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Thomas (Tom) Henry Blackham
Nickname(s) Tommy
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Air Force
Years of service 1940 – 1977
Rank Air Commodore
Unit No. 50 Squadron RAF
Battles/wars Second World War
Awards

Distinguished Flying Cross

Order of the British Empire

Thomas (Tom) Henry Blackham OBE, DFC, ADC, (1922–2003) was a Royal Air Force Air Commander and KLB Club member.

Early RAF career[edit]

Blackham was born and raised in Dunoon, Scotland.[1] He joined the RAF in September 1942 and by April 1944, he was a pilot officer in No. 50 Squadron RAF. During a bombing raid on Berlin, the Lancaster he was captaining was hit by anti-aircraft fire and the elevators were badly damaged. Soon afterwards, the bomber was struck by bullets from a fighter and further damaged. Despite this, Blackham continued his bombing run and then flew the damaged aircraft to base. As a result of his actions, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) on 7 April 1944. The full citation read:

Air Ministry, 7th April, 1944.

ROYAL AIR FORCE.

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy: —

Distinguished Flying Cross.

[...]

"Flight Lieutenant Thomas Henry BLACKHAM (124922), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 50 Squadron.

As pilot, this officer has participated in a number of sorties and has displayed outstanding determination, fearlessness and devotion to duty. This was we'll illustrated on a recent occasion when detailed to attack Berlin. On the outward flight the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and the elevators were damaged. Soon afterwards the bomber was struck by bullets from a fighter. The rear turret was rendered unserviceable arid the oxygen installation was damaged. The target was still 100 miles distant but Flight Lieutenant Blackham continued his mission. On the bombing run, 3 members of his crew became unconscious "through lack of oxygen. The flight engineer successfully repaired the oxygen system and the affected members were revived. Flight Lieutenant Blackham then pressed home a determined attack and afterwards flew the damaged aircraft to base. A few nights later, this officer again displayed praiseworthy skill and resolution in-a successful attack on Augsburg."[2]

Capture[edit]

Blackham was shot down over a month before D-Day on 3rd May 1944, while on a raid over France.[3] He managed to keep the aircraft flying until all his crew had baled out safely, and then a sudden explosion knocked him senseless, hurling him through a glass panel. He recovered consciounsness to find himself surrounded by flames and jumped clear moments before his aircraft blew up. Parachuting in Maquis country, Blackham narrowly excapred being hung as a German spy, but another British airman in the vicinity was able to vouch for him.[1]

For months Blackham lived and fought with the Maquis, until he was sent on to Paris for return to England along the Comet line. In Paris, he was betrayed by the French traitor Jacques Desoubrie on 27 July 1944 and handed over to the Gestapo.[3] After interrogation, Blackham was imprisoned in Fresnes prison. At Fresnes, Blackham was beaten, stripped of clothing and put under cold showers, surviving on weak sauerkraut soup. He slept on filthy lice-infested straw. At one point during his two week stay at Fresnes, Blackham was among a group of inmates which faced a firing squad manning machine guns, but the order to fire was never given.[1]

Buchenwald[edit]

Lot more to follow.

After WWII[edit]

After the war, Blackham continued his career in the RAF. On 1st July 1951, he was promoted from Flight Lieutenant to Squadron Leader.[4] Then, on 1st January 1966, he was promoted from Wing Commander to Group Captain.[5] He retired on 11 July 1977.

Needs expansion. See: [1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Burgess, Colin (1995). Destination Buchenwald. Published by Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst NSW. OCLC 35019954. ISBN 086417733X.
  2. ^ "No. 36459". The London Gazette (invalid |supp= (help)). 7 April 1944. 
  3. ^ a b Lancaster LM480 Information Lost Bombers Database during WWII. Retrieved 2010-09-27.
  4. ^ "No. 39271". The London Gazette (invalid |supp= (help)). 29 June 1951. 
  5. ^ "No. 43863". The London Gazette (invalid |supp= (help)). 31 December 1965. 


Category:1922 births Category:2003 deaths Category:British World War II pilots Category:Buchenwald concentration camp survivors Category:Commanders of the Order of the British Empire Category:Recipients of the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar (United Kingdom) Category:Royal Air Force officers Category:Royal Air Force personnel of World War II Category:Shot-down aviators Category:World War II prisoners of war held by Germany