Ian Willoughby Bazalgette

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Ian Willoughby Bazalgette
Born 19 October 1918 (1918-10-19)
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Died 4 August 1944 (1944-08-05) (aged 25)
Trossy St Maximin, France
Buried at Senantes Churchyard, Oise, France
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Years of service
  • 1940–1941 (Army)
  • 1941–1944 (Air Force)
Battles/wars World War II

Ian Willoughby Bazalgette, VC, DFC (19 October 1918 – 4 August 1944) was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and while serving in the Royal Air Force was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Early years

Ian Willoughby Bazalgette was born of English/Irish parents in Calgary, Alberta on 19 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.[1] 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 School in Wimbledon (1927–1932) and then Beverley Boys Secondary School as well as receiving private tutelage.[2] 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 (Aug-Dec 1931).

Second World War

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.[2] He soloed within a week of beginning his flight training at RAF Cranwell and swiftly completed his ab initio flying by 24 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.[3]

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 29 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.[4] He transferred in April 1944 to No. 635 Squadron RAF No. 8 (Pathfinder Force) Group, based at RAF 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 operation was the bombing of V-1 rocket storage caves at Trossy St. Maximin.

His last operation, in which he won the Victoria Cross posthumously

On 4 August 1944 at Trossy St. Maximin, France, Squadron Leader Bazalgette's Lancaster III ND811[5] of No. 635 Squadron RAF was among a formation tasked to mark German positions for the main bomber force. When near the 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 was on fire.

He ordered the members of his crew who were able to (F/L Charles Godfrey DFC, Sgt George Turner, F/O Douglas Cameron DFM, and F/L Geoffrey Goddard) to bail out. He then attempted to bring the burning aircraft to safety by attempting to land the crippled plane near Senantes (Oise). But it exploded, killing him and the remaining two wounded crew members, F/L Ivan Hibbert DFC and F/S Vernon Leeder.[6]

Coincidentally, F/O Cameron had been a member of F/S Rawdon Hume Middleton's crew when the Australian was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

His grave is at Senantes Churchyard,[7] 13 miles northwest of Beauvais, France. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon, England.

Bazalgette Gardens in New Malden, Surrey, where he had attended Beverley Boys School, was named in his honour during the early 1950s. A school in Calgary, Ian Bazalgette Junior High School, is also named after him.[8]

Bazalgette Lancaster

At the Nanton Lancaster Society Air Museum, now the Bomber Command Museum of Canada (located in Nanton, Alberta, south of his hometown Calgary), an Avro Lancaster, FM159, after a lengthy period of reconstruction and repair, was painted in the colours and markings of S/L Bazalgette's aircraft. A dedication ceremony was held in 1990. Mrs. Ethel Broderick, Ian Bazalgette's sister, unveiled a plaque and the markings of the Bazalgette aircraft (F2-T) were unveiled by two of Baz’s crewmembers, Chuck Godfrey and George Turner.


  • Feast, Sean. Heroic Endeavour: One Attack, a Victoria Cross and 206 Brave Men. London: Grub Street, 2006. ISBN 1-904943-51-9.
  • Harvey, David. Monuments to Courage:Victoria Cross Headstones & Memorials (Two Volumes). London: Kevin & Kay Patience, 1999. ISBN


External links