Another Satisfied Customer

In July last year I wrote here about a 463 Squadron Flight Engineer named Sergeant Peter Taylor, and his sister-in-law, Joni, who has been trying to find relatives of Sgt Taylor’s crew. I published the names of the rest of the crew on the blog, in the hope that it might attract a passing Google search.

And it did.

At the end of January I received a blog comment from a lady named Susan Little, the niece and God-daughter of the only survivor from the crew, bomb aimer Flight Sergeant Tom Malcolm. It’s taken a little bit of too-ing and fro-ing but Joni and Susan are now in touch with each other. Susan’s sent copies of a photo of Tom and his crew:

tom-malcolm-007 copy

The men wearing the white lifejackets are Sgt taylor and his crew (the others are their ground crew). Aircrew in the back row, left to right are pilot P/O J.F. Martin, wireless operator F/S G.W. Bateman and bomb aimer F/S Tom Malcolm. In the front row, left to right, airmen are flight engineer Sgt Peter Taylor, navigator W/O Bernard Kelly, mid-upper gunner F/S L.G.L. Hunter and F/S Bramwell Barber.

There’s also this photo from Susan, showing some of the crew outside a pub:

tom-malcolm-008 copy

Bramwell Barber is on the far left, Tom Malcolm is next to him. The airman in the middle is unidentified. Next along is Peter Taylor, and on the far right is skipper J.F. Martin.

Once again, the power of the internet is demonstrated. Two people, on opposite sides of the planet, brought together simply through a little bit of curiosity, a blog post and the wonders of the Google search algorithm. I’m happy I was able to help. And finding Susan has inspired Joni to continue her search for the rest of her brother in law’s crew.

I’d call that another satisfied customer!

© 2013 Adam Purcell

(Edited 13MAR13 with identification of Peter Taylor in photos following correspondence from Joni)

Does a blog count?

When Bomber Command: Failed to Return was in its final stages of preparation before printing, Steve Darlow, the publisher, asked all the contributing authors to write a short bio for the front flap. “This is your chance to crow unabashed about your work to date”, he wrote.

With precisely no published work to date, for me this was going to be a challenge. My first attempt was pretty lame. But then Steve wondered, what about my blog? Surely that’s a significant piece of work?

That was an interesting point. A blog by definition is something quite personal, where literally anything that I want can be published for all to read without requiring the rigorous editing and reviewing that goes into a traditional book. There are thousands, if not millions, of blogs out there, all of varying quality and accuracy. I hadn’t considered my own to be worthy of much ‘crowing’, and I suppose it’s telling of my mindset at the time that I was excited about Bomber Command: Failed to Return being my first piece of ‘proper’ in-print writing. But then I thought about it. The button I will click on to send this post spinning into cyberspace is marked ‘Publish’. And once I have clicked that button, my words can be read by anyone with an internet connection – just like a book can be read by anyone who happens to pick it up. I’ve tried to note sources as I go along and, though no-one else ever sees my posts before they go live I make sure I edit them for spelling or grammar before I hit ‘Publish’. So why can’t a blog be published work?

I’ve decided that it can indeed count as ‘work to date’, and so my bio on the front flap of Bomber Command: Failed to Return includes the web address for this blog. With the decline of the printed word on paper in society (one just needs to see the long and growing list of failed ‘traditional’ bookshops in Australia to see this), the telling of history needs to evolve. This is not at all incompatible with the idea of a traditional book. I still want to eventually write a real book, made of real paper and ink, on the tale of the crew of B for Baker and where they fit into the overall Bomber Command story. But in the meantime, this blog can help spread the word.

James Daly, an English historian specialising in the military history of Portsmouth, wrote on his Daly History blog: “Just like the internet has broken down doors for music artists, it’s done the same for historians”. Blogs give a vehicle for making history accessible, on sometimes a very local level. The stories get told – which is, of course, the most important thing – to people who want to read them.

© 2012 Adam Purcell


WordPress gives you access to some interesting tools and statistics about your blog. For example, this blog has clocked up nearly 1,500 total views since I migrated it to the WordPress platform last year. I can see which links people have clicked, both from the blog to get to other places and on other web pages to get here (hello Lancaster Archive Forum!). Most interestingly, though, it also gives me a list showing the search terms that people have used to find me (numbers show how many hits came from each term):

Some are interesting:

  • dinas dinlle world war (11)
  • air traffic control tower dinas dinlle north wales (1)
  • llandwrog caernarfon raf training in the war (1)
  • llandwrog airfield wartime (2)
  • avro lancaster outline (2)
  • gil thew (2)
  • tail end charlie fradley raf (2)
  • adam purcell (1)
  • jack purcell family (1)
  • lancaster bomber elsham crash site (1)
  • avro lancaster line drawings (1)
  • a painting of a lancaster avro in a field (1)
  • fradley airodrome during the war (1)
  • lancaster bomber crews 467 (1)
  • jude findlay and adam purcell (1)

Some probably didn’t quite find what was being searched for:

  • lancaster jb467 (4)
  • old rcaf airfields firestation (2)
  • wartime bomb shelters in scotland (2)
  • 102 squadron pocklington (2)
  • “102 squadron” (2)
  • wartime fire service models (1)
  • canberra bomber navigator station (1)
  • wartime fire service stations (1)
  • photos binbrook dispersal apron (1)
  • air traffic control dinas dinlle (1)
  • lancaster lm550 (1)
  • sir arthur harris raf gravestone (1)
  • roger audis of 9 squadron (1)
  • very big canvas (1)

Some are just plain strange:

  • raf bardney ghosts (2)
  • irish sea paintings (1)
  • how to canvas something (1)
  • is the control tower raf bardney haunted (1)
  • are jack purcells still cool? (1)
  • repainting jack purcell (1)

But every so often comes one which makes me sit up and take

  • ken tabor  (2)
  • ” lille raid “+ smith (2)
  • lm475 purcell (1)
  • navy veteran dale johnston (1)
  • don smith 463 squadron (1)
  • who was eric hill born to (1)
  • search for dale johnston (1)
  • charles erskine johnston (1)

It’s this last group that gets me a little excited. Sure, there could be many ‘Dale Johnstons’ and ‘Eric Hills’ in the world. But from these searches, someone is looking for people of that name. Could they be the same ones that I’m looking for?

The lack of any comments or emails suggests maybe not. But I’ll keep hoping. And if you are one of the people who find this blog through a search engine while looking for someone, please leave me a comment. You never know where a connection might be.

© 2011 Adam Purcell