Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Gordon crew – 1944. Jack Bell and Carl ‘Bob’ Freeman

Jack and Bob

On the left Jack Bell, Navigator and Carl Freeman, Flight Engineer. Both, along with the rest of their crew perished on the night of November 20th 1944 on one of the infamous Homberg Ops.
© Mark Rae/ Anthony Freeman, respectively

I alluded in a previous post about a song (listen to it here) that Mark is working on in memory of his grandfather Jack Bell, Navigator with the Gordon crew, lost on the 20th November 1944, that there would be one to follow and here it is.

I also mentioned in that post that subsequently, after hearing from Mark, I was contacted by Anthony, whose father was a Flight Engineer. It took a bit of thinking for me to realise that in fact they were both in  Ron Gordon’s crew……..

Many thanks to Anthony for sending this, his own research on the Gordon crew and his father Sgt. Carl ‘Bob’ Freeman. What I have tried to do is present the crew history in the same basic format that I normally present crew/ Op histories. Additional to this in this case, is the Op summary from Form 541 ‘Detail of Work Carried Out’, which wonderfully, Anthony has transcribed for the entire history of the crew. Extra to this is a number of quotes from other sources relating to the crew’s last fateful Op to Homberg on the 20th November 1944.

In addition to this, I have also added extracts taken from summarised records of letters sent home by the Navigator Jack Bell, that Mark very generously supplied when we first started talking by email a while back.

For the sake of clarity regarding Jack’s comments, the main body text is laid out as plain, with Op dates in Bold. Jack’s comments are bold italic. This is the first time I have been able to (clearly with the generous contributions of Anthony and Marc), present an Op history for a crew with such a personal content – many thanks gentlemen.

Prior to arriving at Mepal, Jack’s letters touch on a few details of training and the new crew he is part of….

30.6.44. “At Methwold, near Brandon, Norfolk – billet is 2 miles from Mess (Brandon Station)- (hut is in middle of wood).”

24.7.44. “Bill Otway is W.OP. We have a very nice Flight Engineer now Bob Freeman (which brings our crews number of kids to 10 – (which must be quite a record).”

29.8.44. R.Gordon and crew arrive on posting from 31 Base.

3.9.44. War Ops –  Attack Against The Airfield At Eindhoven
Lancaster Mk.I ND911 JN-V
Ten aircraft took off as detailed to attack the airfield at Eindhoven. All were successful in bombing visually and a good concentration of bombing was achieved. AA fire was slight, but accurate and three of our aircraft suffered minor damage. No enemy fighter opposition was encountered
Ron Gordon 2nd Dickie op with Sam Wilson’s crew.

5.9.44. War Ops –  Attack Against Le Havre
Lancaster Mk.I  ME753 AA-N
Twenty-five aircraft took off as detailed to attack the above target in favorable weather. Opposition was negligible and a very successful raid was accomplished, most bombing being visually carried out.
Starting crew for tour were;
F/S Ronald Gordon – Pilot.
P/O John Bell – Navigator.
F/S Albert Weston – Air Bomber.
Sgt. William Otway – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Carl Freeman – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Sidney Hone – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. James Forrester – Rear Gunner.

6.9.44. War Ops – Attack Against Harqueboc Near Le Havre
Lancaster Mk.I HK562 AA-L (Lucy)
Twenty-four aircraft took off to attack the German Army Headquarters situated at Harquebus (near Le Havre). All aircraft bombed the target according to the Master Bomber’s instructions and a very accurate raid was reported. Fires were seen to be still burning from the previous day’s attack on Le Havre. Once again no opposition was encountered

8.9.44. War Ops –  Attack Against Doudenville
Lancaster Mk.I ME751 AA-M (Mother)
Twenty-three aircraft took off as detailed to attack enemy defense positions at Doudenville on the outskirts of Le Harve. Weather conditions were very unfavourable over the target area and crews had great difficulty in seeing the markers. Only ten aircraft dropped their bombs before the Master Bomber gave instructions to abandon the mission. The remaining thirteen aircraft brought their bombs back to base. Considerable light flak and machine gun fire was encountered over the target area

10.9.44. War Ops –  Attack Against Montvilliers
Lancaster Mk.I ME751 AA-M (Mother)
Twenty-seven aircraft took off and attacked Montivilliers in the Le Harve area. All crews dropped their bombs on the target and a very concentrated raid developed. No fighters were encountered and only slight opposition was met from ground defenses

12/13.9.44. War Ops –  Attack Against Frankfurt
Lancaster Mk.I NN710 AA-Q (Queenie)
Of the twenty-two aircraft detailed, twenty took off to attack the above target. Most crews were able to identify the target by the river and several could see the railway yards. Fighters were fairly active and one aircraft (Captain AUS421308 F/O J Bateman) claims to have destroyed an enemy aircraft and another had an inconclusive combat. All aircraft returned safely to base and reported a good and accurate raid.

14.9.44. “My skipper Ron Gordon (university scholarship) getting commission”.

17.9.44. War Ops – Attack Against Emmerich
Lancaster Mk.I HK597 JN-N/P?
Ten aircraft took off as detailed to attack the above target and all aircraft dropped their bombs as ordered. Much accurate light AA fire and searchlights were encountered, but all aircraft returned safely to base.

28.9.44. War Ops –  Attack Against Calais
Lancaster Mk.I NN710 AA-Q (Queenie)
Twelve aircraft took off to make an attack on the defended localities near Calais. One aircraft landed at Woodbridge owing to a technical failure discovered shortly after take off. Of the remainder only one aircraft found a break in the clouds through which to bomb the markers. Ten aircraft had to abandon their mission after circling the target area for a considerable time

3.10.44. War Ops – Attack Against West Kappelle Dyke
Lancaster Mk.I ME753 AA-N
Twenty-one aircraft took off to carry out the above attack. Twenty aircraft were successful in bombing, although some crews had to make two or three attempts owing to the cloud base being 3/4000 feet. Bombing was reported to have been fairly good and some flooding was seen. One aircraft had to bring its bombs back owing to technical failure

5.10.44. War Ops –  Attack Against Saarbrucken
Lancaster Mk.I NN710 AA-Q (Queenie)
Thirty-one aircraft too off as detailed to attack the railway center at Saabrucken. They all reached the target but only fourteen attacked before the Master Bomber issued instructions to abandon the mission. Bombing appeared scattered and the raid was unsatisfactory. The aircraft captained by NZ427481 F/Sgt A Galletly failed to return

6.10.44. War Ops – Attack Against Dortmund
Lancaster Mk.I NN710 AA-Q (Queenie)
Twenty-nine aircraft were detailed to attack Dormund, but one of these was withdrawn owing to technical failure. Twenty-six aircraft attacked the target in good weather and a very accurate and concentrated raid was reported, large fires being left burning. AA fire was moderate but fighters were active and the aircraft captained by NZ427798 F/Sgt W Farr had a series of combats during which the enemy aircraft was claimed as being destroyed. One aircraft returned early and landed at Woodbridge owing to technical failure and another captain NZ411048 F/O K Southward failed to return.

7.10.44. War Ops –  Attack Against Emmerich
Lancaster Mk.I NN710 AA-Q (Queenie)
Twenty-six aircraft took off as detailed to attack Emmerich in support of the advancing allied armies. They all bombed the target successfully and a concentrated and accurate raid reported, the target being entirely covered with smoke. Moderate heavy AA fire was encountered and a few of our aircraft suffered minor damage.

9.10.44. “Trip to the cinema with 2 navigators F/O Jack Chapman (John Talbot Chapman) and P/O ‘Tubby’ Baker (Ronald Thomas Ewen Baker). Tubby is 21 and F/O Charlie Piesse (Charles Alexander John Piesse) is 34, both New Zealanders.”

10.10.44. “Afraid there isn’t much to write about just now, if we do anything we aren’t supposed to say much about it,  otherwise we just sit about waiting. Of course every day we report in the morning & look over our plane.  We share Q Queenie with another crew but have also flown in a few others. The ground crews keep them in smashing condition, a big change from some of the kites we used to fly.”

14.10.44. War Ops – Attack Against Duisburg
Lancaster Mk.I NF935 AA-P
Thirty-one aircraft took off at dawn to attack Duisburg. Except for one aircraft which returned early they all dropped their bombs in the built up areas of the town which was identified visually and with the aid of markers. A moderate heavy barrage was encounter from the target area and a few of our aircraft suffered minor damage. One aircraft was damaged in the bomb bay which necessitated it landing at Woodbridge on return

14/15.10.44. War Ops –  Attack Against Duisberg
Lancaster Mk.I  NF935 AA-P
Twenty-nine aircraft were detailed to make a further attack on Duisburg. Unfortunately, however, three aircraft had to be withdrawn. One aircraft returned early owing to the rear turret being unserviceable. The remaining twenty-five aircraft took part in a very successful attack in excellent visibility and large fires were seen to break out and add to these already burning from the morning attack. AA opposition was negligible and searchlights did not operate until late in the raid. One aircraft had an inconclusive combat with an enemy fighter .

15.10.44. “Got Staff Officer”.

16.10.44. “Daily Express am…had a lot about 2 raids on Duisberg”.

18.10.44. War Ops –  Attack Against Bonn
Lancaster Mk.I ME753 AA-N
The same sixteen aircraft were again detailed to attack Bonn and this time they were able to carry out the operation. For the first time the aircraft attacked flying in formation. Some moderate heavy AA fire was met over the target, but no fighter opposition was encountered.

