About

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

Sometime on Wednesday the 21st of July 1943, 14 young men arrived at an airfield in Cambridgeshire.

By the end of the following month, 2 would have left, 1 would be a prisoner of war and 6 would be dead.

The 5 that remained would be at the airfield for another 3 months. One of those 5 was my father.

This is his story, the story of the boys he flew with, of those that arrived before them and those that arrived after them.

My father was Robert Douglas ‘Jock’ Sommerville and the airfield was Mepal, the home of 75(NZ) Squadron RAF.

On the 29th August 2011 my father died. I knew he had flown in the war, but when sitting down to write a eulogy for his funeral service, I realised I knew nothing about that time in his life. Probably as a way of dealing with his loss I decided to start to try to find out about this period of Bob’s life and perhaps, why he had never spoken about it.

So far, its been an amazing journey. I have come into contact with so many people and it is their interest and generosity that has built the blog to the point where its currently is.

Starting with a simple desire to find out more about my own Father, it rapidly grew to provide information for relatives of other airmen in the Squadron and it is this constant contact that has let it grow beyond anything I could have imagined.

As time has progressed and my understanding of the Squadron has become clearer, I have found my efforts splitting between maintaining the blog and answering inquiries and trying to order and make sense of the Squadron records. A significant activity I have started is to transfer the Squadron Operational Record Books into a searchable database – by doing this, we will be able to see every airman who flew in every crew, in every Operation flown during the War. It will take a few years to complete, but will ultimately provide a definitive record of those that flew with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF.

I now know that ‘Jock’ had, based on his brevet of an Air Bomber, the second highest  total in the Squadron on War Ops – it took me 3 years to find this out and it was something, in truth, he never knew and would probably have not cared to know, if he had been told. But, as his son, it’s something that makes me incredibly proud of him as a man and as my Father.

I have no doubt that things will have to change once the database is complete. My original intention was to start with a website, but perhaps the task of starting from scratch was, at the time, simply too big a task. A dedicated website is now an inevitability – but the blog section of this WordPress site will stay come what may – it’s where this incredible journey began.

The blog has so far proved to me that there is still a deep respect and desire to know the stories of our Fathers, Grandfathers, and Uncles and it is this task that they have entrusted to us. We must all ensure that their stories are told and never forgotten and most importantly I believe, that these stories of 75(NZ) Squadron and the braves boys that flew in it are held for younger generations to discover and understand.

If you read this and either have an interest in 75(NZ) Squadron RAF, or have a story about a relative who flew with the squadron, please contact me, the stories of these brave boys need to be told and understood before they are lost forever.

You can contact me at

info@75nzsquadron.com

many thanks for your interest and care.

Simon

286 thoughts on “About

  1. Annmarie Young

    Hi Simon,

    Firstly, thank you for your love and pride in your father and his war efforts.
    I came across this blog and information while researching my partners Grandfather.
    Ronald Thomas Clarkson , RNZAF NZ4213732
    He was a pilot in 75Sqn. And like many who flew Bommer Command, never really spoke of his service. So his grandchildren know very little about his service.
    I myself have just finished 23 years in the Australian Army and have taken on my own secret mission of trying to work out Ron’s records to have his awarded medals replicated for his grandchildren to wear proudly on ANZAC Days to come.

    I would be greatful for any information you may find of his service.

    Kindest regards,

    Annie

    Liked by 1 person

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  2. JN-Dog

    Hi Annie,

    On the night of the 9th of April 1945 the squadron’s Commanding Officer, Wing Commander C.H. “Mac” Baigent took Ronald Clarkson and his crew on a bombing operation to Kiel – Ronald flew as 2nd Pilot. Here is Mac Baigent’s diary entry for that trip:

    “Took F/S Clarkson and crew on this trip, again our first one for some time. We took off well before dark and a very pretty sight it was over the sea in the setting sun.
    As we crossed the Danish coast I thought the Skymarkers over Hamburg were our Δ (target). Saw our illuminating flares in time though and struck the right place. Clear skies, about 20 searchlights and not much flak. Ran in on well placed TI’s to one of the prettiest Δs (targets) I’ve ever seen. Dived out East then North to above Flensburg. Could see the large fires burning for ages. Bit of flak on Sylt but otherwise a quiet trip home. Admiral Scheer sunk.
    Nice landing by me. Thank you.”

