Monthly Archives: February 2013

More information about 75(NZ) Squadron Ground Crew – Christmas 1944.

Many thanks to Chris for the following information about some of the groundcrew who attended the Station Christmas party in 1944.

Further to recent posts on 75 (NZ) Sqdn groundcrew, there was a fascinating item posted on the Lancaster Archive Forum a few years ago.

It is a 1944 RAF Mepal Christmas Day programme and Christmas Dinner menu card:
MepalChristmasMenu1944This in itself conjures up all sorts of thoughts, about what it must have been like for the boys and girls of 75 to celebrate Christmas in the middle of a war, but even better, it has been autographed on the inside by what appear to be a group of C Flight personnel (going by the “JN” a/c codes):
MepalChristmasMenu1944-insideThe first time I saw this, my eyes popped when I saw “JN-D”, my uncle Gerry’s a/c listed, but the name alongside it and the “Snifter” nickname didn’t fit.

Looking back through the LAF postings, I think the card may have come from Trevor Penfold, whose Dad Colin Penfold was groundcrew at 75 (NZ) Sqdn between 1944 and 1946.

1814705 LAC. Fred Woolterton, F/M/E (Flight Mechanic Engines), is listed in one of the posts on this site as a member of the groundcrew for NE181, JN-M The Captains Fancy, and there is his signature above, alongside “M-Mike”.

The other names don’t seem to correspond to aircrew of the respective a/c mentioned, so I’m guessing that they are all groundcrew.

The list (?):
? Gibbon, “Paper Doll”
Gerald Tiller, JN-O (“Dogsbody Again”)
Bob ?, “Zebra”
Cyril Stone (Rockefeller) JN-V
Roland Stroud “F-Fox”
F. Woolterton, “M-Mike”
J.D. Jones (“Jonah”), JN-D, “Snifter”
P.C. Rainbow, JN-P Bad Penny IV
? Smith, one of the ? Gang, now JN-V
? Woods, Tim “The Gremlin”

So was J.D. (Jonah) Jones one of the groundcrew for Lancaster HK601 JN-Dog?

And what about “Snifter”? Doug Williamson, Gerry’s Flight Engineer, recalls the nose-art on JN Dog as a “Pluto-like” cartoon dog.

Well after a bit of Googling, I found that there was a wartime cartoon dog called Snifter, which features in the nose art on at least one other Lancaster (below), and he looked a bit Pluto-like:
Snifter1So Snifter was probably the subject of the nose-art on JN-Dog – but was it also a nickname? Doug doesn’t remember it being used as such, he remembers her only as “JN-Dog”, so perhaps not.

“Dogsbody Again” (NN747, JN-O), and “Bad Penny IV” (HK597, JN-P) do sound like nicknames however.

And it looks like there was a “Paper Doll” and “The Gremlin” on C Flight.

Other a/c referred to:
“Zebra” – probably HK554, JN-Z
“F-Fox” – probably NG322, JN-F
– and JN-V would be PB820.

So does anyone recognise any of the other names listed, or do the nicknames above ring a bell with anyone?

Cheers,
Chris

Bomber Command clasp

I found it a slightly bitter sweet experience to hear yesterday morning on the radio that the Government has finally announced the release of a clasp award for recognition, to all aircrew of Bomber Command. It’s way too little, too late in my opinion, but at least now we have something and we should accept it with the respect that the memory of the Bomber Command crews deserve.

From Veterans-uk (http://veterans-uk.info/arctic_star_index.htm)
“The criteria for the Bomber Command Clasp requires prior qualification for the 1939 to 1945 Star, to which it will be affixed, with the additional requirement to have flown at least one operational sortie with a Bomber Command operational unit. A clasp was deemed more appropriate, by Sir John, in the case of Bomber Command as aircrew had already received either the Aircrew Europe Star or the France and Germany Star and another medal would have constituted “double-medalling” for the same service”.

The full qualification criteria can be downloaded here
http://veterans-uk.info/Eligibility%20Criteria.doc

and an application form can be downloaded here
http://veterans-uk.info/Bomber%20Command%20Application.doc

I think that everyone who qualifies to get one, should apply, if for no other reason to let those responsible know, that despite the wait, there is still a massive respect and love for these brave boys and that their memory, contribution and sacrifice, will live with us longer than it has taken for them to be officially recognised.

