Percy Pickard, Alan Broadley, and F Parsons



Percy Pickard, Alan Broadley, and F Parsons


Left - long newspaper cutting with eulogising story of Group Captain Percy Pickard and Flight Lieutenant Alan Broadley who after 100 sorties together were now missing. Noted that they were in the film 'Target for Tonight' and gives considerable background to their life stories.
Right - newspaper cutting - wounded and captured. Reporting that Mr F Parsons had received a postcard from his second son Trooper F Parsons saying he had been wounded and was now a prisoner of war. Includes b/w full face photograph.




Two newspaper cuttings mounted on an album page


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I SHALL not call it exceptional courage and drown these two men in heroic words because they wouldn't like it.

Rather shall I say that if you know a man in the RAF with wings on his chest then you already know a lot about Group Captain Percy Pickard and Flight-Lieutenant Alan Broadley.

They were friends, inseparable friends. In 1940 they were in the same bomber, flew more than 100 sorties over Europe together, and now they are missing.

If you ask a pilot what it is like to sit there while all hell is breaking loose just below, he probably won't tell you much. But ask yourself what it must be like to do it 100 times, and it would seem that only supermen are capable of standing up to such intense nerve strain.

Pickard and Broadley weren't supermen – at least, no one who knows them intimately ever dreamed of calling them that. I am sure they didn't feel supermen. They just did a job, did that job well, and were content to carry on doing it.

It might even have been helpful that neither of them paid the slightest attention to what they would do after the war. They lived for the moment – particularly the moments when they were in the air.

You probably saw Pickard and Broadley in "Target for Tonight." Pick – we'll call him this from now on because it is the name he likes best – was pilot of "F" for Freddy; Broadley, quiet, very Yorkshire, was his navigator.

In the film they brought their plane, crippled, shot up, thoroughly mauled, back to base . . . but that was fiction.

Yet now, in real life, Pick's wife, Dorothy, is sure that her tall, somewhat erratic 28-year-old husband will come back again. And in the Yorkshire town of Richmond, that seems to squat on top of a spiral staircase of roads, the proprietor of a small hotel is equally sure that his lad Alan will come back with him. He feels that at twenty-two his son has seen so little of normal life.

If a man becomes a brilliant scientist or mathematician his schoolmaster will always tell you that the genius was brilliant from childhood. Was Pick brilliant? I asked Mr. W.H. Whitworth, who was headmaster at Framlingham College, what he was like.

"A nice lad," he told me, “but a great problem, because he was always bottom of the form. In fact I didn't know what to do with him when he was ready to leave."


Mr. Whitworth was spared the bother, Pick and a friend hitch-hiked their way, more or less, to Nairobi, bought a truck for £50 and drove back to Piccadilly Circus.

Why? Just "for fun."

BROADLEY was much the same. His father won't have it that he was bottom of the form at Richmond Grammar School, but admits that he was always perilously close. When Alan's time came to leave he had no idea what to do with himself, either. But at about much the same time war was declared, and the problem was solved to Alan's complete satisfaction. He joined the RAF.

These, then, were the two who met in a bomber. Two men who asked little more from life than a plane, a convenient sky, and a chance to shoot their enemies out of both.

Life was dangerous . . . life might end any night. Here was adventure. They dropped leaflets over enemy territory, they bombed enemy towns and military objectives, they flew para-troops to Bruneval, they laughed and joked together while the windows of their plane were being lit by flak and searchlights from nearly every main objective in Europe.

Pick collected a D.S.O. and two bars, and then a D.F.C. Broadley went to the Palace to collect a D.F.M., D.F.C. and then a D.S.O.

Brave men? Obviously, yes Fearless – Obviously, no, Pick, for instance, was once stationed in an old house where the floorboards had parted company with the walls. And it was overrun with rats.


Pick put his bed in the middle of the floor, kept the light on – and sat up all night.

Tight corners? Of course there were. There was that time when the plane just wouldn't make the base and they came down in the sea. From his pocket, when they were sitting in a dinghy being buffeted and tossed around, Pick produced a compass the size of a shilling that his sister Helena – she's the wife of Sir Cedric Hardwicke – had given him.

"It's all yours, Alan," said Pick, and tossed the compass to the navigator.

For fourteen hours they were in the dinghy with Alan directing. Yes, they were saved. Once again each had got the other through a tight corner. Alan got a D.F.C. for that.

And so it went on . . . Operation after operation, risk after risk.

At last the Air Ministry decided these two friends had laughed at fate for long enough. They were grounded. Pick was given the command of a crack bombing station and he took Alan with him as Officer in Charge of Navigation.

If Alan had been a careerist he would not have gone, because promotion would have been quicker elsewhere. To stay with Pick meant always being below him in rank.

At this point their lives were almost normal. Alan half got himself engaged to a local girl in Richmond, Yorks, while Pick saw his wife and 15-month old son more regularly. They should have been happy.

In the American Air Force, as you know, a pilot is considered to have done his duty when he has completed a certain number of operations. The limit in the RAF is slightly more.

By this time Pick and Alan had completed the tremendous total of sixty, and had no reason to fly again if they felt that way about it.

They didn't feel that way. "How about an odd operation or two?" they asked.

More thoughts in the briefing room wondering how tough a particular operation was likely to prove, you would suppose; and occasional moments when they asked themselves how much longer they could avoid misfortune. After all, so many of their friends had come and gone. When was their turn? Apparently they thought nothing of the sort. They thought, instead, of new and better operations, and by better it seems they meant more dangerous.

By this time they had completed over a hundred operations . . . The Air Ministry sent an artist down to paint them. They weren't impressed.

In the early days of 1940, when these two first flew together, Pick had an idea. A crazy idea perhaps; on the other hand he was rather a superstitious sort of fellow. He blooded Alan in the arm with a needle. Just that.

"That," he said, laughing boyishly, "make us blood brother."

They will hate this praise, of course, but it is a fact that they are now blood brothers in air glory.

There have been V.C.s won in this war in the air for brilliant individual feats. These men, too, deserve a V.C. for going on and on . . . on a hundred times.

And there is still a chance – still a fine, fighting chance – that we shall honour the men themselves, not their memory.

After all, what an extraordinary trick of fate this is. Two friends who were afraid of being parted in the air are missing at the same time.

They are in Europe together. Yes, together even if miles apart. Together in a dream to get back to fight again. And, if they do not come back, let us take consolation from the fact that they are together in spirit.


Oxford Man Taken By Germans

Mr. F. Parsons of 42, St. Aldate's Oxford, has received a postcard from his second son. Trooper F. Parsons, saying that he is slightly wounded and a prisoner of war in German hands. He has been fighting in Italy, and was formerly in the Coldstream Guards.

Trooper F. Parsons

By a coincidence, Mr. Parsons himself was wounded during the last war and taken prisoner by the Germans.

Trooper Parsons was a South Oxford School boy, and before joining up was employed at the Osberton Radiator Works.


“Percy Pickard, Alan Broadley, and F Parsons,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 25, 2024,

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