Monthly Archives: August 2013

Request for Information – Raymond Stratton, Wilson crew.

I have been contacted by Simon, who is looking for information on the Wilson crew, who were lost with 2 other crews on the night of 4th November 1943 on a Gardening Op to the Kattegat area of the Baltic Sea. In particular, he is interested in finding out about Sgt Raymond Stratton, who was the Flight Engineer with the crew and the family would dearly love to find a photograph of the crew.

The Wilson crew on that night were;
F/O Norman Clarence Bruce Wilson RNZAF NZ417139 – Pilot.
F/O Tom Lodge RNZAF NZ417284 – Navigator.
F/O Alfred Thomas Dance RNZAF NZ42495 – Air Bomber.
F/Sgt Ronald Charlton RAFVR 644136 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Raymond Walter John Stratton RAFVR 1166593 – Flight Engineer
Sgt. Leonard Charles Gaskins RAFVR 1392668 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/Sgt Arnold Goodrick Fawcett RNZAF (NZ422698 – Rear Gunner

The family would like to mark the anniversary of their loss this year, so, relatively speaking, time is of the essence.


40,000 visits

I never cease to be amazed, excited and grateful to everyone who has visited over the last (almost) 12 months.

Today, we made 40,000 and it feels even more poignant and special, because today is the 2nd anniversary of Dad passing away. He would have been proud, amused and perhaps also perplexed at the interest and contributions to the site – but I think he is probably sat somewhere, maybe with some of the other boys looking down and hopefully at least understanding why I am doing it.

Here’s to you Bobxx

Looking for Bob – Taxi ride in ‘Just Jane’, East Kirkby.


Technically, an impossible view of the Air Bomber’s compartment of NX611 ‘Just Jane’. Spacious and claustrophobic at the same time.

I decided to delay this post until today, as its the 2nd anniversary of Dad passing away.

This time last year, I was utterly overwhelmed to receive a taxi ride voucher for ‘Just Jane’ as a wedding anniversary present from my wonderful wife Bev – made slightly embarrassing I must confess, by the small fact that I totally forgot the anniversary. I have to admit that my initial elation was tempered by the realisation that I was going to have to wait a year and a day to do it………..

Across a year, you remember and forget appointments and I have to confess that I occasionally forgot or put to the side this event, however as it got closer, I began to have mixed feelings about it. I never thought I didn’t want to do it, though perhaps, guilty of over-thinking things as is sometimes my want, I began to mix up the visit to East Kirkby with my thoughts about the loss of Dad and my frustration with knowing so little about his time with the Squadron, apart from all that I have discovered myself. It’s not as if I was expecting him to materialise next to me, but in some respects, the opportunity to sit in the Air Bomber’s nacelle, were he sat and see the view from it, as he had, made me feel like I was closer than I had so far been to a part of him that I never knew. I had no idea how I was going to feel or react to this and perhaps the fact it was going to occur in a very public setting, with others in the aircraft and smiling throngs outside waving at me, made me feel increasingly uncomfortable about it – I suppose I was having difficulty reconciling what might be a deeply personal and emotional experience with what, perhaps to others was a bit of a joy ride.

On arrival at East Kirkby on Saturday morning, my mood was not helped. Just as I arrived, Jane was taxiing back after her first run – I was met with her facing me, Merlins at 18,000rpm, sounding utterly magnificent – I had to blink the wetness from my eye and try to swallow the lump in my throat……..

Having registered, it was just a case of kicking my heels till the rest of the family arrived and it was time for the pre-taxi briefing.

Bev and the family arrived and I think it was clear that I was anxious and distracted, we spoke, but it felt to be honest as if I was killing time a little.

At 12.15 it was time for the pre-taxi briefing and although inevitable, it felt a little strange to be having a health and safety lecture prior to getting into a Bomber – but there we are. Suddenly our hosts moved onto the matter of the crew positions we would be occupying – my heart was in my mouth – I WAS going to be in the front of the aircraft, but now sat with other people, not knowing their motivations for being there that afternoon, I had no idea what right or priority I might have. Thankfully and perhaps based on experience and sensitivities understood, the first question was simply

‘Is there anybody here today that had a relative in Bomber Command?’

I and an other chap put our hands up. I am, perhaps in hindsight a little ashamed to admit that at that point I suddenly felt a sense of superiority – I was here for a ‘proper’ reason. I despise people with this sort of attitude, but I have to be honest I did feel it. We were asked what positions our relatives flew and whether we wished to take them – my colleagues father was a Wireless Operator – and yes, we did thank you very much……..

Once the remaining positions had been agreed we walked out of the briefing room and onto the hanger apron –  going closer to Jane than I had ever been allowed to before.

As ‘Air Bomber’ I get in first – the simple explanation being that the inside of the aircraft is so small we have to literally get on in the linear order of positions we will occupy – there is little easy chance to move around each other once in – I consider this and find it difficult to believe – but having walked up 5 steps and stepped into the rear fuselage, it actually feels like a massive understatement – the fuselage is stupidly narrow and as my eyes grow accustomed to the darkness I realise that  not only is it tight where I am stood, it actually funnels up to what seems the very distant bright pool of light inside the cockpit.

Making my way gingerly through the aircraft I realise that almost immediately I am climbing up a series of steps in the floor – progressively reducing the distance between floor and ceiling. I am aware of the issues associated with traversing the main wing spar, but when I get to it, its even more ridiculous than I imagined. I had thought it would be perhaps a thinnish girder running across the floor. In fact, its more like a small coffee table – it’s not about stepping over or through the space, its actually about rather inelegantly sitting, sliding and pulling yourself over it. First in and dignity intact, but only just, I stand in the cockpit and immediately am struck with its bright airiness and also it’s terrifyingly exposed feeling. We take it in turns sitting in the pilots seat and feeling the controls – surprisingly light and I find it amazing since the linkages to the control surfaces are all mechanical. With my heart pounding, I negotiate the small opening at the right hand side of the cockpit control bulkhead and slide down into the Air Bombers compartment.

