Dr William Vincent

(Brother of Dr. Leslie Jack Vincent) [b. 1886 d. 1931]

(The following is taken from a handwritten notebook by Bill, with added comments for clarification)


Whether or not, this scribble will ever be read I do no know, I have been worried by one & another until in self defence I’m starting to spoil a really good exercise book.

My advent into this world was just about as late as it could be in 1886, the date being December 31 st. the fact that I was a boy baby was no doubt gratifying to my parents as they had lost the first son from what was called in those days croup.

I had a sister (Bessie) who was six years older than I and I’ve no doubt she mothered me in my baby days and assisted my mother & a young friend of my mother’s to thoroughly spoil me, anyway I got the reputation of being a very naughty baby and was only good when someone was nursing me – anyway that was not my fault. Well of those early days in my native town of Madenhead I have not even a hazy recollection.

Perhaps it would be just as well to explain how it happened I was born at this Berkshire town. My father lived at Yeovil; his father was a glove cutter and his mother died when he was a young man. He was apprenticed to a tailor and learned the art of cutting clothes, and in due course he met my mother who came from Chard, Somerset & she was one of a big family, her father kept the village Inn and was also a builder & decorator .

Well they got married I believe on a Xmas day (this is correct on December 25th 1879 at St Peter’s Church Paddington) and my sister made her advent 6 years before I was born. I think my parents were both about twenty one when they married & the eldest boy was born some two years after my sister and died a short while before I was born.

My father desirous of making headway, started in business as a tailor in Oxford, he soon realised that owing to credit which was expected that his shop was a losing proposition. My parents during this time at Oxford made the acquaintance of Mr. Hart & this friendship continued throughout my father’s life, they were both keen cyclists in the days of the penny-farthing & were I believe the first couple who cycled to London & back in the day on those big velocipedes, they each received a gold medal. They were also keen anglers & also spent much ‘time together & as they were both total abstainers they found much in common.

As my father saw his capital dwindling, he decided to become an employee again & having disposed of the Oxford business, he accepted the position as cutter to a Maidenhead tailor, while with him a competition for the best essay was announced in the leading tailoring journal of that time & my dad who always liked writing, entered for the competition and was adjudicated the winner. In due course he was asked to enter the teaching side of the Academy as a teacher, which he did & so we all came to London. My father, Mother, sister & myself.

I suppose I must have played with the other children and caught the childish complaints, I also had diphtheria & had a bad attack of pneumonia, but I remember little of that! but my memory carries me back to a corner house with a small front garden on to which one looked out from the drawing room, one side of the house was flush with the street and our kitchen window was a very favourite plaything of the children, one couldn’t expect anything else when it was their right for them to play with. On the corner is a pillar-box & a lamppost, the yard was fenced in by a wall & one side of it was entirely occupied by a glass house, there was a big gate which opened on to the road. Between our house and the house next door was a space halfway up the house, this was also covered in by glass, here we used to keep our bicycles, I can also remember two drums which my father bought as a nucleus for a band, but we never got any farther, but perhaps it was just as well for our neighbours.

The side road was favourite short cut for our police force to take their prisoners & it will be remembered that this was the good old days when men earn a pound a week – when they went to work at 6 a.m. and knocked off at 8 p.m. – when beer was two pence a pint & judging from the men I saw with our policemen it must have had some  kick in, at least if it hadn’t the prisoners had.

Well as much for the outside of the Shepherds Bush House. Inside on the ground floor was a drawing room, a small dining room leading out to the lesser glass house, a kitchen & a scullery in, which was pantry, which I often used to find tasty bits. On the first floor was my parent’s bedroom, then my sister’s, the indoor lavatory, the
bathroom & a small study, which was for a long time my bedroom. Above this floor where two bedrooms. Well so much for the house, which my father purchased with the aid of a building society.


