Monthly Archives: May 2014

Jack Richards – 1924 – 2014

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Despite ill health, Jack made every effort to attend last years Association service of remembrance, here, stood in the Memorial Garden, at Mepal, with Association Chairman Kevin King on that sunny Sunday morning.

It is with great sadness that I must pass on the news that Jack Richards, President of the  Friends of 75 (NZ) Squadron Association  passed away yesterday, aged 90.

Jack had been President of the association since 2005 when the ‘Friends of 75 (NZ) Squadron’ was formed. Prior to that he was Chairman of the old association.

Jack, with others founded the UK 75(NZ) Association in the 70’s, and was responsible for the creation of the plinth and memorial garden. He was a great benefactor to the UK Association, as well as an ambassador with strong ties to New Zealand.

As a mark of respect to Jack, there will be no further posts on the blog for a week.

I am sure you all, as I do, pass our sincerest and most heartfelt condolences to Jack’s family.

Ake Ake Kia Kaha Jack

100,000 Views – utterly amazing…..

It seems as if I am celebrating every 10,000 view milestone with accelerating regularity. Despite this, it always feels like an achievement. Tonight I think we should really  stop and realise what we have all managed to achieve –   the blog has just recorded it’s 100,000 view.

I had absolutely no idea when I began this blog in the summer of 2012 that it would grow the way it has. Initially I began to write backwards as it were, recording past events of my research journey – I figured I would ‘catch up’ with the present day and it would then be a diary of my research journey about Bob and the boys he flew with.

In honest truth, I think I underestimated the reach of a blog and the interest it would generate – I was amazed when I saw it had been viewed 100, 200, 500, a 1,000 times. And then the amazing, heartbreaking and uplifting stories started to come…….

I know I always say this, but I honestly have to thank all of you. In real terms, I have become just a curator of the stories of the boy’s of 75(NZ) Squadron, without all of you who have given so generously stories, photographs, memories and your time, the blog would not be what it is today and I certainly would not be writing this 100,000 view post.

I am more determined than ever to try to ensure that everything that is passed to me will be presented on the blog – at times this is incredibly difficult to do, but I will keep going whenever I can – to those of you that have perhaps sent an email asking for information, or for those of you that have sent information, but have yet to see it posted, please bare with me, I will get back to you and it will be posted.

The strength of what we have managed to achieve is a tribute to the generosity of people – this information is yours, not mine. It is certainly not mine to take and store away, it is given to be shown and by showing it we will learn more, either about individuals, or small parts of a life or bigger tales of the Squadron.

If I didn’t envisage the way the site would grow, I certainly did not realise that the blog would also allow relatives to reconnect and meet each other, years after their Fathers, Uncles, Grandfathers or Great Grandfathers had flown together and sometimes died together as a crew – this has been an unexpected but truly rewarding aspect of my work on the blog.

And it also has been incredibly rewarding to try to help visitors, just as I was helped when I began my research journey – am I now an expert myself? – no, I don’t think so at all. I know more than when I started and I will know more tomorrow than I do today – but again, the blog has allowed me to connect with those who are experts and the sum of my knowledge is contained in the blog and the people who have contributed to it – we are all experts of small parts of the story – put together the sum is greater than the parts.

It has been an honour and a privilege to meet and work with all of you – I hope this will continue to the next 100,000 views.

Ake Ake Kia Kaha

Simon

 

 

 

Group Photograph, Air Gunners, Mepal 1945

Mepal gunners ?

With Both Ted Smith (second row from front, 5th from right)) and Norman Allen (second row from front, 4th from left) present in this photograph, I believe this to be a group photograph of Air Gunners, taken at Mepal sometime between March and June 1945. © Matt Smith

After my previous post about John ‘Ted’ Smith, I think its worth a re-post of one of the images. As I said in the last post, I have a very strong feeling that because of the presence of both Ted Smith and Russell Bank’s Rear Gunner, Norman Allen that this is another ‘trade’ group photograph from Mepal – this time of the Squadron Air Gunners. Based on the respective periods that Ted and Norman were at Mepal, this photograph could have been taken between March and June 1945. If anybody is able to identify any other individuals in this photograph then me might be able to narrow the date down further, though my gut feeling, as with the other photographs from 1945 is that it is probably round March.

