Monthly Archives: January 2013

A wonderful collection

Reuben 'Ron' Birch RAF uniform

Flight Sergeant Reuben ‘Ron’  William Birch RAFVR 1629667 Air Gunner

A final heartfelt thanks to Martyn and his father Ernest for the donation of a remarkable collection of documents and images relating to Ernest’s brother, Reuben. I have finally uploaded these documents as a jump off menu from Reuben’s logbook, which can be found in the logbook section of the site.

Many of these documents I have never seen before, so its well worth a look through them – if you recognise anything, or can add anything else by way of personnel identification or explanations regarding the documents, as always, I would love to hear from you.

Ernest and Martyn, once again, many thanks for your generosity.

Glad to be of assistance……

I got a great email from Chris Newey this morning regarding me seemingly inadvertently assisting with a research problem he’d been grappling with for a few weeks. Chris had been trying to understand a number of references to Lancastes coded ‘MU’ in his Uncle’s (Gerry Newey) log book. Another eagle eyed 75(NZ) researcher Wayne, noticed something in Reuben Birch‘s logbook, that was so generously donated by Martyn at the end of the week.

I’ll let Chris tell the story……………

“Had to let you know that your blog has just provided another fascinating piece in the giant jigsaw:
I had an email from Wayne this afternoon who spotted the fact that Ron Birch’s logbook also contains entries for Lancasters coded “MU”: MU-F, and MU-D.

The entries are under “Feltwell”, for the 17, 18 and 19 April 1945, training flights for G-H bombing, gyro, film and fighter affiliation, just prior to his crew being posted to Mepal.
I hadn’t registered the codes when I first browsed through Martyn’s/Ron’s logbook pages, and had assumed that the Feltwell entries were for No. 3 Lancaster Finishing School, as per Gerry’s training.
But looking back through the logbook, Ron’s crew had already trained on Lancasters at 1653 HCU, and as Wayne pointed out, 3 LFS wound up at the end of January 45.

A bit of Googling pulled up a history of Feltwell (http://www.feltwell.net/raffeltwell/articles/raf_feltwell.htm ) and reference to the formation of a special G-H Training Flight there in January 1945:   “All the RAF training resources were now concentrated on the production of crews for long range flights in the Pacific, so that a G.H. Flight came into being in January 1945 to train navigators in the use of new long range navigation devices.”

So this raises the strong possibility that the GH Training Flight at Feltwell used “MU” a/c codes, not the “A5” codes used by 3LFS. I also found reference to a “No 1 GH Course” which took place at Feltwell from 22 January to 3 February 1945: so I’m picking that the Meharry crew were on a G-H training course at Feltwell during 17-19 April.

And the two entries for MU coded a/c in Gerry’s logbook either mean:
– he and his crew attended a G-H course at Feltwell on 21, 22 March, or
– two Feltwell-based Lancasters were used for G-H training at Mepal ..? (Gerry flew 75-coded a/c JN-Z and JN-W on G-H training exercises on the 25th)

This is all quite exciting – litlle snippets of information, often looking you in the face, and next thing another door opens …! OK I’m getting a bit carried away, but I think this is very cool stuff indeed!

So thank you again for all your efforts, I’m sure you will want to know that they are already proving a big help to us old plane spotters!

Cheers,
Chris”

I suppose over the last couple of months particularly, I have realised through the number of daily visits that there is clearly massive interest in the Squadron. When I get an email like the one above from Chris, I know ‘Jock’ would be tickled pink at how people are still interested and so willing to contribute information about their relatives for the wider benefit  of the 75(NZ) Squadron research community and to the memory of all of those brave boys.

It makes me feel I made the right decision when I decided to start this journey 18 months ago.

And it just gets better……..

Clearance Certificate
They keep coming!
A fascinating document from Martyn – what we assume to be a signing off document that Reuben would have needed to have had completed before he left 75(NZ) Squadron and went to 44 Squadron.

I would love to think that perhaps somebody might recognise or perhaps know something about some of these signatures – fingers crossed.

From what I can work out, and in descending order;
O.C. ‘C’ Flight: Flt Lt Ronald Christie Flamark RNZAF (NZ427270)
Squadron Signals Officer: F/L Alan John Rhodes DFM, RNZAF. (NZ42340)
Squadron Navigation Officer: Flt Lt. Nelson Hugh Bawden DFC, RNZAF. (NZ421313)

Any more would be greatly appreciated!

A mystery Item…….

A mystery calculator - Signed by Eric Meharry, Rueben's pilot.

A mystery calculator – Signed by Eric Meharry, Rueben’s pilot.

