Location of Mystery Picture from 1944 is solved!

The Friends of York Walls recently had an email request from Australia asking for help in identifying one of York’s “old gateways” visible in a 1944 photograph.

Tiana Adair wrote –

“Hello York Walls Friends. I was recently in York on a pilgrimage from Australia as my father and his Aussie crew were stationed at 466 Squadron in Driffield during WWII. On leave they often visited York. When their first pilot was killed on October 6, 1944 they were given 4 days leave in York to bond with their second pilot. We have a photo of the crew standing next to a Roman wall, on a cobbled street, taken on October 10, 1944. My friend and I spent half a day a few weeks ago wandering around and around the streets and gates of York, photo in hand, attempting to figure out where the photo was taken. We asked helpful locals but no one knew, and unfortunately, there is no one left to ask who can confirm the site, as all of the crew are now long-gone. In the end we had to admit defeat and headed to Betty’s to drown our sorrows in a delicious hot chocolate. We were wondering if anyone could assist us in locating the site that the photo was taken please.”


So we studied the scan of the old photograph, which Tiana had supplied and replied back –

“The location of the Mystery picture is solved ! We can tell you that your 1944 photograph was taken with the group standing under Queen Margaret’s Arch, in Exhibition Square, York.

This arch is sometimes referred to as Bootham Tower Postern and is attached to Bootham Tower which is on the opposite side of St Leonard’s Place road – across from Bootham Bar, a major Roman Gateway into York.

The photograph has been taken from the Exhibition Square side of the arch with a view down Gillygate visible through the arch opening. Today the arch looks pretty much as it did in your photo of 1944, a little cleaner stonework now perhaps, with Yorkshire stone paving instead of the stone setts, and the Gillygate buildings tidied up but seem to be only slightly changed. What a pity you didn’t find the location on your recent visit to York. You will have to come back again one day ! We have supplied a recent picture of the arch is attached.

The book “An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 2: The Defences (1972), pp. 160-173 “ says that :-
“Queen Margaret’s Arch is named after Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII, who stayed in York in 1503. The arch itself was built in 1497 as a convenient back door to and from the Abbey grounds when a postern gate was made in the precinct wall near Bootham Bar. This is commonly called Queen Margaret’s Arch, due to an erroneous belief that it was made for the convenience of Margaret Tudor, the daughter of Henry VII, who visited York on 13–15 July 1503 on her way to be married to King James IV of Scotland. Details of her visit are preserved in the city records. There is, however, no doubt of the real date of the gateway as William Sever, Bishop of Carlisle and Abbot of St. Mary’s, in a letter of April 1500 to the Mayor of York, …. states the new work probably supplied a need for better access to the abbot’s house, which became the nucleus of the King’s Manor. The postern and adjoining tower still remain in a relatively unaltered state.”

Obviously Tiana was very pleased with the information we supplied, and explained –

“Thank you so much for your help regarding this. To know where the photo was taken is truly fabulous, and what a wonderful excuse to come back to my favourite city in the UK !!! …….. I look forward to standing exactly where the shot was taken, at the same angle, and then super-imposing the crew onto it …….

…… I am currently researching and writing a book on Dad’s war experiences. He wrote the first draft over many years and left it to me when he died. I began researching it a year ago and what a story it is. I have now met family members of the crew, had lunch and dinner with the two German Night Fighter Pilots involved in shooting them down, have visited the crash site in Germany with other relatives of the crew, friends, the local Military Museum Curator and the Mayor, visited his Sqdn Base in Driffield, been to the church that the survivors spent their first night as POWs in, had ANZAC Day with other vets from his Squadron, and am quite involved in the Facebook Friends and Family Group for No 466/462 Squadrons – Driffield and Lichfield’. My one-month epic trip was all about travelling in my father’s footsteps (and air steps), and boy, what a trip it was. Totally incredible. The only thing I did not achieve while I was in the UK and Germany was to find the York Gate, and now, with your help, we have!!!

Amazing. I thank you sincerely.
Tiana Adair, Gold Coast, Australia.

The Friends of York Walls are pleased to be of help, Tiana.

Alan Fleming

As a final interesting note with this tale……

The daughter of the German NiFi pilot who shot this crew down, Herr Richard Launer, is an artist. She is going to paint the photo that you have of today (2013), merged with yesterday (1944)! Imagine that? A photo of the crew shot down by her father, painted by his daughter, and given back to the crew’s family, 70 years later.

Once fierce enemies in the sky, and now great friends on the ground. War is crazy isn’t it?

All the very best, and thank you so much for this. I will tell everyone!!!



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