Lewis, Kenneth Buckler, Police Constable.

Sergeant Air Gunner 1869643 No. 84 Operational Training Unit Royal Air Force

Paul Watts with thanks to Mick Hall

Remembrance Poppy
Paul Watts

Early Life.

Kenneth Buckler Lewis was born on the 30th August 1911 at Croydon.

His father, Frank William Lewis, was born on the 30th November 1895 at Westminster, Middlesex and married his mother, Maude Lucy Savill, who was born on the 11th June 1882 at White Roding, Essex, in 1905 at Rochford, Essex. They had three children:

  1. Frank Oliver Lewis born in 1905 at Rochford.
  2. Zillah Grace Lewis born in 1909 at St. George, Hanover Square.
  3. Kenneth Buckler Lewis.

During the 1911 census the family were living at 25, Newlands Road, Norbury, Croydon, Surrey and Kenneth’s father was a Metropolitan Police Detective Constable. In 1931 the Electoral Roll shows that the family were living at 6, North Villas, St. Pancras. In the 1939 Register Kenneth’s parents were living at Foxglades, Aspenden, Hertfordshire and the children had all left home. Kenneth’s father was shown as a retired Metropolitan Police Detective Inspector. In 1924 he had lead a team, at the request of the Hertford County Constabulary, that carried out enquiries into the supposed murder of a woman in a fire in 1917 at the Red Lion Public House at Aspenden. He liked the area so much that he later bought a plot of land and built a house in the village.

Kenneth Buckler Lewis Police Service.

Kenneth’s Police Service Record has not survived and his exact date of appointment to the Hertfordshire Constabulary is not known. The only known records which show he was a Hertfordshire Constable are the 1939 register, his Probate record and a reference in a Pension book that a pension was granted on the 3rd February 1944.

Marriage.

Kenneth was married on the 3rd June 1939 at the Presbyterian Church of St. Andrew and St. George, Stockton to Marjorie Picken, who was born on the 23rd January 1916 at Stockton. They had no children.

Published in the Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough on Monday 5th June 1939 under the headline Stockton Wedding: At the Presbyterian Church of St. Andrew and St. George, Stockton, on Saturday, the Rev. W, Reid officiated the marriage of Mr. Kenneth B. Lewis, youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. W. K. Lewis, of Buntingford, Herts., and Miss Marjorie Picken, eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Percy D. Picken, of Stockton. The bride’s father was for some time yard manager for W. Bainbridge, of Thornaby and is now with the successors of that firm. The bridegroom’s father, Mr. W. K. Lewis, is a retired officer of the C.I.D., Scotland Yard. The bride, who was given away by her father, wore a dress of ivory lace with an embroidered veil and earned a trailer bouquet of red roses. Two sisters of the bride, Misses Joan and Irene Picken were bridesmaids and Mr. Norman Evans, cousin of the bride, was best man.

In the 1939 register Kenneth is shown as a Police Constable living, with Marjorie, in the Police Cottage, Berkhamsted.

Kenneth Buckler Lewis Royal Air Force Service.

Kenneth’s Royal Air Force Service Record is held by the Ministry of Defence, but we know from documents that are publicly available that he enlisted at Cardington after October 1942 in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR).

The RAFVR was formed in July 1936 to provide individuals to supplement the Auxiliary Air Force (AAF) which had been formed in 1925 by the local Territorial Associations. The AAF was organised on a Squadron basis, with local recruitment similar to the Territorial Army Regiments. Initially the RAFVR was composed of civilians recruited from the neighbourhoods of Reserve Flying Schools, which were run by civilian contractors who largely employed as instructors members of the Reserve of Air Force Officers (RAFO), who had previously completed a four year short service commission as pilots in the RAF. Navigation instructors were mainly former master mariners without any air experience. Recruits were confined to men of between 18 and 25 years of age who had been accepted for part time training as Pilots, Observers and Wireless Operators. The object was to provide a reserve of aircrew for use in the event of war. By September 1939, the RAFVR comprised 6,646 Pilots, 1,625 Observers and 1,946 Wireless Operators

When war broke out in 1939 the Air Ministry employed the RAFVR as the principal means for aircrew entry to serve with the RAF. A civilian volunteer on being accepted for aircrew training took an oath of allegiance (‘attestation’) and was then inducted in to the RAFVR. Normally he returned to his civilian job for several months until he was called up for aircrew training. During this waiting period he could wear a silver RAFVR lapel badge to indicate his status.

By the end of 1941 more than half of Bomber Command aircrew were members of the RAFVR. Most of the pre-war pilot and observer NCO aircrew had been commissioned and the surviving regular officers and members of the RAFO filled the posts of flight and squadron commanders. Eventually of the “RAF” aircrew in the Command probably more than 95% were serving members of the RAFVR.

During 1943, the decision was taken by the Air Ministry to raise an order for members of the RAFVR to remove the brass and cloth ‘VR’s worn on the collars and shoulders of officers and other ranks (respectively), as these were viewed as being divisive. No similar order was raised for members of the Auxiliary Air Force, who retained their ‘A’s on uniforms at that time. (Source Forces War Records).

Kenneth was a Sergeant Air Gunner 1869643 in the No. 84 Operational Training Unit RAF (84 OTU). 84 OTU was formed in September 1943 at RAF Desborough to train night bomber crews with the Vickers Wellington.

His death certificate records that he died on the 3rd February 1944 near Scofton village Worksop, Sergeant 1869643 of 84 Operational Training Unit a Mid Upper Gunner, died due to War Operations, informant F.V. Carpenter, Station Adjutant, RAF Station Finningley.

The International Bomber Command Centre and the RAF Worksop Memorial websites show that a Vickers Wellington X Serial Number HE749 from No. 84 Operational Training Unit took off on the 3rd February 1944 from Desborough on a day time Operation. The Wellington was armed with live bombs and set out on a navigation task. At approximately 4 p.m. the Wellington, by now low on petrol, was seen closing on Worksop airfield but it seems the pilot was not happy with his approach for the engine note increased and the bomber began to overshoot. However, the angle of attack was quite steep and before levelling out the aircraft stalled, plunging to the ground with the port engine spluttering. On impact the bomb load exploded, scattering debris over a wide area and killing all seven of the crew: Flight Sergeant Colin Arthur Harrison, RNZAF (Pilot), Pilot Officer Clifford Craven Lumby (Navigator), Sergeant Howard Leighton Mein, RCAF, Flight Officer John Waring (Air Bomber), Sgt. John Robinson Ballantyne (Wireless Operator), Sgt. Kenneth Buckler Lewis (Air Gunner) and Flight Sgt. Aubrey Ernest Walter Budden (Air Gunner).

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission record shows: “In Memory of Sergeant Air Gunner Kenneth Buckler Lewis 1869643, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve who died on 3rd February 1944 Remembered with Honour Aspenden (St. Mary) Churchyard”. He is buried in the new portion of the churchyard south of the church.

Kenneth’s Probate record shows: Kenneth Buckler Lewis of the Police Cottage, Northchurch died 3rd February 1944 on war service. His effects went to his widow Marjorie Lewis.

This page was added on 19/08/2020.

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