Some of the stuff that Martyn has passed on is too good, or in this case, too strange to just place in a page to be missed by blog visitors. Here is an example.

I must admit that I am not at all familiar with aircrew equipment and that someone will probably leave a message with a very simple answer (hopefully) about what this calculator was used for………

Reuben Birch RAFVR 1629667 logbook

Uncle Reub RAF logbook 11

As the first offering from the documentation that Martyn has so generously recently donated to me, the logbook of Sgt. Reuben William Birch, Rear Gunner with the Meharry crew.

View Reuben’s logbook in its entirety here

As with my fathers logbook, I will place the other documents Martyn has passed on to me in a jump off menu off of his logbook page, through next week.

A wonderful surprise…..

Rear Row Standing, left to right. Reuben William Birch, Eric Lloyd Kennedy Meharry, Lawrence Martin Wilson, R Dale.Front row kneeling, left to right. T. Robinson, Gordon Gunter, Joseph Frederick Spiers.

Rear Row Standing, left to right. Reuben William Birch, Eric Lloyd Kennedy Meharry, Lawrence Martin Wilson, R Dale.
Front row kneeling, left to right. T. Robinson, Gordon Gunter, Joseph Frederick Spiers.
Martyn/ Ernest Birch ©

I received an email from Martyn this week out of the blue with some wonderful information about his uncle, Reuben ‘Ron’  Birch, who was Rear Gunner with the Meharry crew during the latter stages of the war. Via Chris Newey, Martyn had earlier provided me with a better quality Squadron photo for the header image of the blog, but the arrival of this information was completely out of the blue. As well as Reub’s log book, Martyn has supplied 2 beautiful crew photos, various documents and training group photographs.

All the more touching, and perhaps the reason I am doing this, is that the donation of this material is on the wish of Reuben’s brother, Martyn’s father, who expressed his wish that the material be made available for the benefit of others and to keep the memory of Reuben, his crew and the other brave boys of Bomber Command alive.

I thank you both for this.

The Meharry crew were as follows;
Flight Sgt Eric Lloyd Kennedy Meharry (nz) – Pilot
Sgt T Robinson – Navigator
Flight Sgt Lawrence Martin Wilson (nz) – Air Bomber
Flight Sgt Joseph Frederick Spiers (nz) – Wireless Operator
Sgt Gordon Gunter – Flight Engineer
Sgt R Dale – Mid Upper Gunner
Sgt Reuben William Birch – Rear Gunner.

I have been up to my neck with work, so initially, the log book will follow and I will upload the rest of the documents for peoples viewing next week……

An amazing story……

paper headline

Firstly, a heads up to Dave Homewood who posted this story from the ‘PapersPast’ section of the National Library of New Zealand on the ‘Wings Over New Zealand’ forum.

The PapersPast archive is incredible and I was struck dumb on the return from putting in a search for ’75 Squadron’ – over 230 references that I must go through when I get some time….

The above headline is remarkable, but the details in story are even more astonishing;

