550 Squadron Photos

F/O R Purvis DFC and Crew

The F/O Purvis crew was posted to 550 Sqdn from No. L.F.S Hemswell on 17.5.44:

The picture below shows the F/O Purvis crew and ground-crew.

Click image F/O R Puvis crew, 5/44 - 9/44
This picture in Mel Rolfe's book "Flying into Hell" where the crew`s names reading from left to right are:
Jim Wright, Larry Guthrie, Dave Stoddard, Bob Purvis, Stand-in F/Eng?, Vernon Scoble and Ken Scholefield.
(Scoble is also mentioned as being the mid-upper gunner). The photo in the book is credited to Purvis.

This picture was most likely taken after 12 Aug 1944, because the Sgt Leary (the regular F/Eng) is confirmed not present (due to injuries he did not fly again operationally following the incident described in the Station Narrative No. 8 (below)).
Thanks to David Goodwin (relative of Sgt Leary) for this information and indeed confirmation of Ken Scholefield

Speculating a little, and due to the comment "spare bod" for the stand-in F/Eng on the photo, it is possible that he is one of the "one-timers" in the list shown below of stand-in F/Eng, i.e. anyone excluding Sgt Grant who flew five ops with the crew. Apart from Sgt K Down, for whom there are other photos on the web-site which possibly rule him out, then he could be one of the other three names, but clear identification cannot be made

See "Flying into Hell crew (chapter 13 "Lucky Thirteen")

Station Narrative No. 8

This narrative, included in the Station Operational Record Book, describes an "eventful" trip to Bordeaux. The aircraft was hit by flak, and in addition to jettisoning the bomb-load, the ammunition even the guns were dumped in an effort to gain height. The flight engineer (Sgt Leary) was badly wounded, the bomb-aimer also sustained wounds. Despite the severe damage to the aircraft the pilot, with the aid of the wounded flight engineer, got the aircraft and crew home.

Click image Purvis crew, Bordeaux, 12 Aug 1944
Rear row: Purvis crew
Front row: ground crew

Other information about the flight and the target available here.

Following this incident the crew flew with a variety of flight engineers in place of the injured Sgt Leary, including:

The Purvis crew finished their first operational tour on 12 Sept 1944.

F/O Purvis (P)

On 25 August 1944 the ORB records "News was also received late in the day of the awards of the DFC to P/O Purvis for his part in the raid on 12 Aug 1944 and to F/O Dubois for his trip on the 10th Aug."

The citation for DFC in the SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 3 OCTOBER, 1944 reads:

"Flying Officer Robert PURVIS (175075), R.A.F.V.R., 550 Sqn.
In August 1944, Flying Officer Purvis was captain of an aircraft detailed to attack an oil storage installation at Bordeaux. 
On the bombing run his aircraft was severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire. Two engines were rendered unserviceable. 
The bomb-aimer and flight engineer were wounded. The aircraft began to lose height rapidly but Flying Officer Purvis 
regained control and course was set for home. He finally reached this country and effected a successful crash landing at 
an airfield. By his skill and coolness in a difficult situation, this officer was undoubtedly responsible for the safe 
return of his aircraft."

Confirmation and promotion. Pit. Offs. (prob.) confmd. in apptst and to be Fig. Offs. (war subs.): 26th Oct. 1944 R. PURVIS, D.F.C. (175075) Gazette Issue 36798 published on the 14 November 1944

Confirmation and promotion Fig. Off. to Fit. Lt. (war subs.): - 26th Apr. 1946., R. PURVIS, D.F.C. (175075) Gazette Issue 37578 published on the 21 May 1946.

Sgt S Leary (F/Eng)

Many thanks to David Goodwin (nephew of Sgt Leary) for the following photographs and information about Sgt Leary.

Click image Sgt Leary
Click image Sgt Leary Medals
Click image Sgt Leary: extracts from Log book
Click image Sgt Leary, extracts from Log book
LogBooks/Obituary-KBB.pdf Item in the Sheffield Star, Thusday 17 August 1944, describing the fateful mission and Sgt Leary's actions, despite his serious injuries, to help save the aircraft and the crew (PDF format)

Due to his injuries that day it is understood that Sgt Leary did not fly operationally again. He left the RAF with the rank of Warrant Officer.

The crews bomb aimer F/Sgt Scholefield was his best friend in the Air Force and was later best man at Sam and Olive's wedding.

Click image Sgt Leary
Thanks to Mark Simpson for making the photo available