Monthly Archives: December 2013

James Colin Burch RAFVR 1434570/ 175383 – Air Bomber. 1943 – logbook

Burch 019

Many thanks again to the family of Colin Burch for not only giving me a copy of his memoirs, but also an opportunity to scan, what in truth, is just one of several log books that he completed during his career in the RAF. Not surprisingly, this logbook covers Colin’s initial training up to and including his time with 75(NZ) Squadron.

View Colin Burch’s logbook here

James Colin Burch, Air Bomber – Young crew

Many thanks to the family of James Colin Burch for passing on an astonishing autobiography of, (as he was known to everyone), Colin’s time in the RAF. Flying a full tour with 75(NZ) Squadron between 1943 and 1944. Colin then continued to serve an impressive and diverse career in the RAF post war, including Strategic Nuclear Missile Command.

Colin’s training follows an identical one to my father it would seem. Not only did they both enrol as Pilots, they both ended up as Air Bombers and there might be something in Colin’s recollection of his change in trades that might be true for Bob as well. Also, they both passed through No.11 OTU and 1651 HCU before arriving at Mepal, in Colin’s case, on the 27th of October – my Father and his crew  arriving 4 months earlier. Perhaps given this similarity, its perhaps not surprising, although perhaps it is, that Colin’s  Pilot, Arthur Young’s single 2nd Dickie Op, prior to taking his own crew on Ops was in fact with my Fathers crew on the 19th of November 1943 to Leverkusen.

The Young crew arrived at Mepal on the 27th  of October 1943, from 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit at Waterbeach.

‘Our crew was posted to No.75 (New Zealand) Squadron for operational duties in Bomber Command and were a little apprehensive at this Squadron‘s reputation for sustaining high losses – born out at the end of the WW2 having sustained the 2nd highest losses in Bomber Command.

It was based at RAF Mepal, near Ely, the name of a small local village, and although closer to the village of Sutton it could not be so named as there may have been some confusion with RAF Full Sutton in Yorkshire. The Squadron comprised of pilots of the RNZAF with one from the RAAF and one from the RAF. Other crew members, i.e. Gunners. Flight Engineers and Radio Operators were mainly RAF.’

Arthur completed a single  2nd Pilot Op with my father’s crew (AJ Mayfield) on the 19th November to Leverkusen.

‘On our first day with 75 (NZ) Sqn, the Squadron Commander, Wg Cdr Roy Max RNZAF, placed our crew on the Battle Order for that nights operation; mine laying in the Baltic Sea. At the eleventh hour we were pulled out by the Station Commander, Gp Cpt Wass , who wished us to carry out some simulated operations over the UK. code named Bullseye. before being committed to the main force. All the Squadron aircraft assigned to that minelaying operation were lost, so we considered ourselves very fortunate. Our crew was allocated the Stirling bomber JN ‘X‘ for X-ray in ‘C‘ Flight with the logo, ‘ Excuse please Mr, I go, I come back’, a catch phrase taken from the radio show, Tommy Handley’s ‘lTMA’.’

25.11.43. Gardening – Mining in the Frisian Islands
Stirling Mk.III EF507 JN-P
F/S Arthur Russell ‘Russ’ Young RNZAF NZ421133 – Pilot.
F/S Douglas Dean McDonald RAAF AUS.422632 – Navigator.
Sgt. James Colin Burch RAFVR 1434570/ 175383 – Air Bomber.
F/S Ronald Charles Axten RNZAF NZ404589 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Frederick ‘Fred’ Holt  RAFVR 1590363 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. M. ‘Mel’ Sumner RAFVR 1685755 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. R. ‘Jimmy’ Burrows RAFVR 1388459 – Rear Gunner .

‘My first operation was a mine laying sortie off the heavily defended Friesian Islands on 24th  November,1943 which was quite uneventful. This was quickly followed with minelaying operations in La Rochelle harbour, the bombing of the V1 rocket launch-sites in the Pas De Callaise area, mine laying in Kiel Bay, where the Royal Navy intelligence Officer hoped the new type magnetic mines we dropped would prevent the Germans from sailing any craft with even one nail in it. When mining Cherbourg harbour the aircraft immediately ahead of us exploded just prior to the release of the mines’.

30.11.43. Gardening – Mining in the Baltic Sea
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
F/Sgt. D. Baverstock replaces Sgt. M. Sumner as Mid Upper Gunner.

30.12.43. Gardening – Mining between Le Havre and Cherbourg
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Sgt. Sumner returns as Mid Upper Gunner.

