Ferry Command loss Feb 43, Canadian civilian S.F Whatmore

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by Pat Atkins, Jan 25, 2016.

  1. Pat Atkins

    Pat Atkins Well-Known Member

    I've posted a similar query on the RAF Commands forum as well, hope it's OK to ask the same question here as I expect there's some overlap in users? Not entirely sure of the etiquette, so apologies in advance in case I'm putting my foot in it, of course. People on both sites have been extremely generous with their help in the past in researching the names on the Roll of Honour of the college where I work, and naturally I'm after all the help I can get!

    Specifically, I would welcome details of Stephen Francis Whatmore, a Canadian civilian radio-operator who was lost when an RAF Ferry Command aircraft disappeared on 7th February 1943 between British Guiana and the UK. He was 27 and married to Edith Whatmore; they lived in London. He is commemorated on the Ottowa Memorial.

    I know nothing, alas, about Ferry Command (sorry) - will there be an accessible report on the loss of this aircraft? Would Stephen Whatmore have been employed on the aircraft in some capacity, or would he have been a passenger? What directions might further research profitably take?

    The answers to these questions would be very helpful indeed in adding to a picture of him, particularly for the current students of the college at which he studied or worked (another line of research which is currently stalled, alas).

    Cheers, Pat
  2. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    Hello Pat,

    The date I have for the above loss given in the relevant publication is 6 February 1943. Other sources give 7 February 1943

    45 Group
    Catalina IB. FP309


    Samuel Howard McCawley . American Civilian. Pilot
    Andrew Eugene Bleau. American Civilian. Pilot
    P/O. Edward Dennis Markham. RAF. Navigator
    Sgt. Thomas Clarence Judiesch. RCAF. Radio Operator
    Stephen Francis Whatmore. British Civilian. Radio Operator
    Sgt. Cecil Stanley Rumble. RAF. Flight Enineer

    Lost out of Bermuda.

    The above comes from - Ocean Bridge, The History Of Ferry Command - Carl A. Chrishie

    Might be worth applying for the aircraft's Form 1180 from RAF Hendon

  3. Pat Atkins

    Pat Atkins Well-Known Member

    That's great, thank you - I guess the very minor discrepancy in dates relates as much as anything to the uncertainty of this kind of aircraft loss. I perhaps assumed the disappearance was on the last leg of the journey Bermuda-British Guiana-UK for some reason (no idea now why - last looked at this a year or so ago). Thanks also for kindly sharing your source for the info, and the existence of Form 1180s. Now just need to work out why 45 Group employed civilians...

    Cheers, Pat
  4. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    Not related, but something I didn't know...
    The Catalina IB was the designation given to 225 aircraft built by Consolidated as the PBY-5B. Of these aircraft 60 were retained by the US Navy, leaving 165 for the RAF. The change of designation from Catalina I or PBY-5 was probably due to the start of Lend-Lease, those Catalina Is purchased directly by the RAF had not needed a US Navy designation, but all Lend-Lease equipment had to have an official American designation.
  5. Pat Atkins

    Pat Atkins Well-Known Member

    Courtesy of the kindness and generosity of forum members here and over at RAF Commands, this is a summary to date:

    Stephen Whatmore was born in Birmingham, and shipped to New York in 1942 as a civilian radio operator leaving his wife Edith in London. He was lost with the rets of his Catalina 1B crew on 6th or 7th February 1943 when the aircraft disappeared en route for the UK, perhaps following a route British Guiana- Bermuda-UK (this as yet uncertain). He's commemorated on the Ottawa Memorial to those missing in air operations from North America and the Caribbean - there I think lies the initial confusion over his nationality. I still don't know his connection with the college I work in, but given his age perhaps he was a pre-War student,

    Many thanks to everyone who has helped: I'm very appreciative of your expertise and generosity.

