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12 May 2008

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Wartime DFC winners finally receive citation

WARTIME members of a North Yorkshire RAF Squadron which was once commanded by Leonard Cheshire have joined forces with serving members to mark two special occasions.

In the Second World War 76 Sqn, which was originally formed in Ripon, flew from RAF Linton-on-Ouse near York but was disbanded until May 2007. Today marks the first anniversary of its reformation and also coincides with the 60th anniversary of the Cheshire home at Alne, Wartime DFC winners finally receive citation  near Easingwold.

Cheshire’s old squadron has close ties with his charity’s rest home and on Saturday its present personnel, led by Station Commander; Group Captain Mark Hopkins will join residents to mark the milestone anniversary.

The reunion was especially poignant to four men - three from our region. During the Second World War they won the RAF’s highest accolade – The Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) but until now they had never seen the official citations which should have accompanied the medals. In the mists of war the paperwork had gone astray.

Today Bert Kirtland, 84, from Kirk Ella, East Yorkshire, Vernon Thomson,86, from Dronfield, Derbyshire, Jim Inward,88 from Humberston, Lincolnshire and Walter MacFarlane,86, from Alton, Hampshire, rejoined their old squadron where Gp Capt Hopkins, was on hand to Wartime DFC winners finally receive citation  present the lost citations to them - late by exactly 63 years.

When the men were awarded the DFC, there were no formalities; instead the medals were handed over during a party in an Officers’ Mess. Today’s event ensured that the correct protocols have finally been carried out.

Mr Kirtland flew 35 missions as a wireless operator with 76 Sqn between 1943-1944, including raids against Berlin and Nurenberg. His crew also helped support the D-Day landings.

His newly found citation which mentions his ‘dogged determination’ reads “His exceptional fearlessness in the face of danger and his high degree of courage, skill and initiative have proved him to be an outstanding member of a very gallant crew”

He said “This is something I never thought would happen. To reach these years and finally Wartime DFC winners finally receive citation  receive my citation is almost a surreal experience. My medal actually arrived in the post amidst letters from friends and a gas bill. The King was unwell and so had stopped formally presenting the medals. To receive it today so many years later has been wonderful.”

The association members were later treated to lunch in the Officers’ Mess. Mr Thomson said “It was like being in the Guildhall with all the silverware and the food was superb, not at all like it was in our day. When I won the DFC I thought that is a reward for doing a good job. Not by me but by the entire crew.

“I was a member of 76 Squadron at Linton when the base was about to be turned into a Royal Canadian Air Force Station and remember Gp Capt Leonard Cheshire being posted to nearby RAF Marston Moor. It is said to stop him from volunteering for operations. He would go on as many as he could, but by then as a senior figure he was too valuable.”

Mr Inward was a member of 35 Squadron at Linton-on-Ouse but was posted to 76 Squadron when it was tasked with bombing the Italian fleet. He said. The week before the raid 76 lost four crews and so experienced crews from other squadrons where sent as replacements for Wartime DFC winners finally receive citation  two weeks. I was on one of those crews.

“In all I flew on 47 missions including three of the 1000 bomber raids and during the D-Day landings. I think winning the DFC meant more to my family than it did to me, we were just doing our duty.”

Flt Lt Macfarlane was posted to 76 Squadron in 1943 flying Halifax bombers on 30 Operational missions before the unit transferred in 1945 to the Far East for the planned airborne invasion of Singapore.

For some time Mr Macfarlane’s son, James has been trying to track down the missing citations - fascinated by the wartime story his father had told him.

Finally, and after assistance from the RAF, James found the original documents at the Public Records Office at Kew. His father’s describes him as a “fine operational pilot,”

The long lost citation goes on to say “Throughout his operational career he has proved Wartime DFC winners finally receive citation  himself to be a conscientious and keen member of the squadron and his cheerful disposition and will to win has gained for him the respect and confidence of his fellow captains and crews.”







Wartime DFC winners finally receive citation     Wartime DFC winners finally receive citation

Header Image: (large size) 76 Squadron DFC holders Bert Kirkland, 84, Vernon Thomson, 86, Walter MacFarlane,86 and Jim Inward, 88 who rejoined their old unit at RAF Linton-on-Ouse today (Friday). Picture: Matt Clark .

Image 1: (large size) Jim Inward, 88, receives his citation from Linton Station Commander Group Captain Mark Hopkins. Picture: Gary Wort, Linton Station photographer

Image 2: (large size) 76 Sqn navigators Flt Lt Dom Rennie, left, and Fg Off Phil Farmer chat with wartime member Bert Kirkland at the Squadron’s Association day held at RAF Linton-on-Ouse. Picture: Matt Clark

Image 3: (large size) 76 Sqn Commanding Officer, Sqn Ldr Stu Hatzel, chats with wartime member Vernon Thomson at the Squadron’s Association day held at RAF Linton-on-Ouse. Picture: Matt Clark.

Image 4: (large size) 76 Squadron wartime DFC holder Bert Kirkland, 84, who finally received his citation today. Picture: Matt Clark.

Image 5: (large size) 76 Squadron wartime DFC holder Walter MacFarlane, 86, who finally received his citation today Picture: Matt Clark.

Image 6: (large size) Walter McFarlane, 86, Jim Inward, 88, Bert Kirtland, 84 and Vernon Thomson 86 with their citations Picture: Gary Wort, Linton Station photographer.

Image 7: (large size) Vernon Thomson during the war.

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