I am currently very busy at work with Semester 1 assessment, so probably, I may not be able to post much over the next week or so, but rather than just fall silent again, I thought it might be useful to just update you on a few things – I am mindful that the blog suggests a certain level of activity, but much like a swan – serene above the surface, but all frantic thrashing below the water – things are constantly happening off the pages as it were…..
Firstly, I am really pleased to say that the traffic to the blog keeps up unabated – which is fantastic. As I often remark to people when I talk about the blog, one of the amazingly satisfying, but initially unforeseen consequences of the blog is the ability to reconnect people. I am pleased to say in the last week or so this has happened a few more times. I have been able to connect Ann, daughter of Albert ‘Titch’ Haliday with Ginny – her Father, Ben Barton flew with ‘Titch’ in Mart Kilpatrick’s crew. I have also been contacted by David, after first meeting him, his wife and his Father-in-law Jim Mulhall at the November Reunion of the Association – it took a while for my gears to whir, but they are now in touch with Hubert, whose Father, Jim flew with as his Flight Engineer, until they were shot down on the 21st of November 1944 on the Homberg Op. Also, George contacted me last week regarding his Father Sidney, who flew as a Mid Upper Gunner with Maurice Thorogood, so now George and Maurice’s Daughter, Mary, are back in contact.
75(NZ) Squadron Database
Work continues on the database. A recent post about Wellington Mk.III X.3482 AA-J forced me into 1941 and it showed to me the relative difficulty of identifying individuals in the Operational Record Books. I am acutely aware that I have a fair few replies to make to relatives of boys who flew during the early part of the War – this is partly because of the difficulty in putting together a thorough and accurate Op history, owing to firstly being able to identify and separate an individual from others of the same surname (you’d be surprised how many of the same surnames their are) and then to be able to confidently track them sometimes between a number of crew. Before I began the database, I was just about able to do an Op history for an individual in the later years of the war, simply by looking through the ORB’s and recording occurrences by hand/ eye – at this early point I quickly became aware this was almost impossible for these early War years.
As I have mentioned numerous times already – my entry into the database work was rather random – perhaps because of Dad’s service I decided to start in the middle of 1943 and then began to work forward as it were – being randomly distracted with other aspects of data based discovery along the way. Relative contact would then send me off somewhere else to find and complete an Op history and this could be way ahead of where I was currently working……..
Currently, the database is complete as follows:
All aircraft, Pilots and Op diary descriptions from January 1941, to the end of recorded Ops, Post – War, end of June 1945.
All additional aircrew surnames added to all Ops 1943.
Approx 50% of all additional aircrew information added to 1941 Ops.
Approx 40% of all additional aircrew information added to 1942 Ops.
Approx 75% of all additional aircrew information added to 1944 Ops.
Approx 50% of all additional aircrew information added to 1945 Ops.
In addition, there are obviously the ‘complete’ crew Op histories that have been focused on regarding relative contact – in real terms this represents at this point about 8% of records being ‘complete’
Now, this rather random approach I have taken, has sat under a few made up stages I have imagined to try to make it feel like the database won’t become a never ending Herculean task.
They are as follows:
Phase 1. – Pilots, aircraft, Raid and Raid description complete.
Phase 2. – Addition of all aircrew information for each crew, flying under each Pilot.
Phase 3. – Additional secondary aircrew detail – arrival and departure dates, fatality information, citations for awards, DoB and DoD information.
Phase 4. – Addition of extra information on Aircraft – designator letter confirmation (logbooks and various AIR Records), damage, pre and post Squadron information, nose art etc.
Phase 5. – Aircraft Op History verification. Re-checking to identify abortive or ‘non’ counting Ops to arrive at definitive final Op history and Ops tally for each aircraft.
As I mentioned above, my rather haphazard approach means at the moment that I have no actual stage complete! Therefore I am currently focusing on 1941 full crew entry (i know this isn’t the start at 1940 – but relatively speaking there is more demand for information from 1941 ). I will then go back and enter full crew data for 1940, before then working through from 1942 onwards to complete full aircrew data for the War. This will take me to completion of Phase 2 – the database currently has approx 7,500 rows (this doesn’t include 1940), each row containing (currently) approximately 65 data entry cells – more will be needed as I move through the later phases of data entry……..
As its going at the moment, I would estimate Phase 2 completion is about 18 months off……..
