Monthly Archives: November 2012

Searching for more information on Allan……

A few days ago I put up a request for any more information on Allan – particularly his time after 75(NZ) when he was at Wyton with 128 LNSF Squadron on the Wings Over New Zealand forum – not much comeback to be honest, but then a random exchange between 2 people I am not familiar with regarding whether this was the same Mayfield that worked for a company called Fieldair and as a reply confirmation of that fact.

I’d never heard of this company and a web search pulled up information on the company and the development of ‘top dressing’ in New Zealand between the wars and then after World War 2. Essentially the process of dropping seed and fertillisers from an aircraft – though that rather simplistic description I suspect, hardly does the science of the technique justice…….

After a discussion of the techniques, the article discussed some of the companies that were at the forefront of this technique – one being Fieldair. Included is the following;

“Fieldair’s logo is a strangled goose. According to legend, a hungry Fieldair pilot flying between airstrips saw a single goose which looked like dinner. His somewhat hopeful method was to attempt to manoeuvre alongside the bird, side slip into it and grab hold. The first few attempts failed and the goose got wise. A dogfight developed, and both fliers lost altitude. A hundred feet over a gully the goose broke towards the aircraft, and hit the prop, breaking it. The pilot force-landed, and concocted a suitable story of a bird strike, which was sadly undone when the farmer requested the company’s services, as “You blokes must have the best pilots in the country … one of your blokes chased this goose around my farm for about a half an hour. He must have just missed by inches every tree on my place. And to top it off this bloke succeeded in killing the goose and landed to pick it up”. (Ewing & MacPherson, p182).

To much to hope that the story relates to Allan – but if it did………….how good would that be ?!?

Albert ‘Titch’ Halliday RAFVR 1899145 – Air Gunner. Logbook

It gives me great satisfaction to upload Albert’s logbook. Very early in my research activity I contacted his daughter Ann and she was the first person to trust me with a document of a relative for the website. Well Ann, the website is a bit of a way off still, but thanks for your belief in my project and for entrusting ‘Titch’s’ logbook to the collection.

Browse Albert’s logbook here

Philip Francis Smith RAAF AUS. 427206 – Wireless Operator. Logbook

Some time ago I got talking to Jim Smith about his Uncle, Philip Smith who was the Wireless Operator with the McCartin crew and, like all but one of the crew, perished on the 20th November 1944 on an op to the Meerbeck oil refinery, Homberg.

It’s the first logbook that I have received that was owned by an airman that did not make it back and I think it makes it all the more poignant to see the entry (in an others hand) for that final operation, simply with ‘missing’ after it.

View Phil’s logbook here

Jack Francis David Jarmy RAFVR 1337320/134695 – Navigator. Logbook

As recorded on the blog, it was my absolute pleasure to visit Jack and is wife at the end of the summer and it was with great generosity that he let me photograph his logbook. Jack stayed in the RAF after the war till he retired, so the logbook as a complete record of his flying career is huge. Owing to the storage constraints of this site I have, just for now, uploaded the pages that reach the completion of Jack’s second tour with 218 (Gold Coast) Squadron in 1945. Once the proper website is sorted, I’ll upload the entire logbook.

Browse Jack’s logbook here

Gerald Howard Jacobson RNZAF NZ41333 – Pilot. Logbook

I had the great pleasure to meet Denis Jacobson at the Friends of 75(NZ) Squadron Association Winter Reunion in November. His father Gerald flew with 75(NZ) in 1942 between 19th of August and 17th of December when he was tragically lost with the rest of his crew on an op to Fallersleben.

Gerald’s logbook is a beautiful and detailed document, detailing all training he undertook as a Pilot. Of note also is Gerald’s transition from the Squadron’s Wellington bombers to the new Stirlings which replaced them.

Browse Gerald’s logbook here

Robert Douglas ‘Jock’ Sommerville RAFVR 1562617/161049 – Logbook

Just uploaded Bob’s full logbook in the new ‘Crew Logbooks’ section in the main menu. The document covers all of Dad’s training beginning in 1942 at No.15 Elementary Flight Training School, all the way through his 2 tours with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF, finishing with his last op to Potsdam on the 14th April 1945.