4.1.44. Attack against a Special Target (V1 flying-bomb sites at Pas de Calais and at Bristillerie near Cherbourg)
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Sgt. J. Wainwright joins crew as 2nd Pilot.
This seems like a very small Op total to date to have a new Pilot/ 2nd Pilot fly with the crew – excruciatingly, there seems to be little known of Sgt. Wainwright – not even a Christian name being recorded.

21.1.44. Attack against a Special Target (V1 flying-bomb sites at various locations)
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Same crew

28.1.44. Gardening – Mining in the Kiel Bay
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Same crew

3.2.44. Gardening – Mining off Cherbourg
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Same crew

11.2.44. Gardening – Mining off Mouth of River Ardour
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Same crew

15.2.44. Gardening – Mining in the Mouth of River Ardour
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Same crew

‘The mining of the River Adour near Bayonne in SW France had to be done twice in four nights as this very first attempt at mine laying from high level – around 6000 ft. was considered a partial failure –  one crew dropped their mines in the wrong river. The second attempt was a complete success.’

19.2.44. Gardening – Mining in Kiel Bay
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Same crew

‘Stirling bombers in early 1944 suffered unacceptable losses and were gradually withdrawn from the main stream operations being carried out by the Lancasters which from time to time had a nasty habit of dropping their loads onto the lower flying Stirlings. In March 1944, and still flying Stirlings we were switched to carrying out some covert low flying operations supplying the French resistance movement – The Maquis. These were very hazardous having to fly at around 5000 feet relying on Dead Reckoning navigation and map reading, and having to descend to around 200-300 feet over the DZs. On receiving a prearranged flashlight coded signal and acknowledging it, we dropped the supplies alongside a quickly prepared bonfire and then made a hasty retreat before the Germans were able to locate and reach the dropping zone. The enemy would obviously be alerted to the presence of our aircraft during the time we were circling the area allowing the Maquis to prepare to receive the consignment and light the fire. Many crews were lost on these missions, one being a 75(NZ) Sqn. crew which on several occasions had failed to locate the DZ and vowed before their final attempt that they would succeed or bust; they were lost. This crew was piloted by Sqn Ldr Watson and it was many years later I learned that the only survivor was the mid-upper gunner, Colin Armstrong.’

2.3.44. Special Operations – March Moon Period TRAINER 115b (SUCCESSFUL) Bordeaux?
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN X
Same crew

4.3.44. Special Operations – March Moon Period TRAINER 129 (SUCCESSFUL) Clermontfear
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Same crew

5.3.44. Special Operations – March Moon Period TRAINER 149 (SUCCESSFUL) Lemoges
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Same crew

The following 2 Special Operations Ops are not recorded in Colin’s Logbook – I do not have an instant explanation for this – there does appear to be an administrative difference regarding the recording of these ‘Special Operations’ in the Squadron ORB’s, being individually recorded as a distinct chronological list in Form 540. Whilst these Ops are mentioned in Form 541, there is a handwritten note at the end of that months Form 541 which suggests additional information was sent from the Squadron directly to the Air Ministry – this might have contained more detailed information regarding the destinations of these aircraft. It might be that the secrecy of these operations were not, or perhaps latterly were not recorded in the crew logbooks – hence explaining the absence of these 2 OPs in Colin’s logbook.

10.3.44. Special Operations – March Moon Period MONGREL 6 (SUCCESSFUL)
Stirling Mk.III (assume LK384) JN-X
Same crew

‘For my last operation on Stirlings I was briefed for another supply dropping mission whilst complaining of severe earache. At this juncture there was no way l could pull out as it could have been misconstrude as LMF, but by the time we returned to base the earache was so severe that l was quickly transferred to the military hospital in Ely. Concern for my possible permanent loss of hearing led the ENT Specialist to severely chastise me not reporting my earache before getting airborne He could not appreciate my predicament of being unable to tell my Sqn OC that I had earache when l had already been detailed to fly – earache is not ‘visible‘ and the wrong conclusion could easily have be drawn.’

