Flt Lt 1394035 Charles Edward Davidson DFC (Dave)
Charles was born on 12th January 1923 in Hackney. He was smaller than average build and found it difficult to be accepted into the mischief the other boys enjoyed.
However Charles time came when he joined his local branch of the famous London Boys Brigade. He often spoke with pride of his Pill Box cap, the cross belt and messenger pouch identifying the Boys Brigade.
Early in 1942, like so many young men, Charles stepped forward to represent his country at the age of 19yrs. He volunteered for the RAF and was easily identified by his 5 foot 4 inch stature as potential aircrew. On 1st April 1942 Charles passed a Night Vision test in readiness for his training.
He was now destined to become an Air Navigator and arrived at Mount Hope Air Navigation School in Hamilton, Ontario on 5th April 1943. His aptitude and attention for detail ensured he passed the course with top marks awarded on 20th August 1943. His training officer remarked “Keen and efficient, should do well”, which he certainly did and in September 1943 Charles was posted to 36 Operational Training Unit, Greenwood, Canada.
Back in Blighty and with a number of flying hours under his belt honing his new found skills, and Low Level Cross Country training, he was posted to join his pilot Robert (Bob) Rowell of the Royal Australian Air Force in the now well documented 464 Mosquito Squadron, later to be known as the Gestapo Hunters.
The association with Bob Rowell started about January 1944 and after 47 sorties over Europe attacking V2 sites, Ammunition Trains, Marshalling Yards, Vehicle convoys and critical roads they were both awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross). Completing 69 successful missions together.
At 22.30hrs on 5th June 1944 D Day was underway. Charles and Bob took off for Northern France to patrol Le Havre with special attention to the roads and rail movements. Their purpose was to disrupt the enemy in support of the landing Allied Forces.
Often returning from many missions, surviving heavy anti aircraft fire, and with severely damaged aircraft, there were a number of interesting and humorous events that Charles would relate to.
Bob and Charles survived another occasion, with a hole large enough for the two men to stand in, a result of receiving anti aircraft flak, damaging a wing, they managed to reach RAF Manston in Kent by man handling the control column between them with Bob Rowell’s arm wedged between the fuselage and the column to steady the flight. The normal landing speed would have been 110 mph but on this occasion had to be increased to 160 mph to stay level on the runway.
There was the occasion on their first flight together in anger, and over Europe the electrics became faulty, affecting the G Box and Speed indicator. Charles struggled to plot a safe course home whilst Bob controlled the speed of the Mosquito using the sound of the revving engines. They arrived on the wrong airfield, the nearest available to find the wiring harness had partly burnt through causing the failure. A near miss.
Charles qualified as a Guinea Pig by default. Not being a champion at holding his alcohol, he fell asleep on the leather sofa. Charles eventually awoke and luck was with him as standing outside was a motorcycle to take him home. Seeing it as a temporary loan, he fired it up and off he went. Unfortunately he ended up in a ward at The Queen Victoria Hospital at East Grinstead with quite extensive damage to his face/ nose/ forehead and suffered a total loss of "Smell".
East Grinstead became known to the airmen as “the town that never stared”. Charles would boast that the reason he always looked young was a result of the plastic surgery tightening the skin.
The level of support Charles gave his pilot is above reproach. At a top speed of 420 miles per hour, calculating how to get there, recognise the targets and calculate a safe and speedy course home took immense skill.
Charles was married to Miriam in 1947. They didn’t have children but enjoyed a very happy close marriage. Charles never got over the loss when Miriam died of a brain tumour.
Charles trained with Rolls Royce and gathered a network of famous clients. He continued his chauffeuring until he retired.
“This Officer displays confidence and aptitude for his duties and possesses high operational skills. His cheerful personality has an excellent influence on his fellows.
Flying Officer Davidson is well known throughout the Wing as a Navigator of skill and courage. His consistent high standards and keenness for action, no less his efforts for his Pilot, have been an example to all crews. This Officer has shown himself to be an able and courageous navigator. Many of his missions have been in the face of heavy enemy opposition”.
Charles Davidson passed away in February of 2010 aged 88, leaving £50,000 in his will to the Blond McIndoe Research Foundation. We are extremely grateful that Charles Davidson felt able to recognise the work we do through this generous bequest.
John Byrne is a Trustee of Blond McIndoe
I first arrived at Queen Victoria Hospital early in 1950. Aged just four I had badly burned both legs and one side of my face in a domestic accident.
Experts were nor sure that they could make the legs workable: there was little history of grafted skin being persuaded to stretch on a patient who was growing.