I expected to develop like any other baby and in due course I was sent to school which in those days was called a Board School but now known as L.C.C. schools. I had two bad bouts of illness, one of which was diphtheria & the other pneumonia, my early school days were uninteresting, fortunately for myself I did not get into trouble a lot,
but unfortunately for myself I was always a fat boy & of course my nickname was ‘Fatty’, I learnt a lot from those early school days, I got a real through grounding in elementary English & Arithmetic. Once when I was about twelve years a lad referred to me in somewhat unpleasant way & in anticipation I threatened to report him to the
schoolmaster & he followed me up behind & with a penknife in his hand made as to hit me on the back & I think intended turning the knife over, but somehow he wasn’t quick enough with the result that the blade ran down the back of my coat, spoiling a very good article of apparel, the result was a visit to the police station & accompanying an officer in plain clothes until the culprit was found & taken to the station & charged, with his subsequent appearance at the West London Police Court, where he was bound over & solemnly talked to by the magistrate. Well I don’t remember much about these school days. The school itself consisted of an infants girls & boys departments.

The typical red brick building & asphalt playing ground. It was complete carpentry school for girls (I think this should read boys) & a cookery school for girls. My big sister (Bessie) used to go to the girl’s school & so was able to give me an eye. Besides being stout, I was unfortunately the possessor of a squint in each eye, the aftermath of diphtheria and when I was about eleven or twelve I was taken to the Royal Westminster Ophthalmic Hospital & after due examination it was decided that I should have the squint corrected by means of an operation. I can well remember going up to the hospital- being very frightened of the nurses & sisters, feeling very sick with the many
strange odours & the sister instilling drops into my eyes, which drops I suppose was cocaine & them Mr. Henry Juler, operating on my eyes, I could vaguely see the students round me in the out-patient theatre & then the operation began, one eye was efficiently anaesthetised, but I suppose the other eye I had carefully squeezed all the drops out with the result – I felt a terrible ‘burning’ & often I can remember how I struggled & kicked & how it seems dozens of hands held me down & the surgeon saying, its all right now we are only washing the eye out with water, a process soon testing & quite as painful as the cutting, how very sick I was when I got outside, with both my eyes bandaged up & being led home by my father & put to bed. Never mind it was a wonderful success & only the experts can tell that I’ve got just a little squint in one eye.
Little did I think that I should be one of Mr. Julers clerks at another London Hospital or that I should take charge of his ward as an unqualified house surgeon.

During this time my father had gradually become very proficient with his pen & finally became Editor of the Tailoring Times, which was the leading technical paper of the day. He had also become a very ardent chapel worker; the Wesleyan sect being the one he favoured, he was a local preacher, the leader of the Band of Hope, the leader of the Mission Band and had a class meeting of his own. Whatever my father took up, he was an enthusiast & his meetings were always crowded.

During the winter the Band of Hope had many lantern evenings, my father buying his own lantern & working it with the oxyhydrogen method. I early became promoted to be operated of the lantern & used to go to many meetings with my father, in fact a typical Sunday was 7.30 a.m. prayer meeting, back to breakfast at 8.30, to Sunday school 10 a.m. Chapel at I I a.m. — Sunday School in the afternoon 2.30 p.m. to 4 p.m. perhaps an open air mission Band meeting at 5.30 p.m. Chapel at 6.30 p.m. & sometimes another open air meeting after chapel & home to supper & bed with the feeling that one had, had a real full day. On other Sundays I would accompany my father to preach at some distant chapel to which we would always walk, as he did not believe in encouraging Sunday work. During these years phonograph came into being & one was brought for the firm which my father could always borrow, how well do I remember those sound wax cylinders & how careful one had to be with them, one day someone over balanced the case & bang went about a £1 worth of records. What a nasal twang those Yankee announcers had, what a paraphernalia that was to carry about, a large case for the wax cylinders — the instrument itself — a big stand to support the very large horn. Well many a happy hour we had with those Edison Bell records for in those days such instruments were not found in every house. Sometimes we used to go by horse & trap, which a corn chandler used to drive us, ten miles or more out in the country. This man was a good hearted hard working man who had braks or horse charabancs & his corn shop and many a Saturday I spent in that shop measuring out pints of peas, or chicken food & what good fun I thought it, sometimes I’d go out with a horse and van & very occasionally I was allowed to drive the van a little way, some of his horses came from Canada, I thought myself a big man driving a Canadian horse.

Amongst other things this corn chandler could whistle in a hundred different ways – nowadays he would have made a splendid Variety turn, but then we were content to make an inferior phonograph record, which I’ve no doubt was passed off to make way for some other novelty.