Patrick Leo McCartin RAAF AUS 88689/ 419328 logbook

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


© Paul Hickey

Its with great pleasure and a slight apology that I finally add the log book of Leo McCartin to the site. Early in my research I began talking to Paul and Jim about their relatives who were both lost in ND911 on the 20th November 1944 on a raid to Homberg. I would like to thank Paul and his wife, who is Leo’s niece for this kind donation to the collection.

Leo’s logbook is held in the Australian War Memorial and Paul had to photograph what is physically a very large logbook in perhaps was not the most ideal photographic conditions. Nevertheless, I have now managed to clean them up.

Homberg as a target proved to be in Harry Yate’s words a ‘jinx’ target for the Squadron. Across 4 visits, the Squadron lost a total of 10 aircraft and 54 airmen were lost, a further 15 ended up as PoW’s and one, F/Sgt. William Edward McGee, managed to evade

In ‘Luck and a Lancaster’ Harry Yates reflected on the aftermath of the 20th November trip to Homberg;

“The terrible news, though, was that three others were logged missing. All three were fine and experienced crews, close to the end of their tours. Ron Gordon and his five English crewmates were on number twenty eight. They all died, together with a pool W/Op who had just married and moved to the village. The W/Op whose place he had taken was a New Zealander, F/S Bill Otway. A throat infection had saved his life. Despite pleading with the MO to let him stay, he had been dispatched to Ely Hospital for 2 days. Now he must come to terms with the severance of six friendships and ask himself a thousand times  the unanswerable question, ‘Why them and not me?’

Flying Officer P.L. McCartin and crew also failed to return. McCartin had been a pupil of mine at South Cerney. He and his W/Op were Australian, the rest English. They had arrived on station in mid-August, ten days after us. This trip was their  twenty second. Only the rear gunner extricated himself from the aircraft and he was captured.”

The Wood crew – Edgar Reader Wireless Operator.

W/O Edgar Reader - Wireless Operator, Wood crew. 15th May - 23rd June 1943

W/O Edgar Reader – Wireless Operator, Wood crew. 15th May – 23rd June 1943

Many thanks to Adrian for contacting me regarding his uncle, Edgar Reader, who flew with Ben Wood crew between May 15th and June 23rd, when he and the rest of the crew were lost on the Mulheim raid.

Adrian has done a great research job, so what follows is his gathered research, with the odd extra bit from what I have;

Edgar was born and raised in the village of Fordham Cambs only 5 miles from where he was to later serve with 75 Squadron at Newmarket. Considering the squadron was of course a New Zealand squadron, although comprising of personnel from all over the globe, I would think he must have been one of the closest serving members of the aircrew. My grandmother was to recall being able to watch the aircraft take off from the house and in particular seeing the planes leave on the night that he was lost.

Edgar enlisted in the RAFVR in January 1941 and after being placed on reserve was called up for service the following July. Initial induction training was carried out at Blackpool before going on to specialist training as a Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner passing through  1 Signal School Cranwell , 2 Signal School Yatesbury and 3 Air Gunner School Castle Kennedy. He was then posted to 12 OTU based at Chipping Warden in October 1942. On the 12/4/43 he was transferred to 1651CU at Waterbeach to convert to the Stirling bomber before finally arriving at 75 Squadron on the 14/5/43.

The Squadron Operation Record Books details Edgar’s posting from 1651CU along with the other members of his crew, Pilot Benjamin Brinley Wood, Wireless Operator Edgar Reader, Air Gunner Cyril Hemmings, Air Gunner Frederick Hobbs, Flight Engineer Stanley Webb and Air Bomber Stuart Bissett. Stuart is detailed separately along with other New Zealand arrivals, so I guess they were recorded in nationality order as well as crew groupings. There is also no listing for the navigator position. Navigators, it would seem, were in short supply and on their first 3 missions the post was to be filled by different people. It was with these that I was able to find out some of the most interesting information.

21.5.43 Mine Laying Frisian Islands
Their first mission is recorded as being on the 21/5/43, one of six aircraft detailed for mine laying around the Frisian Islands. They were flying in a Stirling Mark III Serial Number BK809, which had been delivered to the squadron on 2/5/43. For this mission Sgt P. Dobson RNZAF joined the crew as the navigator. This was the only mission that Sgt Dobson was to join their crew. His fate and that of Stirling BK809 can be traced to a tragic later event on the 8/9/43 when, although not part of the crew himself, he was killed trying to rescue the occupants of BK809 which had veered violently on take-off from Mepal  and crashed into houses on the airfield perimeter.

