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

3 thoughts on “The Blewett crew – John Smyrk Wireless Operator.

  1. Kevin King

    The airmen that went for help was Ken Hollins, but not before he had dragged clear members of the crew. Ken went on to a distinguished career in the police. Rising to the rank of superintendent in the Staffordshire CID. Every remembrance weekend Ken would visit Cambridge cemetery and pay his respects to his fallan comrades. Ken died in 1992. His ashes being scattered over the Wash from the BBMF Lancaster. Ron Hunwicks had a leg amputated. He amazed me when I first met him at a reunion in the 80s. Waltzing around the dance floor you had no idea he had an artificial leg. Bryant Cornell’s daughter was born after he died. She and her mother layer went to live in South Africa. She and her husband returned to England about 12 years ago and have attended several reunions. At one reunion we visited Kirtling where she was presented with a painting of her fathers aircraft. Speaking with Ken and Ron, neither of them held their captain responsible for the crash. They had nothing but praise for him.

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  2. Felicity Griffiths

    I have only just found this site – what fascinating reading!! I am the Felicity Griffiths (nee Cornell) the daughter of Bryant Cornell the navigator with the Blewitt crew that crashed in January 1945. As my father was killed 2 months before I was born, I never knew him. I was taken to South Africa as a small child and raised there, returning to live in UK 21 years ago. My father’s family was lost to me, as my mother and his family had lost contact many years ago. Then 6 years ago they managed to find me on the Genes Reunited website and at last I have found out about my father – who he was and what he was like. I also found out about his Squadron and have been to a few reunions. It was very emotional to meet Ron Hunswick and Bill Pridmore, who had actually known my father and were probably the last people to speak to him before he died. At one reunion, I was presented with a special painting of the Lancaster bomber which hangs in pride of place in my lounge at home.

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