JB563: Crew

This is the crew of 100 Squadron Lancaster JB563 on 22nd March 1944. All except Sydney Smith met up in November 1943 at RAF Blyton near Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.

  • RAAF PO Evans, K W Captain (Pilot)
  • RAF Sgt J J Lapes, (Flight Engineer)
  • RAF Sgt P Atha, (Navigator)
  • RAF FO Emery, R F (2nd Navigator)
  • RAF Flt Sgt D Francis, (Air Bomber)
  • RAF Sgt A J Armstrong, (Wireless Operator Air)
  • RAF Sgt C A Brookes, (Mid Upper Gunner)
  • RAF Sgt S Smith, (Rear Gunner).

Pilot's Brevet RAAF

Pilot Officer K.W. EVANS 409678 RAAF
Born 24th May 1923 in Elwood, Victoria, Australia.
Son of William and Winifred Evans of Martin Street, Elwood a waterfront suburb of Melbourne and brother of Robert and Joan.
After school Ken worked as a clerk, he enlisted in October 1941 in Melbourne and after initial training he arrived in the UK in 1943. In one of J.J.Lapes’ letters home he describes Ken;

a rather short, stocky chap and he is blonde and he does have a shock of hair which falls on his forehead now and again and the pair of bluest eyes I ever saw and he has rather a chubby face and is only 20 and has a very fresh complexion and can be very serious but at times is very jolly.

Ken and his crew were posted from 1662 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Blyton to 100 Squadron at RAF Grimsby on 6th January 1944.  On the 14th January 1944 Ken went on his first operational flight as a “second dickie” with W/O T.V.Hayes and crew to Brunswick in what would become their regular Lanc’ JB563.  Their first operational flight as a complete crew came on 20th January 1944, when they took part in the squadron’s 100th operation.  The target was Berlin and all of the 15 crews returned to base safely.  On the 17th March Ken received his commission to Pilot Officer.
He is commemorated in the roll of honour at Brighton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Flight Engineer's Brevet

Sergeant J.J.LAPES 1459947 RAF

Born in Middleton, Lancashire on 11th May 1924.
The first son of Joseph and Clara Lapes, and called Jackie by the family.  When he was six, the family moved to Southport a sea-side commuter town for industrial and commercial Lancashire. He went to King George V Grammar School in Scarisbrook New Road. A keen sports enthusiast me played rugby, swam and was keen on body building. He was an active member of the Air Training Corps and later the RAF Volunteer Reserve.

Brockhouse Engineering,Southport

Brockhouse Engineering

At 16 he left school and joined Brockhouse as a trainee toolmaker. In December 1942 he was called up and after a few days at Padgate he started ‘square bashing’ in Redcar on the North Yorkshire coast. In February 1943 he started technical and flight training initially at RAF Wodbourne and then at the RAF School of Technical Training in St Athan, South Wales. He qualified as a Flight Engineer in early October 1943 and was posted to 1667 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Lindholme in Lincolnshire.  A day later he was on the move again, this time to 1662 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Blyton. By mid November he had found a crew and together they started to fly Lancasters and were ready to be posted to an operational squadron. However the squadron flew Halifax’ and as Jackie had been trained on Lancs it was arranged that he would stay behind and join up with another crew.  On the 22nd November 1944 he met his new crew and in a letter home he wrote

they’re a really “bang-on” lot

.   He joined 100 Squadron at Waltham on 6th January 1944.  He is commemorated on the Southport war memorial.

Navigator's Brevet

Sergeant P.ATHA 1542940 RAF
Born 4th December 1921 near Leeds in Yorkshire, England.
Philip was the only son of Harry and Dorothy Atha.  When Philip was young they moved just over 20 miles to Skipton in Craven in north Yorkshire. He went to Ermysted’s Grammar School in Gargrave Road. A keen sportsman, he excelled at cricket and rugby. He joined the RAF in February 1942. He trained at Eastbourne, Millom, and O.T.U. in Moreton in Marsh where he married Gwen Moulton also from Skipton. After a posting to the Middle East, Phil returned to England and was posted to 100 Squadron at Waltham on 6th January 1944.

