Tag Archives: 1944

NE191 JN-M ‘The Captains Fancy’ – a new photograph…….

NE181 100th & aircrew VHD cleaned

A new photograph of the Bailey crew, taken prior to their 100th Op in NE181 JN-M ‘The Captains Fancy’ on the 29th January 1945, to Krefeld. L to R (back row), Jack Brewster (Nav), Norman Bartlett (F/E), Jack Bailey (Pilot), Jack Wall (A/B), Dick Pickup (W/Op). (front row) Roy Corfield (R/Gnr), Tony Gregory (MUG). Picture supplied by Tony Pickup ©

Many thanks to Tony, son of Dave Pickup, Wireless Operator with the Bailey crew for sending in another, we believe, unseen photograph of The Bailey crew and NE181 JN-M ‘The Captains Fancy’, prior to their departure to Krefeld on the 29th of January 1945 on ‘Mikes’ 100th Op.

It’s interesting to compare this picture with an earlier one that Tony supplied, which include the ground crew – it seems that the positions are barely changed – we can only guess which picture was taken first………

NE181 100th Jan 1945 tu low file

The Bailey crew in front of NE181 JN-Mike ‘The Captains Fancy’, just after ‘bombing up’ 29th January 1945. L to R (back row), Jack Brewster (Nav), Norman Bartlett (F/E), Jack Bailey (Pilot), Jack Wall (A/B), Dick Pickup (W/Op). (front row) Sgt. Phillips, unknown ground crew member, Roy Corfield (R/Gnr), Tony Gregory (MUG), unknown ground crew member. picture supplied by Tony Pickup ©

 

 

Unidentified crew photos – who are they? – an answer already!

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Excellent news – Reg has come back very quickly with an answer to the identities of the airmen in the first photograph I posted last night and it seems Chris was pretty much on target with his thoughts on who they are and the relevance of the cheese. WordPress seems to be doing somethings differently now regarding visibility of posts and comments, so I thought it worth reposting this photograph with the information Reg has found:

During a daylight bombing of enemy forces at Villers-Bocage on 30 June 1944, No 75 Squadron Lancaster ND917 was hit by flak splinters, one striking flight engineer Sgt P. McDevitt in the knee and causing excessive bleeding. The pilot, Sqn Ldr N. Williamson, seeing that McDevitt was losing blood rapidly, elected to land on one of the Advanced Landing Grounds on the Normandy beach-head, where medical attention could be sought. This was the first RAF ‘heavy’ to make use of one of these small strips. The photograph, taken next day, shows Williamson presenting bomb-aimer Fg Off G. Couth with Camembert cheese produced in the district to mark his 23rd birthday. Other members of the crew are Fg Off J. Watts, navigator; Sgt J. Russell, rear gunner; Sgt R. Jones, mid-upper gunner; and Sgt S.Cooke, wireless operator.’

http://www.airpages.ru/eng/uk/lancaster_9.shtml

And on a French forum, about 2/3’s of the way down (for French speakers…..)
http://www.crash-aerien.aero/forum/post422629.html

And finally in an image collection:

Normandy
31 June 1944 75 Lancaster ND917 Lancaster ND917 of No 75 Squadron on one of the Advanced Landing Grounds on the Normandy beach-head on 31 June 1944. This was the first RAF ‘heavy’ to make use of one of these small strips.

http://www.airpages.ru/eng/uk/aircraft5.shtml

 Reading through the accompanying information for the photograph and adding some tags to the post, it has occurred to me that there does not seem to be a ‘F/O G. Couth’ that flew with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF, so we must assume therefore that in fact, F/O G. Couth is in fact F/O Graham Coull (RNZAF), the Williamson crew’s regular Air Bomber

Unidentified crew photos – who are they?

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– Photo courtesy of NZ Bomber Command Assn.

Thanks as always to Chris for keeping the posts going whilst I struggle to stay on top of things and now have to turn my attention the the start of a new year at University. This post is equally frustrating and exciting – the first of the 2 pictures, as Chris notes later on, I have also seen before and I am sure when and or wherever I saw it, that it was captioned as well – which makes the arrival of this post doubly infuriating! The second photograph I have never seen before, so hopefully we might be able to add names and a story to the boys in the picture, as always, fingers crossed………

These two wonderful crew photos come from the NCBCA archives, and in both cases, the story behind the photo, and identity of the crews have been lost.