I lean forward, my knees on the cushions that cover the emergency escape hatch and rather self consciously peer out of the bombing nacelle – I’m not religious at all, but it strikes me the position is similar to kneeling in a church and the irony in this realisation is not lost on me…….

The compartment feels cramped, yet spacious all at once. The front gun turret is directly above me and having never thought about it before I realise (perhaps obviously) that by standing and dropping the gunnery seat, I am in the operating position – again, realising this I consider the contradiction of size and space in the Lancaster – having almost crawled to get to this place, I can now theoretically stand up in this part of the aircraft and the Pilot is still (relatively) above me.

The time comes for the Merlins to be fired up and this is the bit that I have been looking forward to and dreading in equal amounts. Numerous trips already to see Jane have always given me a lump in my throat when I hear the 4 engines running – now I am amongst them – part of the aircraft. The silence is broken by the starboard outer banging, stuttering and finally winding up into life – the airframe begins to vibrate discernibly and the noise is already excessive as starboard inner repeats the start up process and adds to the developing symphony. Port inner and port outer join the chorus and suddenly I am there on an airfield somewhere in Cambridgeshire  – really, it doesn’t matter what I can see outside – the sound, the smell the vibrations and movement of the aircraft still stationary remove it from a point in time now and places it back at a point now distant – for the first time that afternoon  I am aware of a broad grin spreading across my face – this is UTTERLY FUCKING FANTASTIC………………

A massive hiss from, I assume, the hydraulics of the brakes, the rpm drops and we move forward, turning once and then again until we leave tarmac and roll onto the grass airstrip – the first significant bang of my head on the paraphernalia of the front turret above me…….

The Pilot guides Jane through a series of slow arcs till we sit out of view of the assembled crowd. We stop and I sit crouched, looking out ahead of me, the grass stretching out in front. The roar of the Merlins begin to climb and I suddenly realise perhaps what it feels like to be airborne in a Lancaster. The sound is suffocating – I shout and cannot even hear my voice in my head. We sit still for what seems like an eternity – my eyes begin to wander over the interior of the compartment and I realise suddenly how exposed I feel – the inner surfaces of the airframe paneling is barely 2 mm thick and the bubble in front of me is perspex – actually being in the thing, in the air, thousands of feet above the ground is incomprehensible – to have flak exploding nearby and be constantly waiting for the call from one of the gunners that a fighter is approaching strikes me simply as suicidal………….


Sat in Bob’s office.

I am jolted, literally, back to the present as Jane lunges forward, feeling just as she would as she built up speed for take off all those years ago. While in truth this forward burst of movement lasts only maybe 3-5 seconds, its the same all enveloping feeling of acceleration you get in a modern airliner, however my mode of transport this afternoon makes it feel rawer and more poignant.

All too soon our taxiing is over and we return to the crowd across from the hanger. I find it a little uncomfortable to be sat at the front on our return, fully visible, but I manage the necessary smiles and waves to the onlookers. The Pilot brings Jane to a halt, runs those amazing engines back up and then kills them. Silence and its all over………….

Was Bob with me in the Lancaster? – yes and no I think. He was in the sense that he has been with me every day since he left us, but at the same time, I got no further in understanding the man that flew over occupied Europe during 3 years of the war. I think in hindsight, my mistake was that I didn’t realise that I was looking too closely into a picture – to the point that I only saw Bob as a single pixel – pulling back to see all those brave boys of Bomber Command, each one a pixel, all forming a bigger picture, I realised I now understood a little more of what they as a group had experienced and felt every time they climbed into a Lancaster regarding the claustrophobia, the noise and the exposed place they were in – I can understand no more than that, because beyond this I would have had to have flown with them – and as I didn’t have to to, I am eternally grateful to those that did……….

Robert Douglas ‘Jock’ Sommerville DFC.
1st November 1922 – 29th August 2011.

Request for information – Henry John Hiscox RAFVR 928092 – Rear Gunner. Davidson crew.

I have been contacted by Gaynor, the great niece of Henry Hiscox, Rear Gunner with Neil Davidson’s crew and one of seven aircraft lost on the nightmare Op to Homberg on the 21st July 1944 – the Squadrons highest loss total during the War.

The following information about the loss of HK569 comes from – the author of the information is listed as ‘Typhoon’, so I credit Typhoon with the piece and the obvious research effort that supports it.

Beesel (old) cemetery Contains one Commonwealth War Grave, that of tail gunner (tail end charlie) Flt/Sgt Henry Hiscox RAFVR.

His Avro Lancaster B.I bomber (code name AA-Q, fuselage No. Hotel Kilo 569). of 75 (NZ) Squadron RAF, took off from RAF Mepal, Cambridgeshire, England, on its way to bomb the Fischer Tropsch oil refinery/aviation fuel producer in Homberg, Germany with a full load of bombs on the 21st of July 1944. It was attacked by a German night-fighter over Heibloem, Limburg, The Netherlands on its way to the target.

The pilot, a 21 year old New Zealander, Flt. Sgt. Neil Douglas Davidson RNZAF flew the badly damaged and blazing aircraft on over the River Maas towards Reuver (Beesel council area) but turned and tried to land it in the river, he succeeded but it hit the river bank and exploded. The bomb aimer, Sgt. T.G. Little RAF, had managed to bail out on his parachute but it failed to open fully and he was badly wounded when he fell into the garden of a house in the village of Kessel. He was taken to a hospital, subsequently made a prisoner of war (POW No. 52469) in Muhlhausen POW camp and survived World War II, passing away in 1990.