 

Bomb Aimer's Brevet

Flight Sergeant D.FRANCIS  1422866 RAF

Dilwyn was born in 1922 in the mining village of Pontycymer in the Garw Valley, Glamorgan, Wales.

Son of David Samuel and Rebecca Francis and brother of David and Phyllis.  In one of J.J.Lapes’ letters home he describes Dilwyn:

Taffy the bomb aimer is short very dark and is a very happy fellow, he has no moustache and he does chew his nails at times.

Dilwyn joined 100 Squadron at RAF Waltham near Grimsby on 6th January 1944 and on 10th March was promoted to Temporary Flight Sergeant.

 

Wireless Operator's sleeve badge

 Sergeant A.J. ARMSTRONG 1317510 RAF

Born in March 1921 near Bath in Somerset, England.

Ashley John or “Johnny” as he was known to the crew was the son of John Bown and Lydia Winifred from Clutton.
Johnny did most of his training in Florida, USA.  He met his crew in November 1943 and joined 100 Squadron at RAF Grimsby on 6th January 1944.  J.J.Lapes described him as;

…about my size but heavier built and has a full moustache and is fairly dark but not black and is always smiling and he has very nice teeth.  He’s 22 and he can tell a good tale at times, and he and I get on very well.

 

Air Gunner's Brevet

Sergeant C.A.BROOKES 955093 RAF
Charles was born in December in 1917 in Birmingham.  Son of Edward and Annie E. Brookes, of Northfield, Birmingham and one of seven children.  He went to school at St Paul’s Infants school, Spencer Street, then as a junior transferred to St Paul’s Camden Grove, where he was regarded as being a clever pupil.  After school he had various factory jobs, but immediately before going into the RAF he was working as a shop assistant at Perks’ the local Grocers.  When he first joined up he was in the Military Police and  a sister recalls him coming home with his gun to apprehend someone who had deserted.  Charlie volunteered for flying duties and after training joined 100 Squadron at RAF Waltham near Grimsby on 6th January 1944.  He was a tall very smart man who was popular with the ladies and enjoyed a beer at home with Jack and crew whenever he could.  In mid February after a good night out on leave one of his sisters (then aged 9) remembers wearing his big flying boots and stomping around the crews bodies on the floor asleep .

 

Air Gunner's Brevet

Sergeant S.SMITH 1583052 RAF
Sidney Smith was a replacement rear gunner for the crew’s regular gunner Fred Whitehouse. Fred had been having trouble with his ears and in a letter home J.J.Lapes had said he thought that Fred would have to give up flying. The Common Wealth War Graves Commission does not list Sid’s next of kin or list his age. So Sid is a bit of a mystery, we do not know what he looks like as the official picture was taken in January 1944 and shows Fred on the right hand side.  The 100 squadron operational record book for January 1944 shows that Sid was already with the squadron and on 2nd Jan he was posted to No.12 Base Binbrook as non-effective sick.  By the end of February  Sid was fit to fly again and he returned to the squadron for operational duty on 7th March.

 

Navigator's Brevet

Flying Officer R.F. EMERY 142356 RAF

Ron, the youngest of six, was born in Cambridgeshire 6th August 1915. The family moved to High Wycombe and he went to Priory Road School and then the Royal Grammar School. He went on to study physical education and sport at Culham College and he took up an assistant teaching post at Mill End Road School.

A keen cricketer he played for High Wycombe cricket club  as a fast bowler.  On two occassion in 1937 he bowled for Bucks in the minor counties championship. It was at Mill End School where he met Enid and they were married in late 1939.

F/O R.F.Emery 142356 RAF

Ron volunteered for aircrew duties in the RAF and in 1939 he was called up. He trained in Scotland and South Africa, he beacame a Sergeant in April 43 and in October he was promoted to Pilot Officer. After two years abroad he posted back to England. Ron is not shown in the 100 squadron operational record books so it is presumed he worked for Group 1 in High Wycombe.   Ron’s role in the crew was as a second navigator and it is likely that he was there to help Phil Atha with wind finding duties. The RAF were experimenting with methods to improve navigation and a “navigation team” would become more common later in 1944/45. As a team the 2nd navigator would collect data and the 1st navigator would process the data.  He first flew with Ken Evans and crew on the 18/19th March to Frankfurt as supporters to the Path Finder Force.