A. Saunders crew 11.07.41

19410705 Second crew - Saunders

The Saunders crew.
Back row L to R: Raymond Curlewis (2nd Pilot), Tony Saunders (Pilot),  Jack Thompson Front Gunner), Gwyn Martin (Observer)
Front row L to R: Edward Callender (Rear Gunner) & Albert Windiate (Wireless Operator)
© David Martin.

The nature of crew training at this point of the war meant that there was an appreciable stagger between a Tour for a Pilot and the other trades in a crew. The Saunders crew, sans 2nd Pilot, had been before the Curry crew and their Op history can be read here.

The Saunders crew Op history has been augmented with extracts from the Observer, Gwyn Martin’s autobiography “Up and Under”. Gwyn’s son David has kindly granted permission to reproduce these portions of the book.

30/03/1945 – Bombing Attacks Against Calais
One Wellington aircraft of this Unit carried out an attack against the above target. The bomb load consisted of 500lbs., and containers of incendiaries.
Bombs were dropped in target area.
No observations were made and no reconnaissance carried out.
A.A. fire was fairly heavy but inaccurate.
Searchlights were medium but not concentrated.
No enemy aircraft were encountered.
The weather was fine; visibility 10 miles: cloud 5/10 – 7//10 about 7000 feet.
Navigation was by D/R, map reading, W/T.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1457 AA-P

S/L Reuben Pears Widdowson, RAFVR 34256 – Pilot.
Sgt. Anthony Saunders, RAFVR – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Fullerton, RAFVR – Observer.
Sgt. Green, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Monty’ Partridge, RAFVR – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Eric Francis Gannaway, RNZAF NZ402110 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 19:45 – Landed 00:15
Flight Time 04:30

06/04/1941 – Bombing Attacks Agianst Brest
Ten Wellington aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks against the above targets. Owing to heavy cloud over target area, the operation was not successful, eight aircraft failing to locate target. The bomb load consisted of 500 S.A.P.
CDS.388 reports two explosions, the first one large and coloured red.
Results were not observed by CDS.798 as bombs were dropped on flak concentration.
Two photographs were attempted by CDS.565.
Heavy and light A.A. Fire was experienced at many parts of target.
Few searchlights were in operation, but these were useless owing to cloud.
A few enemy aircraft were seen, but no attacks were made. Navigation was by D/R, W/T, astro.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1457 AA-P

S/L Reuben Pears Widdowson, RAFVR 34256 – Pilot.
Sgt. Anthony Saunders, RAFVR – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Fullerton, RAFVR – Observer.
Sgt. Green, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Monty’ Partridge, RAFVR – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Eric Francis Gannaway, RNZAF NZ402110 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 20:00 – Landed 02:00
Flight Time 06:00

07/04/1941 – Bombing Attack on Targets at Kiel
Eleven Wellington aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks against the above targets. The weather was good and bombs were seen to burst on or very near the targets. Fires were observed over the whole of the target area. A.A. fire was fairly heavy and intense. Searchlights operated mainly in cones and were fairly accurate. A number of enemy aircraft were seen but no attacks developed. Navigation was by D/R, W/T, astro and map reading

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1457 AA-P

S/L Reuben Pears Widdowson, RAFVR 34256 – Pilot.
Sgt. Anthony Saunders, RAFVR – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Fullerton, RAFVR – Observer.
Sgt. Green, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Monty’ Partridge, RAFVR – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Eric Francis Gannaway, RNZAF NZ402110 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 20:20 – Landed 04:30
Flight Time 08:10

24/04/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Ostend and Kiel
Nine Wellington aircraft were detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks against the above targets. Three of these aircraft failed to locate targets and bombs were bought back. A mixed bomb load was carried consisting of 1000lbs, 500lbs, and containers of incendiaries.
SFY.154 reports that bombs were seen to burst.
SFY.426 saw bombs burst 300 yds S.W. of target.
SFY.515 reports small fire started in target area.
SFY.626 saw bombs and incendiaries burst in target area.
Target was not located by SFY.699,
Results were not observed by SFY.872
S/L Widdowson returned to base on account of the Wireless Operator being ill. Three 500lbs. were jettisoned in sea. P/O Curry failed to locate target.
F/Lt. Fletcher attacked target area and fires were started.
Two large fires were observed in target area.
A.A. fire was fairly intense and accurate.
Searchlights were numerous and working in cones.
A few enemy aircraft were seen but no attacks made.
HEavy cloud was experienced in Ostend area, but elsewhere the weather was fine. Navigation was by D/R, loop, astro, W/T

