Malcolm Staves, 207 Squadron Veteran

BFortPaullMusStavesMEv1.pdf

Title

Malcolm Staves, 207 Squadron Veteran
A Brief History

Description

Malcolm Staves' life in the RAF, starts with his school reports through his enlistment in 1942. He trained at Bridgnorth then was assigned to 207 Squadron at Spilsby. His colleagues included George Cearns who joined 166 Squadron and Hank Williams who was posted to 106 Squadron at Metheringham. 70 years later he was reunited with them at the unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial at Green Park, London.
In July 1943 he was posted to RAF Madley to train as a radio operator. In a short period from July to December he moved to Dumfries, Oxford, Winthorpe, Barford, Syerston and Newark.
His first active sortie was not until February 1945 and included raids on the Ems Canal, Dortmund, Dresden, Politz, Nordhausen and Rositz. He completed a tour of 30 operations.
He continued flying Lancasters after the war, surviving a fuel pipe coming adrift on landing and filling the aircraft with fuel.
In Christmas 1945 he flew POWs back to the UK in Lancasters.
The second part of this document covers 'Exhibits', mementoes, documents and photographs of his service records.

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Contributor

David Bloomfield
Tricia Marshall

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

24 typewritten sheets

Language

Identifier

BFortPaullMusStavesMEv1

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

[photograph of Malcolm Staves]

Malcolm Staves,

207 Squadron Veteran

[207 Squadron Crest]

A Brief History

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[page break]

Malcolm Ely Staves was born on 26th may 1924 ln North Boulevard, Hull and moved to Cottingham at the age of 2 years, where he lived for the rest of his life.

Malcolm's father died when he was only 8 years old and a further tragic family bereavement occurred when his sister, Gwen died of polio during the polio epidemic in the summer of 1948. Malcolm married Sheena Thompson on 7th January 1950 and is survived by Sheena and their two daughters, Christina and Heather.

Malcolm's school reports show that he was an excellent student, maintaining the highest grades in all subjects and consistently 1st place amongst his classmates.

Malcolm was a keen and proficient sportsman, with his interests mainly in playing football and cricket.

His academic abilities led to him taking a career in accountancy, beginning at the age of 14 years as a filing clerk and eventually rising to the position of Managing Director and Secretary of the long established Hull business of King and Company whose business premises can still be found, as protected architecture, alongside the Trinity Church in the marketplace in Hull.

In 1942 Malcolm applied for a place in the Royal Air Force, Bomber Command and as can be seen from the early artifacts, [sic] he was accepted on medical and academic grounds but his training and active service was postponed by a year, due to him having a widowed mother.

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Malcolm finally left for training on Monday 26th April 1943, travelling to London and Lord's Cricket Ground to begin the process of enlistment.

[photograph of a training flight of airmen]

He was billeted in flats in Regents Park and began a series of medical checks, inoculations, tests and other procedures before wearing his uniform for the first time on 1st May 1943 on a visit to Wembley. He also mentions in his diaries that he attended a concert by the Squadronaires and Vera Lynne.

For a young man of 18 years old, who had, probably, never travelled out of East Yorkshire except to cross the Humber to Lincolnshire, from where his family hailed, this must have been daunting but also very exciting and of course at this stage he had no idea what was to come during the next 3 years.

During his time in London he records, very modestly, that he met the King and Queen at the Church Army Services Club.

He was posted to Bridgnorth and arrived at 3.49pm on Saturday 15th May.

After settling in to the new billets he was informed that he had been granted a 54 hour pass to attend his sister Gwen's wedding.

On Friday the 21st May Malcolm left for Hull, getting a lift from the camp to the station in a

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‘Persil Van’, catching the 8.45 train and after various changes he arrived in Hull at 4.45 am on the day of the wedding.

After the wedding he began the long journey back to camp, arriving at 7pm on Sunday 23rd May.

The following months at Bridgnorth were spent on a series of lectures, fatigues, drills, parades, tests, fire parties and other duties and mysterious [symbol] 'gardening at night'! This was interspersed with football and cricket matches against other huts.

