Trevor Jones RAFVR and crew - 103 Squadron
So Many Heroes
Above :- The crew of ME722 that crashed at Zwolle on the 22nd May 1944. Back row from left. Sgt C R Francis RAFVR, WOP, Evaded capture but sadly was killed flying with 357 Sq in the Far East in July 1945. Sgt M Pickles RAFVR, MUG. Killed in action. Sgt W E Jones RAFVR, RG. Killed in action. W/O T E Moran RCAF, BA. POW, Captured whilst evading. Front row from left. Sgt D Sharp RAFVR, FE. Evaded capture. P/O T I Jones RAFVR, P. Killed in action. W/O B H Davis RAAF, N. POW. Captured whilst evading.
Left - Trevor Jones and Right - Bill Jones. The later is an escape photo found by Leo Schotmann at the crash site.
The story of ME722 is one of so many heroes. Maurice Pickles, Trevor Jones and William Jones who died at Zwolle. Charles Francis who evaded capture but was later killed in Burma. Sgt Sharp who evaded capture. Ted Moran and Bruce Davis who were captured whilst evading and suffered the most terrible interrogations at the hands of their captors. Bruce Davis was not discharged from hospital till 1948 and was a sick man all his life. The Dutch families who helped the evaders, some of whom were arrested and paid for it with their lives. The families left behind. In Maurice's case his father John Pickles who had lost his wife and only son and was himself so seriously injured in the war and poor Mrs Shires, Maurice's grandma. Finally Maurice's mother, young Nellie, who died in child birth. A most moving and thought provoking story I think you will agree. We have a lot to be thankful for.
Maurice Pickles and the Bradford Connection.
During a visit to Zwolle in the Netherlands some years ago I discovered to my surprise that Maurice Pickles, ( pictured above ), mid upper gunner in ME722, came from Bradford, the city of my birth. I was not aware of this before I went. Details of Maurice's next of kin are not shown in the Commonwealth War Graves Register. It was revealed on the back of the above crew photo which was shown to me and came from the family of Trevor Jones, the pilot. Trevor or a member of his family had kindly noted the names, ages and home towns of his crew on the back.
On return to the UK I set about trying to find about young Maurice and had an article published in the local evening paper. I was amazed to receive 9 replies. 2 were from cousins, 1 from a school friend, 1 who knew him in the Home Guard before he joined the RAF and the remainder from contemporaries who knew him well and lived in the same street or thereabouts.
Maurice was clearly a popular young fellow and is a well remembered, even after all these years. He was an only son and his mother, Nellie, died in child birth. Maurice was brought up by his father John, an electrician, and his wife's mother, Mrs Shires. Maurice attended St Mary's Roman Catholic School.
At the outbreak of war Maurice's father, John Pickles, joined the Army, served in North Africa and was very badly burned when his tank was hit by enemy fire. He spent 3 years in hospital in Cairo. John returned to civilian life and his prewar occupation as an electrician.
As soon as he was old enough Maurice joined the RAF and loved it by all accounts. It is a tragedy his career was so short, the crew being shot down on their first operation. The daughter of the next door neighbour recalls his grandmother was devastated when notified that her only grand child was missing.
John Pickles and his mother in law visited Maurice's grave in the Netherlands after the war. A surviving member of the crew, thought to be Sgt Sharp, visited the family in 1945 and explained to them what had happened on that fateful night. He said that, when he left the aircraft, Maurice was alive and not wounded. John Pickles continued to work as an electrician, although he was a sick man due to his war time injuries and eventually died in 1967 of TB and a collapsed lung.
Mrs Shires outlived them all and passed away at the age of 90 in the 1970s. She had suffered the most cruel luck being widowed, losing her daughter, only grand child and son in law. She was a proud lady who bore her misfortunes with great fortitude throughout her life.
This particular aircraft is of considerable interest to me because it was flown mostly by Flight Lieutenant Bill Way RCAF and crew. My uncle, Eddie Jennings, was the Flight Engineer in this crew. The aircraft completed 14 operations, 12 with Bill Way and crew, 1 with Pilot Officer A A Moore RCAF and crew and 1 with Flight Lieutenant D Allwood and crew. At the time of its loss Bill Way and his crew were on leave and it was assigned to Trevor Jones and his crew for this operation.
Written by David Fell. Special thanks to Leo Schotman in Zwolle and the Pickles family in Zwolle for their most helpful input and co-operation in this item.