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1457 AA-P

S/L Reuben Pears Widdowson, RAFVR 34256 – Pilot.
Sgt. Anthony Saunders, RAFVR – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Fullerton, RAFVR – Observer.
Sgt. missing name,   – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Monty’ Partridge, RAFVR – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Eric Francis Gannaway, RNZAF NZ402110 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 20:45 – Landed 23:55
Flight Time 03:10

02/05/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Hamburg and Emden
Seven Wellington aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks against the above targets. The bomb load was mixed and consisted of 1000lbs. G.P., 500lbs. G.P.; 250lbs. G.P. and containers of incendiaries. Bombs were dropped and hits scored. Many fires were started. Accurate heavy A.A. fire was experienced in target areas. There was intense stationary cones of searchlights over Hamburg. A few enemy aircraft were seen but no attacks made. The weather was fine and visibility was good. Navigation was by D/R, W/T, map reading and astro.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1457 AA-P

S/L Reuben Pears Widdowson, RAFVR 34256 – Pilot.
Sgt. Anthony Saunders, RAFVR – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Lawrence Alan Lawton, RNZAF NZ391883 – Observer.
Sgt. Monty’ Partridge, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jones, RAFVR – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Eric Francis Gannaway, RNZAF NZ402110 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 20:40 – Landed 01:30
Flight Time 04:50

04/05/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Brest
Thirteen Wellington aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks against the above targets. The bomb load was mixed and consisted of 2000lbs. S.A.P. 500lbs. S.A.P. 250lbs. S.A.P. while flash bombs were also carried by two aircraft. All bombs were dropped and bursts were observed. Many fires were started. Intense heavy and light flak was experienced on route and in target area, while searchlights were intense but not very accurate. A few enemy aircraft were seen but no attacks made. The weather was fine and clear. Navigation was by astro. D/R, W/T, and map reading.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1457 AA-P

S/L Reuben Pears Widdowson, RAFVR 34256 – Pilot.
Sgt. Anthony Saunders, RAFVR – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Lawrence Alan Lawton, RNZAF NZ391883 – Observer.
Sgt. Monty’ Partridge, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jones, RAFVR – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Eric Francis Gannaway, RNZAF NZ402110 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:00 – Landed 03:40
Flight Time 05:40

06/05/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Hamburg
Ten Wellington aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks against the above target. One of these aircraft, R,3169, after having bombed the target area, and while on return journey, crashed into a barrage balloon cable at the mouth of the River Humber and dived into the water. The rear gunner, SGT. Craven, was the only survivor of the crew of six. The bomb load carried by the ten machines consisted of 1000 lbs., 500 lbs., and 250 lbs.

Bombs were dropped by all aircraft, but owing to heavy cloud no results were observed. No observations were made and no reconnaissance carried out. Some light and heavy A.A. fire was experienced on route and in target area. Searchlights were few and ineffective. No enemy aircraft were encountered. The weather was not good, ten-tenths cloud being experienced over route and target area. Navigation was by D/R, W/T, astro,

Wellington Mk.Ic Missing AA-

S/L Reuben Pears Widdowson, RAFVR 34256 – Pilot.
Sgt. Anthony Saunders, RAFVR – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Lawrence Alan Lawton, RNZAF NZ391883 – Observer.
Sgt. Monty’ Partridge, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Wilfred Bearne, RAFVR 976174 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Eric Francis Gannaway, RNZAF NZ402110 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:25 – Landed 04:45
Flight Time 06:20

08/05/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Hamburg
Twelve Wellington aircraft were detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks against the above target. One of these aircraft, TBO.404, returned to base with bombs on account of rear turret and guns being out of order. The remaining aircraft all dropped their bombs and bursts were seen in target areas, as a result of which many fires were started. A.A. Fire was intense and fairly accurate, and searchlights were active. Enemy aircraft were numerous but no attacks were made. The weather was good, but a little too clear. Navigation was by D/R, astro, W/T, map reading.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1457 AA-P

S/L Reuben Pears Widdowson, RAFVR 34256 – Pilot.
Sgt. Anthony Saunders, RAFVR – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Lawrence Alan Lawton, RNZAF NZ391883 – Observer.
Sgt. Monty’ Partridge, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Wilfred Bearne, RAFVR 976174 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Eric Francis Gannaway, RNZAF NZ402110 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:10 – Landed 01:40
Flight Time 03:30

09/05/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Mannheim
Twelve Wellington aircraft were detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks against the above target. All bombs were dropped, and bursts and fires were seen in target area. Moderate A.A. fire was encountered in target area but this was not vey accurate. Searchlights were not active. A number of enemy aircraft were seen bit no attacks made. The weather was fine and visibility good. Navigation was bt D/R, astro, W/T and map reading.