19/20.10.44. War Ops – Attack Against Stuttgart (2nd Wave)
Lancaster Mk.I NF935 AA-P
Twenty-eight aircraft were detailed to attack the above target. The raid was carried out in two waves. Thirteen aircraft took part in the first wave and successfully dropped their bombs with the aid of markers and flares, in weather condition of 9/10th cloud. AA opposition was moderate and a few enemy fighters were active. Fifteen aircraft took part in the second wave five hours later and all aircraft dropped their bombs with the aid of flares through 10/10th cloud. The glow of fires indicated that those burning were concentrated around the aiming point. AA opposition was lighter than that encountered by the first wave, but fighters were active and four of our aircraft had inconclusive combats.

21.10.44. War Ops – Attack Against Flushing
Lancaster Mk.I NF935 AA-P
Twenty-five aircraft too off to attack Flushing. All crews were able to identify the target visually and bombing was reported to be very accurate. AA opposition was moderate. One aircraft, Captain 176437 F/O J Johnson, failed to return, but was seen to be shot down over the target by heavy AA fire

R Gordon commissioned to Pilot Officer

22.10.44. War Ops – Attack Against Neuss
Lancaster Mk.I ME753 AA-N
Nine aircraft took off to attack the above target. Eight of the aircraft successfully bomb through 10/10ths cloud which made results unsatisfactory. The other aircraft attack Munchen-Gladbach being unable to reach the primary target on time.

23.10.44. War Ops – Attack Against Essen
Lancaster Mk.I ME753 AA-N
Twenty-seven aircraft took off to attack the above target. 10/10ths cloud prevailed over the target area, but all aircraft were successful in attacking with the aid of marker flares. AA opposition was moderate but no enemy fighters were seen.

R Gordon promoted to Flying Officer

24.10.44. “Yesterday we went to Cambridge for wet dingy drill in the baths & stayed there afterwards. Bob freeman the Flight Engineer & I went on the river in a canoe then had about three drinks. The others went to a show.”

25.10.44 “Just landed, cutting from Telegraph ‘Monday night attack on Essen by Sgt. A. Weston, he is both our Bomb Aimer and is a F. Sgt. But was wearing his overcoat without his crown on the stripes.”

25.10.44. War Ops –  Attack Against Essen
Lancaster Mk.I NF935 AA-P
Twenty-six aircraft too off to attack the above target. Twenty-three of these successfully attacked and bombing was good, (sic) built up areas and factories being identified visually. One aircraft brought its bombs back owing to the failure of the bombing equipment when over the target and two other aircraft returned early owing to technical failure.

Daughter born to Sgt C R Freeman 27/10/1944

26.10.44. “6 Ops in 7 days is going some. No doubt you read about the Essen night trip through snow storms tec…. Ron had been flying through cloud on instruments for so long on the way there, he decided to go back over the cloud. I told him it would be a solid bank from the deck to 20,000 feet over France – but clear at base – but thought it would be OK – it was too. We had a much better trip that way than the others  did near the deck and the gunners were watching blue lights running up and down their gun.”

27.10.44. “Got a kite of our own – ‘X for X-Ray’ – a nice new one hope she is as good as the others we have been flying.”

28.10.44. War Ops – Attack Against Flushing
Lancaster Mk.I NN710 AA-Q (Queenie)
Thirteen aircraft took off to attach the above target. The weather was good and bombing was reported as very accurate. One large explosion was seen at the end of the raid. Opposition from AA fire was slight but a few aircraft suffered minor damage.

30.10.44. War Ops – Attack Against Cologne
Lancaster Mk.I HK562 AA-L (Lucy)
Twenty-one aircraft were detailed to attack the above target during daylight, but the operation was postponed until the evening. All aircraft attacked the target and although a concentration of markers was achieved the results were unobserved owing to 10/10ths cloud. Moderate AA opposition was encountered and one aircraft received slight damage

31.10.44. War Ops –  Attack Against Cologne
Lancaster Mk.I NF935 AA-P
Eighteen aircraft took off in the evening to make a further attack on Cologne. 10/10th cloud cover prevailed over the target area, but markers were well placed and a good glow from the fires beneath the cloud was observed on leaving. AA opposition was slight and no enemy fighters were seen.

10.11.44. “Remember I told you that we flew an awful lot in Oct., well it appears that we broke all records for sorties flown and bombs dropped etc. and our crew flew as much as anyone. It should shorten the war, hope so anyway.”

12.11.44. “I am in 75 New Zealand Sqdn. (only 1 N. Zealander – Bill Otway the WOP).”

15.11.44. War Ops – Attack Against Dortmund
Lancaster Mk.I PB689 AA-X (X-Ray)
Twenty-five aircraft took off to attack an oil refinery plant at Dortmund in daylight. All aircraft were successful in bombing in formation through ten tenths cloud with tops 10,000ft and a concentrated raid was reported. Flak was reported as being fairly accurate by the leading aircraft, but none of our aircraft were hit.

16.11.44. War Ops – Attack Against Heinsberg
Lancaster Mk.I PB689 AA-X (X-Ray)
Twenty-five aircraft were detailed to attack an oil refinery target at Stekrade but this operation was cancelled and twenty-five aircraft later took off to attack Heinsberg in support of the advancing American Army, carrying 8000lb, 4000lb, 1000lb and 500lb bombs. All crews were successful in bombing the town which was identified visually. On leaving, the whole town appeared to be covered in a thick pall of smoke. Flak was fairly intense but only two of our aircraft received minor damage

Sgt C R Freeman was not a crew member on this raid, his place as Flight Engineer having been taken by Sgt J Huckle

18.11.44. “Just been to see Mick’s photograph of our last target, it is very good and the target was completely obliterated. It is nice to think that this helps the lads attacking on the ground below. Did Jenny send those boots? Did I tell you that our Sgdn. broke Bomber Command record for no. of sorties last month. The Wing Co. got a DSO for it and is pretty bucked. The weather is deadly and we have only done a couple since returning from leave. Bob is in hospital with ear trouble and Bill Otway the W/Op in in with an ulcerated throat. They should be OK soon. We had to fly yesterday with a different Flight engineer, it was a good trip and Mick did his stuff as usual.”

20.11.44. War Ops – Attack Against Homberg
Lancaster Mk.I PB689 AA-X (X-Ray)
Aircraft Failed to Return – All Crew Killed
Twenty-eight aircraft took off to attack the oil refinery plant at Homberg. Twenty two aircraft in daylight attacked the target in ten-tenths cloud with tops at 23,000 feet which made formation flying very difficult. Results of the bombing could not be observed, but it is considered that the raid was unsatisfactory. One aircraft AA/J returned early owing to icing trouble and two aircraft bombed last resort targets at Duisbueg and Hamborn. Three aircraft failed to return, these were captained by AUS419328 F/O P McCartin, 152402 F/O H Rees, 185116 F/O R Gordon. One aircraft captained by 184310 F/O D Atkin landed at Trangmere.

Details later obtained by the Air Ministry (Casualty Branch) describe the loss of AA-X as follows:

“information obtained from captured German Documents has disclosed that the Lancaster aircraft in which he was flying was shot down by heavy anti-aircraft fire at 3.15am, on the 20th November, 1944, at Baerl, about two miles north-east of Mors. Mors lies five miles from the target Homberg, and 11½ miles south of Wesel, Western Germany. The aircraft exploded in the air and was almost completely destroyed.’

F/O Ronald Gordon RAFVR 1580245/ 185116. Pilot.
Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.
Coll. Grave 29 B1-16.

F/O John Robson Bell RAFVR 173943. Navigator. Died age 34.
Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.
Grave 29 B1-16.

F/Sgt Albert John Weston RAFVR 1115103. Air Bomber. Died age 29.
Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Germany.
Coll. Grave 29 B1-16.

P/O Louis David Sampson RAFVR 186413. Wireless Operator. Died age 28.
Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Germany.
Grave 29 C2.

Sgt Carl Robert Freeman RAFVR 189608. Flight Engineer. Died age 33.
Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.
Grave 25 G5.

Sgt Sidney George Hone RAFVR 2221190. Mid Upper Gunner. Died age 35.
Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.
Grave 25 G14.

Sgt James Leonard Forrester RAFVR 3010665. Rear Gunner. Died age 19.
Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.
Grave 25 G3.

An even sadder footnote to the boy’s loss is that they left, not only wives, sister, brothers, mothers and fathers behind, but also to Anthony’s estimation at least 13 young children. Anthony observes;

“With the birth of my sister there were 11 children rendered fatherless from that one crew. Could there have been more? Louis Sampson had two children at the time of his death and as he was from the ‘pool’ his children would not have been included in the original 10. The family of Sidney Hone, who was from Birmingham, came and stayed with us for the Coronation. We lived in SW London!  There were three children, the youngest would have certainly have been born while their father was in the Air Force.”

The bodies of the crew were originally buried in the Forest Cemetery of Lohmannscheide, Mörs. The body of Carl in grave 80 and the bodies of Sgt Forrester, P/O Bell, F/S Weston and P/O Sampson in graves 78, 79, 81 and 92 respectively. In the move from their initial burial place they became separated and were reburied apart from each other…….

The crew’s Wireless Operator, Sgt A Otway, had on this occasion been hospitalized and thus was not on this operation. His place was taken by P/O Louis David Sampson.

