Posts Tagged: ‘Max Hastings’


16/12/2014 Posted by chris

It is with great sadness that I have to pass on the news, that the last member of Bill North’s Lancaster crew has left us. Dennis Bartlett – Bill’s mid-upper gunner – passed peacefully away on Sunday morning, 14 December 2014. Strangely this is the day before Bill North left us on 15 December 2011.

Way back in 2008, when Bill North suggested I write the book, Riding in the Shadow of Death, about his life – I had no idea of the incredible journey I was about to embark on, the extraordinary people I would meet, and how it would change people’s lives forever.

I feel like I have known Den all my life, and this is linked to my relationship with Bill North, and the photo of his RAF crew that I first saw in March 1970, when I was 7 years old. Den (first on the right) was in this picture that I had stared at many, many times over the years, wandering who these men were and what had happened to them.

The first thing Bill asked me to do was track down Dennis and find out what had happened to him. It took me 18 months, and I finally found out he was still alive and living in Camberley. It was an amazing feeling to meet a face from Bill’s photo, and he, just like Bill, was an absolutely lovely and unassuming man.

Dennis hadn’t shared his wartime experiences with his family, as he had like so many veterans internalised them. The first time we met, I showed him the pictures of their crashed Lancaster EE186. He was amazed when he saw his smashed mid-upper turret and couldn’t believe he had survived. He then shared what had happened on the 4/5 July 1944, when they were shot down over France. Thanks to pilot Bill North’s tenacity and courage the whole crew survived their nighttime crash landing. Daphne – Den’s sister – said that this was the first time that she had ever heard this story. Over the next 3 years, I spent many hours with Den talking to him, and he really opened up and shared many more experiences. We became great mates, and attended many events and book signings together.

The first thing was to reunite him with Bill North. It was truly an honour and a privilege to witness these two veterans meeting again after 67 years. Then, there was the Bomber Command Memorial Unveiling on 28 June 2012, when we met Prince Charles. Our book launch in June 2013, when Den met 97 Squadron mid-upper gunner Percy Cannings. Getting his Bomber Command Clasp for him and meeting the Prime Minister, David Cameron at the House of Commons, in October 2013. One outstanding moment was when Den got a 2 minute standing ovation at a book signing at Bill North’s old rugby club, Pinner and Grammarians. He had tears in his eyes as had many people in the room.

Daphne said I gave him back his self-esteem as he hadn’t felt important for many years. I will treasure this gift forever. This was a legacy left from the way Bomber Command crewmen were treated after the war, they felt unappreciated and overlooked. And I, and the many friends I have made along the way, feel we have gone some way to rectify this.

Den, you have had an extraordinary life, reaching the incredible age of 90 years old. You, Bill, and the crew, faced death many times during WW2. From the training crash landings at OTU in Stirlings, near misses on Operations, being shot down, and then surviving the Long March. You all rode through death’s dark shadow and lived to tell the tale.

To our lovely Den, reunited with your crew and your lost friends, we will miss you. xxx

Bill North's crew at 1661 HCU, Winthorpe - March 1944.


Dennis Bartlett, Bill North, Chris Keltie, May 2011.


Crash site of Bill North's Lancaster, 61 Squadron's EE186, QR-D, near Harquency, France.


Dennis Bartlett and Chris Keltie meeting Prince Charles at the Bomber Command Memorial Unveiling Ceremony, 28 June 2012.


Veterans, Dennis Bartlett, Jeff Gray and James Flowers meet the PM, David Cameron at the House of Commons, 9 October 2013.


Aviation Artist, Simon Atack, Dennis Bartlett and Chris Keltie, at the Bomber Command Memorial Unveiling Ceremony, 28 June 2012.


Two Lancaster mid-upper gunners finally meet. Pathfinder, Percy Cannings, 97 Squadron, and Dennis Bartlett, 61 Squadron. Riding in the Shadow of Death book launch, Newark Air Museum, 16 June 2013.


Dennis Bartlett, during aircrew training 1943.


Bill North and Dennis Bartlett, meet again after 67 years, 18 March 2011.

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) Lancaster (Thumper) - 'City of Lincoln' PA474. 50 and 61 Squadron Memorial Day, June 2013.


Dennis Bartlett, London Guildhall. Bomber Command crew dinner, 27 June 2012.

Riding in the Shadow of Death, is now available from Chris Keltie Publishing on Amazon. It has been noted that some book sellers are selling it for way above the listed price. The correct price is £12.99, plus £2.80, p+p, direct from Chris Keltie Publishing, please don’t pay any more than this.

All the best


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