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………..

1 thought on “Robert William ‘Boby’ West, Wireless Operator – Barr crew

  1. Vic Jay

    The letters in this post make it probably the most moving I have read so far. Thank you Simon and a special thank you to Margaret.

    Like

    Reply

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