Edited from Chapter 27 Silent Contemplation 2017…..
The name of Pilot Officer Colin Curtis is on Panel 69 at the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede (Ch. 27). On the same panel is the name of Pilot Officer Desmond Garland. Lillian Curtis lost one son and spent the war worrying about her other two sons who were in the Army. They both survived. Desmond Garland`s mother lost all four of her sons during the conflict.
The Garlands are believed to be the only family that provided four sons to serve in the RAF during World War Two and that saw none of them return. Their ages ranged over ten years but gradually they all signed up. The youngest, Donald, was the first to join the RAF two years before the war started. A month before his 22nd birthday, his aircraft from 12 Squadron was shot down attacking a heavily defended bridge in May 1940. Flying Officer Donald Garland and his observer Sgt Thomas Gray were killed – a month later they were posthumously awarded the RAF`s first Victoria Crosses of the Second World War.
In the early summer of 1942, Pilot Officer Desmond Garland of the RAFVR was serving with 50 Squadron. He was at the controls of a Manchester bomber which was shot down by enemy fighters off the coast of Brittany. Like Colin`s mother, Desmond`s mum Irene fervently hoped that he had survived but like Colin and his crew, Desmond had been killed. Like Colin, his body was never found – hence his name on the Air Forces Memorial Panel 69.
Brother Jack Garland was also in the RAFVR as a medical officer. He was prone to ill health himself and, working tirelessly with wounded at RAF Marham, succumbed to tuberculosis aged 32 in February 1943. The eldest son Pat ended up flying Spitfires with 2 Squadron which was a reconnaissance unit. On New Year`s Day 1945, he flew a mission over enemy lines but his aircraft, suffering from engine trouble, crashed as he returned to base. He was killed – the fourth and final of Irene`s sons to die during the war.
Edited from Chapter 7 A Stickler for Exactitude……
Hancock`s Half Hour had an episode in which Tony Hancock is a test pilot. Just before Hancock takes a new aeroplane up to 2,400mph, the control tower tells him that a mechanic has gone missing and they fear sabotage so he should land immediately. The aircraft is performing so well that Hancock decides to press on but suddenly there is a knocking sound. The moment when he slides open the canopy and mechanic Kenneth Williams says `Good Evening` is priceless. `I was working on the tail when you suddenly took off. It ain`t half cold out here – can I come in? `.
Tony Hancock was one of Britain`s greatest comedians, achieving immortality with half hour epics like The Blood Donor and The Radio Ham. He took his own life in Sydney in 1968, aged 44. Tony Hancock was in the RAF Regiment during the war. He had an older brother who also served in the RAF at the same time as Colin Curtis.
Hancock`s older brother was also called Colin. He was also a Pilot Officer in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He also died when his aircraft crashed into the sea in 1942. He was also never found and has no grave.
Colin William Hancock was six years older than his brother Tony. He was one of the four crew of a Lockheed Hudson (N1960) that took off just before 7pm on the evening of 1stSeptember 1942. The aircraft, from 269 Squadron then based at Kaldadarnes in Iceland, was tasked to sweep an area for German U-boat submarines. After more than four hours, it was known that the aircraft had completed its mission. At 23.39, the crew was heard on the radio about 25 miles south of Reykjanes asking for a bearing back to base. They later put out a distress call.
The Hudson and its crew were never heard or seen again. Another Hudson which took off to search for Colin Hancock and his colleagues also failed to return. With the crew of that aircraft was a well known war artist, Captain Eric William Ravilious.
In one of the notes that Tony Hancock left before taking his life 26 years after his brother was killed, he wrote: `Things just seemed to go too wrong too many times”.
Colin Hancock is commemorated on Panel 69 at the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede. Coincidentally it is the same panel that bears the name of Colin Curtis and Desmond Garland (see above).
Another Wellington crew member who was killed during the war and never found was the 21 year old brother of Sir Bruce Forsyth. The story came to light again with the death of the entertainer in August 2017.
John Forsyth and his crew were practising laying mines off the Scottish coast near Turnberry in May 1943. One of the three Wellingtons ditched into the sea and the two other aircraft went back to help with the search and rescue operation. These two aircraft collided. There were 18 aircrew in the three Wellingtons – only seven were picked up. Flt Sgt John Forsyth-Johnson, to use the full family name, was not one of the lucky ones. Sir Bruce said he never forgot his brother for a moment.
October 2017………Since Deadlines was published, a little bit more information has come to light about Sgt Francis Ernest Dunn, one of the air gunners on board Wellington Z1110 on its last flight. Sgt Dunn was the son of Ernest George Dunn and his wife Miriam (née Upwood). The family was apparently from the West Ham area of London, north west of the football club`s former home the Boleyn Ground (better known as Upton Park). All the records that I found about Sgt Dunn before publication gave no indication or clues about his parents or where he called home.
The new information, unearthed by the team at the `Aircrew Remembered` website (see Connections), also states that he was born in 1914. This would have meant that he was 28 when he was killed, making him the oldest on board Z1110 by one year (Arthur Spackman was 27). All the previous records stated he was 21. Mind you, I discovered that all the official records claimed that Colin Curtis was 24 on the 20th January 1942 but in fact he was 22 – six months away from his 23rd birthday. His birth certificate clearly shows 21stJuly 1919.
The name of Sgt Francis Ernest Dunn can be found on Panel 82 at the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede. (posted 14/10/2017)