Posts Tagged: ‘Britain At War Magazine’

Riding In The Shadow Of Death—Book update and news.

29/11/2012 Posted by chris

Hi everybody, I would just like to share some news and an update on the book.

On the 3 November 2012 I went to Lincolnshire again. This was my second visit to The Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby. East Kirkby was a WW2 Bomber Command Station and home to 5 Group’s 57 and 630 Squadrons. It is now home to Lancaster Bomber NX611 ‘Just Jane’ which performs live engine starts and Taxy Rides. ‘Just Jane’ flew 123 Ops with 61 Squadron during 1943/44. F/Lt Bill North of 61 Squ flew in ‘Just Jane’ on the 8/9th June 1944 to Rennes as part of Bomber Commands Tactical Support for the D-Day Landings.

I was honoured to share the day with W/O Percy Cannings who flew an amazing 47 Ops, 22 of them with 100 Squ and 25 with 97 Squadron Path Finder Force. 97 Squadron was originally with AVM Don Bennett’s 8 Group, PFF and based at Bourn. In April 1944 Percy was transferred back to 5 Group at Coningsby with 83 Squ and the Mosquito unit 627 Squ who went to Woodhall Spa with 617 Squ. The 3 Squadrons had been ordered back to 5 Group by C in C, Sir Arthur Harris after some heated disagreements with AVM Don Bennett about low level marking techniques.

W/O Percy Cannings flew alonside F/Lt Bill North on 5 Ops marking his target for him. Percy has shared some extraordinary eyewitness accounts of marking Bill’s targets for him during those turbulent days in 1944. At East Kirkby the charismatic Sean Taylor gave Percy, his daughter Sandy and I a remarkable interior tour of ‘Just Jane’. To share this emotional moment with a Bomber Command Veteran was a once in a lifetime event and I will never forget the look on Percy’s face as he sat in the Pilot’s seat. Sandy Cannings has written a moving blog about our day together. We all then watched the daytime and nighttime ‘Just Jane’ Taxy runs, the roar of 4 Merlin engines running is without doubt the sound of victory.

These are two links to YouTube of the film I took of the ‘Just Jane’ engine start up and of Percy Cannings looking very comfortable in the cockpit of NX611.

Some new news from James Flowers at the 50/61 Squadron Association; they have a new website up and running. Go to the veterans album and click on F/Lt Bill North and also check out all the other remarkable stories from all these extraordinary men.

Another nice snippet of news is that F/Lt Bill North is featured in the November 2012 edition of Britain At War Magazine. I worked with John Grehan and Martin Mace on the feature called Forgotten Hero and would like to thank them both for all the hard work that went into it. It is a fantastic magazine!

I would also like to thank Martin Simpson for his wonderful support as well.

Also if anybody is on the WW2 aviation trail in France the Museum of Tosny is a must visit. It is one of the finest private museums in France with its outstanding collection, including the story of F/Lt Bill North’s crash landing on 4/5 July 1944 and parts of his Lancaster EE186, QR-D which are on on display.

Bill North was passionate about Rugby and was the Life President of Pinner and Grammarians Rugby Club. Thank you to Paul Talbot and David Hiles.

Finally news of the book! We are nearly there, it has been a long emotional journey and full of frustrations. The main one being the limited amount of time I have available to dedicate to sharing this extraordinary story with everybody. As well as writing and researching it, I am publishing, promoting and distributing it as well. Initially not knowing what I was doing, I just threw myself in at the deep end and soon found that the extra workload has been overwhelming. However my love of the subject matter and respect for Bill North completely overide all of these frustrations. The editing/proofing has also taken far longer than I imagined and I cannot let it go without it being up to scratch, so we are hoping that it will be ready to send to print in a few weeks time. I would just like to say thank you to everybody who has preordered the book on Amazon for being so patient, it will be well worth the wait.

Best wishes all, Chris Keltie.

Percy Cannings and Chris Keltie by 'Just Jane' 03/11/2012





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