Monthly Archives: June 2014

Bomber Command Clasp – extension to other theaters of operations

BCC for non europe

Via one of several Bomber Command related Facebook pages I am a member of, I saw this online petition to have the criteria for the Bomber Command Clasp extended to include aircrew who flew in the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Far East.

“At present aircrew who undertook perilous bombing raids over Italy, Africa, the Middle East and the Far East have been informed by the MOD they are not eligible for the new award, which only applies to those who flew with Bomber Command over Western Europe.

The Bomber Command Association along with David Davies (MP for Monmouth) backs the veterans, calling for the Ministry of Defence to reconsider the qualifying rules for the decoration.

Hundreds of aircrew members from No. 624 and No. 148 Squadrons and other non-UK based Squadrons, lost their lives providing support under perilous conditions. These brave men were trained by Bomber Command and yet have been excluded from being awarded the Bomber Command Clasp which they so richly deserve.

Aircrew that have applied have been informed by Bomber Command that they are not eligible because they didn’t fly from Britain, yet another example of “Red Tape” gone mad and I feel a mark of extreme disrespect.”

It seems like a decent cause and a reasonable request given how little of the boys are now left with us.

If you’d like to add your signature to the petition, just click on the link below – it takes less that 60 seconds to register your support – first, last name, email and postcode.

I think this information requires you to be a UK resident, but given the normal daily traffic for the blog, I am sure we can help them move closer to their target of 200 signatures.

Register your support for this campaign here.

Wing Commander Cyril Kay, D.F.C.

75 s (2)

Wing Commander Cyril “Cyrus” Kay, DFC, 1941. – NZBCA archives. RNZAF Official.

Continuing thanks to Chris, for writing this follow on post from his last about Ian Millet. at the foot of this last post was a letter sent on the crew’s loss by the then Wing Commander of 75(NZ) Squadron Cyril Kay D.F.C.

Cyril “Cyrus” Kay was a founding member of the New Zealand Flight, and 75 (NZ) Squadron’s first Squadron Leader, under the command of Wing Commander Maurice Buckley.

Aviation had struggled in New Zealand through the 1920’s and 1930’s through lack of Government foresight, and then the effects of the Depression, so any Kiwi who had qualified as a pilot and established a career in either the RNZAF or RAF by 1939, had been part of its very early development. And they had got there not just on their ability, but through considerable initiative and persistence.

Both Buckley and Kay had already made names for themselves as pioneers of New Zealand aviation, well before the impending war brought them to England, and into the New Zealand Flight.

Cyril Eyton Kay was born in Auckland on 25 June 1902, and grew up in Devonport, where he enjoyed sailing. But a flight with one of the early barnstormers, while still at secondary school, inspired him to become a pilot.

He applied to join the RNZAF, but at that time only refresher training for existing pilots was available, so he worked his passage to Britain and tried to enlist in the Royal Air Force. Given only limited prospects, he approached the former New Zealand governor general, Lord Jellicoe, against whom he had once won a sailing race. Jellicoe wrote, ‘if Cyril Kay is as good in the air as he is on the sea, he will be an acquisition to the Royal Air Force’. Kay entered the RAF on a five-year short-service commission on 14 July 1926.

Serving on army co-operation squadrons, Kay earned an ‘above average’ pass from the prestigious Central Flying School. He specialised in navigation and meteorology and in 1928 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society. In 1929 he flew in the RAF Air Pageant set-piece displays at Hendon.

The following year, determined to break the England-to-Australia record of 15½ days, he flew as co-pilot with a fellow New Zealander, Flying Officer Harold Piper, in a tiny Desoutter monoplane, from Croydon to Darwin.

KayNZH19300131

FLIGHT TO AUSTRALIA. Flying-Officer C. E. Kay, of Auckland, who, with Flying- Officer H. L. Piper, is to attempt to fly from England to Australia in 13 days. NZ Herald, 31 January 1930.

Bad weather, engine problems and eight forced landings turned this into an epic of six weeks and two days – the men lost a stone each in weight.

In 1931 he attended the Wasserkuppe gliding school, the ‘birthplace of gliding’ in Germany,  and achieved the distinction of being the first ‘English’ aviator to secure the “C” gliding certificate. He then became an instructor at a flying school in Digby, Lincolnshire.

CyrilEytonKay1930

Cyril Eyton Kay, ca. 1930. Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand. Reference: 1/2-082720; F.

In 1932 Kay returned to New Zealand, working in commercial aviation, and was involved in the establishment of Kay Robot Air-Pilots Ltd in 1934 – he had invented an automatic compressed air stabiliser (autopilot) for aircraft. His invention was overtaken by the gyroscopic stabiliser about 18 months later.

In October 1934 Kay competed in ‘The Great Race’, the MacRobertson Centenary Air Race from London to Melbourne, with another New Zealander, Sqdn Ldr Jim D. Hewett, and wireless operator Frank Stewart.  Their entry was New Zealand-backed, and they flew a twin-engined de Havilland Dragon Rapide ‘Tainui’ ZK-ACO, Race No. 60,  into fifth place.

HewettKayStewartTainui1934

Squadron Leader J.D. Hewett (centre), Flying Officer C.E. Kay (right), and F. Stewart (passenger) flew DH.89 Dragon Rapide, ZK-ACO, named ‘Tainui’. They finished third in the handicap race and fifth overall, taking an elapsed time of 13 days 18 hrs 51 mins and a flying time of 106 hrs 51 mins. Flight magazine, via Flight Archive.

Their intention was to also demonstrate the feasibility of an England to New Zealand air route, and on Nov 14th 1934, they flew “Tainui” from Richmond, Sydney directly across the Tasman Sea to Palmerston North,  New Zealand. This was the first direct flight from England to NZ, possibly the first and only recorded London to Palmerston North direct international flight, it set a Tasman crossing record that stood for several years (12hrs 9mins), and Kay and Hewett went into the history books as being the first Kiwis to fly the Tasman.

Kay then applied to join the Royal New Zealand Air Force, being accepted on 8 July 1935 with the rank of Flying Officer.

Granted a permanent commission in January 1938, he became chief navigation instructor at Wigram six months later.

In May 1939 Kay travelled to Britain to join the New Zealand Flight as a flight commander and navigation leader. It had been formed to ferry 30 Vickers-Armstrongs Wellington I bombers back to New Zealand, but with the outbreak of the Second World War it remained in Britain and became the nucleus of  75 (New Zealand) Squadron.

Kay led the squadron’s first operational mission, which dropped propaganda leaflets over northern Germany on the night of 27–28 March 1940.

EarlyOpsASquadronGroup1940

“A SQUADRON GROUP. (1) Squadron Leader C.E. Kay; (2) Flying Officer J. Adams; (3) Flight Lieutenant N. Williams; (4) Wing Commander M.W. Buckley; (5) Flight Lieutenant A.A.N. Breckon, and others.” – From “Early Operations with Bomber Command” by B.G. Clare. Probably RNZAF Official.

