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Ernest Albert Cecil Thirkettle, Mid Upper Gunner  1217817
Sergeant, Royal Air Force
Aged 22 of West Dulwich, London, England

Runnymede Panel Number: 166


From Mrs Jessie Bowler,widow of Ernest Thirkettle:

Ernest Albert Cecil Thirkettle was born in London on 3rd October 1920. He went to Buckingham Gate High School in London, near to Buckingham Palace. He left School at 17 and worked as a clerk in an Estate Agents' Office. He joined the RAF on 31st January 1941 and volunteered for Air Crew. He married Jessie Ellis (whom he had known from schooldays) on 15th November 1942. He was 22 and she was 19. He became an Air Gunner and went to Binbrook in July 1943 - joining 460 Squadron on 30th August 1943.

Link to a Danish Television Documentary Det lange farvel (The Long/Last Farewell) by Uffe Bregendahl TV/Midt - Vest - produced following the 65th Commemoration in 2008:







My name is Mrs Jessie Bowler (formerly Thirkettle). I was married to Sgt. Ernest Thirkettle in November 1942 when I was 19 and he was 22 years old. [After 4 September 1943] Throughout the rest of the war I waited in vain for news of him. I met and married my husband Donald in 1947, the father of my two children. He died in June this year [2006] and his death brought forth stories and photographs of days long ago. My daughter looked on the internet for the name Thirkettle and found this website [Peter Dunn's 460 website]. It was very strange to see photos there of which I have my carefully kept copies. I also have a letter from Mr. Ingemann Halkjær and from Peder Christensen and some seeds from marsh plants which grow at the site of the crash. I am so glad that the people of Stadil have looked after the grave for all these years. Those men were so young and so brave. Thank you. God bless you. 


Left to Right - Roy Thirkettle (Ernie's brother), Ernest Thirkettle (Ernie's father), Jean Thirkettle (Ernie's sister), Ernie, Jessie, Catherine "Kitty" Jones (Jessie's schoolfriend), Mrs Ivy Lawless (Ernie's mother), Mrs Annie Ellis (Jessie's mother), Mr Jones (Catherine's father). (Ernie's parents had divorced and had both remarried.)

From Amanda Shepherd (Jessie’s daughter):

Dear Poul, Peter and Victor,

My mother married Ernie Thirkettle on this day - 15 November - in 1942.  She was 19 and he was 22.  We can only imagine how terrible it was for her to suffer his loss so soon after they married - and how much worse too that she had to wait so long to know his fate.  She met and married my father after the war, had my brother in 1953 and me in 1956.  She lost touch with Ernie's family, and with Mrs Lee, who was the only crew member family she was in touch with after they went missing.

She has read your emails, and has tried to answer your questions, but has very little info about Ernie's time in the RAF - perhaps understandably. Below is her email to you.

Poul, thank you for your very kind offer of helping us if we come to Denmark.  Peter, thank you for taking the time to write such a very detailed email.  Peter and Victor, thank you for your invitation to Stadil in 2008.I would be more than happy to bring my mother if she decides that she could make the journey (she has quite bad arthritis and long journeys are difficult).  We will talk further about it. 

With warmest wishes and thank you again for your kindness

-Amanda (Shepherd)


From Mrs Jessie Bowler:

Ernie was born in London on 3rd October 1920.  He had a brother Roy about 3 years younger who served in the RAF and a sister Jean who joined the Salvation Army and married a Salvationist.  She was about 10 years younger so would now be in her 70s.  Ernie went to Buckingham Gate High School in London near to Buckingham Palace.  We met when I was 13.  I suppose you would call us childhood sweethearts. 

He left school at about 17 and worked as a clerk for an estate agency.

Family legend says his surname is Norwegian in origin.  He was certainly Nordic looking. 

I have lost touch with his family.  I stayed for a time with Mrs Lee of Burnley, mother of Bert Jowett, and she stayed with me in London after the war.  Bert was her only child.  She had a niece - daughter of Clifford Meadows of Burnley, who would now be in her 70s.  We are all getting so old.  I do not have any information about any others of the crew members.

I think Ernie mentioned Hamburg and Essen.  He was very excited at the idea of becoming a Pathfinder, but being newly married we mostly talked about our future when the war would be over.

Links to a selection of official correspondance to Jessie Bowler (then Thirkettle) on the loss of her husband:

4/9/1943 - 1st Telegram from Binbrook

9/9/1943- Letter from 460 Squadron Binbrook Commanding Officer

29/10/1943 - Letter from British Red Cross

13/11/1943 - Letter from British Red Cross

7/4/1944 - Letter from Air Ministry London

22/2/1945 - Letter from British Red Cross

24/11/1947 - Letter from Air Ministry London

8/6/1950 - Letter to Ingemann Halkjaer


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