What a great place Uxbridge Road was in those days, no tube, no motors, and just the good old horse buses on which my father used to travel up to Drury Lane. These buses used to start at Victoria Tavern, in the other direction two horse trams ran as far as Acton, just where the tram depot is now, there were brickfields just where the Pensions Offices is now (is this Bromyard Avenue, Acton Vale) & beyond that the open country where we could go up country lanes and walk through the Piggeries to Acton. The Piggeries are gone but Walls Sausage factory has been built very near the site of those old evil smelling farms, so we still have the shadows of our grunters, haunting the same old ground.

One of the events of those early years were the day trials given for Sunday School & Band of Hope, what wonderful days they were, perhaps a dozen brakes packed full of children with an adult here & possibly a man with a cornet on the front seat, Hampton Court, Kew & even farther a field did the children go in these days of motor charabancs – How we enjoyed those days in the country with our ham sandwiches & a wonderful tea to sit down to & then the journey home finishing up in the dark & going home very tired but very happy. What a wonder it was when we chartered several tram cars to Hampton Court, I think it was on this occasion that my sister fell in one of the ponds there & had a weak chest for some years to come. Another wonderful horse charter trip I remember well, was when I was allowed to go and see the illuminations at Queen Victoria’s jubilee, how marvellous they were & especially when one thinks all done by means of gas or by —– wax lights. So much for summer, but one must not forget Xmas & how a noble band of young people stayed up till the early hours of Xmas morning, walking round making the night ring with Xmas Carols – Once I carried a big Chinese lantern on the end of a bamboo pole; bu t I got tired before we finished & slipped back to bed.

They were wonderful days and I had many innocent love interludes, and many puzzles of life came in those days. How was it possible for a for a young lady to sing in the choir & then go drown herself because she was ‘graeivte’ (does he mean gravid – this is another word for pregnant) how could she be when she wasn’t married.

I think it must have been about this time that I accidentally saw the birth of a litter of kittens & which on retrospection, I have no doubt instilled in my young mind that I should like to be a Doctor.

John Vincent and the last flight of Halifax LL307 (NF-J)

FS J.K.R. Vincent

In all the histories of WWII very little mention is made of the people who supported and supplied the Resistance Agents working in occupied Europe. My Uncle, John Vincent, was one of these. As a crew member (tail gunner) he flew many times in a lone aircraft low over hostile lands dropping agents and supplies. I cannot guarantee that the information included in the external links is accurate but I have no reason to doubt any of them.
John Vincent 1336764, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

John had joined up as soon as he could after the war had started.

Earlier, on 17 Dec 1943, he and the rest of the crew had had to bail out over East Anglia when upon returning from a mission (OPERATION MARC 1) they found that the entire country was fog bound and they had nowhere to land. Without any visual references they had to bail out when they reached England, leaving the plane to crash in the North Sea. Unfortunately 4 of the crew landed in water (near Harwich) and were drowned. The aircraft (LW280 NF-K) and crew at that time are pictured below: (JV is on the right)

Sgt James Johnstone Hannah RAFVR Wireless Op / Gunner – died buried at Cathcart Cemetery
Sgt J.A. Vick – rescued
F/Sgt T.M. Thomas – Pilot – rescued
Sgt John Lynch RAFVR – Navigator – died buried at Hamilton West Cemetery
Sgt Tom Bailey Hawkes RAFVR Flight Engineer – died buried at Luton General Cemetery
Sgt Robert Marshall RAFVR – Air Bomber – died buried at Larkhall Cemetery, Dalserf, Lanarkshire
Sgt J.K.R. Vincent – rescued

Click here for a further picture of the crew of LW280

By June 1944 John had finished his tour and was due to take up a post in training. As the most dangerous part of his career had ended, he had got married. The crew were then asked to fly a few more missions as “there was a put of push on” (note the date)…

Of note: The Halifax bombers used by 138 Sqdn were modified and the mid turret removed to create more space – the full crew was kept as one “Air Gunner” was actually the despatcher, however it did leave the aircraft underarmed.