This photo appears to have been taken around May-June 1940. To the left of Kay is P/O E.V. Best and second to the extreme left is Air Gunner Sgt J. Purdy. The Wellington in the background is P9212, AA-C, the regular a/c of F/O N. Williams during May 1940.

Cyril Kay was awarded the D.F.C. for an attack against German units near Baileux in Belgium on 7 June 1940.

Distinguished Flying Cross citation, June 1940:
“This officer was captain of an aircraft ordered to attack important targets in the forests south of Bourlers and Baileux during a night in June. In spite of extremely difficult conditions, and in the face of severe opposition, he successfully bombed the objective, starting several fires which gave accurate direction to other aircraft of this sortie. He then descended to a low altitude and, again in the face of heavy opposition, attacked the woods with all his machine guns. Sqn. Ldr. Kay has conducted a number of operations in recent weeks and has shown daring, determination and outstanding ability.”

IWM_CH_467

Vickers Wellington Mark IAs and ICs of No. 75 (New Zealand) Squadron RAF based at Feltwell, Norfolk, flying in loose formation over the East Anglian countryside. The New Zealand Wellington Flight was elevated to squadron status as No. 75 in April 1940, the first such Commonwealth unit in Bomber Command. The leading aircraft in the formation, P9206 ‘AA-A’, was usually flown by the Squadron’s Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader C E Kay. © IWM (CH 467)

Between November 1940 and September 1941 he commanded the squadron on intensive operations against transport and fuel installations in Germany and occupied countries, earning the respect and affection of his crews.

He was promoted to Acting W/C in January 1941, taking over from Buckley, who remained on base as Station Commander, and was eventually himself replaced as commanding officer in September 1941 by W/C R. Sawrey-Cookson.

Kay returned to New Zealand in October 1942 where he commanded training establishments at New Plymouth, home of the navigation school (1942–43), Ohakea (1943–44) and Wigram (1944–46). Usually known as Cyrus, the stockily built Kay was described as a superb instructor and a brilliant and daring pilot.

After the war he attended the Imperial Defence College, then joined the Air Board as air member for supply and was promoted to the rank of air commodore in 1947. He had a major role in determining the shape of the post-war RNZAF and in the introduction of jet aircraft in 1951–52.

After a posting to London, where he became air officer commanding at the RNZAF London Headquarters in 1951, he returned to become air member for personnel in 1953. In May 1956 Kay led a goodwill mission to the United States. On 5th June he was promoted to air vice marshal, and appointed chief of the air staff and air officer commanding.

To cap off an amazing career in aviation, that had started in the very early days of the travelling barnstormers, on 29th of March 1958 C.A.S., A.V-M. Cyril Kay became the first New Zealander to break the sound barrier over home ground, in a U.S.A.F. F-100.

He retired on 30th June 1958.

Cyril Kay died in London on 29 April 1993.

Reference, and extracts from, ‘Kay, Cyril Eyton’, by Brian Lockstone, from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
URL: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/5k5/kay-cyril-eyton

 

Leopold Ian Adrian Millett, RAFVR (1164817), 2nd Pilot / Pilot. 1941

IanMillett

Ian Millett – Reproduced from Into The Drink; By A Member Of The Goldfish Club Ian A Millett; The Memoirs Of A Royal Air Force Bomber Pilot 1940-1945, Copyright Ursula Millett.

Many thanks again and always to Chris for another fantastic and well researched post – especially gratefully received as I am still working through my emails, rather than writing posts myself!

Leopold Ian Adrian Millett was an Englishman who migrated to America after the war. I was loaned a copy of his memoirs,  ‘Into The Drink‘, by another 75’er, Doug Williamson.  Doug and Ian met in Canada after the war, and found out that they had both served with the same Squadron, albeit at different ends of the war.

Ian had trained as a Pilot, and met up with his crew at 11 OTU Bassingbourne:

11_OTU_Bassingbourn_May_1941

11 OTU Bassingbourne, Course No. 30, May 1941.

However, on arrival at 75 (NZ) Sqdn, ‘A’ Flight in June 1941, the crew was split up:

From Ian’s book “Into The Drink“:
“Eventually we completed our training, and our crew was sent to 75 New Zealand Squadron. Now don’t ask me why, except that before the war the New Zealanders bought a whole lot of Wellingtons, and they were going to form a squadron and take it back to New Zealand. The only trouble was there weren’t enough New Zealanders to fill the squadron out, so we got posted there. We, as a crew, reported to Squadron Leader “Popeye” Lucas – a great guy, and much loved by his men. He explained that he was going to break up the crew, I would fly as 2nd pilot to Pip Coney, a New Zealander, and Pip’s 2nd pilot Frankie Fox would take over the rest of the crew, and this way we would all be flying with experienced men”.

It was standard practice at 75 (NZ) Sqdn, at this stage of the war, for Pilots to fly as 2nd Pilots for up to 10 op’s before captaining their own crew.

Millett also flew 2nd Pilot with Fox, and there seems to have been some mixing of the two crews.

Operational history (Ian Millett):
10/11.6.41, Brest
Wellington 1C R1648, AA-K
Sgt Phillip Ronald Coney  RNZAF (NZ391825), Pilot
Sgt  Ian A Millett RAFVR (1164817), 2nd Pilot / Flight Engineer
P/O Derek Clare RAF (103536, 951765), Navigator
Sgt Cliff Simpson RAFVR (943822), Wireless Operator
Sgt Jack Wilson Bottomley RAFVR (943398), Bomb Aimer/Front Gunner
Sgt (Ken?) Tommy Oddie RAF, Rear Gunner

From “Into The Drink”:
“My first operation was on June 10th, 1941. This was the time when the Bismarck accompanied by the Prinz Eugen and the Gneisenau, broke out of their base at Bremen, and started sinking any shipping they could find in the North Atlantic. Eventually they were located, after an intensive search (which included Bomber Command and my squadron) by a Coastal Command PBY aircraft. It shadowed them for some eighteen hours, which gave the British Navy time to intercept the ships. Fortunately for the Navy a “stringbag” – a torpedo carrying aircraft – got a torpedo hit on the steering gear of the Bismarck. As a result it could only steam in circles. The Navy moved in and proceeded to sink the Bismarck. There was no surrender. The other two ships made a run for Brest, and spent the rest of the war there. However they remained a threat to Atlantic shipping, so every once in a while, we visited them and left a few calling cards!

This operation was down to Brest, on the coast of Brittany, to bomb the German ships moored there. It was a clear night, however the Germans had blanked out the harbour using smoke generators on barges. The wind carried the smoke over both the docks and the town. Danny Clare the navigator and bomb aimer, had to guess the position of the ships and we bombed through the smoke.

The return trip brought us back over Lulworth Cove as dawn was breaking, and it was fascinating to see the land formation – a perfect example of a volcanic caldera, part of which had been eroded by the ocean. Our flight path also took us over Bournemouth and I was able to pick out my mother’s house quite easily.” 

