Daily Archives: June 6, 2019

D-Day

75(NZ) Squadron RAF Operations log for the 5th/6th of June 1944.
The Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

Thanks to Chris for this piece, on the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Allied liberation of Europe.

The Air Force Museum of New Zealand in Christchurch holds a copy of the 75(NZ) Sqn Operations Log, a document which we were not previously aware of, and which gives us a much more detailed insight into 75 (NZ) Squadron’s contribution to D-Day. On the night of 5th of June 1944, 75(NZ) Squadron had prepared twenty-six Lancasters (a record at that point), and they took off either side of 0330hrs in the morning of the 6th to attack the coastal battery at Ouistreham. They were timed to reach the target at first light, and, on arrival, found a layer of cloud at 7,000 feet, with occasional gaps, through which some crews were able to see the markers. The bombing appeared to be fairly concentrated, no opposition was met, and all aircraft returned safely to Mepal after a round-trip of less than four hours. 

Ouistreham was at the eastern end of the invasion area, where Sword and Juno Beaches would be the scene of the Anglo-Canadian landings. However Mepal crews had not been told of the invasion, but they knew something was up as they were told that more than a thousand aircraft would be operating throughout the night, and that they must adhere to assigned flight routes, heights and times, and not jettison bombs over the Channel.  

From the 75(NZ) Sqn Operations Log: 
At 0730hrs,15 minutes after the last aircraft had landed back at Mepal, one of several ‘top secret’ messages came through from Waterbeach:

 ”D-Day is 6-6-44,  H Hour 0600” 

There were also messages about the distinctive markings of aircraft, and tight restrictions on the use of I.F.F. 

At 0810hrs Waterbeach advised the Colours of the Day: 
1400 – 2000 RY – Q – O
2000 – 0200 RG – J – I   Chaffinch OX
0200 – 0800 GG – C – D
0800 – 1400 GY – H – W 

Duty Beacon 62 – 285

 At 1105hrs Group requested 24 Lancasters be made available for an attack that night, Bomb Loads 18 x 500, petrol 1250 (gallons). 

W/T call signs were advised:  A & B Flt  M.K.H. and C Flt  P.O.K. 

At 1130hrs Target and Aiming Point coordinates were advised and an amendment to the Bomb Load, specifying 90% .025 fusing and 10% long delay (spread evenly over a period of 6 to 36hrs). H Hour 0235hrs. 

At 1610hrs W/C Leslie put the petrol up to 1366 (gallons). 

At 1620hrs Waterbeach advised the route coordinates (there and back). They also advised a bomb jettison location and repeated the instructions not to jettison in the Channel, mentioning “a very considerable volume of shipping”. 

At  1935hrs the target was altered to one of two possible targets (Lisieux one of them) and new route coordinates were advised.  

“Note: The alteration in route is to avoid low flying airborne forces, which are again operating tonight”. 

“A/C in two waves … 75 Sqdn 12 A/C in 1st wave, 12 2nd wave”. 

I.F.F. not to be used except in real emergency – sets were to be sealed in the “Off” position. “Window” and photography instructions given.  

2130hrs – target confirmed as Lisieux.
Strict adherence to routes and times required. Crews to fly below any bad weather over England, up to Thames Estuary, then climb through clouds to 7 or 8000 ft. Keep that height over enemy coast if weather fine, but if 5/10 cloud or more, drop below cloud and bomb below. Be prepared to come down below cloud over the target if markers are not visible. Balloon locations advised. PFF Aiming Point marking colours advised (Red & Green at H-3 to H-2, followed by Yellow & White) 

Master Bomber call sign “Wastepipe 1
Deputy M/B call sign       “Wastepipe 2
Cease Bombing call sign  “Sugar-plum
B/C Frequency 5105 Kc (B); 6440 Kc (D) 

At 2250hrs new instructions came through from BC HQ: 

– no Window- if crews can’t visually identify the target must not bomb any other target
– if any light flak received do not fire back (could be ours)
– route coordinates confirmed, H Hour brought forward to 0135hrs. 

At 2344hrs the first of 24 Lancasters took off from Mepal to attack the railway junction in the town of Lisieux, some twenty miles to the east of Caen.. They reached the target to find a thin layer of cloud at 5,000 feet, which obscured the aiming-point, but the Oboe markers could be seen clearly, and the bombing was considered accurate and concentrated. All returned home safely, the last landing at 0359hrs early on the morning of the 7th.

Pilot Officer Ted Wilcox and the famous “soda siphon spitting bombs”

Many thanks to Joan and Michael Wilcox who have generously passed on the story of Ted Wilcox and the ‘Bomb spitting soda syphon’ artwork that adorned R1162 AA-Y “Yorker.

Edward (Ted) Thomas Wilcox was born in Durban, South Africa on 8 March 1913. His family moved back to England in 1914, later moving to Birmingham where his father was employed at the Austin Motor Works. 

From an early age Ted had shown a talent for painting and drawing and in 1924 he went to the Birmingham School of Art where he studied art, design and silver working. In 1930 he started work for a company making stained glass and later worked for the Austin Motor Works. Subsequently, he left Birmingham and worked in London as a commercial artist. His artwork was often used in technical publications, advertising literature and car owner manuals.

Ted was granted an emergency commission with the RAFVR on 12 April 1939, gazetted on 14 May 1939 as an acting Pilot Officer and began training as an Air Gunner.

He married Mary Dalton on 3 May 1940 and three days after the wedding, reported to 9 Bombing and Gunnery School at RAF Penrhos, Wales for a further three weeks training.

