Monthly Archives: March 2013

A visit to the Palace, 7th July 1967

Mum Dad and Sj at the Palace

Mum (with me), Dad and middle sister Sandra, outside the gates of Buckingham Palace, I assume, prior to the tea party.

Invitation to the Palace

I really haven’t done anything since I set up the blog regarding gathering information about dad after the war – so to make amends, here is the first of a few ‘post war’ posts, as it were, to tell a little bit of Bob and the family’s life after he came out of the RAF.

This first post dates from 4 months before I was born – so I am claiming a technical presence in this photo and therefore by extrapolation the visit to the Palace to see the Queen…….

I actually don’t know much more about this photo or the day, so I will ask my sister Sandra for her recollections and will add a little more to this as and when.

Flying Officer and Mrs Sommerville – 22nd May 1945

dad group 1013

So…….family folklore has it that some time in 1944 Bob, with another airman had to represent his squadron (based on his records either No. 3 Lancaster Finishing School, Feltwell or, No.1 Air Armament School, Manby) at a burial of I assume, of an airman.

History does not tell us where the funeral was, but it would appear the boys rolled up at the Imperial Hotel in Henley-on-Thames. On entering the Imperial’s reception, the boys saw a young girl, acting as receptionist behind the desk. Apparently Dad turned to his companion and whispered ‘I’m going to marry that girl……’

Some months later, on the 22nd of May 1945, he did.
wedding day 001wedding day 005wedding telegram 001 wedding telegram 002 wedding telegram 003 wedding telegram 004wedding telegram 005 wedding telegram 006 wedding telegram 007

RAF Bishops Court No. 7 Air Navigation School – 1946

Bishops Court 1946 COs

Pete, Alf and Tommy. Bishops Court 1946

Jimmy, Mike and me, Bishops Court, April 1946.

Jimmy, Mike and me, Bishops Court, April 1946.

Bishops Court 1946 group

Flying Control Staff. Bishops Court, April 1946

Dad’s service record shows that on the 5th May 1945 he was posted to Aircrew Allocation Centre (ACAC). On the 16th June he was transferred to RAF Halfpenny Green, Wolverhampton. This airfield was constructed between mid-1940 and early 1941 for use by the Royal Air Force, being initially named RAF Bobbington. The name was changed on 1 September 1943 to RAF Halfpenny Green, to avoid confusion with RAF Bovingdon in Hertfordshire. The unit disbanded on 13 November 1945.

Bob’s service record lists him at ‘RAF Sqd/ Sch Flying Control’ between 16th July and 26th August.

On the 27th of September 1945 he is posted to No. 7 Air Navigation School. I believe this to be at Bishops Court in Northern Ireland. On the 23rd September his record states ‘7 ANS Flight Control Officer (Flight Lieutenant)’ I know the above pictures to be from Bishops Court, as they say so on the back of them – however, I don’t know what Bob’s position or duties were.

On a rare occasion of talking about this time, dad said that he used to come home to mum quite regularly and that if is his travel card wasn’t checked or taken ( I can’t remember what he said), he would have it for another trip – it also sounded like he was able to bring food and the like back with him to augment rations at home…….

Hopefully putting this up and adding a few tags might get a few answers……

More information on ‘Tap’ Heperi

Photo: Next Graduating Squadron, No. 3 Wireless School, Squadron 65,  Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, September 1943. From WAGMag, September 43 issue, Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum.

Photo: Next Graduating Squadron, No. 3 Wireless School, Squadron 65, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, September 1943.
From WAGMag, September 43 issue, Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum.

Many thanks as always to Chris, for sending me the following information on Tapua Heperi that he initially came across whilst researching his uncle, Gerry:

Early in my research into my uncle’s service and Wireless Operator training in Canada, I came across a copy of the September 1943 issue of “WAGMag”, the monthly magazine of No 3 Wireless School in Winnipeg, and was excited to see a graduating class photo of 65 Squadron, with Gerry sitting front and centre!

Notable amongst the names listed below the photo was a “T. Heperi” – I hadn’t been expecting to see a Maori surname – and its owner “Tap Heperi” features prominently elsewhere in both this and the June and July issues of WAGMag, in 65 Squadron (class) news and various station sports results. Obviously respected by his peers, (and promoted to the rank of Corporal by the time he graduated) he is mentioned as a Squadron “senior”:

Class seniors, Tap Heperi, Errol Oakley and Jim Sutherland, are due a lot of credit for untiring representation throughout the entire course. From the boys, “thanks a lot”.”

He is mentioned as a member of the Squadron boxing team, and in a report of an away boxing match on June 30th 1943, against No.33 SFTS Carberry:

“Tapuli (sic) Hepiri took the only other decision for No. 3, when he outfought, outboxed and outgrimaced the heavy LAC Ayres from Carberry. Both boxers went at it hammer and tongs for three rounds, but Hepiri was slightly faster and used his left and his deceptive hip movement to advantage.”

