ROYAL AIR FORCE
10TH MAY 1944
So reads the inscription on one of the nine Commonwealth War Graves in the Lezennes Communal Cemetery, near Lille in France. It commemorates the flight engineer of LM475, one Kenneth Harold Tabor.
Ken is third from the left:
But it was Mollie Smith’s superb archive of letters which revealed the first clue. Wing Commander Bill Brill – the 467 Sqn Commanding Officer at the time of the Lille operation – wrote to Don Smith in September 1944 to advise contact details for the next-of-kin of the rest of Phil’s crew. A Mr J Tabor lived at 104 Castle Rd, Winton, Bournemouth, Brill wrote (A01-074-001).
My first step, then, was suggested by my good friend Max Williams . He provided the addresses of four Tabors listed in the Oxford/Bournemouth phone book. I wrote letters to each… but of the four, one was no relation and the other three were all related to each other, but not to the Tabors I was searching. Call that a dead end.
Steve on the Lancaster Archive Forum suggested doing a search on the FreeBMD website. This turned up a K H Tabor, born in 1924 in Christchurch, Bournemouth. His mother’s maiden name, the record said, was Lanham. This would have made Ken 20 at the time of his death – young, but certainly plausible. The trick, though, would be to try and match that record to the ‘right’ K H Tabor. I needed to go overseas to find the next clue.
I had a few days at the end of my UK travels in June 2010 to spend at the British Library, intending to try and find what I could on the two remaining members of the crew. Sadly most of their electoral records were ‘in transit’ to another storage location when I visited so only selected records were available on microfilm. Luckily for me, this included parts of the Bournemouth rolls. I spent perhaps half an hour grappling with the microfilm machine before I came across what I was looking for. There, at 104 Castle Rd, Winton, were listed John Albert and Dorothy Violet Tabor.
Ancestry.com was my next stop – which revealed a marriage record for a John A Tabor to a Dorothy Violet Lanham-Smith in 1919 in Christchurch.
I had a match.
Further searching revealed more tidbits. John Tabor was born in 1894 in Poole, Dorset. He died in 1956 in Bournemouth. Dorothy was born in 1899, and died in 1978 in Poole, Dorset. A letter from Sydney Pate to Don Smith in November 1944 suggests that they also had a daughter.
At the time of writing I have not yet managed to find the final link to living next of kin. The next step I think will be to obtain copies of the death certificates for Ken’s parents from the Bournemouth record office – which I’m hoping will allow me to find a newspaper death notice. My hope is that I can use that to find names for surviving next-of-kin… and the process then starts again.
In 2004, Freda Hamer visited the cemetery in Lezennes. In front of Ken’s headstone when Freda arrived was a small bouquet of flowers. This is encouraging. To me, it seems certain that someone, somewhere, still remembers Ken Tabor.
All I need to do is find that someone.
© 2010 Adam Purcell