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

204 thoughts on “About

  1. woody

    Wow ! – what a fantastic website – so much useful information.

    I seem to have 2 distant cousins on both sides of the family who died while serving with 75 Squadron:

    Geoffrey G Turner
    Cyril Taylor

    quite a bizarre coincidence albeit i’m sure i’m not unique in this. The information on this site has been extremely helpful in providing information about their service which is otherwise very difficult to obtain.

    Thank you for this site – it is a fantastic resource

    Kind Regards

    Woody

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  2. Niki Greene

    Sgt. Frederick Phillip Willsher (rear gunner) was my great uncle, and my nan died never really knowing the full story of what happened to him, I wish we had found your website earlier. I hope you do not mind but I have cut and pasted the info about his last flight 25.05.1943 onto the MyHeritage family tree and have cited the source. Thank you again for providing such valuable information.
    Kind Regards
    Niki

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. David sparrow

    Excellent information! fascinating

    My grandfather was Ralph Charles Sparrow R1263518
    tail gunner with 75th squadron C flight and flew 16of 32 missions in HK601 JN-D I can’t stop digging for more info.

    well put together

    can’t wait to show all this info to my other family members.

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. Neil Frank Sandeman

    My father was Squadron Leader Frank Albert Sandeman who joined the Royal Air Force Volunteers Reserve on 5th February 1938 and served to 21st March 1946.
    He was with 75 Squadron 14.10.42 to 23 .4 .43 at Mildenhall ,Oakington and Newmarket.
    He was mentioned in dispatches on 24th September 1941 and awarded the Air Force Cross on 17th July 1942.
    He passed away on 11th November 1977.

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. James Montgomery

    Wow -what a fantastic website this is.
    My grandfathers cousin was Colin Frank Bates. Until only a few days ago all we knew was that he was in the RAF and died 5th January 1945 and is buried in the Sage War Cemetery in Germany.

    A lady had contacted originally looking for a photograph of Colin, which we don’t have, as she was compiling biographies of all airmen killed in action on 7 Squadron. She informed me of the crew he was in. The Louis Thomas Friedrich crew came together in September 1944 and they were all killed over Germany on 5th January 1945 and were based at Oakington RAF base, Lincolnshire.

    Your website has provided so much more information than I could have hoped for. Details of missions flew from September through to the beginning of November, my aim is now to fill in the gap between November and the beginning of January.

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    1. j thorpe

      Dear Simon, As promised some time ago, attached Evasion reports for Winkie Kirk and Bill Hyde, hopefully they are legible. Had to fold them top and bottom, to reduce from the original Foolscap to A4 but otherwise they are intact and verbatim so to speak. No pun intended! Zane Kirk’s biog. of his dad is progressing positively and should soon be available from bookshops I am led to believe. I have copied this in to Zane. Keep up the sterling work, it is a credit to you and your contributors.

      Kind Regards,

      John Thorpe THORPE-ADS

      25 Tyers Road, Roleystone, WA, 6111

      Phone: 08 6196 2245 Mobile: 048 106 4026

      ________________________________

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. John Stackhouse

        Hello John,

        I have Winky Kirk’s autograph book with the signatures of all his crew plus many others. Is it possible to email the evasion reports to me regarding Winkie Kirk? I would love to have a copy of them. Thanks. John. john.belinda.nz@gmail.com

        Like

  6. Mark G BOFFEE

    Brilliant website and some fascinating info here! My father– Squadron Leader N.M.Boffee Dfc served from apprx May 1939 to December 1940.Completed 30 Operational Missions in the Wellingtons with 75 Squadron,and then was rested until he was transferred to a Liberator Squadron.
    Ended his RAF career flying Meteor jets and with a promotion to Wing Commander.

    Thank you for such an informative website.
    Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. JN-Dog

      Hi Mark, Do you have any photos, letters or diary detail from his time at 75(NZ) Sqdn? We don’t know much about him; I have only found one small photo, and I’m sure he would have had some very interesting stories from those days. Thanks and best regards, Chris (chris@foodworks.co.nz)

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  7. Mrs June Collins

    My father Sgt H Steele stationed 75 NZ Squadron Mepal 1943, Spoke of friend ZINZAN, Thank you so much JUne Collins, please use e.mail direct for contact

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  8. Patricia Goldstiver

    Hello Simon,
    As we approach ANZAC Day (tomorrow 25/4/19) I am once again thinking of my Dad and his time in the 75th Bomber Squadron. One resource you probably know about but if not Google it – is the movie “Maximum Effort” which was made during 1945 to “show the folks back home (NZ) what their boys were doing. My Dad was in charge of a Ground Crew repair team. His name is Roy Burkitt and he is in the movie. I was born in London during an air raid but later lived on the edge of the aerodrome – I guess it was Mepal. Dad was Mentioned in Dispatches twice and tomorrow I will be showing the movie at the Retirement Village where I now live in New Zealand. Kind regards. Patricia Goldstiver (nee Burkitt). Lest We Forget.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. JOHN THORPE