The information above was obtained from my father (John’s brother). Further details of the crew below the picture are taken from Aircraft lost on Allied Force’s Special Duty Operations & Associated Roll of Honour from the Carpetbagger Aviation Museum
3 June 1944

On 2 June 1944 – Halifax Mk V LL307 (NF-J) of 138 Squadron took off from RAF Tempsford carrying three agents to be dropped over Belgium.

They were shot down and crashed near Stavenisse, Tholen, Holland.

RAF Operation name: “RODERIGO 1″ and “OSRIC 77″

Belgian operation: “Andromaque”

Crew details (of the deceased) taken from Roll of Honour – Bedfordshire – Tempsford – Air Crew Losses:
[Flight Sergeant] Pilot Officer 183617, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. W.Op./Air Gnr. Died on Saturday 3rd June 1944. Buried in BERGEN-OP-ZOOM WAR CEMETERY, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands. Collective grave 24. A. 2-10.
Sergeant 1862502, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Flt. Engr. Died on Saturday 3rd June 1944. Age 20. Son of John Owen Parry, and of Elizabeth Parry, of Upper Bangor, Caernarvonshire. Buried in BERGEN-OP-ZOOM WAR CEMETERY, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands. Collective grave 24. A. 2-10.
SMITH, DFC Derrick Albert John
Flying Officer , Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Nav. Died on Saturday 3rd June 1944. Husband of Elsa Smith. Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). Buried in BERGEN-OP-ZOOM WAR CEMETERY, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands. Collective grave 24. A. 2-10.
THOMAS Thomas Morgan
Flight Lieutenant 168842, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Pilot. Died on Saturday 3rd June 1944. Age 31. Son of David Daniel and Charlotte Thomas; husband of Rose Hannah Thomas. Buried in BERGEN-OP-ZOOM WAR CEMETERY, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands. Collective grave 24. A. 2-10.
VICK James Albert
Sergeant 2209015, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Died on Saturday 3rd June 1944. Buried in BERGEN-OP-ZOOM WAR CEMETERY, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands. Collective grave 24. A. 2-10.
VINCENT John Keith Robert
Flight Sergeant 1336764, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Air Gnr. Died on Saturday 3rd June 1944. Age 22. Son of Dr. Leslie Jack Vincent, and of Marguerite (Rita) Vincent, of Norbury, Surrey; husband of Margaret Lewis (formerly Vincent) of Skegness, Lincolnshire. Buried in BERGEN-OP-ZOOM WAR CEMETERY, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands. Collective grave 24. A. 2-10..
WARBOYS Leslie Victor
Flying Officer 131987, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Air Bomber. Died on Saturday 3rd June 1944. Buried in BERGEN-OP-ZOOM WAR CEMETERY, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands. Collective grave 24. A. 2-10..
Sergeant. SOE Agent. Buried in BERGEN-OP-ZOOM WAR CEMETERY, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands. Collective grave 24. A. 2-10.
Sergeant. SOE Agent. Buried in BERGEN-OP-ZOOM WAR CEMETERY, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands. Collective grave 24. A. 2-10.

Agent SOE. Survived crash. Captured but survived war.
See 1939-1945 La Belgique au combat – La Résistance – Un père tranquille
You can get a translation of this via Google, but it is quite hard work to decipher. Worth it though as M Gasereel went through a lot from the time of his capture to when he was liberated. I will try to get a full English translation in due course.
There is also a document The Belgian Connection which I cannot get to translate but with my limited French seems to give a full account of M Gasereels capture.

After the war Gaston Masereel and Johns mother exchanged letters. A copy of one sent by M. Masereel is included here.

On 3 June 2004 we made a visit to the cemetery.

Unfortunately we don’t have a picture of the crew or aircraft that were lost on 3 June 1944.

Checking through German Night Fighter kills claimed in 1944 it seems that the only claim for a Halifax on that night was by Hauptmann Heinz Strüning on 3 June 1944 at 00:36 near Schouwen (The island adjacent to Tholen)

See Aces of the Luftwaffe – Heinz Strüning

He was flying in a Heinkel 219 of 3./NJG 1

He was shot down and killed on 24 Dec 1944.

