Frederick George James is the fifth child of Ernest and Mary Ellen James (nee Thompson). Their family consisted of Mary, Cyril, Audrey, Ernest Frederick and Alfred.
Their childhood address was Hill Close, Ashford-in-the-Water, Bakewell.
Ashford-in-the-Water Fred was born in Ashford in 1920. He might have been destined to work on the railway like his father, a signalman based variously at Hazelgrove, Buxton and Bakewell.
| |Hazel Grove Signalbox
Fate had a very different plan in store for Fred and it seemed to lay an unsuspected marker when he was only about eight years old.
| ||A Flying Circus had come to Bakewell, taking off and landing from the present Lady Manners School site and it was Fred who a competition in the High Peak News for a free flight in a biplane. |
Flying was still a rare experience, a mix of thrill and trepidation for a small boy sitting behind the pilot in an open cockpit. Fred would later become a pupil at Lady Manners School which he left aged 14.
Barely out of his teenage years, he received his call up papers and managed to get into the RAF, entering service life in 1941.
The Primary Air Crew Receiving Centre was at Lords Cricket Ground and Fred has his medical in the famous Long Room there.
After three weeks at Lords as a Pilot Under Training, he moved on to the Initial Training Wing at Babbacombe, Torquay for courses including mathematics and navigation.
His studies barely behind him, he next found himself at Liverpool on board the Highland Princess, a liner which had been taken over as a troop ship, bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The Battle of The Atlantic was under way but in the event, it was the weather which made for a dreadfully rough crossing.
Fred's destination was the (then) neutral U.S.A. and a place under the Arnold Scheme - an aircrew training scheme, established to overcome both uncertain weather and German aircraft in the skies over Britain.
RAF personnel were sent to Florida to be trained as pilots under a scheme made possible by the passage of the U.S. Lend-Lease Act in 1941. Although the Arnold Scheme (named after Henry H. Arnold, the Commander General of the U.S. Army Air Corps) enabled thousands of RAF pilots to be trained in the U.S.A., it is an almost unknown corner of the Second World War.
Primary training was undertaken in the Boeing Stearman, the U.S. Army Air Corps PT-17, which was first constructed in 1934. It had a span of 9.8 metres, a length of 7.54 metres and its 200 h.p. motor gave it a maximum speed of 300 km/hour. It was therefore more powerful than the De Havilland Tiger Moth with its 130 h.p. engine maximum speed of 167 km/hour used by the R.A.F. for pilot training.
The fine weather of the south-eastern states of America allowed flying almost every day and Fred soon made his first solo flight over Albany, Georgia in a Stearman.
Boeing Stearman PT-17
All the British airmen had gone over as civilians, and in their civvy suits, but were immediately ordered back into uniform with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on the 7th December 1941.
| R.A.F. Wings|
On a never to be forgotten day in May 1942 at Montgomery, Alabama, Fred graduated as a fully-fledged pilot and was presented with his much coveted wings, aged 22.
Returning to Britain, he was posted to fly an Oxford, his first twin-engined plane. Then came the Operation Training Units (OTUs) and the experience of flying Wellington Bombers from Castle Donington, now Nottingham and East Midlands Airport.
Oxford Twin-engineWellington Bomber
It was the outcome of a Wellington flight in December 1942 that almost claimed Fred's life when, in bad weather, conditions forced a crash landing, killing one of the crew and 'putting half of Nottingham out of lights'.
Fred was thrown clear of the cockpit but remembered nothing of the next ten days as he lay unconscious in hospital. He awoke to see a figure in a white gown arranging Christmas decorations and thought that he'd gone to Heaven.
Many years later, Fred and his wife Myfanwy returned to the crash scene and were put in touch with the doctor who had turned out to help that night in 1942. He told them of looking at the pilot and declaring "There's no hope for him!".
After his convalescence, Fred returned to operational flying. His first operation flight in March 1944 was leaflet raid over Argentan, France.
| BOMBER COMMAND|
22nd/23rd March 1944
20 O.T.U. Wellingtons carried out leaflet flights to France without loss. Argentan-Sur-Creusewhere Fred and crew dropped leaflets
He progressed to the four engined Halifax bombers but "...didn't care very much for them, they were big and heavy".
