Bob Lasham R.A.F. D-Day
|DOB||July 11, 1921|
|Date of Death||December 10, 2017|
Bob Lasham DFC & Bar
Bob (named Robert Leslie Cecil but always known as Bob) was born on 11th July 1921 in an area of London he referred to as N19 – he always said he was a ‘Londoner’ (spoken with a cockney accent).
The day war broke out on September 3rd 1939 Bob was serving an apprenticeship, a ‘reserved occupation’ which exempted skilled workers from being conscripted into service. By 1941 it was announced that those in a reserved occupation could volunteer to fly aircraft – but only as a pilot or navigator in the RAF or Fleet Air Arm. Bob volunteered for the RAF and went to London headquarters for a ‘chat’ and a brief medical. He was accepted in May 1941 and called up in July 1941, aged 20.He remembers being sent off to Greenwich and loaded on to the SS Louis Pasteur (an old French Cruise Liner) and landed at Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada where he then had a long train journey to Florida to train as a pilot. He recalled: “I was having difficulty going solo when by sheer good luck there was a book on the table in our crew room on Flying Training and I read about landing and there was something the instructor had never told me and by luck I was going solo that next day – so I tried it out. And as I came in the instructor said to me: You know, Lasham, you’ve had so many bad landings that I know you can recover from anything! I continued with the training and finished in May 1942, got my wings, went back to Canada and back home. I went on an Advanced Flying Unit to get accustomed to flying in England – which was very different from the blue sky and sunshine that was in Florida.”
Bob was finally posted to Bedford and gained a lot of useful flying experience (in Blenheim’s 1, 2 and 5; Bristol Beaufighter’s; Wellington’s and Lancaster’s). By the time he saw active service in Bomber Command (97 Squadron) he had logged 600 flying hours when many of the pilots only had 300 hours and Bob always said that he was sure that extra flying experience helped him cope with the demands of wartime flying. (It should be noted that Bob’s DFC and Bar was awarded for 2 ‘tours of duty’ comprising 53 flights in total.)
Bob’s role on D-Day was to attack a gun battery at St Pierre du Hoc in the early morning. In the briefing the Squadron Leader referred to it as: ‘This target – if you can call it a target’. In this action two planes were shot down, with all lives lost. When returning to the airbase his Bomb Aimer told the crew ‘ The sea’s full of ships’ and then they realised that it was D-Day. Bob flew a second flight in the evening to bomb an ammunition dump at Alençon. During this period he flew as air support, mainly bombing transportation and railway bridges.
Bob was seconded to BOAC from the RAF in October 1945. He was discharged from the RAF in August 1946, when he joined BEA as a pilot, flying scheduled services in Dakotas; Rapides; Viscounts and Tridents. He was based at Northolt, jersey, Manchester and Heathrow (with two 4 week ‘stints’ – his words – at Lands End. In Fact he remembers flying scheduled services in to Croyden and Gatwick when it was all grass (telling me the year before he died that there were not many pilots left who remembered that!) He retired from BEA in March 1973 and finding retirement too quiet he joined Air Bridge Carriers (ABC) in April 1979 through the O.B.N. aka The Old Boys Network. He flew Viscounts out of Bristol and Teesside –his last flight was January 5th 1981.
Bob had a long, active retirement and died after a short illness on 10th December 2017.
As an interesting footnote: one of our Stockport Normandy Veterans members found two pages from a pilot's log book written in 1940 at the height of the Battle of Britain. Was written in short-hand that most of us were unable to understand - so Bob provided an annotation - and his own comments below the log book pages. To read this please click below: