Daily Archives: November 2, 2015

Sgt Sir Charles Thomas Hewitt Mappin – Ramsey crew 1941


Sergeant Air Gunner Sir Charles Mappin, 1940
The Spectator.

Another post from Chris – and another Knight of the British Empire…….

Born March 7, 1909, Sir Charles Thomas Hewitt Mappin was the 4th Baronet and son of Thomas Wilson Mappin and Violet Maud Duke , a member of one of the families behind the Mappin & Webb business, steel manufacturers, silversmiths and jewellers.

Apparently a member of the House of Lords, and listed as a “landowner”, Charles married Ruby Duff, and had a son Michael in 1931. According to the Daily Express of the day, he was ‘a leader of the Bright Young Things’.

A lover of practical jokes, in 1932 he announced plans for the “Old Berkeley Square Cat Hunt”, to round up all the stray felines of Mayfair whose howling had been disturbing him at night, with the aid of 100 residents and greyhounds. The cats were to be locked in a room and painlessly put down. A large outraged crowd gathered, and the police and RSPCA also fell for the prank.

Neither politics nor family life appear to have suited Charles, as by 1939 he had apparently spent most of his Mappin & Webb inheritance, and was sailing around the islands of Tahiti on a yacht, fishing, drinking, pearl-collecting and womanising. He left a rollicking, bawdy record of his exploits in a diary, published in the Spectator many years later by his half-sister, the equally eccentric Margot Duke.

“And then came the famous Quatorze Juillet, and Tahiti is reputed to do it as well as any place. All shops are shut, the square in front of Government House is turned into a fair with roundabouts, coconut-shies, dance halls, bars and all the whoopsy nonsense you can imagine. This continued for 14 days, open day and night, and not a sober person on the whole island. Each night the districts sent their dance teams to dance before the Governor in native costume, and to sing their local himenes. All very impressive and romantic and a wonderful excuse for one more rumble-bumble, and one more bottle before returning to the country to sleep it off before starting again the following morning. I man- aged to make the 14 days, then chaos. By this time Bryan and I were staying with Rupert, who had taken a house, also in Punaauia, in preparation for the return of wife and infant toreador-aviateur.

Fortunately I had asked an Australian, Roger Barry, to lunch with me the following day at the Blue Lagoon and he arrived at 1 o’clock to find me quite crazy, imagining the most extraordinary things and living a life of my own entire imagination. He stayed with me for three days and three nights without leaving me for one minute. My ravings I won’t try and explain as, except for Ann, they only concerned people on the island. I was cured by intravenous injection of somnafeine, and, although I pray to God it never happens again, it has done two good things: it has shown me I have a very good friend in Roger Barry, and it has frightened me on to the wagon until Christmas.”
(From The Spectator Archive – http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/23rd-april-1994/23/adventure-on-the-south-seas)

According to the Spectator article, his vessel carried no radio, and the war had been declared for six months before he heard of it. However his final diary entry, as published, is dated 22 September, just 3 weeks after war was declared, and he mentions the Administrator giving them “the latest war bulletin” when they came into port.

He came home, and volunteered for the RAF as a rear-gunner, and is said to have refused a commission and a ground job. His sister described the decision as “suicide . . the norm was three trips, and they used to hose them out.”

Sir Charles graduated as a sergeant gunner, and was posted to 75 (NZ) Squadron RAF – then  based at RAF Feltwell.

Wellington 1c. Z8942 was received on squadron strength from No. 10 M.U.

P/O Ralph Foster and crew were posted in, from No. 20 O.T.U. Lossiemouth, Scotland.

Charlie’s first op’ was as Front Gunner with the experienced Ramsey crew.

04/11/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Essen
Nine Wellington 1C aircraft from this Unit were detailed to carry out the above attacks. Heavy cloud was experienced throughout the whole trip and although bombs were dropped in target area no results were observed. Accurate Heavy Flak was met over the target area and searchlights were active, but ineffective owing to cloud.  No enemy aircraft were met. Weather was very poor with 10/10th cloud which completely marred the whole operation.

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9941 AA-A

Sgt. Neil Gordon Cresswell Ramsey, RAFVR 116065 – Pilot.
P/O Ralph Owen Foster, RNZAF NZ402443 – 2nd Pilot..
P/O Nathaniel Edmund Hodson, RNZAF NZ403603 – Navigator.
Sgt. Norman George Errington, RAFVR 942763/ 115638 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Sir Charles Thomas Hewitt Mappin, RAFVR 1380356 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. George Reginald McQueen, RAFVR 1109382/ 123292 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 18:05 – Landed 22:40
Flight Time 04:35

For his second Op, he and Foster joined the Wilson crew. Navigator Ryder, Wireless Operator Reid  and Rear Gunner Hope were probably members of their original OTU crew.

