Monthly Archives: January 2014

Wynford Vaughan-Thomas recorded for the BBC live from a Lancaster Bomber during a bombing raid over Berlin.

Just found this on the BBC archive………

“Stephen Evans, the BBC’s Berlin correspondent, tells the story of Wynford Vaughan-Thomas’s report recorded aboard a Lancaster Bomber during a raid on Berlin.

In 1943 the RAF contacted the BBC with a dramatic offer: they were willing to send a two-man radio crew on a bombing raid over Berlin. The BBC chose Wynford Vaughan-Thomas for the mission. He accepted, knowing he might never return.

So on the night of 3rd September 1943, Vaughan-Thomas recorded for the BBC live from a Lancaster Bomber during a bombing raid over Berlin.

Wynford Vaughan-Thomas’s experiences as a wartime reporter were remarkable; he was at Belsen and at the Normandy landings, reporting as it happened. The recording over Berlin shows his remarkable courage, literally under fire, and his description of the bombing and the views from the plane are rich indeed.

Vaughan-Thomas went on to become one of post-war Britain’s most prominent media-intellectuals, a regular commentator and journalist, but those hours aboard the plane clearly remained a defining time in his life. Forty years later, interviewed by Parkinson, he called it “the most terrifying eight hours of my life. Berlin burning was like watching somebody throwing jewellery on black velvet – winking rubies, sparkling diamonds all coming up at you.”

Stephen Evans puts Wynford Vaughan-Thomas’s recordings in context. He looks at the experience on the ground in Berlin that night, reflects on the place of the broadcast in journalistic history, and dips into a lifetime of reflections from Vaughan-Thomas on a night which changed his life for ever.

Featuring Karin Finell, Max Hastings, Roger Moorhouse, Harold Panton, Jean Seaton, Dietmar Seuss and David Vaughan-Thomas.”

Listen to the recording here.

Lancaster – a short film

boy

I heard about this through Twitter (so perhaps it does have its uses……)

“125,000 men volunteered to fight for RAF Bomber Command during World War II. 55,573 never returned.

From the dusky English coast to the flak filled night skies of war-torn Europe, ‘Lancaster’ tells the story of a young bomber crew as they fly one final daring night raid over occupied France in the face of insurmountable odds.

The 7 men onboard are jovial and confident as they begin their journey, their fears unchecked, as they near the target the pressure mounts. Enemy spotlights begin searching them out and machine gun fire and shells explode all around them. For Wireless Operator Alfie Barnes the memories of his sweetheart and the vast difference of a world filled with tenderness, love and passion, and one filled with tension, fear and loss make the risk of being shot down all the greater.

‘Lancaster’ explores the human, personal experience of the war that raged in the skies during WWII, the reality of the bravery and fear, the indiscriminate nature of combat and the impact on the individual.

From award-winning director Philip Stevens and award-winning producer Tom Walsh, ‘Lancaster’ is a powerful and moving portrayal of the courage and sacrifices of the men who took to the air in the name of duty during the bombing campaigns of the Second World War.”

Watch ‘Lancaster’ here

Maori aircrew serving with 75 (NZ) Squadron, 1939-45

Many thanks once again to Chris for his contribution of this post. Whilst the blog has presented information about the Maori airmen that flew with 75(NZ) Squadron, specifically to certain crews, I think it’s fitting tribute to them as a group that we should recognise these individuals and their contribution to the Squadron and Bomber Command – as Chris observes, It’s fascinating, and quite ironic that these young boys, often from isolated rural backgrounds, travelled to the other side of the world in Britain’s defence, when it’s quite feasible that their great-grandfathers could have fought against the British in defence of their own lands and political independence………

MUS050651-1600

Photo from The Weekly News,17 March 1943, with caption, “A Maori team at a British air station – R. W. Raharuhi (Takara), M. T. Parata (Waikanae), M. T. T. Manawaiti and E. H. Gray (Otaki).” Thought to have been taken at Mildenhall.
– Photo: The Weekly News, from Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

One of the surprises in my research into my uncle’s time at Mepal, was a number of Maori surnames amongst the crew lists. The WWII exploits of the 28th Maori Battalion (NZ Army) are legendary in New Zealand, but little or nothing has been written about Maori serving in the Air Force. The short film “Maximum Effort”, featured in a recent post here, includes reference to the (Witting) crew’s Wireless Operator, Glen, “a Maori from the North Island”, and Harry Yates’ wonderful book “Luck And A Lancaster” refers to the Yates crew’s Maori Bomb Aimer, ‘Mac’ Maaka. A recent thread on the Wings Over New Zealand forum made for a fascinating discussion on the subject, with several family members joining in to add further detail. The daughter of 75 (NZ) Sqdn Wellington Pilot Roy Raharuhi mentioned the wonderful photo above, and I decided to try and compile a list of names. In the process I have made contact with a couple of these airman’s families, which is a real privilege, and the alphabetical list below might hopefully help encourage others to share more information about these brave individuals. This list is probably incomplete, and any additions would be great to see.

KenDalzell(25)

The Amohanga crew pose in front of Lancaster HK593, JN-X.
Left to right rear: Alf Woolcock, A/B; Ken Dalzell, Navigator; Kiwi Amohanga, Pilot; Jack Richardson, M/U/Gnr.
Front: Steven Fletcher, F/E;, Sandy Strachan, R/Gnr; Max Spooner, W/Op.
New Zealand Bomber Command Assn. archive / Ken Dalzell.

