A really big thank you to Adrian for taking the time to visit Cambridge City Cemetery to photograph the graves of the 75(NZ) Squadron aircrew who rest there. The 15 airmen that are buried in Cambridge Cemetery are from 8 crews, and were lost during operational and training flights and in one case owing to an extreme act of bravery.
I have decided to group the stones and present the airmen relative to the crews they flew in and the fates that befell them. The are listed in chronological order.
Sgt Raymond Herbert John Broady (RNZAF NZ39691) was piloting a Stirling bomber on a night flight, on the 28th of November 1942, whilst based at RAF Oakington, where ‘A’ Flight were converting from Wellingtons to Stirlings. Whilst attempting to avoid a head on collision with another Stirling (not a 75(NZ) a/c), his aircraft stalled which resulted in it crashing near Trinity Hall Farm, Oakington. All crew were killed or fatally injured, including a Sgt. Stanley Lawrence Drayton, who it is believed was based on the crew at Oakington.
Initially, Sgt. Robert James McWilliam (RCAF 93977) caused me some confusion – there being little sensible information in the Nominal Roll relating to him – only listing Kenneth Blincoe as his Pilot. The events of the training crash have been pondered over in the blog previously and the scant information regarding the crew on that night was based on hypothesis, based on the last recorded Op the crew flew. It strikes me now that the reason that 2 of these airmen were not killed in the crash is that they had actually left the Squadron – hence perhaps the presence of Robert McWilliam as the crews new Wireless Operator – also, though it seems obvious now – this is why I could find no other report of a crash on the 28th of November…
Sgt Alexander McIssac (RNZAF NZ412891), Rear Gunner, rests in Chevington Cemetery, Northumberland, England, as does the Air Bomber of the crew, Sgt. George Trueman Jobson (RAFVR 1287935). Rear Gunner Sgt Charles Thomas Rogers (RAFVR 1170921) is buried at Crowle (St. John the Baptist Churchyard) whilst the Flight Engineer of the crew, Sgt Ronald Oswald Dibben (RAFVR 1252627) is buried in Ham (St. Andrew) Churchyard.
Sgt. Stanley Lawrence Drayton (RAFVR 1331697), whose identity was the start of the initial research about this incident, rests in Newmarket Cemetery.
More information about the incident that night and the details of the crew that were lost can be read here.
On the night of 8th September 1943, whilst accelerating to take off, the Stirling bomber piloted by F/O. Ian Robert Menzies (RNZAF NZ415002) suddenly veered to the right of the runway and crashed firstly through a petrol bowser and then into two houses on the far side adjoining the perimeter track. It caught fire almost simultaneously, and in the fire, various bombs exploded, causing the aircraft to be a total wreck. Three members of the crew, a W.A.A.F. Officer of R.A.F. Station Mepal and an aircrew Sergeant, and 2 civilians were killed and other civilians were injured.
As well as killing Ian Menzies in the initial crash and explosion, F/O Norman Hathway Gale (RAFVR 849986/151013), the Air Bomber also died and now rests in Bristol (Canford) Cemetery. The Flight Engineer, Sgt Albert Leslie Mellor (RAFVR 943914) succumbed to his injuries and was buried in Buxton Cemetery, Derbyshire.
The aircrew Sergeant mentioned in this description was F/S Peter Gerald Dobson MiD (RNZAF NZ439022), who was killed by exploding bombs as he went to the assistance of the aircrew crew and the occupants of the houses.
Mention in Despatches (14 Jan 1944):
“For bravery in action and meritorious fulfilment of duty”.
Section Officer Joan Majorie Easton (WAAF/RAF 2986) was also killed when, on attempting to aid the rescue of the aircrew and occupants of the houses, the aircraft’s bomb load exploded. Marjorie rests in Greenwich (Charlton and Kidbrook) Cemetery, London.
Read more about the events of that night here.
F/Sgt Walter Hurdle (RNZAF NZ421279), Rear Gunner with Eric Witting’s crew was killed on the 4th of November 1943 during an attack by an enemy aircraft.
The combat report, as is perhaps inevitable for a ‘report’, is stunningly matter of fact, not only about the attack, but also the death of Sgt. Hurdle.
Stirling Mk.III EF163 JN-L was one of 4 aircraft from the Squadron that took off to lay sea mines around the Frisian Islands on the 16th December 1943. The aircraft, Piloted by P/O Colin John Kinross (RNZAF NZ417069) crashed at Bidington Farm, Sutton, Cambridgeshire, in part through bad visibility and also, it is theorised, a hung up mine, that may have effected the aircraft’s centre of gravity. Colin and his Navigator and Air Bomber, F/O Ralph Francis Jenkin (RNZAF NZ416119) and F/S Ronald Harry Emmerson (RAAF AUS.410330) lay in the cemetery.
Sgt Raymond Askew (RAFVR 1477972), Flight Engineer rests in Seaton Hirst (St John) Churchyard Ashington, Sgt Willis Arthur Savage (RAF 1503913), the crew’s Wireless Operator lays in Pendelbury (St. John) Churchyard and Sgt. John Albert Warner, Rear Gunner, rests in Bootle Cemetery, Lancashire. The Mid Upper Gunner, Sgt. S. Newman, survived the crash, injured.
F/Lt. Terence Douglas Blewett (RNZAF NZ414376) and crew crashed on their return from an attack on Wanne Eickel on the 17th of January 1945. Lancaster PB761 AA-Y, in serious trouble, crashed into a barn at Wooditton, Suffolk. ‘Tim’ Blewett and the crew’s Air Bomber, F/O John Stanley Wilson (RNZAF NZ426234) were killed instantly on impact. The Navigator, F/S Bryant Thomas Cornell (RAFVR 139828) despite the valiant attempts of the surviving crew, succumbed to his injuries and is buried at Southgate Cemetery, Middlesex, England.
Read more about the crash here.
On the 26th of February 1945 Lancaster ME450 AA-W crashed on its return from a raid on Dortmund. The aircraft returned with the rest of the Squadron and was seen flying in formation over Mepal, but for some unknown reason crashed soon after, very close to Chatteris gasworks. The crash killed 5 of the 7 crew. The Navigator and Air Bomber,Sgt George William McManus (RAFVR 1806217) and F/S Joseph McKenzie Alfred (RAFVR 1810280), respectively lay in Cambridge Cemetery. The crew’s Pilot, F/O Noel Humphrey Thorpe (RNZAF NZ428168) lays in Ilford (Barkingside) Cemetery, Essex,Sgt Frederick Henry Saffill (RAFVR 1882066) the Mid Upper Gunner, rests in Maldon Cemetery, Essex and the Flight Engineer, Sgt John Lawrence Duke (RAFVR 2210530), who was only 19 is buried at Stockport Crematorium, having succumbed to his injuries 2 days after the crash.
All these grave stone photographs and others I have already collected have been added to the respective sections of the alphabetical Roll of Honour.