View Bob’s logbook here

‘Jock’ Sommerville full 1st Tour history – 1943

I’ve been busy over the last few days adding content to the blog – it dawned on me as I was doing it that there was no way of announcing it, or tagging the information for searches. I then realised that a blog entry is the way to do it and also a way to lead people to it via a search/ tag.

Under ‘Dad’ in the main menu bar, there is a new drop down menu. Third down, is 75(NZ) Squadron RAF – Tour 1 1943. Off this is Bob’s full first tour history. It contains crew and a/c information, the 75(NZ) Squadron Operational Book extract and the equivalent entry from the Bomber Command Diaries. Where aircrew/ a/c were lost on a raid, I have also listed the individuals and their fates.

Go to the first op of the tour – ’30/7/43 Mine Laying off the Frisian Islands (Gardening)’ here

Dad – miscellaneous documentation

By way of expanding off the logbook section I have just created a sub set of pages to show some of the miscellaneous documentation that I have found of Bob’s. I’m not sure whether these are common documents, or rare, of interest or not, but I guess the way I will get answers is by people knowing I have them.

Either access the documents under ‘Crew Logbooks/ Robert Douglas ‘Jock’ Sommerville’

Or go them directly;

Medical Enlistment Certificate here
Clothing Book here
Service and Pay Book here
Service and Release Book here

1,000th view today!

In a little over 2 months of this blog being up I received my 1,000th view today. I am amazed by the interest shown so far and would like to thank everybody for showing an interest in the site and especially those who have been so generous with their comments and kind words of support.

many thanks to you all



The truth is clearly stranger than fiction…..

I regularly lament my failure to talk with dad about his time with the squadron. Bizarrely, one small snippet of station life he did share centered around the after diner antics in the mess. To put none too finer point on the subject, it essentially involved, dropped trousers, a vigorous expulsion of a combustible gas and a cigarette lighter – Bob’s recollection being that a gentleman by the name of ‘Toddy’ was able, almost by request to kiss the ceiling of the mess hall with his emissions……..

At the time, I took these tales with a pinch of salt and since starting my research, to be honest have considered the tale as, well a rather minor aspect of history, but today I stumbled upon the following that certainly confirms the practice, if not clarifying the identity of ‘Toddy’.

The following extract comes from ‘Royal Blue’, this story is an extract from a letter written to Stan Brooks, an airman with No. 75 Squadron, (RAF Feltwell), by Gwyn Martin, one of his contemporaries. Both men served at Feltwell during the early War years and both of them became German Prisoners of War. The account, given in the letter, is a refreshing snapshot of what life was like on the Station when the crews were being rested. It may occur to some readers that perhaps young men have not changed all that much over the years. The story was prepared by Dan Engle and can be read in full here

I remember the occasion of the Duke of Kent’s visit for the celebrations of Jimmy Ward’s VC, or was it some other event. It was certainly the night of a fart lighting competition in the Sergeants Mess snooker room. The consumption of beer had been greater than normal. The darkened room was periodically lit by sheets of blue flame as each fart was fired by a Ronson lighter. The contest for the most successful flame was in full swing when the SWO appeared in the door of the darkened room and shouted, “Room attention for his Royal Highness the Duke of Kent”. Someone answers from the safety of the darkness, “Tell him to fuck off, till I’ve lit this big bluey”. Without further comment there was a noise like thunder and the lit bluey was the best of the night, a right Royal fart. It was the SWO in the doorway and it could have been HRH in the corridor behind him, on one point there could be no argument – the SWO was as pissed as we were.

Based on the research material I have to hand, I believe 2 individuals might be ‘Toddy’ from Bob’s stories – if they are not I apologise – If one is, I’d love to know……

TODD F/Sgt R, RAF. (755708) WOAG 6 Jul 1943? to ……..?…….. c/w ……..

