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

108 thoughts on “About

  1. Mike

    Hello Simon,
    I’m just after any information you may have on my grandad, who I believe flew with the 75(nz) squadron till his aircraft was shot down and became a pow he was F/O Joseph James ‘Joe’ Wakerley RAFVR 1325219/169159. Wireless Operator. I don’t have a lot of information on him or even a picture, as time has taken it’s toll. I am trying to find out more about him as I never had the opportunity to pay my respect to him
    Regards
    Michael

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    1. 75nzsquadron Post author

      Hi Brian
      As a member of the RNZAF it might be worth contacting them regarding his service record – I don’t know what the policy is regarding access to these files, though I know for the RAF its nigh on impossible unless you are a relative. I would also suggest you have a look in Errol Martyn’s excellent “For your Tomorrow” – this will contain a fairly detailed biography of Russell’s pre 75(NZ) Squadron RAF history.

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  2. Johnny Gray.

    kia ora.Tony checking in for the first time. My Dad( Edward Ted Henare Gray) flew with No75 squadron wireless op and midupper gunner under pilots Wall and Joll, great blogg keep it up will be watching!

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  3. Mike

    Hi Simon,
    Do you have any information on W/C Reginald Sawrey-Cookson? My father flew with him as a Rear Gunner when he was with 149 Squadron whilst attacking the Scharnhorst & Gneisenau when they were in Brest Harbour on 30 March 1941. I believe that the W/C was the CO of 75 Squadron at one time. I also know that he was shot down & killed in April 1942. Any additiuonal information on him would be great.

    Best wishes
    Mike Seymour

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    1. Mrs S A Ramsey

      Hello Mike, My husband, Neil Ramsey, who died two weeks ago age 95 was a great pal of Sawrey-Cookson and told some wonderful tales about him, especially of dealings with his father in law ! Sue Ramsey.

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      1. Mike

        Hello Mrs Ramsey,
        Thank you for this interesting information and I am sorry to hear about recently losing your husband Neil. Reginald Sawrey-Cookson’s wife was called Joan and I have a copy of her signature, so I would be interested to hear any tales about her father & the Wing Commander. I have contacted his family and they live in the Lake District. Apparently, he was a fantastic pilot and a very brave man. Following his death in 1942 he was recommended by his Commanding Officer for a posthumous VC but, regretfully, it was never sanctioned.

        Best wishes
        Mike

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    2. Olivia Duckney

      Hello Mike – my name is Olivia and Uncle Reg (W/C Reginald Sawrey-Cookson) was my great uncle. Sadly I never knew him – but we were all very close with his wife – Joan. She was my Granny’s sister and the father-in-law mentioned below in a further email – was my great Grandfather. My mother has lots of information on Uncle Reg. If you would like to know anything specific – maybe I could put you in touch with her?
      My 10 year old son is currently doing a school project on WW2 – so we’ve been doing quite a bit of research and have found this website to be really useful. It’s so lovely to read your comments about Uncle Reg.

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  4. lyz shaw

    Hello.I am looking for some information regarding my late granddad who was a bomb aimer in the lancasters . I am trying to find his squadron but all I know is he flew in the aircraft PB150 which was a nz as it had a kiwi bird painted on the side of the plane.
    His name was DAVID BERNARD COLEBROOKE . If you need anymore infoplease email me at lyz.asserts@Gmail.com
    Many thanks

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  5. 130mileroad

    One of my sisters, now deceased, was engaged to be married to Len Gaskin, air gunner on a Stirling bomber 1943 based at Mepal, Cambridgeshire. Alas, on the mission to target Peenamunde, ( now re-named Stettin ) the aircraft was shot down with no survivors. Len was the only child whose mother was widowed and their home was in the village of Hillborough in Norfolk. Best wishes to all, Alf Rowlett

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  6. David Yates

    Hi Mike,

    I have just come across your site, and spent some time looking around it. An interesting project and a touching memorial to all our loved ones who flew with 75.

    My father Harry Yates DFC skippered a Mepal Lanc over the last five months of 1944, the extended period of service being due to six weeks out in the September and October for eye surgery. All his boys survived to live long and peaceful lives, although they all died before him.

    Harry passed away on 20th November, 2011, just a few weeks after you lost your own father.

    Harry’s memoir Luck and a Lancaster was published in 1999 and sold enormously well, indeed is still selling. Like you now, he received many hundreds of enquiries from readers; a lot of them old Mepal pals, but most relatives of those who were lost in those days or whose fathers survived but had said very little down the years.

    Anyway, I just want to say that I fully understand your interest and your feelings towards those wonderful men. My thanks and regards to you.

    David Yates

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  7. dan

    walking my dog around the airfield every day, i sometimes think what it must of been like when this base was at full capacity, with planes coming and going.
    I try in vein to find some piece of history thats been lost, but i guess i will just have to be happy that at least i can walk down one of the runways still.
    I find it a shame that it has almost disappeared now but comfortable that it served its purpose and the men and women who fought for the country did their duty.
    One day i might find something…..

    Great article you have written here.

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    1. 75nzsquadron Post author

      It was a good feeling the summer before last when I took the same walk down the runway – I sometimes, after a glass or 2 of wine, decide that when I win the lottery, I’ll buy it all and build something to commemorate the Squadron – I wounder how much the land would cost?😛

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  8. Lee van Niekerk

    Hello, I have been interested and have been reading the stories on your webpage for a number of months now, I was absolutely thrilled to see a mention of my grandfather Maurice Edward Dare in the stories, he was a pilot from New Zealand, who flew with the 75th Squadron on the mission of the 4th of November 1944 at Solingen. I had the 1944 group photo on my screen to try and see whether he was there, but to no avail, faces too blurry!! Does any one else have any information on this mission or any other missions which my grandfather may have flown in?? I would be incredibly interested and grateful.

    Thank you in keen anticipation

    Lee

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  9. mary

    Hi – great site

    Both my father John B Battersby [ the Pacific ]
    and one of his brothers { James Samuel Battersby 75 ] NZ} Squadron

    did war service.

    Thank u for providing me with this info.

    great guys!

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  10. Greg

    Hi, i might be wrong, but any chance is your father related to Richard & Joyce Curtis of London Ontario ? If so, please email me. We might be relatives.

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  11. James M. Barr

    My dad helped form 75 sqn in April 1940. & served with them till the end of the war. He was ground crew flight Sargent H.E. Barr instrument section. I have his service record which I obtained from Cranwell.

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  12. Amelia Gardner

    Hi Simon, I think my grandfather Vernon Clouston was the Squadron leader for 75.
    Amelia Gardner
    Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia

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  13. JOHN THORPE

    it is wonderful to see 75 NZ is still very much alive and our heroes are not forgotten.
    My late step father in law was in the Blance crew shot down 28/29 July AA-M ND 756.He and 2 others survived – bailed out, both he and the R/G being taken in by the Maquis and skirmishing with the Germans. The Nav wounded was a POW.
    I intend visiting Mepal this year and hopefully to see NX flying at East Kirkby
    Keep up the good work with the website Simon
    Best wishes
    John Thorpe

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  14. Chelaire Pene

    Kia ora Simon,
    My grandfather was in the 75 squadron, William Edward McGee 427902.FLT/SGT After Anzac day yesterday i got online and had my yearly punt and googled his name for the millionth time , and i find myself here. What a great site !! I keep looking through the photo’s waiting to catch a glimpse of his face. I do know a great deal of his personal story but i wondered if there were any images of him anywhere and any info or photos you have would be much appreciated.

    Nga mihi
    Chelaire

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