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War veteran to share experiences as part of military lecture series

  • James 'Jim' Penny war hero at University Centre Shrewsbury

A Second World War pilot who was the sole survivor when his aircraft was hit during his 19th mission - detonating the 4000lb bomb on board - will share his military experiences at a lecture hosted by University Centre Shrewsbury (UCS). James 'Jim' Penny will present a talk on Wednesday 3rd February on 'The Importance of the Bomber Command Offensive in the Second World War'.

People are invited to Rowley's House in Shrewsbury town centre to hear Jim's first-hand accounts and put questions to him from 1pm to 2.15pm.

The talk is one of a series of lunchtime lectures at Rowley's House on military history, which are part of a wider programme of public events run by UCS. Admission to the lecture is free but booking is essential as places are limited.

In 1943 on his 19th mission while over Berlin, Jim's Lancaster Bomber was hit by anti-aircraft fire. This ignited one of the target indicators and it was only a matter of seconds before the intense heat detonated the 4000lb bomb on board. The blast threw Jim clear but sadly no other crew members survived.

Jim was taken prisoner and held in solitary confinement for two months as the Luftwaffe suspected he was the pilot of a Mosquito aircraft. He remained a prisoner until the end of the war.

Dr James Pardoe, Director of Design, Heritage and the Built Environment at UCS said: "It is a privilege to welcome a Second World War hero to Rowley's House for this series of military lectures.

"His experience is one of remarkable bravery, skill and sacrifice. To hear a fascinating first-hand insight on air warfare and the pivotal role of the Bomber Command, join us on 3rd February."

Jim had joined the RAF in 1941 and was posted to the USA to begin his flying training. After completing his training in Canada, he returned to the UK where he began a long association with Shropshire.

He flew Airspeed Oxfords at RAF Shawbury before moving on to RAF Tilstock and its satellite airfield at RAF Sleap where he and his crew trained on Whitley Bombers. They were then asked to volunteer for Pathfinder duties and converted to the Lancaster Bomber. They were posted to RAF Bourn in Cambridgeshire before he embarked on his 19 missions over occupied territory.

After the war, Jim chose to stay in the RAF and return to flying duties, first on Lincolns and then as a flying instructor in Rhodesia.

He later joined the Secretarial Branch, spending his final five years as the Officer Commanding Station Services Squadron at RAF Shawbury, retiring in 1971 in the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

To book places for the lecture email communications@ucshrewsbury.ac.uk or call 01743 297185.

Alternatively, people can visit Rowley's House, Barker Street, SY1 1QH, or Guildhall, Frankwell Quay, SY3 8HQ. The helpdesk at Rowley's House is open 11am to 2pm Monday to Thursday. The information point at Guildhall is open 9am to 5pm Monday to Thursday and 9am to 4pm on Fridays.

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