Any help in identifying them will be greatly appreciated by Peter Wheeler, the NZBCA archivist.

The first, above, has the staged look of a newspaper shot, as the crew members, perhaps sitting on the back of a truck, study some round objects, with a JN-coded Lancaster parked behind. The Pilot (right) appears to have Squadron Leader’s stripes and a DFC ribbon.

My theory was that this is S/L Nick Williamson, DFC (RNZAF) and his crew, around the time that they made the very first heavy bomber landing in France after D-Day, on a fighter strip in the Normandy beach-head on 30 June 1944. They were flying ND917, JN-O back from Villers Bocage, when they put down, possibly at Plumetot, in order to seek medical aid for his flight engineer, who had been wounded by flak.

The round objects look to me like they could be camembert cheese boxes (one of the crew seems to have removed the lid while another looks at it or smells it?). Perhaps they had picked up souvenirs from their sortie into France?

The Pilot looks a bit like Williamson, going by another photo that I have seen, however he doesn’t have the “New Zealand” shoulder flashes, which Williamson would have worn. So that probably shoots down my theory.

So who are they, and what was the occasion?

The second photo, is a very interesting one in that it shows the rear gunner’s turret in detail, and G-H stripes on the inside of the tail fin:

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– Photo courtesy of the NZ Bomber Command Assn, Jack Meehan collection.

This photo came from P/O Jack Meehan, Wireless Operator with the Glossop crew, 22 Jul to 24 Dec 1944, however he can’t remember who the individuals are or how he came into possession of the photo.

And I’m sure I have seen at least one of these faces before, but I can’t remember where.

Again, anyone who recognises the photo, or an individual, please let us know and help the NZBCA fill in the gaps in their information, and re-establish the provenance of these historic pictures.

Thanks very much, and thanks, as always, to Peter Wheeler for permission to publish these photos.

Confirmation of identity – Lancaster Mk.III ND914……….maybe

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A slightly larger photograph of the crashed 75(NZ) Squadron RAF Lancaster at Mepal. The back of the photograph says it is ND914, but the date does not tally with any of the Ops the aircraft flew. Courtesy Peter Wheeler/ NZBCA archive

Last December I posted a series of wonderful images from Arthur Rhys Williams, Flight Engineer with Fred Hubbard’s crew. One of the photographs was of an obviously crashed Lancaster. The images clearly showed the aircraft’s lettering – AA-H, but tantalisingly, the serial number was indecipherable. A search through the ORB for the period that Arthur, Fred and the boys were at Mepal, suggested 2 possible candidates:

ND914 ‘swung on landing’
ND782 ‘written off on an air test’

I am very pleased to say – and thanks as always to Peter for passing it onto Chris – a photograph from the NZBCA archive collection seems to have provided us with the answer.

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The reverse of the photograph above identifying AA-H as ND914 – however the quoted date does not tally with an of the 4 Ops flew with the Squadron before it was written off in this crash……….Courtesy Peter Wheeler/ NZBCA archive

As of writing I am not sure the origin of the photograph – though I am sure if Chris can find out he will lets us know – but it seems at least that we can now be sure that the aircraft in the photograph is in fact Lancaster Mk.III ND914 AA-H. Based on this fact, the database shows a rather short career for ND914, however, the final Op listed for ND914 is the 31st of March 1944 – apparently 3 days after this photograph was taken……..