R1648AA-K-taxying

Ian’s regular aircraft, and eventually his “own”, Wellington 1C R1648 AA-K Photo from Cliff Simpson, via www.feltwell.net.

12/13.6.41, Hamm
Wellington 1C R1648, AA-K
From the ORB: Sgt Coney’s crew observed their bombs bursting among fires already started in the rail yards.

16/17.6.41, Dusseldorf

Wellington 1C R1648, AA-K
From the ORB: Observed bomb bursts among fires in the target area.

Note: For this op’ only, Rear Gunner Oddie was replaced by Sgt Robert William TOLLER, RAF. (1054292). Three months later (15th September) Toller was W/Op in the crew Captained by James Allen “Jimmy” Ward V.C. that was shot down over Hamburg – 4 of the 6 crew were lost, including Toller and Ward.

Between op’s, Ian tells some intriguing stories about life on Base.
“The New Zealanders stationed at Feltwell had a little mascot, he was a monkey and had a neat little uniform that the girls in the canvas shop made him. He used to sit on the radiator in the Sergeants’ ante room to the mess – a room where the armchairs and tables were, not the dining part of the mess.

And we had this one Warrant Officer, one of the ones who had been in the Air Force all his life. Well, he didn’t like this monkey, and he came storming in and opened the window, threw the monkey out and closed the window which was rather unfortunate for him, because two very large New Zealanders seized him by arms and legs, and they threw him right through the window, which was by then closed.
 
Well when he got out of hospital, he was posted on to the machine gun and bombing range, which was our practice range, where we used to nip in and test our guns before an operation. And man, every one, on any excuse, used to go over to Laken Heath firing range, and I’ve seen them put smoke bombs right through the hut where he had to sit. He came back, one time, and he was a shaken man, absolutely trembling. They never quite got him, but man they did their best.”

18/19.6.41, Brest
Wellington 1C R1648, AA-K
From the ORB: R1648  failed to observe any bursts.

21/22.6.41, Cologne
Wellington 1C R1648, AA-K
From the ORB: R1648 confirmed that their bomb bursts were observed in the dock area on the Rhine.

“We could volunteer to carry cameras on bombing raids. Normally if you were doing photography from the air, you were doing line overlaps with a camera mounted in the aircraft. We had these beautiful Fairchild hand held cameras, with about 8.5in lenses in them. You were supposed to take so many photographs a month. So what we used to do, was go down to low level, open the astrodome and at low speed with flaps down at about 85 mph, which is pretty bloody slow, take pictures of pubs from sometimes 50 feet and sometimes 100 feet. Then the photographic department would develop them and then we’d go round to the pubs and sell them the photographs.
 
I often wonder how many of these are still around. Of course, they always gave you a beer on the house and all that good stuff. Some of the guys were very good at taking these photographs and also very handy with the barmaids.”

24/25.6.41, Kiel
Wellington 1C R1648, AA-K
From the ORB: R1648 failed to observe their bomb strikes.

“Altogether I flew fourteen operations, and the most memorable of these was a raid on Kiel, where we got ”coned” by searchlights. Our usual practice when dealing with the German searchlight and anti-aircraft batteries as we crossed the coastline, was to drop empty beer bottles over them.

The bottles screamed like bombs, and the men on the searchlights would dive for cover, and we could make it through, without losing any altitude. Sometimes of course, this did not work, and we had to let a live bomb go.

On this particular night out target was the U-boat pens at Kiel. We were carrying 2000 lb armour piercing bombs, hoping they would penetrate the very thick concrete surrounding and covering the pens. We came in from the North, over Denmark but in spite of this they “coned” us, meaning that a great white searchlight was focussed on each aeroplane, one at a time, and all the other searchlights and anti-aircraft guns were able to range in on us. Our Wellington was the first to be picked out and everything in the town opened up on us. The only thing that saved us was the fact that we had our bombs on board, and they acted as armour plate in the floor. The bomb doors were shredded, so we jettisoned our load and high tailed it for home. I shall always remember flying down the Kiel canal amongst the barrage balloons, hoping we were just high enough to miss them, and knowing they wouldn’t fire at us in case they hit their own balloons. Whilst we were scooting along the canal, our rear gunner, Ken Oddie, yelled “I’ve just shot down one of those balloons, and it’s burning nicely!” “

Note: The practice of dropping empty beer bottles from the bombers is also mentioned by Jack Moller, Bomb Aimer with the Kearns crew, 1942.

27/28.6.41, Bremen
Wellington 1C R1177, AA-F
From the ORB: Sgt Coney’s crew dropped their bombs and observed bursts in the target area.

Millett-crew

L to R: Cliff Simpson, Frankie Fox, Danny Clare, Pip Coney, Jack Bottomley, Tommy Oddie. The a/c behind them appears to be R1648. Photo from Cliff Simpson, via http://www.feltwell.net

30.6/1.7.41, Cologne
Wellington 1C R1177, AA-F
Sgt Francis Charles Fox, RNZAF (NZ40762), Pilot (later F/L, DFC)
Sgt Ian A Millett RAFVR (1164817), 2nd Pilot / Flight Engineer
P/O Derek Clare RAF (103536, 951765), Navigator
Sgt Cliff Simpson RAFVR (943822), WO/AG
Sgt Jack Wilson Bottomley RAFVR (943398), F/Gnr
Sgt (Ken?) Tommy Oddie RAF, R/Gnr

11 crews were briefed to carry out individual attacks against Cologne. A mixed bomb load was carried, consisting of 1,000lb GP, 500lb GP, 250lb GP and containers of incendiaries.
From the ORB: Sgt Fox’s crew observed their bomb bursts in the target area. No results given.

“Most of the night flights were on moonlit nights, because our navigation systems were so poor that we were literally going on what was called DR navigation, or Dead Reckoning, where you calculate where you are by using windspeed, ground speed and direction. We got a lot of help from the big German radio stations, we used Texal, and we could pull in the Swiss stations – they had one very powerful one – and of course, the dear old Vatican, the world’s most powerful station, I think it was 1500 watts that it put out and you could put a loop on it to get a bearing.

Moonlit nights over Germany were quite something. Cologne was a great place which we loved to bomb because all the targets were in a straight line, and if you missed the tank works you could get the bridge, if you missed the bridge you could get the cathedral. We missed the cathedral and got a big block of flats, and I swear to this day, that when we hit that block of flats one night, every light in that building was turned on, and I also swear that I saw a man blown through the roof in his bed! I was sober at the time too.”

7/8.7.41, Münster
(This op’ is listed in the book, but neither Millett, nor Coney or Fox crews appear in the ORB for this night?)

This was the op’ that resulted in probably the Squadron’s most famous act of heroism, from efforts by the Widdowson crew flying Wellington L7818, AA-R to put out an engine fire and bring the a/c and crew safely home.

2nd Pilot, Sgt “Jimmy” Ward, RNZAF, earned the Victoria Cross; S/L Ben Widdowson, RAF, the Distinguished Flying Cross; Sgt Allen Box, RNZAF, the Distinguished Flying Medal, and Sgt R A Lawton, RNZAF, Navigator, was to receive the Air Force Cross.