TODD Sgt W J, RAF. (546595) FE 9 Oct 1943 to x Jul 1944 c/w F H Turner then R B Berney.

Times change – and places do to…..

Well, what are you supposed to do when you have a total travel time from Thessaloniki, in Greece to Manchester of 10 hours, when only 4.5 of those are actually flying?

I decide to go through the ORB putting together a cut and paste history of the Halliburton crew (Devinder Sidhu and David Church being my interest). Working up from the op where the boys were lost, the realisation dawns on me that David was not part of the crew per se and it makes me think, once again the ORB’s have shown a sad trick of fate. I have known his son, also David Church since last summer reunion and at the time I was amazed that having spent the weeks before talking to Tony about Devinder and then meeting David, that they were the ‘crew’ as it were – apparently not…..

I don’t normally find my self in 1942 – most of my research efforts inevitably have been focused on 1943 – 45. I decided a few months ago to undertake the (in hindsight) slightly stupid attempt of cataloguing the Stirling’s of the Squadron – from arrival to replacement by the Lancasters. A full Sunday satisfied me this was a task greater than a whim and a weekend, but it let me see and begin to remember names – coming back to the ORB for ’42, I am pleased that I still recognise the names.

Running backwards with the Halliburton crew I reach the point where Keith undertakes a 2nd dickie flight with P.J. Buck – now that is a name I remember from my last stay in 1942. Reading back to the description of the raid I come a cross an amazing description of the fate of F/S  C.A. Rothschild’s aircraft and their subsequent rescue – This level of reportage I find really touching – something that certainly humanizes these boy’s experiences and something that slowly evaporates through the following 3 years of the war.

“Stirling III BF455, captained by Flight Sergeant Rothschild, was hit over the target by A.A. Fire and also chased by fighters. This caused him to run out of fuel over the English Channel on the way home, and he eventually crashed landed in the sea 3 miles off Shoreham. The wireless procedure had been perfect, and Spitfires had been escorting it from the French coast, and a Walrus flying boat was waiting for it to crash land. Dinghy drill was perfect and all the crew got in safely after an immaculate landing – the Stirling floating for 25 minutes. The final scene enacted in the Channel as the Walrus collided with the dinghy and dropped all the crew in the sea. No ill effects except for Sgt. Grainger, the Flight Engineer, who suffered from shock.”

When I scroll further back to see the raid destination……it’s Frankfurt – I am sat in its airport typing this…..

Memorial Garden, Mepal

In some respects, this morning is what we are here for. Its good to meet up with old friends at these reunions, but particularly at this time of the year, we are here to remember. I distinctly feel the contrast between last year and today. 12 months ago we were here for the first time with Bob’s ashes to commit them in the memorial garden – it all felt very serious and important – though, perhaps as it should have.

This year certainly doesn’t have a carnival air to it, but I do feel different, more relaxed and contemplative – it will nice to be back in the garden. Perhaps it was because we had Bob’s committal prior to the remembrance service last year, but the service seems to go by surprisingly fast this year – after a service at the village cenotaph I decided not to go on to the village chapel for the service, but instead to go back to spend some time in the garden with my thoughts – something that I wanted to do last year…but, well……I wasn’t able to.

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.

Friends of 75(NZ) Squadron Reunion – Saturday night

Last year, Bev Sandra and I only attended the Saturday evening meal at the reunion, so had no real frame of reference regarding a ‘typical’ reunion weekend. Returning this summer, across the 2 days, we saw that Friday night was more an informal catch up, but the Saturday was seen as ‘the’ night regarding the main reunion meal. This year there was a very good attendance – perhaps it inevitable with these events, but despite seeing new faces, you are never able to get round to everybody and introduce yourself.

