Reunion 2013

550 Squadron Association Reunion 2013

Photographs from the Association Reunion at North Killingholme 5-7 July 2013.

Many thanks to all in North Killingholme who as ever did everything possible to make the weekend absolutely super. Thanks also to all the Association members and others who turned up, from all over the UK, as well as Canada, Australia and Belguim, to make it a wonderful weekend for all.

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Anniversaries

This year marked two key events for the Association: the 70th Anniversary of Squadron Formation and the 20th Anniversary of the first Squadron Association Reunion at North Killingholme.

Coverage in the Local Press

Grimsby Telegraph: 18/06/2013

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Crowds-gather-mark-70th-year-550-squadron-formed Crowds gather to mark 70th year since 550 squadron formed
Grimsby Telegraph, 9 July 2013

Reunion Weekend Welcome Pack

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Reunion 2013 Welcome Pack Reunion Weekend Friday 5th July - Sunday 7th July: Welcome Information
Detailed information for 5th & 6th July
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Timetable of Events 2013 Timetable of Events
Detailed timetable of the Saturday events

Friday Afternoon, Elsham Wolds

A group of thirteen people, including all our Canadian visitors, travelled to see the museum at Elsham Wolds (about 20 minutes from North Killingholme).

There the group was welcomed by the Elsham Wolds Association and given a guided tour of the museum.

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Visitors gathered around the Memorial Stone
Photo courtesy of Graham Brett

L-to-R: Sylvia Gilchrist, Rick Browne, Anne Hitchman, Roy(?), Ken Duddell, Robin Lingard, Bill Swan, Peter Coulter, Pat Swan, Bill Hitchman, Sally Coulter, George Turner, Sue Browne, Jim Gilchrist

Many thanks to all at Elsham Wolds, especially Robin Lingard (Curator, Elsham Wold Air Museum), Roy, Graham Brett, (apologies if I have omitted anyone), for giving us an extremely interesting and enjoyable visit.

But most especially thanks to Ken Duddell (F/Eng, 103 Sqdn). Everyone was just blown away by the detail Ken provided about flying in Lancasters on ops, using and demonstrating the controls, and especially his memories of evading Night Fighters on two occasions. It will be a long time before the story of the mid-upper turret being assaulted by pee icicles is forgotten! It was a delight and an honour to meet Ken and learn about the everyday that crews lived through. Thank you.

For a video of an interview given by Ken in May 2012 see: Ken Duddell Youtube Interview (about two-thirds of the way down the page).
Or here if the above link is broken: Ken Duddell Youtube Interview.

Friday Evening, Dinner at the Ashbourne (informal)

Some 45 people were able to attend the Friday evening meal. With no seating plan for the informal dinner people were able to turn up and mingle and sit.

Sam Lipfriend welcomed everyone to the 550 Reunion Weekend and then took receipt of some items on behalf of the museum from relatives of former aircrew.

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Rick Browne made a presentation in memory of his father F/Lt Browne RCAF DFC
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F/Lt Browne DFC F/Lt Browne RCAF DFC
(Rear of the picture frame)

Norval Black presented a copy of the book Operation Hurricane to the museum; this was an operation on which all the crew of PD319, of which F/O Henry Black was the bomb-aimer, lost their lives.

Photos to follow.

Saturday Morning

Museum

The Squadron Museum was open in the morning.

Vicki Harrop and Dave Burrows, representing Gill Lomas of Cromford Court, presented log books and memorabilia in memory of Sgt Daniel O'Neil (W/Op with the P/O Mearns crew) who sadly died in May this year at the age of 94. Danny had lived for the last 16 years in sheltered housing at Cromford Court where, to quote the manager, he was "just an amazing guy".

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Sgt A Hatfield Sgt A Hatfield
Geoff Hatfield donated copies of letters etc regarding his uncle Sgt Arthur Hatfield.
Sgt Hatfield and the entire crew of ME582 were lost on the Augsburg raid on 25th/26th February 1944

Saturday Afternoon

The sun blazed down at the Memorial Stone for a tremendous fly-past by the BBMF Lancaster PA474 now displaying the Thumper nose-art of 617 Squadron Lancaster DV385.

