b. 19/10/1918 Calgary, Canada. d. 04/08/1944 Trossy St Maximin, France.
Ian Willoughby Bazalgette (1918-1944) was born of English/Irish parents in Calgary, Alberta on 19th October 1918. His father was Charles Ian Bazalgette (1888–1956) and his mother was Marion Edith, née Bunn (1891–1977). The great-grandfather of Ian Willoughby (who always known as ‘Will’ in the family, to distinguish him from his father, who was known as “Ian”) was the civil engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette. Will entered primary school at the Toronto Balmy Beach School, but his family returned to England in 1927. He grew up in New Malden, England and attended Rokeby Preparatory School in Wimbledon (1927–1932) and then Beverley Boys Secondary School as well as receiving private tutelage. In his childhood he suffered from poor health, and at 13 was diagnosed with clinical tuberculosis, which required four months of treatment at the Royal Sea-Bathing Hospital, Margate (August-December 1931). That he was able to rise above these afflictions is an indication of a strength of character which was to show itself amply later.
When World War II was declared, Bazalgette enlisted in the Royal Artillery, being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1940. After serving in the Searchlight Section as an instructor, he transferred to the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He soloed within a week of beginning his flight training at RAF Cranwell and swiftly completed his ab initio flying by 24th January 1942, given the rank of Pilot Officer. His first posting was to 25 OTU (Operational Training Unit) but by September 1942, he had joined an operational bomber squadron, No. 115 Squadron RAF at RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk. Flying the venerable Vickers Wellington bomber, “Baz” was sent out initially on “gardening” sorties, laying mines in the North Sea. After 13 operations, P/O Bazalgette and his squadron transitioned to the Avro Lancaster, completing their training in March 1943.
After completing 10 more operations successfully on raids against heavily defended targets, Berlin, Essen, Kiel and St. Nazaire and surviving some harrowing escapes including a crash landing, Bazalgette was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) on 29th May 1943. The award noted his “great courage and determination in the face of the enemy”.
With the end of his tour of 28 operations, Bazalgette was posted as an instructor and Flight Commander to 20 OTU in Lossiemouth, Scotland, before he was “recruited” for the Pathfinders. He transferred in April 1944 to No. 635 Squadron RAF No. 8 (Pathfinder Force) Group, based at Downham Market in Norfolk.
When his conversion training was completed, 25 year-old “Baz” flew as an Acting Squadron Leader, taking part in a number of operations during and after the D-Day campaign. As the assigned Master Bomber, Bazalgette’s 58th and final mission was the bombing of V-1 rocket storage caves at Trossy St. Maximin.
On 4th August 1944 at Trossy St. Maximin, France, Squadron Leader Bazalgette’s Lancaster bomber (serial ND811, “F2-T”) was amongst a formation spearhead on a daylight raid on German positions. When near his target, his bomber came under severe anti-aircraft fire from the ground, putting both starboard engines out of action and causing a serious fire. As the deputy ‘master bomber’ had already been shot down, the success of the attack depended on Squadron Leader Bazalgette, and despite the damage to his aircraft he pressed on to the target, marking and bombing it accurately. After the bombs had been dropped the Lancaster dived, practically out of control. Bazalgette regained control, but the port inner engine failed and the starboard mainplane became a mass of flames.
He then attempted to bring the burning aircraft to safety, having ordered those members of his crew (F/L Charles Godfrey DFC, Sgt George Turner, F/O Douglas Cameron DFM, and F/L Geoffrey Goddard) who were able to do so to bail out. Although he managed to land the plane near Senantes (Eure-et-Loir), 2 km ENE of Nogent-le Roi, it immediately exploded, killing him and his remaining two wounded crew members, F/L Ivan Hibbert DFC and F/S Vernon Leeder.
His remains were hidden by the local civilians until the arrival of the liberation forces. Then, on 8th October 1944, in a ceremony attended by his sister, Ethel, his body was laid to rest in Senantes Churchyard, Beauvais, France. At the end of the war, the survivors of his crew returned to England, and the full story of Bazalgette’s last sortie were pieced together, and he was immediately recommended for the award of a posthumous Victoria Cross; which was later gazetted on 17th August 1945. His VC and other decorations were handed to his mother at an investiture on 18th December that year. His medals are held by the RAF Museum, Hendon.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL AIR FORCE MUSEUM, HENDON, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: SENANTES CHURCHYARD, BEAUVAIS, FRANCE. MILITARY GRAVE 1.
Thomas Stewart – Image of VC Medal at RAF Museum, Hendon
Brian Drummond – Image of the Bomber Command Memorial, Lincoln
John Sharrock – Image of New Malden War Memorial, and the Bazalgette Gardens road sign.