Posts Tagged: ‘50/61 Squadron Memorial Day’

Riding In The Shadow Of Death, latest updates and book launch.

17/04/2013 Posted by chris

Hi everybody, I would just like to update you all with the latest news.

Some more sad news:-

Les Morton, Bill North’s Flight Engineer passed away peacefully in his sleep in Australia on the 4 April 2013, after a long battle with Leukemia. Les moved to Australia after the War and his funeral was on Tues 9 April. I was honoured to have an extract of the book read at the eulogy by his daughter, Glenda Vere. I will miss Les very much. I spoke to him many times on the phone whilst writing the book and considered him to be a great friend.

After Bill North was shot down on the 4/5 July 1944 Op to St Leu, Les Morton continued his Tour of Ops and flew with P/O GM Taylor (RCAF). He also flew with some of the most senior men in 61 Squ. Squadron CO, Wing Commander WD Pexton DFC, AFC, Squadron Leader HW Horsley AFC,(KIA) and Squadron Leader Beard. Also some of 61 Squ’s most outstanding Pilots, F/Lt Bill North, F/O Collins, F/O Boon, F/O Hoad, F/O Blaine, P/O Street, and P/O Gerry Taylor,(KIA).

Bill North said, “I think Les Morton was even luckier than I was, he managed to miss all the Ops that his crews went down on. Les was a courageous example of a crewman who overcame his nerves and went on to complete his tour of Ops.”  (S/L HW Horsley was KIA on 1 Feb 1945 Ops to Seigen in Lancaster NF912, QR-L. After take off he experienced engine failure and upon trying to land at Skellingthorpe the a/c exploded instantly killing 6 of the crew, the Rear Gunner Sgt RT Hoskisson was the only survivor. P/O GM Taylor was KIA on 12/13 Aug Ops to Russelheim in Lancaster ME596, QR-H, ‘Hells a Poppin’. The only survivor of this crew was the Bomb Aimer F/O J Meek (RCAF). There is a beautiful Lancaster Memorial in Luxembourg to this crew.,_Luxembourg)

Also very sadly and much missed is Arthur Smith who passed away on 24 December 2012. Arthur was a Flight Engineer with 50 Squadron’s F/O John Strathern Lawrey’s crew (RNZAF). I had some good in depth conversations with Arthur at previous Memorial Days. He was a font of information especially on Stirlings; also very charming with the ladies.

Sgt Les Morton, March 1944

Les Morton and Bill North, 61 Squ reunion 1993. Peggy Morton and Margaret North


Extract from the book:- “Bomber Command’s Pilots shared a combination of duties that set them slightly apart; in no other branch of the RAF did such a responsibility fall as on those young Officers and NCO’s. As well as flying the finest and most powerful machine in the RAF, the ‘perfect heavy’, Bill regardless of rank was also the leader of his crew and he combined authority and discipline with great friendship. To his crew, “Example was the key to confidence and to secure confidence was the essence of leadership.”* Bill possessed the perfect balance of qualities required by a Captain. He was without doubt a fine leader and outstanding friend, who had the full confidence of his specialist crew to make lifesaving decisions in the many unexpected emergencies they experienced. Bill’s crew like many of Bomber Command’s finest were a well oiled machine, all relied upon and respected each other’s abilities.”

The book will be available from the 9 June 2013. The launch dates are:-

9 June 2013 50/61 Squadron Memorial Day, The Community Centre, Skellingthorpe Village, Lincs.  Although not officially a launch venue, I will be present to honour the past and present heroes of 50 and 61 Squadron at the Memorial Day. Later at the lunch at Skellingthorpe Community Centre in the village I will be signing copies of the book. Contact either, Mike Connock or Richard Jones from the Association.

15 June 2013 The Aviation Heritage Centre, East Kirkby, Lincs.

Please contact Louise Bush if you would like to attend. The presentation is in the debriefing room and starts at 02:00 pm.