Further reading:

‘Agents by Moonlight’. F.Clark (other booksellers are available)

Mystery of missing war aviators remains in dutch. I do have a very literal translation somewhere – when I find it I’ll include it.

The Tempsford Airfield Pages

History of Tempsford Airfield at the Carpetbaggers Museum

This is a work in progress and will be added to as I gather more information.

Last updated 25 October 2009

W.D.F. Vincent Tailor, Author, Journalist

[b. June 1860 d. June 1926]

from notes by L. W. Vincent – grandson (of younger son, Leslie)

W.D.F. Vincent served his apprenticeship with Frederick Cooper, Woollen Draper and Clothier at 16 High Street in Yeovil and then, after marriage to Florence Summerhayes in 1879, he set up business briefly in Oxford and then Maidenhead as a clothier and tailor but without financial success.

Whlst in Maidenhead he entered and won an essay competition on tailoring titled “The great national work on trouser cutting, or, Defects in trousers : being the first prize essay in a competition open to all members of the National Federation of Foremen Tailors” under the pseudonym “Oxonian”. As a result of this he entered employment at The Tailor and Cutter magazine.

In the early days he wrote many of the magazine articles on tailoring methods and systems but under the terms of his employment they were never attributed to him.

By the 1890s he had moved to seniority and became a national authority on all aspects of tailoring – such books as ‘Vincents on Trousers’ were standard.

The Vincents lived in Shephards Bush, West London, moving to West Acton in about 1905. They had 5 children – 3 sons (one of whom died young) and 2 daughters.

Both sons (Will d. 1931 and Leslie d. 1943) becames Doctors and GPs in West London after service in the first World War.

By 1917 WDFV was describing himself as a journalist.

In 1921 WDFV and his wife retired Eynsham near Oxford joining HAT Patford, a friend from early Oxford days, who I understand by then was in the business with him.

Sadly WDFV died in June 1926 (I was 3 months old so don’t remember him)

John Williamson & Co Ltd ran the Tailor & Cutter Magazine and Academy.

Even in the 1950s/60s many Tailors still had as a centre piece for their window display their Tailor & Cutter Academy Diploma signed by WDFV as Chairman of Examiners – click here for an example. There is still an example to be seen on the wall of the Tailors Shop in the Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans in South Wales.

My time in the Royal Air Force 1943-45 Bill Vincent

During the Second World War, at the age of 18 all young men were required to register and were called up for service in the armed forces, without any say as to where they were sent.  Like many of my compatriots I wanted to fly, and so in December 1943, when I was 17+ I volunteered for aircrew service with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

At the recruiting centre I, with many others, had several days of educational, aptitude and physical and medical tests at the end of which just a few of us were told we had been accepted.  We then took the Oath of Allegiance and became members of the RAFVR, and I was told I was to train as a Flight engineer. We were then sent home on deferred service to await call to a Training centre, which for some meant a very long wait.

I had previously passed the equivalent of A levels and partly because of this I was called to start my training in Durham as a member of the University Air Squadron, and my trade (as it was called) was changed to PNB -pilot/navigator/air bomber. To show that we were trainee aircrew we wore a white flash on the front of our uniform forage caps.

From then on I remained in the RAF until September 1945, just after the whole world war had ended. At that time no more aircrew were needed, so some of us were transferred to the army – but that is another story.   Whilst I was in the RAF I lived in a way two quite different lives. Part of the time I was attending a series of courses learning my aircrew trade  – that is learning to do the job for which I had been accepted. The rest of the time I spent my time on detachment, as it was called at operational airfields.