F/Sgt Peter Gerald Dobson mid RNZAF NZ439022 Navigator 16 Mar to 8 Sep 1943. c/w W D Whitehead. Mention in Despatches (14 Jan 1944): For bravery in action and meritorious fulfillment of duty. Died Wednesday 8th September 1943, age 28. A 75 Sqn. Stirling, (BK809), fully laden with fuel and bombs for an attack on a long-range gun battery nr Boulogne, France, swung on take-off and crashed between two houses off the end of the runway. F/Sgt Dobson was killed by exploding bombs as he went to the assistance of the aircrew crew and the occupants of the houses. Buried Cambridge City Cemetery, England.

27.5.43 Mine Laying Frisian Islands
Their second mission was on the 27/5/43 when they returned to the Frisian Islands as part of a 5 aircraft operation dropping mines in the area, this time in Stirling Mark III, Serial Number BK619. On this mission F/O J. Dixon joined the crew as the Navigator and Sgt F. Sansoucy is recorded as being the Flight Engineer, replacing Sgt S.Webb. This was the only time that, apart from the navigator, the crew was to be changed.

Records show that Sgt Fabien Sansoucy of the Royal Canadian Air Force was shot down over France on the night of 14-15/6/43 whilst on an operation laying mines in the Gironde Estuary. He was one of two crew members to evade capture.  Another crew member was killed and the 4 remaining made POWs. His family posted his own account of his escape on the internet which makes very interesting reading.

http://www.absa3945.com/15%20juin%2043/SANSOUCY_english.htm

P/O Joseph Germain Fabien Sansoucy, mid, RCAF R.66953. C.86345. Flight Engineer
October 1942 to 14th June 1943. MiD (1 Jan 1945): In recognition of distinguished service and devotion to duty. c/w J L Edwards as FE. Shot down by a combination of flak and night fighter. Baled out at 0200 hrs 14 Jun 1943 during a mine-laying sortie to the Gironde Estuary, France. Successfully evaded capture and safe in the UK on 5 Oct 1943.
His MI-9 interrogation report was : –
“I took off from Newmarket in a Stirling aircraft on 13 Jun 1943 at about 2300 hrs on a mining sortie just off Bordeaux. On the outward journey, while over Les Sabres d’Olonne we were hit by light flak. We flew several miles out to sea and jettisoned our mines. We then started climbing and turned North. Somewhere in the vicinity of Rennes we were attacked by an Me109. I did not see the enemy fighter after the third attack and think we probably shot it down. At about 0200 hrs. 13 June, the pilot gave the order to bale out. I came down in an orchard about 15 miles southeast of Rennes. I cut my parachute with a knife I had with me and hid it in some some undergrowth. I then ran off. I walked all through that night and early in the morning when I was somewhere near Retiers I approached an old lady for food. She seemed scared and said she was going to fetch a gendarme. I ran off and hid in some fields. Here I opened my aids box and took out my compass. I cut off my Sergeant‘s stripes and all other identifying badges from my tunic. About half and hour later the gendarme found me. I speak French fluently and told him who I was. He went off and returned a little later bringing with him bread, cider, and a map of the district. He also told me that he had tried, unsuccessfully, to get some civilian clothes for me. I left him and for the best part of the next two days continued walking southeast. I kept to the fields and side roads all the time and stopped on one or two occasions at isolated farm houses for food and shelter. I found everyone in this district very willing to help. I spent the night of 17 June at a farm at St.Julien de Vouvantes, about ten miles southeast of Chateaubriant, and the farmer gave me some civilian clothes. I walked on all the next day amd somewhere near Ancenis I hailed a man in a small boat who rowed me across the River Loire. For the first time since I baled out I used the main roads and the next day I passed through Beaupreau and slept that night in a field just north of Cholet. I approached several people for help, but found them unwilling to do anything for me. Next morning I saw many Germans about and therefore decided to skirt Cholet. By the time I reached Chatillon-sur-Sevre my knees gave out snd I could walk no further. At about 1700 hrs, 19 June, I caught a bus and using the money from my purse I bought a ticket to Echere, about six miles northeast of Niort. I spent that night in a barn. The following day I had to continue walking as it was Sunday and there were no buses running. I went as far as Celles-sur-Belles and at about 1500 hrs, 20 June, I stopped at a farm house where I remained for six days. From this point my journey was arranged for me”.

29.5.43 Attack against targets at Wuppertal.
The third mission, and the first into the Ruhr area, was on the 29/5/43 when 20 aircraft of 75 Squadron were detailed to attack targets in Wuppertal, the home of the Goldschmitt firm which produced Tego-Film, a wood adhesive used in the production of the HE162 and TA154 aircraft. The aircraft was again Stirling Serial Number BK619. On this mission the Navigator was to be F/O F.Daborn.

