Monthly Archives: March 2021

Owen Joseph ‘Cookie’ Cook – Birthday celebrations – 100 years young!

Perhaps now a silver lining to the recent sad cloud of the losses of some of our veterans

I am pleased to report, albeit a little belatedly that Owen Cook, Pilot with 75(NZ) Squadron reached, on Saturday the 27th of March, the magnificent age of 100!

Owen arrived with crew, at Mepal, on the 2nd of March 1945 and as it would transpire later, we discovered that in fact his 2nd, 2nd Dickie Op was with my own Father’s crew, during his 2nd Tour with the Squadron.

Owen, flew 6 Ops before the War’s end and then undertook 2 Manna and 2 Prisoner Repatriation sorties, before finally posting out of the Squadron on the 3rd of July 1945.

Whilst transcribing Bob’s tour and crew histories, early in my research on him, I hit a brick wall regarding the identity of a second pilot added to the Form 541 by hand for the Dessau Op of 7th March 1945.

On the Sunday morning of the summer reunion at Mepal 2012, my sister, mother and I went to the memorial garden so mum could see it and the plaque for Dad. while we were there, an old couple, their daughter and her husband arrived. A brief discussion about their whereabouts (i.e. that this was the memorial garden for 75(NZ) Squadron) led to a discussion in the garden and then the 3 Pickerels pub. The elderly gentleman was called Owen Cook and he had been at the squadron towards the end of the war. On returning home I looked through the nominal roll and the ORB and found Owen’s arrival and Op history. Finding his serial number suddenly made me realise that the Pilot that flew with the Zinzan crew on this raid was in fact, Owen Cook……..

I am pleased also to recall, that having met Owen and his family and posted about our meeting on the site, we were able to reconnect Own with his Navigator, Jack Mitcherson.

Owens recollections of the War and his time in the Squadron can be read in more detail here, on the Australian War Memorial website

So, I am sure you will all be happy to raise a glass to Owen on reaching this fantastic milestone!

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!

Jack Francis David Jarmy DFC– Navigator

It is with profound sadness that I must pass on the news of the loss of another member of 75(NZ) Squadron RAF. Jack Francis David Jarmy passed away after a long illness on the 27th of March, less than a month before his 99th birthday.

Jack arrived at Mepal on the 21st of July 1943 as a Navigator in the Mayfield crew, with my own Father, who was Air Bomber with the crew.

The Mayfield crew completed their first tour with the Squadron after only 21 Ops – on instruction from Group to try to show the remaining crews that it was in fact possible to survive a stay at Mepal – at what was at the time, a dangerous period in the Squadron’s history.

After an instructional posting Jack joined 218 Gold Coast Squadron and completed his 2nd Tour, just 2 months or so before the end of the War.

Jack stayed in the RAF and retired in 1977.

Jack’s widow and son have written an obituary to Jack which can be read in full here on the International Bomber Command Centre’s Facebook page – it is of course, entirely fitting that the family should remember him in full, so I thought it would be fitting to offer my own tribute to Jack based on my conversations with him about his time with 75(NZ) Squadron and my Father

It was only after my Father’s death that I felt compelled to find out more what he had done in the RAF and at least initially, something of the boys he had flown with. One night, when beginning my research, I – for whatever reason – felt compelled to search through a box. I came across a printout of information on the Squadron and on the back, written in Bob’s hand, were the names Mayfield and Jarmy. Struck by the astonishment that at some time forgotten, I must have spoken to Dad about the Squadron – I contacted Kevin King, Chairman of the UK Squadron Association to ask if he knew anything about these 2 individuals. Even then, I was resigned to the fact that I was probably chasing ghosts – but a call from Kevin floored me when he said that not only did he know him – but that Jack would love to speak to me!

There followed several phone calls and a wonderful weekend spent with Jack and his wife Joyce. At the time, I was astonished by his energy, both physical and mental and we talked for 2 days and late into 1 night!

Like my Father, Jack also originally enlisted and was rated as suitable for Pilot training. Unlike Bob, Jack went to the United States to train and was victim to their rather mechanistic approach of 1/3’s regarding training and progression. Having missed out in that final 1/3 cut, Jack was given the option of either transferring onto an Air Bombers course, or to wait (peeling potatoes as it transpired) for a Navigators course, where the 2 top graduates would be commissioned.

