Homage to Sugar

Today’s phonetic alphabet goes … Romeo, Sierra, Tango, but in the 1940s S was for Sugar.  In this post S-Sugar is a Lancaster bomber with a long list of raids.  My connection is that my uncle, Leading Aircraftman Frank Dennis, serviced the electrics and instruments on this very aircraft.  I blogged about this in Sugar Survives!.

Lancaster S 1 (480x211)
Lancaster bomber S-Sugar

I prefer this dark, sinister and menacing image of a night-time assassin, but a bit more detail can be seen in the next, adjusted image.  In the hangar the lighting is quite low and the underside in shadow, as it would have been when setting off on a raid, with only starlight or non-full moonlight.  The people serve to show just what a monster this was.  The wingspan was 102 ft (31 metres).

Lancaster S 1 brighter (480x211)
Lancaster S-Sugar, brighter.

Uncle Frank never mentioned Grand Slam, so I suspect he never saw one, as it was expensive and used sparingly on the most difficult targets – see board below.

Lancaster grand slam 2 (480x267)
Grand Slam. Barnes Wallis designed this 22,000 lb “earthquake” bomb to bury itself and destroy foundations of large structures.
Information board about Avro Lancaster.
Lancaster S 2 bomb bay w blockbuster
Lancaster bomb bay with blockbuster bomb, at 12,000 lb, also designed by Barnes Wallis.


Lancaster S 9 (480x272)
S-Sugar, scale and unit markings.
Lancaster S board
S-Sugar, brief history, information board.


In its long career this Lancaster carried two sets of unit markings and three different designs of unofficial nose art work. These drawings show the aircraft in No. 83 Squadron markings as Q-Queenie and No. 467 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force as ‘S-Sugar’. The photographs illustrate the nose art work.

Whilst with No. 83 Squadron the aircraft carried a painting depicting a devil with the words “Devils of the Air”. On moving to No. 467 Squadron RAAF, ‘Q-Queenie’ was recoded ‘S-Sugar’ and received a fresh nose decoration of a kneeling nude supporting a bomb. Finally, whilst based at Waddington, it acquired the bomb-log and Goering’s foolishly extravagant claim.

Lancaster S Goering (480x353)
“No enemy plane will fly over the Reich territory”.  Herman Goering.

Sadly, the 467 Squadron badge is not on display, and although I reproduce the famous 617 “Dambusters” Squadron badge below, there is no connection, except the “Lanc”.

dambusters badge (480x449)
Badge for 617 “Dambusters” Squadron.  Apres moi le deluge.

Clearly, the RAF Museum at Hendon is not just about this one aircraft.  The exhibits are well presented, with lots of explanatory material, and it is well worth a visit.  Entry is free, but you will have to pay £3 or £4 for parking.  The nearest tube stop is Colindale on the Northern Line.  Some rebuilding work is going on in anticipation of the centenary of the RAF in 2018, so some exhibits are not available.  I will return!

The King & Castle

Have I at long last found that illustrious ancestor connected to royalty?  Sadly, no.  This is about a trip last week to the Severn Valley Railway (SVR).  The King & Castle is the public house forming part of Kidderminster station, the eastern terminus of the heritage railway that runs through the Severn valley from Bridgnorth, Shropshire.  Speed has to Continue reading “The King & Castle”

Plane spotting: D-Day deception

lancaster silhouette front

Some time ago I suggested to BrownhillsBob that some images from an aircraft recognition manual from 1944 might be of interest. I am only just getting round to it.

I inherited the manual, which I think belonged to my late uncle Walter Dennis, who, after his shift at Kynoch, Perry Barr, Birmingham, was charged with spotting aircraft movements. There was a network of such people across the country: the Royal Observer Corps. They reported their observations to operations rooms by field telephone, which helped with decisions about defence against air raids, for example directing anti-aircraft artillery and fighter aircraft. Continue reading “Plane spotting: D-Day deception”

1939 and all that

chapel street 43 (640x452)
Rear view of 43 Chapel Street, Brownhills, by Joan Jackson.

A while back I looked at my father’s family as war approached – also 1939 and all that.  Now I visit my mother’s family, name of Brown, who lived at 41 Chapel Street.  Number 41 is the house beyond the hedge on the right of the painting.  The artist was Joan Jackson, who lived later at 43 with her husband Les.  Number 41 was where I spent the first year of my life and where my mother grew up.

I pointed out that searching the 1939 Register, online via Findmypast, can be a frustrating exercise, as the records of many people who are long dead remain locked because they have not been updated to anything like the present.  This time it would be more difficult.  I would have to break in by the back door.

Continue reading “1939 and all that”

Charles Boulton

Cenotaph, Ogley Hay, south face.

Charles was born about 1887, son of John Boulton and Sarah, formerly Aldridge, probably in the Wilkin area (officially Norton Canes) of Brownhills, Staffordshire. In 1891 4 year old Charles lived at “Wilkin”, where John was a coal miner, as were two older brothers; older sister Rose was a dressmaker’s apprentice.

