Regular readers of this blog will know the story of Jack Liddell, the youngest man to take part in the Dams Raid. Born in Weston-super-Mare on 22 June 1924, he was still only 18 when he was killed when AJ-E, piloted by Norman Barlow, crashed near Haldern in Germany shortly before midnight on 16 May 1943. He was the rear gunner in this aircraft.
Despite his youth, Liddell was a Bomber Command veteran, with a full tour of 30 operations in 61 Squadron to his credit. Rather than go on an inter-tour break in an instructional role he volunteered to join 617 Squadron and train for the Dams Raid.
His personal effects were returned to his family after his death, and amongst them was this photograph of a fellow air gunner. The Liddell family do not know who this man is, and they have asked for our help in identifying him.
There is no clue on the photograph itself, other than an embossed stamp saying “Searle/Market Place/Hyde”. This was a well known firm of photographers in Hyde, Greater Manchester.
We can say for certain that the man did not take part in the Dams Raid. Nor is he Jack Liddell’s regular air gunner partner in 61 Squadron, Sgt George Culham.
The man himself is obviously quite young, and it must have been taken after he had completed his training as he is wearing his AG brevet, and has his sergeant’s stripes. He is also wearing an unusual belt.
Any help gratefully received. Please leave a comment in the space below, or contact me by email.
Thanks for help to Patricia Gawtrey, Susan Paxton and Alan Wells.
The belt is a standard military webbing belt, in the army was blanched olive green and military police it was white.
Blancoed not blanched
We know that Liddell was selected for air gunner training, which he completed in May 1942, but do we know where he did this or where he went to OTU? This may give a clue as to where he met this other Air Gunner?
Re the belt, my friend, and RAF veteran, Graham Wallace notes: “…the webbing belt as it was known was generally worn when on a guard duty or a ceremonial duty, i.e. passing out from a course. I had one issued in my initial kit allocation and I returned it when I was demobbed, I used it when on my initial recruit training at Swinderby including our passing out parade before going on to our technical training courses. It was RAF grey with brass buckle and adjusting slides, it had to be blancoed, with a grey dubbin paste, the brass highly polished, when on guard duty it would hold your water bottle and if needed ammunition pouch.”
So likely this photo was taken when Jack’s friend “passed out” from gunnery training and was promoted sergeant. Likely this is either a man he went through gunnery training with or perhaps a friend from civilian life.
I think this is Vic Townsend a friend of Jacks when he was on 61 Squadron and he was a rear gunner .
Thanks for the suggestion, Nigel, However, I have checked with Vic Townsend’s daughter, and it isn’t him. Vic was a navigator, not a gunner. He flew with Jack Liddell in the Cockshott crew in 61 Squadron. He died in 2014, aged 95.
My grand dad flew with Liddell in 61sq. If someone have picture of this crew… just let me know
Thanks Charles , The search goes on .
As you probably know, there was a recent auction of Liddell ephemera by War & Son. Included in the items was a group picture of Liddell in gunnery training (No. 41 Air Gunners Course). The picture is included in this image on the War & Son site:
Standing to the right of Liddell (first left, back row) is air cadet Murray – who I think looks remarkably similar to Liddell’s mystery friend. I think Liddell completed the course in May 1942. I don’t know any more about Murray at the moment but I add another comment if I do. I hope this helps.
I think it *might* be Flight Sergeant Ronald Arthur Murray (1231291) (11 June 1923 – 4 February 2007). Born at Hunslet, Yorkshire, to John and May (née Rollinson) Murray. I think he was a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft 7. He survived the war and married in 1948. He died at Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Great detective work, Richard! Well done.
Thanks also for posting the full name and number. One day, someone will Google these and come across your post.
Best wishes — Charles