Monthly Archives: April 2015

John Edward Lithgow ‘Paddy’ McFarland 1922 – 2015


John (right) sat with Jim Mulhall at last years remembrance service in the Memorial Garden in Mepal.

It is, with great sadness, that I must announce the passing of John McFarland, early yesterday morning.

I am sure all readers of the blog would like to join myself and the Association in wishing our heartfelt condolences to the family at this sad time.

John was well know to all members of the Association and held in high regard. His visits to the annual Winter Reunions with Elsie and the McFarland family were, I am sure looked forward to by all others who attended and John never disappointed with his warmth, good humour and dry wit when spoken to, particularly regarding his recollections of the night he was shot down in 1944 whilst on a mine laying or ‘Gardening’  Operation to Kiel Bay.

John’s story began when he came to Belfast in 1940 to sit a Latin exam for a pharmacist’s apprenticeship he’d secured in Derry.  “I’d always found the Latin a chore and a friend had told me about the great time he was having in the RAF so when I was in Belfast I went to the RAF recruiting office and joined up,”.

In June 1941 John was formally called up and began training as a navigator. After graduating, he should have gone to an Operational Training Unit where the air crews were put together, though they were infamous for their 20% loss of life. “But then word came through that I was to by-pass this, I never knew why, and join a crew before going onto  75 New Zealand Squadron as a replacement navigator – and you never asked who you were replacing,” said John.

John and the rest of the Murray crew were posted to Mepal in late January of 1944, flying their first Op on the 11th February, and after conversion to Lancasters took part in the first 75(NZ) Squadron Operation with Lancasters, bombing mashalling yards in Paris on 9th April.  A series of aborted Ops perhaps had got the crew nervy about completing their tour and when an ‘easy’ Gardening Op came up in a now aged Stirling, the crew volunteered.

“We flew from a remote base near Ely in East Anglia and were engaged mainly in sea and French railway yard mining operations as well as drops to the French Resistance. It was during one of these we were shot down. The Germans had the capability to fire vertically upwards. We were over Denmark and it was around midnight when my navigator’s table shattered and I knew we’d been hit from below. Everything happened so fast. We had to bail out and use our parachutes. The parachute wrappers used to put little notes in with the silk saying things like ‘all the best’!  Only three of us survived that night – the rear gunner’s parachute failed to open. That could have been any one of us for you just grabbed a parachute on your way out to board the aircraft…”

Four of the crew were buried at Gram, Denmark – James Murray RNZAF (Pilot), Haymen Kahler RAFVR (Flight Engineer) Jack Mulligan RCAF and Peter Woolham RAFVR (Air Gunners).

Gordon Irwin RNZAF (Wireless Operator), John and Douglas Hill RNZAF (Air Bomber) became Prisoners or War.

John landed in a ploughed field and was rescued by the farmer’s son whose family sheltered him for three days before the Germans found him. “I was sent to the same prison camp which featured in The Great Escape,” he explained. “Life there wasn’t great but some of the lads had built a radio and brought us news every day so we heard about D-Day and thought we’d be home by Christmas. Of course we weren’t.”

In January 1945 with the Russians advancing the POWs were put to march, sleeping in barns along the roadside, despite the bitter winter. “I’ve never experienced cold like it. One POW found a rat and held onto it just to keep his hands warm!” recalled John.

“I remember one morning though, two British fighter planes were circling overhead, making to attack because they thought we were Germans. We tried to spell out ‘POWs’ with towels on the ground but they came in, all guns blazing. Twenty men died – friendly fire I think they would call it today. Just days later we were freed by the British…”

Despite his stoicism in recounting the story, the tragic irony of that loss of life still sat heavily on John McFarland’s heart. “Back in the UK we were de-loused, de-briefed and told we could go home – so home it was,” he said.  “That’s when I understood what it must’ve been like for our families. Our Commanding Officer, a wonderful man, had sent a personal letter to them when our plane hadn’t come back that night…”.

