Len Dorricott (1)

My wife’s hobby is photography and she specialises in a particular photographic printmaking process called “Bromoil”.

In the club she goes to, a few years ago, she met a gentleman who had stepped right out of the pages of history:

Here he is, busy Bromoiling:

This pleasant old gentleman was called Len Dorricott and he had been a navigator in Bomber Command during World War II:

He had flown with 576 Squadron, 61 Squadron, 81 Squadron and 460 Squadron who were members of the RAAF. The latter squadron’s losses were almost unbelievable. 1018 aircrew (589 of whom were Australian) were killed and 181 aircraft were destroyed. Here’s their badge:

With them, Len flew 29 missions, a substantial number of them in the famous G for George, the Lancaster which in 1945 was flown to Australia by an all-RAAF crew of Bomber Command veterans and is now preserved at the Australian War Memorial (AWM) in Canberra:

Here are the three squadron letters, just in case you think that in the photograph above, it’s AB-C :

G-George flew 90 missions over hostile territory, but this famous aircraft did not ever lose a single member of its crew, even though thirty of them were eventually killed in other aircraft:

When he was with 576 Squadron, Len Dorricott also flew in Operation Manna in May 1945, He went from RAF Fiskerton to the Netherlands where he dropped bread and other food to the starving Dutch population:

Len said later:

“It began as just another mission but it turned into something very special. The fact that it was daylight and we were flying so low meant we literally had a bird’s-eye view. I saw a German soldier, walking in the street with his rifle over his shoulder, looking up at us. The best thing of all was seeing the people on rooftops waving at us with anything they could. It was a marvellous feeling, the best thing I did in the war. I will always feel proud of that.”

Len lived to be 91 years old.


Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History

21 responses to “Len Dorricott (1)

  1. Good post. I especially like that final quote.

    • Thank you. Len seems to have had the famous bits of his life before 1945, the very best moment in Operation Manna in 1945, and then many, many years of happiness with a wonderful wife.
      I often feel that the Bomber Command men who went on to live long lives were, in actual fact, living their lives for three or four young men who were killed when they were eighteen, nineteen, twenty and did not have their proper time.

  2. What a wonderful man to have met. The memories he held, both good and bad, a record of some of Britain’s worst and best times. The joy of helping the Dutch possibly outweighing everything else.

    • Indeed. Operation Manna has never been forgotten by anybody who took part in it, and I still can’t watch a video about it without tears coming to my eyes.
      I looked at quite a few, and this was the best in my opinion. It is rather long at 17 minutes, but it was an event unique in history and worth the time. Oh, and I forgot to say, at 8 minutes 48 seconds, Len Dorricott is in it:

    • Thank you, Derrick, you are very kind. There’s a nice contrast in that Len spent a number of years carrying out bombing raids, but after that, he was very much dedicated to the way of peace, starting with Operation Manna, and then his hobby of Bromoiling,where he was very much an expert and not only produced some wonderful prints but also gave lectures so that his skill would be passed on

  3. A wonderful post, John.
    And a talented wife as well!!

  4. Well, you know what they say, “Behind every great man……”
    Seriously though, what makes this more interesting for me is that fact that what I was given to work with by Len’s wife was all primary sources. That is to say, it wasn’t some expert who was born fifty years after “Operation Chowhound”, but the words of a man who knew exactly what it felt like to look down and see the starving Dutch people.
    Likewise, in the two remaining posts, his wife, Rosemary, will be able to talk about what it felt like, as a little girl, to stand at the end of the runway and wave off the departing Lancasters and then, four hours later, to watch them come back and to count them to see that everybody had made it back to Lincolnshire.

  5. Thank you for sharing!.. a good story to tell this time of year.. doing some good for others in spite of conflict… no doubt Len, and the others, were hero’s to many that day!.. “Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with.” (Brodi Ashton)… 🙂

    Hope all is well and in spite of life’s challenges, you and yours are having a wonderful holiday and hope you have a very Merry Christmas!… 🙂

    • Thank you. You are absolutely right. It was a good story for Christmas although I would have to admit that it was purely luck, because I schedule posts well in advance.
      Let’s hope that next year is better than this one has been. One tiny step is that yesterday my daughter told me that her best friend has had the vaccination and now waits for stage two. So there is some light at the end of the Covid tunnel!

  6. Chris Waller

    What a fascinating story. I wonder, when Len joined Bomber Command, how he rated his chances of survival, given the appalling rate of loss of life. That he survived 29 missions is remarkable.

    • Hi Chris!
      To be honest, I don’t think that at the beginning of the campaign any of the young men even thought about the chance of perishing. It was an exciting adventure, just like the films they watched every weekend. Gradually casualties mounted however, and morale did begin to sink somewhat. My Dad said, though, that everybody kept going with the thought that somebody else would get killed and not them.
      The people at the top were also equipped with some devices of their own such as the cruelty shown to the men who were found guilty of “Lack of Moral Fibre”. They also made jolly sure that when a man was killed on a night raid, his bed was stripped immediately, his effects were all collected and posted off to his family and so on. By 10 am it was as if he had never existed.

  7. Wow!! How absolutely wonderful your wife met this man. How awesome. And as for photography, now you’ve got my interest for I’ve never heard of bromoiling. I’ve got some research to do. Thank you, John!

  8. It was interesting to read about bromoil, I did not know about it. Thank you.
    We wish you and your family a happy New Year 😊

  9. Pingback: Phonetic Alphabets (1) | John Knifton

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