Monthly Archives: February 2014

Interview with Radio New Zealand

What an incredible day after the Radio New Zealand interview – all previous daily visit totals wiped cleanly off the slate – today the blog had an amazing 1,070 visits, the vast majority from New Zealand – and already some new contacts from relatives, so hopefully some new stories about the boys from 75(NZ) Squadron RAF will be posted soon

Thanks to everybody

Just in case you missed it, you can listen to Radio New Zealand’s interview with me here

Another new group photograph – Pilots & Flight Engineers May 1945

Pilot Engineers May 1945 numbers copy

Many thanks to Vic for sending in this group photograph that was, very interestingly taken in May 1945. The Photograph is labelled ‘Pilots and Engineers, May 1945’. The presence of Vic’s Father, Bob Jay in the photograph is very noteworthy – as neither Bob or the rest of the boys in his crew feature in the Full Squadron, or Flight group photographs, as they were away at Feltwell between the 11th and 17th of March undertaking G-H training. His presence in this photograph, even if you ignore the date attached to it, clearly marks this (and perhaps others) as being later than the other group photographs already on display.

Vic has already identified his Father Bob Jay and Les Hoffert and I instantly spotted Jock Fraser, of the Banks crew, though, no Russell Banks……

As with all of these fantastic group photographs, if you recognise a face, please let me know!

View the numbered picture here.

Form 540 November & December 1944 complete for Project ORB

My repeated  thanks to Hubert for his continuing efforts transcribing the Squadron ORB’s. I am pleased to announce and present  another 2 new complete Form 540′s for November and December 1944.

I will once again, repeat my call out to all of you for volunteers to join Hubert, Martyn and Dave in the ORB project – every month that someone finds the time to transcribe, completes another small part of the overall Squadron record and provides more information for people visiting the website.

View November here
View December here.

Wow………..

Well, I’d really like to thank New Zealand Radio, and particularly Paul Brennan for their interest in the the blog.

I just finished a half hour interview with Paul about Dad, the blog and the 75(NZ)Squadron. Not sure when it will go out, but if anybody hears it, please let me know – hopefully it will spread the word a little bit further and we might get some more new, amazing stories about the boys in the Squadron.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/afternoons/20140226

wow………….

Lancasters to fly together in English skies again – ‘Once in a Lanc time’……

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If any of our readers, particularly from the Southern Hemisphere, were thinking of coming to the UK this year, it looks like August might well be the month to come. It was announced yesterday that FM213 VR-A will fly from Canada in August to join the Royal Air Force’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster, PA474, for a series of flights during August 2014.

From the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight website;

RAF BBMF TO HOST CANADIAN WARPLANE HERITAGE MUSEUM LANCASTER DURING VISIT TO ENGLAND IN AUGUST 2014.

The last two Lancaster bombers still flying in the world will come together in a series of events this summer, in a meeting unlikely to happen ever again.

The Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (RAF BBMF) based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire will welcome the arrival of a very special guest during August 2014 when the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWHM) fly their prized Avro Lancaster to the UK for a month long visit.

The Canadian Lancaster will join the only other airworthy Lancaster in the world, owned and operated by the RAF BBMF, and participate in several events and activities while overseas.

The CWHM Lancaster will depart from Hamilton, Ontario on August 4th with plans to arrive in England on August 8th. The North Atlantic crossing will include en-route stops at Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada, Narsarsuaq, Greenland, and Keflavik, Iceland, prior to arriving in the UK.

Shortly after arriving, the Lancaster will undergo a scheduled maintenance inspection. The CWHM crews will then complete a short training program with the BBMF in preparation to participate in several air displays and fly pasts with the BBMF Lancaster and fighters starting on August 14th. These displays will celebrate the exceptionally close British/Canadian relationship and to commemorate the sacrifice and dedication of Commonwealth Bomber crews and the professionalism of both nations’ air forces today. The CWHM Lancaster will also conduct a limited number of UK Bomber Membership flights from Humberside Airport, flying over historic Lincolnshire for those fortunate few who have obtained CWHM UK Bomber Memberships. Further information on the UK Bomber Memberships can be found at http://www.warplane.com.

Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum President and CEO, Sqn Ldr (Ret.) David G. Rohrer C.D. who is a current Lancaster pilot, stated that this Trans Atlantic crossing and visit to the BBMF and England is a “Once in a Lanc Time” event as it will not happen again. Rohrer indicated that this year, “a rare window of opportunity was identified to bring the last two flying Lancasters in the world together as a special salute to all the veterans of Bomber Command, many of whom are in their late 80s or older now.” It is also an opportunity for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum to fly together and showcase a flying display and tribute to all those who served in the time of need, in Canada, Britain, and the entire Commonwealth, that likely will never be seen again.

Officer Commanding the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, Sqn Ldr Dunc Mason said “To see these two aircraft flying at events together will be a unique sight and also the opportunity to truly commemorate those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Lest We Forget.”

75,000 for 75nzsquadron.com

I often berate my students for not fully reading project briefs I set them – ‘ read the whole thing, it contains useful information that will help you’……….

After my post a couple of weeks ago, thanking everybody for their support regarding us reaching 70,000 views, I offered by way of thanks a challenge to anybody who could take a screen grab of the blog counter as close to 75,000 as they could. For anyone hitting the target as it were, I would sent a half bottle of single malt whiskey, to the value of £75. Any screen grab, any number above or below the magic figure would have that value subtracted from £75, to the point where you would probably just get a miniature of ‘cooking’ whiskey.

Leaving for work this morning I saw we were close to the target and expected to see a winner in the mail box when I got to work……..

Well, I am pleased to say that the winner of a £75 bottle of single malt is……………

nobody………

I didn’t get a single person, and before any wag sends a screenshot, currently the counter is at 75,302 – working on my reductive scale, that means you will owe me a bottle of Scotch worth £227…………..

Competition is closed, lets try again as we approach 100,000

READ THE POST – ALL OF IT!!!!!!

Mepal from the air

Broadbent (22)

‘Bombing’ photo taken from 16,000 feet by S/L Dickie Broadbent’s Bomb Aimer on 20 October 1943.
Courtesy New Zealand Bomber Command Association/ © Ron Mayhill collection.

Thanks to Chris for putting together this post on the Mepal airfield and sharing with us all, more pictures from his visit to the New Zealand Bomber Command archive.

One of the frustrations I had early in my search for information about my uncle’s time at Mepal, was the lack of photos of the place during the War years. Most of the photos I came across were aircraft and crews in front of aircraft, with the occasional glimpse of Nissen huts, a few trees, fences, and flat, featureless farmland in the background.

The  three photos from the NZBCA archives give a good idea of the layout of the Base, and how it sat amongst the surrounding countryside.

RAF Mepal  was located near Ely, just north of Cambridge, between the villages of Mepal, Sutton and Witcham. You can still see the outline of the runways and taxiways on Google Earth.

75 (NZ Squadron had moved from Newmarket to Mepal in late June 1943. The June Form 540 records the transfer from Newmarket as follows;

TRANSFER OF SQUADRON
The Squadron was moved to R.A.F. Station, Mepal (Satellite to Waterbeach). The advanced party proceeded on the 27th. June 1943, the Main Party on the 28th. June, and the Rear Party on the 29th. June 1943. This was successfully carried out with the assistance of Motor transport provided by No. 2 M.T. Coy. Cambridge.

This photo at the top of the post is oriented with North at the bottom, South at the top. Mepal village is at the bottom of photo, Sutton at the top and Witcham is out of picture, left. The twin Bedford River canals are visible at bottom right.

At least 34 Stirlings can be seen parked around the various dispersals. Aircraft were kept in the open, dispersed around the airfield, for safety reasons, and to present less of a target. A perimeter road around the outside of the three runways connected the aircraft dispersal ‘pans’ (circular concrete pads about 130 feet in diameter, accessed off the perimeter road by 50 ft-wide taxiways) – crew were delivered out to their aircraft by Bedford bus or truck.

The main runways were about 1 mile long.