“We had a New Zealander, a Sergeant Ward, who was awarded an instantaneous Victoria Cross. How he earned it was, that he was 2nd Pilot on a Wellington, and they were coming home and they were attacked by a night fighter and the right engine caught fire, because there was a 60 gallon tank of fuel in the Nacelle, and so the flames were pouring out. So this guy takes down the astrodome puts the fire extinguisher in his Sidcop flying suit, kicked holes in the Wellington till he got to the wing, proceeded to punch holes in the wing until he got out to the Nacelle in which the reserve fuel tank was sitting, and sprayed it with the fire extinguisher, put the fire out and climbed back in – and all this at about 10,000 feet.

A Wellington’s body and wings were covered with canvas, and this was why he could punch holes in it. We tried it out next day; we went out to our flights, took down the astrodome and tried to get out, and it was bloody near impossible as the force of the wind pushed you back in. Anyway, by mid-day the whole squadron had been assembled for the Victoria Cross award. The Duke of Kent came and they had a great big bean feast for him in the Officers’ Mess, and they did the most unusual thing, they invited all Sergeant air crews to join the officers in their mess. And I tell you, that was one of the wildest parties I ever went to in my life. We were all very happy about that, and very proud of Ward.”

JAWardVC-Menu

Autographed menu, “On the occasion of the approval of the award of the Victoria Cross to Sgt. James Allen Ward. 7 August 1941” – Copyright Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

10/11.7.41, Cologne
Wellington L9626?
For this trip, Ian is re-united with his original Navigator, Deryck Polly, and regular Rear Gunner Oddie is replaced by a Sgt Stevenson:
Sgt Francis Charles Fox, RNZAF (NZ40762), Pilot (later F/L, DFC)
Sgt Ian A Millett RAFVR (1164817), 2nd Pilot / Flight Engineer
Sgt Deryck Polly RAFVR (977080), Navigator
Sgt Cliff Simpson RAFVR (943822), WO/AG
Sgt Jack Wilson Bottomley RAFVR (943398), F/Gnr
Sgt James Blake Stephenson (Stevenson?) RCAF, R/Gnr

13.7.41, Bremen

Wellington 1C R1648, AA-K
From the ORB: Sgt Fox’s crew bombed their target but the results were not observed.

“We used to come home off an operation for our eggs and bacon, if nothing else. There was a civilian cook attached to the Sergeants’ Mess and there was also a civilian Mess Steward, who had hired this cook. So we all came in, very hungry for breakfast one day, after having been debriefed. While you were being debriefed, you could drink as much rum as you wanted, and there were cases of beer. So by the time you had finished the de-briefing and told your story, you were pretty happy.

Well, the whole troop of us, about 50 or 60, sat down waiting for eggs and bacon, and this bloody cook, served us BOILED FISH! Well, they got the mess secretary but even better than that two very large New Zealanders (who shall be nameless, but probably the same two who heaved the Warrant out of the window) went and got the cook; and they held him up against the wall, at the end of the mess, spread-eagled, and we threw all the fish at him until there was no fish left and he was plastered with it; then he was told in accents loud and clear that if he ever served fish again he’d be feeding the fish on the end of a hook.”

21/22.7.41 Mannheim
Millett is replaced by P/O Raphael as 2nd Pilot in the Fox crew for this op’.

24/25.7.41, Kiel
Wellington 1C T2805, AA-D
From the ORB: Sgt Fox’s crew completed a bombing attack and observed fires starting .

WellingtonR1648AA-K

Another view of Ian’s regular aircraft, Wellington 1C R1648 AA-K Photo from Cliff Simpson, via http://www.feltwell.net.

6/7.8.41 Mannheim
Wellington 1C, R1648, AA-K
Finally, Ian got to fly as Captain of his own crew:
Sgt Ian Adrian Millett RAFVR (1164817), Pilot
Sgt Richard Grosvenor Morgan RNZAF (NZ402239), 2nd Pilot / Flight Engineer
Sgt Deryck Polly RAFVR (977080), Navigator
Sgt Cliff Simpson RAFVR (943822), WO/AG
Sgt Jack Wilson Bottomley RAFVR (943398), F/Gnr
F/Sgt William Neill Kennedy Mellon RAF. (176808), R/Gnr

” I was, of course, flying a Wellington 1C. Our mission that night was to bomb the tank works at Mannheim. I was the captain, Derrick Polley was the navigator, Simpson was the wireless operator, there was a fellow called Morgan, a New Zealander, who was the second pilot, Bottomley was the front gunner, and the rear gunner was Mellon, a replacement for our regular gunner, Oddie. Derrick and I were all out to get our names in print, so we volunteered that night to carry a camera, which was a foolish thing because after we had done our bomb run, we had to go back and do a couple more runs for filming, so we were late getting off the target.
We were intercepted over Germany. A cry came from the rear gunner “There’s an aircraft behind us!” Before I could yell at him, “Fire!”, we received the first burst which hit us and made a mess of the aeroplane, and she caught fire. I promptly went into a left hand turn and yelled at the front gunner “watch out!”.

We circled, the guy came by, he came right up alongside of us on the right hand front, which was a stupid thing to do because Bottomley raked him from end to end, and it was a Messerschmitt 110, and they had no armour on the side anyway, and he pulled away in a dive.
We were, of course, in bad shape. The good old Wellington caught fire in the fuselage, not anywhere else, and eventually it was put out, by Derrick Polley with the use of a fire extinguisher. I decided we would head for home, even though we had been badly hit.

The instrument panel was non-existent, and of course, in the Wellington, once your hydraulics were hit, your undercarriage tended to hang down. So I did a long sloping dive, trying to get out of altitude and down to ground level where I thought we would be somewhat safer than if we sat up top at 18,000 feet and let the anti aircraft guns have at us. Well, Derrick threw all the spare ammunition out, the oxygen bottle, everything except his astro-compass, which was a Mark 8, and he wanted to keep it.

We plodded on, and I guess we got fairly close to the English coast. Unfortunately, we ran into the fog, and without any instruments, and precious little but a compass, I just ended up flying it into the sea.