Wellington Mk.Ic L.7848 AA-V

S/L Reuben Pears Widdowson, RAFVR 34256 – Pilot.
Sgt. Anthony Saunders, RAFVR – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Lawrence Alan Lawton, RNZAF NZ391883 – Observer.
Sgt. Monty’ Partridge, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Wilfred Bearne, RAFVR 976174 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Eric Francis Gannaway, RNZAF NZ402110 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:40 – Landed 04:15
Flight Time 05:35

11/05/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Hamburg
Eleven Wellington aircraft were detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks against the above target. One of these aircraft, Captained by S/L. Widdowson, was attacked by an unforeseen aircraft at 4000 feet near Cromer. The machine was badly damaged and the rear gunner, SGT Ganaway, was fatally wounded. Bombs were jettisoned in sea and aircraft returned to base. The remaining aircraft dropped all bombs and bursts were seen and fires started. Intense light and heavy A.A. fire was experienced in target areas and searchlights were active and working in cones. Several fighters were seen in target areas. The weather was good, but there was haze over target. Navigation was by D/R, astro, W/T. map reading.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1589 AA-?

S/L Reuben Pears Widdowson, RAFVR 34256 – Pilot.
Sgt. Anthony Saunders, RAFVR – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Lawrence Alan Lawton, RNZAF NZ391883 – Observer.
Sgt. Monty’ Partridge, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Wilfred Bearne, RAFVR 976174 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Eric Francis Gannaway, RNZAF NZ402110 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:20 – Landed 00:45
Flight Time 01:25

17/05/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Cologne and Boulogne
Fourteen Wellington aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks against the above targets. One of these aircraft, CNY.170, returned to base, with bombs owing to turret trouble. The remainder all dropped their bombs, bursts being seen and fires started. It was observed that the black-out in Brussels was not good. Intense A.A. fire, and searchlights working in cones, were experienced, and although a number of enemy aircraft were seen no attacks were made. The weather was fair, but there was haze over the target areas. Navigation was by D/R, loop, astro, W/T, map reading.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1457 AA-P

S/L Reuben Pears Widdowson, RAFVR 34256 – Pilot.
Sgt. Anthony Saunders, RAFVR – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Lawrence Alan Lawton, RNZAF NZ391883 – Observer.
Sgt. Monty’ Partridge, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. East, RAFVR   – Front Gunner.
P/O Charles Stokes, RAFVR 44224 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:40 – Landed 03:10
Flight Time 04:30

27/05/1941 – Daylight Search for Hipper Class Cruiser
Twelve Wellington aircraft were detailed to carry out the above search. The bomb lead was mixed and consisted “B” bombs, 500 lbs. S.A.P. The target was not located and all bombs were bought back. A large number of enemy aircraft were encountered and attacks were made on our aircraft. No serious damage was sustained. Good weather was experienced. Navigation was by D/R, W/T, map reading.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1457 AA-P

S/L Reuben Pears Widdowson, RAFVR 34256 – Pilot.
Sgt. Anthony Saunders, RAFVR – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Lawrence Alan Lawton, RNZAF NZ391883 – Observer.
Sgt. Monty’ Partridge, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Evans, RAFVR   – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Allan Robert James Box, RNZAF NZ401221 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off No Time Listed – Landed No Time Listed
Flight Time –

10/06/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Brest
Twelve Wellington aircraft of this Unit carried out the above attacks. The bomb load was mixed and consisted of 2000lbs. S.A.P., 500 lbs. S.A.P. 250lbs. S.A.P., whilst RGS.772 carried one flash bomb.
Owing to smoke screen and ground haze no results were observed but all bombs were dropped.
No observations were made.
There was moderate light and heavy A.A. fire, but not accurate.
There were few searchlights.
Two enemy aircraft were seen, but no attacks made.
The weather was fine, but there was haze over the target.
D/R, astro, map reading, W/T.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1457 AA-P