15.3.44. Special Operations – March Moon Period TOM 46 (ABORTIVE)
Stirling Unknown identity
P/O Tom Bradley (RAAF) replaces Colin as Air Bomber

‘On my return to the Squadron after discharge from hospital l discovered that we were to fly Lancasters, and that our Flight, ‘C’ Flight, was the first to be converted. The new aircraft was equipped with the latest radar, H2S, which together with the Gee made navigation a lot easier. We chose the same aircraft call-sign letter, ‘X’, which seemed appropriate as it had served us admirably on the Stirling, the ‘C‘ Flight prefix letters JN remaining the same, A and B Flights prefix being ‘AA’ My role now became radar operator! navigator! Bomb Aimer and part time 2nd  pilot which was more in keeping with my training. I now felt more productive, and as crew members were encouraged to familiarise themselves with other crew duties l was able to fly the aircraft on many occasions thus allowing the pilot to participate in duties other than being the ‘driver airframe’. This proved to be extremely valuable when one squadron pilot was so badly wounded during an operation over Nantes and unable to fly the aircraft, the bomb aimer was able to take control and fly it back to base and land safely, thus saving the pilots life as well as a very valuable aircraft.’

24.4.44. War Ops – Attack Against Karlsruhe
Lancaster I LL888 JN-X
Colin Burch returns to crew as Air Bomber

26.4.44. War Ops – Attack Against Essen
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

‘The H2S proved its worth on a bombing mission to Friedrichshaven, the farthest target we had to reach, and after a considerable period of flying on the return journey without any real pinpoint I managed to identify Paris on the radar screen. We were well off our intended track, and away from the main stream which made us extremely vulnerable to attack. by radar controlled enemy fighters. ‘Fishpond‘ radar, designed to give warning of enemy night fighter attacks, sometimes had a detrimental effect for if the main stream bombers identified an approaching aircraft and suspected it to be a night fighter and took evasive action, other bombers were quite likely to assume that such an aircraft coming toward them was the enemy. This had a domino effect and l suspect many bombers collided, we will never know.’

27.4.44. War Ops – Attack Against Friedrichshafen
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

1.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Chambly
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

9.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Cap Gris Nez
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

19.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Le Mans
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

21.05.44. War Ops – Attack Against Duisberg
Lancaster MK.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

22.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Dortmund
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

24.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Aachen
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

There is another instance where the Ops recorded by Colin do not tally with the Form 540 records. Colin’s logbook does not list the following 2 Ops, to Aachen and Angers, however the Young crew and JN-X are listed as flying on both Ops…….

27.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Aachen
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

28.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Angers
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

31.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Trappes
Lancaster Mk.I LL888
Same crew

We now operated with the main bomber force carrying out bombing missions to Karlsruhe. Essen. Friedrichshaven, and the Normandy beachhead at Ouistraham just prior to the landing of the invasion forces on 6″‘ June. On returning from this raid we were surprised by a formation fighter aircraft which we initially took to be Messerscmitts and were greatly relieved when they were identified as RAF Spitfires. We also witnessed the shooting down of a Lancaster by the naval escort to the invasion fleet when flying well below the pre-briefed height for which we were strongly warned not to do on pain of being fired upon by our own side. The sight of so many vessels at sea was awe inspiring and presented a very unique spectacle, especially on the H25 screen where the sea was hardly distinguishable from the solid mass of shipping.’

5.6.44. War Ops – Attack Against Ouistreham
Lancaster Mk.III ND904 JN-P
Same crew

‘Other targets we bombed following on from the invasion of Normandy were Lisiuex. Fougers. Dreux and Nantes all carried out without much opposition from either the Luftwaffer or ground defences. The total casualties on 75(NZ) Sqn were very high and are reflected in the book about the Squadrons‘ History, ‘Forever Strong‘, by Norman Franks.’

6.6.44. War Ops – Attack Against Lisieux
Lancaster Mk.III ND904 JN-P
Same crew

8.6.44. War Ops – Attack Against Fougreres
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

10.6.44. War Ops – Attack Against Dreux
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same Crew

11.6.44. War Ops – Attack Against Nantes
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same Crew

Read Colin’s memoirs here – they cover his teenage years prior to enlistment, his training and his Operational flying with 75(NZ) Squadron.

More information on the McCaskill crew – Reginald Green

Reginald GREEN en équipement de volcorrected

Sgt. Reginald Green NZ415378, Wireless Operator with the McCaskill crew

Promotion de Reginald GREEN Identificationcorrected

Training group photograph – date and location unknown. The picture contains Donald McCaskill and Reginald Green (both labelled), so I think this image must also contain the rest of the crew – if at 11 OTU, minus a gunner and Flight Engineer, though if taken at 1657 HCU, then the entire crew might be present.
Guy and the relatives of the boys are interested to get a definitive place and date for the photograph and are also keen to identify anybody else in the photograph.