 There was a terrific crash – the Wellington has a big belly, of course, and it took it. And when it was all over, four of us climbed out. Derrick Polley, Simpson, Mellon and I were the four who made it. Bottomley had gone back to get his little mascot out of the front turret, but the front turret had snapped when we hit the water. I pulled the release handle over the pilot’s cockpit, jumped out only to be pulled back again because I had forgotten to unhook the pipe that brings the oxygen to the oxygen mask. So I threw my helmet away, swam round to the left engine, put my foot up on the spinner, grabbed the prop and climbed up onto the wing. By this time, Simpson, who had his wits about him, had released the large round dinghy, which was stowed in the wing, and the four of us climbed in. The rear gunner appeared to be jammed in his turret, and we couldn’t get him out. So we just drifted away, watching the Wellington sink. “

Shot down after bombing target Mannheim 6.8.41; ditched in North Sea; crew 4 POW and 2 killed:
PILOT Sgt Ian Millet RAFVR POW. PoW No. 106, PoW Camps – Dulag Luft, Stalags IIIE, Luft III, Luft VI and 357. Promoted to W/O while a PoW.
2nd Pilot Sgt Richard Grosvenor Morgan RNZAF POW.
NAV Sgt Derek Polly RAFVR POW. PoW No.104. PoW Camps – Dulag Luft, Stalags IIIE, Luft III, Luft VI, and 357.
W/AG Sgt Cliff Simpson RAFVR POW. PoW No. 150. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalags IIIE, Luft VI and 357.
F/Gnr Sgt Jack Wilson Bottomley  RAFVR (+) Commemorated on Panel 40 Runnymede Memorial.
R/Gnr William Neill Kennedy Mellon RAFVR (+) Commemorated on Panel 48 Runnymede Memorial.

letter

“Failed To Return” letter from W/C Cyril Kay to Ian’s mother. – Reproduced from Into The Drink; By A Member Of The Goldfish Club Ian A Millett; The Memoirs Of A Royal Air Force Bomber Pilot 1940-1945

After 6 days in their inflatable dinghy, Ian and the other three survivors, Simpson, Polly and Morgan, were picked up by a German flak ship, and transferred to first the German navy, and then to the Luftwaffe, for interrogation.

Ian spent the rest of the war as a POW, promoted to Warrant Officer while still a prisoner.

After the war, Ian and his wife moved to California. Ian passed away on December 10, 2010 at 90 years of age.

Reference and excerpts from: “Into The Drink; By A Member Of The Goldfish Club, Ian A Millett; The Memoirs Of A Royal Air Force Bomber Pilot 1940-1945”, Publisher: Ian A. Millett (2000).
Special thanks to Mrs Ursula Millett for permission to reproduce these extracts and photo.

Narvik Reconnaissance, 12 April 1940 – Flight reports

EarlyOpsBreckonCrewBrief1940

Discussion before take-off for Narvik. L-R: LAC Edwin Williams, Wireless Operator; F/L Aubrey Breckon 1st Pilot; Lieutenant Commander Howie, R.N.; Sgt Robert Hughes Navigator, P/O Donald Harkness, 2nd Pilot, and AC Thomas Mumby, Gunner Observer. – From “Early Operations with Bomber Command”. Probably RNZAF Official.

As a follow up post to yesterday’s regarding the Breckon crew’s incredible Narvik reconnaissance flight, Chris has also sent me the reports from the Op, by the pilot, Aubrey Breckon and Leading Aircraftsman Edwin Williams. Whilst quite lengthy, Chris notes that they make an interesting read and correct some inaccuracies, relative to some descriptions of the Op he came across whilst putting the previous post together.

CONFIDENTIAL
Appendix D16.

Flight Lieutenant A.A.N. Breckon,
No. 75 (NZ) Squadron, Feltwell.

Officer Commanding, No 75 (NZ) Squadron, Feltwell.

10th. May. 1940.

General Report on Long Distance Reconnaissance duties when attached to R.A.F. Station, WICK, SCOTLAND

I have the honour to submit the following general Report of the period when I was attached to R.A.F. Station, Wick for Special Duties.

In receipt of your special instructions my crew proceeded to R.A.F. Bassingbourn on the afternoon of the 10th. April. 1940.

This crew consisted of the following personnel:-
Flight Lieutenant A.A.N. Breckon.                 Captain & 1st Pilot.
Pilot Officer D.J. Harkness                              Pilot.
Sergeant Observer R.H. Hughes                   Navigator.
L.A.C. E.P. Williams                                          W/Operator.
A.C. T.L. Mumby  Gunner                               Observer.

Two Wellington Mark 1 aircraft were in the process of being fitted with long range petrol tanks and other equipment required for operational duties.

These aircraft had been used for training purposes, and were not fitted with D/F loops, self-sealing tanks and the usual armouring plating.   The armament comprised one front gun and two in the rear turret.

During the night the work was completed, and in our part­icular case, the wireless operator managed to procure an ordinary D/F loop, and fitted it to our own aircraft.

Together with the second crew, which had been detailed from MARHAM, we were instructed to proceed to WICK at the earliest possible moment.

At day break, both Wellingtons left for Scotland, landing en route at FELTWELL and MARHAM for maintenance personnel.

On arrival we reported to the commanding officer, who informed us that both crews were to be attached to 269 (G.R.) Squadron, for special long distance reconnaissance work.

During the remainder of the afternoon we thoroughly inspected our aircraft, satisfying ourselves in the short time available, that it was suitably equipped and serviceable for long flights over the sea.

Unfortunately we were rather handicapped by the absence of necessary tool kits, trestles and other equipment for the maintenance personnel.   The Oxygen bottles, flight mechanics chair, and other items not considered necessary, were removed to lighten the aircraft.     Finally, emergency rations and other small necessities for long flights were placed in the aircraft.

That evening, my crew sere warned that we had to carry out a long distance flight and would be given instructions immediately prior to the time of take-off.

Next morning, we were ordered by Coastal Command to carry out a daylight reconnaissance of the Norwegian coast to the LOFUTEN ISLANDS and the VEST FJORD to NARVIK.

We were not equipped with the normal I.F.F. equipment and as no movement serial indicator was available, no identification procedure could be used. The wireless carried was a normal general purpose R.1082 and T.1083 communication set.

An additional member to our crew was Lieutenant Commander F.O. Howie, R.N., who acted as a Naval Observer for ship recognition and naval reconnaissance writing. The petrol tanks were topped to their full capacity of 1,000 gallons and the nacelle and reserve oil tanks were filled to capacity. Ten thousand rounds of ammunition were carried, 2,000 rounds per gun, and a reserve of 4,000 was stowed on the bunk in the fuselage.

The take-off was rather difficult owing to a light wind at the time. At 08.00 hours a course was set for NARVIK. A landfall was made at the LOFUTEN ISLANDS at 13.05 hours after a crossing in extremely bad weather conditions. The navigation was done entirely by D.R., taking drift sights with the bomb-sight when we could see the water below.

A reconnaissance of the VEST FJORD, and photographs were taken between 13.30 and 14.30 hours. Flying conditions in the Fjord were very treacherous indeed, and great difficulty was experienced in controlling the aircraft, the air gunners frequently bumping their heads on the turret roofs.

Near NARVIK the weather deteriorated still worse, clouds came down to 300 feet, and almost sea level in places, causing visibility   to decrease to 500 yards and lower. A great effort was made to reach the town of NARVIK, but although we were nearly over the top of it, we had to turn back for our own safety. We were flying at 200 feet in a heavy snow storm withthe cloud closing in on us, making us wonder if we could make a safe exit.

An enemy aircraft, identified as a Junkers 86, was encountered in the outer part of the Fjord, and appeared to be engaged in a similar reconnaissance. No attempt was made to attack us although we prepared for action.