P/O Kiwi Ernest  Amohanga(NZ425492)
Pilot (Lancasters)
c/w Wi Rangiuaia as 2nd Pilot, then captain of own crew.
C Flight.
10 Mar 45 to 5 Jun 45.

Sgt Raymond Cyril Going (NZ414278)
Pilot (Stirlings)
No record of a prior op’ as 2nd Pilot.
13 Feb 43 to KIA 3 Mar 43, age 21. Panel 199, Runnymede Memorial

Ngapuhi.
Appears to have been shot down with all crew lost on their very first Op – Stirling N6123, AA-Q, lost on Operations March 3rd, 1943, shot down by Ofw. Karl Haisch 33 miles North West of Heligoland on mine laying op at 22:26 hours, headed to Dutch Frisian Islands (Nectarines Region):

Sgt. R.C. Going, R.N.Z.A.F. (+)
Sgt E.H. Weaver R.A.F.V.R. (+)
P/O A.M. Bridgman, R.N.Z.A.F. (+)
F/S F.A.W. Willis R.A.F.V.R. (+)
Sgt K.C. Eyre R.A.F.V.R. (+)
Sgt F.B. Stewart, R.A.F.V.R. (+)
Sgt C.S. Burton R.N.Z.A.F. (+)

F/Sgt Edward Henry Gray (NZ412878)
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (Wellingtons, Stirlings),
c/w Ray Broady, Ray Bennett, Jim Way, and Jack Joll.
6 Oct 42 to 25 Oct 43

Gray’s original pilot, Sgt Raymond Herbert John Broady, was killed a month after the crew arrived on Squadron, but before they had flown any op’s, on 28 Nov 42 in a training flight accident at Oakington, during conversion to Stirlings. Short Stirling Mk 1, BF399 , c/s AA-O, of 75 (New Zealand) Squadron (piloted by Sgt RHJ Broady ) took off from RAF Newmarket and crashed at Trinity Hall Farm, Oakington. It is not known why Gray was missing from the crew that day, but his place may have been taken by an OTU staff member who is listed as killed in the crash.
More info on the crash here

Gray went on to fill in with other crews, and then joined up with Ray Bennett’s crew, up until late Feb 43.

In early March 43 he appears to have been posted off to 1651 OTU with Jim Way’s crew, who had arrived on Squadron on 17 Feb, but lost their original Pilot (Sgt Alex Scott) on his 2nd Pilot op’. Gray was promoted from Sgt to F/Sgt 1 March 43. His new Pilot, W/O2 Jim Way died 17 Apr 43, age 26, during a raid on Ludwigshafen, flying as 2nd Pilot with the Debenham crew. Buried Choloy War Cemetery France. The ‘headless’ crew, who by now had each twice experienced losing a Pilot before the crew had flown an op’ together, was “picked up” by S/L Jack Joll  DFC, DFM, the Flight Commander of “A” Flight. Gray went on to complete his tour, flying his last op’ with the Joll crew on 5 Sep 43. Gray was posted to 11 OTU, presumably to a training role, on 25 Oct 43.

See photo at top of post

W/O Tapua ‘Tap’  Heperi(NZ426199)
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (Lancasters)
c/w Doug St.Claire Clement.
27 Nov 44 to 4 Jun 45

Photo and more about Tapua and the Clement crew here

F/O William Laurence Kereama (NZ425585)
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (Lancasters)
c/w Alan Baxter
1 Sep 44 to 24 Jan 45.

rotated and cropped

F/O William Laurence Kereama (NZ425585). Picture supplied by Jacqui Barwell

P/O Inia Whangataua ‘Mac’ Maaka (NZ421741)
Air Bomber (Lancasters)
c/w Harry Yates.
31 Jul 44 to 16 Feb 45.

Ngati Kahungunu and Ngai Tahu
Mac featured in Harry Yates’ book, “Luck And A Lancaster”:

“As he talked, my impressions of him became ever more favourable. No Englishman I’d met was so sincere and guileless about himself. Mac was simply a stranger to the inner tensions and vanities that make liars of the rest of us. He was mightily proud of his people who, I thought, must be formidable opponents in war if they were all like this chap. I began to see in him a military paragon. He had the heart of a lion. I don’t think he was afraid of anything or any man. He had no need to be because he was built like a bunker. I felt that his loyalty would be a rich prize, if one deserved it. He was just the sort of chap one imagines walking steadfastly into the enemy’s fire for the sake of his comrades. Well, the skies over Germany were fiery enough. Mac would be an example to us all.”

Yates-crew-StTrond-op

Photo: Yates crew, Mac Maaka top right. From “Luck And A Lancaster”.

P/O Mikaere Tutahunga Tomika Manawaiti, DFM, (NZ412895)
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (Wellingtons, Stirlings)
c/w Leo Trott
12 Aug 42 to 6 May 43.

Citation DFM (13 May 1943): ‘Sergeant Manawaiti is a keen and reliable wireless operator air gunner who has taken part in many daring operational missions. His skill as a wireless operator has assisted in securing the success on many sorties, while his cheerfulness and courage have done much to maintain the high standard of morale and efficiency which prevails in the squadron.’