Sgt Bill Otway returned to New Zealand and was still alive and well (in May 2008) when Anthony  had a telephone conversation with him. However, his recall of these events (he denied membership of this crew, claiming to only have been in Harry Yates crew with whom he completed his tour) for whatever reason were limited! It is not possible to imagine what effect the loss of his fellow crew members would have knowing that but for some quirk of fate …

Bill Otway had flown all ops with the Gordon crew prior to the final fateful Homberg op. The following information is from ‘Luck and a Lancaster’ By Harry Yates, a Pilot who flew with 75(NZ) Squadron;

The terrible news, though, was that three others were logged missing. All three were fine and experienced crews, close to the end of their tours. Ron Gordon and his five English crewmates were on number twenty eight (incorrect from my tally up and partially corrected later in the book). They all died, together with a pool W/Op who had just married and moved to the village. The W/Op whose place he had taken was a New Zealander, F/S Bill Otway. A throat infection had saved his life. Despite pleading with the MO to ley him stay, he had been dispatched to Ely Hospital for two days. Now he must come to terms with the severance of six friendships and ask himself a thousand times the unanswerable question, ‘Why them and not me?

Ironically, Bill Otaway then ended up joining Harry Yates’s crew after their W/Op went AWOL.

His place in the crew was taken by F/S Bill Otway, the New Zealander who was grounded by the MO immediately before his crew were lost over Homberg on 20 November . Bill had flown twenty five trips with them. He had been out of action since. But I knew his old crew were well regarded on station. There was no doubt in my mind that he was the man we wanted. The only drawback was that we would have 2 Bills on board’……


Of the three crews (21 men), eight survived as prisoners of war


From – The Bomber Command War Diaries. An Operational Reference Book 1939-1945 by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt
183 Lancasters of No 3 Group made a G-H attack on the oil plant at Homberg but the weather was stormy and many aircraft were not able to maintain formation with the G-H aircraft on the bombing run. The bombing through cloud, was belived to have been scattered. 5 Lancasters lost

From – Forever Strong by Norman Franks,
S H Richmond recalls how at least one of the Lancasters failed to get back:
“We had successive daytime trips to the oil refinery at Homberg, across the Rhine from Dusseldorf and Duisberg. We were operating on one trip with some Halifaxes which had about 1000 feet ceiling on us as we moved to drop our bombs. The Halifaxes, using instruments, converged above us and as I was giving the pilot my instructions to head up to the target, all hell was suddenly let loose over the intercom. The mid-upper was shouting at the top of his voice. Later it was ascertained that a Halifax had moved in above us and had dropped its bombs, so that an 8000 pound ‘cookie’ just missed the mid-upper gunner and our fuselage, falling between the wing and the tailplane. In the same raid, one of our Lancasters had its tailplane knocked off in the same way!”

Excerpt from the diary of F/L Richard P Perry, 218 (Gold Coast) Squadron
November 20, 1944   . Day raid on Homberg, trip #10
“Really duff met, we hit cloud at the Belgium coast and it stayed with us, with few breaks, till we reached the target. Once again we bombed on GH over 10/10 cloud and no flak. Carrying a ‘cookie’ and 14/500’s. In cloud all the way back till we were over the Channel when it cleared until we reached the English coast where it thickened up again. What a sight coming back. Hundreds of aircraft all leaving BLACK vapour trails behind them and, at one stage, climbing up to 24,000 feet to get over CuNimbs. On this trip we actually saw three aircraft destroyed by bombs dropped from aircraft above them, and swerved away, ourselves, from beneath one that would have passed right over us with it’s bomb doors open. I’ll always remember our mid-upper, Dennis (Outhwaite), yelling out the instruction to serve right.”

Excerpt from the account of Sgt John Gray, 75 (NZ) Squadron, on being shot down
“Was on a daylight bombing operation detailed to attack the refinery at Mors-Homberg near Duisberg. At 15.00hrs the starboard outer motor packed up and was forced to leave the G-H formation at 15.15hrs. We bombed the target 2 minutes later, we got a direct hit by flak and burst into flames, the tanks exploded and the aircraft broke up in mid air – I bailed out at about 17000ft,”

John Gray was the only member of F/O P McCartin’s crew to survive. He spent the remainder of the war in a POW camp.

The Gordon crew were one of 3 a/c lost that night on the raid on the Leuna synthetic oil refinery at Homberg. The Squadron was sent back the following night to the same target. One of the other aircraft lost that night, was piloted by Patrick  ‘Leo’ McCartin. Only the rear gunner, John Gray, survived from that crew. The third aircraft, with the Hubert Rees crew on board were more fortunate – all survived and became PoW’s.

Aircraft database update

composite aircraft image

Many thanks to Ian for his continuing work on the aircraft database section of the website – here is is latest update!

Wellington records here.
Stirling records here.
Lancaster records here.

McCaskill crew – killed 15th April 1943. Crashed Forest of Nismes, Belgium.


Douglas McCaskil, Pilot. Died with the rest of his crew on the 15th April 1943. Age 19

I have been contacted by Guy, with what could potentially be a very interesting request for information – and hopefully contact from relatives – about the McCaskill crew who were lost on the 15th April 1943, their Stirling crashing in Nismes Forest, near Regniessart. All crew were killed and now rest in  the municipal cemetery of Florennes.

Guy has contacted me as he is working in conjunction with the Municipality of Viroinval, in Belgium to gather information to add to the Municipalities commemorations in 2014 of the 100th anniversary of the 1st World War and the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. To this end, anything that we might be able to provide him with would be fantastic and add to the story of the McCaskill boys within these commemorations.

Guy has provided me with some information that he has gathered, I have added a little more regarding a search through the Squadron ORB’s. Kevin has been in touch, but says he knows nothing more about the boys – so this is a real ask to everybody – can we find anything more about the McCaskill boys………??

Douglas McCaskill arrived on Station at Newmarket on the 14th March 1943. The Squadron Form 540 lists Douglas and a set of other airmen (who by trade represent a full crew), James Grainger (Nav.), Bertram Elwell (AB), Reginald Green (W/Op), Angus McVicar (FE), Reginald Smith (AG) and Ernest Cook (AG).

28.3.43. Gardening – St. Nazaire.
Stirling Mk.III BK664 AA-M
Douglas  McCaskill – Pilot.
James  Grainger – Navigator.
Frederick  Bandy – Air Bomber.
Reginald Green – Wireless Operator.
D.J. McIver – Flight Engineer.
Ernest  Cook – Mid Upper Gunner.
Ronald Smith Rear – Gunner

The composition of the crew for its first Op appears a little confusing – based on the implied crew list on arrival at the Newmarket, Sgt. Elwell and McVicar are absent. Fred Bandy the replacement Air Bomber, was already on station (1/3 – 8/3 (3 Ops) with Ray Bennett’s crew, (22/3 1 Op) with Kevin Debenhams crew (he would fly another 3 Ops with the Bennett crew before being lost with them on 29/3/45 on the Wuppertal Raid). F/S D. McIver is a little more puzzling –  D.J. McIver was actually a Wireless Operator, flying with Ken Bettles crew for a single op and a total of  6 Ops with Dick Broadbent’s crew between the 27/4 and 11/6. This leads me to think that in fact F/S McIver’s listing in the crew is incorrect and it should in fact be Angus McVicar.

8.4.43. Gardening – Mining in the Gironde Estuary.
Stirling Mk.III BF513 AA-E
Angus McVicar replaces D.J. McIver as Flight Engineer (possibly, based on the comments on the previous raid).

10.4.43. War Ops – Frankfurt
Stirling Mk.III BF465 JN-K
Bertram Elwell replaces Fred Bandy as Air Bomber.

14.4.43. War Ops – Stuttgart
Stirling Mk.III BF513 AA-E
It is reported that the aircraft crashed after an air combat with Lt. Fritz Graef, I. NJG4 and crashed at 02:25 at Regniessart, 7 km South East of Couvin.

P/O Douglas Gordon McCaskill RNZAF NZ413573. Pilot. Age 19.
Buried Florennes Communal Cemetery Belgium.

P/O James Kennedy Grainger RNZAF NZ42295. Navigator. Age 21.
Buried Florennes Communal Cemetery, Belgium.

Sgt. Bertram Elwell RAFVR 519416. Air Bomber. Age 26.
Buried Florennes Communal Cemetery, Belgium.

Sgt. Reginald Thomas Charles Green RAFVR 1211032. Wireless Operator. Age 21.
Buried Florennes Communal Cemetery, Belgium.

Sgt Angus McVicar RAFVR 1371651. Flight Engineer. Age 20.
Buried Florennes Communal Cemetery, Belgium

Sgt. Ernest Desmond Cook RAFVR 1609864. Mid Upper Gunner. Age 19.
Buried Florennes Communal Cemetery, Belgium

Sgt Ronald Alexander Smith RNZAF NZ415378. Rear Gunner. Age 21.
Buried Florennes Communal Cemetery, Belgium


Location of the crash site of the McCaskill crew and BF513 AA-E
image courtesy of GoogleMaps

Guy has also provided a live link to Google maps where you can view the above map – you can view and explore it here.

After the war, James Grainger’s family sought information on fate and resting place of their son. The following is a letter is from the Belgian Consul-General in Wellington to the Mayor of Florennes, who had forwarded them a letter from Jame’s parents asking if they could establish where he had been buried and gather any official information or eyewitness accounts of his plane being shot down. A very big thank you to Angela for providing the English translation of the letter that is underneath the original letter……..

430415 Stirling SN5604

Ministry of the Interior

Brussels, 12 March 1945

Identification and interment ofwar dead.
Please quote the above date and reference number in your reply.
1 enclosure

Mr. Mayor,
In a letter dated 26 September 1944, the Belgian Consul-General in WELLINGTON (New Zealand) has advised me of the following:

Pilot Officer James GRAINGER of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, according to information received from the International Red Cross, is interred at FLORENNES cemetery.

Pilot Officer J. GRAINGER was a crew member on a heavy bomber that was shot down during a raid on Germany about 16 months ago, i.e. in or around April 1943.

