Many thanks again to Adrian, this time for going to Feltwell Cemetery to record the gravestones of the 75(NZ) Squadron aircrew who rest their. 75(NZ) Squadron were based at RAF Feltwell between 1940 and 1942 and the dates of the gravestones reflect the obvious proximity of the Station to the churchyard. As with my recent post regarding the images Adrian gathered from Cambridge Cemetery , the airman have been listed in chronological order and grouped by crew, or date of death.
Squadron Leader Wilfred Ira Collett (RAF 34232) Died of injuries sustained on the return from a raid on Horst, 4th of August 1940. The Wellington he was flying was damaged over the Ruhr. Despite getting back to the mainland, an attempt to land at RAF Marham, resulted in the aircraft crashing – Wilfred was the only casualty of the crash.
75(NZ)Squadron Form 540 January 1941
At 10.00 hours on 10.1.41, P/O McNamara was detailed to carry out a Night Flying Test on aircraft T.2550, Letter “L”. After the N.F.T. his instructions were to proceed to Bassingbourn, drop P/O Ryan and bring back a new Pilot who was taking P/O Ryans’s place.
Cloud base at Feltwell was 1,500 feet and P/O McNamara was warned that south and westwards the cloud base would be lower, and , if he did not like it to return to base.
Operations Room was notified of this proposed cross country flight and P/O McNamara ascertained from Operations Air Control that Bassingbourn was serviceable, and gave his approx.. time of take of as 11.30 hours. Station Signals failed to contact the aircraft after it had taken off, E.T.A. base was 13.00 hours. At 14.30 hours Control commenced taking overdue action and rang Bassingbourn on P.B.K. but did not connect until 15.25 hours when they ascertained that the aircraft had not arrived. At 16.40 hours No.3 Group informed us that the aircraft had crashed at Heath Farm, Stapleford, near Duxford, and the following personel were killed or died from injuries.
P/O B.P. McNamara (Captain) unmarried. P/O A.J. Ryan (2nd Pilot) unmarried.
Sgt. Elliot R.B. (Navigator) unmarried. Sgt. J. Olive (W/Operator) unmarried.
Sgt. M.R. Ritchie (Front Gunner) unmarried. Sgt. R.E. Ashby-Peckham (Rear Gunner) unmarried. Seriously injured and taken to Addenbrooks Hospital.
Sgt John Olive (RAF 978156). Buried Elton (All Saints) Churchyard England.
Sgt Matthew Roy Ritchie (RAF 631868). Buried Biggar Croft Cemetery Lanarkshire Scotland.
Sgt Eric Francis Ganaway (RNZAF NZ402110), Rear Gunner with S/L Reuben Pears Widdowson. 2 months later, Reuben Widdowson would be piloting a Wellington on a return flight from Munster. After being attacked by an ME109, it would take the heroic efforts of a 2nd Pilot called James Allan Ward to extinguish an engine fire………
From ‘New Zealanders with the Royal Air Force (Vol. I) CHAPTER 9 — The Part of No. 75 Squadron’ (http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2-1RAF-c9.html)
‘A favourite ruse of the enemy fighters was to patrol stretches of the English coast in the hope of intercepting bombers as they began their journey. On the night of the squadron’s fourth attack on Hamburg early in May, one Wellington was attacked just after crossing the coast. The bomber was badly damaged and the rear gunner, Sergeant Gannaway, fatally wounded.’
Sgt David Campbell Joyce (RNZAF NZ401278) was 2nd Pilot, flying with P/O William Jeffrey Rees and his crew on the night of the 15/16th July 1941 on a raid to Duisburg. The events of that night are recorded in the Form 540 for July 1941 and make brutal reading.
75(NZ)Squadron Form 540 July 1941
Pilot Officer Rees and SGT. Lewis were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Distinguished Flying Medal respectively. They were captain and wireless operator of a Wellington which was detailed to attack a target in Duisburg on the night of 15/16th July. After a successful attack the aircraft was caught in a belt of searchlights, was struck by flak then attacked by an enemy fighter. Bullets and cannon shell struck the aircraft and exploded in the cabin and blasted open the mid-under turret hatch. The second pilot died of his wounds almost immediately; the front gunner was wounded and died in hospital, the rear gunner was temporarily blinded by a splinter. The observer, when proceeding aft to render assistance to the rear gunner, fell through the damaged under-turret hatch. The wireless operator was shocked and deafened for a period by a cannon shell which exploded close to his head. He eventually recovered and treated the wounded men. He then repaired his set and obtained wireless bearings after which he collected the navigators maps and instruments and assisted the captain to set course for base which was eventually reached and a safe landing made.
Sgt David Henry Conibear (RAF 932380) , the Front Gunner died of his wounds and lays in Rumney (St Augustine) Churchyard, Gwent, Wales.
Perhaps astonishingly, the observer who fell out of the Welington that night , P/O Robert Cyril Adair Hunter (RCAF J.3754) survived, being captured that night on landing. He spent the rest of the war as a prisoner before being repatriated 11th May 1945.