Johns funeral will take place this Saturday, at Knockbracken Reformed Presbyterian Church.

The family ask that donations, if desired, be made in lieu of flowers to Tear Fund Nepal Earthquake Appeal, c/o Kirkwoods Funeral Directors, 150A Kings Road, Belfast BT5 7EJ

After sending my condolences to David, John’s son last night, he mailed back and included the following poem that he said was a particular favorite of his Fathers. The same poem was picked, by coincidence to be read at my own Father’s funeral.

For all of you that had the pleasure of knowing John, however long that was, read this poem in your head and hear john say the words………..

High Flight
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air….

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God


Ake Ake Kia Kaha



Operation ‘Manna’ starts 70 years ago today…….

Today, 70 years ago, after the cessation of hostilities in Europe, a massive humanitarian operation began to drop food and supplies to the starving people of Holland. At  12:34, this afternoon F/L Bill Alexander took off in ME531 AA-K, ahead of another 8 Lancasters from the Squadron to take part in the first day of food dropping over Delft.

The aircraft, crews and order of take off as recorded in the Form 541 for April 1945 was as follows:

29/04/1945 – Supply Dropping in the Delf Area
9 Aircraft were detailed for Supply Dropping in the Delft area. The operation was uneventful and crowds were seen waving and cheering. Quite a number of packs hung up.

Lancaster Mk.I NG448 AA-A
S/L Laurence Douglas McKenna, RNZAF NZ424493 – Pilot.
F/O Maurice Frank Thorogood, RAFVR 1322861/ 139697 – Navigator.
F/O H. St. Laurent, RCAF J.29721 – Air Bomber.
F/S Leslie Thomas Patrick Murphy, RAAF AUS.423476 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. T. Harper, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Sidney George Frederick Sizeland, RAFVR 196611 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Gordon Albert Mills, RAFVR 1445361/ 196610 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 12:36 – Landed 15:00
Flight Time 02:24

Lancaster Mk.I RA510 AA-E
F/O Albert George Bone, RNZAF NZ4211608 – Pilot.
F/S P. Henchie, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Maurice Patrick Power, RNZAF NZ421395 – Air Bomber.
F/S Raymond Joseph Butler, RNZAF NZ4213147 – Wireless Operator.
F/S V. Cramer, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. R Lander, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. D. Logan, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 12:37 – Landed 14:59
Flight Time 02:22

Lancaster Mk.II ME531 AA-K
F/L William Edward Robert Alexander, RNZAF NZ413801 – Pilot.
F/O Dixon D NZ1981,   – Navigator.
Sgt. W. Townsend, RAFVR – Air Bomber.
Sgt. E. Preston, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. M Brown, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/L Basil Douglas Larbalestie, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. D. Payne, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 12:34 – Landed 15:07
Flight Time 02:33

Lancaster Mk.III PB132 AA-T
F/O Thomas Wagner Good, RAFVR 1330401/ 195724 – Pilot.
F/S Woonton R, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Williams E,   – Air Bomber.
W/O P. Brooke, RAFVR 1312079 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. R. Winning, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. H. Parry, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. W. Gilbert, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 12:39 – Landed 15:20
Flight Time 02:41

Lancaster Mk.I HK561 AA-Y
F/L Russell Ashley Banks, RNZAF NZ416437 – Pilot
F/O Maurice Wiggins, RAFVR 1219661/ 164286 – Navigator
F/O James Ernest ‘Jimmy’ Wood, RAFVR 1801019/ 154906 – Air Bomber
F/L Alexander Reid Hirst, RNZAF NZ41588 – Wireless Op
Sgt. Norman ‘Paddy’ Allen, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner
W/O John Edward ‘Jack’ Britnell, RAFVR 1579917 – Rear Gunner