    Cheers, Pat
  6. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    From Ancestry files:

    Stephen Francis Whatmore in the UK, Foreign and Overseas Registers of British Subjects, 1628-1969

    Name: Stephen Francis Whatmore
    Gender: Male
    Birth Date: abt 1916
    Death Age: 27
    Death Date: 1943
    Event Type: Death
    Piece Description: RG 32: Miscellaneous Foreign Returns, 1831-1969

    Stephen Whatmore in the UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960

    Name: Stephen Whatmore
    Gender: Male
    Age: 26
    Birth Date: abt 1916
    Departure Date: 13 May 1942
    Port of Departure: Liverpool, England
    Destination Port: New York, USA
    Ship Name: California Express
    Search Ship Database: Search for the California Express in the 'Passenger Ships and Images' database
    Shipping line: Cunard White Star Limited
    Master: S Solhoi

    Stephen Francis Whatmore in the England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966

    Name: Stephen Francis Whatmore
    Probate Date: 31 Aug 1944
    Registry: Llandudno
    Death Date: 7 Feb 1943
    Death Place: London, England

    The only birth for a Stephen Whatmore I can find is:

    Stephen Whatmore in the England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837-1915

    Name: Stephen Whatmore
    Mother's Maiden Name: Elliott
    Registration Year: 1915
    Registration Quarter: Jul-Aug-Sep
    Registration district: Aston
    Parishes for this Registration District: View Ecclesiastical Parishes associated with this Registration District
    Inferred County: Warwickshire
    Volume: 6d
    Page: 688


    edited to add:
    The outward shipping manifest shows him as English and will return to England as his country of permanent residence
  7. dp_burke

    dp_burke Junior Member

    He is also listed in the British Post Office Service books during 1939 as qualifying as a Wirelesss Operator, I imagine one needed a license as a wireless operator at that time, I have seen it in a number of the FC Radio men.

    Findmypast.com have a Merchant Seaman ID card for him dated 6 Feb 1940 with rating of Radio Officer. The F/C wireless operators came from varied backgrounds. A batch of Canadian men were operators from one of the Canadian railway companies. prior aircraft experience was not key to the role. Whatmore may have been serving on merchant ships and thought flying might be safer than facing U-Boats.
  8. Pat Atkins

    Pat Atkins Well-Known Member

    Thank you both for the continuing help, and the research expertise (very impressive) - perhaps his merchant navy service meant he wasn't conscripted into the military, and thus was subsequently able to work for Ferry Command as a civilian.

    I should imagine almost anything would look better than crossing and re-crossing an Atlantic full of U-Boats, frankly, although obviously in this case it didn't turn out for the best. I am always astonished how the merchant marine stuck it, and how relatively little appreciation they seem to have received (generally speaking, of course) for their sacrifices.

    Cheers, Pat
  9. Terry Carroll

    Terry Carroll New Member

    Dear Pat,
    I have recently found the website and your convesation through a link from a Google search on Stephen Francis Whatmore. Some background that I hope you will find interesting.
    I have an interest in his family because a lady named Edith Whatmore was a nanny to me for many years after the last war and in her possesions when she died was found a handwritten diary (written in service) from a Leonard Worthington Whatmore who was her cousin and was killed in action with the 1/7 Battalion The Worcestershire Regiment at Ypres on 27 August 1917, aged 35. He was Stephen's father and had been, presumably, conscripted. Stephen's mother was the Enid Winifred Whatmore mentioned in the will - Stephen was a bachelor when he died. The family had originated in Birmingham. From my research Stephen would appear to have been a reasonably succesful market gardener in Sussex before the war. At the time of death what he left in his will was worth well over £100k in today's money and he had been living in a very exclusive part of London. I am very interested as to when and why he became a radio operator and anything further of the circumstances of his death. I understand fully about Ferry Command operations. I would be very grateful for any leads.
    Incidentally, he had an older brother, Leonard Elliott (mother's maiden name) Whatmore, who became a Roman Catholic priest and died in 1982 not long after his mother. A somewhat tragic family - father and son killed in two separate wars, a mother who remained a widow and a celibate son - the end of that line of Whatmores.
    Terry Carroll
    CL1 likes this.
  10. Pat Atkins

    Pat Atkins Well-Known Member

    Hi Terry, thanks for the contact and the interesting details.

    Have sent you a PM about the Sussex connection and linking to the RAF Commands forum (well, I started a conversation which I believe is much the same thing - my technophobia means I haven't really kept up with forum upgrades); however, this is really all I know about Stephen Whatmore: as you say, rather a tragic family. He does appear to have been a merchant seaman with a private radio operator's licence in 1939, though (which jars a little with market gardening and prosperity, but there's much which is unclear alas).

    Cheers, Pat

    Incidentally, in the interests of sharing info with people who have helped me research Stephen and others, would you mind if I quoted your post over on RAF Commands?

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