In 1901, Charles (14) was a colliery horse driver (below ground), among the more dangerous underground occupations. Rose was a fully fledged dressmaker.

By 1911, Charles had moved to Kingsbury, Warwickshire, one of 5 boarders with widow Mrs Susannah Latham. Charles was a coal hewer.

488673 C.Q.M.S. Charles Boulton was among those most unfortunate of men who died on 11 November 1918, the last day of World War One. He served with the 466th Field Company, Royal Engineers. C.Q.M.S. stood for Company Quarter Master Sergeant, the second most senior non-commissioned officer, next to the Company Sergeant Major.

Walsall Observer and Staffordshire Chronicle 30 Nov 1918.

Charles was first deployed to France on 1 March 1915. From 12 May 1915 the 466th (2nd North Midland) Field Company (a Territorial Force formed at Cannock in August 1914) was assigned to the 46th (North Midland) Division. In 1915 the Division saw action in the German liquid fire attack at Hooge (30-31 July) and the attack at Hohenzollern Redoubt (13 October), where they “behaved with distinguished gallantry worthy of the best traditions of the British Army”. Next they were ordered to Egypt.

After just a few days in Egypt, the order was countermanded and they saw out the rest of the war in France and Flanders. In 1916 they were involved in the diversionary attack at Gommecourt; in 1917 several engagements including occupation of the Gommecourt defences (4 March), the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line and the Battle of Hill 70 (15-25 August); in 1918 including the Battles of Cambrai , the Selle and Sambre. (1)

It appears that key roles for the 466th were the erection of telegraph poles and wiring and construction of pontoon bridges, which necessitated recruitment of many horses from Norton Canes and surrounding areas. They also assisted with tunneling, putting their coal mining experience to use. Reparing trenches was also and important role, which could be very exposed to enemy fire, especially snipers. Other work included cutting brushwood, camouflaging, clearing roots and digging firebays. Perhaps the most challenging of tasks was capturing and repairing bridges, such as those at Riquerval and Gorre, where they exposed to intense enemy fire.

“They also carried out repairs on gas blankets and making billets gas proof. These precautions were very necessary as the men of the 466th Field Company found out on the 7th May. The Staffords and two sections of the sappers had their trenches at Lievin bombarded by gas projectiles. 27 sappers had to be placed under medical supervision due to being slightly affected by the gas.” (2)

On Armistice Day, 11 November 1918 the forward units were at Sains-du-Nord. In early January 1919 demobilisation began at Le Cateau.


According to the local press, CQMS Charles Boulton died that day of influenza in hospital at Rouen, France. Charles was awarded the British War and Victory Medals. His widow, Clara, would receive £43 1s. They had married in the first quarter of 1914. There were no children. Charles is commemorated at St Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, France.

Image from Discovering Anzacs, reproduced under Creative Commons – http://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/gallery/768

(1) The Long, Long Trail, The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/order-of-battle-of-divisions/46th-north-midland-division/

(2) Much more detail is given in https://www.cannockchasedc.gov.uk/custom/WW1/norton-canes-royal-engineers.html, which focuses on soldiers from Norton Canes.

1939 and all that: PS

This is a postscript to 1939 and all that.  A visit to Grandad’s house, which stood, and still stands, at the corner of Castle Street and Watling Street, Brownhills, West Midlands.

“The Crest” today.  On the left.
The brothers Dennis:  L to R: Derrick (my father), Frank, Walter, Alan, at “The Crest”.

I can’t be sure about when and why this photo was taken, but it would be about the right time.  Uncle Frank had a camera by then and I guess Grandad Sam Dennis is pressing the shutter button.  At the outbreak of war in September 1939 these chaps would be aged (again L to R) 13, 16 , 26, and 21, which looks about right.  It might have been Alan’s 21st birthday, but I doubt anyone really knows.

Given that Grandparents had lived through World War One they might have expected their sons to be called up to some kind of action, with the chance that they might not come back, and it would be natural to take the opportunity.   I am pretty sure that by then Frank had a camera and probably developed the film himself.

As it turned out they were all able to celebrate VE Day and VJ Day unharmed.


A Christmas Wedding

Edwin and Florence Brown
Edwin and Florence Brown.  Sadly, I don’t know of a surviving wedding photograph.

Ebenezer Scrooge thought it very inconvenient to give his clerk Bob Cratchit a whole day off on Christmas Day. (If you have not seen the movie “Scrooge” in which the title character is played by the wonderful Alistair Sim, you have missed something special.) By the time my mother’s parents were ready to wed things had changed, but Christmas Day was still one of the few days off work for a coal miner in wartime. So they married on Christmas Day ninety nine years ago today.


By that time there were ten bank holidays. For previous generations holidays were few and far between and weddings on Christmas Day were popular. For a time they were known as “penny weddings” – the couple had to pay a penny for the privilege – note the stamp on the Certificate of Marriage. Why they chose Christmas Day cannot now be known and they will almost certainly be the last of Andrew’s Kindred to be married on this day.

Anyway, there are better things to be doing!