It was at Bridgnorth where Malcolm made some friends who would remain strong companions for the rest of his life.

It was common practice for crew to adopt ‘nicknames’ and hence Malcolm became known as ’Joe’ and this name stays with him to this day. William 'Hank' Williams was billeted with Malcolm and strong bonds were formed at Bridgnorth. Two other pals who joined 'Joe' and 'Hank' were George Cearns and Eric Evans.

Sadly, Eric was killed in training but Malcolm, Hank and George remained close ever since the end of their service.

At the end of their training the remaining pals were allocated to their squadrons and so split up for the duration of the war.

As we know Malcolm was assigned to 207 Squadron based at Spilsby.

George Cearns joined 166 Squadron and Hank Williams was posted to 106 Squadron at Metheringham after volunteering for the Pathfinders who were a specialist unit who marked the targets for the following bombing crews.

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On 28th June 2012, a remarkable, serendipitous occurrence happened in Green Park, London.

Having survived a grueling [sic] series of operations and a course of radiotherapy, for cancer, Malcolm made the journey to London to take part in the unveiling ceremony of the Bomber Command Memorial.

This long overdue event to mark the courage of Bomber Command aircrews, for those who were lost and the survivors, was a very special moment for Malcolm. The exhausting trip, only a week after the end of Malcolm's treatment was agreed by his medical team as a tonic but no one could have known just what would happen on this already emotionally charged day.

By an incredible act of fate Malcolm was 'spotted' in the crowd of 3,000, first by George Cearns and minutes later by 'Hank' Williams.

Although these, 'comrades' had remained in contact over the years by telephone and letters, it had been some years since they had met together and here was the most remarkable unplanned re-union to put a perfect end to a truly remarkable day.

At the end of July 1943 Malcolm had a week's leave during which time he visited family in Hull and Stickford, Lincolnshire before returning for duty at a new posting at Madley, where he attended intensive training at the Radio Operators school.

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This determined Malcolm's future as Radio Operator in Lancasters.

During his time at R.A.F. Madley, Malcolm continued with a diet of daily lectures, tests, and various duties but appears to have had more opportunities for leisure activities including frequent visits to the cinema where he relates the many films that he saw.

Some of these have become classics such as ‘Now Voyager’, ‘Gone With The Wind' and 'Fantasia'.

The routine continued through the autumn months and into winter with the occasional leave and trips back to Hull and Lincolnshire.

At the beginning of November Malcolm records on a number of occasions that he was engaged in another mysterious activity, [symbol] 'Binding’ and this would sometimes take place all day and night.

He recorded for the first time on 26th November that he did 3 hours of flying and apart from sessions that were cancelled due to the weather, this activity became a regular part of the training schedule through to the end of the year.

[symbol] The terms ‘gardening at night’ and ‘binding’ were intriguing in initial research results.

Night Gardening was the dropping of mines in the English Channel which was segmented into areas with names of flowers.

However, a more accurate and sadly more mundane meaning was offered by Hank Williams.

‘Gardening at night’ was indeed just that. It was part of the airmen’s responsibilities to maintain absolute order in

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and around their barracks and small gardens were maintained, the work often done at night after a busy days training. ‘Binding’, which also took place ‘all day and night’, was the term used for swatting for tests and exams.

Poignantly, there is no mention of Christmas at all and 25th December just reads as, ‘up at 7. 30 am. Went to Station Cinema to see ‘The Rains Came”.

Malcolm did manage to get a 48 hour pass to travel home on New Years Eve arriving in Hull at 1.15 am on New Years Day and walking all the way from Hull to Cottingham arriving home at 2.45 am.

One cannot imagine, in terms of today's festivities, how it must have felt to make that journey, the last one and half hours on foot to get home see his mother, leaving early on 2nd January to make the return journey back to base at Madley.

The New Year continued where the old one had left off but with more mention of study, flying and exams.

On February 15th 1944 Malcolm records that he passed his Final Board followed by an emotionless comment for the following day “Joe Peterson gone for a Burton …………. Wade baled out”.