F/S Loch Lomond Bentley RNZAF NZ40393, was Piloting Wellington MK.IC Z8834 AA-P on return from a bombing attack against targets at Brest on the 23rd of December 1941. The aircraft on return, circled Feltwell airfield and awaited permission to land in poor weather conditions. At 2347, the aircraft flew into the ground 2 miles east of Berner’s Heath, about 5 miles south west of Thetford. F/S Bentley was the only casualty – all other crew members surviving but suffering injuries..
Sgt Henry William Woodham (RNZAF NZ402449) was 2nd Pilot on a training flight on the 28th February 1942. The Wellington, Skippered by Sgt. Robert Arthur Colville, suffered first a failure of its starboard engine, followed by a port engine failure. The aircraft crashed at Lakenheath. Sgt. Woodham died of his injuries. The ground crew passenger, Cpl Kenneth John Howes (RAF 912524) and AC2 Wilfred Pownall were killed and now rest in Selby and Glossop Cemetery respectively.
On the 22nd of April 1941 75(NZ) Squadron sent 10 Wellington bombers to attack Cologne. it would result in 2 new crews being headless by the end of that night.
Wellington Mk.III X3705, Piloted by P/O Ivor John McLachlan (RNZAF NZ404390) was attacked on return by an unidentified enemy fighter – the resulting attack left the 2nd Pilot P/O Cedric Niel Fountain (RNZAF NZ41981) dead and the Rear Gunner, Sgt Desmond Stewart Tutty (RNZAF NZ404576) wounded. The aircraft managed to return to base and crash landed.
The citation for Sgt. McLachlan’s Dintinguished Flying Medal (Immediate Award) is as follows: One night in April 1942, this airman was the captain of an aircraft which attacked Cologne. On the return journey whilst still over hostile territory, his aircraft was suddenly attacked by an enemy fighter whose machine-gun fire killed the second pilot and wounded the rear gunner. The aircraft was extensively damaged (including the hydraulic system) causing the undercarriage and flaps to drop, both gun turrets were rendered unserviceable and the aircraft became difficult to control. Undaunted Flight Sergeant McLachlan flew on and finally reached this country where he landed his damaged aircraft safely. This airman has completed numerous sorties, many of which have been against important targets, and he has always shown a high standard of efficiency, skill and resource.
Wellington Mk.III X3487, Piloted by P/O Eric George Delancey Jarman (RAAF AUS.404507), fared even worse. The aircraft was attacked by a JU.88 which resulted in the 2nd Pilot, P/O Trafford McRae Nicol (RNZAF NZ411929) being mortally wounded and Rear Gunner, Sgt. Richard James Harris (RNZAF NZ402999) being killed. Additionally, the crew’s Navigator, Sgt. William Henderson Taylor (RAF 1051621/122053) and Wireless Operator Sgt. J.A. Fernie were wounded.
Eric Jarman’s citation for his Immediate Award of a Dintinguished Flying Cross reads as follows:
“One night in April 1942 this officer was the captain of an aircraft detailed to attack Cologne. Whilst over the target area, the aircraft was hit by shellfire and sustained damage. The navigator, wireless operator and front gunner were injured, but despite this, Pilot Officer Jarman flew on to make his attack. On the return journey it was discovered that a bomb had not fallen owing to the damage caused by the enemy’ s shellfire whereupon Pilot Officer Jarman altered course and headed for the North Sea so that the bomb could be jettisoned. Before reaching the sea, however, his aircraft was subjected to an attack by an enemy fighter whose fire killed the rear gunner, wounded the second pilot and inflicted further damage on the aircraft. Skilfully controlling the bomber Pilot Officer Jarman continued his flight and after jettisoning the bomb in the sea, he finally reached this country where he made a safe landing with the undercarriage retracted. In the face of extremely harassing circumstances this officer displayed great coolness, courage and determination. He has completed numerous sorties wherein heavily defended targets have been attacked.”
Eric Jarman died night of 27th/ 28th April 1944 with 460 Squadron whilst on a raid to Friedrichshafen. He now rests in Durnbach War Cemetery, Germany.
Wellington Mk.III Z1616 crashed shortly after take off on the 29th June 1942 for targets at Bremen. On impact, the aircraft caught fire – all of the crew were killed
Sgt George Walter Matthew Archer (RAF 1355706) Rear Gunner, Sgt Richard John Grenfell (RNZAF NZ404026), Wireless Operator and Sgt Norman Mitchell (RNZAF NZ404084) Front Gunner/ Air Bomber, rest in Feltwell Cemetery.
Pilot P/O Robert Bertram (RAF 1112264/128536) lays in Hull Crematorium, Kingston Upon-Hull and the crew’s Observer, Sgt Joseph Guy Quin (RAF 1256373) is buried in Lakeham (All Saints) Churchyard Staines, Middlesex.