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!