I have added a numbered version of this photograph to the ‘Group Photographs’ section of the blog and as with all photographs in this section, once the page has loaded, if you click on the image, it will load larger and you should see your cursor has changed to a magnifying glass – click on the image again and you have zoomed into the maximum limit of the image – hopefully we can identify some more of the Squadron Air Gunners.

Go straight to look at the photograph here.

John ‘Ted’ Smith, Rear Gunner – Milsom crew (and Banks crew it would seem….)

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The photograph that started it all……..Ted Smith (Hop Head), Norman Allen, Jimmy Wood, Russell Banks, John Mossman (standing), Jock Fraser and Maurice Wiggins. © Jimmy Wood

At the end of July last year I posted this photograph from Jimmy Wood’s photo album of the Banks crew. The photograph had caused me a degree of frustration because (at the time) I couldn’t understand the presence of the individual stood up behind Jock Fraser and Maurice Wiggins. A signature  ‘J. B. Mossman’ seemed to make no sense to me – research indicating that this individual was possibly F/Sgt John Edward Barry Mossman, RNZAF NZ42112587, Wireless Operator with Wi Rangiuaia’s crew. I was also vexed by a second signature which seemed to read ‘Ted Smith ‘Hop Head” – this signature seemed all the more strange as it was next to Jack Britnell…..

I am pleased to report that my wonderings have been, at least partly answered. I have been contacted by John and Matt, Son and Nephew respectively of John ‘Ted’ Smith, Rear Gunner with the Milsom crew and latterly also it would appear, with the Banks crew…..Many thanks also to them for supplying some fantastic pictures of Ted, both from the War period and before it.

Read my original post about the Milsom crew here.

Clearly in hindsight, a fundamental mistake I was making was to assume that the individual next to the signature ‘Ted Smith’ was Jack Britnell – obviously, I now understand it was Ted!

I have become acutely aware, that errors do exist in the ORB’s and the problem I suppose I and others have is that we have to take what is recorded in them on face value. If I take my own knowledge of the Zinzan crew, I know that 2 entries concerning the identity of the Air Bomber are incorrect – Dad flew these 2 Ops, but the ORB’s list another individual for one and someone with the same surname for the other – its only because I have his logbook that I know the information to be wrong. I say this, because this post potentially throws up another inaccuracy regarding Ted Smith and John Mossman and the Banks crew. What follows is what individuals have told me and what I have gleaned from the ORB’s – and to put no finer point on the fact that they are utterly contradictory – however as I have already observed from personal experience with Dad, given the toss up between the ORB’s and known fact – its probably better to go with the known fact…….

Now, whilst my questions have been partly answered, they have thrown up another mystery – despite the fact that John and Matt say that Ted is in the the photograph because he flew with the Banks crew – and one must assume the same for John Mossman, there appears to be no evidence of this in the ORB of this. The story is further and tantalisingly complicated by a message from Jimmy Woods, Air Bomber with the Banks crew, via his son Roger, that John Mossman did fly with the Banks crew.

Based on a 3-way scouring of the 1945 Form 541’s:
Banks crew – Norman Allen and Jack Britnell are listed as flying in every Op with the Banks crew as Mid Upper and Rear Gunner respectively apart from in 3 cases. 3rd and 7th of May, Jack, then Norman flies as Rear Gunner for 2 ‘Manna’ Ops (these did not utilise Mid Upper Gunners). on the 14th of May (Exodus), Jack Britnell is replaced by Charlie Carey as Rear Gunner.

Milsom crew – The two ‘Johns’, Williamson and Smith, fly every Op, apart from the 2nd of May, when as standard for a ‘Manna’ Op, only Ted Smith flies, as Rear Gunner.

Rangiuia crew – John Mossman flies all Ops with the crew apart from 2. These are on the 10th and 12th of May and are ‘Exodus’ flights to Juvincourt in France. On both occasions, his position as WIreless Operator is taken by Pat Wilson.

Having looked at the crew histories like this, I now simply have no idea whatsoever what is going on, part from the terrifying thought that significant portions of the ‘541 are simply wrong.

