William Bruce Archibald was born on 19th September, 1915, at Roxborough on the beautiful island of Tobago which was then part of the British West Indies. He was the second son of Robert Bruce Archibald and Amelia Harries Archibald. To his family and friends he was known as Bruce, and it was not until he joined the RAF that he acquired the nickname 'Archie'.

From 1924 until 1931 he attended Bedford Modern School in Bedford, England where he was a boarder in Allens House, 1924-1928, and Orkney House, 1928-1931. The school was not very far from Cardington airfield where the development of airships took place. One of the airships that was a common sight around Bedford at that time was the R101 which made about 9 flights in total. Some of these were long endurance flights. The airship often did a farewell circuit and a 'lap of honour' on it's departure and return around the town of Bedford. This would have presented the local people with a wonderful view of the majestic airship.

Perhaps it was these early encounters with airships that inspired Archie to join the RAF in 1936?

The photograph below would have been taken in September or October of 1930. In the summer of 1930, the R101 was extended by adding an additional 35 foot gas cell to increase the 'lift'. R101 was around 777 feet long and would usually fly at a height of about 3,000 - 4,000 feet.

Airship R101
Photo: L Druce

After leaving school Archie worked in the accounts department at Devon Vale Mills, Tillicoultry in Scotland. In his spare time he was a keen walker and spent much time touring around Scotland staying in Youth Hostels.

In August 1936 Archie joined the RAF and in November the same year he went to RAF Netheravon in Wiltshire as an accounts clerk with No.6 F.T.S.(Flight Training School). In 1938 6 F.T.S. moved to Little Rissington in the Cotswolds.

It was during a stay in a Youth Hostel that he met his wife to be, Violet Turnbull from Edinburgh. On October 21st 1939 they were married in Edinburgh. In September 1940 Violet gave birth to their daughter, Morag.

By August of 1940 Archie's Service Records show him as U/T (Under Training) Pilot. This is when he attended 4 I.T.W (Initial Training Wings) 1st War Course 'Regulars' Pilots at RAF Paignton in Devon. Once training was completed Archie went on to fly as a pilot with 102 Squadron at RAF Topcliffe and then with 35 Squadron at RAF Linton-on-Ouse. It was while he was flying with 35 Squadron that his aircraft, Halifax R9496 TL-L, was shot down over Norway in March 1942 with the loss of all onboard.

Archie and Violet on their Wedding Day
Photo: L Druce

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© Linzee Druce 2001-2012