.

“Blue” Freeman’s son, Tom Freeman says (Apr 01) “You might be interested that in 1983 he was awarded the MBE for service to Veterans.  He spent a great deal of time after the war assisting veterans and their families. When Ted returned to Australia he became an instructor in Navigation on LIBERATOR bombers.......he finished up flying with 99 Sqn RAAF out of Darwin (Australia) against the Japanese....and hence was awarded the "Pacific Star"... the only one of the 20 men to have seen combat in the two theatres of war.

“Also after the war finished, he continued in the RAAF and flew many missions to Japan ... flying war crime judges, politicians, archbishops, etc ... only this year as a result of these missions (and the introduction of a new medal for Australians) he was awarded the Austalian Service Medal 1945-75 with clasp "Japan".  As an Australian Vietnam Veteran I have the Australian Active Service Medal 1945-75 with clasp "Vietnam".  As a result of his being awarded the MBE, DFC, active service in two theatres of WW 2, and his ASM 1945-75 ... his decorations and service medals are unique in  the British Commonwealth.  He left the RAAF in 1949 and joined QANTAS and flew with them for two and a half years (England to Australia in 5 days!!)!

I am saddened to report that Ted "Blue" Freeman died at 10:15pm on Thursday 10th August 2006. This left Don Charlwood as the Last of the Twenty Men.

Harry Wright DFC and bar, DFM

Harry survived 28 operations with 103 Squadron and then 50 more with 156 Squadrons, totalling 78 in Wellington ICs, Halifax IIs and Lancasters.  He kept his promise to keep track of his operations on his boomerang, and at the end of his operational service was Squadron Navigation Officer. 

Phil Sternes adds: "One of the twenty, Harry Wright actually died on 29 January 1991 aged 70 years in Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital which was literally just around the corner from where he had lived since just after the war. Before the war he had been employed by the Queensland Irrigation and Water Supply Commission as a draftsman and after a stint with QANTAS as nav, spent most of the rest of his working life with this organisation in the same capacity. This is where I became his colleague, friend and admirer. He was very proud of his war record and the fact that he gained a BA from the University of Queensland in his late fifties.

In 1983 he self-published a novel based on his war experiences titled “Pathfinders - Light the Way” which was subsequently republished by William Kimber in 1987 as “Pathfinder Squadron”. The forward was by Don Bennett of whom he was a great admirer. The language was quite quaint (especially about relationships) as one would expect of his generation and I jokingly used to tell him that if it was ever made into a movie, things would have be “spiced-up” a bit for the modern audience. He was a great mate of Blue Freeman who gave the eulogy at his funeral and told many a tale of Blue’s derring do.He made and enjoyed a couple of trips back to the UK in later life to revisit his old stomping grounds.

As a staunch anti-communist he was involved in organisations supporting the Vietnam war and the autonomy of Taiwan and on several occasions stood unsuccessfully for parliament on a Democratic Labour Party ticket."

Bob Morgan DFM

Bob was one of Ron Pender's flying partners during their training at Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; he survived his time with Bomber Command and was awarded the DFM, returning to Australia.  Any further news is welcome. 

David Vincent from Australia kindly informs me (June 2012) that "Robert William Morgan DFM 411585 enlisted on 24 May 1941 (Don Charlwood enlisted the day before) and stayed on in the RAAF until discharged on 19 July 1946. Interestingly, his last unit was a Catalina-equipped Air Sea Rescue Flight!"

Ron Pender

Taken Prisoner of War on the night of 9/10 April 1943Operation : DuisburgAircraft : Lancaster ED608 SR:T of No 101 SqdnPilot : Nelson, E M P/O RAAF powCrew : Sgt E V Newstead pow, F/S Ron B A Pender RAAF pow, F/S C W Shields RAAF pow, F/S R A Parnell RAAF pow, F/S J R Riley RAAF+, Sgt T A Bird+.  Details : Hit by flak whilst passing over the target area at 21,000 feet.  Both gunners buried Rheinburg War Cemetery.

Ron and Bob Morgan were flying partners during training.  He is the only one of the Twenty Men to fall, alive, into enemy hands.  Ron died in the 1950s; more information is welcomed.

Tom Cunliffe

Tom, a married man with a family, passed out at the top of the Edmonton training course and was offered a commission and a posting to Transport Command.  He accepted, and survived the war. 

Colin Cooper

Colin was born in 1914 and enlisted from Brisbane, but unfortunately (or more likely fortunately!) contracted tonsillitis on the Atlantic crossing and was separated from the others during the Canadian training period.  On recovery, he completed his navigator training and was posted to Coastal Command, surviving operations from Aldergrove, Reykjavik and Limavady whilst operating in Liberators with 86 Sqdn.  He married in Belfast in 1945 and later flew in Halifaxes with 59 Sqdn from Brawdy.  After returning to Australia, Colin and his wife lived in Brisbane.  He, "Blue" Freeman, Don Charlwood and Harry Wright all met over the years, until his death. 

Don Charlwood's Twenty Men

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 The Commonwealth War Graves Commission database provides online access to ALL British & Commonwealth war graves for the First and Second World Wars as well as later conflicts.