Unfortunately the raffle did not provide me with the volume of prizes I had hoped – perhaps a salutary lesson that you can’t pay to influence the odds – even by buying 300 tickets. If this lesson needed  to be bought home any more effectively, Jack, the Association President took home a a huge pile, from a mere handful of tickets (hope you enjoy the whiskey Jack)

Kevin King used the occasion to report on matters of the Association. There was very good news regarding the request for donations to the memorial garden – several thousand pounds have been donated. It was also suggested that there should be a formal membership – £20 per couple per year to contribute to the running and information costs of the Association – I’m pleased to say a majority vote by the diners supported this proposal. Jack Richards was presented by Margaret, with a miniature of the new sign and notice board that was relatively recently put up outside the USAAF Community Centre at RAF Feltwell to record its renaming in the honour of James Ward VC, the only member of 75(NZ) to win the Victoria Cross) – it will be placed in Jack’s museum for display.

Path Finder Force Museum, RAF Wyton

Bless her heart, Margaret Still does like to provide us with things to do on these reunion events……..
This morning we drive in convoy to the Pathfinder Museum at RAF Wyton – home of Number 8 Group, Path Finder Force.

From the museum website;
The creation of the Pathfinder force was a source of one of the bitterest arguments of the Second World War. Initially the brainchild of Group Captain S O Bufton (a staff officer for whom Bomber Command’s chief Arthur “Bomber” Harris had special contempt), Harris thought an elite would breed rivalry and jealousy, and have an adverse effect on morale. Sir Henry Tizard, advisor and one of the chief scientists supporting the war effort, said, however, “I do not think the formation of a first XV at rugby makes little boys play any less enthusiastically.”
Harris, however was forced to accept the idea. In order to minimise any adverse effects, Harris decided that every Group would have its own pathfinder, but again a bitter argument ensued, and eventually Harris lost and a separate group was formed: 8 Group, commanded by Donald Bennett, a talented and pioneering young aviator born in Australia. At 33, Bennett was the youngest officer promoted to Air Vice Marshal (in 1943). His awards include Commander of the British Empire, CBE, and Distinguished Service Order, DSO. However, Bennett was not the first choice – Harris opposed the primary choice of the Air Ministry, Basil Embry, the dashing young leader of 2 Group.

The PFF crews thereafter found their way in the Force via varied routes; crews or individuals could volunteer at any time while serving with Main Force squadrons, while aircrew who showed promise in their training could also find themselves seconded into the force. Some crews in mid-tour could also be transferred into PFF when numbers were needed to be made up to establishment where required.

Recruits were given a two week course in marking techniques at Warboys before posting to a Squadron. Bennett addressed each intake personally and the crews came to have an intense sense of loyalty, pride and professionalism in their membership of 8 Group.

The PFF crews were also granted a step up in rank, and increase in pay, but had to do a 45 trip tour rather than the usual 30 trips, for as long as they were serving in PFF. In the end, Harris was proved wrong about PFF’s effect on morale – the silver PFF badge allowed to be worn on their uniforms was genuinely a sought-after achievement.

PFF crews found themselves given ever increasingly sophisticated and complex jobs and tasks that were constantly modified and developed tactically during the bombing campaign from 1943 until the end of the war. Some of the more usual tasks were as: “Finders”; these were 8 Group aircraft tasked with dropping sticks of illuminating flares, firstly at critical points along the bombing route to aid navigation and keep the bomber stream compact, and then across the approximate target area. If conditions were cloudy then these were dropped using H2S navigational radar.

“Illuminators”; were PPF aircraft flying in front of the main force who would drop markers or Target indicators ( TI’s) onto the designated ‘aiming point’ already illuminated by the “Finders”. Again, if conditions were cloudy H2S navigational radar was used. These TI’s were designed to burn with various colours to prevent the German defenses lighting decoy fires. Various TI’s were dubbed ‘Pink Pansies’, ‘Red Spots’ , and ‘Smoke Puffs’. “Illuminators” could include Mosquitoes equipped with ‘Oboe’ if the target was within the range of the highly accurate Oboe bombing aid. “Markers”; would then drop incendiaries onto the TIs just prior to the Main Force arrival. Further “markers” called ” Backers-Up” or “Supporters” would be distributed at points within the main bomber stream to remark the original TI’s as required. As the war wore on, the highly dangerous role of “Master Bomber” was introduced as a sort of master of ceremonies, the appointed Pathfinder (usually a highly experienced senior Officer) circling the target and broadcasting instructions to both Pathfinders and Main Force aircraft, correcting aiming points and generally coordinating the attack.