– and again in games of “rugger” against Carberry on July 16th, and against No.5 AOS on 21 August 1943, where he helped “provide the power” in the forwards:

Outstanding of these is LAC Heperi, class senior for “A” flight. Tall and well built, this Maori lad likes plenty of fast action, having recently transferred his attention from punching opponents to kicking their shins. With LAC Hicks, another Newzie, he represented the squadron in rugger against Carberry some little time ago.

He must have been quite a sportsman!

Later, when I started to work my way through the the Wood crew’s op’s in the 75 ORBs, Dec 44 – April 45, it was another surprise to see the name of T. Heperi pop up as W/Op in the Clements crew! So I guess that Gerry would have known him well.

After the War, Tapua Peter Heperi apparently owned a dairy farm in in the Okaihau Valley, Northland, and archival National Film Unit footage exists of he and his family on the farm in the ’60’s. Although no longer with us, Google turns up another Tap Heperi, a singer of some note, who was born 8 October 1943 in Rawene, Northland, NZ, quite possibly conceived on final leave before his Dad shipped off to Canada!


The loss of EF137 and its crew remembered.

440423vemmenascrew Left- Harrison, Larson, Bailey, Lammas and Vaughan copy enlarged version

Five of the crew of EF137: from L to R, William Harrison, Ivar Larson, Robert Bailey, Manson Lammas and Douglas Vaughan.

Thanks to Kevin for passing details of this page on Søren’s website and many thanks for Søren for letting me have permission to reproduce the details and pictures here.

Despite the appalling documented loss the Squadron suffered, this is the first time I have actually seem images such as these of a crashed 75(NZ) aircraft on enemy soil. It’s no less sobering given the years to see these pictures and it shows in no uncertain terms the frailty of the aircraft and the brave boys that flew in them night after night during the war.

The following is from Søren’s website ‘Airwar Over Denmark’ and can be viewed here

Stirling III EF137 crashed near Vemmenæs east of the island of Tåsinge 23/4-1944.
The aircraft belonged to RAF 75 Sqn Bomber Command and was coded AA-E. T/o 20:42 Mepal. OP: Gardening Radish (Fehmern Belt).

440423vemmenas3 Finn Buch composite of 3

Three views of the crash sites. The left hand image clearly shows the tail plane section of the aircraft with its twin tail wheels visible. The other 2 images show the remains of the rest of the aircraft that came down nearby.
images supplied by Finn Buch

Outbound EF137 was attacked by a German night fighter believed to have been piloted by Oberfeldwebel Rudolf Frank of 3./NJG 3. A fire started and a little later the bomber disintegrated in the air and fell in the sea off Vemmenæs at 23:20 hours killing the whole crew. The tail plane fell in a field belonging to “Gravvængegaard” not far from where the fuselage fell.
At 24/4 at 03:42 it was reported by The Civil Air Defence that 3 bodies had been found. One had been found in the sea while two had fallen to their death in the fields.
At 09:15 it was reported that 7 bodies had been found. Two was found in the sea, one in some scrub near the beach while Tail gunner Larson was found in his turret.

Four mines which were found, were detonated by the Wehrmacht on 26/4.

440423vemmelammas  (Via Ole Kraul)  crew portraits composite

Pilot F/S Mauson Lammas RNZAF, Navigator F/S Douglas Vaughan RNZAF, Air Bomber F/S Robert Bailey RNZAF, W/Op Sgt William Harrison RAF and R/Gnr Sgt Ivar Larson
Lammas, Harrison & Larson images supplied by Ole Kraul. Vaughn & Bailey images supplied by Finn Buch

Pilot F/S Mauson Lammas RNZAF, Navigator F/S Douglas W. Vaughan RNZAF, Air Bomber F/S Robert Bailey RNZAF, W/Op Sgt William F. Harrison RAF, Flt. Engr. Sgt Edwin H. Thomas RAF, Air Gnr. Sgt Patrick F. Butler RAF and Air Gnr. Sgt Ivar Larson RCAF were transported to Aabenraa by the Wehrmacht and were laid to rest in Aabenraa cemetery on 1/5 1944.

Thomas was laid to rest in a separate grave while his comrades were placed in a common grave.

On 23/4 1994 a memorial erected. Speeches were given by Bishop Vincent Lind as well as the British Ambassador Hugh Arbutnot.

Additional crew information is as follows;
The Lammas crew arrived at Mepal on the 21st March 1944. Their stay with the Squadron was, tragically short.
26.3.44. Attack Against Targets at Coutrai – Stirling Mk.III EF462 (flight/ designator unknown)
5.4.44. Mining off La Rochelle – Stirling Mk.III EF233 (flight/ designator unknown)
23.4.44. Mining in Kiel Bay – Stirling Mk.III EF137 AA-E. FAILED TO RETURN

P/O Mauson Lammas RNZAF. (NZ421728) Pilot. Died Sunday 23rd April, age 30. Buried Aabenraa Cemetery Denmark.