The tail of the aircraft fell away from the fuselage into a field just before impact on the river. Flt/Sgt Hiscox was in his tail machine-gun turret and fell with it into the corn field. It is thought he died a day or two afterwards, was found two weeks later by a Dutch farmer’s labourer, Sef Willems, who turned out to be a member of the Dutch resistance movement under cover. Henry was buried in the Beesel grave yard. The grave digger had a bunch of flowers with him, the German soldiers threatened to shoot him if he laid them on completion of the burial, He passed the flowers on to local people who in the dark of night threw them over the cemetery wall onto the grave !

No remains of the pilot and the rest of the crew were found and they are presumed missing in action. A memorial plaque to the 6 crew members who died has been put up close to the scene of the crash in the town of Kessel. That took place with many notables attending on 21st July 2011, exactly 67 years to the day and unveiled by the Brother and Sister of the Pilot. They came all the way from New Zealand specially for that. Family members of Sgt Goddard and Sgt Sloman also came to the unveiling from England.

After the war the people of Beesel looked after Henry Hiscox’s grave erecting a wooden head piece, with propeller on it and Henry’s flying helmet hanging on it, until it was given a standard Commonwealth War Graves head stone.

Since the 1960’s Mrs. Tiny Claessen has voluntarily tended the grave on a weekly basis, winning the admiration of many visitors. On Dutch Remembrance day 4th May 2006 Tiny was presented with a plaque of thanks by the Mayor of Beesel, coinciding with the first visit of Henry’s Daughter, Grandson and Great Grandson to his grave (they knew he was buried in The Netherlands but not where until found by retired Sgt Pilot A.A.C. Barrie Davies. That was the first ‘thank you’ she had ever received for over 40 years of work. To date she is still tending Henry’s grave.

Every year the local school ‘last term’ children have a ‘Sgt. Hiscox’ project and led by the Mayor hold a remembrance ceremony on the 4th of May, at the grave side.

To the people of Beesel this grave and a recently erected civilian memorial close by is the focal point on the Dutch Remembrance day of 4th May.”

The Davidson crew were;
Lancaster Mk.I HK569
F/Sgt Neil Douglas Davidson RNZAF NZ422057 – Pilot.
Died age 21. Commemorated on Panel 263 Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt Arthur Ernest John Goddard RAFVR 1323147 – Navigator. Died age 22. No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 230 Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt T. G. Little RAFVR 1459875 – Air Bomber.
Shot down 20 Jul 1944, the sole survivor of the crew of seven. PoW # 52469. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag IXC.

Sgt Douglas Corris RAFVR 1501099 – Wireless Operator.
Died age 21. No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 227 Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt Robert Gerald Sloman RAFVR 914220 – Flight Engineer.
Died age 24. No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 237 Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt Raymond Stanley Lang RAFVR 1896528 – Mid Upper Gunner
Died age 32. No known grave, Commemorated on Panel 233 Runnymede Memorial.

F/Sgt Henry John Hiscox RAFVR 928092 – Rear Gunner
Died age 35. Buried Beesel Roman Catholic Cemetery, Netherlands.

Gaynor would dearly like to know about the crew and in particular she is hopeful that there may be a photograph of the boys. As always, if you have any information on Henry, or the Davidson crew, please contact me.

Given the calamitous events of the night of the 21st – it seems only fitting that in remembering Henry and the Davidson crew, we should do the same for the other airmen that were either killed or captured that night.

Gilmour crew – 5 crew killed, 2 captured.
Lancaster  Mk.III ND915
W/O Hugh Edward Gilmour RAAF AUS.22776 – Pilot.
Died age 24. Buried Eindhoven Woensel) General Cemetery, Netherlands.
W/O Lindsay Arthur Woodward RAAF AUS.417257 – Navigator.
Shot down and captured at Antwerp Aug 1944. PoW # 726. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft VII.
F/Sgt Samuel Mills RAAF AUS.425036 – Air Bomber.
Died age 32. Buried Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery Netherlands.
F/Sgt John Edward Osborne RAAF AUS.417877 – Wireless Operator.
Died age 23. Buried Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery Germany.
Sgt Reginald Ernest Buzza RAFVR 2203174 – Flight Engineer.
Died age 24. Buried Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery, Netherlands.
Sgt W. J. S. Ballard, RAFVR 1853215 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Shot down. PoW# 602. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft VII.
Sgt John Leonard Stephenson RAFVR 2202048 – Rear Gunner.
Died age 18. Buried Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery Netherlands.

Howell crew – all crew lost
Lancaster Mk.III PA967
P/O Edward Howell RNZAF NZ428819 –Pilot.
Died age 21. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery Germany.
F/Sgt Richard John Wilkinson RAFVR 1585068 – Navigator.
Died age 21. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery Netherlands.
F/O John Ronald McGeorge RAFVR 152740 – Air Bomber.
Died age 23. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery Nijmegen Netherlands.
F/Sgt Gerard Henry Redwood RNZAF NZ425012 – Wireless Operator.
Died age 34. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery Nijmegen Netherlands.
Sgt John James Blundell RAFVR 2205143 – Flight Engineer.
Died age 19. Buried JonkerbosWar Cemetery, Netherlands.
Sgt Robert Douglas McAdam, RAFVR 2210689 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Died age 21. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Nijmegen Netherlands.
F/Sgt Leonard Charles Hickford RNZAF NZ426886 – Rear Gunner.
Died age 21. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery Nijmegen. Netherlands.

