Chance Happening Upon Cheltenham War Memorial Links Canadian Visitors With WW2 Family History

Reginald John Richard Jackson born in Cheltenham 1908,
by David Martin Jackson (his grandson) October 2014.

Reginald John Richard Jackson (WW2)

Background
My son Charlie (then 10 years old) and I visited the UK in summer 2013 and stayed for a few days in Gloucester as I knew my father’s side of the family was from that area. One afternoon we took a train to Cheltenham as I knew they had also lived there. We walked from the train station into town, did some sight-seeing and shopping before heading back to the train station to return to Gloucester and our hotel. We walked back by a different route and passed quite by accident in front of the Cheltenham Council offices and the war memorial.

Charlie at Thiepval
Charlie at Thiepval

We always stop and look as we both have an interest in military history. I served as a Canadian Artillery Officer and Charlie is currently in a pipe band the 78th Fraser Highlanders. I was very surprised to find my grandfather’s name on the memorial as I had no idea it was there. I do know that he is on the Runnymede Air Forces Memorial as I had visited it when I was young. My grandmother told me about being in a cinema after the war and seeing a film of the memorial showing the name of the famous female aviation pioneer Amy Johnson. My grandmother fainted as my grandfather’s name is right above Amy Johnson’s and it was something that she was not expecting to see.
I have also looked at my grandfather’s file at the RAF Museum in Hendon. It is quite extensive and contains some interesting material. As granddad disappeared 20 years before I was born I of course have no memory of him and he was not talked about of much by my family. Some of the items in the file did bring him much closer to me and give me an idea of what he was like as a person. I did take some photocopies and the amount of detail is interesting.

For example:
• There is a list of personal items kept at his billet including 11 ½ pairs of socks, a bicycle and a Fiat Topolino Car
• His estate included property in Eldon Road, Cheltenham where he lived, as well as rental properties in Brooklyn Road, Cheltenham and Howard Street, Gloucester. He owed the coal merchant 1 pound 19 shillings and sixpence and the Cheltenham Gas Co. 1 pound 18 shillings and four pence.
• There is a hand written letter from my grandfather to a friend offering to buy him a drink in the mess next time they met up as my grandfather had left some personal items in the gun bay of a Hurricane fighter that he had been flying and his friend retrieved them
• There is a hand written letter from my grandmother providing thanks to those who had helped in the search when he went missing and those who helped collect and pack hisbelongings
• There is a claim for a new overcoat as the one he had had become oil stained while flying an open cockpit Walrus aircraft
• There was an accident report when he overshot a runway in a Defiant fighter which he was cleared of due to faulty pilots notes with respect to the landing speed
• A second minor accident occurred when an unsecured hatch blew off a Beaufort twin engined bomber during take off
• Some medical notes including problems with his eyes and back (some eyewash and eye baths were also listed in his personal effects).

 

Details of my Grandfather’s Service
Served in 10th Royal Hussars (I have a boxing trophy from 1927 “Regimental  Middles Runner Up  Tpr (Trooper) R Jackson)
Married my grandmother Elsie May Martin from the Painswick area sometime late 1920’s. Grandmother was married 4 times (Reg the first, Tony the second, George the third and Peter the fourth as we called them).
03 Nov 1931 my father (Paul Jackson)and their only child was  born. I think the family was living in Gloucester at the time. Dad sang in the Gloucester Cathedral Choir, attended Dean Close School and then joined in RAF first as an Engineering Apprentice at Halton before going on to fly the first generation jet fighters (Meteors and Vampires during the early – mid fifties).
During the 30s granddad ran a transportation business in the Cheltenham area. He must have done fairly well as he gained a Private Flying License 25th April 1939 (which is something of a coincidence as I was born exactly 20 years later 25th April 1959). According to Grandmother he was nicknamed the “flying Dutchman” for his vigorous approach to work.
From 02 June 1941 to 10 December 1941 he served as a sergeant with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.
Somehow he talked his way into joining the Air Transport Auxiliary being assigned to elementary flight training school 8th July 1942. I assume he managed to do this based on his RAFVR experience and Private Pilot’s license though he had actually flown very few hours privately. My sister thinks that my grandmother had a lot to do with this as she was a force to be reckoned with all her life. She lived to be 96 and I miss her greatly.
Granddad served in the ATA until he went missing on the 23rd May 1945, ironically 2 weeks after VE day which was 08 May 1945. He was mostly based with No 3 Ferry Pool Hawarden (present day Chester airport). He flew over 50 different types of aircraft. My understanding is that they would be given the Pilots Notes for the aircraft and told to get on with it.
We do have his first log book which contains some interesting papers such as a hot toddy recipe, a poem that took his fancy and a few other bits and pieces. Every so often the phrase “shot up B” appears in the remarks column. This must refer to low flying over the house where grandmother (Betty) lived. As might be expected low flying aircraft were not equally appreciated by neighbours in areas that were bombed. Grandmother told a story of having the neighbours asking him to stop. Apparently grandfather was on leave and in bed when one of his friends flew a Lancaster bomber overhead at roof top height. Apparently grandfather ran out into the street in his pyjamas and yield out “It wasn’t me!”.

The Disappearance
Granddad disappeared while flying Hawker Tempest Mk V NV666 on a routine ferry flight from Hawarden to Kirkbride in Scotland. This is something of a mystery as he was never seen again and no wreckage has ever been recovered . Documentation which I have copies of indicates that weather at the time was reasonable and the aircraft was checked prior to take off and witnesses report a good take off. The route would have been mostly along the coast with only a few stretches of open water such as Morecambe Bay and the Solway Firth.

Reginald John Richard Jackson Hawker Tempest
No radio was carried so there was no distress call. An extensive search was carried out (again I have records of all the aircraft involved), but nothing was ever found. Whatever happened must have occurred quickly, so possibly at low altitude. Perhaps he realized that his future as a pilot was limited after the war and that this might be the last opportunity to fly the best, most exciting aircraft of the day. Perhaps he indulged in a little low flying over the sea and had an accident this way. Records indicate that he was a good pilot one of the last entries on his General Record is “F/O Jackson is a very keen and hard-working pilot of above average ability. Discipline has been exemplary.” signed S.W.  Ogden Cmdr. No. 3 F.P.

Reginald John Richard Jackson (WW2) #2

My father was always a great lover of conspiracy theories. He took my grandfather’s gold pocket watch to a Pyschic fair for a reading. Careful not to provide any clues that would give any information he handed the watch to a clairvoyant. She held it for a moment and then said “He died in an aircraft accident but not when you think. It was several years after the war and the wing came off an aircraft he was flying.” This just adds to the mystery but I am all for the simpler explanation.

 

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One thought on “Chance Happening Upon Cheltenham War Memorial Links Canadian Visitors With WW2 Family History

  1. Jim Corbett

    I found the article regarding Reginald John Richard Jackson who died whilst serving with the A.T.A. during WWII.

    I am researching those who died whilst serving with the A.T.A. for a possible book and I would be grateful if you could pass on my details to his grandson who wrote the article.

    Many thanks,

    Jim Corbett

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