Fast forward to 1985 when it occurred to me to try to put something back. A sponsored walk seemed not original but appropriate, and I was readily persuaded by Sam Gallop (double amputee Guinea Pig) that the Research Foundation was most in need. I was amazed to raise £5,000. That was meant to be that, until friends started to ask when was the next walk.
I had not planned a series, but in the end there were ten, every odd year to 2003, totalling some 258 miles and raising £120,000. On all but the first I was accompanied by my brother Edmund, who planned the routes (always different) and read the maps.
The most moving was in 2001, when our American friend Jack Donohue insisted on walking 25 miles in his native Connecticut simultaneously, which involved him starting at 3:00 a.m. In pitch darkness. We kept in touch by telephone and finished within 5 minutes of each other. An extraordinary gesture of hands across the sea - only weeks after 9/11.
I had declared the tenth walk the last, so the last it must stay. But I didn't want to leave Blond McIndoe’s 50th birthday uncelebrated, or unexploited. Instead of a walk I unleashed a picture of the damaged but strong legs that I still walk on, thanks to those pioneering surgeons. This seemed to strike a chord in many people. My Golden Jubilee Fund passed £50,000. It is still open, of course.
Nancy Bikson is one of Blond McIndoe’s Trustees. In 2012 she ran the London Marathon for us. This is her story in her own words.
Running the marathon for Blond McIndoe was always going to be a unique experience, particularly since I had never run more than a 10Km and hadn't run much since the summer before. Whilst talking with Jacquie Pinney, she mentioned there were still places available: I thought I said that I would find someone; she claims to have heard me say that I would do it! At that point I couldn't disappoint could I?
So it was on with the shoes, tights, gloves, hat, mufflers, and so forth, as it was January! These came off in March when we had that respite. I searched the internet for a training programme and only found 16-week ones. I had only 12 weeks, so I threw away the first 4 weeks and started in at about 10 miles, most of which I crawled. However I stuck to the training programme religiously, too afraid of what was coming to deviate.
It worked! I completed the marathon before the street sweepers arrived. I waved to the crowd as if a member of the Royal Family for the first few miles, I ‘high-fived’ the children for a few, and I looked at the new buildings in parts of London I had never seen.
I crossed Tower Bridge head held high, looking for my daughter who was watching, and then I realised that we had finished 13 miles and the people going the other way were on 24! Somehow it seemed a long way to go, and I had to put on the Archers in order not to get bored or frightened.
Crossing the finish line I thought, 'thank goodness I did that and it's over'. By the next day I was feeling fine and I thought 'I'm sure I can do it faster' and signed up for Nice to Cannes in November. Obviously madness sets in at some mileage marker.
People were very generous about supporting the run and were all very pleased to support Blond McIndoe, a charity many people knew.
I wore my medal as long as I could until someone asked me how fast I did, and when I told him he said 'oh, poor you, did you have to walk?'. As you can see from the pictures I looked more like a tank than Paula Radcliffe, but it was worth it to support BM.
On the 20th May 2012 Kate ran the 10km BUPA Great North Run for us. This is the second 10km run she has undertaken to raise money for Blond McIndoe, previously running the BUPA Great South Run in 2011. Kate completed this year’s run in 1:00:56.
In 2008 Kate fell into a fire and sustained third degree burns over 11% of her body. She spent just under a month in the Burns Unit at Queen Victoria Hospital receiving skin grafts, and returned for a further week of treatment in January 2009.
Kate wanted to give something back, and decided she had to find an event for which she could be sponsored. She had been an athlete between the ages of 11 and 21, so chose a running event-the BUPA Great South Run was perfect. Kate trained during her free time, including lunchtimes at work and received training advice from her ex coach (who is also her father).
Kate is also running the BUPa Great North Run in may 2013, to sponsor her, visit her JustGiving page.
John and Hilary run a book stall in East Grinstead selling second hand books and donating the proceeds to Blond McIndoe Research Foundation. They have been raising money for charity for well over 30 years and fundraising for us since 1981.
In 2010 they were invited to join Blond McIndoe CEO Jacquie Pinney to attend an event at Buckingham Palace. "Hilary and I were truly grateful to Jacquie for inviting us. It was such a lovely day, great to be involved, and the food was very nice. I remember the cakes there because they had small edible crowns on them, and Hilary took some home with her and I believe she still has the crowns at home”.
When asked about why they support Blond McIndoe John explained:- “I feel very proud of what we do, I am local to East Grinstead and my family has always been involved in the town. Hilary and I enjoy it very much and will continue for many years because we still have plenty books in our garage that need selling!
Archie was unorthodox in his approach to plastic surgery, and I believe we have been unorthodox in our approach to sourcing the books”.