The proportion of Pathfinder aircraft to Main Force bombers varied enormously according to the difficulty and location of the assigned target; 1 to 15 was common, though it could be as low as 1 to 3. By the start of 1944 the bulk of Bomber Command was now bombing within 3 miles of the PFF indicators; a huge improvement in accuracy. The success or failure of a raid now depended overwhelmingly on the Pathfinder’s marker placement and how successfully further marking was corrected.

The PFF flew a total of 50,490 individual sorties against some 3,440 targets. The cost in human lives was grievous. At least 3,727 members were killed on operations.

The museum is staffed by volunteers as are most – I have the utmost respect for people like these. Its not the same as researching a relative or individual of interest. These people give of their time for the information of others and I think they deserve more support. The museum is currently undergoing somewhat of a rebuild and will be soon moved into new facilities on the airbase. I hope they get the space and expertise to allow them to tell the story of No. 8 Group, Path Finder Force in the way that it deserves.

As the presentation continues, it dawns on me that Allan would have been here for his second tour. He flew Mosquitoes in 1945 with 128 Squadron Light Night Strike Force – responsible for flying diversionary and ‘harrying’ missions deep into Germany. Once again I found myself musing on the way I seem to discover these coincidences on my journey……..

Information about the Path Finder Museum can be found here.

New information for another search

Stirling W7513 crew – Sgt. David Church on extreme left, Sgt. Patrick Torre Hunter 2nd left, Sgt. Devinder Singh Sidhu 3rd from left, centre Sgt. Keith Halliburton – remainder awaiting identification. (Photo courtesy of David Church and 75 Squadron Association, England branch)

I think its always important to remember that I am not the only person searching for information about a relative – on Saturday morning Dave Church came up to me to let me know that he had just been messaged by his son – with the news that he had found a Danish website that seemed to identify the place (approximately) where his Fathers aircraft crashed on the 28th April 1943 on a mining operation to Kiel.

Here is the Google map with a pin identifying the approximate place of the crash

What made David’s loss all the more cruel was that despite arriving with a crew of his own, for a reason I do not know, he was drafted into the Halliburton for his first and as it sadly transpired, only operational raid – David’s ‘original’ crew, captained by Ronald Hugh Laud (based on information linking individual members from the Squadron nominal roll) were lost 2 months later on the 12th of June on a raid to Dusseldorf, the only survivor being Sgt. M.K. Matthews, the rear gunner who ended up a PoW.

The Loss Card details are as follows for the crew/ raid;
Mission: Gardening (Mine Laying – Kiel)
Date: 28/29th April 1943
Unit: No.75 Squadron (R.N.Z.A.F.)
Type: Stirling I
Serial: W7513
Code: AA-G
Base: Newmarket, Suffolk
Location: Unknown – probably over target area.

Pilot: Sgt. Keith Halliburton 415411 R.N.Z.A.F. Age 23. Killed
F/Eng: Sgt. Devinder Singh Sidhu 946455 R.A.F.V.R. Age ? Killed
Nav: Sgt. Patrick Torre Hunter 42297 R.N.Z.A.F. Age 29. Killed
A/B: Sgt. Leslie Thomas Scarfe 1261331 R.A.F.V.R. Age 21. Killed
W/Op: Sgt. David Church 1196564 R.A.F.V.R. Age 29. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Charles Henry George Boxall 1393248 Age ? Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alexander Clunie Howell 392104 Age 23. Killed

Took off at 20.42 hrs from R.A.F. Newmarket in Suffolk. Part of a huge 207 aircraft force on a “Gardening” (Mine laying) operation. A total of 593 mines were laid off Heligoland, in the river Elbe and in the Great and Little Belts. Low cloud base forced the aircraft to fly very low over the German and Danish coasts. Because of this they took very heavy flak and also attacks from Luftwaffe night fighters.
Although this was the largest mine laying operation in one night of the whole war it came at a price. A total of 22 aircraft were lost (75 Squadron lost 4 aircraft alone, with a total of 28 crew members killed) – 9 aircraft were lost by the night fighters and the remainder from the flak.

