Tree to honour wartime RAAF crew

Doug (Jimmy) James plants the tree in memory of his crew with the help of son-in-law David Scoffield, Steen Hanson and Ray Whiteley
Doug (Jimmy) James plants the tree in memory of his crew with the help of son-in-law David Scoffield, Steen Hanson and Ray Whiteley

A war veteran has returned to the former RAF Binbrook to plant a tree in the Bomber Command Memorial Park on the site.

Doug James, known as Jimmy, flew 29 operations as a rear gunner with 460 Squadron RAAF between 1943 and 1945.

Now 88, Jimmy wanted to return to Binbrook and plant a permanent reminder of Jolly’s Crew.

And the species chosen for the memorial tree was Rowan Autumn Spire, which represents the yellow and green of the Royal Australian Air Force.

“These trees are a permanent reminder of the sacrifices made by those who served here,” said Ray Whiteley of the RAF Binbrook Heritage Centre.

There are now just two members of the crew surviving and Jimmy keeps in touch with his buddy who now lives in the USA.

“I have many memories of my time here - good times as well as not such good times,” said Jimmy, who wiped a tear from his cheek as he thought about those years.

One particular memory has resulted in something Jimmy continues to wear with pride - his golden caterpillar pin.

The pin was awarded to anyone who had to bail out of a damaged aircraft and at the age of just 19, Jimmy became a member of the Caterpillar Club.

“We were hit by the Americans as we were coming over Paris, which took out an engine.

“As we were just over the water, we had a straw poll on board as to whether to continue and try and get home or turn back and face certain capture.

“We decided to carry on and when we came over the coast, we bailed out.”

The whole crew survived the ordeal, although Jimmy suffered from concussion.

But the best memory for Jimmy was seeing Lincoln Cathedral as the crew returned from a mission.

“We knew we were really home then,” he added, never thinking at that young age Lincoln was where he would move to in later life.