The following day he attended the Commission Board and was promoted to Sergeant. The Passing Out Parade took place on 18th February, immediately after which he caught a train home.

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Life continued with lectures, letter writing, many visits to the cinema, exercises and flying through to June when Malcolm was ‘posted’.

While airmen were allocated to squadrons, crews were put together by a much more informal and
personal process. A skipper would, 'choose' his crew on the basis of their personalities and skills.

Flight Officer Ren Watters, a New Zealander, was to become the 'skipper' on Malcolm's crew.

He selected:

Flight Sergeant ‘Trapper’ J. Henderson, Flight Engineer

Flight Sergeant J.M. Stewart, Navigator.

Flight Sergeant Ron Moore, Bomb Aimer.

Flight Sergeant Malcolm Ely 'Joe' Staves – Radio Operator.

Flight Sergeant Eric Varney, Gunner.

Flight Sergeant D.M.C. 'Taffy' Watkins, Gunner to form his crew.

[photograph of crew]

During the months of July to December Malcolm moved around a number of locations, including, rather oddly Dumfries but then to Oxford, Winthorpe, Barford, Syerston and Newark.

At last he spent the Christmas of 1944 at home on leave and, as 1945 begins, his daily diary recordings come to an end on 6th January.

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We now know that Malcolm's first active sortie, was in February 1945 and that he went on to complete many bombing missions, including raids on the Ems Canal, Dortmund, Dresden, Politz, Nordhausen and Rositz.

All of these flights could have been the last flown by Malcolm, given the heavy losses experienced by Bomber Command. throughout the war.

He did however make it to the end of the hostilities but continued flying in Lancasters for some months after the war had finished. This involved flying training missions for new recruits and one flight on 17th July 1946, was probably the most dramatic, terrifying and near death situation that he experienced.

The flight happened after Skipper Wren Watters had returned to New Zealand and Malcolm's crew had disbanded.

On this occasion he was flying as WOP with a Canadian Skipper, Grahame Inglis and on the approach to landing, a fuel pipe at Malcolm's feet became detached spewing high octane airplane fuel through the aircraft.

With his usual determination, Malcolm managed to track down Grahame, to his home in Canada in 1993 and he recalled the incident in an article entitled 'Fright In Flight', for the Royal Canadian Air Force magazine, "Airforce”. The following excerpt gives a flavor [sic] of the dramatic experience,

“On July 17th 1946, we flew F for Freddie on a local two-plane formation exercise and we had some Air Training Corps cadets along . This was my twelfth - last flight in the RAF and, for a few minutes, I thought that it would be my last ever. Having returned to the vicinity of the base we did the pre-descent drills which included turning on the cross-feed pumps, thereby ensuring a fuel supply to all four engines no matter if some of the tanks were empty and eliminating surprise engine failure during the critical approach and landing phase of the flight. The cross-feed pipe

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is just forward of the main spar ‘step’ beside the wireless operator’s position.

Suddenly he, (Malcolm), yells that the pipe has come apart and fuel Is gushing onto the floor of the cabin! As quick as the flight engineer’s reaction is in turning off the pumps the whole cockpit is inundated. We are in a hellish airborne gas chamber in which fumes arise and, in spite of our oxygen masks, affect our breathing and eyesight. I have a mental flashback to myself as a young boy reclining, rigid, in a dentist's chair whilst a mask over my face delivers "laughing gas" prior to a tooth extraction. There is a vibrating sensation in my head just before going under. Well, I have the same sensation now but this is av/gas and no laughing matter. I had better not go under! …. My Mayday call to base must have sounded odd, for I was on a high octane high. Our formation partner has slid out to a discreet distance, clearly not wishing to share in our anticipated conflagration.

I have opened a large sliding perspex panel beside me, as has the flight engineer, and I poke my face into the 180 kt. Airflow. This clears my head and brings back my vision. I find that by putting the nose down to start our descent towards base I have the solution for all of us except the bomb aimer. The fuel flows into basement office in the nose and he shows commendable agility in joining us in the cockpit. I reminded of the salmon leap, in Scotland, upstream to spawn. I think that the draft from the front gun turret blows the fumes out through the inspection ports into the bomb bay.

