Ghosts will be laid to rest



Ghosts will be laid to rest
103 Squadron veteran Don Charlwood revisits Elsham Wolds


Veteran Don Charlwood served with 103 squadron and has written a book 'No Moon Tonight' about his wartime experiences. This cutting describes his return visit to Elsham Wolds and Scunthorpe where he spent a lot of his wartime social life. There is a photograph of Don Charwood with his wife, Nell and daughter, Doreen and wartime friends Paul Lowery, Ern and Gladys Hatcliffe. He stayed with Sylvia Lowery, the niece of his mid-upper gunner, Frank Holmes.



One newspaper cutting on an album page


IBCC Digital Archive


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Photograph of six people in front of the Elsham airfield control tower. Caption ‘Mr. Charlwood (third left) stands in front of the Elsham airfield control tower for the last time, flanked by (left to right) Paul Lowery, daughter Doreen, wife Nell and friends Ern and Gladys Hatcliffe’.

Ghosts will be laid to rest…
World War Two veteran Don Charlwood looked fondly at the familiar outline of the Elsham airfield’s control tower for the last time.
The tower, like most of the buildings at the old Bomber Command base, is shortly to be flattened to make way for industry.
Mr. Charlwood, a friendly Australian who is not a successful author, reflected: “when I first came back in 1957, I stood at the entrance, looked at the buildings and somehow expected to see faces that I’d known. It was a very strange feeling, and, frankly, I was glad to get away. “But I’ve been back six times since and each time it has changed just a little bit more. This will be the last time I see it in anything like its original form. Its sad in a way, but all the ghosts will be finally laid to rest…”
Mr. Charlwood (68) was back in the Scunthorpe area, promoting his re-released book New Moon Tonight, which focuses on life at the airfield during World War Two.
The book, ranked by some critics alongside All Quiet On The Western Front, has proved enormously popular on South Humberside.
Friends Lost
He was posted to 103 Sqdn. At Elsham Wolds in 1942, serving as navigator in Lancaster bombers.
His seven-man crew were the first to reach 30 successful operations – a target that earned them a rest period. Many others never even reached 10. Good friends were lost.
At 26 Mr. Charlwood was something of a father-figure to the many teenagers who served alongside him.
“It was a terrifying time for us all, and a fantastic bond developed between us.” During breaks from the horrors of war, Mr. Charlwood and his comrades often caught a special bus from the airfield into Scunthorpe.
“If the weather was fine we would cycle into Brigg, but nearly always we headed for Scunthorpe. They were usually wet dirty nights, and with the town completely blacked out, we got to know Scunthorpe better in the dark than in daylight.”
Favourite haunts were the Crosby, Oswald and Berkeley.
Sad change
Mr. Charlwood noted with some dismay the transformation of the old Oswald into the Tavern in the Town fun pub: “It had a bit of a wild image but it’s sad to see the change.”
But the Crosby was the watering hole closest to his heart. “It was a bit more peaceful than the others, and peace was what we needed above all else.”
After the war, the impact of the experience inspired him to start writing.
“Everyone was being filled with books about the high drama of the war. I wanted them to know about the other side of the coin: the appalling casualty rate. It was a kind of therapy to get things down on paper. “Hitler had to be stopped, there was no doubt about that. But there were often times when I saw friends being killed, I wondered if it was all worthwhile. The massive cost in lives raised questions that I could never really answer”.
Memories swamped the Melbourne born author, as he toured the town, which had been a haven 40 years ago.
“It’s nice to see the steelworks still going. We used the warm glow from the works to check our position after returning from missions. I still don’t understand why it wasn’t bombed to pieces.”
During his two-week visit to England, Mr. Charlwood was accompanied by his Canadian-born wife Nell and daughter Doreen.
He stayed in Wrawby with Sylvia Lowery, the niece of his mid-upper gunner, Frank Holmes, and her husband Paul. He was also reunited with friends Ern’ and Gladys Hatcliife, who owned a farm near the aerodrome during the war.


“Ghosts will be laid to rest,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 2, 2022,

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