I would be very interested if anybody could shed some further light on ND914 and the crash – my gut feeling is that this is certainly ND914, I suppose however, the question exists around the date – either the date on the photograph is wrong, or the ORB’s have a mistake regarding the identification of ND914, when in fact perhaps another aircraft was flown

The 4 Ops flown by ND914, whislt with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF and its crew details are as follows:

10/05/1944 – Attack Against Courtrai
Lancaster Mk.III ND914 AA-H (1)

S/L Lindsay Johnson Drummond , RNZAF NZ413043 – Pilot.
F/S P. Dean, RAFVR – – Navigator.
F/S William Philip Matthews, RAAF AUS.426258 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. A. Lyon, RAFVR – – Wireless Operator.
P/O Hugh Henry, RAFVR 621460/ 54218 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Gordon Ross Ellis, RCAF J.89174 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/O William Henry Cotterill, RAFVR 51720 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:55 – Landed 00:42
Flight Time 01:47

21/05/1944 – Attack Against Duisberg
Lancaster Mk.III ND914 AA-H (2)

F/L Henry Leonard Burton, RNZAF NZ415863 – Pilot.
P/O Samuel Seymour, RAFVR 147993/ 173885 – Navigator.
P/O Herbert Donald Pitt Becker, RAFVR 171280 – Air Bomber.
F/S Robert Carroll, RAFVR 1367069 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. H. Sturminger, RAFVR 1803026 – Flight Engineer.
F/S R. McGregor, RAFVR 1699864 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/O Thomas Andrew Anderson, RAFVR 1021289/ 172814 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:05 – Landed 03:20
Flight Time 04:15

22/05/1944 – Attack Against Dortmund
Lancaster Mk.III ND914 AA-H (3)

P/O Colin Roy Baker, RNZAF NZ42999 – Pilot.
F/S Charles Le Gallals Gardner, RNZAF NZ425204 – Navigator.
F/O Raymond Alexander Ramsay, RNZAF NZ416866 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. G. Marden, RAFVR 1585273 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. W. P. Watson, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. H. R. Renwick, RAFVR 1002868 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. R. Cornish, RAFVR 1280506 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:40 – Landed 03:05
Flight Time 04:25

31/05/1944 – Attack Against Trappes
Lancaster Mk.III ND914 AA-H (4)

F/L Richard Bruce Berney, RNZAF NZ40750 – Pilot.
F/O Murray Charles Fearon, RNZAF NZ425190 – Navigator.
F/S Roy John Robert Young, RNZAF NZ425410 – Air Bomber.
F/S Eric Stephen McNamara, RNZAF NZ417220 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. W. J. Todd, RAFVR 546595 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. F. Hubbard, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. S. Bellis, RAFVR 2215940 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 00:08 – Landed 04:38
Flight Time 04:30

Project ORB, 1944 COMPLETE – an amazing personal effort

Another significant milestone has been reached in the transcription of the Squadron Operational Record Book Form 540. The whole of 1944 has been completed and this is down to the single efforts of Hubert.

I know from the now relatively small amount of transcription that I have done on these documents , that to complete a month can be a trial in itself, so to manage to not only devote the time, but the energy and concentration to work through a complete set of 12 months represents a massive commitment to this activity.

Hubert, personally and behalf of all of our readers who might use these months to either search for information on a relative, or simply peruse them through interest, I thank you from the bottom of my heart – you have made a massive single contribution to this project and everybody should know that.

A thousand thanks

View March 1944, including the new additional Special Operations Annex here.
View April 1944 here.
View May 1944 here.
View June 1944 here.

Looking for Bob – part II

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A year to the day I made a post about my taxi ride in ‘Just Jane’ At East Kirby. I held it for a couple of weeks because it seemed fitting to publish it on the second anniversary of Dad’s passing. Perhaps through chance, coincidence or serendipity, I find myself on the third anniversary of Bob’s death making this post – perhaps it is the second part of a triptych, we shall have to wait till this time next year to see if that’s true, but perhaps this post is the next step of my search to understand what my Father did during the war with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF.

Airfield site plan scan tidied up and reduced

The official Air Ministry site plan for RAF Mepal – the map shows the astonishing actual size of the complete airbase – the living quarters and support buildings covering an area as large as the airfield itself. © Crown copyright/ RAF Hendon

A couple of months ago Dave passed to me a site map for RAF Mepal that he had recently obtained from RAF Hendon. What struck me instantly was the massive scale of the airfield and the degree by which its size existed beyond the airfield itself – obvious in hindsight, but as with these things, you never think about it till you see it……..