I cannot find any further records for F/O Daborn, and there are no listings of casualties under that name /rank/ time frame on the Commonwealth War Graves site and I can only think that he survived the war.

F/O Harold Sidney Frank Daborn RAFVR 1376732, 116534 Navigator
10th May 1943 to 4th January 1944. c/w M Wyatt, R Broadbent, R D Max & A M F Alexander.

1.6.43 Mining laying Frisian Islands
The fourth operation was on the 1/6/43 returning once again to the Frisian Islands in Stirling BK619, for a mine laying operation. Edgar’s plane was one of only 2 aircraft detailed for the mission. The Navigator for that operation was F/S G.K Samson a New Zealander who was to remain with the crew for the following 2 operations. From the details of the mission contained in the log it can be seen that one of the two aircraft sustained Flak damage after flying over enemy Flak ships, presumably in the target area. It is not recorded as to which aircraft it was, and the indistinct serial number of the other aircraft in the records makes it difficult to guess which one it could have been.

Although I cannot from the records exactly when F/S Samson joined 75 Squadron the records indicate that he was on operations in March 1943 and so he was an established member of the squadron, completing at least 11 missions prior to this one.  Perhaps his most noteworthy operation was on the night of 10-11/4/43, when, returning from a raid on Frankfurt, his plane was forced to ditch in the sea off Shoreham Sussex. Thanks to the skill of the pilot, who made a perfect landing in the water, and to the efforts of the wireless operator who kept relaying their position, all the crew were rescued safely. It was after this ditching that it was thought prudent for the crews to brush up on their escape and dinghy techniques, which is recorded in the Station ORBS on 30/4/43. George King Samson was a rugby player and was a member of the RNZAF Rugby club whilst he served in this country.

21/22.6.43 Attack against targets at Krefeld.
The fifth operation was on the night of 21-22/6/43 when their aircraft was one of 15 from 75 Squadron  detailed to attack the city of Krefeld the largest producer of high-grade steel in Germany. The aircraft was again BK619. A total of 705 aircraft were dispatched on the raid from various squadrons with a window over the target allocated entirely to the 98 Stirlings of 3 Group of between 01:49-01:57. For 75 Squadron this would mean a round trip of about 3 and a half to 4 hours which is consistent with the times recorded for most of the aircraft. It can be seen in the log that one aircraft returned early owing to engine trouble and although it is not stated which aircraft, Edgar’s was recorded as having landed about 90mins before the rest, and so it is likely that it was his that returned early.

22/23.6.43 Attack against targets at Mulhein (ORB says Mannheim)
The final operation from which he didn’t return was on the following night of 22-23/6/43. This time they were flying in Stirling EF408. By all accounts their mission was to the town of Mulheim in the Ruhr Valley. Unfortunately the Squadron Operational Record books record the target as being Mannheim a town to the south. I feel certain though that this is simply a mistake, possibly a result of human error when typing up the report (it’s not the only error I have found). I can find no record of another raid on Mannheim for that night and all other sources I have checked point toward Mulheim being the target. Certainly the planes lost that night were in the vicinity of Mulheim and none came down any further south than that, so I think it is safe to assume Mulheim was the destination.

What is recorded is the time of his plane taking off at 23:40 and the time down column is recorded as “Missing”. From further information I have found the plane being recorded as having been shot down by flak and crashing into the town of Gelsenkirchen, where the crew were initially buried. It is with some conjecture as to whether they were on the way there or back but Gelsenkirchen is fairly close to Mulheim, and my thoughts are that they were on the final approach to the target. Evidence of this is contained in a report made by a Sgt Handley of 15 Squadron who stated that he saw 4 Stirlings being destroyed on their bombing run, 2 of which seemed to collide and another 2 hit by flak after being caught in searchlights. Studying the Stirling losses for that night it would seem that 3 Stirlings did indeed crash in the vicinity and a 4th, which reported being heavily damaged, crashed a short distance away from the target area. It would seem likely therefore that one of these aircraft could have been Edgar’s but of course it can’t be certain.

The Wood crew on the Mulheim Op were;
F/Sgt Benjamin Brinley Wood RAFVR 656588. Pilot.
15th May to 23rd June 1943. Died Wednesday 23rd June 1943, age 24, during a raid on Mulheim. Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Germany.

F/Sgt. George King Samson RNZAF NZ402563. Navigator.
28th November 1942 to 23rd June 1943. Died Wenesday 23rd June 1943, age 27, during a raid on Mulheim. Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Germany.