Eventually the atmosphere improves. We can almost recognize the normal smell of the Lancaster. The fire trucks and the blood wagons are out in force and I’m afraid that I provide an anti-climax by greasing old Fred onto the runway. Then we are off to talk to our Incredulous ground crew.”

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As Malcolm's career in the Air Force, neared its end, he spent Christmas of 1945 on a less dangerous and perhaps more enjoyable mission. He was based in Rome at 2 Base Area Rest and Leave Camp. His objective was to transport P.O.W.’s and equipment back to G.B. and he retained the Christmas Day Menu and some of the Allied Military Issue Lira notes from the festive occasion.

Malcolm retained a fantastic amount of information and items relating to his time before, during and after his time in Lancaster Bombers and 207 Squadron. It is these artefacts that form the exhibition that you are able to visit today.

[photograph of 207 Squadron Crest]

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The Exhibits

The first group of artifacts [sic] show the rigorous process which Malcolm underwent before he was finally accepted into the Royal Air Force. These include Medical Certificates, Enlistment Notices, a Postponement of Calling Notice, a Warrant Certificate of Appointment as a Warrant Officer in the Royal Air Force and his Certificate of Appointment to the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as Pilot Officer, the latter was signed by King George VI.

Malcolm saved all of his lecture notes and training manuals, giving us an insight into how intensive the preparation was for someone undertaking to be part of the crew of a Lancaster Bomber. These are exhibited here.

The number of photographs of ‘crews’ and training school groups show how important the ‘comradeship’ was in such grave circumstances. They are reminiscent of sports team photographs. The comradeship lasted for most of those who served in military units and this was certainly the case for Malcolm and the crew with whom he flew. Later in the exhibition the crew re-unions, organized by Malcolm and his life-long membership of the 207 Squadron can be witnessed through press clippings and personal photographs and poems.

A reminder of how 'normal life' had to carry on to some extent can be seen in the small

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collection of Pay and Post Office Savings Books. In addition there are the copies of ‘The Gospel According To St Mark' and ‘The New Testament Serviceman’s Bible’ from King George VI. These were a testament to the attempt at pastoral care for those whose daily missions reduced the chances of survival to a minimum.

A more harsh reminder of how uncertain a safe return was can be seen in the beautifully preserved ‘Air Crew Escape Map' which was printed on silk to enable it to be very small when folded, the card with a list of Phrases In Foreign Languages and the now almost comical instruction sheet for ‘The Method of Wrapping Pigeons For Dropping From Aircraft'.

The purpose of the pigeon dropping instructions was far from amusing. It would be the only hope of recovery for aircrews, when, having been shot down, used the dropped pigeon to relay their coordinates back to England. During the war there was a cull of predatory birds over the coastal areas, to prevent carrier pigeons being caught and killed.

Compared to todays GPS navigation systems, the navigation systems used by the RAF were relatively crude. Paper maps were relied upon and here is collection of various maps used on bombing raids, some showing the numerous airfields across areas of England and some detailed maps of the airfield at Spilsby, from where Malcolm flew most of his missions.

Familiar landmarks were also used to guide pilots back to their airfields and the photograph of a Lancaster flying over Old Bolling Brook Mill, Lincolnshire, was one such landmark used regularly by crews of 207 Squadron planes. To add to the relevance of this photograph, the mill

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happened to be owned and operated by Malcolm's Uncle.

Possibly some of the most poignant items preserved by Malcolm are his uniform and other clothing items and kit.

As well as the uniform there are some other more intimate and not often seen items such as his airforce issue socks and sleeping bag inner. This part of the collection also includes the bicycle that he used to get about the airfield and his kit bags and interestingly ‘one’ leather flying glove. He would have only worn one glove as his right hand had to be free to send morse code messages and operate the radio.

There are also a number of log books and flight records of various bombing missions. Some are facsimiles while others are the original items.