On 1 June he was posted to 11 Operational Training Unit (OTU), RAF Bassingbourn, training on Wellingtons.

On 14 August 1940, Ted was posted to 75 (NZ) Squadron at RAF Feltwell as an Air Gunner. Ted and Mary lived at Laburnum Cottage, Hockwold.

Ted flew with several crews – S/L “Breck” Breckon, P/O Charles Pownall (5 op’s), P/O Ian Gow and F/O Peter Kitchin (6) – before settling into the crew of P/O Edgar Lockwood as rear gunner.

He flew ten operations with Lockwood between November 1940 and January 1941.

Meanwhile, Mark 1C Wellington R1162 was received on 19 December 1940 from No 9 MU, Cosford, allocated the code AA-Y “Yorker”.

Wellington R1162 AA-Y “Yorker” being serviced in the snow, Feltwell, early 1941.
– NZ Bomber Command Assn. archives, Ron Mayhill collection.

The Lockwood crew picked up the new aircraft and flew their first op’ in her on 1 January 1941.

We don’t know why, but the crew decided to personalise the Wellington and Ted was commissioned to create a piece of nose art for “Yorker”. The story has become part of family legend. How he acquired some aircraft linen fabric, using his own hand as model and making free with Mary’s kitchen table, created a beautifully detailed ‘R.A.F’-branded soda-water siphon, with bombs spraying from the nozzle. The completed painting was then fixed to the side of Yorker by the application of aircraft dope.

Unofficial emblem painted on the side of a Vickers Wellington of No. 75 (New Zealand) Squadron RAF at Feltwell, Norfolk, depicting an ‘R.A.F’ soda-siphon spraying bombs.
IWM (CH 2718).

Ted only got to fly four air tests and three operations in the plane he had decorated. Having completed his tour at 25 op’s, Ted left the squadron on 2 February 1941.

However, his artwork, “Yorker” and her crew would soon become famous, in England and back in New Zealand, when they featured in a series of publicity photos taken at Feltwell, several of which appeared in the newspapers of the day. It was one of the most striking pieces of nose art of its time and is still admired today.

The photographer was Mr PHF “Bill” Tovey, the same official RAF photographer who took the iconic “airmen walking past Wellington” photo that came to represent the public face of 75 (NZ) Squadron.

We know that Tovey took that photo at Feltwell on the 10th of May 1941.

It seems likely that he was also the photographer when another set of publicity photos was taken at Feltwell on 9 April 1941, showing preparations for a raid on Berlin. According to information on the back, these were syndicated through Fox Photos (a London press agency). Both sets feature Yorker’s nose art.

Ted kept one of these, an original, black and white photograph showing the Wellington with his artwork, the pilot inside the aircraft and crew member outside looking up. Newspaper captions stated that it was “an RAF pilot and his observer” with a “’siphon and bombs’ mascot on their Wellington.” The pilot is P/O Oliver Rayner Matheson DFC RAF and the observer is P/O George Eric Fowler DFC RAF.

“An R.A.F. Pilot and his observer”. P/O Oliver Matheson (pilot) in cockpit and P/O Eric Fowler (observer) below. New Zealand newspapers dated the photo 9 April 1941.
– Michael Wilcox.
As it appeared in an English newspaper. “An R.A.F. Pilot and his observer at the sign of the bombs and siphon check-up on their Wellington before setting out on the R.A.F.’s 39th raid on Berlin – the heaviest the German capital has had.”
– Michael Wilcox.

Matheson had taken over the crew and aircraft after Edgar Lockwood had completed his tour.

It was Matheson’s last operation – he and the crew took a different Wellington to Berlin that night, R1409 AA-N “Nuts”, but apparently R1162 “Yorker” made a much more photogenic subject.

As it turned out, Matheson and Fowler were each awarded an immediate DFC for their photo of Tempelhof aerodrome and making a second run over the target to deliver their load that night, despite having sustained flak damage.

After that, 2nd pilot Sgt Bob Fotheringham took over the crew.

Vickers Wellington 1C R1162 AA-Y “Yorker”.
– NZ Bomber Command Assn. archives, Jack Wakefield collection

In June, a photo of the Fotheringham crew in front of Yorker’s nose art appeared in the NZ newspapers:

“Dominion Bomber Crew: A crew of the New Zealand Bomber Squadron. Their machine has a significant insignia.” The Fotheringham crew in front of R1162 AA-Y “Yorker”, May 1941. Front, Sgt Bob Fotheringham (skipper), behind him, P/O Eric Fowler DFC, navigator. Top is Jack Wakefield, rear gunner.
– NZ Bomber Command Assn. archives, Jack Wakefield collection.

From 75(NZ) Squadron Ted had gone to 18 Operational Training Unit (18 OTU) at RAF Bramcote where he continued as an Air Gunner until 27 April when he was posted to 27 OTU, RAF Lichfield.

Amazingly, his old “kite” followed him!

R1162 was transferred to 27 OTU on the 16th of August 1941 and Ted’s logbook records one more flight in her on 26 October 1941, piloted by a F/L Denton. She failed to return from the third One Thousand Bomber raid on Bremen, on the night of the 23rd/24th of June 1942, one of 23 OTU aircraft and crews lost that night.

Ted’s wife, Mary, died in January 1966 whilst Ted was stationed at RAF St Athan, some three months before he retired from the RAF.    Ted Wilcox died peacefully on 7 July 1995, aged 82, and is buried in Llywel Church, Trecastle, Powys, South Wales, alongside his daughter Gaywood Patricia (nee Wilcox, Chaffer) Griffin.

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!