In the footsteps of Giants…….
The plan seemed simple, get some satellite maps of the area add these to the airfield plan and go for an explore –

Luckily, our expedition started off with a visit to the Memorial Garden to give us  some time with Bob. Ernie turned up and after general chit chat, the matter of our visit was discussed and straightaway I realised a mistake in our intended journey – instead of making our way from the Three Pickerals parallel to the river – it was actually the old road that we needed to take…..

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Ernie and I stood in the Memorial Garden to 75(NZ) Squadron RAF, in Mepal village.

Walking out of the village, back to the new bypass, we took the last left and began to walk up an old asphalt track, which I guess must have been the old Mepal/ Sutton road.

At this point, I think to be honest, we weren’t actually sure where we were going exactly, other than for the hope that at some point we would hit the new bypass and by default somehow be ‘in the airfield’ – simply by the fact that the ‘new’ road bisects it. As we continued up the road, we began; inevitably perhaps, to begin to wonder whether we had yet reached the airfield. I observe this simply because of the ridiculous nature of having a map and not knowing where you are – one of Bob’s amazing skills was to be able to rattle off every single road number, in order from a start point to a destination – I have no such skill – perhaps as a designer, my world is visual – take me somewhere once and I can get there again, but I do it by looking out for things. I berate my students on a regular basis for relying too quickly on ‘digital solutions’, but I must confess that after my 2 attempts to gain my map reading badge when I was a Cub Scout, I have now happily thrown my lot in with TomTom et al.

4 way comp

Obligatory holiday photos – (1) My husband is lost, but he won’t admit it. (2) Its the closest to the Tower of Piza we have. (3) Obligatory airfield selfie. (4) If I tell him to runaround like he’s a plane, he will…….

In putting this post together, I have realised the actual physical difficulty of transposing the ‘Google world’ onto the site map that Dave sent me – I am not sure if this is the basic accuracy of the site map, the distortions of perhaps years of archival copying, enlargement and reduction, or whether in deed, satellite photography itself is subject to the inevitable distortion, relative to the curve of the planet – what ever the reason, it needed Photoshop and a fair bit of patience to achieve the image below – as I have said, I am not sure what is true and what has been stretched to fit, but it at least gives a ‘relative’ impression of then and now.

Airfield site plan scan tidied up with google earth

A digital ‘squash and squeeze’ together of the Site map and a satellite view from Google Maps. © Crown Copyright/ RAF Hendon/ Google

As is always the case, no doubt based on previous bad experiences, Bev was naturally suspicious of my general movement, right up until we hit the new bypass – this not only providing confirmation that we weren’t lost, but also that there was actually a way across the road to what we could now see as the Sutton side of the airfield..

route walked

On crossing the road, I was encouraged to see a long concrete path stretching ahead of us into the field. At this point as we started walking, we assumed we were on the perimeter track and it felt good to be on the edge of the airfield with the water tower to our far left.

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The view looking down the main (No.1) runway from the A142. (view 1 on the map)

water tower

Turning to the left, the Sutton water tower – visible in so many of the pictures from the period. (view 2)

About half way down the perimeter track, the crops on our right hand side stopped and we were suddenly aware of a field to our right with what appeared to be a series of old rusted steel ‘L’ section posts – along these posts ran what seemed to be a steel cable. Returning to our folded collection of maps, it dawned on us that in fact, we were not on the perimeter track, but had actually been walking down what remained of the main runway. Completely unnecessarily furtive glances and half strolling, half running steps took us across the field and we arrived at what we now understood to be the perimeter track – looking back to the Mepal road, we could now see the raised banking of the bomb store – despite the massive area of the space, still apparently terrifyingly close to the runways.

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Now on the perimeter track, looking back at the A142. (View 3)

Now confident of where we were, we continued to walk, eventually arriving at the far end of the ‘peri track’, the No.3 runway, or what remained of it stretching out ahead of us, literally as far as the eye could see. I think certainly for me, this is the point when it struck me how bloody big this airfield was – this impression was magnified when I realised that there was still a significant portion beyond our gaze and bisected by the A142 Mepal road.