S/L Reuben Pears Widdowson, RAFVR 34256 – Pilot.
Sgt. Anthony Saunders, RAFVR – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Lawrence Alan Lawton, RNZAF NZ391883 – Observer.
Sgt. Monty’ Partridge, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Evans, RAFVR   – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Allan Robert James Box, RNZAF NZ401221 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 00:45 – Landed 05:50
Flight Time 05:05

12/06/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Hamm
Ten Wellington aircraft were detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks against the above targets. A mixed bomb load was carried, consisting of 1000lbs, G.P., 500lbs. G.P.; 250lbs. G.P.; and containers of incendiaries.
KHS.163 dropped all bombs and fires were started.
KHS.312 saw bombs burst in group of fires.
KHS.527 reports bombs burst in target area.
KHS.524 saw bombs burst and incendiaries start a small red fire which burned for some time. The target itself was not pinpointed although it was in the vicinity of Hamm.
KHS.634 reports large fires at North and East of marshalling yards.
KHS.763 did not observe results.
KHS.809 reports bombs were dropped on target.
KHS.862 bombed primary target.
Results were not observed by P/O. Ashworth
KHS.981 saw bombs burst in target area.
A number of flashing beacons were seen in enemy territory. Heavy and light A.A> fires was experienced. This was fairly accurate. Searchlights were fairly active, working in cones.
KHS.635 reports that at position 090 50 miles SOUTHWOLD he was attacked by three enemy aircraft. One is believed to have been shot down by rear gunner. On turning back to confirm he was chased by remaining two.
The weather was fairly good, with ground haze over the target area. Navigation was by D/R, W/T, astro and map reading.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1457 AA-P

S/L Reuben Pears Widdowson, RAFVR 34256 – Pilot.
Sgt. Anthony Saunders, RAFVR – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Lawrence Alan Lawton, RNZAF NZ391883 – Observer.
Sgt. Monty’ Partridge, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Evans, RAFVR   – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Allan Robert James Box, RNZAF NZ401221 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:15 – Landed 04:20
Flight Time 05:05

24/06/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Kiel and Dusseldorf
Eighteen Wellington aircraft were detailed to carry out the above attacks. Two of these aircraft jettisoned bombs. The others reached the targets and bombs were dropped. Bursts were seen. A.A. fire and searchlights were intense, but no enemy aircraft were encountered. The weather was fine but there was thick ground haze at some parts. Navigation was by D/R, astro, W/T, map reading.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1457 AA-P

S/L Reuben Pears Widdowson, RAFVR 34256 – Pilot.
Sgt. Anthony Saunders, RAFVR – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Lawrence Alan Lawton, RNZAF NZ391883 – Observer.
Sgt. Monty’ Partridge, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Evans, RAFVR   – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Allan Robert James Box, RNZAF NZ401221 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:15 – Landed 04:15
Flight Time 06:00

“My pilot for the second half of the operational tour was a fair headed, mild mannered, studious looking Englishman, Tony Saunders. He has served his time as a second pilot with S/Ldr Widdowson, our flight commander, whose navigator, Joe Lawton spoke very highly of him. We quickly formed a great partnership, and the crew recovered its morale as a result of Tony’s arrival as captain. Jimmy Ward became Widdowson’s new second pilot and Ray Curlewis, an Aussie, from a well known New South Wales family, became our second pilot.

Tony flew us on a bombing exercise and а couple of cross country familiarization trips. He flew well but stiffly, in the crew’s opinion , but for the time being we reserved judgment. On July 3, I was asked to make up a crew whose navigator had been taken ill at briefing. The target was Essen, the crew had a good reputation on the squadron, and I agreed at short notice. It was a tough trip Jackie Joll, the pilot, and Hank Corrin both earned D.F.M.s as a result and I was pleased that I had been a part of the effort. I enjoyed the experience of working with a different but equally well disciplined crew.

On my return to my usual crew, we were sent on a series of daylight formation flying exercises, interspersed with raids on Cologne, Mannheim and Bremen, and all uneventful and forgettable.”’

