A Eaton Clarke, G S Dunning, Robert Clifford Alabaster, A N Carlton, G K Smith, E Hambling, Percival Walder
The Pathfinder Year - 97 Squadron at Bourn
DETAILS
The crew above attending the wedding of Eaton-Clarke. Percival Walder had replaced J Williamson who had been injured on a Cologne raid in early July. Below are details of what happened, together with a picture of the damaged Lancaster on its return to England.
Further down can be found some brief notes on Eaton-Clarke after the war.

ORB
8/9 July 1943 Cologne - Bomb Load 4 x TI, 1 X 4000lb, 5 X 1000lb
EE174W  W/C R.C.Alabaster (Capt), F/L A.Eaton-Clarke (Pilot), Sgt G.S.Dunning(FE), P/O A.N.Carlton (AB), Sgts S.Powell (AB2), F/Sgt K.I.Smith, Sgts E.Hambling, J.Williamson.  Up 2248 (Down not shown). Primary target Colgone bombed.  20,500'.  10/10ths cloud.  Red/green skymarker in bombsight at time of bombing.  One big explosion seen through cloud.  Cloud obscured further indications.  Attacked by enemy aircraft.

8.7.42        Bombing and beam practice during NFTs.  16 aircraft detailed for ops.  Two markers were cancelled early.  The remainder attacked Cologne except P/O Jones who was forced to return early through faulty ailerons control.  Target was covered by cloud and bombing was carried out by means of sky marking.  Fires and explosions were seen through cloud.  F/L Eaton-Clarke's aircraft was attacked by a night fighter a few minutes before reaching the target.  Several cannon shells hit the aircraft, wounding the rear gunner and damaging the starboard motors and aileron controls.  The fighter was evaded and the aircraft went on to bomb the target.  On the return journey the starboard motor caught fire.  Despite the difficulties in controlling the aircraft and damage to the undercarriage, the aircraft was successfully forced landed at Great Saling.  One othet aircraft, Captain F/O Palmer failed to return -  no news was received since aircraft left base.  The wounded air gunner, Sgt Williamson, was admitted to 121st Evacuation Hospital, Braintree, Essex.


COMBAT REPORT
8/9 July 1943 Cologne 20,000', 0053 hours, 10 miles south of Aachen.  Weather 10/10ths cloud at 6,000'.  Visibility good but dark.  No searchlights.  Lancaster W on route to target was attacked by an unidentified enemy aircraft.  This aircraft was not seen, only the streams of tracer being visible.  First attack appeared to come from underneath and two further attacks from dead astern.  Enemy aircraft fired during each attack.  Combat manoeveres were as follows : - the pilot of our aircraft made a steep diving turn to starboard turning into a rate 3 orbit, followed by corkscrewing back on to course.  Height of 3,500' was lost during manoevere.  No further attack was made and enemy aircraft was never seen at any time.  The enemy aircraft apparently did not carry lights.  It is thought that the enemy aircraft armament was 4 cannons, two being mounted in each wing, as the traces gave this impression.  No instructions were given to pilot by either rear or mid upper gunners.  The first bursts of fire from enemy put both rear and mid turrets out of action.  Damage to Lancaster was severe.  Bomb doors shot up, ailerons shot up, trimming controls damaged, starboard outer engine almost out of action and the Lancaster raked by cannon shells.  Rear gunner was wounded in legs.  Our aircraft went on to attack target and made a safe landing in this country.  No rounds fired.  No "Boozer" indications.

Mid Gunner - Sgt Hambling        Rear Gunner - Sgt Williamson


CAPTAIN: ALABASTER

LANCASTER
No specific Lancaster given; crew is that at the time of the wedding photograph below

CREW
Pilot: F/L A Eaton-Clarke
        Survived the war
Flight Engineer: Sgt G S Dunning
        Survived the war (?)
Navigator: W/C Robert Clifford Alabaster
        Survived the war
Bomb Aimer: F/Sgt A N Carlton
        Survived the war (?)
W/Op: F/Sgt G K Smith
        Survived the war (?)
Mid-Upper Gunner: Sgt E Hambling
        Survived the war (?)
Rear Gunner: Sgt Percival Walder
        Survived the war
Percival Walder, Eaton-Clarke, the bride,  A N Carlton, Cliff Alabaster, probably E Hambling, G K Smith
Cliff Alabaster is one of the very few exceptions of a navigator being the Captain of an aircraft rather than the pilot. He was an extraordinarily able airman, who was now an Acting Wing Commander, and as such senior to F/L Eaton-Clarke. Alabaster was shortly to train as a pilot in his own right.

Eaton-Clarke after the War

Roger Marsh emailed, in July 2008, to answer the question of whether Eaton-Clarke had survived the war. He wrote:

He did. He was my boss in London in the 1970s; we were working for the US multinational AMF Corporation on international sales of their industrial machinery throughout Europe and in parts of Africa. A South African by birth, he had taken US nationality some time after the war.
In the course of our business I visited several clients whom he had had to bomb during the war some 30 years earlier - e.g., the Dunlop factory at Montluçon, central France, which of course at the time was under German occupation and producing military tyres for them; the British attack was less than an hour from target when final clearance to bomb was received, via the Résistance Française, or the cities where the customers were situated (e.g. Essen and Düsseldorf, in the Ruhrgebiet of Germany).
"Eaton", as we called him, didn't talk a lot about his wartime service as a pathfinder (he was not a boaster!) but nevertheless sometimes had a few tales when relaxing at the end of the day. As a pathfinder, he once had a close shave with a German night-fighter (Ju88?) which had hit and damaged his Lanc. He had the choice between taking his second chance with the fighter on its return pass or diving into an adjacent cu-nim cloud; he chose the latter and fell out of the cloud minutes later with one engine now dead but the aircraft still relatively intact; he and his crew made it back safely to the English coast.
Eaton and his wife (who of course appears in the 1943 wedding photo on your site) lived in the Kensington/Chelsea area of London when I knew them and had one daughter, who got married in the mid-late 1970s. He was a nice man. I don't know what has happened to him since about 1985 or so when we were last in touch, or whether he is still alive; if he is, he'd be in his late 80s by now.