MacKay Crew – all crew lost
Lancaster Mk.III ND800
P/O Kenneth McIndoe MacKay RNZAF NZ421829 – Pilot.
Died age 27. Lost without trace, commemorated on Panel 263 Runnymede Memorial.
F/Sgt Eric James Quinn RNZAF NZ4210077 – Navigator.
Died age 20. No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 264 Runnymede Memorial.
F/O Roy King Jones RNZAF NZ425611 – Air Bomber.
Died age 26. Lost without trace, commemorated on Panel 262 Runnymede Memorial.
W/O William John Davies RAFVR 616191 – Wireless Operator.
Died age 25. Lost without trace, commemorated on Panel 213 Runnymede Memorial.
F/Sgt Ronald Knapton RAFVR1681317 – Flight Engineer.
Died age 22. Lost without trace, commemorated on Panel 219 Runnymede Memorial.
Sgt William Joseph Dunn RAFVR 1520456 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Died age 23. Lost without trace, commemorated on Panel 228 Runnymede Memorial.
F/Sgt Jim Worth RNZAF NZ425510 – Rear Gunner.
Died age 24. Lost without trace, commemorated on Panel 264 Runnymede Memorial.

Whittington crew – 6 crew killed, 1 captured.
Lancaster Mk.I ME691
Plt Off Harold Whittington RNZAF NZ42488 – Pilot.
Died age 26. Buried Uden War Cemetery Netherlands.
F/L Joseph Stevens RAFVR  125607 – Navigator.
Died age 32. Buried Uden War Cemetery Netherlands.
Sgt Alfred Alexander Simpson RNZAF NZ425112 – Air Bomber.
Died age 28. Buried Uden War Cemetery Netherlands.
F/O Phillip Edwin Tompkins RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Died age 21. Buried Uden War Cemetery Netherlands.
Sgt D. W. Gore RAFVR 1624691 – Flight Engineer.
Shot down. PoW no. 455. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft VII.
Sgt Ronald John Morton Batty RAFVR 548542 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Died age 26. Buried Uden War Cemetery, Netherlands.
F/Sgt Andrew Crawford Fletcher RNZAF NZ42675 – Rear Gunner.
Died age 24. Buried Uden War Cemetery, Netherlands.

Roche Crew – 5 crew killed, 2 captured.
Lancaster Mk.I ME752
F/Sgt Gerald Brian Roche RNZAF NZ413219 – Pilot.
Died age 21. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery Nijmegen Netherlands.
Fg Off. Horace Callow RNZAF NZ427185 – Navigator.
Died age 27. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Netherlands.
F/Sgt John Burgess RNZAF NZ4211008 – Air Bomber.
Shot down. PoW no. 442. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft Vii. Promoted to W/O while a PoW. Safe UK 26 May 1945.
Sgt Jack Frank MacDonald Barson RAFVR 1324529 – Wireless Operator.
Died age 21. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Netherlands
Sgt Joseph Armstrong RAFVR 1684332 – Flight Engineer.
Died age 40. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery War Cemetery, Netherlands.
F/Sgt William Edward Mcgee RNZAF NZ427902 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Shot down. Successfully evaded capture and was safe in the U.K. 14 September 1944.
F/Sgt Keith Emmett Smith RNZAF NZ425179 – Rear Gunner.
Died age 21. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery Nijmegen Netherlands.

Burtt crew – 5 crew killed, 2 captured.
Lancaster Mk.III ND752
Fg Off Henry John Burtt RNZAF NZ414560 – Pilot.
Died age 31. Buried Tilburg (Gilzerbaan) General Cemetery, Netherlands.
F/Sgt Vivian Connell RAAF AUS.424158 – Navigator.
Shot down. Captured at Antwerp 7 Aug 1944. PoW no. 696. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft VII.
Fg Off. Herbert John Wellington Coedy RCAF R.130143 J.96491 – Air Bomber.
Shot down. PoW no. 562. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft VII. Safe UK 15 May 1945.
W/O Gottfred Lyall Gillan RNZAF NZ42324 – Wireless Operator.
Died age 31. Buried Tilburg (Gilzerbaan) General Cemetery, Netherlands.
Sgt Vernon Charles Cornish RAFVR 1609419 – Flight Engineer.
Died age 20. Buried Tilburg (Gilzerbaan) General Cemetery, Netherlands.
Sgt Walter Frederick Carter RAFVR 1543208 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Died age 21. Buried Tilburg (Gilzerbaan) General Cemetery, Netherlands.
Sgt George Arthur Levy RAFVR 1893404 – Rear Gunner.
Died age 39. Buried Tilburg (Gilzerbaan) General Cemetery Netherlands.

A remarkable find and another game of chance……..

Young page 001

Arrival page of Arthur Young, Pilot. Arthur undertook  his 2nd dickie Op with my Fathers crew in 1943.

Haliburton page 001

Arrival page of Keith Halliburton, Pilot. Keith and all of his crew were lost on a Gardening Op to Kiel Bay on the 28th April 1943.

McFarland page 002

Arrival page for John McFarland, Navigator with the Murray crew. Shot down on the night of 18/19th April 1944 on a Gardening Op to Kiel Bay. John and the Air Bomber, Douglas Hill were the only survivors and spent the remainder of the war as PoW’s.

Sachtler page 001

Arrival page for Euan Sachtler, Pilot. Euan and the rest of his crew were lost on the night of 2nd May 1944 on the Chambly Op.

Many many thanks to Steve for passing on these log book pages from 4 airmen who served with 75(NZ) Squadron. Steve cannot recall how he came by these pages, but once I had looked through them, I was astonished (again) by the chance and coincidence of the pages he had sent to me.