See photo at top of post

P/O Glen Osmond Marshall (NZ416011)
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (Stirlings, Lancasters)
c/w Eric Witting.
8 Sep 43 to 10 Jul 44.

Glen was the Wireless Operator in the Eric Witting crew, the crew featured in the May 1944 short film about 75 (NZ) Sqdn, “Maximum Effort”:

GlenMarshall

More here:

W/O Te Rahu Calvin Mataira (NZ43492)
Rear Gunner (Lancasters)
c/w Charlie Wagstaff.
20 Mar 45 to 28 Sep 45.

F/O, Hoturoa Arnel Dean Meyer, DFC, (NZ416968)
Pilot (Lancasters)
12 Jun 44 to 20 Sep 44.

DSC_0239 (2) - Copy

Tai Nicholas (front right) with the Layton crew.
Courtesy New Zealand Bomber Command Association/ © Clive Estcourt.

P/O Ta Tio Tuaine “Tai” NICHOLAS (NZ425658)
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (Lancasters)
Did two tours with the Layton crew.
27 Jul 44 to 15 Sep 44, & 10 Feb 45 to 16 Apr 45, c/w J R Layton

F/Sgt Hoani Paraone (NZ422204)
Air Bomber (Stirlings, Lancasters)
c/w Francis Lundon & Tom Buckley.
7 Aug 43 to 19 Sep 43 & 9 Oct 43 to 10 Jun 44

Paraone’s original Pilot, F/Sgt Francis Patrick Lundon, was lost before the crew even got to fly an op’ together – he was listed ‘Missing’ on his second op’ as 2nd Pilot with the Sedunary crew on 24 Aug 43. Paraone was posted back to 1651 Conversion Unit on 19 September, presumably to re-crew. He was posted back in to 75 (NZ) Sqdn on 9 Oct 43 and flew a tour of op’s as A/B with the Buckley crew.

Sgt Marama Tahu O’Tangi Potiki Te Whaiti Parata (NZ391069)
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (Wellingtons)
c/w Roy Raharuhi.
18 Aug 42 to 10 Nov 42.

See photo at top of post
More about the Raharuhi crew here: http://cambridgeairforce.org.nz/Robert%20Carter.htm

Sgt Roy William Raharuhi (NZ412737)
Pilot (Wellingtons)
c/w Jack Wright as 2nd Pilot, then captain of own crew.
19 Aug 42 to 10 Nov 42

See photo at top of post
More about the Raharuhi crew here: http://cambridgeairforce.org.nz/Robert%20Carter.htm

F/O Wi Rangiuaia (NZ427319)
Pilot (Lancasters).
c/w Ernest Abraham, Mac Baigent as 2nd Pilot, then captain of own crew.
C Flight
15 Jan 45 to 15 Jun 45.
More about the Rangiuaia crew here.

F/O Edward Simon (Haimoana) Snowden  (NZ427817)
Air Bomber (Lancasters)
c/w Hoturoa Meyer.
12 Jun 44 to 20 Sep 44.

Later DFC (27 Mar 45) with 7(PFF) Sqn, Polish Cross, CBE, QSM.

F/S Edward Maxwell “Max” Spooner (NZ428162)
Wireless operator (Lancasters)
c/w Kiwi Amohanga, then later with EF Butler, E L K Meharry, then A G Daly for Tiger Force.
C Flight
10 Mar 45 to 30 Sep 45.

P/O Iwikau Te Matauira Te Aika, DFC (NZ425860)
Rear Gunner (Stirlings, Lancasters)
c/w Des Horgan
18 Sep 43 to 17 Jun 44.

Citation DFC (18 Sep 1944): ‘This officer has completed numerous operations against the enemy, in the course of which he has invariably displayed the utmost fortitude, courage and devotion to duty.’

F/O Richard John Urlich (NZ426229)
Pilot (Lancasters)
c/w Charlie Stevens as 2nd Pilot then captain of own crew.
20 Mar 45 to 15 Jun 45.

P/O Tame Hawaikirangi ‘Tom’ Waerea (NZ421300)
Rear Gunner (Stirlings)
c/w Richard Whitmore
C Flight
20 Aug 43 to KIA 27 Sep 43, age 29, during the crew’s eighth op’, a raid on Hanover. Buried Hanover War Cemetery, Germany.

From the ORB’s, 05/06 September 43:
‘The aircraft (EH877) captained by F/S Whitmore sighted an enemy aircraft 100 yards astern. Both Mid-Upper and Rear air gunners, Sgt’s Chesson and Waerea, opened fire and the enemy aircraft was seen to roll on its back and spin into the ground afire. It was claimed as destroyed. This was followed by another enemy aircraft approaching in an arc from starboard to port astern. Both M/U and Rear gunners again fired and the enemy aircraft broke away. A minute later, a burning Lancaster was seen under attack from an unidentified enemy aircraft. F/S Whitmore’s two gunners opened fire on the German fighter, which then disappeared. The Lancaster was then seen to break up.’

