? & ? Tim Browning
A couple of months ago I received an invitation from Colin Shearsby RM to attend the Royal Marines Association, North Devon, Christmas Dinner. I had the pleasure of walking with Colin and many Royal Marines on the SouthWest Coast Path in 2015.
These days large social gatherings overwhelm me a little. Regardless, I wouldn’t miss a chance to reconnect with Colin and John Peel. Both a great support to me over the last several years.
At the Sgt’s Mess in Chivenor I waited for my dear old friend Rob, also a former RM, the man behind me meeting these boys. I saw a warm face and dainty physique perched on the sofa. It was Betty. I enquired whether anyone was sitting next to her. She gently tapped the cushion and I took a seat.
Betty and I chatted. She had moved to Barnstaple over 30 years ago with her husband after they retired. Betty lost her husband and son 12 years ago. It must have been heartbreaking. Smiling, with love her in eyes, she pointed to the others around the coffee table and whispered, ‘These people made it easier for me.’ Her neighbours. Brian, retired from the RAF, his wife Joyce and Jim, Joyce’s father, who was sat deeply planted in the corner of the Chesterfield.
‘Jim was a rear gunner on a Lancaster Bomber’ Betty proudly announced. My ears pricked. Eager to enquire but never knowing if talking about the war would conjure difficult memories I pulled out my phone. Advising Betty I must Google a Lancaster Bomber. Lost for a moment, I imagined where Jim would be sitting and how he would be feeling all those years ago.
Showing Betty the images she excitedly said ‘show Jim,’ I passed my phone. His eyes were alight. So were mine. Green light. Go.
We spent the next half an hour, before moving to the dining room, googling Lancaster bombers in search of the plane which took Jim on 35 sorties through two years of the War. The plane that Jim and his crew would fly 2000 miles assisting the Russians, over seven countries, just landing in Scotland on fumes from the fuel tank.
With ‘Love Conquers All’ painted on its nose. That LNLOV Bomber was shot down on a later flight. Jim was not flying that day. Romance and tragedy ignited me. I had no luck finding an image of the plane that night and until now.
After dinner I revisited the chesterfield by the Christmas tree. The music was up, the Commanding Officer on karaoke and the dance floor filling. The party had started. My hearing not great and Jim’s even worse halted our conversation. I took Brian’s number.
In the New Year Jim and I will continue our chat down West over several cups of tea and a cherry bakewell as I document his stories and the legacy of the ‘Love Conquers All’ Lancaster Bomber.
I’d love to find Jim a picture of his plane.
Can anyone help?