Behind the Scenes of a War

Leslie Bruce Thomas (1921-2013) in RAF uniform

On the night of April 25, 1945 LAC (Leading Aircraftsman) Thomas was involved with the last operational mission for Bomber Command No. 35 Squadron based at R.A.F. Graveley in Huntingdonshire, England.  This last mission would provide tons of vitally needed medical supplies to the Allied men on the ground in Germany and occupied France prisoner of war hospitals.  Lancaster bombers were fitted with specially adapted medical supply baskets which were dropped by parachute behind enemy lines.  LAC Thomas, ground crew at RAF Graveley, was involved in the adaptation of the baskets as is indicated by the letter below, sent from the Group Captain Commanding the R.A.F at Graveley to the Station Armament Officer and on which LAC Thomas’ name and military number is written by hand.  The copy of the letter is poor but a transcription is below.



From: – Royal Air Force, GRAVELEY, Huntingdonshire.               LAC Thomas (896)
To:     – Station Armament Officer
Date:  – 27th April, 1945
Ref:    – GY/s.933/P.1


            The ingenuity and effort put forth by your section in adapting the Medical supply baskets for dropping by No. 35 Squadron on the night of 25th April, has earned glowing praise from higher places.

  1. Your section will no doubt be gratified to know that all the supply Baskets were accurately delivered to a prisoner of War Hospital housing British and American aircrew where the death rate had been in the region of eight to ten per day, due to shortage of medical supplies. This position is now relieved and I am sure your section will consider that fact just reward for their efforts.
  1. Would you please pass this information to the personnel concerned, along with my thanks for furthering Graveley’s reputation for reliability, ingenuity and initiative.


G.F. Grant (Sgd)
Group Captain Commanding
Royal Air Force,

Not every man saw armed combat but many behind the scenes contributed just as much to the war effort.  The men and women of R.A.F. Graveley No. 35 Squadron participated in over 1000 bomber raids with many losses of life.  A memorial stained glass window of the Parish Church of All Saints in Offord Cluny, Huntingdonshire serves to honor the memory of all the airmen and airwomen who served with 35 Squadron at Graveley.

Stained glass window at All Saints Church from website





From Cairo with Love

As part of this month’s theme for the Genealogy Blog Party ‘The Strong Will Survive!’ I am highlighting my Grandfather as someone I believe was strong both emotionally and physically.  He survived not only a war but a situation at home, happening at the same time, which was incredibly emotionally stressful for him.  Read on and see why I think he qualifies as a man of great courage and integrity.

I’ve always been fascinated with this postcard that my Grandfather, Harold James Davis, had made in Cairo, Egypt.  He never sent it (there is no writing on the back) but from what we can gather brought it home to South Africa to give to his only daughter.


Harold James Davis (1908-1967) was stationed in Egypt with the 1st Hygiene Company of the South African Medical Corp from November 1941 to April 1944 and transferred to the United Defense Force Admin HQ in Cairo, Egypt from March 1944 to November 1944.  Obviously he carried with him a photograph of the young daughter he had left behind in South Africa, enabling him to have the postcard made.

It was during this time serving in Egypt that my grandfather would have heard that his wife, my grandmother, Hazel Jane Keown, had abandoned their young daughter.  Perhaps tired of life as the wife of a military man (Harold had been an Army man since July of 1929) Hazel Jane Keown had left their 4-year-old daughter and disappeared.    Harold returned to South Africa in November 1944 where he sued for divorce and sole custody of his daughter.

HaroldJamesDavis1908_photo military 2
Harold James Davis (1908-1967) taken in Cairo, Egypt between 1941 and 1944.

It must have been difficult to be in the middle of a war and to be worrying about his young daughter.  I like to think that the photograph of her he carried, and the postcard he had made, helped him to feel closer to her.

Harold James Davis and his baby girl.