The first set of pages comes from the logbook of Arthur Russell Young. Arthur completed his 2nd dickie Op with the Mayfield crew on the 19th November to Leverkusen. Whilst Dad and the rest of the boys didn’t know it, this was to be their last Op with the Squadron before being screened – a certain irony therefore that it was Arthur’s first!
View the pages from Arthur’s logbook here

The second logbook is Keith Halliburton’s. Keith and the rest of his crew were lost on the 28th April 1943 on a gardening Op to Kiel Bay. I know the relatives of both David Church, Wireless Operator and Devinder Singh Sidhu, the Flight Engineer with the crew. All of the crew are commemorated on Panel 147 Runnymede Memorial. I hope Dave, Michael and Tony find this little fragment of their shared history of interest.
View the pages from Keith’s logbook here

The third logbook took a little bit of digging to establish the identity of the navigator (partly because the other 3 had the owners names written at the foot of the first page……..:P).
I was astonished to discover it was from the logbook of John McFarland, Navigator with the Murray crew – John’s grand daughter had only contacted me some 2 weeks ago about her grand father and his time in with the Squadron and I had in fact managed to get John to sign my copy of ‘Forever Strong’ the previous November at the UK Squadron Association reunion…….
View the pages from John’s logbook here

The final logbook pages are those of Euan Sachtler, Pilot who was lost with all of his crew on the 2nd May 1944, during a raid on Chambly.
View the pages from Euan’s logbook here

Request for information – John Perry, George Franks & Edward Sims.


Scout Group registration form from November 1943

A fascinating contact for information from Charlie – Scout Leader, 1st Sutton Cambridgeshire.

Charlie is currently researching the history of his Scout group and has discovered that it was originally formed in 1943 as ‘1st Sutton in the Isle’. Charlies had found the original registration form for the group and it lists 3 members of 75(NZ) Squadron as the founding members!

The Scoutmaster was John W. Perry his two assistants were George Franks and Edward Sims.

I have looked through the information I have and there appears to be no record of these individuals – a query to Kevin suggests they might be ground crew, simply because air crew would not have the time to undertake such activities.

If you know anything about any of these chaps, please get in contact, I know Charlies would love to find out more about them and as they don’t exist in the records, so would I.


Owen Joseph ‘Cookie’ Cook – Pilot


© National Archives, Kew.

Whilst transcribing Bob’s tour and crew histories, early in my research on him, I hit a brick wall regarding the identity of  a second pilot added to the Form 541 by hand for the Dessau Op of 7th March 1945.

On the Sunday morning of the summer reunion at Mepal 2012, my sister, mother and I went to the memorial garden so mum could see it and the plaque for Dad. while we were there, an old couple, their daughter and her husband arrived. A brief discussion about their whereabouts (i.e. that this was the memorial garden for 75(NZ) Squadron) led to a discussion in the garden and then the 3 Pickerels. The elderly gentleman was called Owen Cook and he had been at the squadron towards the end of the war. On returning home I looked through the nominal roll and the ORB and found Owen’s arrival and Op history. Finding his serial number suddenly made me realise that the Pilot that flew with the Zinzan crew on this raid was in fact, Owen Cook……..


Owen Joseph ‘Cookie’ Cook RAAF AUS.428456 – Pilot.
© Owen Cook

I was really pleased to hear from Campbell, Owen’s son-in-law, a few weeks ago and am doubly pleased to report that Owen is still fit and well!

Not long after posting the ‘B’ Flight group picture , I was contacted by Jan, who on coming across the blog and then discovering Owen’s name on the ‘B’ Flight photograph, then saw her own father – Owens navigator Jack Mitcherson. Not only have I found out more about the crew, I have also been able to put Jan in contact with Campbell – Jack is still alive and it would be fantastic if the ‘old’ boys could met up again….

wings day2

Owen receiving his Pilot’s Wings at 7S.F.T.S. in Ontario, Lake Erie, September 1943.
© Owen Cook

crew front

The Cook crew, taken Nottingham, November 1944.
Back row L to R; Ken Saunders Mid Upper Gunner, Owen Cook Pilot, John Gray Navigator.
Front row L to R; Peter Fletcher Rear Gunner, R. Fisher Air Bomber and Jack Mitcherson Wireless Operator. (Duncan Walker, Flight Engineer not present in photograph).
© Owen Cook

crew back

Reverse of group photograph. The hand written note at the bottom identifies this photograph was taken before the Flight Engineer Duncan Walker joined the crew – as opposed to simply being in it, so would suggest it was taken at an O.T.U.
© Owen Cook

The Cook crew were;
P/O Owen Joseph ‘Cookie’ Cook, RAAF AUS.428456 – Pilot
F/Sgt John ‘Jock’ Gray, RAFVR – Navigator.
Sgt R. ‘Fishpond’ Fisher, RAFVR – Air Bomber.
F/Sgt Jack ‘Mitch’ Mitcherson, RAAF AUS.432532 – Wireless Operator
F/Sgt Duncan Walker, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt Kenneth Saunders, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt Peter ‘Butch’ Fletcher, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Pilot Officer O.J.Cook and crew arrive from No.72 Base.

4.3.45. War Ops – Wanne Eickel. P/O Cook 2nd pilot with Egglestone crew.

5.3.45. War Ops – Gelsenkirchen.
Lancaster Mk.I LM276 AA-S.

6.3.45. War Ops – Salzbergen.
Lancaster Mk.I HK562 AA-L.

7/8/.3.45. War Ops – Dessau. P/O Cook 2nd pilot with Zinzan crew.

