The Arrowhead Club

London Leave

Postcard of sights of London
Image courtesy of Paul Furiga

I can’t say why, but every time I think of the possibility that my dad, George Edwin Farrar, visited London while he was serving with the 8th AAF during WWII in England, I think of this poem, first published in London during 1805 in the book “Songs for the Nursery.”

Pussycat pussycat, where have you been?
I’ve been up to London to visit the Queen.
Pussycat pussycat, what did you there?
I frightened a little mouse under her chair.

According to my mother, I had memorized a great deal of nursery rhymes by the age of two, so maybe this was one of them. Still to this day, I associate this rhyme when I think of London.

Anyway, pussycats aside, the question in my mind really is, did Dad see London? I don’t recall him ever telling me he did, but another one of Frank Furiga’s (fellow 384th Bomb Group NexGen member Paul Furiga’s dad’s) stories has me believing he did.

Postcard of West Towers, Westminster Abbey, London
Image courtesy of Paul Furiga

Frank Furiga recorded the story twice. One version was a short summary, but the second had much more detail. His summary version was,

On August 13th, our whole crew departed for a hotel in London with the good graces of our 384th entertainment fathers. Upon arriving we ran into the John Buslee & David Albrecht crew from the 544th Squadron. We stayed at a nice hotel for the weekend. We had a most memorable dinner at a place called the Hungaria Club in Piccadilly.

There was a great Hungarian gypsy orchestra that serenaded us with a few songs. Then there was an opera star seated at a table dining and she was persuaded to sing some operatic numbers. It was a most enjoyable evening and we rode the train back to Kettering refreshed and looking ahead to more combat.

Postcard of London, Piccadilly Circus
Image courtesy of Paul Furiga

The version with a lot of interesting detail went like this,

One sunny afternoon I entered the officers’ quarters to see our pilot, Lieutenant Bert Brown and the copilot Lieutenant William Bayne, dancing around the coal stove and shouting excitedly. When I inquired as to what had brought this about, they showed me the leave passes for a three day leave. And better than that, the whole crew would be taking a nice trip to the big city, London, England.

The very next morning, our entire crew, officers and enlisted men, departed from Kettering by train for the great trip. When we arrived in London, we were very fortunate to have found lodgings at the Regent Palace, traveling in somewhat of a grand style.

Having properly registered and having stowed our luggage, we then started to look about for a nice pub where we could quaff some good British beer. At the very first one we went into, we encountered Lieutenant John Buslee and Lieutenant David Albrecht of the 546 [correction, Buslee crew was in the 544th] Squadron and their crew.

So as we sat and drank, we talked about getting involved in some group activity that evening, and a decision was finally made to perhaps attend some good play, and then have a fine dinner somewhere. And Lieutenants Buslee and Albrecht handled the details.

So that afternoon, we attended a matinee performance of the famous Noel Coward production “Blithe Spirits” at the Haymarket Theatre. The actors did a very superb job, and we certainly enjoyed it immensely. After this activity, we traveled to a very fine nightclub restaurant, the Hungaria Club.

When we arrived here, we were greeted by the host, who told us that our table was not yet ready and we could partake of cocktails while we waited. We were then led to a rather intimate room downstairs where Gypsy or Castro was playing. As we enjoyed our drinks, the enticement of a few pound notes brought the orchestra ever closer, and they outdid themselves in entertaining us.

Sometime later, we were taken to our table upstairs. Another type orchestra was playing there for entertainment of the guests and one of the patrons of the restaurant happened to be an operatic singer and she was persuaded to sing several arias. And one of the selections was from Puccini’s “La Bohème.” “Musetta’s Waltz”, I believe. While she sang, the entire room of diners was held spellbound, and many of the people stopped eating.

And as she finished her selections, the audience applauded very warmly and long. This was something that we had not expected to see and left us with a very nice and warm feeling. It was something that we would always remember the wonderful evening we spent at the Hungaria Club. And so the evening ended there.

And the very next day, we went on a tour of London, visiting all of the standard tourist attractions such as the Tower Bridge, the Westminster Cathedral and other points of interest, which we found to be very enjoyable. That being over, we headed back for Grafton Underwood and war.

Our very last thing was to stop at the Hollywood Lounge in Kettering for some brew and a hearty dish of fish and chips as we got off the train in Kettering.

Instead of ending the story here, master storyteller Frank Furiga included a little foreshadowing by saying,

But this story does not end here, however.

Frank went on to describe an awful thing he saw happen to his friends on the Buslee crew when he was a tail observer on the 28 September 1944 mission to Magdeburg. You can read his story here.

So, there are a few things about Frank’s story of the three-day pass to London that makes me believe my dad was in London with the Buslee crew for those three days in August 1944, the thirteenth to the fifteenth. One, Frank specifically mentions Buslee and Albrecht by name. Two, Frank says that his entire crew was there, officers and enlisted men, and says Buslee’s crew was there, too. Three, the entire Buslee crew “were all off ops” as 384th Bomb Group Combat Data Specialist Keith Ellefson puts it, i.e., they were not part of operations (did not fly any missions) between August 12 and August 24, with a few exceptions.

If any of them had been left behind at Grafton Underwood and not included in the London visit, they likely would have been assigned to fly as substitutes with other crews during that time.