Many thanks to Guy for passing onto me these extra 2 images of Reginald Green, Wireless Operator with 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 been 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 could be discovered about the crew would add to the story of the McCaskill boys within these commemorations.

As I note in the caption to the large group photograph – there is a high probability that the other members of the McCaskill crew are in this photograph – as always viewers, if you see anybody you recognise, please contact me and I will pass your information onto Guy.

Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year

I’d just like to extend warm wishes for the festive season to all the visitors to the blog. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everybody for their support and contributions to the site. I regularly say it, but without your support and generosity, I’d have very little to say or show.

Many thanks in particular to Ian and Chris for their continuing efforts of research and support to the blog and to Kevin for his knowledge and patience for all of my questions and queries.

Have a wonderful holiday and  we’ll carry on this amazing journey in the New Year.

All the best to all of you

Ake Ake Kia Kaha


‘Maximum Effort’ – The Witting Crew

Many thanks to Adrian for passing on a links for the full version of the film ‘Maximum Effort’, from Youtube in 2 parts.

‘Maximum Effort’ was one of many propaganda films shot during the war that focused on the efforts of Bomber Command, however it’s the only one to feature 75(NZ) Squadron – and we should count ourselves fortunate that finally in the summer of 1944 the cameraman’s lens turned to Mepal – many Squadrons were never recorded for posterity in this manner.

Perhaps with all pieces such as this there is very staged feel to this film and in fact, when the film crew arrived at Mepal and decided to base the film around Eric Witting’s crew it was started in ignorance of the fact that they would leave Mepal before the film was fully finished – ironically, but perhaps lucky for us who have an interest in the Squadron, final filming was undertaken using John Aitken’s  crew and is mentioned in Ron Mayhill’s book ‘Bombs on Target’.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the nature of the film regarding its purposes of propaganda and particularly in the case of this film, taking the stories of the crews of Bomber Command and especially those of New Zealand all the way home, the film begins with the introduction of an ‘ordinary’ crew from 75(NZ) Squadron. The film is narrated by Ted Anderson, the Kiwi Navigator and introduces all the members of ND752 AA-O ‘Oboe’ before a raid to ‘The Ruhr’

The Witting crew were (for the sake of the film);
Eric Francis Witting, DFC, RNZAF NZ415212. Pilot.
William Edwin ‘Ted’ Anderson, DFC, RNZAF NZ416073. Navigator.
Jack Thomas RAF 138463. Air Bomber.
Glen Osmond Marshall RNZAF NZ416011. Wireless Operator.
Reg Gunn RAFVR 1583849. Flight Engineer.
William Bryce ‘Jerry’ Campbell RCAF R.176432 J. /86746. Mid Upper Gunner.
Joseph William Collins RNZAF NZ424969. Rear Gunner.

I am not sure of the specific dates that the film was shot over. In ‘Bombs on Target’, Ron records the following regarding the end of filming;
‘Leave went far too quickly, yet it was great to be back on 75 Squadron again with the smell and noise of aircraft, and the unique comradeship and excitement of station life. Hank Burtt a gen man with over 20 Ops, was away on leave. This gave our crew the chance to fly his O-Oboe and do the final sequences for the final sequences for the film crew which had been on and off station for some time making Maximum Effort, and for propaganda pieces, We Fly Together, two movies for home consumption. Eric Witting had done most of the flying but having finished his tour he had been posted.

We stooged around while they took a few more shots using a dark, red filter to make it look like night. Then we had to do a bombing run into the camera and bank steeply away so they could get a close up of the 33 foot bomb bay. We obliged in style, sweeping away for like a fighter making a strafing pass. The boys ribbed us about doing Errol Flynn stuff, the latter by the way, none too popular since his latest film showing how he and a couple of other Americans had won the Burma war almost single-handed. Flynn wasn’t even in uniform, not like James Stewart who actually flew a tour of missions in a Flying Fortress or Clark Gable who did some trips as a gunner.

All the boys were only too eager to join the fun when they filmed us in full flying kit boisterously  piling out of briefing  and clambering into the transports driven by pretty WAAFS. The boys thought it hilarious as they jostled to scramble up the high tail-board and some wag yelled all aboard before I was up. The truck moved off and I fell off with the camera still working. I wondered if they ever showed that sequence amidst the hoots of laughter…….’

