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 ( ) 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!


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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

Gerald Newey RNZAF NZ425285 logbook


It’s with great pleasure that I add the logbook of Gerry Newey to the logbook section. I would like to thank his family for their permission to do so and in particular to Chris Newy, Gerald’s nephew, who I met early in my research journey and who has been a constant source of encouragement in this project. Gerry flew with Doug Williamson and it was Chis, first discovering that Doug lived nearby, that resulted in me meeting up with Doug and his wife Janet in September at East Kirkby. Like me, Chris has been bitten by the 75(NZ) research bug and a more detailed story of Gerald’s wartime career will follow soon.

View Gerry’s logbook here

As always Chris,

cheers mate

More info on NE181 and the Bailey crew from Tony

Late last night I received some more information from Tony regarding NW181’s 100th op. The information was originally received from Jack Wall, the A/B in the Bailey crew. What follows is transcribed portions of documents that quite rightly, Tony feels cannot be made public without the permission of Jack’s surviving son-in-law. Hopefully Tony will be successful in contacting him and we might be able to learn more about the crews exploits. Until then, the following still represents some wonderful information from the time.

Below is the text of part of an Air Ministry Bulletin that was sent by Lac Fred Woolerton, C. Flight mechanic, to F/O John Wall DFC, bomb aimer on Jack Bailey’s JN-M crew. John later sent a copy to Tony Pickup, (son of P/O Dick Pickup, W/Op of same crew) and it is printed here with acknowledgements to Fred and John.

Congratulations to JN-M on completing her century with the squadron.

During the time this aircraft has been with No.75 (NZ) Squadron, only once has she failed to get airborne, and never has she returned early.

All personnel who have carried out maintenance on this aircraft are to be congratulated on their efforts and in particular the following who have been the maintenance crew throughout its life.
611010 Sgt. Phillips – F/2/E.

1061645 Cpl. Kingjorn – F/8/A
1703088 Lac. Tayler – F/E/E.
1814705 Lac. Woolerton. – F/M/E. (Fred)
1864182 Lac. Pascoe. – F/S/E. “

(Italicised parts of the crew list above may be incorrect and are where original copy is indistinct. TP)
Below is part of the letter that Fred sent to John Wall to accompany the above Air Ministry Bulletin.

“Item 32 was published after the 100th Op. It mentions the fact that it only failed to get airborne once. The reason for this was as follows.

I was standing in front of the aircraft indicating which engine to start, my mate, Pete, was up in the undercart priming the engines. We had just completed this and as Pete dropped down from the undercart, the rear gunner of the kite in front of ours (X-ray) shot off a burst of rounds. These went over my head, nearly taking it off and went straight into the rad of the S/Bd inner, some coming out of the rear into the undercart space that Pete had just vacated. Result, a leaking rad, two, very shaken airmen, and aircrew transferred to a reserve kite. I forgot what we called the A/G. I know we had more work that night putting in a new rad.”

Text retyped from a photocopy of the bulletin provided to the son of P/O Dick Pickup by F/O J.C.Wall, DFC.; both members of Jack Bailey’s crew.

Air Ministry Bulletin No. 18334.

Squadron Leader John Mathers Bailey, DFC, pilot of “M-Mike‟, the first aircraft of a New Zealand heavy bomber squadron of the RAF to reach a century of operations, has been awarded a Bar to his DFC.

S/L Bailey, who was formerly a farmer at Ohingaiti, New Zealand, is now a Flight Commander of the No.75 (N.Z.) heavy bomber squadron. He enlisted in the R.N.Z.A.F. in 1941, was trained in New Zealand and England, and completed a tour of operations with No. 75 Squadron. He showed outstanding airmanship and devotion to duty, and, in June, 1943 was awarded the DFC.

After a period of instructional duty, S/L Bailey returned to the New Zealand squadron last year and began his second tour of operations.

His aircraft was „M-Mike‟ and he had the distinction of piloting the Lancaster on its 100th war flight. Soon after that flight, which was to Krefeld on January 28th, „M-Mike‟ with the impressive record of 101 operations and 476 hours flying time, was taken off operations for a major overhaul.

In February, while flying another aircraft, he led his squadron in an attack on an oil refinery at Osterfeld. Over the target the aircraft was hit by flak and extensively damaged. The starboard inner engine was put out of action, but S/L Bailey made a successful attack and flew safely back from Germany on three engines.

“He has participated in many sorties against some of the most heavily defended targets in enemy territory, and has consistently displayed a high standard of courage and skill, qualities which were well evident in the attack on Osterfeld” says the citation of his latest award.

Thirty-one years of age, S/L Bailey was born in Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland, but went to New Zealand seven years ago, to become a farmer at Ohingaiti.

