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Dedicated to the memory of the 894 members of 77 Squadron, RAF, who were killed in action during World War 2.
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BACKGROUND TO “THE 77 SQUADRON RAF ASSOCIATION”
The idea of an association of former members of No.77 Squadron Royal Air Force was first mooted over twenty five years ago by "helpers" at The Yorkshire Air Museum, Elvington Airfield, near York. In October 1987 an informal meeting of about 100 former aircrew, ground personnel and WAAF, who had served on the Squadron, together with many of their spouses and friends took place at the Museum. Following this meeting in May 1988 an Association was formed and it was resolved to hold an annual reunion and publish a newsletter to be known as the "Nickel Leaflet."
The reasons for the belated formation of an association, more than forty years after the end of Worl War 2 , are not obvious. The same delay applied to the Bomber Command Association which was not formed until 1985. One contributory factor was probably that the main body of wartime Bomber Command aircrew were civilian volunteers who were enrolled in the “VR”, the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, which was established in 1936. After peace all but a few left the service, they were 'demobbed'' and returned to 'civvy street'. Similarly the majority of Bomber Command squadrons were disbanded and never formed any permanent part of the the post war RAF.
In addition for aircrew life on a war time Bomber Command squadron was not conducive to creating long term friendships. The pattern of social life was somewhat different to that in the other forces, and even to that for RAF ground staff and for aircrew in other Commands. The army had its old established regiments and the navy its ships, and both often had a history of long term affiliation with both towns and counties. A soldier often served in one regiment for his entire service career. In wartime aircrew were never dedicated long term members of a Bomber squadron, they were posted to a squadron from a training unit and were then either killed, taken prisoner of war or 'screened' on completing a tour. After 'screening' a “crew” would be split up and posted to different training units. It was a very rare occurrence for aircrew to return to the same squadron for a further tour of operational duty. This procedure led to a continuous change in the residential population of both the officer's and sergeant's messes on bomber airfields. My own experience with 77 Squadron was that over a 9 month tour in 1944 almost the entire aircrew population of the station had changed in that time.
Air Marshal Harris estimated that 125,000 aircrew served during the war with Bomber Command, but no official estimate has ever been published. On the 21st May 1947 the Air Ministry did published a statement that whilst serving with Bomber Command 55,500 aircrew, including British, allied and dominion personnel, had been killed and 9,838 taken prisoner of war. A further 9,838 were wounded, but this figure excluded those bith wounded and taken prisoners of war. These figures gives an approximate overall fatal casualty rate of 44%, of the aircrew who served with the command, and taking account of the number of POW a 48% probability of surviving a tour of operations. However these figures are the average for the whole duration of the war and in the shorter term become somewhat modified by the vast increase in sorties flown, and the dramatic decrease in losses which occurred after the spring of 1944. Undoubtedly up to the sprin of 1944 the probability of completing a tour was considerably less, and for periods of several months it fell below 25%.
The number of aircrew who served with 77 Squadron during the war is not known. However based on the number killed and taken prisoner of war, and using the Command's overall average as a guideline, it is estimated as being of the order of 2,200. The number of squadron aircrew killed was 883, and 214 were taken prisoners of war, and both of these figures are accurate and given with complete confidence. At the end of the war it has been estimated that there were probably at least 1,100 surviving ex- squadron aircrew still living. However a large proportion of these surviving veterans were from the period following D-Day. It is very difficult to estimate the number still alive but it would seem unlikely that it is much more than 50, and possibly as low as 25. Within 10 years this figure may well fall to less than five. Although for a few years the squadron continued to exist in name after the end of the war it was no longer as an operational bomber squadron and generated few potential asspciation members.
Membership of the Association is open to anyone who has served on 77 Squadron, regardless of sex, rank, category or trade, at any time during its existence. Membership may also be extended by the Committee to Station Personnel at Airfields from which the Squadron operated, close relations of former squadron members, friends of those who qualify for membership, and persons who have shown an active interest in the Squadron history. Application for membership should be sent in the form of a letter, by post, to the Hon. Secretary, currently the rate of subscription is £3.- a year, renewable on the 1st November.
Membership entitles one to receive the "Nickel Leaflet" twice a year, in April and October. A dinner is held annually in September at Elvington for which a separate charge is made. Although most of the surviving veterans are now around 90 years old there are some signs that their children and grandchildren are beginning to take a greater interest in their ancestors and what they did in the far off days of WW2. Because of the large number of aircrew killed their service is now often compared with the sacrifices made during the great battles of WW1. Overall of the estimated 125,000 aircrew who served in Bomber Command 55,500 were killed and 9,838 were taken prisoner of war.
All those who think they can help keep the association alive should contact the Secretary, eligibility for membership is now fairly flexible
NUMBER OF MEMBERS
At the beginning of the year 2002 there were 291 members of which 231 were veterans and 60 were relatives or friends. The figures in September 2006 showed a total membership of 319 but the number of veterans had fallen to 149.
The reunion in 2001 was attended by 93 people of whom 42 were veterans who had served on the Squadron. However the passage of time is taking its toll, the secretary reported that in September 2012 the number attending the reunion had fallen to 71 including 12 veterans.
An Annual General Meeting is not held and the committee has the power to reappoint and co-opt members. In recent years it has proved difficult to get members to serve on the committee as practically have reached, or approaching, their ninetieth year, and few live near York. The tendency has been for the committee members to come from the Yorkshire area although the squadron has never had any formal territorial affiliations.