This airman’s father, who himself fought in the 1914-18 war, would like to know if his son is indeed interred at FLORENNES, and if possible would like to find out more about the circumstances in which the aircraft was shot down. It seems that none of the crew members survived, though some of them did attempt to bail out on their parachutes.

Mr. GRAINGER senior would like to hear from the parish priest of FLORENNES, from the local authorities and/or from local people who might have witnessed the destruction of the aircraft piloted by Pilot Officer GRAINGER.

The father of this valiant officer writes:
“After receiving the news of our son’s death – he was our only son – it was an immense comfort to us to learn that he had been interred in Belgium. I got to know your country well during the last war and I am glad that he has been laid to rest there.”

I kindly ask you to let me know whether the remains of Pilot Officer James GRAINGER are indeed interred at FLORENNES cemetery, and, if so, to provide me with all information you are able to gather regarding his death and burial (grave number, coffin number, number in register of burials) and (… sentence cuts off abruptly at this point …)

To the Mayor of FLORENNES,
(Province of NAMUR).

The Garden of Mepal “Forever Fallen” – first test

It gives me really great pleasure to present, what Mark stresses is a test for his new single ‘The Garden of Mepal “Forever Fallen”‘. Mark’s Grandfather was Jack Bell, Navigator with Ronald Gordon’s crew, one of 3 aircraft lost on the 20th November 1944 on one of the trips to what is widely recognised as 75(NZ) Squadron’s ‘bogey’ target, the Fischer Tropsch oil refinery at Homberg.

Mark and I first spoke some months ago and the information we were able to swap, I held at the time with a view to making a post closer to the release date of the single. Events have, it seems, overtaken us a little. Last week I was contacted by Anthony, whose father was a Flight Engineer, also lost on Operations. I must confess, that when Anthony and I first spoke, because of the amount of research he had gathered, I was prepared to just wait to receive it. Having received it today – I realised that ‘Gordon’ rang a bell – and of course after the ‘lead penny’ dropped, I put 2 and 2 together and realised that Mark’s grandfather and Anthony’s father were in fact both in Ron Gordon’s crew. I have, obviously put them in contact with each other – an unplanned, but very satisfying by product of this blog.

In 1987, Mark he moved to Manchester and became manager and co-owner of Manchester’s celebrated music store Fat City Records, before releasing an E.P. for Tony D on Grand Central music label, which held a place at the top of the UK’s independent music scene until 2006. During this time, Rae stacked up releases with Steve Christian under the ‘Rae & Christian’ guise, and worked with artists like the Pharcyde, Jungle Brothers, Bobby Womack and The Congos. He also co-wrote with Mr Scruff  and produced hundreds of remixes of artists including Jay-Z and Bob Marley. His music has been featured on TV shows that include So You Think You Can Dance (US), Sex and the City, Six Feet Under and Come Dine With Me, as well as various films.

Mark released two studio albums with Steve Christian as Rae & Christian. He also performed producing, remixing and DJing duties for a number of other artists, and occasionally co-wrote tracks with Mr. Scruff. Rae & Christian hit the festival circuit with full force and performed at some of the most prestigious events in the world such as Glastonbury, Roskilde, V Festival and Rae opened for Madonna with Texas at the Brixton Music Academy.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Mark stresses that this is not the final version of the song – It’s not the Abbey Road master or the finished edit – but he agrees with me that the 75(NZ) community probably deserve to hear it first, even if not in it’s definitive version, so they can spread the word – 10% of sales of the song will go to the Mepal Memorial Garden.

Thank you all……….

I’ve just got off the phone with Anthony, whose father, Carl Freeman was Flight Engineer with the Gordon crew, who were lost on the 20th November 1944 during one of the infamous Ops to Homberg ( a post will follow soon about the Gordon crew). It was an absolute pleasure talking to Anthony and listening to him. I realise that its things like this that drag me through the full mail inboxes and the hundreds of pieces of paper with names and dates that cover my desk in the studio at home, the occasional mistakes that I post, only to thankfully and supportively be corrected. I know that I always thank everyone in a post for the amazing things that they supply for the blog, but it’s times like this when I realise its perhaps not enough – perhaps the blog and its continuing growth, both in content and visits is the best way I can thank you all for what you have so far helped me do – long may it continue………..

ake ake kia kaha

Missing. McCartin crew – the chain of loss.


The telegram that no family wanted to receive. The McCartin family did on the 22nd of November 1944.
Donated by Pauline McCartin to the Australian War Memorial
AWM: PR03129 – Papers of Lt Leo McCartin & FO Patrick McCartin

The following collections of letters, is perhaps the most touching set of documents I have so far come across in the creation of this blog. These letters were given to me by Paul Hickey, whose wife is the niece of Leo McCartin. They were one of the first collections I set out in one of many initial designs for the ‘proper’ website that some day will happen. Because of their length I initially decided not to place it here on the blog, but now as more information comes to me, I think it should be shown – to wait for the website to be built might mean a massive delay before these letters can be seen.

It is moving enough to read a crew history that ends with their loss. However, what follows is a series of letters between ‘Official’ sources and the families of ‘Leo’ McCartin’s crew after their tragic loss on the Homberg raid of 20th November 1945. All the crew were lost, apart from the rear gunner Flight Sergeant John Gray, who survived and spent the remainder of the war as POW.

Remember, compounding the awful notification of the loss of their aircraft and the crew’s initial status of ‘missing’, 2 of the families were some 10,000 miles away in Australia when that first fateful telegram arrived.

Read the Chain of Loss here.

More pictures from Simon……..a correction


The rear gunner’s turret of a 75 Squadron Stirling being inspected by S/Ldr. Dick Broadbent and W/Cdr. Wells, a visiting fighter pilot, after damage by a night fighter over Duisburg on 26th April 1943.

It would appear in my haste to post the fantastic extra images that Simon sent me last night, I made a bit of an error in the captioning of the above picture, that was included in the post – many thanks to Adrian for putting me right, after posting the correct identification of the individuals in the photograph. Of course, this is a picture after another, very similar, night fighter attack, taken earlier in 1943. I knew I had seen the picture before and Adrian  reminds me it comes from “The Royal Air Force at Newmarket” and the correct information included in this publication is;

” The rear gunner’s turret of a 75 Squadron Stirling being inspected by S/Ldr. Dick Broadbent and W/Cdr. Wells, a visiting fighter pilot, after damage by a night fighter over Duisburg on 26th April 1943″

The Squadron ORBs for that night records that BF517 captained by P.O P.J.Buck sustained such damage and returned to base with a mortally wounded rear gunner Sgt B.A Rogers.

Many thanks for your diligence on this matter Adrian – sometimes I need to be kept on the straight and narrow!

More pictures from Simon……..


A group photo including, Simon believes, 2nd from left, Alfred ‘Bill’ Dance, Air Bomber, Wilson crew  and 5th from left Norman Wilson Pilot EE897. The photograph clearly shows other pilots, though their identities are not known.

DSC00899 reduced

Alfred ‘Bill’ Dance, Air Bomber, Norman Wilson crew.


Unknown crew from same period.

The rear gunner’s turret of a 75 Squadron Stirling being inspected by S/Ldr. Dick Broadbent and W/Cdr. Wells, a visiting fighter pilot, after damage by a night fighter over Duisburg on 26th April 1943

Many thanks to Simon for passing on a few more pictures, including an additional picture of Eric Witting’s Stirling, taken after returning from the Baltic Sea mining Op that cost the lives of 3 of the 4 aircrews sent. Even Eric’s crew didn’t escape unscathed, their Rear Gunner, Walter Hurdle was killed, being brought back, he was laid to rest in Cambridge City Cemetery.

4.11.43. mining in the Baltic Sea
Four aircraft were detailed to carry out the above operation with mines of 1500lbs. This was an unfortunate night as three aircraft failed to return and the other aircraft returned early having jettisoned its mines. This aircraft met an enemy night fighter and sustained damage to the port wing, starboard flap, rear turret and many other large holes in the fuselage, the rear gunner Sgt. W. Hurdle was killed during the combat. The weather was bad and ten tenths cloud made visibility  poor. Navigation was very good. The missing aircraft were Stirlings MkIII BF461 Captained by P/O. G.K Williams, BK778 captained by P/O. W.S. Masters and EE897 captained by F/O. N.Wilson.

Alfred Newnham RAFVR 1172993 – Rear Gunner. 1943


Many thanks to Kevin for passing on Alf’s logbook. As somewhat of a unique feature to his book, there appears to be no titling on the top of the pages regarding his time with 75(NZ) Squadron – I think, so far the only logbook presented on the blog not to have this. Because of this, I decided to show the last page with the central depository stamp on it – again, something I haven’t seen in a logbook to date.

Read Alf’s logbook here

The Wilson crew – Ray Stratton, Flight Engineer. 1943

image2 corrected

The Wilson crew left to right: Alf Dance, Ron Charlton, Arnold Fawcett (sat in fuselage doorway), Ray Stratton, Len Gaskins, Norman Wilson and Tom Lodge.
Stood in front of BF465, so taken middle of august 1943.

Many thanks for Simon for passing on these fantastic images of the Wilson crew and they regular aircraft EE897 AAG. Simon contacted me a few weeks ago and at the time I put up a post for any information that might be out there on Ray, or the other boys in the crew.

Since then Simon has met up with Jack Richards, the President of the UK Friends of 75(NZ) Squadron, who was ground crew at the time for the Wilson boys.