    Cheers, Chris

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  3. Paul Farnum

    MEYER, Hotorua Arnel Dean (Arnie) DFC, PFF 75 Sqn RAF (NZ). 14 Sqn ‘J Force’ WW2 Passed away peacefully on Sunday 6 December at Radius Matua, Tauranga

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  4. John Thorpe

    I would think it unlikely that ground crew were detailed to become aircrew, unless they were officially remustered to do so, and after appropriate training.
    Best wishes
    John Thorpe

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    1. Terry Bowers

      I have been researching David Alfred Baverstock RAFVR 610905. He joined the RAF in 1938 aged 17 as ground crew – ACH & LAC. He was selected for aircrew training during 1942 and was posted to 9 Squadron Bombing & Gunnery School (B&GS) before to being sent to Moncton (New Brunswick) Canada for further training. He returned and was posted to No 10 OTU at RAF St Mawgan in Cornwall flying Whitley bombers and survived being shot down by a U Boat over the Atlantic. I believe he joined 75 Squadron as a Mid Upper Gunner around November 1943 and flew around 14 missions with the squadron before being posted to other squadrons linked to the D- Day landings (12 Squadron?) and returning to 75 squadron in January 1945. He left the RAF as a Warrant Officer in 1947 and settled in South Africa.

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      1. John Thorpe

        Thanks Terry, am in complete agreement, a previous posting seemed to indicate otherwise
        Best wishes
        John Thorpe

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  5. Philip Gadd

    My late father, Eric John Gadd, was ground crew at Mepal and Warboys. As a youngster he used to point out the Nissan hut which he lived in at Warboys which was next to the road between Cambridge and Ely. He did get upset on armistice day when he remembered the good people who didn’t come back in the morning. He did say that he flew a couple of times in a Lancaster but I have no idea why or in what capacity – test flight? I’d love to know any details of his time in 75 squadron

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    1. cuebo

      There is a fabulous museum in Lancaster Park just outside Ely where one of the bases was. It has so much information, photos, old artefacts etc.
      I would recommend that you look it up.
      My Dad, F/L Ben Klitscher was based at Mepal late 1944/1945

      Liked by 1 person

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  6. Pam Compton

    Hi Simon, thanks for all your work in creating this. Its a wonderful resource.

    My Uncle Sgt Henry Welsh (Mick) Pullar 411777 was a rear gunner who was killed along with all the crew of R9247 on 17 Dec 1942 on a mission to bomb the KDK factory (Volkswagen) in Fallersleben. He was from Otautau in western Southland and worked on the family farm.
    My mother would never talk about him or his service and was always very sad when he was mentioned. His RNZAF photo was on the wall but he was a mystery.
    Five years ago I started researching and found a lot of info about his service so I feel I have got to know him a little.
    R9247 was shot down by a ME110 based at the Vechta Airfield, they were flying at 4000ft on a moonlit night, loaded with 1000lbs of bombs. The plane was set alight, the bomber then made a curve around and as it passed over Vechta airfield it suddenly dived down steeply and crashed on the edge of the runway. The pilot Flt Sgt Rousseau was ejected from the cockpit on impact and found some distance away. Together with the remains of the crew they were treated with respect and buried at the Protestant cemetery.
    In 2019 development work was being carried out at the Vechta airfield and aircraft parts were found. The Lower Saxony Aviation Archaeology Working Group were consulted and went to the site. Remains were found at a depth of 5 metres – as we now know that the plane crashed tail first. My family were contacted and after DNA testing (there are 7 of us so lots of samples), it has been confirmed by the University Of Hamburg forensic team that they belong to Uncle Mick.- – 78 years after the crash!
    The RAF will have a reinternment ceremony at the Rheinsberg war cemetery at some stage post covid.
    This is a wonderful story of finding someone who was in danger of being forgotten. The words Lest we Forget have so much more meaning now, and as time passes these very brave young men more than ever need to be remembered.