Buildings were mostly “tin can” Nissen huts; two messes catered for 1,884 males and 346 females. there was a single B1 and  T2 hanger for maintenance. The photograph was taken from an aircraft piloted by S/L ‘Dickie’ Broadbent, Commanding Officer, ‘C’ Flight, in 1943

From the RAF website ‘Bomber Command Mepal’
Mepal airfield was built to Class A specification as one of the two satellite stations for the Waterbeach cluster. The site on a 20-foot rise out of the Cambridgeshire fens, was confined by the New and Old Bedford Rivers to the west; the villages of Sutton to the south, Mepal to the north and Witcham due east. As the A142 between Mepal and Sutton ran across the middle of the site it was closed off and diverted to run on the road through Withham. Construction began in July 1942 on a £810,000 contract. The concrete runways were: main 08-26 at 2,000 yards, and OS-23 and 14-32 both at 1,400 yards. Thirty-six hardstandings were provided, all being the loop type. Hangars were a T2 and a B1 positioned on the technical site between runway heads 26 and 32, the Bl being to the north, with another T2 on the north side of the airfield between runway heads 23 and 26. The bomb store lay to the north-west, between 08 and 14. The 11 dispersed sites were all to the east of the airfield around Witcham and consisted of two mess, one communal and eight domestic catering for 1,884 males and 346 females.

Officially opened in June 1943, its first occupants were the Stirlings of No. 75 Squadron, removed from the turf of Newmarket Heath, which conducted its first operation from Mepal on the night of July 3. Named the New Zealand Squadron and manned largely by citizens of that country, No. 75 was to remain in residence for a little over two years, seeing out the war from Mepal. No other squadron was based there during this period as No. 75 maintained three flights, their complements often totalling more than 30 aircraft, particularly after Lancasters replaced the Stirlings in March 1944. The squadron lost 104 bombers in operations from Mepal, 50 being Stirlings and 52 Lancasters.

No. 75 Squadron moved out in July 1945 to make way for the assembly and training of Tiger Force, the RAF bomber contingent scheduled to move to the north-east Pacific for operations against the Japanese homeland. These were Nos. 7 and 44 Squadrons, although the latter was soon replaced by No. 49 Squadron. However, the contraction of the RAF during the first year of peace provided several stations with better accommodation than the `tin can huts’ at Mepal and the Lancasters left in July 1946. Thereafter Mepal remained empty of active units for 12 years.

In 1957, the airfield was one of the sites selected to deploy Thor medium-range missiles and three emplacements were built in the north-east corner of the original airfield. When the missiles became active, the operating unit was No. 113 Squadron. By 1963 the Thors were considered obsolete and were removed, the airfield later surrendering to commercial and agricultural use.

The road between Mepal and Sutton villages had been re-opened in the 1950s and in the 1970s the A142 from Chatteris to Ely was established on a new three mile stretch of highway built right across the airfield, bypassing all three of the local villages. Today little of the airfield remains apart from odd lengths of perimeter track used as farm roads. On the south-eastern corner of the airfield site the largest agricultural machinery sale yard in the country was opened in 1997 where monthly hundreds of farm tractors echo the thunder of long-gone heavy bombers.
http://www.raf.mod.uk/history/bomber-command-3-group-mepal.cfm

The photo below was taken by F/L John Aitken, probably some time in 1944, approaching the airfield from a direction equivalent to the top left of the first photo. Sutton village at left. Comparing the two, a new hangar (?) can be seen at  the right (large dark building).

Ron Mayhill (5)

Aerial view from Lancaster approaching Mepal.
Courtesy New Zealand Bomber Command Association/ © John Aitken via Ron Mayhill collection.

Apparently taken during a two hour stand-down, this amazing photo below shows nine Lancasters queued on the perimeter taxi-way, engines shut down. The large number of people and vehicles make me wonder if this was possibly something more than a routine op’? We are not sure who took this photo, and would appreciate any more information if anyone recognises it?

It appears to have been taken at the extreme left-hand corner of the airfield perimeter as shown in the first photo. Vehicles can be seen on the road in the background.

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Courtesy New Zealand Bomber Command Association.

After the cessation of the Bombing Campaign, the Squadron was slowly re configured regarding the reformation of Tiger force, built solely around RNZAF crew. In preparation for the formation of Tiger Force, which at the time was planned to be deployed to the Far East, the Squadron left Mepal after 2 years and a month.

21.7.45 ADMINISTRATION.
The Squadron moved from R.A.F. Station Mepal, No. 3 Group, to R.A.F. Station, Spilsby, No.5. Group. The journey was made by rail and the whole move was carried out very smoothly. We owe a debt of gratitude to both stations for their excellent cooperation in the movement.

Once again, many thanks to Peter Wheeler and the New Zealand Bomber Command Association for the permission to present these pictures.