Simon re-contacted me yesterday to let me know of his chat with Jack and with a query over Jack recalling and showing a picture of the crew in front of another aircraft – this time EF465. This query allowed me to use Simon as a first test guinea pig for what is slowing taking shape as a searchable database for Squadron records that I have been (very slowly) transcribing from the Operational Record Books over the last 10 weeks or so. Fortunately Simon’s query was regarding 1943 – which is the most complete year so far in the database – relative to my usual trawl from a hundred pages of an ORB, I am pleased to report that a crew Op history for Ray was able to be generated very quickly indeed and I am particularly pleased to say that the search identified a single Op with another crew, something that I would have probably missed doing a more traditional ‘find the Pilot in the pages’ search of the ORB. The search also confirmed Jack’s recollection – the Wilson crew flew in BF465 twice (possibly 3 times) at the beginning of their tour, as well as other a/c before appearing to adopt EE897 as their regular steed.

The Wilson crew arrive from 1651 Conversion Unit on the 5th August 1943.

The ORB seems to show a strange discrepancy regarding accepted practice of a Pilot flying at least 1, though at this point usually 2 ops with another crew to gain experience.

9.8.43. Gardening – Mining in the Frisian Islands
Stirling Mk.III BF518 AA-E
F/O Norman C B Wilson – Pilot
F/O Thomas Lodge – Navigator
P/O Alfred Dance – Air Bomber
Sgt. G. Cross – Wireless Operator
Sgt. Raymond Stratton – Flight Engineer
Sgt. Arnold Fawcett – Mid Upper Gunner
Sgt. Leonard Gaskins – Rear Gunner


Fixing a puncture in a tyre of one of the indispensable bicycles used to transport aircrew through the lanes around Mepal Len Gaskin and Arnold Fawcett.

It would then, rather bizarrely appear that Norman then took 2, 2nd Dickie Ops.

10.8.43 War Ops – Attack Against Nurenburg.
Norman Wilson flies 2nd pilot with Jack Joll’s crew.

12.8.43. War Ops – Attack against Turin
Norman flies a 2nd Op with the Joll crew.

(The ORB records Norman as ‘A. Wilson’, however there were no A. Wilsons, as a Pilot, ever in the squadron, so we must assume this is Norman).

15.8.43 Gardening – Mining the Gironde Estuary.
Stirling Mk.III BF465 AA-J/K
Len Gaskins and Arnold Fawcett swap respective gunnery positions.

17.8.43 War Ops – Attack Against Penemunde.
Stirling Mk.III BF465 AA-J/K
(ORB says ‘EF’, but give a/c above – this Op – I suspect a typo?)

23.8.43 War Ops – Attack Against Berlin.
Stirling Mk.III BF461 AA-B
Sgt. G. Cross is replaced by F/S Ron Charlton as Wireless Operator.

27.8.43 War Ops – Attack Against Nurenburg.
Stirling Mk.III EE898 AA-D

31.8.43 War Ops – Attack Against Berlin.
Stirling Mk.III EE897 AA-G

8.9.43 War Ops – Attack Against Boulogne.
Stirling Mk.III EE897 AA-G
Rear Gunner Arnold Fawcett is replaced by F/O Don Laycock.

16.9.43 War Ops – Attack Against Modene.
Stirling Mk.III EE897 AA-G
Arnold Fawcett returns as Rear Gunner.

22.9.43 War Ops – Attack Against Hanover.
Stirling Mk.III EE897 AA-G
Don Laycock returns as Rear Gunner.

23.9.43 War Ops – Attack Against Mannheim.
Stirling Mk.III EE897 AA-G

2.10.43 Gardening – Mining in the Baltic Sea.
Stirling Mk.III BF459
Ray Stratton joins Noel Parkers crew for 1 Op as Flight Engineer.

8.10.43 War Ops – Attack Against Bremen.
Stirling Mk.III EE897 AA-G
Arnold Fawcett returns as Rear Gunner.

4.11.43 Gardening – Mining in the Baltic Sea.
Stirling Mk.III EE897 AA-G

According to Jack Richardson, that night, prior to take-off, Alf Dance wrote ‘Dance man Dance’ on the tail plane. Norman Wilson being a disciplinarian insisted it was cleaned off with a rag given by ground crew – the crew then boarded in less than cheerfull mood. They never returned….

As a footnote, apparently Ray Stratton’s mother never accepted his loss and every time she went out she left the key in the back door so he could get in

F/O Norman Clarence Bruce Wilson RNZAF NZ417139. Pilot.
Commemorated on Panel 198 Runnymede Memorial.

F/O Thomas Lodge RNZAF NZ417284. Navigator.
Commemorated on Panel 197 Runnymede Memorial.

P/O Alfred Thomas Dance RNZAF NZ42495. Air Bomber.
Commemorated on Panel 197 Runnymede Memorial.

F/S Ronald Carlton RAFVR 644136.Wireless Operator.
Commemorated on Panel 135 Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt. Raymond Walter John Stratton RAFVR 1166593. Flight Engineer.
Commemorated on Panel 166. Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt. Leonard Charles Gaskins RAFVR 1392668. Mid Upper Gunner.
Commemorated on Panel 150 Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt. Arnold Goodrick Fawcett RNZAF NZ422698. Rear Gunner.
Commemorated on Panel 198 Runnymede Memorial.


Some of the Wilson boys horsing around in front of what is believed to be EE897.

Simon has supplied some great photos of the crew, though partially named, so if you have any suggestions as to who the remaining crew are in these pictures, please contact me and I’ll pass the information onto him.

A wonderful reunion…….


left to right; Chris, Sean, Dougie and Phil

Chris mentioned a couple of weeks ago that his cousin Phil and Phil’s son Sean were soon to be traveling from America to New Zealand to see an All Blacks test match in Auckland. Phil’s father was Gerald Newey, Wireless Operator with the Wood crew, whose Flight Engineer, of course was Dougie Williamson. I had the pleasure to meet Phil and Sean at the summer Association reunion the summer before last and about 3 months after that, Dougie, when he had a taxi ride in ‘Just Jane’, up at East Kirkby – I only have to meet Chris now!.

John Edward Lithgow McFarland RAFVR 1503993 – Navigator. 1944

Untitled 0012

Many thanks again to John and David for passing on the full (colour) version of John’s logbook.

Browse John’s logbook here

Browsing the internet, I cam across Johns recollections on the ‘Big Lottery Fund’ website of all places. John had been successful in an application to get over to the UK for a Squadron Association reunion.

John’s story began when he came to Belfast in 1940 to sit a Latin exam for a pharmacist’s apprenticeship he’d secured in Derry.  “I’d always found the Latin a chore and a friend had told me about the great time he was having in the RAF so when I was in Belfast I went to the RAF recruiting office and joined up,” he said.

In June 1941 John was formally called up and began training as a navigator. After graduating, he should have gone to an Operational Training Unit where the air crews were put together, though they were infamous for their 20% loss of life.

“But then word came through that I was to by-pass this, I never knew why, and join a crew before going onto the 75th New Zealand Squadron as a replacement navigator – and you never asked who you were replacing,” said John.

He continued: “We flew from a remote base near Ely in East Anglia and were engaged mainly in sea and French railway yard mining operations as well as drops to the French Resistance. It was during one of these we were shot down. The Germans had the capability to fire vertically upwards. We were over Denmark and it was around midnight when my navigator’s table shattered and I knew we’d been hit from below.

“Everything happened so fast. We had to bail out and use our parachutes. The parachute wrappers used to put little notes in with the silk saying things like ‘all the best’!  Only three of us survived that night – the rear gunner’s parachute failed to open. That could have been any one of us for you just grabbed a parachute on your way out to board the aircraft…”

John landed in a ploughed field and was rescued by the farmer’s son whose family sheltered him for three days before the Germans found him. “I was sent to the same prison camp which featured in The Great Escape,” he explained. “Life there wasn’t great but some of the lads had built a radio and brought us news every day so we heard about D-Day and thought we’d be home by Christmas. Of course we weren’t.”

In January 1945 with the Russians advancing the POWs were put to march, sleeping in barns along the roadside, despite the bitter winter. “I’ve never experienced cold like it. One POW found a rat and held onto it just to keep his hands warm!” recalled John.

“I remember one morning though, two British fighter planes were circling overhead, making to attack because they thought we were Germans. We tried to spell out ‘POWs’ with towels on the ground but they came in, all guns blazing. Twenty men died – friendly fire I think they would call it today. Just days later we were freed by the British…”

Despite his stoicism in recounting the story, the tragic irony of that loss of life still sits heavily on John McFarland’s heart. “Back in the UK we were de-loused, de-briefed and told we could go home – so home it was,” he said.  “That’s when I understood what it must’ve been like for our families. Our Commanding Officer, a wonderful man, had sent a personal letter to them when our plane hadn’t come back that night…”.

read the entire article here

John McFarland, Navigator – Murray crew. 1944

Log Book 015

Sgt. John McFarland receiving his Navigators badge at the end of training in Canada.
© John McFarland

Many thanks to John McFarland, his son David and his daughter Emily for contacting me and passing on this wonderful photograph of John receiving his ‘Air Observer’s Wings’ (David assures me this is Canadian for Navigator!).

I had the pleasure of meeting John last November at the ‘Friends of 75(NZ) Squadron Association’ winter reunion – taking the chance to ask him to sign my copy of ‘Forever Strong’ the Squadron history – something he was happy to do.

I am happy to report that John is still in good health and I hope to see him and possibly some of the family at the next winter reunion this November.

The Murray crew were Posted into Mepal from No. 31 Base on the 25th January 1944;
11.2.44. Gardening – Mining in St. Malo Bay.
Stirling Mk.III LK396
F/O Henry James Murray – Pilot.
Sgt. John Edward Lithgow McFarland – Navigator.
F/S Douglas John Hill – Air Bomber.
F/S Gordon James Irwin – Wireless Operator
F/L Lyndon Oliver Sims – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. John Mulligan – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Peter Woolam – Rear Gunner.