‘Hank’ Burtt, mentioned in Ron’s account was I assume, Henry John Burtt (RNZAF NZ414560). Without scrutinising the ORB at this point, the inference is that Henry and his crew took ND752 over from the Witting crew, after Eric and the boys were posted out after their tour. This suggests a delay in departure for the Witting crew – records suggest that they left on or around the 1st August 1944. Henry Burtt and all but 2 of his crew were lost on the nightmare raid to Homberg on the 21st July, in ND752 AA-O, along with 6 other aircraft from the Squadron.

Prior to Ron Mayhill’s description of their participation in filming he remarks that ‘After 4 weeks on station our crew were entitled to seven days leave’. The Aitken crew arrived at Mepal on the 7th June 1944, giving this leave date as approximately 3rd to 10th July – this would perhaps tally – returning to take part in filming and then the next dated point in his book being the 12th of July when it is noted that Ops had been scrubbed for the second day – suggesting perhaps that the filming a few days before had been the resultant opportunity of the weather being too poor to fly in……….

Thanks to Andy, the son-in-law of Jack Thomas for filling in some of the gaps around this period. The last Op recorded in Jack’s logbook was on the 5th May to Aachen – ‘A wizard prang (!), bags of fighters and new type of flares-13,000 lb’. His last flight with Eric was on the 30th May, described as ‘Formation flying for film sequences, (50 mins)‘. The next flight logged was at No. 12 Operational Training Unit at Edgehill.

The credits for the film are listed at the beginning to ‘Maximum Effort’ as follows;
Story – Arnot Robertson
Photography – A.H. Luff
Sound – Harry Reynolds
Editing – Ralph Kemplen
Musical Arrangement – Ken Hughes
Director – Michael Hankinson

As always, any information anybody has about any individual involved in this film, either directly, or indirectly be very gratefully received!

60,000+ views

Albeit rather belatedly, I would like to take this opportunity, as always, to thank everybody for their continuing support for the blog. It’s been a deeply frustrating month or so for me, the pressures of work preventing me from applying the usual attention to the blog and requests and donations from visitors. Hopefully, with work shut away in a box for a few weeks at least I will be able to pick through my to do list and begin to get a regular series of posts up – fingers crossed.

I’m deeply pleased and flattered that despite only 5 posts (though some good ones I think) this last month, its only taken the last 2 months to add another 10,000 views to this blog – which is utterly amazing!

My personal moans aside, once again, thank you all for keeping the blog alive in my relative absence – its very much appreciated.

all the best


The McCaskill crew – more information


Donald McCaskill, far left middle row during flight training.

Ronald  groupe

Ron Smith, Rear Gunner with the McCaskill crew, far right back row, during training


Record card for BF513

I was contacted by Guy a couple of months ago regarding his research into 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  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 could be discovered about the crew would add to the story of the McCaskill boys within these commemorations.

Guy got back to me a few weeks ago with some more information that he had found with help of Jared at Archives New Zealand. He has also made contact with the sister of Ron Smith and hopes to find some more information from her.

The first interesting thing to note is that originally, Ronald was lasted as Reginald……

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the strange coincidences that seem to regularly occur within this blog, a few days later I was contacted by Russell, cousin of Douglas McCaskill – who, thanks to Russell, we now know actually to be Donald McCaskill. Russell had come across the post and was struck by the information contained within it – he had been bought up on tales that Donald had managed to keep his plane aloft long enough for the crew to bail out – when reading a 75(NZ) Squadron history several years ago was quite stunned to find that the whole crew had in fact perished.

Russell came back very quickly with the pages of Donald’s logbook that covered his stay with the Squadron and ended so tragically on the night 15th April 1943.


He also supplied me with information that he had gathered from Errol Martyn’s excellent published research.

Excerpt from Errol Martyn’s trilogy For Your Tomorrow – A record of New Zealanders who have died while serving with the RNZAF and Allied Air Services since 1915 (Volume Two: Fates 1943-1998):

Wed 14/Thu 15 Apr 1943
Raid on Stuttgart, Germany (by 462 aircraft – 25 lost) . . .
75 (NZ) Squadron, RAF (Newmarket, Suffolk – 3 Group)
Stirling III BF513/E – took off at 2132 and shot down by a night-fighter over Belgium at 0225, crashing near Regniéssart, 27km south of Florennes, where the seven crew are buried.
Captain: NZ413573 Plt Off Donald Gordon McCASKILL, RNZAF – Age 19. 444hrs. 7th op.
Navigator: NZ42295 Plt Off James Kennedy GRAINGER, RNZAF – Age 21. 249hrs. 4th op.
Rear Gunner: NZ415378 Sgt Ronald Alexander SMITH, RNZAF – Age 21. 168hrs. 4th op.