Richard Pickup RAFVR 188816 logbook

RP log 01 sf

I’m really pleased and very grateful to Tony, son of Richard ‘Dick’ Pickup for the donation of his father’s complete logbook. What may be of particular interest to 75(NZ) aficionados is that it lists a number of operational flights in the famous ‘Captain’s Fancy’ NE181 JN-‘Mike’, including the much debated 100th Op on the 29th of January 1945 to Krefeld. I know there has been quite a discussion on the ‘Wings Over New Zealand’ forum regarding NE181 – I’ll leave it to those more knowledgeable on this subject to decide whether the pages of this logbook hold any further revelations……

See Richard’s logbook here

Tony, once again, many thanks


Project ORB

Many thanks to Sarah for her efforts! Form 540 complete for August and September 1945.

Its interesting to compare and contract the size and relative detail of the Form 540 between the early part of the war and the end. Whilst the Forms from 1943 show an astonishing and (for the typist) frustratingly high level of detail regarding crew movements, by 1945 the detail becomes very scant indeed – good for a transcriber, but very frustrating indeed for the researcher.

Read Form 540 August 1945 here
Read Form 540 September 1945 here

Sgt. Leslie Charles Wright RAFVR 1294453

Whilst typing up the May Form 540, I initially came across the loss of an aircraft during daily training and then under ‘Outstanding Events – Training’ I found the following extra information regarding the incident and the apparently selfless act of its Pilot, Sergeant Leslie Wright;

At 01.00 hours on the 17th. May 1943, Sergeant L.C.Wright was carrying out a cross country fight in Stirling Mk.1 BF398, when the starboard outer and port outer engines failed. The aircraft lost height and the Captain ordered the crew to bale out, this included a passenger AC1 BAILEY, R.G. Of the crew who baled out, all landed safely with the exception of Sergeant A.J.Francis, who was reported missing and found four days later. The Captain remained at the controls, as the aircraft was in the vicinity of the Town of STOKE-UPON-TRENT and it appears that rather than crash land over the town, he attempted to land in the nearest field, the aircraft crashed however, and he was killed. The MAYOR of STOKE-UPON-TRENT has been in communication with the Squadron, and expressed his admiration, shared also by the townspeople, for the gallantry displayed by Sergeant L.C. WRIGHT.

I think I find this story all the more touching, given its ‘hidden’ reference at the end of the records and I’d love to find out more about the incident and Leslie – a long shot, but I send an email to the Mayoral Office of Stoke-on-Trent Council, just in case any information, or even a copy of the letter the Mayor sent to the Squadron still exists……..

Project ORB

National Archive ©

National Archive ©

Very early in my research I discovered the Squadron Operational Record Books (ORB). The ORB’s are actually 2 documents, Form 540 ‘Operations Record Book’  which records the daily activities of the Squadron and Form 541 ‘Detail of Work Carried Out’ which records details of individual operations, including crew lists, a/c serial numbers and designator letters.

The Operation Record Books (ORB’s) of 75(NZ) Squadron (as will all operational units) provide a very good first source of information for the squadron enthusiast and aircrew researcher. This said, whilst the ORB’s provide a very good historical framework, they should certainly not be seen as definitive. Often filled in some time after a raid, by overworked and stressed staff, it is known that errors exist – my father was not listed in the  ’45 ORB for his first op back at 75(NZ) and on another occasion, an Australian crew member with the same surname was transplanted into the crew list. Having said this, that’s what research is all about – test what you know against these records. You will either be proved right, or you might just prove them wrong!

It was while I was reading through the ORB’s I began to wonder about the practicality of transcribing the documents and putting them online as part of the main 75(NZ) website as a searchable database.

The transcription of the Squadron ORB’s is a significant undertaking and it certainly is not something that will be completed quickly. For purely personal reasons I have initially concentrated on the records that cover the periods my father was with the squadron and they will extend beyond those periods as I get the time. From page to page the legibility and quality varies astonishingly. Wherever there is a question regarding the legibility of a name or information it will be identified in red with, when appropriate, alternatives of what that word might be – if the letter or word is utterly indecipherable,  it will be marked with a red ‘x’.

If you have any portions of these records already transcribed, or you would like to transcribe some for the benefit of the wider 75(NZ) Squadron community, please get in contact with me and I will supply you with a few sheets.

So far, to be honest the project has been a bit slow, and is spread over a few months of a few years, though I must give thanks for all those brave typists that have so far given their time and their eyesight to push this project on a bit further.

Some spare time over the holiday period has allowed me to complete Form 540 – the Daily Diaries for January, February, March, April and May 1943. I have decided not to try to put up the Form 541 sections of each month on this blog – formatting limitations would make it very difficult to meaningfully navigate through the crew/ raid lists – these will have to wait for the website proper….

view the completed months so far;January 1943  here
February 1943 here
March 1943 here
April 1943 here
May 1943 here