Course was set for Base at 14.30 hours, and on leaving the fjord, two destroyers were observed escorting a merchant ship towards NARVIK.     Still encountering bad weather we sighted the SHETLANDS ISLANDS at 20.18 hours.

Difficulty was experienced in locating WICK, owing to low cloud and drizzle, but we eventually made a night landing shortly after 22.00 hours.

The total flying time being 14 hours, 30 minutes. On landing we had 37 gallons of fuel remaining after covering a distance of well over 2,000 miles.

The consumption of petrol for this trip averaged 2.14 miles per gallon.   Weak mixture, warm air and on average boost pressure of -3 lbs. were used throughout the trip. Oil consumption was 21 gallons, which is, 11.6 pints per hour for the two engines. Operating height varied below 1,000 feet.

D/F facilities were of little use to us, but KIRKWALL M/F station was working quite satisfactorily at dusk, when nearing Base on the return Journey.

Coastal Command were very satisfied with the results of this flight, and I was asked to congratulate each member of the crew on their work done, both by the Admiral and the A.O.C. of Coastal Command.

Next day the other crew went on a similar reconnaissance flight to TRONDHEIM, but failed to return, apparently crashing into the sea on their homeward journey.

On the 14th. April. 1940, we returned the aircraft to its parent unit for a 180 hour inspection.

The next day my crew returned to WICK, by rail for further special duties. We were to use another Wellington Mark 1 similar to the first, except that no D/F loop was fitted.

I was detailed for duty on the Court of Enquiry regarding the loss of the second Wellington. During this enquiry, I was ordered on the 21st. to take off during darkness at 02.00 hours for a special reconnaissance of the area In the vicinity of TRONDHEIM.

We were told to signal back the main facts obtained during the reconnaissance. The crew was the same as for the first trip. After a sea crossing above clouds, we descended shortly before our E.T.A., making a landfall on the coast just South of KRISTIANSUND at 04.30 hours. Much low cloudand sleet was experienced during this part of the journey. Between the coast end TRONDHEIM we experienced much accurate A.A. fire, a piece of shrapnel struck the 1st. Pilot’s window and badly splintered the triplex glass. Fortunately, I wore goggles above my head, and used them immediately.

Much useful information was obtained and many photographs taken, mainly of aircraft on a frozen lake, VAERNES aerodrome, TRONDHEIM and the harbour in which quite a few seaplanes were moored.

When we were proceeding down the coast, a destroyer, which fired at us was observed 2 1/2 miles on our Port beam near HARO ISLAND.

Course was set for Base at 07.40 hours, a landfall being made at FAIR ISLAND at 09.57 hours. Base was reached at 10.30 hours.   Petrol consumed during this flight was 710 gallons and the distance covered was over 1180 miles.

The information and photos obtained were found to be extremely valuable and Coastal Command were very satisfied.

On the 9th. May, we returned the Wellington to Bassingbourne owing to unserviceability of miscellaneous equipment.

During the intervening days at WICK, we were continuously “standing by”, until we were released to return South.

During both of these pioneer long distance reconnaissance flights to northern Norway, each member of the crew carried out his particular work very efficiently in spite of enemy action, and so helped to obtain most important information.

Attached is a copy of a report on Wireless signals during these flights from the Operator, L.A.C. E.P. Williams.

I have the honour to be

Sir,
Your Obedient Servant,

Flight Lieutenant A.A.N. Breckon.

 

Wireless Operator.
L.A.C. Williams. E.P.

Flight Lieutenant A.A.N. Breckon,
Captain of Wellington aircraft on Long Distance Reconnaissance.

10th. May. 1940.

Report on W/T Signals Operations during Reconnaissance flights from WICK to NARVIK and TRONDHEIM.

WICK to NARVIK
Watch was opened on 5982 kc/s. and maintained at regular periods when not manning the front gun turret. Use was made of M/F.   D/F,   KIRKWALL, LUNEBURGH, and INVERNESS and bearings obtained were satisfactory for the first two hours only. No contact was made on 5982 kc/s, and when nearing NARVIK watch was closed.

Signals on that frequency were readable until within 2 hours of NARVIK.   During the flight there were no messages to be passed to control. When within range of M/F D/F on the homeward journey satisfactory use was again made for bearings.

As darkness fell it was necessary to work with emergency priority with KIRKWALL D/F, a message was passed to light the aerodrome, and that petrol was getting very low. KIRKWALL complied promptly and on locating Base the Watch was closed.

WICK TO TRONDHEIM
Watch was opened on 32.15 kc/s and maintained from 02.00 hours to 05.00 hours. Signals were of good strength until 05.00 hours, when I manned the front turret. No contact was made. Bearings were again satisfactory from M/F D/F for the first two hours.

Watch was re-opened again in TRONDHEIM FIORD immediately after leaving the town to pass special reconnaissance reports. Control could not be heard on 5982 kc/s, so messages were broadcast twice each on 5982, 3215 and 330 kc/s. Returning to 5982 kc/s I broadcast a further three messages and immediately afterwards obtained confirmation from control for all seven messages. This was just after leaving the entrance to the fiord.

Signals were R.6 but very difficult to hold owing to inherent instability of the receiver apparatus. It was later learned that the first four messages had been received by INVERNESS on 330 kc/s at a distance of approximately 500 miles. Satisfactory bearings were again obtained on M/F D/F on the return journey. Within approximately one hour of Base GKR, WICK radio was contacted on 500 kc/s, as arranged, for the purpose of homing.   Two satisfactory bearings were obtained, although he reported my signals as weak. Watch closed on landing approximately 10.30 hours.

On the above flight a detailed report of signal strength and readability was compiled of all signals on M/F and H/F with distances and accuracy of bearings obtained.

(Signed)   E.P. Williams. L.A.C.

Narvik Reconnaissance, 12 April 1940 – Breckon crew

EarlyOpsBreckonCrewBrief1940

Discussion before take-off for Narvik. L-R: LAC Edwin Williams, Wireless Operator; F/L Aubrey Breckon 1st Pilot; Lieutenant Commander Howie, R.N.; Sgt Robert Hughes Navigator, P/O Donald Harkness, 2nd Pilot, and AC Thomas Mumby, Gunner Observer. – From “Early Operations with Bomber Command”. Probably RNZAF Official.

Many thanks to Chris for putting together this fantastic account of the Narvik reconnaissance flight undertaken by F/L Aubrey Breckon and his crew on the 12th April 1940. The post was prompted by a recent post relating to the possible eligibility of this crew for the Arctic Star medal, announced at the same time as the Bomber Command clasp. Whilst this award was mainly for seamen, it has a qualifying criteria that relates to aircrew that also flew within the Arctic Circle.

The New Zealand Flight had been formed in England on 1 June 1939 to fly out to New Zealand a number of Wellington bombers for the Royal New Zealand Air Force. When war broke out, the NZ Government immediately placed the six Wellingtons, twelve pilots and six ground crew in the flight at the disposal of the British Government.

