Many thanks to Matt for making contact regarding his Great Uncle, Keith Alexander McGregor who was tragically killed on the 31st August 1943 whilst taking part on a raid on Berlin.
The McGregor crew were;
F/Sgt Keith Alexander McGregor RNZAF. (NZ415770) – Pilot. Died Wednesday 1st September 1943, age 21. No known grave, Commemorated on Panel 199 Runnymede Memorial.
F/O James Benjamin Lovelock RNZAF, (NZ416324) – Navigator. Died Wednesday 1st September 1943, age 26. No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 197 Runnymede Memorial.
F/Sgt William Adam Kilby RNZAF, (NZ415261) – Air Bomber. Died 1st September 1943, age 40. No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 199 Runnymede Memorial.
F/Sgt James Guthrie Baker RNZAF (NZ41142) – Wireless Operator. Died Wednesday 1 September 1943, age 27. No known grave, commemorated on Panel 198, Runnymede Memorial.
Sgt G A A Bond RAFVR (1801229) – Flight Engineer. Shot down, wounded, night of 31 Aug-1 Sep 1943. PoW no. 43256. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft VI/357.
Sgt George F Dummett RAFVR (1377778) – Mid Upper Gunner. Shot down night of 31 Aug-1 Sep 1943. PoW no. 12730. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalags Luft VI and Luft IV.
Sgt Terence Grange RAFVR (1323448) – Rear Gunner. Died Wednesday 1st September 1943. No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 151 Runnymede Memorial.
McGregor Op History
29.7.43 McGregor crew posted from 1665 CU.
2.8.43 Hamburg K.McGregor 2P with Arthur Burley’s crew.
6.8.43 Mining in the Gironde Estuary (W/O C. Skripsy is MuG).
Whole crew flew with Wing Commander Michael Wyatt (Keith McGregor listed as 2nd Pilot)
30.8.43 Munchen-Gladbach EF501 Stirling Mk.III
The McGregor crew were involved in a combat that is recorded in the Squadron ORB;
‘The aircraft captained by F/S McGREGOR, K. sighted an ME110 astern, the rear-gunner fired a long burst, the Stirling corkscrewed and the Mid-upper gunner fired a long burst. The enemy aircraft replied and dived away with smoke pouring from its engine. It is claimed as possibly destroyed’.
31.8.31 Berlin Stirling Mk.III EF501.
Failed to Return
According to Matt, Keith kept a diary during his training and in the lead up to his death. Sadly, apparently in a fit of overwhelming grief after the war, his mother threw his diary in the fire. By all accounts, some quick thinking person pulled it out, but most of it was lost. A few years ago, Matt’s grandmother typed up the remnants and emailed them to him. Matt feels the extract below gives some idea of the thoughts and feelings these young boys had while going into such perilous situations.
Extract from Diary of Keith Alexander McGregor;
‘June has almost gone and the summer is speeding by. I’m smiling, for I’m even more alive than ever. Every day that goes by I decide more resolutely to embark on a career in art after the war. It becomes almost an obsession with me now days, perhaps because it is my only expression of freedom.
Life in the Air Force is rather cramped in a way that makes me feel that I’ll go nuts if I don’t get relief. It’s so regular and unimaginative, so scientific and mechanical, yet my friends are all content and thrilled. I don’t understand that, perhaps that is why they don’t understand me. I am wrong to say I don’t understand, for I can see in them – just as everywhere and in everyone – the reaction of war, the false sense of new success. For it is successful to be in an air crew, to have so much money to spend and to act like a lord instead of just a humble citizen. That is our life you know.
I say all this on the threshold of my greatest and most dangerous adventure. I may never return from that adventure. In a few weeks I’ll be regularly over Germany and the Continent. Night after night, my crew and I will plunge into that awful madness, for months it will go on until I finish my tour or I don’t return. I don’t really mind which way it goes. I cannot turn back. But it does seem a waste of a good life if anything should happen’.
‘It’s August now and I’ve been over to Germany once. My crew and I have just joined the 75th Squadron……………’.