Squadron Nominal Roll
Off of the back of the Squadron database, I also wish to use data captured within it and other sources to create and present a full Squadron Nominal Roll. Seasoned readers might recall the brief existence of a Nominal roll on the blog a few years back – permission was (I thought) granted for its presentation by The New Zealand Association, as a very sensible approach to adding to it and correcting it – sadly, that permission was revoked rather speedily, after it was originally put up on the blog.
The sad shame of this is that currently, a relative searching for information might only come across the blog if 1.) they know the individual flew with 75(NZ) Squadron or 2.) that individual already features in a tagged post on the blog – which I find very frustrating and which I fear, prevents relatives from making contact to provide new information about the individual – so everybody loses out.
Whilst maintaining the blog and researching crews and individuals, I have since, manged to record approximately 650 additions, corrections or expansions to individual entries in this original document – (ironically, the Squadron database allows a far more detailed overview of an individual airman within the Squadron by simple dint of it now existing). I do not have the time, or interest to argue the toss over ownership of what essentially is information that is all publicly accessible, so I will simply build another one from the gathered and sorted data and credit and reference everybody and every research source that has contributed to it.
The End Goal
I am still undecided how this information will be presented – however I know that it will be web based and freely available to anybody who wishes to access it. Many people have remarked to me that ‘there must be a book of the Squadron somewhere in you‘.
I am still of the feeling that an attempt to collate and present the data in physical book form would be little more that an act of incredible vanity and stupidity. Whilst it makes sense to record small sets of stories or the life of an individual, something as large as ‘The Squadron’ is simply too big to attempt a definitive record on the printed page.
Despite the age of the subject matter, what excites me is that information is still coming in every week and to use the metaphor of painting the Forth Road Bridge, a book would never be finished and at the point of publication would probably be already out of date. Add to this the actually VERY small potential market and the therefore, intrinsically high unit cost and I think it would be the folly of a supreme egotist, or a lunatic to try such a thing……….
Having said all of this, I do not envisage the database trying to live within the relative constraints of this blog – it was an initial idea to produce a website, but WordPress thankfully provided me with a far more immediate and efficient method of contacting and communicating with all of you. It might well be that the arrival at the end point of the database will be the point that I turn my attention to a dedicated website – but rest assure dear readers, the physical blog section will always remain!
Friends of 75(NZ) Squadron Association
Something that I do want to get sorted fairly quickly is the addition of a series of pages within the blog for Association business and communication. I envisage the top menu link currently occupied by the Memorial Garden to be replaced by an ‘Association’ one, under which will exist a series of sub set pages – I hope to include something about the History of the Association, its Mission statement (I know I hate the phrase as well, but it sounds better than ‘what we do’) and certainly a section advertising events and activities – most specifically the annual Winter reunion.
In discussion with members of other squadron associations, I think I have now, a far better understanding of what is possible, viable and useful and what is not. My first initial thoughts are that we should use the reach of the blog to grow the UK Association membership, we should give thought to some appeals for specific projects, for things like memorial stones at crash sites here and in Europe and that we need to seek opportunities to educate and inform younger generations about the role 75(NZ) Squadron RAF played during the War in Bomber Command.
Also, whilst I plan to make a more detailed and considered statement at a later point, I think also that we need to let people know that the Association needs to be considered as an option regarding the donation of loved ones items, photographs, logbooks, uniforms etc.
I think an ongoing project should be the collection of objects and that if we were able to build one, that it could be made available through a catalogue for loan to third party organisations for short displays, exhibitions etc. In this way, these precious objects have a chance to be seen, understood and valued, rather than hidden away in the dark of a cupboard or a drawer….
I am aware that perhaps a museum appears to be a first, sensible point of donation, but I think these things value, both actual and emotional can be understood much better by the Association and it’s membership and in this respect, if they can, they need to be kept together.
I have also been recently exploring the world of PayPal and WordPress and I think with a little bit of thought we should be able allow people who visit the blog and then the Association section to buy Association membership, and also contribute donations if they wish – I am acutely aware that the reach and apparent interest in the blog should try to be tapped for the benefit of the Association and I suppose with my Presidential hat on, we need to take a wider view, regarding the direction that the Association could possibly take and what it might do in the future and that, put simply, will probably require cash…………
Now of course, having read that ramble back, it strikes me in the same time, I could actually have put another post up about someone………