18.3.45. War Ops.- Heligoland.
Lancaster Mk.I PB762 AA-B.

17.3.45. War Ops – Auguste Viktoria.
Lancaster Mk.III LM733 AA-R

1.5.45. Operation ‘Manna’ – supply dropping over Delft.
Lancaster Mk.I HK562 AA-L
Supplies Carried – 31/2 Packs – Saw white cross and T.I. with lots of bags. Good dropping with white signals, and “Thanks Boys” was written on the roof of one house. All packs were dropped.

7.5.45. Operation ‘Manna’ – supply dropping over the Hague.
The ORB shows that Sgt. Saunders not present for this Op – there were no Mid Upper Gunners on this mission, instead his place was taken by ‘LAC Saunders K.’, however there is no record of such an individual, so one must assume this is in fact is Ken Saunders.

10.5.45. Prisoner of War repatriation – Juvincourt.
12.5.45. Prisoner of War repatriation – Juvincourt.
15.5.45. Prisoner of War repatriation – Juvincourt.

All the Australian members of the Squadron were posted to R.A.F. Gamston pending repatriation. The squadron was very sorry to say goodbye to these gallant companions.

23 members of the Squadron (R.A.F. Personnel) who were declared redundant when the Australians left the Squadron were today posted to R.A.F. Station Burn,

JN X composite image

This set of 3 photographs of JN-X are fascinating. The 2 images above, I have seen a number of times before – first as part of the Imperial War Museum collection and then as part of the personal collection of Jimmy Wood, AB with Russell Bank’s crew. What is interesting is the image below – it clearly shows another – to me never before seem view of JN-X, taken one would assume just before the armourers arrived in the top right hand image.

lanc refuelling2

A ‘new’ view of JN-X. Mepal 1945
© Owen Cook

Daily H9115Trieste warning

A clipping from the Daily Herald, 1945, describing the repatriation of Prisoners of War from Juvincourt.

ANDES_in suez cana_Oct1945

A photograph from the bridge of H.M.S. Andes during its passage (with Owen on board), through the Suez Canal on its trip back to Australia.
© Owen Cook

75th Sq Icon cropped

75(NZ) Squadron RAF Crest. The Crest was painted by a man named Greenham, a commercial artist who was from Caulfield in Melbourne Victoria where Owen lived at the time. They were both waiting for the troop ship to bring them home after the war. Someone had drawn the little black and white sketch of the mascot and Owen paid 10 shillings for the man to paint it for him.
© Owen Cook

Sadly, as a footnote to this post, I hear last week from Campbell that Jack Mitcherson has recently passed away – such a shame that to first have the boys discover they were still with us, that they then ran out of time to see each other again. I and I am sure all of the 75(NZ) community pass their heartfelt condolences on to Jan and her family.

Aki Aki Kia Kaha

More pictures of W/O Miles ‘Joe’ Parr, Wireless Operator – Zinzan crew.

Many thank to Jimmy for passing on some more wonderful photographs of his father, Miles Parr, Wireless operator with the Zinzan crew, with who my father completed his second tour with the Squadron in 1945.

Apart from the last image, showing an almost complete Zinzan crew sometime between late 1944 and early 1945, at Mepal, all the other images seem to be from Miles’ trade training. I have tagged all the names listed in the photographs of this post – so we might get lucky and learn a bit more about some of the other boys in the photographs…..


Back row right to left: Tom Coddington, Yorks, Sheff Levick, yorks, Mick Mustalgh, Kilkenny, Samson Shaw, Derbyshire.
Front row right to left: R Myhill, Norfolk, Dick Watkins, Lancs, My Dad, unknown individual (but appears again below), “Monty” Banks, London.
© Jimmy Parr


Miles to the right, with him the same unnamed chap that is sat far left, front row, in the group picture above.
© Jimmy Parr


Miles and another airman. Wearing their Sergeants stripes, places this photograph possibly just after they had completed their Signals Training, before moving on to an Advanced Flying Unit.
© Jimmy Parr


written on the back of this photograph is:
“good luck and best wishes Joe, Ever yours Hugh Webb”.
Jimmy is aware that Miles was know as ‘Joe’ – Taffy Zinzan often calling him this name in mail between them.
© Jimmy Parr


Group shot with Miles standing in the middle – judging by the clothing, they were flying by this point, though date and location are unknown.
© Jimmy Parr


A slightly better condition version of the group photograph that Peter, Vernon Zinzan’s son sent me all those months ago, which was one of the main catalysts for all I have done since.
Left to right: Vernon ‘Taffy’ Zinzan, James George Sydney Coote, H. Hutchinson, A. Ackroyd and Miles ‘Joe’ Parr. Mepal date unknown.
© Jimmy Parr

Squadron Leader John ‘Jack’ Leonard Wright DSO, DFC

Lesley Family021

Squadron Leader John ‘Jack’ Leonard Wright, DSO, DFC.
© Leslie Hill

Some time ago, I was contacted by Leslie, daughter of S/L John Leonard Wright, who flew with 75(NZ) Squadron twice, as well with 156 Pathfinder Squadron.

Leslie wishes to try to understand details of her father’s wartime career and this includes the difficult matter of what she believes to be his deteriorating mental state, clearly through the accumulated stress of 3 tours of Ops. The following is an open letter from Leslie to anyone who might know anything about her father and his time during the war;

“During the past year I have been researching my father’s war service and have come up against a brick wall.  Now that I’ve found your lively and interesting blog I’m sure some people will have information that will be of interest to me.  

My father, Squadron Leader John (Jack) Leonard Wright DSO, DFC did his first Tour on 75 Squadron from 29 May to 20 October 1942.  

He and his crew were later on 156 Pathfinder Squadron from 21 May 1943 to mid November 1943.   

After they finished on 156, things get a bit puzzling as the crew was disbanded. His record from Trentham, Wellington, NZ says he was seconded to Liaison duties at Uxbridge, No 31 Base from 1/11/44 (and the same date RAF Staff College – the same place, I presume).