The time spent on courses was very like being at boarding school. We lived in dormitories of 10 or 12 airmen, and spent our days attending lessons on all the subjects linked with our trade -theory of flight, weather, morse code and wireless, guns and ammunition, and so on; and also a lot of physical training activity, so that as we learnt we were also getting fitter and fitter all the time. We also had drill sometimes and had to learn the ways of the Air Force. Also we learnt to fire guns and had some air experience in airplanes. Some of this training was here in England, but the more advanced training was often done in North America or in South Africa.   In preparation for going off to those places we trainees were assembled together at Heaton Park, Manchester. The first time I went there I was unlucky and caught german measles. Because this was an infectious illness I was put into hospital and while I was there many of my friends went off to America to continue their training. When I left hospital I was sent on detachment (which I will tell you about in a moment). Some weeks later I was recalled to Heaton Park, and after a longer wait this time was told I was to go on my next course – which disappointingly for me was going to be in England.  I then went to what in peacetime was Derby Municipal Airport where I was to do the next part of my training – as a pilot.  But it was not to be because only about 10 days later, to the surprise of the instructors I was recalled to Heaton Park. There I was told there had been a muddle between me and another airman with the same surname and we had got switched by mistake on to the wrong course. He was meant to train as a pilot, while I was meant to become a navigator/air bomber.  SO, we were sent back out on detachment – and I never got any further with my training before the war ended and we were not needed any more, which was a great disappointment for me.

When we went on detachment we were sent to operational airfields – that is to the airfields from which the airplanes used to go to bomb targets in Europe and so on, which was about as near to the war as many airmen and women ever got.  At the airfields we lived, four to a room, in the same quarters as the trained aircrew and were employed doing worked linked directly with our trade.

Had I finished my training my job in an airplane would have been to work out and tell the pilot the route to a target and back, and to decide exactly where the bombs were to be dropped and make sure they went.   The first job I had was in the flying clothing section – the aircrew had special warm outfits for flying with all sorts of attachments and we looked after those and made sure they were in good order. We handed them out to the aircrew when they were going flying; and took them from them when they came back – only, sadly they didn’t always come back: but we didn’t have time to dwell on that because replacement aircrews and their flying clothing quickly arrived.  Then I helped look after parachutes – every flyer took one with him, and we had to be sure that if it had to be used it would open properly and quickly. WAAFs (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force), all very expert were in charge there.  Another time I worked in the maps section – when they went on an operation navigators had to have the right maps for where they were going; and when brought back they had to be checked and put away.

One of the last places I worked in, during the last few weeks of the war in Europe was the bomb dump, as it was called. There, well away from the rest of the airfield, bombs of all kinds and sizes were kept. The ones needed were checked and fused and then taken off to the aircraft loaded on a little train of trolleys towed by a tractor. Then they were hoisted up into the bomb bays ready for the air bomber to drop them over the target.    Only if the weather turned bad or the operation was cancelled the bombs all had to be taken off again, returned to the dump and made safe. At the end of April 1945, almost at the end of the war, we had to go through that process day and night for almost a week.  By the end we were VERY tired and went to our billet and slept for a long time.

All airfields like that were very spread out across the countryside, so we were all issued with bicycles while we were there so that as little time as possible was lost on the job. Also we used to work for seven days straight off and then, usually, we were allowed a couple of days off.  We could then pop in to a town if there was one near, or go for a cycle ride in the country, or if we had a ’48 hour’ pass go home for a very short leave.   We had the same leave (holiday) entitlement as the trained aircrew, which was about twice what the ground staff were given. Of course when we had leave depended on what we were doing, so for us it was usually at the end of a course.   The ‘ground staff’ were all the very necessary airmen and women doing the many back up jobs essential to get the airplanes and their crews off to their bombing work.  There was a small team directly responsible for each airplane and they took great pride in making sure that every time it flew it was in top-notch order. They worked closely and directly with the crew of their ‘plane. Then there were all the people working regularly where I did jobs, and armourers, cooks, stewards, clerks, policemen, and lots of others. One met and worked with lots of people, but they were mostly just acquaintances rather than friends and as one was ‘posted’ one didn’t usually keep in touch, but moved on with new people. I met up again with many of my friends early in 1946 when we had a reunion in Durham, when all our different uniforms showed how things had worked out for us. It is a great many years since I last met anyone who I knew in those days.

In the same week that I joined up my late brother, John, who was by then an Air Gunner, flying on operations as tail gunner in a Halifax bomber had to bale out as the plane was going to crash, and he came down safely on his parachute in Essex.  Sadly 6 months later, after doing nearly 30 more operations, and just before D-Day, they were shot down over Holland and he and all his friends were killed. Later we learned that they had never dropped bombs, but had been members of a Special Duties Squadron whose job was to drop agents, and supplies for them.