16 June 2013 Newark Air Museum, Cockpit Fest.

Link to the Knox family newsletter, with articles on the ME846 crew and Riding In The Shadow Of Death book.

Please contact Howard Heeley if you would like to attend. The presentation starts at 11:00 am, followed by a BBMF Flypast at 14:55, with Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane.

On the 15/16 June, we are reading parts from the book with the eyewitness accounts read by Veterans and myself. We will present the account of one of Bill’s training missions at 1661 HCU, RAF Winthorpe, one of his night Operations from 1944, plus questions and answers. I would just like to take a moment to thank my editor Brandon Robshaw for his guidance and firm hand. Really couldn’t have done it without you!

Signed copies can be ordered directly from me, also from Amazon online, or purchased from the Museum book shops at the Aviation Heritage Centre, East Kirkby or Newark Air Museum.

There are now six 5 Star reviews on Amazon, please do read them and get a feel for this extraordinary book:-

ISBN 978-0-9571189-0-4 Hardback £23.99….(Will soon be available)

ISBN 978-0-9571189-1-1 Paperback £12.99….This is now available from Amazon:-

ISBN 978-0-9571189-2-8 eBook-Kindle £9.36….This is now available from Amazon:-

Riding In The Shadow Of Death:-

       This is the amazing true life story of Lancaster Bomber Pilot Bill North, who served as a pilot with RAF Bomber Command’s 61 Squadron during World War Two. His story is told by Chris Keltie, who as a 7 year old boy met Bill and his family after moving into the house next door in London, March 1970. Over the years Chris heard many accounts of Bill’s WW2 experiences and grew to realise, that his unassuming next-door neighbour and good friend was actually, an extraordinary man.

       The odds in Bomber Command of crew survival were extreme. The chance of completing a tour of 30 Operations was one in three; the highest losses in the British Armed Services in WW2, dying as fast as Officers in the trenches during WW1. Only the German U-Boat crews would suffer similar losses.

       Bill and his crew had many near death experiences and witnessed many of their comrades dying. After completing many successful bombing missions on military targets, Bill and his crew were shot down on a night raid in Northern France. Bill could have saved himself by bailing out, but one of his crew members was without a parachute. Though wounded, Bill had to make an amazing, virtually blind crash landing in order to save his crew.  In Bill’s words: “I have still yet to meet a Lancaster Pilot who survived a night time crash landing in occupied territory.”

      Bill was taken prisoner by a German Luftwaffe Officer and ended up at Barth Stalag Luft 1 on the Baltic coast. The rest of the crew ended up deeper into Germany in Stalag Luft 7.

      In the face of adversity, the bond between crew members serving in the RAF was phenomenal. The same was so for Bill and his crew who survived 17 missions out of the normal tour of duty which was 30. All crew members stated that there was no pilot better than Bill North, and no one that they would rather have flown with and put their trust in.

      This book weaves together a fascinating mixture of historical, political, social and cultural events from the turbulent 20th Century. A story of survival and comradeship, it will not fail to move and touch your soul. Brandon Robshaw.

Riding in the Shadow of Death, captures the apocalyptic nature of the task Bomber Command was charged with carrying out.” Noeline Arnott.

Noeline Arnott is the cousin of Bill’s comrade P/O Jack Goodyer (RNZAF) who was lost with his crew in a mid-air explosion over Châtellerault on the 15/16 June 1944. It is believed his Lancaster ME783, QR-E was hit by ‘bombs from above’.

Extract from the book:-Châtellerault was a dramatic raid with big orange ground explosions and fires that could be seen 100 miles or half an hour after leaving the target, there was also the horrific, large deep red explosion in which P/O Jack Goodyer was lost. Many of the crews flying witnessed this explosion. The devastating loss of 7 crewmen and 1 Lancaster is heart wrenching and one that is repeated thousands of times during Bomber Commands Operational history. The awful sense of loss and pain is still felt now nearly 70 years later by crew member’s families. You only have to read all the poignant messages placed at the Bomber Command Memorial to perceive and understand these emotions. 

Best wishes all



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