Family’s fascinating collection reveals the life of Second World War Lancaster bomber

World War II documents and photograph.
World War II documents and photograph.

Ahead of Remembrance Sunday, Daniel Jaines meets a family whose documents and letters shed light on the life ofa Lancaster bomber who bravely served in the Second World War before being lost without trace...

The sister of a Boston lad lost during the Second World War and remembered on memorials in the town and in Runymede has revealed the family letters and pictures her mother kept.

James William Broughton

James William Broughton

Wendy Wilson, 70, of Boston, acquired the collection of letters and pictures relating to brother James William Broughton after her mother died and has kept them ever since.

She said: “I can’t part with them. There’s a lot of personal letters and I just keep them safe.

“I hope to hand them down. There’s no way I will give them away.

An air gunner, James joined the RAF in March 1943 and just over a year later, on May 21/22, he, along with the rest of the aircrew on his Lancaster bomber were lost without trace on a raid on the city of Duisburg in the Ruhr industrial area of Germany.

Mrs Wilson said she was later told by her other brother that James was on a secret pathfinding mission at night and that he had volunteered for the mission.

The items include photos of James and other RAF members, letters he sent to his parents and the telegram sent when he went missing.

In one letter James jokes that it had been so long since he had received a letter he thought his parents had forgotten him, saying the letter was a ‘grand surprise’.

He thanks them for the cigarettes they sent and then proceeds to tell them about receiving his flying kit.

This includes the flying helmet, oxygen mask and battle dress.

In the letter he writes: “You ought to have seen me putting it on. First you put on the battle dress, which is like the army’s only its Air Force blue in colour.

“Then a silk suit, yes I mean silk, better stuff than silk stockings are made of too, it’s real silk.”

He goes on to describe the how everything fastens with zip-fasteners, the gaberdine suit with ‘smashing’ fur collar which ‘comes right up past your ears’.

“Then there come flying boots with one of those soles, that you put in a shoe to make it fit better, but it is lined 1/2 inch thick with sheep-wool, and so are the boots,” he writes.

“You should see me when I’m dressed up, the perfect flyer.”

Also in Mrs Wilson’s collection is a message from King George offering his and the Queen’s sympathy, and a programme for the unveiling and dedication of a memorial at Boston Grammar School.

On it there are names including: Arthur Appleby, Stanley Rans Ashton, Ronald Arthur Brant, Walter Henry Brunning, Raymond Jack Cross, Frederick John Day, James Arthur Richard Eley and Arthur Herbert Greenfield.

* James William Broughton was 20 years old when he died. He was the son of James Edward and Charlotte E. Brougton, of Sherwood Avenue, Boston. He was educated at Park Board School,and then at Boston Grammar School. He left the school to work as a clerk with seed merchants W. Sinclair and Son until he joined the RAF.