From Form 541 75(NZ) Squadron RAF 03.2.45. Attack Against Dortmund “Aircraft crashed on landing. Pilot, Nav, W/Operator, Engineer and A/Bomber injured and in hospital. Prt. Outr. Failed prior to reaching target and overshot on landing. Camera completely wrecked”. © Pauline Whittall
There was perhaps inevitably, a high level of interest in the post I made a few weeks back regarding the final fate of ND801 JN-X. If not for the astonishing pictures supplied by Pauline showing the aircraft’s final resting place in a chicken shed on the edge of the airfield, then for not only the identification of another 75(NZ) Squadron RAF Lancaster with nose art (unicorn rarity springs to mind), but also a clear OP count – 85 painted, sadly the 86th shown in this picture.
ND801 is (frustratingly) notable for being one of the few Lancasters from the Squadron with identifiable nose art and a name of ‘Get Sum Inn’, perhaps the style of the artwork and the name suggests a reference to a pub, or having a pint generally. The origin of this artwork will probably never be know, though looking at the operational history, it would appear that relatively early in ND801’s flying career, she became the relatively regular mount of Colin Megson’s crew (21 Ops). Latterly, a similar level of frequency can be seen after the Megson crews departure from flying ‘801 ( though they were to be on base longer) by Tom Waugh’s crew, who flew 16 Ops in her.
A high count Lancaster from this period in the war, such as ND 801of course poses the tantalising question of whether she would have ever reached her ton, or even overtaken NE181, JN-M, ‘The Captains Fancy. Well, obviously she didn’t, but statistic fans might be interested to know that at the point ND801 and Bruce Crawford’s crew crashed on the 3rd of February 1945, ‘Mike’ had clocked up her 98th the day before to Weisbaden. Perhaps more interestingly, at this same point, there were some other Lancasters that were also accumulating high totals – LM544 was on 86 also ME751 AA-M had reached 75 and HK562 AA-L was on 74 (all figures subject to final checking and revisions to database).
Readers will have, no doubt, got bored with my now regular wittering about the ‘Form 541 database’ that I have slowly been chipping away at over now the last 14 or so months. This morning I realised I had just added the a/c and pilot details for the 3rd of February 1945. Deciding to test the contents of the database I filtered in the serial number no. column and low and behold got 86 Ops for ND801, which, to be honest I am astonished by.
I suppose I am saying all of this to make a number of observations. Firstly, the full Op list for ND801 was generated, as opposed to found. I make this observation and differentiation because I think its significant. Up until now (and in real terms I will have to continue for a while), when someone requests information on a relative, I have to essentially trawl through the ORB’s, looking for a crew. Now this activity in itself is wrought with problems. Firstly, you are ‘looking’ for, normally a Pilots name, at the top of the crew list – looking for things assumes you find all that you are looking for. More problematically, whilst you might note a change in a member of a crew, its very difficult to find if a member of the ‘subject’ crew might have flown a ‘fill in’ for another crew – this level of analysis, is simply beyond my time, unless I am aware that this is the case. From my experience, I know the ORB’s are littered with errors, ranging from incorrect initials to the completely chaotic, non consecutive ordering of pages – from recent typing I have discovered that Tim Blewett, Pilot, is consistently listed in the Form 541 with a first initial of ‘J’. these typographical errors become more acute when you deal with the aircraft serial codes – a case in point relating to ND801 – in place she is listed as ‘NF801’ – only by cross referencing Ian’s amazing database on the blog was I able to satisfy myself that in the absence of another ‘NF’ aircraft with a similar number, that these entries were in fact ND801. Sad to say that these errors and others are repeated in other documents, so the process of categorically confirming the identity of a certain aircraft within the ORB’s is at best time consuming and I fear perhaps on occasions to come, even maybe impossible.
The data base is still a long way off being complete in terms of even basic information. My creative left sided brain decided to begin the whole activity at the beginning of 1943 – I guess because Dad joined the Squadron for his first tour in that year, so eagle eyed readers that noted my reference to completing the Dortmund raid of 3rd February 1945 shouldn’t get too excited – when 1945 is complete, I have to go back and do 1940, 1941 and 1942…….
Whilst portions of the database contain full information – target a/c serial, Pilot, Nav, AB, W/Op, FE, MuG and R/Gnr, a significant portion does not yet. Quickly I realised in terms of raw usable and extractable information it was better to focus on Target, a/c and Pilot. In addition to this, the ‘up’, ‘down’ times have to be added.
I estimate that based on work and sleep, there is probably another 2 years of work to complete the basic database – obviously once this is complete, a full history for aircraft, crews and individuals will be able to generated. How this is done I am not sure – it might provide the tipping point regarding the much muttered about website to replace the blog. My gut feeling is that a searchable database is not the way forward – whilst I am and always will be keen to share anything I have, there is a difference between information and time – this database will represent too significant an investment in time to simply allow people to hoover it all up – and I will not let that happen.
Ian Chris and I have been in some discussions over the last few months regarding expanding the A/C datbase to include images – it strikes me, with the creation of the Op history for ND 801, an individual page for each aircraft of the Squadron might be the way forward. Based on my magnificent presentation of ONE aircraft to this point, I have added a shell section below the 3 aircraft types and under it an ‘ND series’ page that links then directly to at this moment just ND801 – but hopefully this will grow.
I’m interested in your feedback and thoughts
View the Operational history of ND801 JN-X ‘Get Sum Inn’ here