Promoted from F/Sgt to P/O 24 Sep 43.
27/29 September 1943: Stirling Mk III EH877, JN-C, failed to return, all crew except one were killed:

P/O Richard Charles Whitmore, RNZAF. (NZ421123) Pilot (+)
Sgt. John Bosworth Beresford, RAF (1583723), Flight Engineer (+)
F/O David Maurice Adamson, RNZAF. (NZ415052), Navigator (+).
Sgt. Hugh Munn, RAF (1349759), Air Bomber (+).
Sgt. F.C. Cowan, RAF (1387682), Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (PoW No. 250701. PoW camps Dulag Luft, Stalags IVB, Luft III. Promoted to F/Sgt while a PoW. Safe UK.)
Sgt. Frederick John Charles Chesson, RAF (1336122), Mid Upper Gunner (+)
P/O Tame Hawaikirangi, Waerea, RNZAF. (NZ421300), Rear Gunner (+)

Photos and more information:  http://75nzsquadronremembered.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/waerea-tame-hawaikirangi-thomas.jpg

F/Sgt Tamaterangi Wehi (NZ4213962)
Pilot/Flight Engineer (Lancasters)
c/w Laurence McKenna.
16 Jul 45 to 23 Sep 45. Tiger Force.

F/O Vernon John Zinzan (NZ425314)
Pilot (Lancasters).
c/w Wylie Wakelin as 2nd Pilot then captain of own crew.
3 Dec 44 to 10 May 45.

Thought to be All Black Zinzan Brooke’s namesake.
More here and here
Photo (standing at left) here

AKE AKE KIA KAHA

Sources:
Wings Over New Zealand forum (http://rnzaf.proboards.com/thread/17780/maori-aircrew-ww2), Auckland War Memorial Museum – Cenotaph, 75 (NZ) Squadron nominal roll and ORB’s, 28 Maori Battalion (http://www.28maoribattalion.org.nz/photo/messerschmitt-109-shot-maori-rnzaf-pilots), Luck and a Lancaster: Chance and Survival in World War II, by Harry Yates, DFC, 2005, Airlife Classics / The Crowood Press, private correspondence with the Rangiuaia and Waerea families.

Munster Viaduct 21st March, 1945 – The final operational losses for 75(NZ) Squadron

IMG_5223 cropped to munster

The route for the Munster Viaduct Op
courtesy Steve Smith

My previous post about Robert William ‘Boby’ West, Wireless Operator with the Barr crew, one of 3 Lancasters to be lost from 75(NZ) Squadron, on the Munster Viaduct Op of the 21st March 1945, started a bit of a research activity, to try to understand what happened that afternoon.

I must confess, when normally doing a post, I will assemble a starting crew list and then trawl through Form 541 of the Squadron Operational Record Books to assemble a raid history for the crew. Sadly, in many cases, the terminating Op of this list results in the loss of that crew – the word ‘missing‘, instead of a down time is enough of an epitaph for the boys as far as Form 541 is concerned.

In email correspondence with Malcolm, Margaret’s husband, he alluded to a question over the reason for the loss of Boby and his crew mates and it perhaps slightly shames to me to admit that it was only at this point that I actually began to read the notes for this Op – expanding my attention beyond the word ‘missing’

In advance of the rest of this post, I’d like to thank Margaret and Malcolm, Kevin and especially Steve for helping me piece together information that sheds a few more perhaps fractured beams of light on the events of that March afternoon.

I would also like to stress that in no way does the following post look to apportion responsibility for what happened that day – there are too many gaps to be definitive, I have simply tried to gather information and present it in a logical order. Having said this, this is perhaps the most difficult post I have put together, including those dealing with the loss of my father.

Form 541 of 75(NZ) Squadron contains a consistent series of observations regarding the events of that afternoon………

P/O John O’Malley RA510 AA-E – ‘Bombing was upset when bombs from another formation fell through – it appeared as though the leader overshot the tracking pulse.’

S/L Jack Wright EF190 AA-F‘Converging aircraft dropped bombs from above us. Attempted to swing off in effort to avoid bombs.’

F/O Trevor Cox PB418 AA-C – ‘Should have followed JN-Z but as he was weaving considerably it was found better to go ahead and bomb on AA-F, following was very difficult owing to the fact that another squadron was bombing from height up.’

W/O Fred Bader LM276 AA-S‘Impossible to assess owing to bombs falling from above and need for evasive action.’

F/S Tom Good HK561 AA-Y‘Bombed in steep turn when cookie fell 10 feet to port.’

F/L Russ Banks RF129 AA-M‘Leader overshot target and bought Squadron over other Aiming Point where bombs were falling all around aircraft and had to S turn to come over Aiming Point.’

F/O Duncan Stevenson PP663 JN-Z‘G.H. went u/s just before the final run to target. Attempted a visual run on the railway lines east of the viaduct, but bomb aimer had not time to reset the time interval after swerving to avoid bombs from aircraft from another Squadron at about 20,000 ft. ‘

F/O Les Sinclair NG322 JN-F‘Leader lost when formation was broken by bombs falling from above.’

F/O Wi Rangiuaia HK563 JN-W‘Formation broken by falling aircraft and bombs from aircraft above.’

F/L Bill Alexander HK593 JN-X‘Found difficulty in following original leader JN-F as he was constantly weaving and forced out of formation by slip -stream and on final run up so connected with nearest available aircraft JN-D.’