F/Sgt Stuart Richard Bisset RNZAF NZ415738. Air Bomber.
14th March to 23rd June 1943. Died Wednesday 23 June 1943, age 20, during a raid on Mulheim. Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Kleve, Germany.

Sgt Edgar Henry Reader RAFVR 1331432. Wireless Operator.
15th May to 23rd June 1943. Died Wednesday 23rd June 1943, age 21, during a raid on Mulheim. Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Germany.

Sgt. Stanley Lawrence Webb RAFVR 1266998. Flight Engineer.
14th May to 23rd June 1943. Died Wednesday 23rd June 1943, age 33, during a raid on Mulheim. Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Germany.

Sgt. Frederick Johns Hobbs RAFVR 1609558. Mid Upper Gunner.
14th May to 23rd June 1943. Died Wednesday 23rd June 1943, age 19, during a raid on Mulheim. Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.

Sgt. Cyril Benjamin Hemmings RAFVR 1235070. Rear Gunner.
Died Wednesday 23rd June 1943, age 21, during a raid on Mulheim. Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.

The crew were initially buried in the Bismark Cemetery Gelsenkirchen and later moved to the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery when it was established after the war.

I was fortunate to spot on the internet a request from the great nephew of fellow crew member, Cyril Hemmings asking for information into his great uncle’s service prior to his visit to the cemetery last summer. I was able to provide him with the information gathered here which made my efforts all the more worthwhile. It was one of the coincidences which have marked my research so far, and which has proved to me that 70 years on from the event time has not erased the interest or information out there.

 

The Blewett crew – John Smyrk Wireless Operator.

I was contacted by Phil last week regarding his father John Smyrk, who was Wireless Operator  with the Blewett crew. John and the rest of the Blewett crew arrived at Mepal on the 6th of December. He had previously flown with 150 Squadron in North Africa.

The Blewit Crew;
F/Lt. Terence Douglas ‘Tim’ Blewett, RNZAF NZ414376. Pilot.
6 Dec 1944 to 17 Jan 1945. Died Wednesday 17 January 1945, age 26. His aircraft crashed at Woodditton, Suffolk, England on return from a raid on a benzol oil plant at Wanne- Eickel, Germany. Buried Cambridge City Cemetery, England.

F/Sgt Bryant Thomas Cornell RAFVR 1398282  Navigator.
6th December 1944 to 18th January 1945. Seriously injured 17th January 1945. Died Thursday 18th January 1945, age 22. Buried Southgate Cemetery, England.

F/O John Stanley ‘Johnny’ Wilson, RNZAF NZ426234 Air Bomber.
6th December 1944 to 17th January 1945. Died Wednesday 17th January 1945, age 34.

W/O John Smyrk RAFVR. Wireless Operator.
6th December 1944 to injured 17th January 1945.

Sgt Ronald Hunwicks RAFVR Flight Engineer.
6th Dec 1944 to seriously injured 17th  Jan 1945.

Sgt Kenneth Hollins RAFVR 2221435 Mid Upper & Rear Gunner.
6th December 1944 to 17th January.

Sgt William H Pridmore RAFVR Rear then Mid Upper Gunner.
6th December 1944 to injured 17th January.

Crew Operational History.
11.12.44 Tim Blewit completes ‘2nd Dickie’ op with Yates crew  Attack against  Osterfeld.
12.12.44 Attack against Witten PB761 AA-Y
16.12.44 Attack against Siegen PB761 AA-Y
21.12.44 Attack against Trier PB761 AA-Y
23.12.44 Attack against Trier PB761 AA-Y
27.12.44 Attack against Rheydt PB427 AA-U
28.12.44 Attack against Grenberg Marshalling Yards, Cologne PB761 AA-Y
31.12.44 Attack against Vohwinkel HK563 JN-W
1.1.45 Attack against Vohwinkel PB761 AA-Y
3.1.45 Attack against Dortmund Oil Refinery PB761 AA-Y
5.1.45 Attack against Ludgishaven PB761 AA-Y
7/8.1.45 Attack against Munich PB761 AA-Y
11.1.45 Attack against Krefeld PB761 AA-Y
15.1.45 Attack against Langrendreer PB761 AA-Y
16/17.1.45 Attack against Wanne-Eickel PB761 AA-Y. Crashed on return.

from the Squadron ORB;
The aircraft captained  by NZ414376 FLT. Blewett unfortunately crashed in this country. The captain and Air Bomber NZ426234 F/O. J. Wilson were killed and the Navigator 1398282 F/S. Cornell died as a result of injuries.