Parade to Memorial Stone

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Immingham ATC Band lead the parade to the Memorial Stone
Photo: Mike Leeman
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Lancaster Flypast

Photos from Wilfred Burie

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Memorial Stone Remembrance Service

Photos from Mike Leeman

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Laying of the Wreaths

Photos from Wilfred Burie

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John Arnold, Jack Harris
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Jack Harris
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Jack Harris
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John Arnold
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Harry Evans
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Ken Brotherhood
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Kathleen Robinson - Chairman of NK Parish Council
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Guy De Braeckeleer, Rebecq Association
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Guy De Braeckeleer, Rebecq Association
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Jeremy Parsons lays a wreath for Peter King
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Jeremy Parsons
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Jeremy Parsons
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Veterans at the Memorial Stone

Photos from Wilfred Burie

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Behind Stone, L-to-R: Ken Brotherhood, Bill Swan, Sam Lipfriend, Wally Fitch, Philip Blackham, Harry Evans, Gerry Taylor
In front of Stone: Marjorie Grey, Jack Harris (back to camera)
Patrick Otter extreme right (white shirt)
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L-to-R: George Bulman, Jack Harris, Maurice Snowball, Marjorie Grey, Ken Brotherhood (partially obscured) , Bill Swan, Sam Lipfriend, Wally Fitch, Mike Leeman (white hat), Philip Blackham, Harry Evans, Gerry Taylor
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L-to-R: George Bulman, Jack Harris, Maurice Snowball (obscured), Marjorie Grey, Ken Brotherhood, Bill Swan, Mike Leeman (white hat), Sam Lipfriend, Wally Fitch, Philip Blackham, Harry Evans, Gerry Taylor
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Memorial Stone

Photos from Wilfred Burie

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Flowers in St Denys' Church

The fantastic flower arrangements in the church were by Alice Hadley of North Killingholme: Loopy Lou's Florist.
(Photos from Mike Leeman.)

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Remembrance Service in St Denys' Church

Photos from Wilfred Burie

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Address by W/Cmdr Jack Harris, Association Secretary

Ildiko Van Dyck sang two pieces, "A Nightingale sang in Berkeley Square" and "Ave Maria", for a spellbound gathering in the church.

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Tea in the Village Hall

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Gary Berg and Joe Pinguey
Photo courtesy of Joe Pinguey

Gary is the nephew of F/0 J J Berg, navigator in the S/Ldr G S Smith DFC crew shot down and killed on the Sterkrade raid of 16/17 June 1944.
Joe is the nephew of F/O L Pulfrey bomb-aimer (also killed) in the crew.
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Joe Pinguey presented to the museum mounted photos of the graves of the S/Ldr G S Smith crew
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George Turner gets an autograph on his poster of the The Phantom of the Ruhr from Philip Blackham (P/F/Eng with the F/Sgt Lambert crew)
Photo: Mike Leeman

Saturday Evening, Reunion Dinner, The Ashbourne Hotel

A total of 91 people sat down to dinner, the largest attendance in quite some time.

Guy De Braeckeleer said a few words on behalf of the Rebecq Memorial Association who had three representatives attending.

Westerlo was also represented with a party of eight attending.

Canada was well represented with six visitors and a strong Australian contingent completed the overseas visitors. John Arnold said a few words on behalf of the Australian branch of the Association particularly remembering Don Charlwood.

Author Patrick Otter was on hand to sign copies of his latest book (1 Group: Swift to Attack) and gave a short talk on the "spirit of 550" and recounting his meetings with W/Cmdr J J Bennett DFC the first CO of 550 Squadron. To enthusiastic agreement Patrick noted that two of the key highlights of a wonderful afternoon were both aural: the sound of the BBMF Lanc overhead and the sound of a heavenly voice in the church; Ildiko Van Dyck duly, and deservedly, received the appreciation of all present.

Jack Harris said a few words and proposed the toasts, including closing with a particularly poignant toast to Absent Friends.

Sam Lipfriend ended the evening with an impromptu word of thanks to Jack Harris for doing the work of setting up the Association all those years ago and ultimately leading to us all being present at such a wonderful and rewarding weekend.