Loss of G-H tracking
G-H was the final development of transmitter based navigation systems used by Bomber Command and it would appear, particularly 3 Group, to guide aircraft to a target and also to set and synchronise the release of bombs over the target. A ‘G-H Leader’ would bomb on a transmitted signal from the UK, with usually another 2 aircraft following in close formation would then release their bomb load at the same time. This process would then be repeated a number of times with the following aircraft and their respective G-H leaders.

RAF Waterbeach Station ORB Records“GH run was short by aircraft off track” 

No.3 Group ORB (Air25/54) – Weather Clear Good Vis. – ‘Although some good results were achieved this attack was a bit of a shambles. GH co-ordinates for the two aiming points were reversed and the main weight of the attack fell on the smaller of the two. Two aircraft were destroyed by flak and one by falling bombs.’

The G-H leaders, so far identified, for 75(NZ) on that Op were;
F/O Sinclair JN-F
F/O Eggleston AA-U
S/Ldr Wright  AA-F (G-H u/s)

Twenty one aircraft took off from Mepal – this would suggest based on 3 G-H leaders, that the aircraft were split into 3 groups of seven – the ‘uneven’ 7th, or 1st, being the G-H leader at the front of each group, the others in the group either flying in line or in a ‘v’, 3 aircraft on either side of the Leader. As noted in the comments by Chris, smaller figures would normally format behind a G-H Leader, so it strongly suggest that within the 21 aircraft, there were other, as yet unidentifed G-H Leaders

Sinclair’s and Egglestone’s comments are perhaps relevant based on this possible ordering;
F/O Les Sinclair NG322 JN-F‘Leader lost when formation was broken by bombs falling from above.’
F/O Val Egglestone PB427 AA-U‘Poor lead in and bombs appeared to fall south of Aiming Point.’

These comments seem to feel like a comment regarding another leading aircraft and by simple elimination, this suggests S/Ldr Wright (simply because at this point he is the only other identified G-H leader), may have been the LEAD, lead aircraft for the Squadron that day. The note that the G-H was u/s (unserviceable) adds a terrifying immanency to the events that were to unfold as the Squadron approached the target……

The note from No.3 Group ORB (Air25/54) –
GH co-ordinates for the two aiming points were reversed and the main weight of the attack fell on the smaller of the two.
perhaps suggests that the overshoot was a result of the G-H coordinates ‘swapping around’, thus causing the overshoot as a result. Though perhaps what is not clear is whether this affected all aircraft in the Op or just those of 75(NZ). Clearly, at the point the error was realised, action had to be taken to try to get the Squadron back on course, relative to the primary aiming point.

F/L Russ Banks RF129 AA-M‘Leader overshot target and bought Squadron over other Aiming Point where bombs were falling all around aircraft and had to S turn to come over Aiming Point.’

No.218 Squadron ORB (No.31 Base) F/Lt. Les Harlow DFC who flew a number of Base Leader operations makes an interesting comment – ‘Formation was fairly compact but stream ahead was well off track and the Base ahead was scattered.’

F/O Arthur ‘Tiny’ Humphries (Navigator NG449 AA-T – Jack Plummer crew)
“On this daylight raid to Munster things went reasonably well until we were almost coming up to the target, flying in formation. But something went wrong with the leading aircraft and we overshot the turning point and flew on for quite some distance. Then we turned onto the target but now on the wrong heading and in fact, under-flew another squadron bombing from above. At that stage the flak was very, very heavy. We didn’t get hit by falling bombs, although there were bombs falling all around us. We were hit by flak, in one engine which went on fire and another engine got hit on the other side.”
(page 156 ‘Forever Strong, The story of 75 Squadron RNZAF 1916-1990. Norman Franks, Random Century)

It would seem that 75(NZ) were due to bomb first – with this final error and desperate need for correction, the delay and advancing Squadrons meant the outcome was almost enevitable………

Bombed from above
No.195 Squadron ORB (No.31 Base) –
‘Some aircraft bombed from below our height at 18,000ft.’

Arthur Robson, Wireless Operator with Alfred Brown’s crew :-
“A bomb or bombs hit the front of the aircraft. One knocked the nose right off, taking (James) Wood with it as he huddled over his bomb sight. ‘The was a massive explosion and the Window the Flight Engineer was throwing out was whirling through the aircraft’. Robson had already seen what he thinks was the third 75 Lancaster going down – ‘the one in which they were all killed – It was all buckled up, hit right in the bloody middle’………..”
(page 494 ‘Night after Night – New Zealanders in Bomber Command, Max Lambert, Harper Collins)

Arthur’s description ‘hit in the bloody middle’ is ambiguous – though if applied to a hit by flak, the likelihood of seeing the aircraft ‘all buckled up’ is dubious – it would have almost certainly exploded if the strike was prior to the dropping of its payload. His description of the subsequent events in his own aircraft make it clear that a bomb strike from above in the center of a Lancaster- even without detonation –  would certainly have resulted in a catastrophic structural failiure.

The ensuing loads on the remaining airframe and the effects on the aircrew tend to suggest little chance of survival. Interestingly, the only body recovered was that of Alwyn Amos, the Rear Gunner. I do not know if he was found within wreckage or clear of wreckage, but it would suggest a pattern evidenced before regarding survivors in the Squadron, where the rear portion became detached and the occupant was able to exit the broken end (Jack Hayden, Roberts crew, Berlin Op – was sent to rear of a/c to check rear gunner after fighter attack. The aircraft then exploded and he fell out of the open end of the fuselage. John Gray, rear gunner with the McCartin crew, Homberg Op. The aircraft exploded and he came round in the detached rear portion of the fuselage).