P/O Jack Jarmy arrived with many other young airmen at No.11 Operational Training Unit, Oakley on the 6th of April 1943. Methods of crew creation were not at all scientific – beer, sandwiches and a few hours left to their own devices seemed enough. Jack recalled he first met the Pilot, Allan – he was impressed with his moustache and therefore thought he could probably fly as well. When the 2 bumped into my Father, an enquiry as to his proficiency as an Air Bomber was met with, if I imagine my Father, a suitably compelling and expletive filled response and that was enough for them! – and so the crew began to form…..

Listening to Jack, I think what struck me was the precarious nature of the operational flights – I knew they weren’t pleasure flights, but I suppose I had tended to view the ORB reports of the raids and occurrences therein as a definitive description of ‘what happened’. Jack made it clear to me that this was certainly not the case – he actually said that he personally didn’t expect to last 30 ops. Whilst he didn’t say he thought he would die, he was resigned to ending up a PoW.

Jack and the boys never returned with all 4 engines working and they were hit by flak on every raid. On one raid, just prior to making the final run into target, Jack went up into the astro dome, first looking to the back of the aircraft, only to turn his head to see a Lancaster only 50 foot above them with it’s bomb bay doors open – a screamed ‘STARBOARD BANK NOW!’ to Allan resulted in the Stirling banking to vertical as the Lanc’s bombs silently fell through the space that their wing had occupied only seconds before.

On their second raid the Flight Engineer accidentally turned the wrong fuel valve whilst balancing wing fuel loads as they approached the Dutch coast on the way out. All four engines stopped mid-air and everybody was reaching for their chutes – luckily the F/E realised what had happened and opened the valve pretty quick smartish and they flew on to the target.

It also appears that Dad’s remark in the logbook referring to ‘shot up train’ did in fact relate to him shooting the train up himself! Returning from their 3rd Op –  Gardening in the Gironde Estuary, Dad saw a train and got Allan to drop the plane down to about 150 foot and they shot the hell out of it – when they got back they were as pleased as punch – when they told the Intelligence officer during their debrief, he apparently ‘bollocked’ them and said if they pulled a stunt like that again, they would be on a court martial – apparently the Germans often sent out flak trains with the express intention of luring allied aircraft down to low level, before dropping a side panel on a carriage and cutting the aircraft to ribbons with a set of 20mm cannons.

On a fighter affiliation and flight check, a Typhoon came in a bit too tight and a bit too fast, despite the pilots best efforts, the Typhoon took the end 4 foot off of their wing – Jack rather calmly observed ‘if it had been a foot more, we would have been buggered……..’

It was clear from talking to Jack that the friendship between himself, my father and their Pilot Allan Mayfield was strong. Despite being the only commissioned officer in the crew, and thus sleeping and eating separately from the rest of the crew, they grew close – perhaps as they all occupied the front end of the aircraft.

As was the practice, at the end of the tour the crew were spilt up and set on instructional duties. Perhaps by luck, Jack and my Father stayed together when they were both posted to No.3 Lancaster Finishing School at Feltwell. No doubt they spent time together and one day cycled over to No. 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit, at Waterbeach, to meet up with Allan.

Eventually it was time to leave and perhaps a little worse for wear, Jack and Dad started the long cycle ride back to Feltwell. On rounding a corner, the sudden appearance of a policeman startled both and the decision was made perhaps foolhardily to out cycle him – a sound plan till they both rode into his car parked around the next corner! Now caught, details – all made up of course were given to the officer and they returned to Base possibly more chastened than when they had left. A few days later, Jack whilst instructing a group on Navigation techniques was rudely interrupted by the arrival of the same police officer – my Father, rather shame faced in tow behind. Perhaps inevitably My Father found himself, sometime later in front of a magistrate in Ely. Having listened to the details of that night my father was fined 1 shilling. Upon asking the whereabouts of Officer Jarmy, My Father was pleased to inform his Honour that sadly F/O Jarmy was currently in Ely Hospital suffering from a bad case of tonsilitis – but, that he should rest assured that as soon as was humanly possible, he would be well enough again to continue his fight against the tyranny of the Third Reich. Duly noted, the Magistrate then fined Jack 2 shillings. My father never one to let an injustice escape him, challenged the unfairness of this decision and promptly had his fine raised to the same 2 shillings………

At the end of their instructional posting, Jack and Bob had to go their separate ways – Dad went back to 75(NZ) Squadron and Jack was posted to 218 Gold Coast Squadron.