THEN he is back on 75 from 28 November 1944 as ‘A’ Flight Commander, until around the end of March.

There are two things I’d like to shed light on:
1.  I believe my father was in a bit of a bad way by the time he and his crew finished on 156, and I have heard that he may not have been in a fit state to be flying on 75 again (I guess we’d call it Post Traumatic Stress these days) and that some were reluctant to fly with him as pilot.  (I have 12 hours of tapes of one of his original crew members talking in the 1990’s and he mentions Jack’s nervous tics briefly.)

I realise that out of respect for my father, people may be reluctant to say much about my father’s condition, but I really want to know about it, and would appreciate anyone with information being open and frank with me.   I do have the names of some of the people who crewed with him during this second tour on 75, but they may prefer to get in touch with me privately – through Simon.

2.  Later, he is with PWX Liaison Sectn, SCHAEF Rear from 5 April 1945 – I’d like to know what this was, and what were they doing?  I know that my father was in Germany for some months – were they repatriating British POW’s? or what????

I do hope you may be able to point me in the right direction with some of this, or even provide me with some information.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,


 (Lesley Hill (nee Wright))”

Jack’s career with the Squadron is as follows;
1.6.42 Attack Against Targets at Essen
Wellington Mk.III X3760
Sgt. Wright 2p with Fraser crew

2.6.42 Attack Against Targets at Essen
Wellington Mk.III X3760
Sgt. Wright 2p with Fraser crew

5.6.42 Attack Against Targets at Essen
Wellington Mk.III Z1570
Sgt. Wright 2p with Ball crew

6.6.42 Attack Against Targets at Emden
Wellington Mk.III X3538
Sgt. Wright 2p with Leggett crew

8.6.42 Attack Against Targets at Essen
Wellington Mk.III X3538
Sgt. Wright 2p with Leggett crew

20.6.42 Attack Against targets at Emden
Wellington Mk.III X3646
Sgt. Leonard John Wright RNZAF NZ405781- Captain
Sgt. Charles Wynne Brunsdon Kelly RNZAF NZ403562 – Navigator
Sgt. Maurice Allington Carter RNZAF NZ391694 – Wireless Operator
Sgt. Raymond Clifford Reynolds RNZAF NZ403030 – Front Gunner
Sgt Bruce Neal RNZAF NZ411771 – Rear Gunner

22.6.42 Attack Against targets at Emden
Wellington ‘F’

29.6.42 Attack against targets at Bremen
Wellington Mk.III X3646

7.7.42.  Attack against targets at Bremen
Wellington Mk.III X3541

8.7.42.  Attack against targets at Wilhemshaven
Wellington Mk.III X3541

13.7.42.  Attack against targets at Duisburg
Wellington Mk.III X3468

21.7.42.  Attack against targets at Duisburg
Wellington Mk.III BJ625
F/Sgt Victor Kenneth Westerman RNZAF NZ41970 as 2nd Pilot – Died Wednesday 29th July 1942, age 24, during a raid on Hamburg. Buried Becklingen War Cemetery Germany.

23.7.42.  Attack against targets at Duisburg
Wellington Mk.III BJ625
Sgt. J.E. Ford replaces Bruce Neal as Rear Gunner

25.7.42.  Attack against targets at Duisburg
Wellington Mk.III BJ625
Bruce Neal returns as Rear Gunner.

26.7.42.  Attack against targets at Hamburg
Wellington Mk.III Z1570

28.7.42.  Attack against targets at Hamburg
Wellington Mk.III BJ625

29.7.42.  Attack against targets at Saarbrucken
Wellington Mk.III X3468

31.7.42.  Attack against targets at Dusseldorf
Wellington Mk.III X3586

4.8.42. Attack against targets at Essen
Wellington Mk.III J3586

6.8.42. Attack against targets at Duisburg
Wellington Mk.III J3586

9.8.42. Attack against targets at Osnabruck
Wellington Mk.III X3389

11.8.42. Attack against targets at Mainz
Wellington Mk.III X3389

12.8.42. Attack against targets at Mainz
Wellington Mk.III X3389

24.8.42. Attack against targets at Frankfurt
Wellington Mk.III BJ772

28.8.42. Attack against targets at Nurenburg
Wellington Mk.III BJ772
Sgt Roy William Raharuhi RNZAF NZ412737 as 2nd Pilot

1.9.42. Attack against targets at Saarbrucken
Wellington Mk.III BJ772
F/L Gerald Howard Jacobson RNZAF NZ41333 as 2nd Pilot – Died Thursday 17 December 1942, age 27, during a raid on Fallersleben. Buried Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany.

10.9.42. Attack against targets at Dusseldorf
Wellington Mk.III BJ772

14.9.42. Attack against targets at Wilhelmshaven
Wellington Mk.III BJ772
Sgt Benjamin Allan Franklin RNZAF NZ414277 as 2nd Pilot – Died Wednesday 16th December 1942, age 21, when his aircraft crashed on take-off for a mine-laying sortie to the Gironde Estuary – the mine load exploding. Buried Newmarket Cemetery, England.

16.9.42. Attack against targets at Essen
Wellington Mk.III BJ772

18.9.42. Attack against targets at St.Nazaire
Wellington Mk.III BJ772
Sgt George William Rhodes RAFVR 1331658 as 2nd Pilot

19.9.42. Attack against targets at Saarbrucken
Wellington Mk.III BJ772
Sgt George William Rhodes RAFVR 1331658 as 2nd Pilot – Died Tuesday 6th October 1942, age 20, during a raid on Osnabruck. Buried Hardenberg Protestant Cemetery Netherlands.