Photos from Wilfred Burie

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Table 1
Front L-to-R Eva Otter & Harry Evans
Back L-to-R: Patrick Otter, Jack Harris, Anne Harris, Barry Clark, Sue Etherington, Andrew Etherington, Gwenda Evans.
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Table 2
L-to-R: Ben Lipfriend, Stephen Lipfriend, Rowena Lipfriend, Mike Cross, Diana Cross, Sam Lipfriend, Pam Lipfriend, Fred Fisk, Joan Fisk
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Table 2
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Table 3
Front L-to-R: Sylvia Pexman, Len Pexman
Back L-to-R: Chris Taylor, Gerry Taylor, Kathleen Robinson, David Robinson, Paul Broddley, Liz Broddley, Mike Leeman, Margaret Leeman
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Table 4
L-to-R: Mike Noonan - (hidden: Mervin Dove, Kathleen Dove) - Anthony Morley, Jenny Jacobs, Peter Coulter, Sally Coulter, Guy De Braeckkleer, Ben Verspoel
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Table 5
Front L-to-R: Bob Bower, Rev. Sue Page-Chestney
Back L-to-R: Angela Bower, George Bulman, Maurice Snowball, Don Kentish, Val Kentish, - (hidden: Rev. Mike Page-Chestney)
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Table 9
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Table 9
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Table 8
L-to-R: Rick Browne, Sue Browne, Jim Gilchrist, Sylvia Gilchrist, Bill Hitchman, Anne Hitchman, Arthur Punchard, Mrs Punchard, Katy Pritchard
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Table 7
Tim Vance, Brian Troath, Donna Brooks, Gary Brooks, Douglas Lockhart, Jeremy Parsons, Robin Lockhart, (partly obscured) John Arnold, Ellie Dargaville
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Table 7
Douglas Lockhart, Jeremy Parsons, Robin Lockwood, John Arnold, Ellie Dargaville
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Table 6
Left Side: Jos De Ryk, Ildiko Elbert, Ildiko Van Dyck, Lesley Turner, (obscured) Alan Turner, Beatrice Turner
Right Side: Louis Michels, Sarah Craddock, Pat Swan, Ruth Turner, George Turner, Bill Swan, Brian Petch
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Table 6
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Table 6
Back row: L-to-R: Brian Petch, Bill Swan, George Turner, Ruth Turner, Pat Swan
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The Top table
with Don Kentish calling silence for the speakers
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Jack Harris
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Patrick Otter
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Rev. Mike Page-Chestney, Jack Harris, Rev. Sue Page-Chestney
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Wilfred Burie, Jeremy Parsons, Ben Verspoel

Sunday Morning

George Turner (prop. "Turner's Tours!", est. 2013) led a convoy of about 5 or 6 vehicles on a tour of the airfield at 11AM. He stopped at various places to point out items of interest, for example, where "Queenie" bogged down (in a well known photograph), where the "Phantom of the Ruhr" overshot the runway (and where in 1963 the metal "carpet" that was used by the winching crew to retrieve her, was dug up by ploughing), dispersal areas, bomb and fuel dumps, site of control tower, etc. This was followed by a visit to the remnants of the accommodation areas off the main air-field area.

This was much appreciated by all attending.

A photo of the map of the airfield that George used is available: here.

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Monday Morning, Memorial Stone

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Monday, RAF Coningsby

A number of very lucky folk were able to visit RAF Coningsby on the Monday after the reunion in order to have a special opportunity to see the BBMF Lancaster PA474 currently sporting the markings of 617 (Dambuster) Squadron Lancaster DV385 / KC-A, "Thumper Mk III". Thumper dropped 15 "tallboy" 'earthquake' bombs flying a total of 50 ops.

RAF Coningsby Visit

Two 550 Sqdn veterans accompanied by almost 20 others were able to make the visit to RAF Coningsby. After nearly 70 years Gerry Taylor and Bill Swan were able once again in the cockpit.

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Gerry Taylor in the drivers seat of PA474
Picture courtesy of Mike Noonan (via Facebook site)
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Bill Swan and Ildiko Van Dyck
Picture courtesy of Mike Noonan (via Facebook site)
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Bill and Pat Swan
Picture courtesy of Mike Noonan (via Facebook site)

For those intending to go to the BBMF Visitor Centre at RAF Coningsby this year if you have the opportunity then do look into this special opportunity for 550 ex-aircrew and Association members.

Postscript

As it turned out July 2013 was both the best, and sadly also the worst, of months for the Association.

An amazing reunion in North Killingholme was enjoyed by the largest attendance for a number of years; four days on each of which there were events organised.

Sadly there was much bad news to follow.

As those at the reunion dinner know Bobbie Harris, wife of Association secretary Jack Harris, died on Reunion Saturday. The toast to Absent Friends was therefore particularly poignant.

A few days after the reunion it was learned that Jim Beale DFC had succumbed to a stroke he had suffered shortly before the reunion took place. Jim had attended reunions in previous years and was a frequent contributor to information available on the web-site.

Then in the last days of the month Sam Lipfriend passed away from complications following a planned operation. Sam was the most enthusiastic of Association members, warm, welcoming and generous to all attending. Reunions will never be quite the same again without him.

Reunion, North Killingholme, 2013

To Absent Friends.

Post-Postscript

On the 1st September Kenyon Bowen-Bravery died. F/O Bowen-Bavery DFC, CdG has a very special place in the history of Bomber Command and 550 Squadron; the Bowen-Bravery crew (Bowen-Bravery, Thompson, Thomas, Fyffe, Cleghorn, Bodill, Thompson) being awarded Croix de Guerre (CdG) by the French Government in recognition of their aircraft leading the opening attacks of Operation Overlord - D-Day. LL811, J-Jig, known as Bad Penny II, is credited with opening the D-Day attack, commemorated in the picture below:

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Failing health had prevented Kenyon attending reunions in recent years.