17th May 1943, Squadron Leader Frank (Jerry) Fray in his Spitfire PRX1 of 542 Squadron operating out of RAF Benson, Oxfordshire, returned alone and unarmed to gather photographic evidence from 30,000 feet of the Möhne dam having been breached earlier the same day by 617 Squadron Lancaster bombers.
Flying Officer (Acting Flt. Lt.) Bill Anderson flew with 16 Squadron from 1943 until the war was over. He trained in Georgia, USA, before becoming attached to 16 Squadron at Benson, flying missions over France and Germany. Bill flew many different types of aircraft beginning with a PT17 Stearman in the USA; others include Tiger Moths, Typhoons, Tempest, Harvards, Lysanders, Hurricanes and Oxfords.
Air Marshall Sir Alfred (Freddy) Ball, KCB DSO DFC attended RAF College, Cranwell in 1939 and joined 13 Squadron in France in March 1940 on Lysanders (Army Co-operation). He joined No. 1 PRU Benson early in 1941 on Spitfires. He commanded 4 PRU (later 682 Squadron) as Squadron Leader in October 1942 and flew out to North Africa for Operation Torch, the Allied landings, flying Spitfires. He was posted to the UK as CF1, 8PR, OTU Dyce, Aberdeen in September 1943 and took over 542 Squadron Benson in March 1944 (PR Spitfire Mk XIs and XIXs). In September he was promoted to Wing Commander and given command of No. 540 Squadron flying Mosquito 16s and 32s. The Squadron moved to France early in 1945 to support the Allied armies. In December, Freddy was posted to Egypt to take command of No. 680 PR Squadron (later to become 13 Squadron), flying Mosquitoes and Spitfires. He was posted to Staff AHQ East Africa in 1946 and retired from the RAF in April 1979.
Flying Officer Arthur H. Brace joined the RAF in 1941. After pre-elementary training he went to Canada for flying training, in Neepawa and Moosejaw, gaining his wings in October 1942. Arthur then went on to General Reconnaissance School on Prince Edward Island. On return to the UK he completed an Operational Training course at Dyce, Scotland, and was posted to Benson in September 1943, where, whilst awaiting posting to a PR Squadron, he joined No. 309 FT & ADU which was concerned with supplying the latest marks of PR Spitfires to our overseas squadrons; during this time Arthur ferried aircraft to Italy & India. He joined No. 542 PR Squadron in August 44 and remained with it until August 1945. He then spent a short time at Celle, Germany where injuries incurred in a road accident in March 1946 put paid to any further flying. He left the RAF in August 1946.
Wing Commander James Gordon Cole DFC joined the RAF in 1938 and had his initial training at Reading, Uxbridge and Montrose. He then went to France with No. 13 Squadron, returning in May 1940. After a spell with 231 Squadron in Northern Ireland he then went by destroyer (HMAS Nestor) to Egypt to join 2 PRU until early 1944. He was then posted as Liaison Officer with PR Group, USAAF at Chalgrove, and subsequently flew P-38s (Lightning) on sorties over the D-Day beaches. La Rochelle, amongst others.
Wing Commander Edward (Tim) Fairhurst DFC received a pre-war commission in the TA and volunteered to switch to the RAF in May 1940, and trained for Lysanders. In October 1941 he was posted to D Flight No. 1 PRU (Spitfires), which later became No. 541 Squadron. In September 1942 he flew to Russia as OC PRU detachment and operated there with red star markings in place of RAF roundels. He was promoted to Squadron Leader, converted to Mosquitoes and posted across the airfields as OC A Flight 544 Squadron. In September 1944 he was posted back to 541 Squadron (Spitfires) as CO and remained there until the end of the war.
Squadron Leader Frank (Jerry) Fray DFC volunteered to join the RAF in 1940 and commenced his flying training in the summer of 1941 at Hullavington, Wiltshire. Following training on Benson, Oxfordshire in 1942. His first operation was to Den Helder in July 1942. On 15th May 1943 (his 36th Op.) he flew to take photographs of the dams from 30,000 feet. He returned to the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams on 17th May to photograph the damage inflicted by 617 Squadron.
P/O Peter Harding joined the University of London Air Squadron in 1937, Flying Tutors, Harts and Hinds. He received a VR commission in June 1939 and was prohibited from joining up. In his reserved occupation as metallurgical student at the Royal School of Mines he failed his exam in 1940 and then wrote to the Air Ministry saying 'failed exam - call me up'. By return post he was told 'get medical, get uniform'. He was put through his training period and passed out in Lysander in 227 Squadron. He was converted to Spitfires by Wing Commander Tuttle and then to 3 PRU Oakington and later to Benson. During his 23rd op his engine stopped over Wilhelmhaven and he had to bail out. He was a POW from August 1941 to May 1945. After his discharge VJ+1, he returned to his studies.