And from Vol Three (Biographies & Appendices):

Pilot Officer Donald Gordon McCaskill
NZ413573; b Wgtn 11 Oct 23; Nelson Coll; student. RNZAF Ohakea as Aircrafthand (AMD) 23 Jun 41, ITW 6 Nov 41, remust as Airman Pilot u/t 11 Nov 41, 2EFTS 20 Dec 41, 3SFTS 7 Feb 42, 1SFTS 8 Mar 42, Pilots Badge [wef 4.4.42] & Sgt 13 Jun 42, att RAF & emb for UK 22 Jun 42, 3PRC 30 Jul 42, 3(P)AFU 18 Aug 42 [att 1519BATF for c.1 wk in Sep], 11OTU (Wellington) 27 Oct 42, 1657HCU (Stirling) 29 Jan 43 [att 90 Sqn (Stirling – 1 op) c.18-25 Feb, att 214 Sqn (Stirling – 1 op) c.26-27 Feb], Comm 21 Feb 43, 75(NZ)Sqn (Stirling – 5 ops) 14 Mar 43, kao 15 Apr 43. Florennes Communal Cemetery – 2.27, Namur, Belgium. Son of Lt Col Gordon Milton McCaskill & Mrs Gwendolyn Lillian McCaskill (née Rogers), Palm Nth. [OHT2 & phot. TWN 7.7.43].

Note: ‘TWN’ refers to the New Zealand publication The Weekly News. There is a small photo of McCaskill featured in its illustrated pages of 7 Jul 43. A scan of the photo can be obtained from the Air Force Museum of New Zealand for a small fee –

Pilot Officer James Kennedy Grainger
NZ42295; b Shannon 1 Jan 22; Napier BHS; clerk – NZ Police, Wgtn. NZ Army/TF (NZ Scottish Regt) 9 mths; RNZAF Levin/ITW as Air Observer u/t 24 Jan 42, emb for Canada 5 Apr 42, att RCAF 30 Apr 42, 5 M Depôt 1 May 42, 1AOS 10 May 42, remust as Air Navigator u/t 7 Jun 42, Air Observers Badge [in lieu Air Navigators Badge] & Sgt 11 Sep 42, 1 Y Depôt 22 Sep 42, att RAF & emb for UK 25 Sep 42, 3PRC 9 Oct 42, 11OTU (Wellington) 28 Oct 42, 1657HCU (Stirling) 31 Jan 43, Comm 21 Feb 43, 75(NZ)Sqn (Stirling – 4 ops) 14 Mar 43, kao 15 Apr 43. Florennes Communal Cemetery – 2. coll. grave 22-26, Namur, Belgium. Son of William Kennedy & Ida Grainger Thomasina (née Main), Napier.

Sergeant Ronald Alexander Smith
NZ415378; b Lauriston 29 Oct 21; Ashburton HS (1st XI/XV); clerical cadet – ‘NZ Govt’, Wgtn. NZ Army/TF 10 mths; RNZAF Levin/ITW as Airman Pilot u/t 30 Sep 41, 1EFTS 8 Nov 41, emb for Canada 8 Jan 42, att RCAF 3 Feb 42, 1 M Depôt 5 Feb 42, 14SFTS 15 Feb 42, pilot trg terminated, KTS, remust as Air Observer u/t 29 May 42, remust as Air Gunner u/t 10 Jun 42, 4BGS 21 Jun 42, Air Gunners Badge & Sgt 14 Aug 42, 34OTU (Ventura) 11 Sep 42 [cancelled?], 1 Y Depôt 15 Sep 42, att RAF & emb for UK 25 Sep 42, 3PRC 9 Oct 42, 11OTU (Wellington) 28 Oct 42, 1657HCU (Stirling) 1 Feb 43, 75(NZ)Sqn (Stirling – 4 ops) 14 Mar 43, kao 15 Apr 43. Florennes Communal Cemetery – 2. coll. grave 22-26, Namur, Belgium. Son of David Watson & Agnes Adelaide Smith (née Doyle), Ashburton.

The crew were buried at 1900hrs on the 16th.

View Donald’s logbook here.

