Daily Archives: February 14, 2013

Glad to be going

jimmy wood  leaving party BLOG

“Leaving Do” – The Red Lion, Granchester, Cambridgeshire 1945.
Back row, L to R: Alex Hirst, Jack Britnall, Russell Banks.
Front row, L to R: Jock Fraser, Maurice Wiggins, Norman Allen (apparently wearing Russell’s jacket).
Foreground: Jimmy Wood.
© Jimmy Wood collection.

Though perhaps tinged with a little sadness that they would now be split up, I think this  picture captures the relief that any crew that were lucky enough to complete their tour would feel. Based on the changing responsibilities of the Squadron, with the creation of ‘Tiger Force’, it could well be that Russell and Alex found themselves initially preparing to stay, only to leave after the surrender of Japan. Once again, the records by this point are scant in detail and the sudden collapse of the Squadron regarding the end of the need for a bomber force for the Far East simply lists the large scale demobilisation of aircrew, rather than the specific departure of named individuals.

Surprisingly perhaps, I learnt from Jack Jarmy, my father’s navigator, that as a crew, they went out only occasionally. After they had learnt they were to be screened in 1943 after 21 ops, they all went on a final trip out to Cambridge – the faces in the picture would be different, but I am sure the sentiments would have been the same..

Mac Baigent & John Rodgers

BAIGENT, Wg Cdr Cyril Henry, DSO, DFC*, AFC, RNZAF. (NZ411973, 70038). Pilot, CO 6 Jan to 27 Sep 1945RODGERS A/Sqn Ldr. John Robert DFC, DFM, RNZAF. (NZ413956) Pilot 20 Sep 1944 to 28 Mar 1945 “B” Flt Cmdr.

Wing Commander Cyril Henry Baigent, DSO, DFC, AFC, RNZAF NZ411973/ 70038
Acting Squadron Leader. John Robert  Rodgers, DFC, DFM, RNZAF NZ413956 – “B” Flight Commander. © Jimmy Wood collection.

A fantastic image from Jimmy Wood’s photo album of Wing Commander Cyril ‘Mac’ Baigent and ‘B’ Flight Commander John Rodgers.

In discussion with Jimmy, it was clear that he had very fond memories of Mac Baigent and this might be something to do with W/C Baigent going with the Banks crew on their first op to Dresden. Cyril Baigent noted in his diary;

“Rather a long trip, so I thought I had better go! Flew F/L Banks and his crew on their first Op which probably rather shook them. Set course no trouble and apart from a little flak in the Frankfurt area, the trip to the target was fairly quiet. From some distance we could see the glow from earlier attacks on Dresden and Leipzig. A steady run in, in formation with another Lanc, and dropped right in the middle of large fires, on top of a red TI. After leaving the target, we looked back and saw clouds of smoke billowing up to 16,-17,000 feet. A spot of flak at Chemnitz and Brux but we had a fairly quiet trip home. Banks flew from Strasbourg. I took over and made a reasonable landing.”

from ‘Forever Strong’ The Story of 75 squadron RNZAF 1916-1990. Norman Franks. page 153

On the same trip, Norman Allen the Banks crew Mid Upper Gunner perhaps experienced the side of Baigent that had got him to the position of Wing Commander by the age of 22. A slow response to a radio check owing to the biting cold of the upper gun turret made Baigent accuse Norman of having fallen asleep. Apparently Norman in no uncertain terms explained that he had not been asleep and it was the cold and that perhaps the W/C should get heating fitted in his aircraft!.