20.2.44. Gardening – Mining off the Frisian Islands
Stirling Mk.III EJ108
Sgt. Hyman Kahler replaces Lyndom Sims as Flight Engineer.

22.2.44. Gardening – Mining in the Kiel Bay (Aborted)
Stirling Mk.III EF181
W/C Roy Max as 2nd Pilot.

15.3.44. Special Operations – Operation BOB 157 (Abortive)
Stirling Mk.III JN-U

16.3.44. War Ops – Attack Against Amiens
Stirling Mk.III  BK777 JN-F

18.3.44. Gardening – Mining in the Heligoland Bight
Stirling Mk.III  EH949 JN-R

19.3.44. Gardening – Mining of River Adour
Stirling Mk.III  EH955 JN-K

21.3.44. Gardening – Mining off Le Havre (Aborted)
Stirling Mk.III  EJ108 JN-K
Prop broke on take-off – jettisoned mines and made 3 engined landing.

22.3.44. Gardening – Mining in Kiel Bay
Stirling Mk.III  EH955 JN-K

25.3.44. War Ops – Attack Against Special Target.
Stirling Mk.III  LK378 JN-O
Sgt. Taylor in for Kahler as Flight Engineer.

26.3.44. Administration
The following proceeded for Lancaster conversion to No.£ L.F.S. Feltwell:- NZ415820 F/O H. Murray and crew, NZ42354 F/S Armstrong C. and crew, NZ414591 A/F/L S. Clark and crew, NZ403561 A/S/L J. Climie and crew, 151118 A/F/L D. Warren and crew, NZ422282 F/O R. Herron and crew, NZ401266 A/S/L D. Gibb and crew, AUS413157 P/O A. Humphreys and crew, and NZ421105 Sgt. Scott F. and crew.

1.4.44. Administration
The following crews ceased to be detached to No. 3 L.F.S. Feltwell:- NZ415820 F/O H. Murray and crew, NZ42354 F/S Armstrong C. and crew, NZ414591 A/F/L S. Clark and crew, NZ403561 A/S/L J. Climie and crew, 151118 A/F/L D. Warren and crew, NZ422282 F/O R. Herron and crew, NZ401266 A/S/L D. Gibb and crew, AUS413157 P/O A. Humphreys and crew, and NZ421105 Sgt. Scott F. and crew.

9.4.44. War Ops – Attack Against Villeneuve St. George.
Lancaster Mk.III  ND802 JN-O
Sgt. F. Holt in for Taylor as Flight Engineer.

18.4.44. Gardening – Mining in Kiel Bay
Stirling Mk.III EH955 AA-K
Hyman Kahler returns as Flight Engineer.
Missing – Shot down by a night fighter.

F/O Henry James Murray RNZAF NZ415820.  Pilot.
Buried Gram Churchyard Denmark.

Sgt. John Edward Lithgow McFarland  RAFVR 1503993. Navigator.
PoW No. 4193. PoW Camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft III. Promoted to F/Sgt while a PoW.

F/S Douglas John Hill RNZAF NZ415761. Air Bomber.
Doug Hill had a miraculous escape when his parachute harness, which was cut by a burst of fire from the night fighter, came off. His left foot caught in the harness and he descended hanging by his foot.
PoW No. 3550. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalags Luft VI and 357. Safe UK 6 May 1945.

F/S Gordon James Irwin RNZAF NZ415698. Wireless Operator.
Wounded when attacked by night fighter. PoW camps Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft III. Promoted to W/O while a PoW. Safe UK 14 May 1945.

Sgt. Hyman Chaim Mordecai Kahler RAFVR 1803280. Flight Engineer.
Buried Gram Churchyard Denmark.

Sgt. John Mulligan RCAF R.195834. Mid Upper Gunner.
Buried Gram Churchyard Denmark.

Sgt. Peter Woolam RAFVR 1890807. Rear Gunner.
Buried Gram Churchyard Denmark.

By John’s own observation the decision to volunteer for the Gardening Op to Kiel in a Stirling was seen as a soft and easy extra trip to their tour…..Perhaps this decision can be understood – the crew had suffered 3 aborted Ops in a month and it probably felt to them as if their time at Mepal was never going to end – add to this a 10 day hiatus for conversion to Lancasters at Feltwell and the soles of their feet may well have been getting itchy…….

Based on the events of that night, it would appear that their aircraft was fired on from underneath by a ‘Schräge Musik‘ equipped aircraft. Typically, the aircrew would get no warning of the attack until it was too late – John recalls his navigators desk exploding as the cannon shells hit.

The Rowberry crew – 1944


The Rowberry crew; Geoff Rowberry 2nd from right, Ernie Schober 3rd from left.
Also within the picture, Graham Hadfield, Brian Simmett, Sid Bishop, Arthur Horner & Ray Davies.
image courtesy of Kevin King.

The third post in this triptych, the final players in this story being the Rowberry crew.

Geoffrey Rowberry and his crew arrived from 1651 Conversion Unit on January 3rd 1944. A little like the Mayfield crew arriving with the Roberts crew from 1651, Geoff and the boys arrived along with Harold Bruhn and his crew, who were to be lost  just 6 weeks later on the 24th February on a Gardening Op to Kiel Bay.

6.1.44. Gardening – Mining in the Gironde Estuary
Stirling Mk.III EF137
Geoffrey Rowberry 2nd Pilot with Frank Turner’s crew.

14.1.44. War Ops – Attack Against a Special Target.
Stirling Mk.III EF252
Geoffrey Rowberry 2nd Pilot with Des Horgan’s crew

21.1.44. War Ops – Attack Against a Special Target.
Stirling Mk.III AK378
F/S Geoffrey Rowberry – Pilot.
F/S Graham Stanley Hadfield – Navigator.
Sgt. Brian Simmett – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Sidney Thomas Bishop – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Arthur William Horner – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Raymond David Davies – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Ernest Schober – Rear Gunner.

25.1.44. War Ops – Attack Against a Special Target.
Stirling Mk.III EF137
Same crew

27.1.44. Gardening – Mining in the Heligoland Area.
Stirling Mk.III LJ462
Same crew

30.1.44. Gardening – Mining in the Gironde Estuary.
Stirling Mk.III EF513
Same crew

24.2.44. Gardening –  Mining in Kiel Bay.
Stirling Mk.III BK695
Same crew

25.2.44. Gardening – Mining in Baltic Sea.
Stirling Mk.III BK695
Same crew

3.3.44. Gardening – Mining off Cherbourg
Stirling Mk.III BK695
Ernie Schober replaced by W/O C. Skripsey

4/5.3.44. Special Operations – Operation TRAINER 174, (Aborted owing to heavy cloud in target area).
C. Skripsey R/Gnr again.

7/8.3.44. Special Operations –  Operation WHEELWRIGHT 71
C. Skripsey R/Gnr again.

10/11.3.44. Special Operations – Operation MONGREL.
Ray Davies moves to R/Gnr position and Sgt. William Campbell arrives as MU/Gnr.

13.3.44. Gardening – Mining off St. Nazaire.
Stirling Mk.III LJ462. MISSING.
F/S Geoffrey Warren Rowberry RNZAF NZ414567. Pilot.
Commemorated on Panel 263 Runnymede Memorial.

F/S Graham Stanley Hadfield RNZAF NZ426239. Navigator.
Commemorated on Panel 264 Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt. Brian Simmett RAFVR 1392577. Air Bomber.
Commemorated on Panel 237 Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt. Sidney Thomas Bishop RAFVR 1322249. Wireless Operator.
Commemorated on Panel 225, Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt. Arthur William Horner RAFVR 1641609. Flight Engineer.
Commemorated on Panel 231 Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt. Raymond David Davies RAFVR 1317623. Mid Upper Gunner.
Commemorated on Panel 228 Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt. Alfred Newnham RAFVR 1172993. Rear Gunner.
Commemorated on Panel 235 Runnymede Memorial.

Alfred Newnham, Rear Gunner – Burke and Rowberry crew. 1944


Alf Newnham, Rear Gunner with the Burke crew and Rowberry crew. Lost 13th March 1944 whilst on the St.Nazaire Op.
© Kevin King

After the last post about the Burke crew and Margaret’s planned trip to Belgium at the end of this month, it seemed apprporiate to disentangle the individuals in the story – partly to not complicate the post on Margaret’s visit, but also to remember the individuals in the story.

Perhaps by way of fate, Alf Newnham was the Uncle of the Friends of 75(NZ) Squadron Association Chairman, Kevin King.

Kevin has generously passed on this information about Alf.

Alf arrived with the rest of the Burke crew on the 9th November 1943 from 1651 Conversion Unit. The crew had completed 13 Ops, when 2 days after returning from a special Operations Op with W/C Roy Max as Pilot, Alf was sitting on his bed when Alfred Venn, Rear Gunner with Jim Climie’s crew came in and informed him the Rowberry crew were down and a Rear Gunner. F/S Venn, ironically, had volunteered himself, only to then discover his crew had been put on Battle Orders. Saying there was now a ‘trip’ going spare, Alf should get himself down to the Flight Office, fatefully, he did…………

Kevin has spent many hours trying to ascertain the exact circumstances and location of Alfred’s and the rest of the Rowberry crew’s loss. In 1984, he received a letter from John Hannah, Navigator with Des Horgan’s crew, who were also on the St. Nazaire Op.

