Tag Archives: 1944

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

DSC_0242

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.

DSC_0241

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

SONY DSC

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…..

DSC04953

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.

DSC04963

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.

SONY DSC

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.

SONY DSC

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…..

SONY DSC

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)

SONY DSC

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.

SONY DSC

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……………………..

SONY DSC

“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.

130,000 Views

Many thanks as always to everyone regarding the continuing support for the blog – another 10,000 milestone was crossed yesterday with the blog now having over 130,000 views – utterly fantastic!

I think what is more amazing is that this last 10,000 was achieved in only a little over 3 weeks, which shows a level of consistent visiting of a volume that the blog has never seen before – so for this alone, thank you everybody.

Still the material and contacts keep coming in – I have to admit I am still working back through emails, but slowly I am beginning to catch back up with everything.

The database is getting a bit more added to it everyday – it will still take I think, at least a year to get the basic crew information into it, but I have now at least managed to enter aircraft and pilot information right up to the last Op the Squadron flew to Bad Oldsloe on the 24th April 1945 (the database currently beginning from the start of 1943) – so this means that we have all Lancaster Ops that the Squadron flew – whilst there now has to be a secondary checking activity, regarding serial numbers and flight/ letter designators, I hope with he help of Ian and Chris to be able to add some Lancaster Op histories to the one for ND801 JN-X that I put up a couple of weeks ago (recent information suggesting that this first one needs an update as well!)

So as always, thank you all for your continuing support and encouragement.

cheers

Simon

Aircraft Database update 6th August 2014

composite aircraft image

Many thanks as always to Ian for another update to the 75(NZ) Squadron Aircraft Database. The database contains some new updates particularly relating to the Lancaster section and Ian has also added a note at the bottom relating to ‘Flight’ identification. Ian feels and I completely agree with him, that there appears to now be substantive evidence that a lot of existing sources for information on the aircraft that flew in the Squadron are in parts incorrect – there clearly seems to be errors relating to ‘C’ Flight and it would appear in some cases, aircraft have been identified as ‘AA’ (A or B Flight), simply through the ignorance that ‘C’ Flight (JN) even existed.

I suppose to this end, if anybody has the time to check through our database and is able to provided definitive evidence of particularly, Flight coding (photograph/ logbook entries etc) then please, as always contact us!

See the Wellington database here.
See the Stirling database here.
See the Lancaster database here.

4th August 1914, the centenary – ‘Lights Out’ tonight

lights out

On the 4th of August 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. Sir Edward Grey, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, said the:

“lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime”.

That war, which became known as the ‘Great War’ and later the ‘First World War’, lasted just over four years, resulting in 888,246 British and Empire fatalities. It was arguably the most devastating event of the 20th Century, affecting virtually every family in the country.

Tonight, the 4th of August 2014, a hundred years later, the nation will commemorate the start of the Great War and the loss of so many lives with the  ‘Lights Out’ campaign.

Between 10.00pm and 11.00pm (BST) tonight, turn all of your house or building lights off and light a candle to commemorate the start of World War I.

This post is not about just remembering the start of the Great War – we should never forget that the life expectancy for an airman in Bomber Command was the same as that of an infantryman in the trenches of  the First World War.

For the Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), published in The Times newspaper on 21st September 1914.

Ake Ake Kia Kaha