Flight Lieutenant Julian Lowe DFC joined the RAF in 1941 having escaped from a reserved occupation, and, after I.T., he was sent to Southern Rhodesia to learn to fly on Tiger Moths and Harvards. From there he went to 74 OTU in Palestine flying Hurricanes. He was posted to 2 PRU (later 680 Squadron) in Cairo and completed 86 ops. over North Africa, Greece and the Aegian. He was awarded the DFC in March 1944 and returned to the UK to join 542 Squadron at Benson in October 1944, where he did a further 30 ops over Germany before the war in Europe ended. After a short period in the RAFVR, he joined No. 6 Air Experience Flight and flew Chipmunks for 26 years logging some 2,000 hours on that aircraft.
Flight Lieutenant Gwyn Parry DFC was called up from Oxford University Air Squadron in August 1941 and was commissioned after completion of training in Canada in June 1942. After a navigation course at Squires Gate and PR, OTU he joined 140 Squadron based at Hartfordbridge and later Northolt. The operations he undertook on Spitfires were mostly at high level (up to 34,000 feet) over France and the Low Countries, but also some in Mosquitoes at 12,000 feet over French pre-invasion beaches.
Flight Lieutenant Ray Raby joined the RAFVR in 1940. His flying training began in the USA, where he was retained as an instructor with both USAF and RAF wings. He qualified on his return for an Air Navigators Certificate. He was posted to 519 Squadron, Wick, on Spitfires prior to joining 542 Squadron, Benson PRU unit with Jerry Fray as Flight Commander. In 1943, he was posted to Benson and survived 58 operational sorties until he was demobbed on 1946. In 1947 he joined 605 (County of Warwick) Squadron, Raux AF, Honiley on Vampire and Meteor jet aircraft as flight commander until disbandment in 1957. His total hours flown is 3,265.
Squadron Leader T. N. Rosser OBE DFC volunteered for pilot training early in 1940. After training in England he was commissioned and flew with Spitfire and Hurricane squadrons in England and Bengal from August 1941 until December 1942, when he joined No. 3 PRU (later redesignated 681 Squadron) in Calcutta for photographic reconnaissance operations in Japanese-occupied Burma, Thailand, and the Andaman Islands. (At that time the squadron was equipped with converted Hurricanes and North American B25's, and three PR Spitfires, the only Spitfires of any kind in India. A year or so later it had a full complement of Spitfire Mk X1's and 684 Squadron, equipped with Mosquitoes, had been formed.) After his operational tour ended in July 1944, he commanded the PR training Flight in 74 OTU in Palestine until VE Day when the OTU was disbanded. He later formed and led a temporary squadron of Spitfire fighter/bombers based in Egypt for internal security duties in the Middle East. He was demobilized in late 1946 after administrative appointments in Air HQ Egypt, and at Cranwell.
Flight Lieutenant Jimmy Taylor joined the RAF in 1941, received his pilot training in the USA under the Arnold Scheme and instructed American cadets on the Vultee BT-13a from 1942 to '43. He took the PRU OTU course at Dyce and joined 16 Squadron, part of 34 PR Wing in 2nd Tactical Air Force, at Northolt in August 1944, flying blue Spitfire X1s and pink Spitfire IXs. He moved with the Squadron to A12 airstrip in Normandy, then to the airfield at Amiens - Glisy and at the end of September, to Melsbroek airfield outside Brussels. On 19 November, he suffered engine failure over Germany, baled out and landed in a field in Holland. After evading capture for five days he reached the Rhine, but was spotted by an alert German Officer and spent the rest of the war in Stalag Luft 1 on the Baltic. He returned to instructing, on Harvards, until he was demobilized in 1946. Thereafter, he followed a career in education. In 1989, he took up gliding and found it more challenging than flying with an engine. In 1990, he learned from a Dutch archivist that four Dutchmen had been executed as a result of his landing in their village. This was a great shock and he returns to Holland each year to lay a wreath on their Memorial.
Flight Lieutenant W. G. A. White volunteered for the RAF in January 1940, aged 19. He trained as a Wop/Ag and from October of that year, flew on 86 operational flights in Lockheed Hudsons of 206 and 279 Squadrons of Coastal Command, totaling 923 operational flying hours. On one occasion, in November 1941, after successfully bombing and sinking one of three German mine sweepers off Ushant at low level, the port engine caught fire from the intensive return barrage from all three ships. "With the pilot, Sgt. John Whitfield DFM, of 206, we somehow managed to make it back to Predannock in Cornwall, smoking all the way!" Commissioned in may 1942, and after an official suggestion, as a result of his operation experience, he volunteered to fly Spitfires without guns. Qualifying as a PR pilot, he joined 682 Photographic Recognizance Squadron in May 1945 at San Severo, Italy, where he took part in high level photography up until VE Day in Mark XIs. In August 1945 he became Staff Photographic Officer for Desert Air Force until his discharge in 1946.
Overall size: 28" wide x 20" high.
Image size: 24 1/4" wide x 14 1/2" high.