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  7. John Thorpe

    Hi Terry,
    Precisely, am in total agreement. It was just that a previous posting seemed to indicate that men were ‘just plucked’ from ground crew into aircrew without remustering and undergoing relevant aircrew trade training.
    Isn’t it an absolutely wonderful site?
    Many thanks and best wishes
    John Thorpe

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  8. John Thorpe

    Hi Terry,
    This is not a reiteration, just a qualification of previous plst
    Precisely, am in total agreement. It was just that a previous posting seemed to indicate that men were ‘just plucked’ from ground crew into aircrew without remustering and undergoing relevant aircrew trade training.
    Isn’t it an absolutely wonderful site?
    Many thanks and best wishes
    John Thorpe

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    1. Terry Bowers

      Hi John,
      Thanks for replying. This a wonderful site, an absolute credit to all who were/are involved in pulling it all together. I have become really hooked onto this kind of research – in my opinion it’s so important for future generations to understand just what these young men did. I have an excellent illustrative book by Chris Ward & Chris Newey on 75(NZ) Squadron – well worth a look if you get the chance

      I have the RAF service history and anecdotes of David A Baverstock and his life in the RAF but sadly not his log books. It’s almost an unbelievable story I’ve put together for his daughter, but it’s not unique – so many men of his generation had their own compelling story.

      Best wishes to you John.

      Terry

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      1. John Thorpe

        Hello Terry
        And thank you also for your response
        Yes it is a truly wonderful and dynamic site Have been involved for many years now. Was researching the service of my late step father in law, Sergeant Bill Hyde RAF, Lancaster AA-M ND756, Flight Engineer.
        They were shot down over Nancy France returning 29/8/44 from a raid on Stuttgart, 01-25 hours. Bill, Winkie Kirk, RNZAF, rear gunner and nav. Colin Greig another KIWI bailed out, the others were all killed. Bill and Winkie were taken in by the Maquis and fought with them for about 2 months.Colin was wounded in the knee and captured to end up in a Stalag Luft.
        I was in contact with Winkie, sadly after Bill passed away. Then before Winkie departed also he put his son who was writing a book about them in contact with me. The book Late Arrival by Zane Kitk, another great read available through Amazon. It is very atmospheric and authentic, describing his dads pre war story and onto training and ops. Bill gets a good mention
        Keep telling myself to buy the 9ne you mentioned now you have prodded me to so do!!
        All for now
        John

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  9. John Thorpe

    Hi Terry
    Have tried to send a lengthy response. The system is telling me I’m repeating it and won’t let it be sent!
    If you would send me your Email address will send direct
    Best wishes
    John

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  10. David O'Connell

    Does anyone have information or photos of Sgt. George Cunningham. 1365361.
    I would be grateful for any replies

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      1. 75nzsquadron Post author

        If you have any biographical information on George, DoB, place of birth etc it would be gratefully received for my records and his entry in the Nominal Roll section of the site 🙂

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      2. David O'Connell

        Born 11/7/14. Son of William and Mary. 4 other siblings. Father was killed in Palestine at 3rd battle of Gaza(aka Beersheba) on 2/11/17. Left a daughter (Irene) born 28/3/43. Wish I had more to share. Thank you for your help

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  11. David O'Connell

    George Cunningham. Born in Dundee, Scotland on 11/7/14 to William and Mary. He was the youngest of 5 siblings. He left a daughter (Irene) born 18/3/43. His wife committed suicide in the early sixties. Apparently, he she never got over his loss. I don’t know if there is any truth to that as I’m only going by what my mother (Irene) told me many years ago. His father was killed in Palestine at the 3rd battle of Gaza (aka Beersheba) on 2/11/17. I have no more information at the moment as I am only at the beginning

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  12. Ruud Slangen

    Good morning,
    I am doing research on 45 fallen airmen that lie buried near my hometown in the Netherlands. One of them is F/O (42317) Gordon Douglas Thomson, No.75 (NZ) Squadron of 3 Bomber group.
    He was born on Saturday 30th October in Dunedin, New Zealand.
    I am looking for possible relatives.

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