The Godmanchester Stirling

The CrewThis aircraft, captained by Squadron Leader Drummond Wilson, was one of 18 Stirling bombers which were part of a raid on the German city of Essen on the night of the 10th/11th April 1942.
Over the city they were 'coned' by searchlights and badly damaged by anti-aircraft fire.

Drummond, and his co-pilot 19yr old Sgt David Southey, coaxed the stricken bomber back to RAF Alconbury. However with wheels down on final approach they were ordered to go 'around' as there was an aircraft on the runway without permission.

As they flew over Godmanchester a damaged oil pipe broke, both starboard engines cut out and the plane came down in an area close to the A14/Cow Lane.

Drummond and the Mid Upper Gunner, Sgt Edgar Gould, were killed. Of the six that survived, three would not live to see the end of the war. The Navigator, Flying Officer Clifford Reeve, went back into the burning aircraft to rescue two crew members despite being severely injured himself.

For his actions that day he was awarded a military MBE which he received from the King in December 1942 at Buckingham Palace.

This site is dedicated to the crew of Stirling N3703, their fellow XV Squadron colleagues and the men of Bomber Command. My book 'Stirling to Essen' tells their remarkable tale.

Pilot Officer Norman Robson

Norman and Drummond had an enduring friendship, this came from their time training together in Scotland having joined the RAF. Whilst Drummond would eventually go into Bomber command, Norman would join Fighter Command with 72 Squadron flying Spitfires. When the opportunity arose, they would meet up, as they did in 1941 when Drummond was pictured driving 'Elmer' (see Squire Supercharged page for image)

Norman was born on the 5th February 1914 at 27 Cliff Town Road, Southend on Sea, Essex.  Amazingly this was the day after his best friend Drummond Wilson was born in Kilmarnock. Here is the would be 'Spitfire' pilot of the Battle of Britain 


And Norman in the School 'Pierrot Party in 1924, he is sat in the middle (without the hat!)


And a wonderful photo of Norman with his sister Marjorie. 

Norman (left) canduing with a friend, Norman actually built a canoe in the basement of 27 Cliff Town Road but had to take an axe to it when it proved to be too big to get it out!

A wonderful portrait of Norman Robson, taken in June 1932, when he was 18.

Despite initially being interested in joining the Navy due to his seaside connection through life on the  Essex coast, his friends at the Yacht Club suggested he joined the RAF. Which he did on 17th January 1938 at 11 Civil Flying School in Perth, Scotland, as one of the earliest pupil pilot intakes. It is here where he first met Drummond Wilson.  Drummond front row third left, Norman front row third right.

 Below: Summer 1938 and men of the Flying Training School, Tern Hill, Shropshire look very much the finished product. And the two friends are still there, Norman third row far right, Drummond front row third right. They are all Acting Pilot Officers now! 


Below: Norman at the controls of a 72 Squadron Spitfire RH-H taken in April 1939, RN was their call sign from October 1938-  April 1939 when it was changed to SD. 

Below: Spitfire K9927 of 72 Squadron which crashed on landing on the 19th July 1939 after it suffered undercarriage failure on landing. Norman wrote 'What a memory!' against the photo. Norman is possibly the man stood directly beneath the crane hook.

Norman and Grace's wedding at St John the Baptist, Kirkby Wharfedale, 2nd September 1939.  


A wonderful photograph taken just after the Dunkirk evacuation in June 1940. 72 Squadron had been based in the  North East but moved to Gravesend to support the withdrawal from the beaches. This would have been Normans first action of the war. Grace (centre with sunglasses) cannot hide her pride at the part her husband played. The Squadron then returned to RAF Acklington where it covered the North East against Luftwaffe raids.  

Normans first recorded 'kill' was during the Luftwaffe's raid on the north East Airfields, Ports and Factories on the 15th August 1940. Normans squadron, along with other squadrons, engaged a large formation of enemy bombers and their escort fighters.  30 miles off the Farne Islands he attacked a Heinkell 1-11 (similar to the ones pictured here) and after a few bursts watched it go down into the North Sea.  

The Farne Islands as seen from Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland

Squadron leader Norman Robson photographed in 1953

A 72 Squadron Spitfire as photographed by Norman's son Drummond Robson. This aircraft is on display at the Cosford Air Museum, whilst there he mentioned to one of the staff there that his father flew with 72 Squadron. On checking the log book they found one entry dated 29th November 1939 'Dawn Patrol 07.20hrs - 08.25hrs, no enemy sighted' written by none other than Pilot Officer Norman Robson. 





