48 Years Later

Ray Bence
Ray in the waist of a B-24 at a Collings Foundation air show about 1992. The patch on his cap is for the American Ex-Prisoners of War Organization.

During World War II, Staff Sergeant Raymond Everett Bence, Jr. served on a B-24 Liberator as the the nose-gunner on Lt. Fromm’s crew, 703rd Squadron, 445th BG. On September 27, 1944, during mission 169 for the Bomb Group, his plane and 24 others were shot down over Germany in what came to be known as “The Kassel Mission“. After being shot down he was interned as a POW in Stalag Luft 4 in northwest Poland and later survived “The Black March” in the winter of 1945. He was one of youngest men in the squadron and was nick-named “The Kid”.

He had never talked about his war experiences to me when I was growing up. That changed when he ordered a copy of The Kassel Mission Report when it came out in 1989. That opened the floodgates. His words at the time “Now they will believe me”. We were planning a trip to Germany for the 50th anniversary memorial at the time of his death on July 4, 1994.

In recent years I’ve sought out military records related to the 445th and the Kassel mission in the archives in Washington and London. My most recent find was the post-war testimony of an RAF pilot who was on the same forced march. He stated that he and a crew-mate managed to escape during the march. However, after 24 hours on their own they realized that conditions were so bad they actually rejoined the POW column because they knew they wouldn’t survive on their own.

World War 2 Heavy Bomber Cold Weather Flight Suits

 

 WW2 Heavy Bomber Flight Suit  Raymond Everett Bence Jr. in flight suit
Heavy bomber cold weather flight suit on display at the Museum of World War 2 in Natick, MA. Raymond Everett Bence Jr., 445th Bomb Group, wearing his cold weather flight suit in 1944.

“The Museum of World War II is a research and educational institution
devoted to preserving and exhibiting the reality of World War II.
It is the most comprehensive collection of documents and artifacts
on display anywhere in the world, with over 7,000 artifacts on display;
more than 500,000 documents and photographs are in the research archives.”

Learn more online at www.museumofworldwarii.com

William Bence and Family – 1851

William Bence (1828-1900) and his family in the 1851 Great Britain Census

9 Kings Street, Heaton Norris, Stockport

census_great_britain_1851_bence

Name  Position  Mar. Status  Age  Occupation  Place of birth  Relationship to me
Hannah Bence  Head  Married  62     Yorkshire Huddersfield  Great x3 grandmother
Frederic Bence  Son  Widower  26  Coach Guard   Cheshire Stockport  
William Bence  Son   Married  24   Power Loom Weaver  Cheshire Stockport  Great x2 grandfather
John Bence  Son   Unmarried  22   Self Acting Winder  Lancashire Heaton Norris  
Mary Bence  Daughter   Unmarried  20   Power Loom Weaver  Cheshire Cheadle Bulkeley  
Ann Bence  D.-in-law  Married  24  Throstle Piecer  Disley  Great x2 grandmother
Peter Bence  Grandson    1    Lancashire Heaton Norris  Great grandfather

At the time of this census Hannah’s husband John Bence was still alive though he is not listed here. According to the England & Wales, FreeBMD Death Index he died in Stockport in 1855.

Three Generations – 1926

00285_raymond_bence_1926

While reviewing a new set of scans of old family photos and I found this 3-generation portrait. This is a 1926 photo of my dad, Raymond Everett Bence Jr., my grandmother Bertha Alice (Ratcliffe) Bence, and her mother Mary H. (Buckley) Ratcliffe.

1863 Civil War Draft Registration for William and Thomas Bence

bence william civil war draft reg

Civil War Draft Registration for William and Thomas Bence

June 1863 Civil War Draft Registration record for William Bence, age 37,  and his brother Thomas, age 42. Both are listed as residents of Fall River, MA with their place of birth as England. In the “Remarks” column next to each of their entries is the note “Says he is an alien”.

Source Citation

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registration Records (Provost Marshal General’s Bureau; Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865); Record Group: 110, Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau (Civil War); Collection Name: Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865 (Civil War Union Draft Records); ARC Identifier: 4213514; Archive Volume Number: 3 of 4