THE ASSOCIATION’S ACHIEVEMENTS
The Association achievements include the establishment of an highly informative Squadron history room at the Yorkshire Air Museum , Elvington., Nr. York, the erection of a Squadron Memorial at the main gate of the old RAF station at Elvington, and the installing of a memorial window in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Elvington village. In addition it publishes “THE NICKLEL LEAFLET,” which is one of the most important factors in keeping the Association going . It wass edited and regularly published, twice a year without fail, by Harry Shinkfield, squadron historian and friend of the squadron, on a voluntary basis between 1991 and 2009. In 2001 Harry also became the association's honorary secretary. The 'leaflet' generally consists of about 25 A5 pages and contains historical articles, details of operations, obituaries and numerous letters from members. Sadly Harry suffered a stroke in 2008 and on the 25th January 2009 had to resign, he died on the 18th June 2010. In February 2010 Mrs Rachel Semlyen, a local Elvington resident and founder of the Yorkshire Air Museum, took over as secretary of the association, and the chairman, Bill Foote, has become the squadron historian. Bill , Rachel and Van Wilson, the treasurer, are now collaborating to produce "Nickels".
IN THE “SOUTH”
Between 1993 and 2009 a luncheon was held annually in May at Midhurst, Sussex, by some of those members living in the "south" of England and who generally, but not exclusively, had served as aircrew on the Halifax. Seven veterans and five friends or relatives managed to make it in May, 2009. However due to deaths, illness and transport difficulties that in 2010 had to be cancelled, and no more are now likely.
INFORMATION ON MEMBERS
The Association will not provided the names, addresses or telephone numbers of members. Very few veterans are on line. At the Chairman's or Secreary's discretion a letter may be forwarded to a member .
THE ASSOCIATION ON FACEBOOK
The association is active on Facebook , in which participation is open to all
Pictures, news and comments are being contributed by the Secretary, together with the friends and relatives of veterans. This is now the best informal way to keep in touch or making known you own views. Sadly as the number of veterans is now rapidly declining, and few are computer users Facebook will mainly appeal to the younger generation of friends and relatives.
AIRCRAFT LOSSES AND CASUALTIES ON 77 Squadron (RAF) during World War 2
(Note: A raid is a coordinated aggressive intrusion in to enemy territory ,or waters, by of one or more aircraft. A sortie, or in US usage a mission,, is a flight by either a single aircraft or an individual on a raid ,
On Whitley aircraft between September 1939 and November 1942.
LINK TO SQUADRON HISTORY (Click)
[This “Squadron History” contains pictures, statistics, graphs, tables
together with a link to a copy of the Roll of Honour]
ANNUAL REUNION IN SEPTEMBER 2013
The annual reunion dinner was held on Saturday 7th September at 7 p.m. at the YAM Elvington. Next day a service was held at 10:30 am in the church of the Holy Trinity in the village.
The Chairman, Bill Foote, took over as the association's squadron historian in April 2010. Bill is not on the 'net' but he can be contacted by post. However initially queries can be sent to the webmaster by email varley.mike@'ntlworld.com , who will either try and answer them himself or pass them on to Bill, but do not expect a quick reply. Remember the association is a private one and does not hold any official records. We have limited information on those killed, in action, but do not have a record of all those who served on the squadron. It always helps in dealing with queries concerning former members of the squadron if the service number, rank , trade and full name are given together with an indication of when they were with the squadron.
In 2013 Bill Foote handed over to mike Varley a copy of a transcript of the operational lists taken from the Squadron's Operational Record Books. Inevitably being a transcript of the originals they are not quite complete and may contain both omissions and minor errors, nevertheless they help Mike in tracing both crews and individual veterans, sadly they atre neither indexed nor digitised so searches have to be made manually and are very time consuming.
YOUR CONTACT EMAIL ADDRESS
Would association members, or one of their family, send the Secretary an email address through which they may be contacted. It is a quick method and in practical terms FREE. Every exchange of letters by Royal Mail now costs over a pound, half of which has to borne by the Association's meagre budget.
HELP THE ASSOCIATION , MAKE A DONATION NOW !
PAYMENTS & DONATIONS TO “77 SQUADRON RAF ASSOCIATION”
The Association has a PayPal account through which anybody may make payments or donations from most countries. This facilitate avoids the trauma in sending either cheques, money orders or cash from overseas. To make a payment or donation first go to the following website - link;
then key in the following email address in the appropriate place
If you do not already have a PayPal account you will need to set one up, the instructions on how to do so are on the PayPal web site. Make sure you understand the security implications.
The only income the association has is from subscriptions and donations, we do not wish to increase the former so please consider a donation.
This site is written, prepared and hosted by Mike Varley, a navigator on the Squadron during 1944, for the association.
It is an entirely amateur developed production,
Contact email : Mike Varley (click)
The site has been included in the Yahoo Directory and appears in the data base of the Google search engine.The site is continuously under expansion & revision
COME BACK AND HAVE ANOTHER LOOK
Historical and statistical information is presented in good faith from available sources but has no official backing .
Click to go to Mike Varley's Homepagel
The 77 Squadron RAF Memorial at Elvington
Revised on 11 September 2013