Hi, Welcome to my little shop. It's not big, but every time you buy something here you help The Godmanchester Stirling Fund raise money for local and national causes. Payment is via Paypal or cheque, cash payments accepted locally.

The signed copies available are all limited in numbers, so can go quickly and each one is quite unique. So let's start with.                                                                           

'Stirling to Essen' Author Signed and Dedicated copies are available for £20 (+£2.50 P&P)

'Stirling to Essen' Author signed and dedicated, but also including an autographed card signed by John Nichol (XV Squadron Tornado Navigator / Gulf War POW) £30 (+£2.50 P&P)

'Saved by the Bell' by Ron Needle, Bomber Command Veteran Ron's own book telling his miraculous story of survival against the odds. Copies signed by Ron himself £10 (+ £1.50 P&P) 


'MacRoberts Reply' by Philip Hamlyn and Philip Jeffs, the amazing story of Warrant Officer Donald Jeffs, the only survivor of the MacRoberts Reply (F for Freddie) XV Squadron Stirling which was shot down over Denmark. A sister aircraft to The Godmanchester Stirling (G for 'Goblin'), Donald's best friend was a Len Gornall, a member of Drummond Wilsons crew. Signed by six Bomber Command Veterans at this years Flying Legends Air Show 2018 at IWM Duxford £15 (+£1.50 P&P) Veterans are Geo Dunn DFC LdeH (10, 76 and 608 Squadron), Jo Lancaster (40 and 12 Squadron), John Bell DFC LdeH (617 and 619 Squadron), Gerry Norwood (460 Squadron RAAF), Rusty Waughman DFC AFC LdeH (101 Special Duties Squadron) and Harry Parkins (630, 576 and 50 Squadron)







Book Signings

I'm extremely grateful for the support of various retailers, who have allowed me to carry out book signings in their stores. £5 from every book sale goes to their chosen charity/charities. On average each signing sells between 20-25 copies, with Tesco Hampton Peterborough setting the record at 34 (which I hope to beat with a repeat performance in late November 2018)

Tesco have been most supportive with three at Huntingdon, two at Hampton Peterborough and one at St Neots. Wyevale, now Dobbies, of Wyton have permitted three events, Frosts, Brampton one, Van Hage Peterborough one, John Lewis Peterborough one, Ely Cathedral one and The Grafton Centre, Cambridge one.


Below: The book launch at the Imperial War Museum Duxford 'Flying Legends' Weekend JULY 2017


Below: Tesco Huntingdon and Wyevale Wyton.


Below: Van Hage, Peterborough and Tesco, Hampton, Peterborough


Below: Tesco Huntingdon (again) and Wyevale Wyton (again)


Below: Ely Cathedral August 2018


Below: Tesco Hampton Peterborough, November 2018 and another record set, £800 worth sold in one day! £160 to be split between Tesco's three charities. 





History Talks Available

The Godmanchester Stirling story originally started as a talk, and very popular it was/is too. Since then I've built up a number of talks which are available to Historical Societies and Groups, my speakers fee is £50. This is donated to The Godmanchester Stirling Fund and donated to local and national causes.

The Godmanchester Stirling: Covering the life of Squadron Leader Drummond Wilson and his crew. Their amazing story became a book in 2017, which went to re-print in February 2018. The talk gives great overview of Drummonds life, the history of XV Squadron from October 1941 through to April 1942, and the men who flew with him. Who were they, where did they come from and what became of them and their families.

'House of Spies' This new 2018 talk set Buckden History Society's all time record attendance, and is now proving popular with other groups. It looks at the WW2 activities within Farm Hall, Godmanchester, an SIS (Special Intelligence Service) establishment, a story of secret agents dropped into occupied Europe, remarkable RAF officers and one 'hero' Cocker Spaniel. 

Father and Son: The story of William Rhodes-Moorhouse of the Portholme Aircraft Company and first RFC airmen to be awarded a Victoria Cross and also his son, Willy, a Battle of Britain Hurricane pilot. Two remarkable aviators who served their country in the finest traditions of the RFC and RAF. However with William you may have to make your own mind as to what sort on=f man he truly was.    

Godmanchester and the Great War: Based on the walk by the same name it gives an insight into the men who fought and died during the Great War and life in Godmanchester as a whole during the conflict.

Godmanchester and WW2: This contains elements of the WW2 walk, but includes more detail and visuals. A fascinating insight into the town, its men (and woman) who made the ultimate sacrifice and some amazing background to the town during the conflict, from Dunkirk, to spies, to D-Day, even our very own Dad's Army. This talk has it all and more besides. A LOT happened in Godmanchester from 39-45

Contact me on 01480 383460 to book your talks.