F/Sgt Douglas William Vaughan RNZAF. (NZ429046) Navigator. Died Saturday 23rd April 1944, age 28. Buried Aabenraa Cemetery Denmark.

F/Sgt Robert Bailey RNZAF. (NZ429072), Air Bomber. Died Sunday 23 April 1944, age 20. Buried Aabenraa Cemetery, Denmark.

Sgt William Frederick Harrison RAFVR (1396448) Wireless Operator. Died Sunday 23rd April 1944, age 21. Buried Aabenraa Cemetery Denmark.

Sgt Edwin Henry Thomas RAFVR (1811856) Flight Engineer. Died Sunday 23rd April 1944, age 35. Buried Aabenraa Cemetery Denmark.

Sgt Patrick Frederick Butler RAFVR (1384944) Mid Upper Gunner. Died Monday 24 April 1944, age 21. Buried Aabenraa Cemetery, Denmark.

Sgt Ivar Larson RCAF  (R.192316) Rear Gunner. Larson was a Norwegian citizen. Died Sunday 23rd April, age 33. Buried Aabenraa Cemetery Denmark.

Sgt. Miles Parr, Wireless Operator – Zinzan crew. Another wonderful connection

Dad, front row left, his pilot, Vernon John Zinzan and navigator James George Sydney Coote. Middle row Sgt. H. Hutchinson, Mid Upper Gunner. Back row from left Sgt. A. Ackroyd, Flight Engineer and Sgt. Miles Parr, Wireless Operator.

Dad, front row left, his pilot, Vernon John “Taffy” Zinzan and navigator James George Sydney Coote. Middle row Sgt. H. Hutchinson, Mid Upper Gunner. Back row from left Sgt. A. Ackroyd, Flight Engineer and Sgt. Miles Parr, Wireless Operator.

I am not particularly superstitious,  but when the blog clocked past 13,000 visits today, I felt something special – I was born on the 13th of November and consider the number 13, unlike many, to be a lucky number – is 13 going to be lucky again for me? – it appears it is…..

About 2 hours after we hit 13,000, I received an amazing email from Jimmy, the  son of who I now know to be Miles Parr, wireless operator for the Zinzan crew, who my father flew his second tour with from the 2nd of February 1945.

Its been an incredible few weeks, first being contacted by Paul with information about Tom Darbyshire and now Jimmy letting me know another christian name.

Wonderfully, Jimmy was able to let me know that Vernon, the pilot and a New Zealander was nicknamed ‘Taffy’ because he had a sheep farm in NZ – and thus acquired the Welch nickname, with the obvious connotations…..Apparently, also, Vernon would sometimes come back to Liverpool with Miles when they had leave – ironic, given my relative proximity now to that city.

Jimmy has photographs and his fathers logbook and medals, so hopefully in the near future we will be able to share some more information about Miles and the boys and add a few more lines to the 75(NZ) Squadron story……….

Warrant Officer Miles Parr, stood on the right of the picture. The identity of the other 2 chaps is as yet a mystery.... ©  Jimmy Parr

Warrant Officer Miles Parr, stood on the right of the picture. The identity of the other 2 chaps is as yet a mystery….
© Jimmy Parr

Jimmy Wood birthday celebrations at the R.A.F Club

SONY DSCIt was with great pleasure that I went down to the RAF Club today to attend Jimmy Wood’s 90th birthday celebrations with his family and relatives of his aircrew from 1945.

Obviously the celebrations were a private family affair, so if I receive any photos from the day I will be happy to put them up, but I will not act on a presumption at this time.

It was a lovely day and it was good to see Jimmy and his son Roger, as well as meet Barry (his elder son) for the first time after all the emails and phone calls we have had since he first got in contact with me.

Jimmy was in fine form, despite what obviously must have been a long day for him, beginning at 12 o’clock at the Bomber Command Memorial just across the road from the RAF Club. Sadly limited departure times from my village and a delay owing to snow meant that I arrived, just as the memorial service was concluding, but it was good to hear Barry shout out “Ake Ake Kia Kaha!” (the Squadron Maori motto – Forever and Ever be Strong)……..

The event also allowed me to meet again Janet, Norman Allen’s daughter and her brother Ronnie and also Jill and her husband Jim, daughter of Russell Banks, Jimmy’s pilot.

Walking down the corridor out side of the Ballroom, where the birthday lunch buffet was served, I was pleased to find the 75(NZ) Squadron badge .Given that the name and badge had been gifted by the RAF to the RNZAF at the end of the war in appreciation of the sacrifices the country had made, I wasn’t sure it would be there.