Take Off 12:37 – Landed 15:06
Flight Time 02:29

Lancaster Mk,I RF127 AA-W
F/L Ian Taylor, RAFVR 1550767/ 135709 – Pilot
P/O David Dickson Hope, RAAF AUS.401954 – Navigator
W/O John Alfred Tarran, RAAF AUS.419395 – Air Bomber
W/O Mervyn John King, RAAF AUS.430036 – Wireless Operator
Sgt. L. Deeprose, RAFVR – Flight Engineer
W/O T. R. Kemp, RAFVR 1412409 – Mid Upper Gunner
F/S E. Franklin, RAFVR – Rear Gunner

Take Off 12:38 – Landed 15:17
Flight Time 02:39

Lancaster Mk.I PB820 JN-V
F/O Ronald Christie Flamank, RNZAF NZ427270 – Pilot.
F/S A. Westbury, RAFVR AUS.401954 – Navigator.
F/S E. Carver, RAFVR – Air Bomber.
F/S Douglas Haig Rapson, RNZAF NZ428323 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. V. Saunders, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Leslie Dixon Moore, RNZAF NZ421327 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. D. Hills,   – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 12:39 – Landed 15:13
Flight Time 02:34

Lancaster Mk.II PB421 AA-P
F/O Wi Rangiuaia, RNZAF NZ427319 – Pilot.
Sgt. Mayhew A,   – Navigator.
Sgt. D. Morrison, RAFVR – Air Bomber.
F/S John Edward Barry Mossman, RNZAF NZ42112587 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. L. Player, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. T. Mynott,   – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. T. Morgan,   – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 12:40 – Landed 15:10
Flight Time 02:30

Lancaster Mk.I RF129 JN-M
W/C Cyril Henry ‘Mac’ Baigent, RNZAF NZ411973/ 70038 – Pilot.
F/S James Randel Haworth, RNZAF NZ4216510 – Navigator.
F/L Grant Alan Russell, RNZAF NZ411729 – Air Bomber.
P/O William Lachlan Wilson, RNZAF NZ41117 – Wireless Operator.
W/O W. Peplow, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/O Harold George Howells, RAFVR 1292972/ 185219 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/O Gwyn Duglan, RAFVR 179249 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 12:46 – Landed 15:11
Flight Time 02:25


75(NZ) Squadron RAF would undertake another 117 flights to Holland over the next 9 days till the final on the 8th of May. An earlier post about Operation ‘Manna’ and the USAAF Operation ‘Chowhound’ can be read here.

Supply Dropping – Rotterdam 
21 Aircraft were detailed to Supply dropping in the Rotterdam area. Crowds of Dutch were seen waving and cheering. The Operation was carried out successfully.

Supply Dropping at Delft  
21 Aircraft were detailed for Supply Dropping at Delft. The population were very excited. There was a great deal of flag waving and thanks messages were seen painted on roof tops.

Supply Dropping at Delft   
21 Aircraft were detailed for Supply Dropping at Delft. This mission was successful. The crowd were not as large as usual, but more flags were observed. F/O E.Ohlson reported having seen Germans in barracks cheering and waving white flags. F/O R, Flamank saw Germans waving from gun posts on the coast.

Supply Dropping at Delft and the Hague      
10 Aircraft were detailed for Supply Dropping, five for Delft and five for the Hague. Crowds and flag waving were not so extensive as before and enthusiasm seems to be waining.

Supply Dropping at the Hague and Delft      
6 Aircraft were detailed for Supply Dropping. Three for The Hague, and three for the Delft. The missions were successful, but fewer people were seen.

Supply Dropping at the Hague 
4 Aircraft were detailed for Supply Dropping at the Hague. The mission was uneventful.

Supply Dropping at Delft   
26 Aircraft were detailed for Supply Dropping at Delft. The mission was uneventful. Oil patches and yellow objects were seen in the sea near the Dutch coast.

Supply Dropping at Rotterdam    
8 Aircraft were detailed for Supply Dropping at Rotterdam. The mission was uneventful, but considered successful.


ANZAC Day – 2015

Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives.
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land they have
Become our sons as well.