      Hi Patricia,
      What a lovely and appropriate post.Have seen Maximum Effort, it is brilliant and most fitting on ANZAC day, One of your NZ compatriots in NZ has just published a book about his dad’s exploits as a rear gunner on Lancs in 75 sqdn , well worth a read.
      Re your dad as ground crew the late British comedian Eric Sykes also WW2 ground crew wrote a poem about them and how they did not receive the fame and accolades as the fliers but how they were just as important, it may be on the web. If I can find will send it to you.
      John Thorpe ex RAF engine mech. ground crew 1956 – 1961

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  9. Willie

    Hey my name is willie,

    My grandad was Patrick reedy and was part of the 75th squadron lancaster bomber.

    I dont really have any information on him but have seen his name mentioned in one of the logs..

    Would you have much about him? And or about the plane/planes he would have been on? Thinking about getting some art done in memory of him and would actually like the exact plane and any details on it?

    Thanks willie 🙂

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    Reply
  10. Scot Beall

    Hi my name is Scot Beall,

    I think theirs a picture of my grandad Tom Beall and I was wondering if you had any more photos or information pls. Thank you

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    Reply
    1. 75nzsquadron Post author

      Hi Scott – excellent to hear from you! My records are not complete for Tom – did he have any middle names and do you know his service number by any chance?!?!
      Best
      Simon

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      Reply
      1. scotbeall

        Hi Simon,

        Thank you for responding, my grandads full name was Thomas Grieve Beall and his service number was 1894568, he qualified as a gunner on 15/07/44. I hope this helps you and thank you for taking the time to look in to this for me.

        Scot Beall

        Like

      2. 75nzsquadron Post author

        Thanks so much Scott – another RAF boy from the Squadron has his full details now – I’ll update the relevant crew history as well!

        Like

  11. Jay Nicholson

    My father’s brother, Sydney George Parrott flew with 75NZ squadron in the early years of WW2. He left an album of photos which I own at least one of which is relevant to this site being of his crew posing in front of their Wellington Bomber. It is titled “A flight 75NZ Squadron” and lists 18 missions declaring that “Above crew flew together on raids 5-18 inclusive”. Two kiwis are included in the crew along with 3 RAF and 1 RCAF member. The kiwis are P.O. F. Andrews 1st pilot Captain RVZAF and Sgt I. Breckon 2nd Pilot RNZAF. Their missions are listed thus:
    1. Paris. 2. Rotterdam 3. Lorient 4. Cologne. 5. Brest 6. Brest. 7.Kiel 8. Berlin 9. Kiel
    10. Mannheim. 11. Hamburg. 12. Brest 13. Hamburg, 14. Hamburg. 15. Mannheim
    16. Hamburg 17. Cologne. 18. Atlantic Sweep
    Sadly, my uncle was killed in December 1941. Obviously I would be interested in hearing any new information about his service with 75 NZ Squadron.
    (Sorry can’t see how I can post the actual photo here.)

    Liked by 1 person

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  12. James Barr

    Hi Simon, my dad was ground crew in 75 squadron from it’s formation through the war. He was a flight Sargent and formed the instrument section. He never spoke to me about those years, my mum said he had made so many friends and used to watch them take off and sadly so many didn’t return. Now I understand that feeling. Ground crew and air crew were a unit that lived, and worked together, each relying on the other. He said New Zealander’s were the finest people, that he served with.

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    1. JN-Dog

      Hi James, Thanks for sharing, we are keen to hear and see anything you have about your Dad’s time with the squadron. The ground crew are under-represented in the stories on this site and we need to rectify that! I’m sure Simon would love to hear from you if you email him direct at info@75nzsquadron.com. Cheers, Chris

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      1. Robert L. Lee-Guard (Born Robert John Leigh Berry)

        My Father Warrant Officer L.J.S.Berry, Pilot/Flight Engr. joined 75(NZ) SQUD. at Mepal in early 1944 and severed with them until mid 1946 before returning home.He flew Lancaster 3 and Lincons.The Sqd. was famous for Sgt James Ward who won the first VC for putting an engine fire whilst in flight and I believe he was lay to rest in the War Cemetery in Hamburg. My father fast away .7/10/1998 in Christchurch.

        Like

  13. bippa2@btinternet.com

    Hi Simon , great blog . My family and I
    Have just returned from the Rheinburge
    War Cemetery to visit the grave of Dad’s pilot F/O Keith Southward from NZ who died 75 years ago on 6/10/1944 saving his crew from their badly damaged LM104 you father’s old Lancaster on a raid to Dortmund . My son Nicholas Vero has also conducted a lot of research into the aeroplanes they flew
    Bill Vero son of Sgt EW Vero WO/AG

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    Reply

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