The following details regarding the crash can be found here;
Taken from notes written by Felix Bailey, deceased.

“On the night of January 17th 1945, a Lancaster bomber from 75 squadron 3 group was returning from a bombing raid over Germany. It was in serious trouble, and hit the old Suffolk thatched barn behind Hill Farmhouse. The telephone and electric wires were severed in its wake.

It left one engine in the thatch of the barn, and then veered right, ploughing through the field which was meadow land. Shedding parts of the plane as it went, ammunition, fuel and all sorts of debris was sent tumbling about, knocking down the out-houses behind Hill Cottage and a corner of the cottage. The main fuselage finished up nose across the road, its tail broken off so you could stand on the bank and look into it. One engine was catapulted onto the farm land beyond the road.

A fire started and the people living in Hill Cottage, which was two houses, could not get out. Very flare lights started to go up. Mr Gent leapt out of bed, fumbled for his trousers, as he ran to help. It was dark and he kept falling over little heaps of hedge trimmings that had been piled up after hedge cutting ready for burning.

He was first on the scene. He climbed up the bank beside the cottage and fell over something. It was an airman. As the airman sat up he spoke “My mate’s gone for help”.

His mate was the gunner, who in his turret had got thrown clear. He ran down the road – the first house he came to he could get no help. He then arrived at Hall Farm. Knocking so hard on the door that he smashed a pane of glass. He eventually raised the occupants and was given help. Mrs Savage and her two sons lived in Hall Farmhouse at the time. Her husband was in the army in Italy.

 Back at the crash site, Mr Gent managed to find a torch and he bent down to help the airman on the ground and noticed both his feet were missing. He managed to find a parachute to wrap the airman up in.

Bill Cook and Eric Simpson arrived. They started to try and get the occupants out of the cottage. The fire engine arrived and they got Shim Howe out. His tunic was on fire. Hasby Howe was clutching his cash box (he worked for Cooper Bland). The Ambulance arrived from Ely. Mr Reeve, the Hill Farm foreman arrived. All these people wanted tea. The police promised to return the next day with extra coupons to replace the tea but they never did.

When daylight came and the people who worked at Hill Farm came to work they found the carthorse still feeding in the yard beside the battered barn and an engine hanging in the thatch”.

I found more information in ‘Luck and a Lancaster’ by Harry Yates – Tim Blewett flew his 2nd Dickie flight with Harry and his crew;

“As luck would have it, we also had a 2nd Dickie with us. Flying Officer T.D. Blewitt was atall but slight, quiet mannered New Zealander. He had waited 5 days for this. Now, at last, he was getting started. But here was little sign of the pounding heart and sweating palms that I was sure Messers Aitken & Co. would have divined in me back on 8th August. My strongest impression of Tim, for that was his name, was how self assure he was. I could only wish him 30 trips that did nothing to alter that, the least remarkable of them Osterfeld today.”

Then in the Epilogue at the end of the book……

“Tim Blewitt, the middle of our initiatives, died in the early hours of 17th January 1945. The previous evening Tim and his crew had boarded PB761 Y-Yoke, the kite in which the boys and I had taken him to Osterfeld. The target this time was a Benzol plant at Wanne-Eickel.They bombed successfully but came down on the journey home at Wood-Ditton in Suffolk. Tim and his Bomb Aimer were killed on impact. Y-Yoke quickly became an inferno. the surviving crew members dragged the navigator clear but he was beyond help and succumbed in hospital 2 days later.

The cause of the crash was pilot error.In the official accident report Tim’s relative unfamiliarity with night flying was cited as a contributory factor. This seemed a harsh and convenient judgement to me.Immediately prior to the Wanne-Eickel raid Tim and his crew had twice experienced the tensions of briefing, gearing up and the long wait at dispersal only for control to call them back. One can only guess at their feelings as they climbed aboard for a third time in 21 hours.

A few days after this event I returned from leave to collect my remaining possessions and be signed off by Mac Baigent. I found that my treasured American flying jacket was missing. Tim had ‘borrowed’ it that night. I couldn’t resent the fact, of course. I’d just wished it had bought him some luck.”

Personally, I think the official decision of ‘pilot error’ is harsh – Tim and the boys were almost half way through their tour.

