MOST people who think about RAF Elvington during the Second World War associate it with the French heavy bomber squadrons that were based there towards the war’s end.

But long before the 346 ‘Guyenne’ and 347 ‘Tunisie’ squadrons arrived at Elvington, the base was home to a British bomber squadron.

The RAF’s 77 Squadron was part of Bomber Command. The only British squadron to have flown from Elvington during the Second World War, it was based there for nearly two years, from October 1942 to May 1944, before moving to Full Sutton near Stamford Bridge.

The squadron had already moved base several times during the war - before coming to Elvington, it was stationed at RAF Driffield from July 1938 to August 1940; RAF Linton-on-Ouse, from August 1940 to October 1940; RAF Topcliffe from October 1940 to September 1941; and RAF Leeming from September 1941 to May 1942.

It’s arrival at Elvington didn’t change one fact: the lives of bomber crews was hugely risky.

Each time they set out on a mission, these young men had no idea whether they would come back.

York Press:

Pilot Alan May, top left, the father of Van Wilson. Photo: Van Wilson

During the course of the war 77 Squadron lost 891 airmen and three naval pilots killed.

Now, a film about the history of the squadron aims to bring that perilous life into focus by featuring unique footage of veterans’ stories.

Most of the former aircrew who survived the war and were interviewed over the past decade have now passed away themselves.

But their voices and memories are captured for posterity in the History of 77 Squadron Royal Air Force.

It is a remarkable and moving story told by the aircrew who actually took part in the fight against Hitler as part of ‘Bomber Command’, which suffered an overall loss of 51 per cent of its aircraft and crews.

The story continued for 77 Squadron even after Victory in Europe (VE Day) - the war was still not over and the squadron continued the fight against Japan, flying Dakotas and dropping troops and supplies by parachute.

The film was financed by family members of the squadron’s association and the narration is by radio announcer, narrator and presenter Richard Clegg who gave his services free of charge.

He says: “It was such a pleasure to be able in some small way to contribute to the memory of the brave and selfless Second World War veterans to whom we all owe so much.”

The film contains footage of ceremonies at the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington, family memories, and interviews with members who were air gunners, flight engineers, wireless operators, pilots and a radar technician who was at Elvington with the French squadrons who came after 77 Squadron moved to Full Sutton.

York Press:

A scene at Elvington described in the film, showing how aircrew were transported to their aircraft for ops. Photo: Yorkshire Air Museum

Former flight engineer at Elvington, Ralph Tailford, is captured in an emotional interview reflecting on the friends that he lost and the high losses of Bomber Command.

He says in the film: “Each time you went out, you had a 50 / 50 chance of being killed or coming back.”

At the end of the war, Cyril Frazer, wireless operator, relates how they dropped supplies to the Far East outposts flying from Full Sutton in Dakotas.

The film was compiled and edited by Van Wilson, whose father was a pilot with the squadron, with some filming by Rachel Semlyen, a trustee of the museum, and York company, Parashoots.

It was produced by Ollie Bostock of Hewitt and Walker.

The 77 Squadron Association, based in York, was founded in 1988 by Dennis Sawden and Wing Commander Robert Sage, a pilot with the squadron who was shot down in March 1943 and became a prisoner of war.

It exists to keep alive the memory of 77 Squadron Royal Air Force, all who served in it and especially all those killed in action.

Today, there are 200 members of the squadron’s association from the UK, other countries in Europe, Canada, USA, Bermuda and Australia.

Over the ensuing years the association and its members have erected a memorial to the brave men of 77 who were killed, and a history room inside the museum, as well as a commemorative window in Elvington Parish Church.

The Yorkshire Air Museum houses a large collection of logbooks, photographs and other memorabilia relating to the squadron.

A Heritage Lottery funded extract of the veterans’ stories will be used at the air museum to enhance the story of the airfield, the aircraft and the people who flew and serviced them.

The museum reopens on May 22 and Chairman of Trustees, Martin Withers DFC said: “At the museum, situated on the site of Elvington Airfield, you will see examples of both the Halifax and the Dakota aircraft as flown by 77 Squadron.

“Watching this film one realises how valuable are recordings such as this and must recognise the forethought of 77 Squadron Association for organising and funding the filming.”

To obtain your copy of the 45 minute DVD of The History of 77 Squadron at £10 plus £2 postage and packing, contact

Orders can be made by PayPal, using the email address.