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.
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.
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.