An Old Coathamian – Not Forgotten

James Thomas THEAKER

No. 1593242 Sergeant (Air Gunner),
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve;
No. 9 Squadron, Royal Air Force.

Died 5 July 1944, aged 31 years.

Buried in Creil Communal Cemetery, Oise, France,
Plot 1, Grave 385.

No. 9 Squadron was part of RAF Bomber Command. It was stationed at the time of Sergeant Theaker’s death at RAF Bardney in Lincolnshire and was at that stage flying Avro Lancaster Mark I heavy bombers. On the night of 4/5 July 1944 Sergeant Theaker was a member of the eight-man crew of Lancaster code-sign WS-F which took off to take part in a raid on a flying bomb launching site at Creil, 25 miles north of Paris. But the aircraft crashed just to the west of Creil, near the hamlet of Le Tillet, and all eight crew were killed. Seven of them, including Sergeant Theaker, are buried in Creil Communal Cemetery, alongside the crew of another Lancaster which crashed in the same area on the same night.

James Thomas Theaker was the son of Mark and Elizabeth Theaker, who came from Staithes. He joined Coatham School in April 1927 as a boarder in School House, the same time as Clapham (q.v.), and lived in Wynneholme, the school’s smaller residence for boarders. He was fully involved in school life, taking part in school plays, for example, and was a particularly active sportsman. He played cricket for his house, and competed successfully in athletics, cross-country running and long distance swimming. In 1931-32, his final year at school, he played for the school rugby 1st XV, for which he received his colours. That year, as well as passing his Higher School Certificate examinations, he was a school prefect and captain of School House. James joined the Old Coathamians Association on leaving, giving his address as Felicity House, Staithes, which was where his parents were living at the time of his death. In December 1943 he married Barbara Lee from Leeds, where they set up home. The school magazine of December 1944 noted he was “missing”, and he was first listed on the School’s Roll of Honour in December 1945.