Jumping ahead to the end of WWII, it is interesting to note that 207 Squadron planes and crews were stationed in Italy, near Rome. Their mission was to bring back servicemen and equipment and Malcolm spent Christmas 1945 at this location.

He saved the Christmas Day Menu from the Area Rest and Leave Camp and some of the Allied Military Issue Lira notes, which can be seen here.

Malcolm was one of the few who managed to fly more than 30 missions and survive and his Royal Air Force Service Record and Release Book must have been one of the most welcome documents that he received.

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A rather emotional reminder of the end of hostilities are the demob cigar and the front page of the Hull Daily Mail with Churchill's victory announcement.

There is also a letter of recommendation written and signed by his Flight Lieutenant, presumably to be used to help gain employment back in civvy street.

Perhaps the most understated artifact [sic] is the small card from the Cottingham Welcome Home Committee, informing Malcolm that as they had run out of suitable gifts would he accept a monetary gift. It is believed that the amount was 10 shillings. Not a fabulous amount to recognize what hardships, sacrifices and heroism he had endured and displayed but nevertheless some recognition from his home community of what he had done for them in his time in 207 Squadron.

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Comrades

When his time in the Air Force was over, Malcolm returned to civilian life but the strong bonds of friendship that had developed over the period of training and action would remain for the rest of his life.

Once he was posted to his beloved 207 Squadron, the bonds of friendship were also a dependence on the skills and courage of all crew-mates for survival in often terrifying and terrible flying conditions.

Even before they went into action, there were terrible losses of young lives and one painful example was the death of Eric Evans on his last training flight. Eric, Malcolm and Hank Williams, trained together at RAF Madley as Wireless Operators and Erics [sic] tragic death remained with Malcolm and Hank for the rest of their lives. They often visited his grave at Holyhead to lay flowers.

As well as the firm ties between Malcolm, Hank and George Cearns, which last to the present day, Malcolm became a lifelong member of the 207 Squadron Association and The Royal Airforce Association.

He also became the architect of his crew re-unions, the first of which took place, in Cottingham, in July 1967. The event was well covered by the local press, particularly as Malcolm had managed to get the Lancaster Skipper, Wren Watters over from New Zealand, to join the rest of the crew. Sadly Taffy Watkins and Trapper Henderson, who by now lived in South Africa and Australia, could not join their comrades.

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Many more re-unions took place through the 80's and 90's, including 207 Squadron and Royal Air Force re-unions. There were also regular services and dedications across the country that Malcolm and his comrades attended.

Perhaps the most poignant and the last ceremony that Malcolm attended was held in Green Park, London, on Thursday 28" June 2012, in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

After many years of controversy and ill feeling, a Memorial to The Bomber Command was unveiled by the Queen and Malcolm was there to witness and take part in this momentous occasion.

This was all the more remarkable as he had only finished the grueling [sic] treatment for cancer, just one week before the ceremony. The medical team, from Castle Hill Hospital, who had been treating him for 6 months, gave the all clear for Malcolm to travel to London and declared that it would be better than any medicine that they could prescribe. Supported by members of his family, Malcolm made the long journey, by train, to spend one of the hottest days of the year in Green Park, with 3,000 ex-airmen and their supporting families.

He thoroughly enjoyed the ceremonies and entertainment but perhaps the biggest surprise of all was when he was spotted in the huge audience by two of his closest comrades, William ‘Hank Williams and George Cearns. It was a very moving, impromptu, re-union and sadly the last one that Malcolm would participate in.

[photograph of Malcolm Staves, William ‘Hank’ Williams and George Cearns]

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Malcolm Staves passed away, peacefully, in Dove House Hospice, Hull, with all of his family by his bedside, on 19'" November 2012.

[photograph of a Lancaster bomber]

[photograph of 207 Squadron Crest]

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[photograph of Malcolm Staves]

Malcolm Staves

1924 – 2012

[photograph of 207 Squadron Crest]

19

Collection

Citation

“Malcolm Staves, 207 Squadron Veteran,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 23, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11354.

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