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At the far left lower corner of the airfield. (View 4)

We continued round, till we walked over what we thought to be the dispersal pans on the lower left of the field, granted nothing now remaining of them. To be honest by now, we were both getting a bit thirsty and certainly in my mind a pint at ‘The Chequers’ was becoming increasingly attractive. Finally we stumbled on what perhaps is all that remains of airfield buildings on ‘this side’ of the airfield – surrounded by concrete I first thought this was a dispersal area as well, but with the building slap bang in the middle of it, it couldn’t be. Looking at the map, I think we were stood by the 2 72,000 gallon petrol storage tanks – absurdly close to the village school…..

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What I first thought to be a dispersal pan, later to see on the site map that this was part of the fuel tank system for the airfield. (view 5)

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What remains of a small building somehow related to the fuel storage system for the airfield. (view 6)

Despite the clear description on maps, I think it took this walk to make me understand the closeness of the village of Sutton to the airfield and also the closeness of the villagers therefore to the airfield and the boys that were stationed there. Its an understood fact that the airfield was given the name ‘Mepal’ because there was already an RAF Sutton Bridge, which was the Central Gunnery School between 1942 and 1944 and also RAF Sutton on Hull, which was responsible for the Balloon Barrage defence of Kingston upon Hull and the Humber Area, later becoming the home of the RAF School of Fire Fighting and Rescue from 1943-59. I certainly don’t make this observation to in any way whatsoever question the choice of Mepal as the airfields name – but I realise the memories and fondness and respect for the Squadron is clearly split between 2 villages…….

I’d let Dave know that Bev and I would be in the area for the weekend so we arranged to meet in ‘The Chequers’. I had visited the pub last November and was keen for Bev to see it as it has a wall of photographs dedicated to 75(NZ) Squadron. In hindsight, perhaps I was a bit too casual about the visit this time – realising that as I write this post, I actually didn’t take many photographs. Dave arrived and we started talking – returning to the wall I noticed something quite astonishing. As well as the framed photographs, there was a Squadron plaque, I was momentarily speechless to realise that the name plaque on it was one I recognised – I was sure that ‘G.W. McKellow’ was ‘Mac’ McKellow – Mid Upper Gunner with Andrew MacKenzie. An email to Andrew on my return confirmed this – Andrew also said that he had many memories of drinking in ‘Chequers’ – and from what he recalled so would many of the boys of the Squadron.

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75(New Zealand) Squadron Royal Air Force plaque. The name plate identifies the original owner as ‘G.W. McKellow’. After checking it would appear that this was, as I suspected at the time, ‘Mac ‘ McKellow, Mid Upper Gunner with Andrew MacKenzie. © The Chequers – reproduced with permission from Rowland Cartwright

If this strange coincident wasn’t enough, another was about to come. Noticing the general level of interest and discussion at the picture wall, the barman suggested I take down one of the pictures and have a look on the back of it as there were ‘a few signatures’ on it. Bev stepped up to do the honours, regarding removal from the wall and to be honest when the back of the picture was turned to me, I was speechless……………………..

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“Presented to the Chequers in the village of Sutton 1st July 1983 on behalf of Dick Egglestone crew 75(NZ) Squadron” © The Chequers – reproduced with permission from Rowland Cartwright

I will say nothing more about this astonishing artefact in this post – suffice to say that I took a lot of close up images that I will stitch back together in Photoshop when I have a spare few days and it will be a post in itself…………

12 months ago in another post, I asked myself out loud whether after taking a taxi ride in a Lancaster bomber,  I had gotten any closer to Bob and his wartime experiences and I actually thought not.

In hindsight I now realise the difference between trying to experience something through proximity rather than actuality – what little of RAF Mepal that still survives is real – it was there when the Squadron was and what now remains still contains the echos of engines, tyres and footsteps.

If I ask myself again, 12 months later, I think I must confess once again no. Though, as I said a year ago, my understanding of a bigger picture had increased and now I feel this picture – on the larger scale – is a little more informed again – and that’s fine, that’s enough for me.

I am glad that the airfield is in the sate of slow natural adsorption that it is in – It’s time and function, mercifully, are gone and it should, I think, as with the majority of World War II airfields be allowed to slip back into the land from which it came.