I will observe before anybody else does that these 2 examples are both the result of explosions not falling bombs, however, I think I am trying to identify a structural failure (probably at the incomplete cross section at the mid upper turret) which might at least allow the back of a bomber, Stirling or Lancaster a separation from a much heavier mass within the rest of the aircraft.

The ensuing forces on the occupants of an aircraft in rapid decent would have made escape impossible. The final impact, if still with a full bomb load would have been utter.

The only losses on the Munster Op were the 3 Lancasters from Mepal.

They were the Squadron’s last operational losses of the war.

Ake Ake Kia Kaha

Robert William ‘Boby’ West, Wireless Operator – Barr crew

Bobby In Flying Gear 6th June 1943 cropped and b&W

Robert Willian ‘Boby’ West, Wireless Operator with the Barr crew. Killed 21st March 1945 on the Munster Viaduct Op.
© Margaret Fox

I had the pleasure of spending time with Margaret and Malcolm Fox at this last Winters 75(NZ) Squadron Reunion. Margaret’s brother was ‘Bobby’ West, Wireless Operator with Derek Barr’s crew, who were all lost n the 21st March 1945 on the Op to the Munster Viaduct.

Bobby @ EvantonNov 1942-1

No.8 AGS RAF Evanton, Rosshire
Bobby during his RAF training, front row far right.
© Margaret Fox

Bobby's letter from EvantonScotland 30th Nov 1942 joined

Dear Mam and Dad
Well I have arrived here at last after a twenty two hour train journey. The first thing they did to us on arriving here was to make each one of us a leading aircraftsman as you will see by the address. We will pass out here on the 23rd of December so I am afraid I shall not be home for Christmas but I should be home for New Year. The pay we get now is 7 shillings per day of course us unmarried men have to pay income tax off that but still I think I will be able to save something from now on. It seems to be a good camp this, the food is great and there is plenty of entertainment to go to every night inside the camp, but still I will let you know as much as I can. Later I will have to be more careful now because all letters coming from North of Inverness are liable to be censored. Well I am very tired after the journey so think I’ll close now and go to bed so for now cherrio.
Love to all
Boby
p.s. There is snow on all the hills around here and oh boy is it chilly. Not arf.
Boby
© Margaret Fox

Bobby's citation  08061944

Bobby’s citation for his Mention in Dispatches. The date shows that he would still have been in training, however the act that resulted in the MiD is not known….
© Margaret Fox

17.1.45. Administration
176130 F/O M. Watson and 1394583 F/S Barr. D.S. and crews arrived on posting from No.31 Base

22.2.45. War Ops – Attack Against Osterfeld
Lancaster Mk.I NG322 JN-F
F/S  Derek Singleton Barr RAFVR 1394583/190947 – Pilot
F/S  Arthur Leslie Archibald Oakey RNZAF NZ4213810 – Navigator
Sgt.  Dryden Stewart RAFVR 1673061 – Air Bomber
W/O  Robert William West, MiD, RAFVR 1077746 /195545 – Wireless Operator
Sgt.  Clifford Isaac Stocker RAFVR 1587275 – Flight Engineer
Sgt.  Bruce Henry Nichol RAFVR 746205 – Mid Upper Gunner
W/O  Alwyn Amos RAFVR 1578224 – Rear Gunner

23.2.45. War Ops – Attack Against Gelsenkirchen
Lancaster Mk.I NG322 JN-F
same crew

26.2.45. War Ops – Attack Against Dortmund
Lancaster Mk.I NG322 JN-F
Same crew

27.2.45. War Ops – Attack Against Gelsenkirchen
Lancaster Mk.I NG322 JN-F
Same crew

1.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Kamen
Lancaster Mk.I PB418 AA-C
Same crew

2.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Cologne (Aborted)
Lancaster Mk.I HK593 JN-X
Same crew

4.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Wanne-Eickel
Lancaster Mk.I NG448 JN-P
Same crew
F/O Barr & crew, suffered a failure of their starboard-outer engine following take-off. The aircraft was flown to the Wash where the bomb load was jettisoned and then returned to base, landing at 10.58hrs.

5.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Gelsenkirchen
Lancaster Mk.I NG322 JN-F
Same crew
On the way homeward, crews encountered slight, heavy flak. NG322, F/O Barr and crew, received minor shrapnel damage to the mainplane.

6.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Wesel
Lancaster Mk.I PB820 JN-V
Same crew

9.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Dattelen
Lancaster Mk.I NG322 JN-F
Same crew

10.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Gelsenkirchen-Buer
Lancaster Mk.I LM266 AA-F ‘The Seven Sinners’
Same crew

12.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Dortmund
Lancaster Mk.I HK554 JN-Z
Same crew

14.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against  Heinrich Hutte
Lancaster Mk.I NG448 JN-P
Same crew

17.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Auguste Viktoria
Lancaster unknown
Same crew
Of the original crew list, F/O Barr’s aircraft became unserviceable before T/O and was withdrawn, leaving 19 aircraft and crews for the mission.

