2021 - 405 Squadron's 80th Anniversary

405 Sqn HCol Bert Campbell with 405 Sqn Pathfinder veteren, Henry Shackleton,
​at the Pathfinders reunion at RAF Wyton, UK in 2012.

Henry Shackleton
​405 Squadron Pathfinder

 In 1940 Henry left school and volunteered as a Pilot at the age of 18 and 9 months, receiving his Wings  as  a Pilot Officer at Cranwell College one week before he was 19.  He was then sent to North Battlefield, Saskatchewan as a Flying Instructor . By coincidence his elder brother and sister were born in Saskatchewan, though he was born in the U.K.   In 1943, with 1,500 flying hours, he was posted to Middleton St George, Darlington, U.K. to join  the R.C.A.F 419 Moose Squadron where his R.A.F. crew did 18 bombing trips in their Halifax to Germany and Italy without mishap. Thet then volunteered to join Pathfinders and were posted to R.C.A.F 405 Squadron at Gransden Lodge. 4 Pathfinder trips on Lancasters , target Berlin, went without mishap, but on the 5th one on January 30/31st 1944  they were attacked by two nightfighters, resulting in the loss of use by their port wing forcing  him to shout "abandon aircraft". His Wireless Operator, Red Williams  put on his navigator chest parachute, then decided to get a bar of chocolate from his desk, taking off his parachute to put it in his tunic, then replacing his chute at which he heard an explosion as Henry was blown out of the cockpit . ( He obviously was suffering from lack of oxygen as the Lancaster was in a spiraling dive )  He jumped out of the hole in the cockpit and landed in a Berlin street, immediately taken prisoner . After being blown out, Henry pulled on what he thought was my parachute release, but it was release of his seat  harness! When it fell away he searched again and to his relief the parachute opened before he fell onto a bush in a Berlin Park. Henry hid by day and walked by night but on the third night, just after people had come out of their shelter during another bomb attack, some children surrounded him, and he  was taken to the Burgermasters house, where kind ladies bathed his face and gave him food. (One could assume they were thinking of their own sons bombing the U.K. and he always feel this should be said.) However, a pompous and drunken Army Officer took Henry to a Berlin police cell (which was warm!)         

​A few days later he met Red Williams at the Frankfurt Interrogation Centre, who told him he had been taken to a crashed Lancaster and understood their other five crew members had lost their lives. Thereafter Henry spent until March 1945, as a  P.O.W. in Stalag Luft 3. They all took  part in the long march to the Germans last stand in Berlin, from which 400 of them escaped from the Camp across the river to the Americans.


Henry passes away in December of 2018 after a short illness. 

He will be remembered