Arthur Williams Photo album – Hubbard crew


‘Hells Angel’ – identity of aircraft unknown – though if this is a 75(NZ) Squadron aircraft, its the first time I have heard of this nose art………….
© Arthur Rhys Williams

I had a very pleasant and unexpected contact from David, with some fantastic photographs from the photo album of his Father-in-Law, Arthur Rhys Williams, who flew with Fred Hubbard. David thinks all of these photographs are from Arthur’s time with 75(NZ) Squadron at Mepal and they contain some images that certainly I and I suspect a fair number of visitors to the blog have never seen before, so this contribution is very exciting.

Information is sparse regarding some of these images – so any solid information, or at least amusing hypothesis would be greatly received as always.


Unknown group, perhaps grouped as trade, believed to be taken at Mepal 1945.
© Arthur Rhys Williams


Clearly a Stirling being bombed up. Interestingly, despite their point of arrival with the Squadron, the Hubbard crews first Op was in BK777 AA-U – Allan Alexander’s old kite, which carried ‘Alexanders Ragtime Crew’ nose art
© Arthur Rhys Williams


Double confirmation from ‘Luck and a Lancaster’ and ‘Bombs on Target’. Taken in ND782 AA-U ‘Uncle’ by Ron Mayhill. Formatting on Mepal lanes on the return from Hamel 14th August 1944. HK574 AA-R ‘Rio Rita’, piloted by Harry Yates. In the foreground, HK562 AA-L ‘Lucy’, piloted by Des Brown.
© Arthur Rhys Williams


A bit of a mystery regarding the exact identity of this Lancaster. Looking at Ian’s database, ND914 ‘swung on landing’ and or either ND782 ‘written off on an air test’ perhaps ??
© Arthur Rhys Williams


PB421 AA-K getting some attention from a number of aircrew. Based on the changing designator letters of the aircraft, the photograph might have been taken early after its arrival in August 1944, through possibly to 2nd February 1945. There is some suggestion this A/C might have initially be lettered ‘U’, so the earliest date for this photograph might be later than August.
© Arthur Rhys Williams

Remarkable colour photographs from Mepal


Profile view of 75 (NZ) Squadron RAF Lancaster AA-M, ND756 with crew members, at RAF Mepal, 1944. Belonged to R.H. Barker, NZ417189.
Image ref. 2006/517.9f.
© Air Force Museum of New Zealand


Armourers loading bombs into a 75 Squadron Lancaster at RAF Mepal, 1944. Image ref. 2006/517.9d.
© Air Force Museum of New Zealand

Occasionally I am glad for committing to social media and particularly Facebook – these images appeared on the Facebook page of the Air Force Museum of New Zealand which can be viewed here. The images, taken from slides, represent 2 of apparently 6 images from the collection owned of Ralph Herbert Barker, Wireless Operator.

Many thanks to Chris as always, for doing an extra bit of digging regarding these images and their owner. Here is what Chris unearthed…..

P/O Ralph Herbert Barker, RNZAF NZ417189. Wireless Operator with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF from 27th August to 9th September 1943, returning to the Squadron 18th December 1943 until 13th August 1944. During this period he flew with the crews of Ian Menzies, Colin McKenzies, BIll Willis, Derek Warren, Tom Buckley, Frank Stott, Cecil Armstrong and Francis Fox.

Arriving as part of Ian Menzies crew in the summer of 1943, he was a survivor of a take-off crash on only their 4th Op. to Boulogne.  Despite obviously surviving this crash, in which his Pilot, Ian Robert Menzies and Flight Engineer, Albert Leslie Mellor, were killed, it was another 3 months before Ralph flew again, this time with Colin McKenzie

Posted back to 75 (NZ) Sqdn in December 43, Ralph Barker only appears once in the ORB’s during January and February 44 (3.2.44, McKenzie crew), so possibly he held some desk-based role at that time.

ND756 arrived on Squadron 13.3.44 (one week after the first Lancaster was delivered to 75), and flew on 75’s very first Lancaster op’ to Villeneuve/St Georges on 9/10.4.44 with Henry Burton’s crew.

Barker does not appear in any crew listings during March, leading up to those first Lancaster op’s, so we can’t tell which (if any) crew he went through Lancaster conversion with.

He then re-appears in the ORB’s on 22nd April, flying with the Willis crew on an op’ to Dusseldorf, and must have been a “fill-in” W/Op during this time, flying with five different crews during April and May, before settling with the Fox crew as of 22nd May.

The Fox crew’s usual a/c was ND911, and disappointingly none of Barker’s op’s was flown in ND756.

