The McCaskill crew – more information

MCCASKILL groupe

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

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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.

McCaskill_19430317-0328

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
BOMBER COMMAND
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 – info@airforcemuseum.co.nz

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.

3 thoughts on “The McCaskill crew – more information

    1. James William Elwell

      Error on above info. Bertram Thomas Elwell was my fathers cousin. Bertram Thomas Elwell’s sister Gladys May Elwell gave birth to Bertram Elwell in 1916 at i presume family home 57 Norfolk Road, Erdington Birmingham.

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  1. Guy LAPAILLE

    Hello Mister Ellwell,
    I would be really happy to be able to keep in touch with you. We indeed wish to associate families with the results of the researches but also with the organization of the commemorative ceremony which is officially fixed now on May 8th, 2015.

    I think that I am going to have to get organized in a more pragmatic way. I am thus occupied with studying the hosting on an external server of all the documents, the photos, the videos, the practical informations…

    I would communicate then the Web link to the people concerned with all the precautions of security which are imperative. Of it way, each of you could consult at their convenience pages regularly updated
    You can contact me by e-mail at the following address:
    guy.lapaille@skynet.be
    I can so communicate you all the collected information concerning the McCaskill crew

    Thanks and best regards

    Guy

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