Aubrey Arthur Ninnis Breckon came from Northcote, Auckland, New Zealand, and had been a newspaper photographer (for the New Zealand Herald and the Auckland Weekly News), as was his father. He gained his commercial pilots licence in 1931, and his photographs survive in various museum collections, including many fine examples of aerial and aviation photography.

In 1935 he travelled to England to take up a commission in the Royal Air Force. He transferred to the RNZAF in 1939, and was one of the founding pilots of the New Zealand Flight.

The formation of a New Zealand Bomber Squadron within the RAF had been approved on 1 March 1940, but had not yet taken place on the 27th March, when the New Zealand Flight made its first operational sortie, a reconnaissance and leaflet-dropping operation in which three Wellingtons flew to Brunswick, Ulzen, and Luneberg.

In this very early stage of the war, Bomber Command was not allowed to drop bombs on anything other than military objectives, and then, only if there was no risk of injury to civilians. So the Flight’s activities were limited to training, reconnaissance, and dropping pamphlets.

The first significant operation took place on 12 April, an extremely dangerous long distance reconnaisance to northern Norway.

Germany had invaded neutral Norway by sea on the 9th of April, mainly because of its dependence on Swedish iron ore, which during the winter was shipped primarily from the ice-free Norwegian port of Narvik. Narvik was already held by the Germans – the first naval Battle of Narvik had taken place on the 10th May and the Royal Navy wanted to sail up the fifty-mile-long fjord on the 13th of April to complete the destruction of German naval units in the Narvik area.

Flight Lieutenant Aubrey Breckon RNZAF and his crew from New Zealand Flight, but temporarily attached to Coastal Command, and with a Royal Navy observer, were tasked to find out whether there was enemy shipping which might ambush British forces from the many inlets off the main fjord.

This was intended be part of a series of reconnaissance flights to Norway, arranged at very short notice, and considering their difficulty, with minimal planning.

Breckon and his crew were selected, along with another crew from 38 Squadron, RAF Marham, to fly to RAF Bassingbourn on the 10th of April and collect two older Mk1 Wellingtons, on loan from 11 Operational Training Unit. They were being fitted with long-range fuel tanks, but on arrival at Bassingbourn, Breckon’s crew discovered that because they were training aircraft they were not fitted with D/F loops, self-sealing tanks or armour plating.  LAC Williams, the W/Op, had to find a D/F loop and fit it himself.

The two crews flew to RAF Wick in Scotland early the next morning, and had the day to check over their aircraft, with the help of maintenance staff borrowed from Marham and Feltwell. RAF Wick was home to 269 (GR) Squadron, Coastal Command, flying Avro Ansons, and three fighter squadrons, all flying Hawker Hurricanes, so local Wellington expertise was non-existent. “Unfortunately we were rather handicapped by the absence of necessary tool kits, trestles and other equipment for the maintenance personnel.” said Breckon in his report.

The crew was:

Flight Lieutenant Aubrey A.N. Breckon, RNZAF (NZ1025, 70016) –  Captain &1st Pilot.
Pilot Officer Donald J. Harkness, RAF (41694) – Pilot.
Sergeant Observer Robert H. Hughes, RAF  – Navigator.
L.A.C. Edwin P. Williams, RNZAF (NZ38235) – W/Operator.
A.C. Thomas L. Mumby, RAF – Gunner Observer.

For the flight they were joined by Lieutenant Commander F.O. Howie, R.N., who acted as a Naval Observer for ship recognition and naval reconnaissance reporting.

The Wellington, L4387, coded LG-L, had been lightened wherever possible and fuelled up to capacity, in the absence of a bomb load.

EarlyOpsOnTheWay1940

Setting course for Norway – From “Early Operations with Bomber Command”. Probably RNZAF Official.

They took off at 8am, into a squally north-west wind and worsening weather, heading for a target 1000 miles over the North Sea, and past the Arctic Circle. The course was set for Narvik, and landfall was made 5 hours later at the Lofoten Islands after a crossing in extremely bad weather conditions. “The ceiling” said Williams, “was 1,000 ft., with dirty sleet and mist, getting worse as we neared Narvik . . . the Navigator took wind drifts on crests of waves every twenty minutes. Our wireless was no longer of any assistance.”

On the way over they had sighted a number of vessels of the Royal Navy. They were 500 miles out, heading for the same destination. These were the ships which on the following day sailed into Narvik Fjord and destroyed seven German destroyers.

They had arrived at the coast of Norway only 10 miles off course, but visibility on the coast was approximately 2-3 miles, 10/10 cloud at 800 feet, with an extremely strong wind blowing and it took the Navigator about a quarter of an hour to find the right fjord.

Williams: “We had a little trouble in finding the right fjord which led up to Narvik, for every little inlet and river seemed alike on such a rugged coast. The weather was so bad that we could not fly higher than a thousand feet above sea-level. The further up we went the lower became the ceiling. The fjord began to narrow until huge rocks towered up on either side of us. Their peaks were hidden in dirty mist and sleet. Snow drifted down, so that soon we could only see a few yards ahead. The ‘wind-locks’ were terrific, bouncing and throwing us about until we had barely enough room to turn round.”

Breckon: “A great effort was made to reach the town of Narvik but although we were nearly over the top of it, we had to turn back for our own safety. We were flying at 200 feet in a heavy snow storm with the cloud closing in on us making us wonder if we could make a safe exit.”

Williams: “Visibility was almost nil. Up till that moment we had been able to see the surface of the fjord. Now we could do so no longer. We went about and picked our way down the fjord again, feeling our way along the cliffs like a boat hugging the shore. Suddenly we saw once more the open sea.”

At the same time, they saw a Ju 86 twin-engined bomber, apparently also engaged in reconnaisance, but no attack was made. As they set course for home at 1410 hrs, they also saw two destroyers escorting a merchant ship towards Narvik.

While we were in the vicinity of Narvik,” said Williams, ” our magnetic compass showed errors varying between 20 and 30 degrees. The wireless was useless for reception purposes.” Low cloud and drizzle also hampered their return flight.

EarlyOpsNarvikWOp2Pilot1940

P/O Harkness receiving a message from LAC Williams, Wireless Operator. – From “Early Operations with Bomber Command”. Probably RNZAF Official.

EPWilliamsWirelessOperator

L.A.C. (later Squadron Leader) Edwin Peter Williams, Wireless Operator in the Breckon crew. Williams was later awarded the DFM, in part for his efforts on this operation. – From “Return At Dawn, by Hilary A. St George Saunders.

For more than six hours no land was sighted.   ” Darkness was falling and  our petrol-gauges were touching the zero mark. Lifebelts were blown up, the Astro-hatch was opened, and all prayed for petrol coupons.” Still experiencing bad weather, the exhausted crew made landfall near the Shetland Islands at 2018 hrs.
At 10.30 in the evening, after a flight of well over 2000 miles, the Wellington finally touched down at Wick with only 37 gallons of petrol left in its tanks.