Then came the Lancaster Finishing School, flying 'wonderful, marvellous Lancasters'. Fred told himself 'I've arrived at last, this is IT - the cream of the R.A.F.' He was posted to 101 Squadron Bomber Command at Ludford Magna, Lincolnshire.
Between June and November 1944, Fred flew numerous raids over enemy territory with the purpose of disrupting supply lines. He stressed that the targets always had a military aspect including oil refineries, railway marshalling yards and submarine bases. This meant attacking areas such as Keil, Cologne, Stuttgart and Essen- where his Lancaster was over target when its windscreen was shot out by anti-aircraft shell.
One memorable dawn raid played a role in the massive carpet bombing of Caen, thereby freeing up the advance of the allied army. Success also followed in an air offensive over Walcheren Island off the Dutch coast: here a protective sea wall was massively breached, creating a deluge that engulfed a heavy German artillery emplacement.
During a raid over Germany itself, Fred came under attack from a Messerchmitt but escaped with only a punctured fuel tank.
His closest shave came during the D-Day operations over Rhiems.
|The following is an article entitled|
Running The Gauntlet
Fred, second from right with 5 of his crew members
Fred finished his tour of operations on the 2nd November 1944. The group photograph, taken the next morning, shows him standing 2nd from the right amongst the Lancaster crew.He subsequently flew with the Coastal Command Development Unit based at Thorney, helping to identify the most effective bomb sight for moving targets at sea. It was at Thorney that he learned he had awarded the highly esteemed Distinguished Flying Cross.Off duty one day, and beachcoming at Thorney Island, he came across a Lancaster escape hatch - to this day he wonders whether it was the one he lost.Flying Dakotas for a short time in 1945, Fred remained fully operational until the end of the war. He had survived the dangers of life as a bomber pilot, completing almost 40 raids over Germany and enemy occupied territory.
It should be noted though, that throughout his wartime recollections, his emphasis has been on 'we' not 'I'.
Back in civilian life, Fred returned to Ashford for a time and went into teaching. He held posts at Rowsley, Bonsall, Matlock and Bakewell Senior Boy's School, then spent 10 years at Lady Manners teaching mainly maths.
|Roberts - James|
Fred married Myfanwy Roberts on the 6th August 1949 at Talybont Chapel.
Officiating was the Rev. Eric Jones. Mrs Meredith Jones was the organist.
Given away by her father, the bride was gowned in white silk tafetta with a matching lace veil. She carried a bouquet of dark red carnations.
The bridesmaids were her sister, Miss Jean Roberts, attired in a pink tafetta gown with matching head-dress, and the misses Sheila and Shirley Smith, the bridegroom's nieces, in blue crepe silk gowns. All had matching accessories and carried bouquets of pink carnations.
Mr Alfred James, the bridegroom's brother, was best man, and the groomsmen were Mr Eric Roberts, the bride's brother and Messers W.O. Davies and D.R. Roberts.
Following a reception at the Gwydr Cafe, Llanrwst, the couple left for Port Erin, Isle of Man, the bride travelling in a navy coat and powder-blue accessories.
The bride was a staff nurse at the Whitworth Hospital, Matlock, Derbyshire, and the bridegroom is on the teaching staff of Bonsall Endowed Boys School.
He served as a flight lieutenant (pilot) with the R.A.F. during the war.
Many readers of the Peak Advertiser will remember the day of his retirement in 1982, when a Vulcan bomber made three breathtaking flypasts over Lady Manners School as a tribute to their war time hero.
Ex pupils still recall that memorable day.
Also in recognition of his DFC, the people of Ashford presented Flight Lieutenant Frederick George James with a cigar box carved from Chatsworth Oak, by Hunstones of Tideswell.
Fred held a part time retirement post
as a warden at Chatsworth House,
home of the Duke and Duchess
On the 11th September 2006, 1001 Squadron Bomber Command held its annual reunion at Ludford Magna.
The only Lancaster still flying in Britain was expected to make a flypast, but was sadly prevented from doing so by poor weather conditions.
Fred died on the
5th April 2011