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A Brief History of The Pathfinder Rides.

Fifty days after the D Day landings and despite a vast and intense Europe wide electrical storm, 178 Lancaster Bombers left various English air bases. It was late evening, and they were accompanied by 9 Mosquito Pathfinders from 627 Squadron based at RAF Woodhall Spa. Their collective mission, critical to the allied invasion's success, was to destroy the marshalling yards at Givors, south of Lyon, France and thus prevent the German forces' resupply.

Notwithstanding the horrendous conditions, two mosquitos managed to drop their markers for the Lancasters' concentrated bombing and return safely home.

“This time the target was the railway installations at Givors near Lyon. As the time for take off approached a violent thunderstorm broke out. We sat in our aircraft watching the control tower fully expecting to see a red Verey fired which would have told us that the operation had been cancelled. It was not and so we took off.”

Image Caption

Flt Lt Noble Frankland

CB, CBE, DFC and Légion d

The crew of Mosquito DZ636 were amongst the unlucky ones who never made it. 

The pilot was Flying Officer Keiran Flaherty (23) on only his first week with the squadron and his navigator FO John Christie (32). (Pictured above)

The operations log read: 

"Failed to return – nothing heard since take off ..."

They had almost made it to the target but unfortunately crashed on a lonely, desolate hillside. The Maquis and local residents of Letra, a nearby village, gave the two officers a full military funeral. Their graves remain cared for by the village of Letra to this day.

The Funeral of FO Flaherty and Christie

Flying Officer Dennis Kieran FLAHERTY and Flying Officer John CHRISTIE were buried with full military honors on 31st July 1944 in the village of Letra.

Their story is a local legend

The Mosquito struggling to remain airborne in the storm, its subsequent crash, and the reverence in which the villagers treated these two brave souls is the stuff of local legend.

Seventy-four years later, I rode my bike from their graves in Letra back to Woodhall Spa and discovered so much about Keiran Flaherty and John Christie, their aircraft and their lives. What a privilege it was to find out about these two valiant airmen.

Prior to leaving on my voyage of discovery, I made this short video by way of explanation.


Their story is just one of many, and The #pathfinderrides are about extending that opportunity of discovery to everyone.

Throughout the UK and all of Europe exists evidence of Bomber Command during those dark days. Historic buildings, graves, infrastructure, crash sites and memorials to the crews and victims. All have a story to tell. The #pathfinderrides aims to inspire everyone to identify a local place, find out its story and then bring that story to the IBCC - on their bike.
What's not to love !

The Pathfinder Rides are all about encouraging discovery and promoting cycling across all age groups and abilities. Thousands of different starting points, each with its own story, converging on the International Bomber Command Centre - united in remembrance, recognition and reconciliation.

A huge challenge or a short ride - it's up to you but always a fabulous journey to reach the finish line at the IBCC Lincoln. In celebration of Bomber Command - in recognition of their sacrifice, remembrance of their bravery and perhaps most importantly, the reconciliation that was their objective.
  • The Graves of FO Flaherty and Christie

    LETRA

    Technically this was Day 2 of my journey on 11th July 2018; I had started the day before at the National Cemetery in Lyon. On this day, my start point was the CWGs of the Mosquito Crew.

  • Bomber Command Memorial

    London

    I finally made London on 21st July 2018, taking time out to stop at the Memorial as well as the statues of Both Churchill and de Gaulle

  • Statue Charles de Gaulle

    Paris

    I arrived in Paris on 15th July 2018. France had just won the World Cup (it was a little crowded) Still, I managed to take in several key points in the capital.

  • De Havilland Aircraft Museum

    London Colney

    22nd July, I left London and headed north, calling in at the home of the Mosquito, the de Havilland Aircraft Museum

  • International Bomber Command Centre

    Lincoln

    27th July 2018 - I arrive and am welcomed by Flight Engineer Harry Parkins and Wireless Operator Arthur Atkinson.