Oil plants have been bombed at Eiomberg, Sterkrade, Wanneikel, and Bottrop, while the railway marshalling yards have been attacked mostly in the Ruhr—”Ruhr bashing,” the New Zealanders call it. A pleasing feature of these raids is that the losses of aircraft and crews have been remarkably few. In fact, ever since D-Day on June 6 the rate of loss has been very much lower than was anticipated. The squadron is now commanded by Wing Commander R. Newton, D.F.C. (Christchurch), who did his first tour with the squadron two years ago, when it was commanded by Air Commodore E. G. Olson (New Plymouth), now Officer Commanding R.N.Z.A.F. headquarters in London.
EXPERIENCED MEN.
Wing Commander Newton succeeds Wing Commander R. J. C. Leslie, D.F.C. (New Plymouth), who was recently awarded the D.S.O. Before he left the squadron, Wing Commander Leslie was presented with a leather travelling bag by the officers and n.c.o.s. During his regime the squadron has fully maintained its reputation of operating the largest number of sorties and dropping more tons of bombs than any other squadron in  its particular group. In one month it dropped well over 2000 tons. Many of its pilots are men of wide experience. Two of its three flight commanders, Squadron Leaders J. R. Rogers, D.F.M. (Timaru), and J. M. Bailey, D.F.C., are both on their second tour, while the third, Squadron Leader J. L. Wright, D.S.0., D.F.C. (Frankton Junction), is on his third tour. Flight Lieutenant A. C. Baxter, D.F.C. (Masterton); after doing two tours, one on Blenheims and another on Bostons as navigator, remustered as a pilot, and recently completed his third tour with No. 75 Squadron. He has now carried out 82 operations.
NAVIGATOR AND PILOT.
Flight Lieutenant W. J. Wakelin (Wellington), who as navigator in a Sunderland flying-boat on his first tour did 1600 operational hours, is now well through his tour with the squadron as pilot. Although there have been few losses, there has been the occasional “incident” which tested the crews to the full. One of the most remarkable feats of flying in No. 75 Squadron’s long and now famous history was recently performed by Flight Lieutenant J. Plummer (Wellington). During a raid on Duisburg flak blew away the nose of his aircraft, including all the perspex in front and behind Flight Lieutenant Plummer. Yet he flew the Lancaster for three and a half hours back to base with his left hand frozen on the control. His fingers had to be prised off when he landed. This is what happened: With his crew, comprising Fiying Officers J. Holloway (Auckland) and R. J. Scott (Dunedin) and Flight Sergeants A. M. Macdonald (Dunedin) and A. L. Humphries (Mataura), also an Australian and an Englishman, he had just dropped his bombs on Duisburg when the nose of his aircraft was hit by heavy predicted flak. The Lancaster was at 22,500 ft, and the temperature was 25 degrees below Centigrade freezing level.
MADE A WIND TUNNEL.
The effect of the nose disappearing was to transform the aircraft into something like a wind tunnel. The bomb-aimer and another member of the crew were immediately blown 25 feet towards the tail of the aircraft, and all the navigational aids and blackout curtains were ripped away by  the icy blast. With great presence of mind, Flight Lieutenant Plummer realised that it was imperative to reach a lower, warmer level. He put the Lancaster into a 300 miles an hour dive, and descended 20,000 feet at that speed. The force of the wind nearly ripped him from his seat, only his harness straps holding him in position, and at times he was actually suspended over his chair. Within from three to five seconds his left hand had frozen to the control column. Two fingers of his right hand were also bent and frozen—he had not been wearing gloves, since the temperature in the cockpit had previously been warm. That flight to England was sheer misery. Plummer’s face and hands were frost-bitten by the icy gale. He cried with the pain, but he was determined to get the bomber home.
UNABLE TO REACH HIM.
The crew was unable to reach him because of the force of the wind, and he had to fly the Lancaster with the muscles of his left arm while an added complication was the attention of the German’ flak posts. He had no feeling in his hands and he realised that he must be given help to work the flaps of the undercarriage and pitch controls in order to land. So Holloway and Humphries, lying down on their sides one behind the other, pushed the English engineer into a position where he could reach these controls, and Plummer made a perfect landing. His report on entering Wing Commander Leslie’s room was a masterpiece of understatement. “My hands are a bit cold, sir,” he said, and added: “But I am going to fly tomorrow.” Plummer did not fly “tomorrow,” and he has not flown since. He spent 12 days in bed with his hands strapped above him, lying in front of an open window and with ether painted on his hands to keep his body temperature down.
HELD IN HIGH REGARD.
Even several days after that he had to walk about with his hands up and later receive massage by putting hands in water through which an electric current was passing. He has now practically recovered and is held in the highest regard by the entire squadron. Squadron Leader N. Williamson, D.F.C. (Gisborne), who recently completed his second- tour, said: “I would not have taken that aircraft round the field for five minutes on a hot summers day” Everyone is hoping that Plummer will soon be decorated for his courage and determination.

View the original document here
Go to the PapersPast section of the National Library of New Zealand here

The crew on the 15th October 1944 to Duisberg were;
Jack Plummer, RNZAF, Pilot
Arthur Humphreys, RNZAF, Navigator
Edgar Holloway, RNZAF. Air Bomber
Frederick Chambers, RAAF. Wireless Operator
Maurice Fell, RAFVR. Flight Engineer
Russell Scott, RNZAF. Mid Upper Gunner
Alexander MacDonald, RNZAF. Rear Gunner

Jack Plummer DFC died Wednesday 21st March 1945, age 29, during a raid on the Munster Viaduct, along with 2 of the crew he flew with on that night in 1944. They are buried in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.

The crew on the 21st March 1945 to Munster Viaduct were;
Jack Plummer, RNZAF, Pilot – Killed in Action
Arthur Humphreys, RNZAF, Navigator. Survived PoW
Edgar Holloway, RNZAF. Air Bomber. Killed in Action
Joseph Wakerly, RAFVR. Wireless Operator. Survived PoW
Maurice Fell, RAFVR. Flight Engineer. Survived PoW
Russell Scott, RNZAF. Mid Upper Gunner. Killed in Action
Alexander MacDonald, RNZAF. Rear Gunner. Survived Evader.