When I checked the dates that the men of the Buslee crew were off ops during this time, I see that John Oliver Buslee (Pilot), Chester Rybarczyk (Navigator), James Davis (Replacement Bombardier), Sebastiano Peluso (Radio Operator), Erwin Foster (Ball Turret Gunner), Eugene Lucynski (Tail Gunner), Lenard Bryant (Waist/Top Turret Gunner), and George Edwin Farrar did not fly any missions between August 12 and August 24.

I also believe most of the Buslee crew (the ones who didn’t fly another mission until August 24) may have also been sent to a flak house, probably Southport, after they returned from London. With eleven days without flying a mission, that would give them a whole week to rest up at the flak house on top of three days in London.

David Albrecht (Co-pilot) did not fly any missions between August 12 and August 18. Perhaps most of the Buslee crew were sent to a flak house because of their experience on the 5 August 1944 mission on which original bombardier Marvin Fryden was killed and Clarence Seeley was seriously injured. Albrecht did not fly with the Buslee crew that day and perhaps was not included in the trip to the flak house. Seeley did not fly another mission until 5 September 1944 and was hospitalized during most of this time, so likely did not go on the trip to London or possible trip to the flak house.

Of course, my theory that most of the Buslee crew visited a flak house after visiting London is purely speculation on my part. I can find no documentation to support my theory. Unfortunately, images of the squadron’s morning reports during the August 12 to 24 time period are unreadable and cannot be used to confirm either the London leave or flak house visit. However, I cannot imagine what else would have kept the Buslee crew from participating in combat missions for that lengthy of a period of time.

One thing does perplex me, however, and it may indicate the possibility that my dad did not go to London with the Buslee crew. He wrote a letter home to his mother dated 14 August 1944, which would have been right in the middle of the August 13 to 15 London visit. In the letter, he does not mention London at all. The stationery he used was plain and had no markings, no hotel name or anything else. The envelope was postmarked 546 17 AUG 1944 (two days after the end of the London visit), U.S. ARMY POSTAL SERVICE and also stamped with U.S. POSTAGE VIA AIR MAIL in the amount of 6¢.

Even more interesting, it was the only letter he kept that he mailed home during his entire stay at Grafton Underwood. I’m sure Dad and his mother corresponded quite frequently while he was at Grafton Underwood, but no other letters from either one of them during this time exist in his memorabilia from the war.

I also want to note a terminology discrepancy that Keith Ellefson pointed out to me. Keith has poured through mountains of wartime records and reports in his research and does not recall ever seeing any documentation in the unit morning reports placing anyone on “Pass.”  The usual terminology in the morning reports is “Leave” for Officers and “Furlough” for Enlisted men, but no “Passes.” I assume that the airmen just used the terminology of “Pass” loosely to mean the paperwork for being granted a leave or a furlough.

Frank Furiga made a very thorough list of all the sights he saw in London in 1944 while he was in the service with the 384th Bomb Group. It’s possible that Frank visited London more than once as he was in England two months longer than the men of the Buslee crew, so his list may not have all been accomplished in this one visit from 13 to 15 August 1944. If my dad did visit London at the same time as Frank Furiga, John Buslee, and David Albrecht, I imagine he saw at least some of these sights.

Places Frank Furiga visited in England in 1944
Image courtesy of Paul Furiga

A transcription of Frank Furiga’s “Places I Visited in England (1944)”,

  1. London Times Building
  2. London Bridge
  3. Tower of London
  4. London Mint
  5. St. James Palace
  6. St. James Park
  7. Buckingham Palace
  8. Guards Barracks
  9. Westminster Abbey
  10. House of Commons
  11. House of Lords
  12. Big Ben
  13. Scotland Yard
  14. The Cenotaph [the United Kingdom’s official national war memorial]
  15. Lord Nelson’s Statue – Trafalgar Square
  16. British Admiralty House
  17. Thames River
  18. Cleopatra’s Needle – Imported from Egypt
  19. Old Hallows Church – A.D. 675
  20. Roman Wall Ruins
  21. Bank of England
  22. Mansion House – Residence of Lord Mayor
  23. St. Paul’s Cathedral
  24. Sir Christopher Wren’s Tomb
    1. Whispering Galley
    2. Duke of Wellington’s Tomb
    3. Duke of Wellington’s Funeral Cart
    4. Florence Nightingale’s Monument
    5. Lord Nelson’s Tomb
    6. Sir George William’s Tomb (Y.M.C.A.)
    7. Lord Kitchener Monument and Chapel
  25. Fleet Street
  26. Courts of Justice
  27. Charles Dickens’ Curiosity Shop
  28. Victoria Theater
  29. Drury Lane [The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, commonly known as Drury Lane, is a West End theatre and Grade I listed building in Covent Garden, London, England.]
  30. Leicester Square
  31. London Subway
  32. St. Pancras Station [Railway Station]

Thank you to Paul Furiga for sharing new detail through his dad’s stories and to Frank Furiga for recording them.

Further reading

The Cenotaph

St. Pancras Station

Drury Lane

Hungaria Restaurant – described as,

A Hungarian restaurant on Lower Regent Street. It was called the Hungaria and had the attraction in wartime London of a very deep basement fitted with gas and waterproof doors.

The waiters, some of whom slept on the premises, were trained as air raid precaution (ARP) wardens and first-aid workers … Their advertising during the war read “Bomb-Proof and Boredom Proof – we care for your safety as well as your Pleasure.”

Except for the stories of Frank Furiga, © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

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