Stirling W7513 is not on the Luftwaffe claims list for this raid so it is thought that it had been taken down by flak – the aircraft was lost without trace.

Listening to him and the excitement in his voice was actually quite humbling – Dave has been researching his Father for a considerable amount of time and the most agonising part of his search has always remained that a crash site was not known – I can only imagine this need to find a place – and I suppose looking at the bigger picture of my search over the last 14 months, I at least had and knew Bob – Dave was not so lucky.

I was surprised when Dave’s excitement at this new revelation was tempered by the fact that because this was not an ‘official’ identification of the crash site, it would be unlikely that RAF records would be updated, to change the location to a specific place, rather than simply ‘unknown’.

Friends of 75(NZ) Association winter reunion

A picture of Gerald taken, I think somewhere in Canada during his pilot training.

A fairly easy drive from work down to Cambridgeshire for the winter reunion of the Friends of 75(NZ) Squadron Association. Leaving at lunchtime I got in with an hour to spare for 6 o’clock drinks prior to evening dinner. All the usual faces were there – plus a few new ones. It was lovely to meet up with Marshall, Margaret and Norman again after not seeing them in the summer and despite Norman’s advancing years, he was in good form. Mike Maloney was his usual, wonderful self contained self and John De Hoop and his wife Helen as always, provided good company over the weekend.

A new face this November was Dennis Jacobson and his wife Margaret. Dennis’s father, Gerald flew with the squadron, but was tragically killed on the 17th of December 1942. On that night, 16 Stirlings and 6 Wellingtons of 3 Group attempted to attack the Opel works at Fallersleben. This type of limited operation proved to be a costly failure – only 3 aircraft bombed the target, in cloud conditions, and 6 Stirlings and 2 Wellingtons were lost.

This initial description fails to truly describe the terrible reality of this ‘costly failure’. Of the 6 Stirlings that were lost that night, 4 flew from Mepal – only 1 of the 5 aircraft that left, returned.

I have noticed that the ORB’s are very different in style from year to year – the earlier they are, the more personal the observations and comments seem to be. The true impact of the losses on this raid clearly had a profound effect on the Squadron. The daily diary has the following entry on the day after;

extract from Station Diary 18th December 1942

My decision to bring my laptop, camera and scanner was a good, if lucky one – Dennis had bought along his father’s logbook – a beautiful thing, being a RNZAF pilot’s logbook, it was much bigger and thicker than the RAF equivalent. In addition to this, a small scrapbook chronicling Gerald’s time in Canada while he was training. Before enlisting, Gerald worked for a newspaper and the album included a small clipping of an article Gerald had written and had published in a newspaper while he was there. Three hours later and both documents had been digitised and added to mine and Kevin’s collection. I’m always so grateful for the generosity people have sharing precious things like these and it’s reassuring that they value them and also understand the wider historical importance of them.

The strange case of Sgt. Gee – an update

I receive replies from both Dave and Errol regarding Sgt. Gee. I am aware of the sensitivity of the extra information that David sends me and despite part of his concern being closed by Errol’s confirmation that he passed away in 1993, I will relay what I have learned  with discretion.

Sgt. Gee, or as i know I can now call him, Walter did, it would appear arrive with the rest of the Mayfield crew on the 21st July 1943 at Mepal.

Walter’s arrival with the other boys from 1651

The nature of his departure is not clear and I do not wish to speculate on it. He was returned to New Zealand and ended up in the New Zealand Army – as was noted, a fate worse than death and the reason so many volunteered for the RNZAF.