The following letter was written in 1969, and is from Sgt. G. Bond, Keith’s Flight Engineer. Sgt. Bond and the Mid Upper Gunner Sgt. George Dummett were the only members of the crew to survive that night.
Dear Mrs. McGregor,
I cannot thank you enough for your letter and also for the delightful calendar which I received today.
Before I get down to writing this letter can I ask you to please try and forgive me for not having written before. I have been going to write time and time again, but really and truly I didn’t know how to start, because like you I too have hoped that somehow Keith might have somehow survived, and quite honestly I didn’t have the heart to write and tell you that I have now given up hope.
I should like to offer at this stage my sincerest sympathies for your most grievous loss, I have a very good idea at the sorrow and suffering you must have all undergone. I too lost one of the finest comrades and really true friend one could ever wish to have.
Keith is always in my thoughts, and I shall never forget him. As a skipper he was outstanding, it was indeed an honour to fly with him and call him my friend. As a pilot Keith left nothing to be desired, and myself and I’ll vouch for the rest of the crew also, I’ll say that we had every confidence in him and always had that happy state of security. Keith was always quiet, but so very cool in danger or otherwise, and I can assure you he had got us out of many hot spots only by his steadfast courage and coolness. Please do not think that I’m telling you this just to console you in anyway, I really mean every word of it from the bottom of my heart. As you know perhaps, I first joined Keith about June 1943 at Woolfox Lodge, in Lutland, we did a course there and then went to N. 75 New Zealand Squadron, stationed at Mepal in Cambridgeshire. We operated from there until we were shot down on the 31.8.43. I will set out briefly the operations that we accomplished, they were:-
A small town in the Ruhr , the name of which I can’t just remember (bombing)
The Frisian Islands, just off Holland, we were mining on that trip.
Turin, in Italy (bombing)
Nuremburg, deep into Germany
Nrunchen Gladbach, just on the fringe of the Ruhr valley.
And lastly Berlin.
Berlin was the target where we bombed for the last time. We did do half an operation, and were to have mined the sea just off Bordeaux (South of France) but we had to turn back just after we had crossed the French coast owing to some technical trouble.
On the night of 31.8.43 we reached Berlin about midnight, the city was burning fiercely and we had just dropped our bombs, and were just on the outskirts of Berlin when two German night fighters suddenly attacked us without the slightest warning from our two Gunners who hadn’t evidently spotted them. Cannon fire hit us from underneath and I was hit by the first burst. We immediately went into a dive which gave me the impression that the controls had been hit, or forgive me please, that Keith was also hit by the first burst too. I was blown from my position, and when I came too, tried to use my intercommunication, but these were out of order. By this time the aircraft was burning and it was impossible for me to get to the front of the plane where Keith and four of the other boys were, but believe me Mrs. McGregor if it had been humanly possible to have helped Keith or any of the other lads, I should not have left the plane until I did so. As it was I had to get out and after assisting the mid upper gunner to get out, this was George Dummett, who had been hit just below the eyes, and was blinded for a week I jumped clear of the burning aircraft. I watched it going down, and to the best of my belief, it exploded shortly after, only we were still in the anti aircraft defenses and it could have been a shell that exploded, but I am quite sure it was the aircraft. I do not believe however, that Keith could have possible suffered, it was far too quick.
I do hope that my description has not hurt you too much, but I thought that if I told you everything it would be far better. I made many enquiries at the hospitals and camps which I was imprisoned in Germany, but am afraid I never heard anymore of my comrades.
As regards a photograph, I regret very much to say that we never had any taken as a crew, and I don’t remember any of Keith. I will try to find out if there is any, but as you can imagine there weren’t many people I know in England who knew Keith, and therefore please do not be too hopeful.
I do sincerely trust that sometime when you have a spare moment, you will write again and let both my wife and myself know how you are getting on.
With our very best wishes.
(signed) GAA Bond
Sgt. Bonds recollection of the Ops the crew flew seems at odds with the list extracted from The Squadron ORB, though perhaps without his logbook and almost 30 years after the event, its harsh to judge these slight errors.