‘But……….’, I hear you ask, ‘The 541 stop at June – Russ Banks, Ted Smith and John Mossman didn’t leave till July 1945, perhaps some of these flights were in July???….’

A slim chance perhaps – but Norman, Jimmy, Alex and Jack had left Mepal by the end of June – which means they simply couldn’t have been there to be in these photographs…..

Tantalisingly, Matt has passed on another  crew photo that was in Jimmy Wood’s photo album, showing the boys of the Banks crew, both including Ted and John Mossman…..

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The Banks crew in front of LM276 AA-S. Back row, left to right – Ted Smith, Jimmy Wood, Russell Banks and Maurice Wiggins. Front row, left to right – Norman Allen, John Mossman and Jock Fraser. © Matt Smith

Based on the ORB’s, The Banks crew flew LM276 AA-S 8 times (one occasion, incorrectly listed in the ORB as ‘D’ on the 7th May). This is the only ‘S’ the crew flew, so we must therefore assume that the aircraft certainly in the picture above is LM276. Between the 27th March (Hamm) and the 14th of May (Juvincourt), the Banks crew flew 10 Ops – 7 of which were in LM276. The only other time the crew flew this aircraft was on the 28th of February to Gelsenkirchen – the Milsom crew did not arrive at Mepal until the 6th of March.

During this ’10 Op period’, the Milsom crew fly 8 times – however, there is a disparity of Ops in April – the Banks crew fly only 3 against the Milsom crew’s 5. In May, the Banks crew fly 6 times, against 3 for the Milsom crew. Whilst through absolutely no proof or argument whatsoever, it might be during May that  Ted might have picked a up a few Ops with the crew – additionally, overall looking at the 2 crew’s Ops history , they appear ‘out of sync’ as it were. I have noticed that certainly towards the latter stages of the war, the larger number of crews on station seem to suggest rotated groups of aircrew, that fly as ‘sets’  on raids – these ‘sets’ seem to, broadly speaking, dovetail between each other in the Ops in the ORB.

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The Banks crew in front of an unidentified aircraft. Back row, left to right – John Mossman, Jimmy Wood, Maurice Wiggins and Russell Banks. Front row, left to right – Jock Fraser, Ted Smith and Norman Allen. © Matt Smith

Additionally to these crew photographs, Matt has also passed on the following group training photograph taken whilst Ted was  in Canada.

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A group training photograph from Canada of Air Gunners, Ted Smith, standing furthest to the right. © Matt Smith

Mepal gunners ?

With Both Ted Smith (second row from front, 5th from right)) and Norman Allen (second row from front, 4th from left) present in this photograph, I believe this to be a group photograph of Air Gunners, taken at Mepal sometime between March and June 1945. © Matt Smith

This second  photograph I think is potentially the most interesting. Ted can be seen in this picture, second row from the front, fifth from right. Initially I wondered if this was possibly another training group photograph, however on closer inspection, I realised that also on the second row from the front, this time fourth from left is, (I am pretty sure) Norman Allen, A/G with the Banks crew. The arrival of the Milsom and Banks crew at Mepal are  a month apart, so I am disinclined to believe that this is a training group photograph and that perhaps this is actually a  Squadron photograph of Air Gunners from Mepal, one would assume close to the end of the war. Based on a comment Chris made on the full Squadron photograph couple of weeks ago, a figure of approximately 70 crews were at Mepal by the end of the war – if one assumes that by this point the aircraft were essentially ‘double crewed’ the number of individuals in this photograph would be about right – I think…….

I would be fascinated if anybody can either prove or disprove this theory (having shown the picture to Kevin, he tends to agree with my theory) – if anybody can recognise any more 75(NZ) Air Gunners in the photograph, then it must be another photograph for the ‘Group Collection’

 

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Ted in competition for the Ashburton Motorcycle Club, pre-war. © Matt Smith

In correspondence with John, he said that Ted was a bit of a motorcycle nut. Ted was Mid Canterbury Motorcycle Club champion several years running in the late 1930’s – what would be today’s moto-cross.  He worked as a motor cycle mechanic pre and post war.  John says he certainly wouldn’t be surprised if someone has some stories about Ted and motorcycles at Mepal!