I know its a ridiculously long shot, but I give Jack a call. Amazingly, despite my advanced apologies regarding the unlikeliness of a recollection, Jack responds in the positive;

“Aaaaaaaahhhhhh Wally Gee, now there’s a name I haven’t heard in a good few years……..”

My heart skips a beat at this (to be honest) totally unexpected response. Apparently he was older than the rest of the boys (borne out by the DoB Errol has already provided of 1909) and a ‘big’ chap – I guess by the way Jack says this word he possibly means wider, rather than taller. Jack is vague about other details – initially he thinks the 3rd op case of LMF was Walter, but I remind him it was Sgt. Weaver (ironically bought in to replace Walter I now believe). Jack is sure that he flew at least once with the crew at Mepal – This is entirely possible – the crew flew 3 times before going on their first raid to the Frisian Islands. Jack ponders and I am loathe to put ideas in his head, but he seems to feel Walter was deemed LMF and this was the reason for his departure, even if the reason for the LMF classification is not known.

It then dawns on me that Walter must also be in the 1651 CU group photograph of ‘B’ flight – but I have no idea where.

I need to do some more digging – but I am not sure where…….

Slàinte Mhath

I have used the research to date as a way of keep Dad in my thoughts – and it has worked. But there are points were his loss hits back home to me. Today is his birthday and it’s on a day like this that I miss him the most.

I hope he would have approved of the single malt I bought to wish him happy birthday. I’ll pour a glass for him and we’ll pause to remember the past.

cheers Bob, you old bugger.

Slàinte Mhath

ake ake kia kaha

The curious case of F/Sgt. Walter James Gee RNZAF………

I must confess I find myself constantly berating my students about not fully reading project briefs – I even go as far as including instructions within said briefs to read it….go away, come back and read it again. More crucially I stress the importance of reading and taking in everything.

Students, please do as I say, not as I do……….

As I am currently assembling information on the 2 crews Dad flew with, I found myself at lunchtime looking back through a list of information the David Duxbury was so generous to supply me with about 8 months ago. I swear on my cats life I read it all – every single word. Today I realised I hadn’t.

BULLEN, Sergeant R, RAFVR.
1356658  Air Gunner  75 Sqn 21 July to 18 October 1943.  Crewed with Sgt A J Mayfield as Mid-upper Gunner, on ops 30/7 – X/8/43, replaced by Sgt T Derbyshire as MUG.  Posted to Combined Re-selection Centre (see also Sgt W Gee).

I didn’t ‘see’ Sgt. W. Gee, not the first time or the second time I read this. Checking the nominal roll I find this…….

GEE F/Sgt Walter James RNZAF (NZ417207) WOAG 21 Jul to 16 Oct 1943 c/w A J Mayfield then RTNZ.

This throws me completely and it slowly dawns on me that the discomfort I have experienced with the arrival of Sgt. Weaver from No.1 Air Gunnery School, rather than 1651 CU, as he should of with the rest of the crew, means he didn’t, because he was not part of the crew. Could it be that in fact Walter Gee came with the rest of the boys from 1651, but for whatever reason, he failed or was unable to fly with the crew once they had arrived at Mepal. 2 digs into the ORB for 1943 provides the following;

from August ORB crew movements
NZ417207. F/S. WO/AG. Gee, W.J. (grouped under the common authority with Roberts, Jackson, Haub, Mayfield and Hulena) Posted from No.1651 Con. Unit w.e.f. 21/7/43. (Authy.P/N.3G/855/43 dated 19/7/43).

from October ORB crew movements
NZ417207 F/S WO/AG Gee W. Posted to Combined Re-Selection Centre wef 16.10.43 (Authy. P/N 3G/2329/43 d/d 13.10.43)

The final part of the nominal roll entry, ‘RTNZ’ I take to mean ‘returned to New Zealand’ – what ever the reasons for Walters failure to fly with the crew, it must have been serious.

I need to send some emails……….