John Smyrk passed away in 2011

1651 Conversion Unit, Waterbeach, July 1943 – Names to faces – please help…..

'B' Flight, 1651 Conversion Unit, Waterbeach, July 1943

‘B’ Flight, 1651 Conversion Unit, Waterbeach, July 1943

I am keen to try and identify as many individuals in this photograph as possible, whether they ended up going to Mepal or not. I hope this image will be good enough to view and if you recognise anybody in it, I am happy to supply you with a high resolution version of it, able to be printed at A3.

So far;
Mayfield Crew.
Back row 2nd from left – Allan Johnson Mayfield.
Back row 3rd from right – John Sebastian Hulena*
Back row 4th from right – Walter James Gee*.
Middle row 7th from left – Robert Douglas ‘Jock’ Sommerville.
Front row (seated on chairs) 7th from left – Jack Francis Jarmy.

Roberts Crew
Middle row 1st from right – Kensington Campbell Jackson.
Middle row 2nd from right – Darcy Leslie Conrad Haub.
Middle row 3rd from right – Eric John Roberts.

*Not confirmed

F/O Jack Henry Haydon RAAF AUS.408400 – Roberts Crew and the ‘Great Escape’.

I had been aware for a while that 75(NZ) Squadron had an association with the ‘Great Escape’ from Stalag Luft 3, immortalised, of course, in the film of the same name. A few weeks ago, whilst at my Mother’s 90th birthday party, I was remarking on the same fact to a relative who had asked me about the blog and research on Bob.

Incredibly, on returning home I received an email from Dianne about her father,  Jack Haydon – who had been involved in the escape from Stalag Luft III. My initial excitement about the contact  was increased when it dawned on me later that Jack was the sole survivor of the Roberts crew, who were lost on the night of the 31st August on the Berlin Raid. My interest in this crew has existed since the early days of my research when I discovered through the Squadron ORB’s that the crew had arrived at Mepal with my father and his crew from 1651 Conversion Unit. My initial investigations had led me to pictures of some of the Roberts crew, but at the time I had not been able to find anything about Jack – including his Christian name. It shames me to admit that with the time involved processing information on the other aircrews that was being sent to me that even when I received the Squadron Nominal Roll from Stewart, I didn’t think to look for Jack in the Roll.

In a return mail to Dianne, I included a group picture including dad from 1651 – I had already identified Eric Roberts, the Wireless Operator Kensington Jackson and Darcy Haub, the Rear Gunner. Dianne was unable to identify Jack in the image – but I am confident we will find him.

The Roberts Crew were;
F/Sgt Eric John Roberts RNZAF NZ417107. Pilot .
Died Tuesday 31st August 1943, age 25, during a raid on Berlin. Buried Hanover War Cemetery Germany.
24.7.43 first 2nd Dickie flight with the Whitehead crew – Hamburg.
25.7.43 second 2nd Dickie flight with the Baile crew – Essen.

F/O. Robert Gorman Rainford RAFVR 134553. Navigator.
Died Tuesday 31st August 1943, age 28, during a raid on Berlin. Buried Hanover War Cemetery Germany.

Plt Off John Cecil Giles RAFVR 138329. Air Bomber.
Died Tuesday 31st August 1943, age 19, during a raid on Berlin. Buried Hanover War Cemetery, Germany.

F/Sgt Kensington Campbell Jackson RNZAF NZ 42330. Wireless Operator.
Died Tuesday 31st August 1943, age 23, during a raid on Berlin. Buried Hanover War Cemetery, Germany.

Sgt Eric Saunders RAFVR 1605321. Flight Engineer.
Died Tuesday 31st August 1943 , age 20, during a raid on Berlin. Buried Hanover War Cemetery Germany.

F/O Jack Henry Haydon RAAF AUS.408400. Mid Upper Gunner.
Shot down night of 31st Aug 1943 during a raid on Berlin, the sole survivor of a crew of seven. PoW # 2366. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft III. Safe UK NK.

F/Sgt Darcy Leslie Conrad Haub RNZAF NZ42326. Rear Gunner.
Died Wednesday 31st September 1943, age 23, during a raid on Berlin. Buried Hanover War Cemetery, Germany.

