PB820 JN-V and the Clement crew

Many thanks to Phil Jarret, via Martyn (thanks to you as well Martyn) for the contribution of these 2 fantastic photographs. They arrived with no information, but after a bit of squinting and shuffling through the ORB’s, I think this first image is of the Clement crew.

Crew JN-V

front row L to R: Tapua Heperi, Ross Manley Cato, Douglas St.Clair Clement and Randall Hewitt.(Randall Hewitt’s position confirmed by his cousin)
back row L to R: 2 members of ground crew are stood at each end of this row, the remaining aircrew are most likely to be: W. Richardson, Frank Watts and  John Sydney Wildish , but I am currently unsure who is who either side of Frank…..
© Phil Jarret.

Pilot Douglas St.Clair Clement and his crew flew 31 ops between 28th November 1944 to 14th April 1945. Of these 31 ops, 22 were in PB820. The crew had a Maori Wireless Operator, F/S Tapua Heperi. So the story goes, Pilot Eric Meharry could speak Maori – very rare for a ‘Pakeha’ and would apparently converse with a Maori airman in his native tongue over the radio. Martyn wonders if Tapua was that chap. We shall never know I am afraid – looking at the dates the Meharry crew flew, relative to Tapua and the rest of the Clement crew, it would only have given them a month for their conversations. Of course, without bidding I will look through the ORB’s for another possible candidate, though I have discovered from a fascinating thread on  the Wings Over New Zealand forum, that it isn’t as easy as one might assume to identify Maori aircrew by name……..

The second photograph shows a fantastic scene of a ‘C’ flight Lancaster being ‘bombed up’ – aside from the sheer beauty of the image, it also shows some great detail in the background of the fabric of the airfield at Mepal. Identifying the aircraft is a bit difficult – there is clearly a ‘JN’, but the letter designator is not obvious at all – all that appears after the RAF roundel seems to be a vertical line. I may be wrong, but I do not recall ever seeing an ‘I’ designator for an a/c in the squadron – so might this be the vertical upstroke of a ‘T’ ?

75 Squadron JN Lanc

© Phil Jarret.

Continuing with this unsubstantiated line of logic (as is sometimes necessary), a possible candidate is NG449. NG449 was a  MK. I – as were all the NG range – but  this doesn’t necessarily date the kite, though 75(NZ) didn’t get Lancs until March 1944. Exquisitely I have 2 sources that confirm its fate – lost on the Munster Viaduct raid 21st March 1945, but one source has it as  an A/B Flight ‘AA” T (Avro Lancaster: The Definitive Record by Harry Holmes), not JN (3 Group Bomber Command – an operational history by Chris Ward & Steve Smith)………

(having just done a bit more digging, Harry Holme’s book actually lists NG449 as being both AA and JN T’s – the plot thickens……

11 thoughts on “PB820 JN-V and the Clement crew

  1. 75nzsquadron Post author

    Hi Ian
    Many thanks for entering the discussion (and thanks for your comment about the site). The designator letter is a perplexing problem indeed – The absence of any obvious ‘return’ from this first vertical line after the roundel makes it very difficult in deed to have a clue as to which aircrft this could be.

    I am not sure whether ND809 was actually with the Squadron (happy to be proved wrong) and RF129 was an ‘A’/’B’ flight a/c – AA rather than JN

    We have no time frame for the photograph other than Martyn’s original observations when he sent me the images – an early mark of Lancaster, pointed propeller blades and no auto gun ranging circles in bomb aimers dome. 75(NZ) converted relatively late to Lancs, so we can guess it’s after March 1944, but at the moment, little else……

    Simon

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    1. cheryl russell

      Hi, this is great, this is my grandad back row 2nd from left, alan william richardson, he died when mum was 14, she will be blown away to see this photo, as I am too. Thanks you.

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  2. Chris Newey

    According to the ORB, NG449 was definitely AA-T when she was lost on 21 March (sadly piloted by F/L J. Plummer whose brave deeds are mentioned elsewhere on this blog, in “An Amazing Story”). I agree, to my eyes that’s most probably a “T”, and its possible that NG449 was coded JN-T earlier in her career. Here’s another candidate – HK554, a squadron veteran Mark 1 previously coded JN-F (June-Dec 44) then JN-Z (Dec 44 – 14 March 45 on her 72nd op’), is recorded as “T” in ORB entries for May 45, flown by C Flight crews on supply drops over the Netherlands. However this pic clearly shows bombs being loaded, not supplies, so this is probably not her. Cheers, Chris

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  3. Ian Wallace

    Hi Simon,
    Sorry, I meant ND908… I have this aircraft recorded as JN-M too. But it most likely is a ‘T’ I guess. AS an aside, I have been compiling a spreadsheet of 75 Sqn aircraft codes and serials for quite sometime – spent a few hours going through the ORBs at Wigram. Let me know if you would like me to send it to you, maybe we could fill in a few blanks for each other!
    Cheers,
    Ian

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    1. 75nzsquadron Post author

      Hi Ian
      I would love to have a look at that list – I look forward to seeing it and I think Chris might be able to help as well – he has been looking through the planes as well I know.

      Many thanks – I look forward to seeing the list!

      cheers

      Simon

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