Bobby's Last Letter 17 03 1945 IMG

Bobby’s last letter home.
Dear Mam and Dad
Just a few lines to let you know that I’m still OK and getting along fine and that I’m looking forward to the 29th when I come on leave again. A bit of fresh news is that I have only one more bloke to see and pass and I shall get a commission which will be a nice thing to have won’t it, the only snag is seeing myself in one of those big hats I will look a mess. I have only twelve more trips to do now so I should be nearly finished by the time I come on leave. The weather is still fine down here and it has been like summer for quite a while. Tell Margaret that I am still saving those sweets and chocolate up for her and if I don’t send it I’ll bring it for her when I come. I think this is all for the time so I’ll say cheers for now, Love to all
Boby xxxxxx
© Margaret Fox

18.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Bruchstrasse
Lancaster Mk.I RA564 JN-P
Same crew

21.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Munster Viaduct
Lancaster Mk.I Lancaster Mk.I RA564 JN-P
Same crew
AIRCRAFT FAILED TO RETURN
RA564 was bombing the target at Munster when it was struck by a bomb falling from another aircraft flying above, which exploded. There were no survivors. Only the body of the rear gunner was found and buried at Margraten, Holland. The other crew members have no known graves.

The ORB describes the fate of the Barr crew ‘believed shot down by flak in target area’. this clearly conflicts the previous description.

It is clear from the Ops notes recorded from the participating crews that there was an error regarding formations – with another Squadron (at this point unknown) bombing from  20,000ft – it is difficult to know if this Squadron was ‘high’ or if the 75(NZ) aircraft were below the main force……..

F/O  Derek Singleton Barr RAFVR 1394583/190947.  Pilot
Died age 29.
No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 266, Runnymede Memorial.
F/S  Arthur Leslie Archibald Oakey RNZAF NZ4213810. Navigator
Died age 33.
No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 285 Runnymede Memorial.
Sgt.  Dryden Stewart RAFVR 1673061. Air Bomber
Died age 22.
No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 273 Runnymede Memorial.
P/O  Robert William West, MiD, RAFVR 1077746 /195545. Wireless Operator
Died age 22.
No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 269 Runnymede Memorial.
F/S  Clifford Isaac Stocker RAFVR 1587275. Flight Engineer
Died age 30.
No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 273 Runnymede Memorial.
Sgt.  Bruce Henry Nichol RAFVR 746205. Mid Upper Gunner
Died age 26.
No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 276 Runnymede Memorial.
W/O  Alwyn Amos RAFVR 1578224. Rear Gunner
Died age 24.
Buried Venray War Cemetery, Netherlands.

Dads Last Letter to Bobby 21st 031945 IMG

Excruciatingly, Bobby’s Father replied to his last letter on the day he and his crew mates were killed.
Dear Boby
Just a few lines hoping you are still keeping A1 as it leaves us the same here. We have Denis at home for 10 days and he goes back on Friday 30th so if you get home on the 29th you will see him. Well Boby, your Mam would like to see you come home with that big hat on.
We have got your coupons put away and you will get your coat all right and stick in and get the hat to go with it. Mam had a letter from Stan this morning and he seems to be going all right they had a test on Saturday morning and he got 62%.
Stan says he met a nice girl where he’s at and he even went to see her Father and Mother they’re not to bad he says, he is coming home at Easter. Well I think this is all this time. So will close now
With best love
Dad and Mam and All xxxxxxxx
From Margaret xxxxxxx
© Margaret Fox

75(NZ) lost 3 aircraft in this raid the other 2 were as follows;

Plummer crew
Lancaster Mk.I NG449 AA-T
‘Aircraft failed to return, seen to be shot down by flak over target.’

F/Lt. Jack Plummer, DFC, RNZAF NZ42451. Pilot
Died age 29.
Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.
F/O Arthur Leonard Humphries, DFM, RNZAF NZ428244. Navigator
Shot down
PoW No. 65026. PoW camps – Stalag VIF and XIB. Safe UK 11 May 1945.
F/O Edgar John Holloway RNZAF NZ429923. Air Bomber.
Died age 29.
Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Germany.
F/O Joseph James ‘Joe’ Wakerley RAFVR 1325219/169159. Wireless Operator.
Shot down
PoW No. not known. PoW camps, Oflag 79 ?. Safe UK – NK.
Sgt Maurice Fell RAFVR. Flight Engineer
Shot down, wounded, baled out.
PoW No. not known. PoW camps – Stalag XIB.
F/O Russell James Scott RNZAF NZ42898. Mid Upper Gunner.
Died age 23.
Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Germany.
F/Sgt Alexander Malcolm MacDonald RNZAF NZ426070. Rear Gunner
Shot down in flames, baled out.
Successfully evaded capture. Safe UK 7 Apr 1945.

Brown crew
Lancaster Mk.III LM733  AA-E
‘Aircraft failed to return and was seen to break in two over target, possibly due to bombing from above but may have been flak.’