With no automatic pilot fitted, the two pilots had manually hand-flown the aircraft  for 14 hours 30 mins. It was one of the longest flights undertaken by a Wellington bomber, and an RAF record at the time.

L4387-LG-L-takeoff

A Vickers Wellington Mark I, L4387 ‘LG-L’, of No. 215 Squadron RAF, flying over parked Hawker Hurricanes at Wick, Caithness, on returning from a reconnaissance sortie. L4387 was detached to Coastal Command in April 1940 for daylight reconnaissance of Narvik, Norway. As Chris notes, perhaps this photograph was actually taken at the point of takeoff – ‘This is a very good photo considering that they arrived back at 10.30 in the evening, in the dark, in cloud and drizzle!’ © IWM (CH 70).

The mission had been successful: its crew had been able to report that Narvik Fjord was clear of enemy shipping up to within 10 miles of the town.
On the next day the second battle of Narvik was fought – seven enemy destroyers and one submarine were sunk by the Royal Navy.

Unfortunately the second crew were not so lucky. On the 13th they went on a similar reconnaisance to Trondheim, but failed to return, apparently crashing into the sea on their homeward journey.

Breckon was detailed for duty on the Court Of Inquiry into this loss, but while it was still underway, on the 21st April, he and his crew made a second reconnaisance flight, this time to Trondheim. The orders were to photograph and observe Trondheim, the frozen lake adjoining, and the aerodrome at Vaernes, now occupied by the Germans.

The crew flew a replacement Wellington, L4387 having been returned to Bassingbourn on the 14th for a 180 hr inspection. They took off at 2am, and in much better weather, arrived over Kristiansund at 4.30 in the morning.

The whole country was covered with snow, which made ships anchored close to the shore stand out very clearly. Trondheim was photographed, a complete pattern of the town being made. On the frozen lake twenty-two German aircraft were counted.  They were spread haphazardly in the centre of the lake, covered with snow, and some appeared as if having made crash landings. The aerodrome at Vaernes was also photographed. Then the Wellington turned for home down the fjord, sending out an immediate code message about the aircraft on the frozen lake, “For,” says the Wireless Operator, ” we thought we had discovered a first-class target for our bombers to come over and enjoy themselves.” – They were right. Later in the day aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm, operating from an aircraft carrier, bombed the lake with excellent effect. Flight Lieutenant Breckon and his crew reached their base at 10.30 in the morning, having covered 1,180 miles in a little over eight and a half hours.

After several more days on standby for further duties, Breckon and his crew returned their second Wellington to Bassingbourn “owing to unserviceability of miscellaneous equipment”, and went home to Feltwell.

NarvikTrondheimReport100540-1

Breckon’s official report to W/C Maurice Buckley – 75 (NZ) Sqdn Operations Record Book, Appendix D.16

For the reconnaissance flights to Norway, Flight Lieutenant Breckon received the D.F.C.:

Citation DFC (11 Sep 1940): ‘This officer has participated in 21 major bombing attacks on Germany, Holland, Belgium and France since early this year. He made a reconnaissance flight to the north of Narvik which lasted 14 ½ hours and within three days made another to Trondheim which was of 9 ½ hours duration. Undeterred by enemy action or by bad weather, he is a reliable, persistent long distance pilot, who has shown himself to be a cool, courageous and very determined leader’.

Aubrey Breckon DFC, went on to to serve as Squadron Leader with 75 (NZ) Sqdn, and after the war, as Commanding Officer of 75 Squadron (Apr to Jul 1947), and later Group Captain. He died in 1989. His younger brother Ivan also served with 75 (NZ) Squadron.

Donald Harkness DFC, a New Zealander serving in the RAF, went on to serve as Squadron Leader with 158 Squadron, but his Wellington was shot down 30/31 May 1942 by a German nightfighter. Buried at Vlissengen, Holland.

Robert Hughes was awarded the DFM on 20 Nov 1940, in part for his role in these operations.

Edwin Williams was also awarded the DFM, in part for his role in these operations, rose to the rank of Flight Lieutenant, and was involved in ferrying Mosquitos back to New Zealand immediately after the war.

Thomas Mumby was also awarded the DFM in January 1941, in recognition of his many op’s with S/L Breckon, and later with WI Collett.

References:
– 75 (NZ) Sqdn Operations Record Book, Appendix D.16 – General Report on Long Distance Reconnaisance duties when attached to R.A.F. Station, WICK, SCOTLAND, by F/L A.A.N. Breckon.
– Return At Dawn, by Hilary A. St George Saunders.
– Early Operations With Bomber Command, by B. G. Clare, War History Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, New Zealand. 1950.

Note: The author of Early Operations With Bomber Command, F/L. Baden Gordon Clare, RNZAF (NZ429590) served with 75 (NZ) Squadron in 1944 with the Southward crew. He was shot down and baled out on the night of 6-7 Oct 1944 during a raid on Dortmund, and became a POW.

Update to the Australian War Memorial Honour Roll

Australian War Memorial

Many thanks to Meredith and her staff in the Honours Rolls section of the Australian War Memorial for updating the records of the 32 Australian airmen who flew with and lost their lives with 75(NZ) Squadron. I am pleased to say that the Australian War Memorial Honour Roll now correctly records their Squadron as 75(NZ) Squadron RAF.

After initially contacting the AWM with my request that the records be corrected, the staff replied to me and very quickly corrected the information. I am sure that we all send our thanks to the individuals who were involved in this activity. Whilst perhaps to some, a small matter of detail, to many of us, including , I am sure the families of these 32 brave boys, it is a very important one nevertheless.

Visit the Australian War Memorial website here.

Hopefully normal service will be resumed………

Many apologies to all my blog readers for what has become a significant silence over the last few months. This period has traditionally been my busiest time of the year, but this year seems to have been worse than usual, coming coupled with a number of other issues at the University that has consumed my time

A massive thanks to everybody who has continued to visit the blog in my absence and also many thanks to all of you that have been contacting me – I have tried to reply to as many as time has allowed and I will continue to work back through my email and make sure I reconnect with everybody who has mailed.

I also return to the blog with another 12,000+ visits recorded – amazing as always, though I feel a little frustrated that the majority of these visits have been recorded with almost nothing being posted! – though the size of the blog now means that (I hope) in my absence new visitors have had plenty to read through.

Despite my enforced absence, I have been contacted by loads of new people. For those of you that have not yet received a reply, I must apologise, but I hope you understand – as well as trying to get back into regularly posting, I will do my best to chase up all contacts and reply.

I have some wonderful things to share with you all and a number of new posts relating to cemetery/ gravestone images. I have been really touched by people’s generosity in time and effort to add to the gravestone project and I hope over the next few weeks to post cemetery sets with information on the crews or individuals – despite my posting silence, I have tried to add the gravestones to the Roll of Honour pages as they have come in – already I have 176 stones presented, which represents approximately 17% of the complete list.

So, hopefully, I can begin to get back on top of things and the posts, should, start coming a bit more regularly now

Thank you all for your continuing support and in this instance, your patience as well.

Simon