Jim Davis

Jim_Davis_1944_smlJim Davis was born in Plymouth Devon, on 13th February 1925, one of seven children, in a poor but happy family.

From a young age he showed a talent for drawing and painting, in his school days, becoming one of the first pupils to receive a free scholarship to the Plymouth College of Art.

However, although later in life he became an accomplished international artist, with works accepted by HM Queen Elizabeth, HRH The Prince of Wales, and displayed not only at the RAF Museum, but also in the White House and the Kremlin, Jim did not pursue this talent as a career.

Instead, following the outbreak of war in September 1939, and the devastation caused by the bombing during the ‘Plymouth Blitz’, Jim by now employed as an apprentice boilermaker in the Naval Dockyard, felt the need to help his country in it’s hour of need.

In 1942, and despite being underage at only 17 years, Jim applied to, and was accepted by the Royal Air Force for training as an Air Gunner. (He told the Air Ministry that he was eighteen, and that his birth certificate had been destroyed during the bombing),

The fact that he was in a reserved occupation, and that the Admiralty refused to release him from this commitment didn’t stop Jim, he simply ignored them and joined the RAF anyway, after which he heard nothing more from the Admiralty.

Jim subsequently qualified as an air gunner, joining 90 squadron, RAF Bomber Command as a Lancaster rear gunner, and with his crew, survived thirty two missions over enemy territory, going on to serve with number 7 squadron of the elite ‘Pathfinder Force’ under Air Vice Marshal Don Bennett, who was also to play a part in Jim’s life after the war.

In 1946, following the end of hostilities, and a posting to India, Jim left the Royal Air Force and returned to Plymouth where he met and married his wife Violet, to whom he was more than happily married for 46 years, until her death in 1994.

In 1989, Jim decided to do something to redress the fact that there was no monument in existence to commemorate all the men and women who served in the allied air forces of World War II.

Initially the idea for an International Air Monument brought only apathy and ignorance from those he approached, but Jim wasn't to be deterred, and decided to contact his old ‘boss’,  Air Vice Marshal Don Bennett, and having gained his enthusiastic support, the idea was caried forward, overcoming what many believed were unsurmountable obstacles on the way.

Unfortunately, Don Bennett died unexpectedly in 1986, and Jim, having made a pact with Don that the fight to build the monument would carry on regardless, formed a committee consisting of local Ex RAF men, Doug Taylor, 'Bunny' Austin, Cliff Platt, Lauri Scott, Bill Flynn, Dennis Teague, Doug Dawson and Ray McSweeney.

Jim is adamant that the monument would not have been build without the help of these men, and has special praise for Doug Taylor who was for many years the Secretary to the committee.

Together this committee, under the leadership of Jim Davis fought and overcame the bureaucracy and hostility from some sources shown towards the idea of the monument.

Most appropriately, the monument was unveiled at a ceremony on 3rd September 1989, fifty years to the day after the opening of hostilities in 1939, and was attended by dignitaries from the Royal Air Force and seventeen other allied nations commemorated on the monument.

Sadly Jim passed away on Sunday 18th March 2012 and his ashes are now interred below the monument along with his friend and co-founder Don Bennett, but up until his death, and despite suffering the rigours of his advanced age, his mind was as bright and active as ever. A visit to Jim was always entertaining

With Jim's passing, we lose another link with our history, although thanks to his efforts, the monument stands as a reminder of the devestating effects of war, to this and future generations.

Despite having been associated in one way or another with Jim’s monument for some years, it is only comparatively recently that I met him for the first time. However, we quickly became firm friends, and I am truly honoured to have known, and be counted as a friend of such a man.

Pete Chapman