How I Became a Pathfinder Navigator

The Pathfinders World War II
ISBN 9781-84683-167-6
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by Peter D Saville
My aircrew training and subsequent activities with No.35 Squadron RAF during and after World War II

TOLD WITH QUIET modesty, this is the story of one young RAF airman’s experiences in war and peace.

Too young to join up when the war began in 1939, Peter Saville was one of the thousands of young men from Britain and the Commonwealth who volunteered to join the Royal Air Force (RAF) during World War Two.

Inspired by the heroic exploits of 'The Few' during the Battle of Britain, most of these young volunteers dreamed of being fighter pilots, flying solo in a single-engine aircraft but as the war progressed there arose a greater requirement for aircrew to perform the various roles demanded by the large four-engine bomber aircraft now coming into service in large numbers.

Consequently, an ambitious programme was established to train thousands of aircrew to man the aircraft of RAF
Bomber Command. Since airfields in the UK were needed for operational squadrons it was decided that as many men as possible would train abroad under the Empire Training Scheme.

So it was that Peter set sail from the UK in October 1943, bound for South Africa, where he trained at East London (No.48 Air School) and Port Elizabeth (No.42 Air School) before returning to the UK to finish his training prior to joining an operational squadron.

The unit he was destined to join was No.35 Squadron, one of the five original squadrons of the elite Pathfinder Force (No.8 Group) founded in 1942 to improve the accuracy of RAF bombing raids by marking targets with coloured flares to guide the main bomber force.

Peter joined this squadron in March 1945, just in time to be involved in some of its last operational sorties of the war when he flew as navigator in bombing raids on Kiel, Bayreuth and Heligoland.

On the 7th May 1945 he navigated an aircraft to the Netherlands in Operation ‘Manna’, an airdrop of much-needed food and supplies to the starving civilian population – a humanitarian act that the Dutch people still celebrate to this day.

On the following day, May 8th, the war in Europe officially ended.

With hostilities over there was still much to be done. No.35 Squadron was among those who participated in Operations ‘Exodus’ and ‘Dodge’ – the repatriation of British POWs from Germany and Italy.

Ceremonial duties were also performed in the Victory Flypast over the Netherlands on 4th May 1946 and over London on 8th June 1946.

No.35 Squadron then had the honour of being selected to represent the RAF on a goodwill tour of the USA, which took place in July/August 1946, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the 16 Lancaster crews who took part, who flew the Atlantic and were welcomed as honoured guests in New York, Missouri, Colorado, Los Angeles, Texas, Washington DC and Massachusetts.

All this and more is deftly described in this entertaining and eventful memoir.

After the war Peter D Saville returned to his former profession as a Chartered Accountant who practised in The City of London until 1984, when he retired, the Senior Partner of fifteen.

Details softback | 205 x 140 mm | 130 pages | text & monochrome photos
Genre military memoir | World War Two | airforces & warfare