Warrant Officer James Douglas Ronald Pugsley RAF Volunteer Reserve

Written by Karen Day
First Published


Warrant Officer 581416 James Douglas Ronald Pugsley RAF Volunteer Reserve 524 Squadron.

James Pugsley (dob 24/3/1918) was the husband of Beatrice Ada (nee Morlidge) and son of Annie (Sarah Anne) & Wilfred George of Baveno, Flixborough Rd, Burton upon Stather. We chatted with Geoff Robinson about him during the Summer of 2018 and one of the things he told us was that James was known as Jim.

Pugsley is a name synonymous with the Burton upon Stather of yesteryear. Pre WWI his father had been a private Chauffeur/Mechanic and also a reserve in the Worcester Regiment. In the 1920s WG Pugsley had purchased a garage which became Normanby Road Garage, later being demolished to make way for Westholme Close.

He also operated a bus service running to and from Scunthorpe named Dugout a reference to Mr Pugsley's time in the trenches during WWI as a Sgt with RASC (MT). The RASC were a corps of the Army that was responsible for land, coastal and lake transport.

A photograph of the Dugout can be see in Geoffrey Robinson's book The Parish of Burton Stather, with Normanby & Thealby page 90. Three of the Pugsley boys Bryan, Jim and Norman are sat on the Bumper.

1939 Outbreak of War

James joined the RAF in 1939 and I find him on the 1939 Register training alongside his brother Norman (dob 22/1/21) as an Air Observer at No.7 Elementary Flying Training School, RAF Desford, Leicestershire. Brother Norman survived WW2 returning home after serving in the RAF as a Sergeant in France, Belgium and Germany.

The basis of the following information was supplied by his family during and after WW2 to Miss Dudley & Miss Fell, whom, for which all these years later we are still indebted. They collated the information they collected which was later published in a supplement to the parish magazine. I have been able to add information of interest and also links to other sites.

Fairey Battles
Fairey Battles. © IWM (C 2116)


James served in France flying Fairey Battles until Dunkirk. Fairey Battles were single engine light bombers flown by a crew of three - Pilot, Navigator and Rear Gunner with two .303 machine guns as its only defense. From May 1940 the Battle units suffered heavy losses, up to 50% in some reports of sorties launched, gaining the Fairey Battle the nickname Messerschmitt Fodder.

RMS Lancastria
The RMS Lancastria
Creative Commons. Pauline Marie

Eventually the weary few remaining were ordered back across the Chanel and by the end of 1940 they had been withdrawn from service and the units absorbed into other Squadrons. James was evacuated in June from Dunkirk on the Lancastria, he survived the sinking on June 17th 1940 off St. Nazaire. The sinking of the Lancastria was subject to a news blackout at the time but it is without doubt the worst British Maritime disaster ever with estimates of over 4,000 lives lost that day.

HMS Hood

It is not clear where he was stationed at this time as 524 Sqd. was not reformed until April 1944 but he was on patrol with HMS Hood off Iceland. Blocking the German Navy from breaking out into the Atlantic, therefore, protecting the Allied shipping lines between North America and Britain.

The battle between the Mighty Hood and the Bismark in May 1941 in the Denmark Strait is again well documented and more can be read here.

1,000 Bomber Raids

He also took part in one of the first 1000 Bomber Raids over Germany. Code named Operation Millennium. Intense bombing raids were conducted over night on Cologne 30th/31st May, Essen 1st/2nd June, Bremen 25th/26th June 1942. The Cologne raid also saw the first use of Bomber Stream used to overwhelm enemy radar by flying in a long dense formation.

524 Squadron

Vickers Wellington medium range bombers
Vickers Wellington medium range bombers.
© IWM (CH 18411)

An RAF Costal Command Squadron 7th April 1944 - 25th May 1945 who flew Vickers Wellington, medium range bombers (April 1944 Mk.XIII then Dec 1944 < Mk.XIV).

524 Squadron were based at RAF Langham from July 1944 having previously been based in the South West of England at RAF Davidstowe Moor, Cornwall. Attacking enemy tankers, costal craft, E & R boats and midget submarines. James was engaged in strafing enemy Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB's) on D Day.

Read more interesting facts ie. How the 524 Sqd. Wellington gained its nickname Stickleback Here.

Once in Norfolk 524 Wellington's had a new job, carrying Torpedoes and Mk3 Airbourne Surface Vessel (ASV) Radar, it was to protect British and Allied ships and to attack enemy convoy shipping.

James was presumed killed 4th March 1945.

Probate was granted to his wife Beatice Ada Pugsley on 6th September 1946.

in Runnymede. 360° Panorama.

Record Details for James Douglas Ronald Pugsley

First Names:James Douglas Ronald
Initials:J. D. R.
Death Date:
Family Info:Son of Wilfred George and Annie Pugsley, of Burton-on-Stather, Lincolnshire; Husband of Beatrice Ada Pugsley.
Rank:Warrant Officer
Service Number:581416
Command:RAF Volunteer Reserve
Squadron:524 Squadron
Commemorated:Runnymede, Surrey. Panel 269 Map
Bench:Flixborough Rd, Burton, on the corner as you turn left down second part of Flix Rd heading to Flixborough. Mapphoto


Use the interactive map to view the location of James Douglas Ronald Pugsley's Memorial. Click the Bench link to view the location of his Memorial Bench. You can view all the graves, memorials and benches by downloading our which can be viewed in Google Earth and other mapping software.


  1. UK Census
  2. 1939 Register
  3. www.historyofwar.org

Remembered with Honour.

Last updated

© 2019 Burton upon Stather Heritage Group