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Flight Lieutenant William Prune

NATIONAL PET DAY 2022

11th APRIL 2022
This is our NATIONAL PET DAY Post - The internet can be very confusing ... I read somewhere that April 11 is National Pet Day, so I prepared a post about mascots in the RAF, thinking that would be topical and then thought - I had better just check the date.

I'll be honest, and I checked various websites - Is today National Pet Day in the UK? - I have no idea. It certainly is National Pet Day someplace in the world. 

National Pet Day celebrates pets and animal companions and acknowledges that they do so much for us and that far too many dogs and cats enter shelters for all the wrong reasons. So we need to do better.

So why FLIGHT LIEUTENANT WILLIAM PRUNE - Because he was a dog!



The British Army units began to adopt non-working military animals to strengthen morale and be used as a mascot for the units in the 18th century. Mascots are thought to bring good luck, and, over the years, many RAF Squadrons and personnel have had their own special mascots.

Guy Gibson's Labrador of 617 Dambuster Squadron was killed in a road accident on the day of the famous "bouncing bomb" raid on German dams in 1943. The dog's death was kept from the airmen as it was feared they might see it as a bad omen.
BILL PRUNE : MASCOT OF AN R.A.F. BOMBER SQUADRON : R.I.P. BILL PRUNE : MASCOT OF AN R.A.F. BOMBER SQUADRON : R.I.P. © IWM (CH 12815)
Original wartime caption: 

Flight Lieutenant William Prune, bulldog mascot of a bomber squadron stationed in East Anglie, is dead. 

Born on 23rd May 1938 and named Bill of Bafford, he first served with an Army Unit. Bill granted a commission in the R.A.F.V.R. and, on 11th March 1942 posted to a bomber squadron for operational duties as a Pilot Officer. He immediately established himself as a firm favourite with all ranks. They all admired the tenacity with which Pilot Officer Prune followed his chief sports of chasing motor bicycles and petrol cans. On 1st October 1942, he was promoted to Flying Officer and on 17th June 1943 was Flight Lieutenant. Shortly after his last promotion Bill had a severe illness and was detained in hospital for four weeks. Fit once more he returned to duty and continued in excellent health under the care of an N.C.O. 

Then one day he chased a lorry with the same determination that enabled him to score so many victories over motor bicycles.  Unfortunately, he was run over and died on the way to the veterinary surgeon. 

Flight Lieutenant William Prune was buried in front of the Squadron hangar. Picture (issued 1944) shows - Flight Lieutenant William Prune.
SOURCE IWM © 12815
BILL PRUNE : MASCOT OF AN R.A.F. BOMBER SQUADRON : R.I.P. BILL PRUNE : MASCOT OF AN R.A.F. BOMBER SQUADRON : R.I.P. © IWM (CH 12817)
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Flight Lieutenant Leslie Barr of No 7 Squadron, with 'Pilot Officer William Prune' © RAF Pathfinder Archive.

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The picture on the left shows Flight Lieutenant Leslie Barr of No 7 Squadron with 'Pilot Officer William Prune'. The photo from the IWM was released in 1944. 

At this time, N°7 squadron was based at RAF Oakington. This station no longer exists and whether the grave of Pilot Officer Prune was at this location requires further investigation.

A perfect example of a Pathfinder Ride - bringing your evidence to the IBCC, a challenge from an investigation and cycling point of view.

What's not to love!