Elstree Film Studios: Worthing family of film cameraman sought to put a face to a name from the Second World War

French citizens honouring English airmen who fought for their freedom are desperate to put a face to a name to bring a ‘ghost’ to life.

A crew of three who fell in the village of Routes in Normandy on the night of September 7-8, 1942, is buried in the Franco-British cemetery of Saint-Valéry-en-Caux.

Christian Dieppedalle is preparing a booklet in their honour and is keen to find out more about 32-year-old Pilot Officer James McClafferty, whose parents lived in Worthing.

James was a cameraman from Elstree Film Studios who enlisted in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, where he became a navigator with 418 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force under number 123132.

The grave of Pilot Officer James McClafferty, whose parents lived in Worthing

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Christian said: “We honor an English crew which consists of Sgt Albert Millman, Sgt Sydney Williams and P/O James McClafferty. These three men were killed on their first mission. For the moment, I have not found their families and I have no information and photos on them.

“This is sad because they remain a bit like ghosts. We would like to be able to put faces on these boys who fought for the freedom of our countries.

“In order to complete the booklet dedicated to their memory, we are looking for information and a photo on James A.H. McClafferty from Worthing.”

Drawing of the Douglas Boston by Christian Dieppedalle for the memorial booklet

Although Christian has not found the families of the three airmen, he has been able to trace some of James’ genealogy.

James Alexander Howard McClafferty was born in London on May 28, 1910, to Michael and Annie McClafferty.

His father was born on February 22, 1888, in Ireland and his mother was born on May 8, 1884. In 1934, the family was living in Elstree, where Michael retired as a police officer and became a store detective.

James had two sisters, Peggie born in 1906 and Mary born in 1908. It is known that he was a film cameraman working in the Elstree Film Studios and his family was in Worthing in 1942.

James trained as a pilot and obtained the rank of Pilot Officer, with effect from March 30, 1942.

He was an RAF observer, part of the crew of a Douglas Boston MkIII, a twin-engine aircraft, flying from RAF Bradwell Bay in Essex on night intruder patrol over the Somme area of France on September 7, 1942. Along with pilot Sgt Millman, 21, from Stourbridge and air gunner Sgt Williams, 26, from London, he died when the aircraft came down near Amiens.

Christian said: “Seeing fires in the night that they identified as those of a German encampment, the crew rushed towards the objective. The Boston struck the tops of tall trees and crashed into two farms, killing all three of its crew.”