NZ war graves project

I thought I would use this years ANZAC Day commemorations to announce a  very significant step forward regarding the ‘Gravestone Image Project, relating to the Roll of Honour section of the blog.

I have great pleasure in announcing the incredibly generous granting of permission for the display of the gravestones of the RNZAF aircrew from the Squadron that have so far been collected by the New Zealand Gravestone Project.

Relative to 75(NZ) Squadron RAF, this means the instant addition of 296 gravestone images which lifts the completion of our Roll of Honour project to 36% (410 images).

The activities and collection of images for the New Zealand War Graves Project is ongoing, so as the collection increases, I would hope that further images can be added.

The New Zealand War Graves Project
There are 31,758 New Zealanders whom the New Zealand War Graves Trust project has been able to identify to date who, serving with New Zealand and Allied forces, died in conflicts from the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) up to the present day and in peacekeeping operations. They are commemorated by burial in Commonwealth War Grave cemeteries, public cemeteries, graves in New Zealand or by inscription on memorials world wide.

The Project aims to:

  • To photograph all the war graves and primary memorials of New Zealanders who, serving with New Zealand and Allied forces, died in conflicts, from the Anglo-Boer war (1899-1902), to the present day and in peacekeeping operations. Our research has identified 31,758 New Zealand war graves in 79 countries including New Zealanders serving with other Allied forces.
  • To produce a photographic record of the relevant major cemeteries and surrounding areas.
  • To create a digital archive and database, accessed via a website, enabling free public access to their biographical information and images.
  • To instigate community and education programmes based around the project.
  • To instigate the making of a TV documentary telling the story of the project, the cemeteries, but most of all the servicemen.
  • To co-operate and collaborate with others working in similar areas, to ensure accuracy and compatibility of data.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, funded by all Commonwealth governments, administers the cemeteries and memorials. Administration in New Zealand is charged to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. The Commission has developed an excellent website, containing a database of servicemen and some pictures of the cemeteries in their care. The Ministry for Culture and Heritage has an informative site, giving some detail of their operation in this area.

Our project builds on this information by developing an exhaustive high-resolution photo-archive of all cemeteries, headstones and memorials of New Zealand servicemen, who died in conflict.

Our internet site is the obvious and logical way for the public to access the archive at present, but a parallel main purpose of the project is to collect the images and associated information in such a way as to form an historical text for future use.

While the largest numbers of casualties are located in the areas of the major battles and campaigns (Gallipoli, Greece, North Africa, Western Front, Italy…), New Zealand forces have served in most of the major conflicts of the 20th Century and their graves and memorials are spread across most of the world.

Amongst these are “oddities” such as the single graves in the Faroe Islands, Falklands and Azores, the servicemen interred in the USA, Iceland and Bangladesh and those graves scattered throughout the African continent. These are of interest in New Zealand’s military history and illustrate the diverse theatres of war, numerous for a small country, where New Zealanders served.

In New Zealand there are the graves and memorials of 3,484 New Zealanders in service that perished both at home and overseas. Some are buried in the 127 servicemen’s cemeteries, others in local churchyards. Many are commemorated only on memorials, as their remains were lost.

The United Kingdom in our most recent estimation is the last resting place of 2,110 New Zealanders serving overseas.

The scope of the project extends the numbers contained in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database (until recently focused on World War I and World War II), to include those that died subsequent to their World War II cut off of 1st December 1947 (Jayforce, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam etc). Numbers of war dead contained in this proposal are from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Please take some time to visit the New Zealand War Graves Project here.

What we can do……….
Having personally spent some time going through the New Zealand War Graves Project website, there is a clear chance to assist them in their project as they have with ours. Each individual recorded has the space for extra information to be added about then, this includes the opportunity to add photographs. Please, if you have something to add to make real the memory of a loved relative recorded on the site, do so.

Certainly, as and when I get time, I will be looking to add some information for each of the airmen listed that flew with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF.


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.



Ake Ake Kia Kaha