In 1944 Ted Thornley was posted to No 100 Squadron based at Grimsby as a Lancaster bomber mid upper gunner. During the next six months Ted flew on some of the most arduous and exacting bombing raids of the Second World War. He was accompanied on all these raids by a lucky mascot – a teddy bear called ‘Wacker’. To mark each safe return the crew of Ted’s Lancaster would draw a Swastika on Wacker’s back and today visitors who look carefully into Wacker’s glass cabinet in the Museum can still just see the Swastika markings.
Also displayed in the cabinet is Ted’s Log book entry of 25 August 1944. It records a successful night raid on Russelsheim near Frankfurt. On this raid Ted’s gun turret was hit and had Wacker not been tucked safely into his flying jacket, Ted may well have been badly injured. It is still possible to see a small hole in the front of Wacker where a piece of shrapnel penetrated him and not Ted. After this raid Wacker was considered to be a crucial member of the crew and “Is Wacker aboard?” was even added to the pre-flight check list.
With the end of the War, Wacker’s operational duties were not yet over. In 1950, as part of No 57 Squadron, he accompanied Ted out to RAF Tengah, Singapore to support security operations during the Malayan emergency. Ted finally retired from the RAF in 1954 through poor health. Wacker continued to be cherished until Ted’s death in 2005.
‘WACKER’ CAN BE SEEN IN HIS CABINET IN THE MUSEUM’S TANGMERE HALL ADJACENT TO THE PICTURE GALLERY.