John Wilson had arrived on Squadron on 2nd of September, and this was his first Op as Captain of his own crew

07/11/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Berlin and Ostend
Fourteen Wellington Ic aircraft were detailed from this Unit to attack the above targets. Two of these aircraft, X.9951, captained by F/O Methven and X.9976, captained by Sgt. Black, failed to return to base. A mixed bomb load was carried consisting of 1000lbs, 500lbs, 250lbs and containers of incendiaries. Bombs were dropped in target area and some large fires were started, but results were not clearly observed owing to heavy cloud over target area. A considerable amount of heavy flak was met over target area but searchlights, where seen, were ineffective. No enemy aircraft were met throughout the trip. Weather was poor with 10/10th cloud over target area. Navigation was good, Astro and D/R loops being used. Wellington Z.1091, captained by P/O Sandys returned to base owing to engine trouble. Wellington Z.1068, captained by Sgt. Parham returned to base owing to Navigator being sick.

Wellington Mk.Ic Z.8942 AA-J

Sgt. John Stephen Wilson, RNZAF NZ402530 – Pilot.
P/O Ralph Owen Foster, RNZAF NZ402443 – 2nd Pilot..
P/O Robert Leslie Owen Ryder, RAAF AUS.404626 – Navigator.
Sgt. James Henry Reid, RAFVR 997006 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Sir Charles Thomas Hewitt Mappin, RAFVR 1380356 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Lawrence Beresford Hamilton Hope, RNZAF NZ40940 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 20:54 – Landed 00:03
Flight Time 03:09

Sadly, the crew’s second op’ together was their last:

08/11/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Essen
Eleven Wellington Ic aircraft from this Unit carried out the above attacks. Three of these aircraft, X9268, captained by Sgt. Smith, X9977, captained by Sgt. Nunn, and Z8942, captained by Sgt. Wilson failed to return to base. Bomb load consisted of 1000lbs, 500lbs, 250lbs. and containers of incendiaries. Many large fires were started with resultant explosions and burst were observed across a but-up area. A railway junction to the South of the target was also successfully attacked. Much heavy and light flak was experienced and large cones of searchlights were active in target area. Several enemy aircraft were seen in target area co-operating with searchlights. Weather was moderately clear to target but haze over target. Navigation was very good.

Wellington Mk.Ic Z.8942 AA-J

Sgt. John Stephen Wilson, RNZAF NZ402530 – Pilot.
P/O Ralph Owen Foster, RNZAF NZ402443 – 2nd Pilot..
P/O Robert Leslie Owen Ryder, RAAF AUS.404626 – Navigator.
Sgt. James Henry Reid, RAFVR 997006 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Sir Charles Thomas Hewitt Mappin, RAFVR 1380356 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Lawrence Beresford Hamilton Hope, RNZAF NZ40940 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off – – Landed –
Flight Time Missing

Wellington Z8942, AA-J was shot down by Flak and crashed at 22:15 on the night of 8 November 1941 at Zuidland (Zuid Holland), 20 km SW of Rotterdam. All were killed except for the Rear Gunner, Lawrence Hope, who was captured and became a Prisoner of War.

Sgt. John Stephen Wilson, RNZAF. NZ402530, died age 27.
P/O Ralph Owen Foster RNZAF NZ402443, died age 29.
P/O Robert Leslie Owen Ryder, RAAF. AUS.404626, died age 25.
Sgt James Henry Reid, RAFVR 997006, died age 21.
Sgt Sir Charles Thomas Hewitt Mappin, RAFVR 1380356, died age 32.


Wilson, Foster and Hope. – Auckland Museum Online Cenotaph/Weekly News, and WO2VPR (https://sites.google.com/site/wo2vpr1/home/1941-11-09-wellington).

The crew are buried in the city‘s Crooswijk General Cemetery. Sir Charles Mappin is buried in Plot LL. Row 1. Joint grave 14.

Sgt Lawrence Beresford Hamilton Hope, RNZAF NZ40940, survived and was captured. Prisoner of War No.24510. Camps,  Dulag Luft, Stalags VIIIB, Luft III, Luft VI and 357.