John Hannah

A letter from John Hannah, Navigator with the Horgan crew, detailing the events of the night of 13th March 1944 and the loss of the Rowberry crew. When Kevin met Des Horgan, 12 years later, he confirmed the story.
© Kevin King

Edgar Burke – Pilot.

Edgar Burke

Edgar Lawrence Burke – Pilot.
© Margaret Still (nee Burke)

I received an email a week or so ago form Margaret, the Secretary of the UK Friends of 75(NZ) Squadron Association, regarding a planned trip at the end of this month to commemorate the loss of her Uncle on the 22nd May 1944 on a raid to Dortmund.

Edgar was one 2 boys and six girls who grew up on the family farm, perhaps for this reason his mother was furious about him joining, he was the youngest of the 8 children, Margaret’s father being the oldest. Apparently Edgar  was very good looking and had a great sense of humour.

The remains of his Lancaster are in the museum in Wigram in Christchurch along with his log book and escape map that the resistance got out of the plane before the Germans came.

Peter Lonke’s uncle was one who swam the canal to see if anyone was alive so that is how Peter became interested in 1979 and dug up the pieces of the aircraft and drove them to London to NZ House and the Air Force flew them back home.

From Margaret herself;
” In 1986 the UK Branch of the Squadron were invited to Lommel where Uncle Edgars; plane went down for an unveiling of a stained glass window in memory of the crew who were killed.  The window is of the 75 NZ Squadron emblem and was attended by dignitaries from NZ House and the RAF.  There would have been over 300 at the service.  It was very moving and when they played the NZ National Anthem I couldn’t stop crying.  This was most probably, the most moving time of my life and one of the times when I couldn’t stop crying. 

I am returning to put a memorial plaque up in the church for Peter Lonke who was responsible for the original commemoration and died in 2011 of cancer.”

The Burke crew arrived at Mepal on the 9th November 1943, form 1651 Conversion Unit.

18.11.43. War Ops – Attack Against Targets at Mannheim.
Stirling Mk.III LJ457
Edgar undertakes a  2nd Pilot flight with  Philip Moseley and his crew.

25.11.43. Gardening – Mining off Cherbourg
Stirling Mk.III LJ462 AA-O
F/S/ Edgar Lawrence Burke – Pilot.
F/O John Wallace Downing – Navigator
Sgt. Frank Albert Page – Air Bomber
Sgt. Alan Stevens Bromley – Wireless Operator
Sgt. Walter Pickering – Flight Engineer
Sgt. James Henry Cooper – Mid Upper Gunner
Sgt. Alfred Newnham – Rear Gunner.


The Burke crew. From left to right: Alf Newnham, Walter Pickering, John Cooper, Edgar Burke, John Downing, Frank Page and Alan Bromley.
image courtesy of Kevin King

29.12.43. Gardening – Mining off the Frisian Islands.
Stirling Mk.III EF454 AA-O

4.1.44. Attack Against a Special target.
Stirling Mk.III BK695 AA-N
Jim Cooper replaced by F/S H.D. Lucas as Mid Upper Gunner.

6.1.44. Mining in the Gironde Estuary.
Stirling MK.III LJ462 AA-O
Jim Cooper returns to the crew as Mid Upper Gunner.

14.1.44. Attack Against a Special Target.
Stirling MK.III LJ462 AA-O

21.1.44. Attack Against a Special Target.
Stirling Mk.III EF137 AA-Y
James Cooper replaced by F/S Tom Peevers as Mid Upper Gunner.

25.1.44.Attack Against a Special Target.
Stirling Mk.III EF507 AA-P
James Cooper returns to the crew as Mid Upper Gunner.

27.1.44. Mining in the Helioland Area.
Stirling MK.III BK695 AA-N

28.1.44. Mining in Kiel Bay.
Stirling Mk.III EF507 AA-P

11.2.44. Mining in the River Adour.
Stirling Mk.III EF507 AA-P

15.2.44.Mining in the River Ardour.
Stirling MK.III EF507 AA-P

2.3.44 Special Operations  – Operation WHEELWRIGHT 72
Wing commander Roy Max is Pilot.
Stirling Mk.III AA-W

11.3.44 Special Operations – Operation  WHEELWRIGHT 66
Wing commander Roy Max is Pilot.
Stirling Mk.III AA-Q

2 days later, Alfred Newnham, Rear Gunner with the Burke crew volunteered to fly Rear Gun with Geoffrey Rowberry’s crew onthe 13th March on a Gardening Op to St. Nazaire. It is postulated that they were caught by a flak boat. All crew were lost.

2.4.44 Administration
The following crews were detached to No. 3.L.F.S Feltwell:-NZ41302 F/L. E. Sachtler and crew, NZ417078 P/O C. McKenzie, and crew, NZ422780 F/S. Gray, A. and crew, NZ416519 F/S. Megson, C. and crew, NZ415427 W/O. Stott F. and crew and NZ417016 P/O. E. Burke and crew.

8.4.44 Administration
The following captains and crews ceased to be detached to No. 3.L.F.S Feltwell:-NZ41302 F/L. E. Sachtler, NZ417078 P/O C. McKenzie, NZ422780 F/S. Gray, A., NZ416519 F/S. Megson, C., NZ415427 W/O. Stott F. and NZ417016 P/O. E. Burke.

24.4.44. War Ops – Attack Against Karlsruhe.
Lancaster Mk.III ND802 JN-D
Alf Newnham’s vacated Rear Gunn is taken by Sgt. Don Grant.

27.4.44. War Ops – Attack Against Friedrichshafen.
Lancaster Mk.III ND802 JN-D

9.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Cap Gris Nez.
Lancaster Mk.I ME691 AA-R

10.5.44 War Ops – Attack Against Coutrai.
Lancaster Mk.I ME691 AA-R

19.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Le Mans.
Lancaster Mk.I ME690 AA-Z

21.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Duisburg.
Lancaster Mk.I ME690 AA-Z

22.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Dortmund.
Lancaster Mk.I ME690 AA-Z

F/S/ Edgar Lawrence Burke RNZAF NZ417016. Pilot.
Buried Heverlee War Cemetery, Belgium.

F/O John Wallace Downing RAFVR 136351. Navigator.
Buried Heverlee War Cemetery, Belgium.

Sgt. Frank Albert Page RAAF AUS.409481.  Air Bomber.
Buried Heverlee War Cemetery, Belgium.

Sgt. Alan Stevens Bromley RAFVR 1247614. Wireless Operator.
Buried Heverlee War Cemetery, Belgium.

Sgt. Walter Pickering RAFVR 1434290. Flight Engineer.
Buried Heverlee War Cemetery, Belgium.

Sgt. James Henry Cooper RAFVR 1308375. Mid Upper Gunner.
Buried Heverlee War Cemetery, Belgium.

Sgt. Donald Cameron Kitchener Grant RAFVR 527237. Rear Gunner.
Buried Heverlee War Cemetery, Belgium.

Lancaster I ME690 AA-Z

The crash site of ME690 AA-Z

Kerk Overpelt Fabriek 03d

A piece of metal recovered from the crash site of ME690 AA-Z with the names of the Burke crew inscribed on it, Lommel, Belgium.

Come on Commonwealth War Graves Commission………..

I would be the first to applaud the ongoing work that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission continues to carry out to ensure the memories of the lost and fallen live on in the minds of surviving generations…………however……….

Whist looking through the CWGC website for a middle initial for Kenneth H. Albiston, I was first interested to see the option to view a certificate for Ken, only to be rather disappointed to see his Squadron as ’75 Squadron’ – the same was true for Bill Warlow, lost with another 5 of the McCartin crew in 1944.

Luckily they have a contact page……….

Having performed a search for 2 individuals that flew in my fathers Squadron I see that they were both listed on the ‘certificates’ as flying with ’75 Squadron’ – this is factually incorrect, the correct title of the Squadron was;

75(NZ) Squadron RAF.

75(NZ) was the ONLY commonwealth squadron to carry the commonwealth country of origin in its name and its omission unfortunately I feel does a massive disservice to the New Zealanders who formed and flew in the Squadron – and I say that as the son of a Scot who flew in the Squadron.

I have a blog if you interested;

This error really needs to be changed as quickly as possible – I don’t know if this is a fundamental error with all such similar references or localised to a smaller number, however, 1135 airman were lost in 75(NZ) Squadron………

Many thanks for your attention

Simon Sommervile
Son of F/Lt. Robert Douglas ‘Jock’ Sommerville DFC, 75(NZ) Squadron RAF (2 tours)

Now, the person that finds this email on Monday morning, will, I hope jump into action and mobilise the various arms of the CWGC to correct this……..if that individual sighs, rolls their eyes and thinks I am being a picky bugger ………………….too…..sodding………bad……….

Thomas Darbyshire, Mid Upper Gunner/ Rear Gunner – Mayfield crew 1943

Uncle Tom flying gear

© Paul Shacklady

Many thanks to Paul for passing on this fantastic picture of Tom Darbyshire, Dad’s Mid Upper/ Rear Gunner during his first tour with the Squadron in 1943. Paul received the picture from his Aunt, one of 2 surviving sisters of Toms. Date and location of the photograph are unknown.

In the email with this picture was an interesting question from Paul. He wondered if there was any reason why Tom swapped with John, the crew’s original Rear Gunner half war through their tour. I personally have no idea why they decided to  – maybe superstition, perhaps a gentleman’s agreement. Certainly I think the rear gun turret was considered the coldest, loneliest and most dangerous place in a Stirling – and you probably wouldn’t want to spend any longer in the position than you had to……..

Funnily enough Pauls question also jogged my memory that I had realised on receiving Tom’s logbook that the ORB’s were incorrect – consistently recording John Hulena as the Rear Gunner.