F/O Alfred Errol Brown RNZAF NZ429139. Pilot.
Died age 25.
Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.
F/S Arthur Donald Baker RNZAF NZ4214043. Navigator
Shot down, baled out
PoW No. and PoW camps not known. Safe UK 21 Apr 1945.
F/S James Haswell Wood RNZAF NZ425811. Air Bomber
Died age 29.
Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Germany.
F/S Arthur Elliott Robson RNZAF NZ4210853. Wireless Operator
Shot down.
PoW No. not known, PoW camps – Stalag XIB. Escaped on the march, recaptured and again escaped. Safe UK 21 Apr 1945.
F/S R. H. Lawrence RAFVR 1607264. Flight Engineer.
Shot down.
PoW No. and PoW camps and Safe UK not known.
Sgt.  J. Grierson RAFVR 1593931. Mid Upper Gunner.
Shot down.
PoW No. and PoW camps and Safe UK not known.
Sgt. H. Barraclough RAFVR 1590144. Rear Gunner.
Shot down.
PoW No. and PoW camps and Safe UK not known.

Having researched this post, I must confess I realised it was only Malcolm’s remark in an email, regarding a question over the exact reason for the loss of Bobby and his crew mates, that made me look further. I was struck by the repeated references in the crew remarks for this raid in Form 541 of falling bombs and the need to constantly avoid them and also that the G-H guidance had appeared to fail. Of course I felt I needed to do some digging and contact a few people for their opinions.

What I have pieced together is certainly interesting and will be posted next when I have drawn it all together………..

‘A’ Flight group photograph, March 1944 in front of ‘P’

X flight 1944 crp and cont

Many thanks indeed to Arthur Williams, via David for this great scan of ‘A’ Flight, taken on the arrival of Lancasters to the Squadron.

I believe the photograph was taken in March 1944 (though I am happy to be corrected) – likewise I would be keen to establish the identity of the aircraft in the picture – the designator ‘P’ is clearly visible, but I can’t find a ‘P’, as it were that arrived with the first 19 Lancasters to the Squadron in March.

To view the larger version with identification numbers added, please go here to the photograph in the ‘Group Photographs’ section. Click on the photograph on that page to zoom in.

New Zealanders in the Air War – John ‘Jack’ Leonard Wright & the crew of ‘Thomas Frederick Duck’

Lesley Family021

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

I really must apologise for the very belated posting of this chapter from ‘New Zealanders in the Air War’ by Alan W. Mitchell. The contents of the chapter was actually bought to my attention by Jack’s daughter, Leslie and her sister.

So, as I say, very belatedly;

NEW  ZEALANDERS IN THE AIR WAR
CHAPTER 20 – Squadron Leader J. L. Wright
(and the crew of “ Thomas Frederick Duck ”)
On a wintry night in October 1943 the staff in the control-room of a Bomber Station watched solemnly as the word ‘ missing ’ was chalked on a large blackboard opposite the flight record of T Tommy, which was then nearly two hours overdue, and from which no signals had been received for several hours. All the other aircraft in that particular Lancaster squadron had been accounted for, but hope for this remaining one had been abandoned. The main lights in the control-room were switched-off, and tired men and women left for a well-eamed rest. More than one went rather glumly, knowing that the crew of T Tommy was on the final operation of its second tour. It was indeed wretched luck that it should now be posted missing.

Actually, however, although T Tommy was posted as missing on the blackboard, it was still airborne and each of its crew of seven was firmly determined they would make base again that night. There were six New Zealanders and one Cockney in T Tommy, which bore as its mascot a painting on the fuselage of an irate Donald Duck with the caption “ Thomas Frederick Duck.” All the New Zealanders were on their sixtieth operation, and the Londoner was on his thirtieth; and, while the chalk was yet scratching the fateful word on the board, two of the four engines of the Lancaster were still rumbling several thousand feet above the English Channel.

It had been an unpleasant flight. They had been to Leipzig. On the way out, over the Channel, one of the Lancaster’s four motors had spluttered, but the captain had flown on without hesitation. It was the starboard inner motor, and after helping to lift the aircraft over a high, cold front, it finally cut-out when Hanover lay below. The aircraft began to lose height, the needle on the oil temperature gauge flickered towards the higher figures, the altitude ‘ blower ’ stopped working, and the two outer motors also beat unevenly. Yet the Lancaster maintained course.

Instead of flying at 20,000 feet it was now at 11,000 feet, which made it a much easier mark for the German defences; but eventually the target was reached, and the bomb-aimer automatically called his directions to the captain and pressed the bomb switch. The bombs, however, remained in their racks, and stuck there until one of the navigators and the wireless operator removed a part of the flooring and hacked at the bomb releases with an axe and set them free. Its mission accomplished, the Lancaster then headed for England.

The captain consulted his navigators, for he knew that the aircraft could not climb above the cold front, which reached to 23,000 feet, on three motors. There were three alternatives open: one, to fly below the front and risk the deadly flak and fighters; the second, to fly at almost tree-top height and still risk the defences; the third, to veer southwards and fly on a semicircular course to England. The navigators advised the third alternative. They were confident they could keep a good course, and every one in T Tommy agreed that it was the safest method.

When the crew stumped into the control-room nearly two and a half hours overdue they smiled at the chalked word ‘ Missing ’ still standing against T Tommy, and agreed it was an excellent joke. They were weary but elated at the normal ending to an abnormal flight.

Lesley Family027

The crew of ‘Thomas Frederick Duck’ at 156 PFF Squadron May – November 1943.
Standing, L to R: Nick Carter, Jack Wright, Podge Reynolds, Charlie Kelly
Front, L to R: Alf Drew, Ken Cranshaw, Wally Hamond
© Leslie Hill

Read the rest of this chapter in the ‘Collections’ section of the blog here.