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Landing, or taking off?? © Matt Smith

Ted Smith motorbike

Ted in his racing top from when he rode for the Ashburton Motorcycle Club (AMCC). © Matt Smith

AMCC Ted far left (side on)

A group photograph of the Ashburton Motorcycle Club – Ted is sat on his bike far left. © Matt Smith

So, as always, if anybody reads this and can shed light on this little conundrum, I and I am sure Matt and John, would love to hear from you.

A little more about the Lukins crew…..

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The Lukins crew at Mepal, sometime in 1945. Peter Carrie is stood at the far right of the picture, the individual next to him is an unknown ground crew member. The crew’s Rear Gunner, Tom Benson is stood second in on the left of the group. Whilst we still don’t know the positions within the photograph of Duncan Ross and Bill Reid, we at least now know their full names. © Peter Carrie/ Kerry Major

After the very high viewing figures of my post about Chelsea Pensioner Peter Carrie, Flight Engineer with Bernard Lukins crew last weekend, I thought it was making a post about a little more that I have now discovered about them.

As with many of the RAF/ RAFVR boys that flew in the Squadron, the RAF’s decision to destroy the Personal Occurrence Records (POR’s) at the end of the War, means that now the Squadron records only list many of them by initial, rather than name – so I am constantly pleased to receive names where they are known.

This afternoon, I was contacted by Malcolm, whose Grandfather, James ‘Jimmy’ Shaw, was a Pilot at Mepal between February and June 1945. As well as being able to give me the christian names of all the boys in the crew, Malcolm also sent a small clipping that had originally been posted on a forum, I assume, from Bert Donald, Jimmy’s Wireless Operator.

Amazingly, within the paragraph, Bert remarked that he was still in touch with two members of the Lukins crew – Duncan Ross, the Air Bomber and Bill Reid, the Wireless Operator, so Duncan and William, pleased to meet you…….

Additionally and I feel awful for missing it, Sgt. T. Benson, Rear Gunner with the Lukins crew is of course Tom Benson – Brian had previously been in contact about his Father, but in the activities of last weekend, I completely failed to make the connection – but all details are now updated!

So, I suppose the message is if you know even only the christian name of a relative who flew with 75(NZ) Squadron and particularly if they were RAF/RAFVR, please get in touch – if they weren’t killed in action, as terrible as that sounds, I apologise, the probability is that we don’t know their names.

Request for Information – Canberra bombers (a little off piste I know)

I was contacted by Steven this afternoon, who is currently writing/ editing a book on the Canberra bomber – Steven is  desperately looking to interview air and ground crews that operated the B.2 type that was on the loan from the RAF.

Now, I have absolutely no knowledge of the Canberra Bomber, or its use in 75 Squadron in New Zealand after the War, but I am quietly confident that there is someone out there who either flew or maintained these aircraft, or knows someone who did – so please if you see this post and would like to assist Steven in his endeavours, as always, contact me on the usual mail address of info@75nzsquadron.com and I will forward your details or comments to him.

thanks in advance

Simon

Project ORB update – Form 540 July 1945 complete – 1945 complete

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The final page of the 1945 Form 540, announcing the disbandment of 75(NZ) Squadron, on the 15th October 1945. © The National Archives

I am really pleased and proud, to announce that with the completion of the July Form 540 by Brian, we now have a complete set of Form 540’s for 1945.

Read Form 540 July 1945 here.

This has been a remarkable effort and I feel so proud for the completion of this first year from the ORB records of 75(NZ) Squadron RAF, because I had absolutely no hand in doing it whatsoever – it was entirely completed by people who volunteered to do the job! A massive thank you to all those who completed portions or full months to make this possible;

So massive thanks to the following people:
Brian
Martyn
Gemma
Sarah
Jane

As I  always say  when I make an announcement about the completion of another month of the ORB, please, if you want to contribute something by way of taking a month to do,  contact me! More people read these pages when they are published than have so far stepped forward to help transcribe them, so without wanting to sound arsey on such an upbeat post, maybe its time to put something back into the project!

Thanks again to all those that helped make the completion of 1945 possible

Simon