Having spent some recent weeks beginning to convert the 1943 ORB to a database, it has struck me what an appalling inaccurate document it is – Toms logbook shows another mistake – I wonder how many there are that we will never know……..

Another clip from East Kirkby

Rather annoyingly my planned clip of the Merlins being started up on my recent visit to see ‘Just Jane’ at East Kirkby wasn’t so good on listening to it – I thought, or rather I remembered being able to hear each Merlin add to the symphony on start up – sadly the camera I was using to record it, didn’t……..

Not to disappoint I remembered I had shot some video when I went to See Doug Williamson when he visited with other ex RAF bomber aircrew last September to take a taxi ride. The weather was bloody awful for the run, but I took this video of Jane and the boys taxing back to the hanger after the run – and as always, the Merlin’s didn’t disappoint!

Bob Jay’s War – some updates.


Just got a mail from Vic, letting me know he has just put up some more information about his fathers crew on his blog.

He has added some information about the Milsom crew regarding the movement of Lance Waugh to Bob’s crew (re my last post) and also added information about the closing stages of the war from the perspective of the Squadron.

Vic also tells me that he and his wife visited Scartho Road cemetery in Grimsby recently, on the 39th anniversary of Bob’s passing and payed their respects to Alex and David, 2 New Zealanders from the Squadron who now rest there, so many miles away from home.

Read Vic’s blog here

Read an earlier post of mine about David Nola and Alec Coutts here.


Milsom crew – 1945

Many thanks to Keith, son of Gilbert Randal Springer, Wireless Operator in the Milsom crew for not only passing on the wonderful ‘A’ Flight group photograph, but for also supplying some photographs taken by Randal of the boys from his crew. Apparently Gilbert was named after uncle who was killed in 1916, in France when only 19. Despite this, he was always known as Randal

Perhaps the Misom crew were lucky to arrive at the beginning of March. Whist exposed to the still present dangers of flying War Ops, the war came, relatively quickly to an end after 7 Ops and they spent their remaining time at Mepal participating in Operation Manna and also repatriation of Prisoners of War from Juvincourt.

The Milsom crew were;
F/O Robert Sinclair Milsom RNZAF NZ429356 – Pilot.
F/S Rex Baxter RNZAF NZ432738 – Navigator
F/O Lancelot Osgood Waugh RNZAF NZ429021 – Air Bomber
F/S Gilbert Randal Springer RNZAF NZ4213129 – Wireless Operator
Sgt. William ‘Bill’ Smith RAFVR – Flight Engineer
F/O John Alexander ‘Rex’ Williamson RNZAF NZ4210049 – Mid Upper Gunner
F/O John ‘Ted’ Smith RNZAF NZ428291 – Rear Gunner

Crew Op history;
Administration 6.3.45
P/O Misom R.S. and crew arrived on posting from No. 72 Base.

7/8.3.45 War Ops – Attack against Dessau.
Lancaster Mk.I RA541 AA-J
Bob Milsom 2nd Pilot with Laurence McKenna’s crew.

17.3.45 War Ops – Attack Against Auguste Viktoria.
Lancaster Mk.III PB418 AA-C
Bomb Load 1×4,000 H.C., 14x500ANM.,
Primary Targey – Auguste Viktoria
Formation seemed pretty well together.

20.3.45 War Ops – Hamm Marshalling Yards
Lancaster Mk.I HK573 AA-H
Bomb Load 6×1,000 ANM., 1×350 Munro
Primary Target – Hamm M/Yard
Nothing to report.

9/10.4.45 War Ops – Attack on Kiel
Lancaster Mk.I RF190 AA-F
Bomb Load 1×4000 HCN, 12×500 ANM,
Primary Target – Kiel.
Well concentrated and some good fires starting. Should be successful if TI’s were right.

14/15.4.45 War Ops – Attack on Potsdam
Lancaster Mk.I RF190 AA-F
Bomb load 1x4000HC, 5×500 ANM, 1×350 Munro:
Primary target – Potsdam
Bombed easterly red TI. Very good prang on A/P. Explosions and fires with large glow as returning.

20.4.45 War Ops – Attack on Regensburg.
Lancaster Mk. I HK573 AA-H
Bomb Load 4×1000 ANM, 7×500 ANM.
Primary Target Regensburg
Numerous explosions N of A/P and few S of A/P. Fair prang. Good line of bombing but considered A/P slightly overshot.

24.4.45 War Ops – Attack on Bad Oldsloe
Lancaster Mk. I RA510 AA-E
Bomb load 11×500 ANm, 4×1000 ANM, 1×350 Munro.
Primary target Bad Oldsloe
Considerable smoke and fire near the railway line. GH Leader went u/s so crossed over the target area and came in second time to bomb visually following the railway line.

30.4.45 – Supply Dropping Rotterdam
Lancaster Mk.I RF190 AA-F
Supplies carried – 5 Packs.
Very good concentration of bags. House seen on fire to starboard of field where TI also seen. Crowds running in to collect food. 1 Pack hung up.

2.5.45 – Supply Dropping at Delft.
Lancaster Mk.I RF190 AA-F
SuppliesCarried – 5 Packs.
Saw white cross, red TI and bags. Crowds were waving as usual. All packs were dropped.
As with all other a/c on this flight, the crews flew without their Mid Upper Gunner.

11.5.45 – Repatriation of Prisoners of War at Juvincourt.
Lancaster Mk.I RF190 AA-F
Number of men carried – 24.
Starboard outer engine U/S at Tangmere. Delayed return.

14.5.45 Evacuation of Prisoners of War from Juvincourt.
Lancaster Mk. I NN747 ??-D
Number of men carried – 24

Interestingly, the Milsom crew arrived at Mepal on the same day as the Mallon crew (Bob Jay), whether by chance or planning, at the end of the war campaign, the majority of the Milsom crew volunteered for ‘Tiger Force’, except for Lance Waugh, the Air Bomber. As a consequence, he went to the Mallon/Butler crew.

As I have already mentioned, Keith notes that Randal was quite a keen photographer and perhaps sneaked a camera on board now and then – certainly, it would seem that by this point, either the rules were a little more relaxed, or the aircrew were simply adept at hiding and being prepared to take pictures – certainly, cameras were still  banned from the airfield.

Steamer point Aden

Steamer point, Aden.
© Keith Springer

view from Steamer Aden

‘View from the Steamer…..’, Aden.
© Keith Springer

The 2 photographs above were taken on Randal’s return boat trip from the UK and were taken in Aden, one assumes a stopping off point for the ships on their long journey to the New Zealand.

the 2 Smiths by AA-F

The 2 Smiths stood under AA-F.
© Keith Springer

Bill  Smith, Flight Engineer on the left and Ted Smith, Rear Gunner, stood by the starboard undercarriage of what we might assume to be RF190 AA-F, their regular aircraft.

Ted Smith in rear turret

Ted Smith, Rear Gunner with the Milsom crew.
© Keith Springer

Ted Smith sat in his ‘Office’……

Bill smith at the controls

Flight Engineer, Bill Smith sat at the controls, one assumes of RF190 AA-F
© Keith Springer

….and Bill Smith having a go in the ‘Bosses’ seat……..

AA-F Mepal 1945

RF190 AA-F, the Milsom crew’s ‘regular’ aircraft.
© Keith Springer

And finally, a photograph just titled ‘AA-F’, which based on the ORB information identifies the aircraft as RF190, sat on Mepal airfield, sometime between March and June 1945.

A clip from my visit to East Kirkby – Jane getting revved up…….

Perhaps one for the aficionados…..a 2 minute clip of the view from the Air Bombers compartment of ‘Just Jane’ revving up to full power before releasing for a simulated take-off start. My advice is turn the volume right up – if you can then shout and not hear yourself in your own head – that’s how loud it was. Shut your eyes for a bit and imagine the noise, only air borne – and being part of it for 6 hours at a time and finally open them and feel the bumps and jolts as the brakes are released and you accelerate to take off on your mission for today……

It seems to take a while from uploading to being able to find the clips on YouTube to put in WordPress – I’ll see if I can put another up, of the Merlins starting up at the start of the taxi ride.

Request for information – ‘The Lancasters of Mepal’ – by Ken Moore

I have been contacted by Kevin, on behalf of Margaret, Secretary of the UK 75(NZ) Association with a request for the words of ‘The Lancasters of Mepal’, written by Ken Moore and apparently, sung to the tune of ‘ Lillie Marleen’……….

If you know the words, please contact me – Margaret has a special surprise planned for the winter reunion of the Association.


‘A’ Flight group photograph, March 1945 in front of PB820 JN-V

photo3-0001 cropped

Many many thanks to Keith for passing on this, it would seem, very elusive ‘A’ Flight group photograph – the set is now complete. Keith’s Father was Wireless Operator with Bob Milsoms crew and interestingly, his notes from the period suggest perhaps another identity for the aircraft in the picture……..

Randal suggests that the aircraft in the picture might be PB132 AA-X – his notes about the sortie to Potsdam on 14th April 1945 (he flew in RF190 ‘F’), mentions that one of the aircraft had the flight engineer killed by cannon fire from a night fighter that night (Sgt. Alan Sliman in PB132 ‘X’), and goes on to note that ‘this was the same aircraft in front of which the squadron photo was taken only a couple of days later’.

This is a fascinating extra piece of information that has been thrown ‘into the mix’ as it were – granted, it seems to contradict the information we have so far suggesting that the aircraft in the photograph was PB820 JN-V, but if nothing else, I am sure it will spark a further discussion that may let us get to the bottom of the aircraft in the pictures………..