Tragically, Lawrence Hope did not survive the war. Whilst on a forced march from Stalag 357 at Fallingbostel to Lübeck with some 500 Allied prisoners, he was one of 30 POWs who died at Gresse, 14km NE of Lauenburg, when RAF Typhoon fighter-bombers attacked the column, mistaking them for enemy troops. He died on 19 April 1945, less than three weeks before VE Day. Initially buried in the parish churchyard at Gresse, but in July 1947 reinterred at the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery.

On the day Sir Charles Mappin was posted as missing, his Mother told the Daily Express:

“I am proud of Charles, he had guts”.


Sir Arnold Wilson, Feltwell, 1940


Sir Arnold Talbot Wilson, by Howard Coster (1930’s).
© National Portrait Gallery, London

From Chris – thanks as always!

75 (NZ) Squadron (as it officially became in April) moved to RAF Feltwell in February 1940. Between April and November that year, the squadron shared the airfield with 37 Squadron RAF, also flying Wellingtons. The two squadrons shared facilities, including the Officers Mess.

In his autobiography, “The Restless Sky”, 75 (NZ) Squadron (Squadron Leader at the time, later Wing Commander) Cyrus Kay talks about some of the memorable personalities that he encountered in that Officers Mess, including Popeye Lucas and some of his legendary exploits (the famous footsteps on the ceiling).

He then goes on to talk about surely one of the most extraordinary individuals of the War.

“Another personality of those now somewhat shadowy days – at one perhaps with his more youthful colleagues in an inflexible determination, yet cast in a very different mould – was he who bore the honoured name of Sir Arnold Wilson.

Wearing but the one thin stripe on his uniform sleeve and the air-gunner’s brevet on the tunic breast, the tall, erect, angular figure looked strangely at odds with the noisy mess surroundings, as well he might, for at some sixty years of age he already had behind him a career as distinguished and brilliant as it was indeed remarkable.

The slightly sallowed complexion common to many who have lived long in tropical climates was evidence of his extensive foreign service; and as was Lawrence with Arabia, so, too, will the name of Wilson be always associated with Persia.

Soldier, explorer, civil administrator, author, and politician, Sir Arnold as a young man had won the Sword of Honour at Sandhurst and then joined his regiment in India, leaving shortly afterwards for service in Persia. At this time the Burmah Oil Company, financed by British capital, had in the face of stern Russian influence succeeded in gaining a promising oil concession from the Shah. This was particularly important for British interests, as, with the swing from coal- to oil-burning, the finding of this elusive commodity was fast becoming a desperate necessity, particularly for the far-ranging vessels of the Royal Navy.

So it was that Lieutenant Wilson was detailed to lead a small detachment of the 18th Bengal Lancers, ostensibly to guard the Consulate, but in reality to provide protection for the oil-drillers against the turbulent and hostile tribesmen; and it was his good fortune to be a witness of the very first oil to gush from that arid land on that memorable morning of May 26, 1908.

Resigning from the Service, he stayed on in Persia, exploring and surveying the little-known hinterland, travelling through hostile territory in native dress—frequently attacked and many times captured, but invariably escaping alive owing entirely to his own unfailing tact and unbounded courage, until in 1918 his long political and war service in the area culminated in his appointment as British Minister in Persia.

Much later, as a roving Member of Parliament, he had interviewed and had discussions with both Hitler and Mussolini, and now here he was at Feltwell, the recipient of his country’s highest honours and one of the most distinguished citizens of the land, fighting this latest war from the uncomfortable confines of a Wellington bomber’s rear turret.

In resigning his Parliamentary seat he announced to his constituents that “I have no desire to shelter myself and live in safety behind the ramparts of the bodies of millions of our young men”,  and his words were truly prophetic, for on the night of May 31, 1940, his plane was shot down over enemy territory, and he died as he would have wished—in the service of his country.”

Sir Arnold Talbot Wilson, KCIE, CSI, CMG, DSO (18 July 1884 – 31 May 1940) was 56 years old when his Wellington L7791 (37 Squadron) was shot down over Northern France, near Dunkirk. The target that night was Nieuport, and 75 (NZ) Sqdn sent 9 Wellingtons on the same op’ – Cyrus Kay was one of the pilots that night.

Three of the Gray crew, including Wilson, were killed, and two survived, badly injured. Sir Arnold was the oldest and most decorated member of Bomber Command to be killed on operations during the war.

He must have been unique amongst politicians of that era in following his principles into battle.

He is buried at Eringhem churchyard, half-way between Dunkirk and Saint-Omer.

– Reference: “The Restless Sky: The autobiography of an airman”, by Cyril Eyton Kay. Harrap (1964).