Was the photo someone else’s? Or was it taken when the Lancaster’s were brand new to the Squadron, and any one of them a worthy subject?

ND756 was shot down at approximately 2.15am on an Op to Stuttgart on 28/29.7.44, after apparently destroying a JU-88 in combat, crashing 1 km north of the French village of Millery on the Moselle River, 14 km north of Nancy. The crew on board were;

P/O Ian Edward Blance RNZAF NZ421496. Pilot.
Died age 21. Buried Millery Communal Cemetery, France.

F/Sgt Colin Frederick Johnson Greig RNZAF NZ422281. Navigator.
Shot down and wounded, baled out . PoW No. 25136. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft VIII. Safe UK 14 May 1945.

W/O Ronald Howard Spencer RAFVR 1575186. Air Bomber.
Died age 21. Buried Millery Communal Cemetery France.

F/Sgt Frederick Walter Percival Climo RNZAF NZ4210148. Wireless Operator
Died age 22. Buried Millery Communal Cemetery, France.

Sgt. W J Hyde RAFVR 1895228. Flight Engineer.
Shot down and successfully evaded capture. Safe UK NK.

F/Sgt Frederick Francis Arthur Jenkins RNZAF NZ429888. Mid Upper Gunner.
Died age 30. Buried Millery Communal Cemetery, France.

F/Sgt Aubrey Charles Kirk RNZAF NZ425845. Rear Gunner.
Shot down and baled out. Successfully evaded capture and after working with the French Resistance was safe in the UK 2 Sep 1944.

Ralph Barker and the Fox crew flew on that same Op.

Hopefully the Air Force Museum of New Zealand will post the rest of these images of Ralph’s, if they don’t but perhaps see this post, I’ll be happy to put them up!

Perhaps a bit of a false start……

Ok, so perhaps my single post last weekend was a bit of a false start regarding what I thought was going to be a bit of time for blogging. As usual at the moment, I was wrong. The time seems to have gone incredibly quickly over the last few months, working seemingly more hectic than normal for this time of year.

However, now as I am getting to the end of term, it seems a small window has opened up and I will try to catch up as best I can with the backlog that has built up over the last few weeks, over this week and next weekend. As always, thanks for the patience all of you who have sent me information recently are showing, I will get it all up on the blog, it just takes time to sort things and add extra information.


Bob Jay’s war – Baedeker


Another update from Vic regarding his blog about his Father.

This latest post concerns recollections of one of the crew’s post war flights on what has come to be known as a ‘Baedeker’ Op.

If anybody has a definitive explanation for why these trips out over the bombed cities of Germany were given this name I’d be interested to hear from you, though I suspect there a certain tinge of irony in their naming. After the bombing of Lubeck in March 1942, the German leadership, outraged by the attack decided to mount a series of Vergeltungsangriffe, or “retaliatory attacks” on British cities.

As always, many thanks for wikipedia –
The Baedeker raids were conducted by the German Luftwaffe’s Luftflotte 3 in two periods between April and June 1942. They targeted militarily unimportant but picturesque cities in England. The cities were reputedly selected from the German Baedeker Tourist Guide to Britain, meeting the criterion of having been awarded three stars (for their historical significance), hence the English name for the raids. Baron Gustav Braun von Stumm, a German propagandist is reportedto have said on 24 April 1942 following the first attack, “We shall go out and bomb every building in Britain marked with three stars in the Baedeker Guide.”

The cities attacked were:
First period
Exeter (23rd and 24th April, 3rd May)
Bath (25th and 26th April)
Norwich (27th and 29th April)
York (29th April)

Second period, following the bombing of Cologne:
Canterbury (31st May, 2nd June and 6th June)

So as I mentioned, I am not sure whether the use of ‘Baedeker’ was an official or unofficial description for these Ops – certainly looking at the logbooks from the Squadron during this period, Baedeker is mixed with ‘Viewing the Effects of Bombing’, so it might even have been a personal description of individual airman – thinking back I am pretty sure that Baedeker is not used in the Form 540 or 541 of the Squadron’s Operational Record Books. Perhaps this is all slightly further complicated by the fact that Jim Haworth notes in his letters home that initially these Ops were called ‘Cook’s Tours’ and that after the first one the crew flew on ‘Yesterday, Tuesday, we were lucky enough to get our turn on one of the Cook’s Tours or Baedeker trips as they are now called’………..

Read Vic’s  new post on the Baedeker Op of 4th June 1945 here.