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I hope you have found the website interesting – if you have I would urge you to read ‘Does Life Hold Any More in Store?’ The book is paperback, 463 pages, illustrated with photographs and diagrams. ISBN 978-
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What were you doing between the ages of eighteen and twenty-
In the late 1960s we used to visit Uncle John and Auntie Mabel at their home in Southall. Uncle John was a dapper man who wore a blazer with a badge, loved bowls, horse and dog racing and was proud of his career with Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd., especially his presentation to the Royal Family of Siam and working on the construction of Wembley Stadium.
Auntie Mabel was a sad, grey, gaunt, elderly lady, whose teeth did not fit very well. It is difficult to reconcile her then against photographs of her in her younger days.
My abiding memories of our visits were of the airline seats furnishing the front room, a wooden aircraft propeller boss adorning the wall, the bolted timber scaffolding constructed by elderly Uncle John to paint the outside of the house and of visiting the park to see the colourful circle of Sikh gentlemen.
I do not remember ever seeing or hearing any reference to their only son James Kenneth Ives. Jim’s twenty-
11 weeks later he was posted ‘missing’. His Lancaster had been shot down over Berlin and six of the seven man crew, including cousin Jim, were killed.
Uncle John died in 1972 and the house in Southall was hastily cleared. Some of Jim’s effects, including his flying log-
I was given the sunglasses which one day dropped from my pocket and one of the green toughened glass lenses shattered and I foolishly threw the remaining lens and frame away which I deeply regret..
When he became ill in about 1999 I talked about cousin Jim with dad but as the branches of the family had only met up on rare occasions there was little to tell me – Jim had red hair, he was a bit smart – a bit ‘London’, he had played the violin and he was thought to have been shot down off the Dutch coast returning from a bombing raid.
So I set about finding out what I could. Breakthrough #1 was to contact Miss Noble, a friend of Uncle John’s who might also have known Jim.
Miss Noble had visited us once and I distinctly remember her for her white hair. Mum still had her address and the first speculative letter that I was to write over the next twelve years or so produced a prompt reply, a telephone call to the effect –
What more encouragement would anybody need to find out more? An interview with Lilian Noble revealed that they had worked together before Jim had joined the RAF and that thereafter they had regularly written to each other.
Lilian had kept Jim’s letters which she kindly lent to me. The letters form the heart of Jim’s story.
Soon after this on a rainy morning on our club’s cricket tour to Kent I went with Les Bandy to have a look at Manston aerodrome’s museum and shop. The shop happened to have a copy of W R Chorley’s Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War – vol. 5 1944.
Turning to the relevant date, there he was –
A revelation! – shot down over Berlin and there had been a survivor. How to trace the survivor? This fell right into my lap – my brothers deal in second-
Lo and behold! –
Another speculative letter produced the most moving result from Bob Fenton – a letter, together with photos of some of his crew-
Bob explained the circumstances of losing their original pilot and that he ‘did not have much time to get to know Jim, but what I recall he was a fine chap’.
A third occurrence convinced me that I must pursue the research as fully as possible. My first visit to see the spectacle of ‘Just Jane’ being started up and taxied out at East Kirkby Aviation Heritage Centre sparked a remarkable coincidence (set of coincidences).
Whilst in the shop I overheard a snippet of conversation between the owners, Fred and Harold Panton and a visitor – I heard something to the effect ‘100 Squadron –
I waited until their conversation had finished and I collared J Douglas Hudson DFC ex Navigator, 100 Squadron RAF Bomber Command.
Douglas had indeed been on the squadron during Jim’s time there, although their arrivals had been a month apart and staggered leave periods meant that their crews had not been on the battle-
We chatted about where we lived (he in Lincolnshire, me Hertfordshire) and it transpired that his son-
A few days later I was contacted by an ex-
Finding something out encourages you to find more and so it has snowballed. Speculative letters to local newspapers, RAF Squadron Associations, etc., have put me in touch with relatives of Jim’s crew, including Sgt Harold Johnson’s cousin in Scotland and his sister in Canada who kindly provided more photos and recollections, with Sgt Savage’s sister and Sgt Cornes’s family – more recollections, log-
Another great triumph was to trace Jim’s B/A from his first crew (OTU, CU and 625 Squadron) following another postal campaign to everyone I could find in the telephone directory of that initial and surname. Geoff was a goldmine of information, even though he claimed to have a bad memory.
Other family researchers have also turned up trumps where crews had been closely associated or where similar experiences were contemporaneous with Ives’s own.
The internet has produced a number of intriguing contacts, especially in the case of LACs Robert Jones and Ian Cunnison. Another ‘fishing’ letter written to P/O Jones’s ex-
They kindly lent me the album which served to confirm the identities of ‘Bob’ (Robbie to his family) and ‘Ian’ mentioned in Jim’s letters, with duplicates of some of Jim’s own photos and a whole lot more recording Bob’s stay in the USA.
Information about his father was gratefully received too from Ian Cunnison’s son. My investigations have thrown up so much that I did not know about RAF Bomber Command –
I believe that we owe a massive debt of gratitude to the ‘bomber-
Who could deny the poignancy of the last entries in Jim’s log-
- WWII RAF Bomber Command Research.
- 625, 626 and 100 Squadrons.
- Book –
‘Does Life Hold Any More in Store?’
- If you recognise a name please contact me.