It was only in talking to Jack that we each discovered something. Jack had spent years after the War trawling through the phonebooks of Scotland trying to find Bob. Bob was ignorant of this till the day he died and had, fatefully for Jack’s efforts, not in fact returned to Scotland, but had stayed in England, having married my Mother.

Twice on our visit Jack stopped rigid and stared at me – remarking that I looked just like Bob – I felt honoured – doubly so………

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!

Douglas Bannerman Williamson, RAFVR 43310 – 8 August 1925 to 13 March 2021

I have just received the sad news from Chris, that one of our last remaining 75 (New Zealand) Squadron veterans has passed away. 

Douglas Bannerman Williamson (Dougie to his family) was born on the 8th of August 1925 in Roslin, Scotland, the second-youngest of six children. 

Still at high school when war broke out, he joined the Home Guard at age 16 and enlisted in the RAF at age 17. He did his initial training  at 14 ITW, Bridlington, and was then posted to 4 School of Technical Training, St Athan to train as a Flight Engineer.  

In October 1944 he was posted to 1657 Heavy Conversion Unit at Stradishall to join a bomber crew and train on four engine Stirlings. His “League of Nations” crew  included three Kiwis; skipper, Johnny Wood, navigator Jack Pauling and Wireless Operator Gerry Newey; an English Bomb Aimer, Jim Hooper; and two Canadian gunners, Jack Cash and Ralph Sparrow. 

After a short stint at No. 3 Lancaster Finishing School, they were posted to 75 (New Zealand) Squadron, Mepal, arriving on the 2nd of December 1944. They completed a full tour of 32 operations with the squadron, their 32nd and final op by far the most dramatic.  

On the night of the 4th of April 1945, they were flying their regular C Flight Lancaster HK601, JN-D  “Dog” in a night attack on the Leuna synthetic oil plant at Merseburg, thirty kilometres from Leipzig. Ten minutes away from the target the Lancaster was hit in the nose by flak and the propylene glycol windscreen de-icing tank caught fire. The Bomb Aimer, trapped in the nose, opened the escape hatch and Doug was caught in the burst of flames caused by the through-draft. He passed out momentarily from lack of oxygen and thinking the aircraft was going down in flames, baled out through the Mid-Under gun position. The rest of the crew managed to put out the fire, save the Bomb Aimer and fly “Dog” back to the oversize emergency landing ground at Manston in England, badly damaged and without brakes. Johnny Wood was awarded the DFC and Jack Pauling the DFM for their brave efforts that night. 

Meanwhile Doug landed safely near Leipzig, evaded capture for three days, then spent five nights in a German police cell, before being liberated by the Americans. He was back in London before the end of the month. 

After the war, Doug had an RAF posting to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), a stint at university, a job as a laboratory technician in London and another as factory manager on a tea plantation in India, before emigrating to Canada in 1955.  

In Toronto he met Janet, a fellow Scot and talented artist, and they were married in 1959. They had two sons, Angus and Ian. 

Doug then studied and qualified as a civil engineer.  

In 1974 the family moved to New Zealand, where Doug taught civil engineering at the national Technical Correspondence Institute. They eventually settled in Auckland, where they have lived happily ever since. 

In 2012, Doug and Janet took part in the wonderful Ian & Wendy Kuperus-funded tour to England with four other RAF veterans to visit the Bomber Command Memorial and other related sites, the highlight being a taxi ride in the Lancaster “Just Jane” at East Kirkby. 

Doug sat in his office – and he didn’t fall out this time……

Doug lived life to the full, all the way into his nineties. As well as his sports of fencing, sailing and judo, Doug published his memoirs in two books and was an active member of the NZ Bomber Command Association. Along with Janet he took a keen interest in politics and current affairs, actively involved in the Green Party and a member of Amnesty International. 

Our heart-felt condolences go to Janet and the Williamson family.  

Dougie will be sadly missed by those of us that knew him – one of the last of that amazing generation and a truly kind, gentle man.  

Sgt Douglas Bannerman Williamson RAFVR 43310, Flight Engineer, 75 (New Zealand) Squadron RAF, December 1944 – April 1945.

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!