I came looking for Bob, but found Mac McKellow and a load of the other boys, sat in a pub…….

I think the following poem now means something else to me………..

New Zealand gave a Squadron of Planes
When Britain’s need was dire
Both countries sons made up the crews
And they flew through hell and fire.

To the Pommy lads the Kiwi’s made
A gesture that was grand
They gave them honorary citizenship
Of their own beloved land.

Under New Zealand’s flag, they proudly flew
Comrades of the air
They lived and died, as side by side
Fate’s lot they chose to share.

In Wellingtons, Stirlings, then Lancasters
To the foe, they took the flight
On wings they soared through Europe’s skies
In the darkness and the light.

But a heavy price, the Squadron paid
In five long years of strife
Of those who flew with “75”
One in three, laid down their life.

On the East Coast of Old England
The crumbling airfields stand
Where aircraft once left mother earth
Tractors till the land

The era of the Bomber war
Came, paused, then passed away
But the bond between two nations sons
Unchanged, will ever stay

Ken Moore, Waterlooville. 2.3.80

A portrait of Dad, I believe taken after he was commissioned in late 1943.

A portrait of Dad, I believe taken after he was commissioned in late 1943.

F/L Robert Douglas ‘Jock’ Sommerville, D.F.C.
Air Bomber, 75(NZ) Squadron RAF

1st November 1922 – 29th August 2011

Ake Ake Kia Kaha

xx

 

 

Gram Churchyard, Denmark

Denmark 2014 211 crpd

Many thanks to David for passing on these photographs of the gravestones of the Murray crew who were killed on the 17th of April 1944. The photographs were taken on a visit to the Churchyard to commemorate the loss of the crew in April this year.

Denmark 2014 192 slightly crppd

On the 17th of April 1944 at approximately 20 minutes to nine in the evening 7 Stirling Bombers began to leave Mepal to join a total force of 168 aircraft for a large scale Gardening Op to Swinemünde, Kiel Bay,and to the Danish coast.

Stirling Mk III EH955 AA-K was shot down by a night-fighter over Denmark on the return flight to base at 14,000ft. The Navigator, John McFarland recalls his navigators desk ‘exploding in front of him’ as the cannon shells, very possibly from a Schräge Musik equipped Nacht Jagd ripped through the aircraft.

EH955 crashed at Jenning, about a mile south of Gram. The Captain, Henry Murray, Flight Engineer, Hyman Kahler, Mid Upper Gunner, John Mulligan and Peter Woolam, the Rear Gunner were killed and buried at Gram.

Tragically, the crew volunteered for this Op, believing that having just converted to Lancasters, a Gardening Op in a Stirling would be an easy extra Op for their tour.

F/O Henry James Murray RNZAF NZ415820.  Pilot. Age 26.

Sgt. Hyman Chaim Mordecai Kahler RAFVR1803280. Flight Engineer. Age 21.

Sgt. John Mulligan RCAF R.195834. Mid Upper Gunner. Age 20.

Sgt. Peter Woolam RAFVR 1890807. Rear Gunner. Age 19.

The crew’s Navigator, Air bomber and Wireless Operator all succeeded in baling out and were captured as Prisoners of War.

Sgt. John Edward Lithgow McFarland  RAFVR 1503993. Navigator.
Prisoner of War No. 4193. Prisoner of War Camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft III. Promoted to F/Sgt while a Prisoner of War.

F/S Douglas John Hill RNZAF NZ415761. Air Bomber.
Doug Hill had a miraculous escape when his parachute harness, which was cut by a burst of fire from the night fighter, came off. His left foot caught in the harness and he descended hanging by his foot.
Prisoner of War No. 3550. Prisoner of War camps – Dulag Luft, Stalags Luft VI and 357. Returned to the United Kingdom 6th May 1945.

F/S Gordon James Irwin RNZAF NZ415698. Wireless Operator.
Wounded when attacked by night fighter. Prisoner of War camps Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft III. Promoted to W/O while a Prisoner of War. Returned to the United Kingdom 14th May 1945.