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.

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

  1. Chris Newey

    My pick is that the three photos of the Banks crew were all taken on the same day, with the same a/c, S-Sugar. Backgrounds, uniforms, rolled-up sleeves, tucked-in ties and whatever it is that Jock has on his right arm – all look remarkably similar. If that’s the case, it may have been only the one op’ that Mossman and Smith flew with them?

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  2. Andrew

    Hi. My son and I had the pleaseure of meeting Lancaster read gunner Ted Smith today at a combined ops show in Headcorn, Kent. Now in his 90’s, he said he did fly some ops, as he clearly remembered the flak and AA fire on his missions, although he said he rarely fired his rear guns as there was little or no enemy fighters to shoot down in 1945. An absolute please to meet this gentleman. He even kindly allowed my son to take a photo of us. 🙂

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  3. Andrew

    A bit more about Ted Smith: he says he joined up in 1944 aged 18 and clearly remembered the anti-aircraft fire on his missions over Germany in 1945. He rarely fired his rear guns (except out of boredom and frustration) as there was little or no enemy fighters to shoot down as the war came to an end. Each mission he was allocated 10,000 round of ammo, and he guesses he only fired about 1000 in his entire time in the RAF.

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    1. John F Smith

      Hi Andrew. Pleased yu met Ted Smith rear gunner recently. My dad the Ted Smith in the fotos with Banks crew was in RNZAF and passed away in 1964. But great hear to about his namesake still going strong. My dad’s stories about his “action” were very similar. He said he never fired his guns in anger, just to test they still worked! Best wishes JohnF

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