Roberts crew Operational History;
27.7.43 Hamburg EE897 AA-G
29.7.43 Hamburg EH880 AA-J
2.8.43 Hamburg BF518 AA-E
6.8.43 Mining in the Gironde Estuary EF461
16.8.43 Turin EF518
23.8.43 Berlin EE918 AA-D
27.8.43 Nuremburg EE918 AA-D
30.8.43 Munchen-Gladbach  EE918 AA-D
31.8.43 Berlin Failed to Return. EE918 AA-D

Dianne sent the following regards the event of that tragic night;
On the night of 31 August, 1943 he was mid-upper gunner  in Stirling Mk.111 EE918 AA-D and was returning home, having dropped bombs on Berlin, when the aircraft was hit by enemy fire. The aircraft sustained damage but continued to fly for possibly 10 – 15 minutes. Eric, the pilot radioed Jack (as mid upper gunner he was the closest to the rear gun turret) and requested that he go back and check on Darcy (rear gunner) because he had heard nothing from him since the attack. Jack discovered that he was dead and was returning to his position when there was an explosion which broke the plane into two pieces.

Jack, the only member of the crew not in his position, was not in his harness and therefore fell out of the plane which went down with the rest of the crew all still harnessed in. Upon landing, Jack only suffered a badly injured foot, which caused him trouble for the rest of his life. He began walking to habitation, where he was captured.

After  being given medical treatment for his , Jack was now a Prisoner of War and was first moved to Dulag Luft.

Dulag Luft was the abbreviated name given to Prisoner of War (POW) transit camps for Air Force prisoners captured by Germany during the Second World War. Their main purpose was to act as collection and interrogation centres for newly captured aircrew, before being transferred in batches to the permanent camps. Dulag Luft derives from the German Durchgangslager der Luftwaffe (Transit Camp – Air Force). Several camps where set up throughout Germany and the occupied countries, however the main centre used throughout the war was at Oberursel near Frankfurt. A satellite camp at Wetzlar was set up later in the war to help cope with the large numbers of aircrew captured as the bombing campaign intensified against Germany. Allegations of interrogation under torture have been made by numerous POWs who passed through the camps.
Wikipedia

Jack was next moved to the now (in)famous  Stalag Luft III.

Stalag Luft III (Stammlager Luft, or main camp for aircrew) was a Luftwaffe-run prisoner-of-war camp during World War II that housed captured air force servicemen. It was in the German province of Lower Silesia near the town of Sagan (now Żagań in Poland), 100 miles (160 km) southeast of Berlin. The site was selected because it would be difficult to escape by tunneling. The camp is best known for two famous prisoner escapes that took place there by tunneling, which were depicted in the films The Great Escape (1963) and The Wooden Horse (1950), and the books by former prisoners Paul Brickhill and Eric Williams from which these films were adapted.
Wikipedia

During his incarceration, Jack “celebrated” his 21st birthday and the birth of his first daughter.

One of the activities he participated in was stacking wood on the back of a truck. The instructions were to put a nail in every 5th /6th log to secure the load for travel. The prisoners placed a nail in every log so that the logs were absolutely solid wood when they came to be unloaded. Apparently, every PoW took very seriously the order to hinder the enemy in any way possible!

Jack  was involved in the preparations for the Great Escape. His skill as a cabinetmaker was useful to maintain the stability of the bunks which were depleted of wood and he also had gold fillings in his teeth which were removed to make compasses.

On the night of the escape Jack  was waiting to go when the alarm was raised. Like others, he was placed in solitary confinement for at least 3 week and on 5 days running was dragged out and actually lined up in front of a firing squad. No one knows why he was not shot, but one theory was that he was young and good-looking and as Hitler wanted a pure Aryan race he may have been spared for that. He was also given a photograph of a young, pretty blonde woman, maybe to encourage his willingness.

Towards the end of the war, when defeat was inevitable, the Germans removed the prisoners and they began “The March”.

“The March” refers to a series of forced marches during the final stages of the Second World War in Europe. From a total of 257,000 western Allied prisoners of war held in German military prison camps, over 80,000 POWs were forced to march westward across Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Germany in extreme winter conditions, over about four months between January and April 1945. This series of events has been called various names: “The Great March West”, “The Long March”, “The Long Walk”, “The Long Trek”, “The Black March”, “The Bread March”, but most survivors just called it “The March”. As the Soviet Army was advancing, German authorities decided to evacuate POW camps, to delay liberation of the prisoners. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of German civilian refugees, most of them women and children, as well as civilians of other nationalities, were also making their way westward on foot, in hazardous weather conditions.
Wikipedia

Jack Haydon was returned to England and later embarked on a ship headed for the war against Japan, but peace was declared while he was en route – Dianne does not know if he was returned to England or Australia at that stage.

On his return home he spent many weeks in rehabilitation and in truth, she believes he suffered from PTSD for the rest of his life. He apparently did manage to write to the families of at least 2 of the 3 NZ members of his crew.

Jack Henry Haydon died at the age of 48, in 1971.