24.9.42. Operations – Gardening off Texel
Wellington Mk.III BJ772

26.9.42. Operations – Gardening in Baltic
Wellington Mk.III BJ772

P/O Wright J.L. NZ405781 G.D Posted to No.30 O.T.U w.e.f. 20.10.42 authority 3 Group postagram 3G/6601/7A/P4

Lesley Family027

I suspect Jack and his crew at 156 PFF Squadron May – November 1943.
Standing, L to R: Nick Carter, Jack Wright, Podge Reynolds, Charlie Kelly
Front, L to R: Alf Drew, Ken Cranshaw, Wally Hamond
© Leslie Hill

By the 21st May 1943 John and it would appear Charles Kelly, Maurice ‘Nick’ Carter and Ray ‘Podge’ Reynolds have joined 156 Squadron PFF. He will stay with the Squadron until mid November of that year.

John returns to 75(NZ) Squadron RAF at the end of November 1944 as ‘A’ Flight Commander.

5.12.44. Attack Against Hamm Marshalling Yard
Lancaster Mk.III LM544 AA-J
F/L John Leonard Wright RNZAF NZ405781- Pilot
F/L C. Williams RAFVR – Navigator
P/O Maurice Edward Parker DFC, RNZAF NZ414332 – Air Bomber
P/O William Lachlan Wilson DFC, RNZAF NZ41117 – Wireless Operator
P/O John Henry Morgan DFC RAF 1131866/ 157630 – Flight Engineer
W/O T.R. Kemp RAFVR 1412409 – Mid Upper Gunner
P/O Roy deWilmot Tully DFC, RAFVR 175537 – Rear Gunner

11.12.45. Attack Against Osterfeld
Lancaster Mk.I PB763 AA-A

27.12.44. Attack Against Rheydt
Lancaster Mk.III LM544 AA-J

29.12.44 Attack Against Koblenz
Lancaster Mk.III LM544 AA-J

1.1.45 Attack Against Vohwinkle
Lancaster MK.III PB427 AA-U

2.1.45. Attack against Nurenburg
Lancaster Mk.I ME751 AA-P

22.1.45. Attack Against Duisburg
Lancaster Mk.I HK573 AA-H
F/O Wallace Bassett Martin as 2nd Pilot.
F/Sgt Eric Thomas Coulson replaces F/L Williams as Navigator

1.2.45. Attack Against Munchen-Gladbach
Lancaster Mk.I LM266 AA-F
F/O Percival McDowell Johnstone replaces Eric Coulson as Navigator

3.2.45 Attack Against Dortmund
Lancaster Mk.III ME751 AA-M

2.3.45. Atack Against Cologne (Aborted)
Lancater Mk.III LM544 AA-D?

6.3.45. Attack Against  Salzbergen
Lancaster Mk.I LM266 AA-F
W/O Roderick Adrian Powell replaces Roy Tully as Rear Gunner.

7/8.3.45. Attack against Dessau
Lancaster Mk.I PB763 AA-A
F/O Robin James Hamilton as 2nd Pilot
W/O Robert John Torbitt replaces Adrian Powell as Rear Gunner.

12.3.45. Attack Against Dortmund
Lancaster Mk.III LM544 AA-D
Roy Tully returns as Rear Gunner.

21.3.45. Attack Against Munster Viaduct
Lancaster Mk.I RF190 AA-F
Bob Torbitt replaces Roy Tully as Rear Gunner.

This brings Jacks Op’s with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF to a total of 47 – with a tour with 156 PFF to be added to this figure.

I hope that someone is able to help Leslie regarding in formation on her Father. If you have information about Jack, but would prefer not to publicly post it then please contact me directly at and I will pass it on to Leslie.

Additionally, if you come across this post based on a search for 156 PFF Squadron and you are able to help, we would love to have Jack’s Op history and possibly crew from that Squadron.

Leslie Charles Wright – We will remember them

The grave of Sgt. Leslie Charles Wright. St. Johns the Baptist Church, Charlton, Wiltshire.

The grave of Sgt. Leslie Charles Wright. St. John the Baptist Church, Charlton, Wiltshire.

In January I posted an extract from the May 1943 Operational Record Book relating to an incident on the 17th.

At the time I was struck with the poignancy of the story and the fact that it was almost buried within the records of the month. From the Roll of Honour, I discovered that Leslie was laid to rest not far from where my mother lives and I decided at the first opportunity that I would visit him. A trip down at the end of January to celebrate my mum’s 90th of birthday proved too hectic to manage a visit, but finally, on the way down to see her this last week, I stopped off to see Leslie and pay my respects.

At 01.00 hours on the 17th. May 1943, Sergeant L.C.Wright was carrying out a cross country fight in Stirling Mk.1 BF398, when the starboard outer and port outer engines failed. The aircraft lost height and the Captain ordered the crew to bale out, this included a passenger AC1 BAILEY, R.G. Of the crew who baled out, all landed safely with the exception of Sergeant A.J.Francis, who was reported missing and found four days later. The Captain remained at the controls, as the aircraft was in the vicinity of the Town of STOKE-UPON-TRENT and it appears that rather than crash land over the town, he attempted to land in the nearest field, the aircraft crashed however, and he was killed. The MAYOR of STOKE-UPON-TRENT has been in communication with the Squadron, and expressed his admiration, shared also by the townspeople, for the gallantry displayed by Sergeant L.C. WRIGHT.

After the original post I contacted the Mayor’s Office of Stoke-on-Trent to see if there was any record of the message or communication the Mayor of the time made to the Squadron, but after a discussion with the council archivist, it would seem that perhaps the communication was verbal via a telephone conversation. and as such, sadly, no record of his thanks exists.