 

10/07/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Cologne
0010 7
Ten Wellington aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out the above attacks. A mixed load was carried and consisted of 1000lbs; 500lbs; 250lbs; and containers of incendiaries.
The target was bombed by JDS.276
JDS.629 reports bombs were seen to burst in what was believed to be the Southern part of Cologne.
JDS.723 dropped bombs near fire in town of Bonn. Incendiaries started a good fire.
JDS.727 reports bombs dropped in target area and bursts seen in estimated position of aiming point.
JDS.871 saw bombs burst in target area.
JDS.972 reports firs were seen to start after bombing.
P/O. Scott reports that small fires were started in small town south of Cologne.
P/O. Hamlin reports that a fire was started in target area.
SGT. Breckon bombed target area.
P/O Hobbs saw bombs burst near a small red fire in the centre of a heavy flak concentration.
A number of dummy fires were observed on route.
A.A. fire was slight.
Few searchlights were in operation.
A few enemy aircraft were seen, but no attack made.
The weather was fine but there was haze over route and in target area. Navigation was by D/R, map reading, astro, W/T.

Wellington Mk.Ic W.5663 AA-O

Sgt. Anthony ‘Tony’ Saunders, RAF – Pilot.
Sgt. Raymond Fullerton Curlewis, RAAF AUS.402230 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Gwyn Martin, RAFVR 981426/ 110857 – Observer.
Sgt. Albert George Windiate, RAFVR 911390/ 112731 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Dennis Thompson, RAFVR 1152206 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Edward J. Callender, RAFVR 1061420 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off – Landed
Flight Time

13/07/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Bremen
0013 7
Eleven Wellington aircraft of were detailed to carry out the above attacks. One of these aircraft, X.9634 captained by SGT Miniken, was climbing on course when, apparently without warning, the starboard engine cut at 6,000 feet. He turned for base but lost height rapidly and force landed near the beach off Corton near Lowestoft. SGT. Miniken and SGT. Gilding (Navigator) were rescued but the others are missing. The weather was poor, there being 10/10 cloud over the target and results were not observed. Severe icing conditions were also experienced. Fairly heavy and accurate A.A. fire was encountered on route and in the target area. Few searchlights in operation.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1457 AA-P

Sgt. Anthony ‘Tony’ Saunders, RAF – Pilot.
Sgt. Raymond Fullerton Curlewis, RAAF AUS.402230 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Gwyn Martin, RAFVR 981426/ 110857 – Observer.
Sgt. Albert George Windiate, RAFVR 911390/ 112731 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Dennis Thompson, RAFVR 1152206 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Edward J. Callender, RAFVR 1061420 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:10 – Landed 04:20
Flight Time 05:10

21/07/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Mannheim and Cherbourg
0021 7
Eleven Wellington aircraft were detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks against the above targets. A mixed bomb load was carried and was made up of 1000lbs; 500lbs; 250lbs; and containers of incendiaries.
CKN.294 reports that bomb bursts were observed. Bursts were observed by CKN.326
Bombs were dropped in target area by CKN.342.
The target was attacked by CKN.380 and bombs were seen to burst. CKN.432 attacked the docks at Cherbourg and reports hits on North West corner. The target was bombed by CKN.446.
CKN.530 bombed target area but no results were observed.
CKN.591 reports that a large fire was started in target area.
CKN.627 started medium fire slightly south east of target and several explosions were observed.
CKN.664 saw H.E.’s and incendiaries burst in target area.
P/O. Scott reports that incendiaries were seen burning.
Dummy fires were observed. An aircraft was seen to be caught in searchlights over Ostend. It was hit by A.A. fire and seen to burst into flames.
A.A. fire was not very intense.
Searchlights were active in target area and at parts of route.
No enemy aircraft were encountered. The weather was fine. Navigation was by D/R, loop, astro, map reading, W/T.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1038 AA-H

Sgt. Anthony ‘Tony’ Saunders, RAF – Pilot.
Sgt. Raymond Fullerton Curlewis, RAAF AUS.402230 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Gwyn Martin, RAFVR 981426/ 110857 – Observer.
Sgt. Albert George Windiate, RAFVR 911390/ 112731 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Dennis Thompson, RAFVR 1152206 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Edward J. Callender, RAFVR 1061420 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:35 – Landed 04:50
Flight Time 06:15

“In the early hours of July 24, the reason for the formation flying became apparent; we were briefed for a daylight raid against the warships in Brest Harbour. 75 Squadron and 57 Squadron were each to provide twelve aircraft. “Pop Eye Lucas” was our leader, Haystacks” Freeman led 57 Squadron. Two all sergeant crews occupied the rear stations, as port and starboard ‘tail end Charlies’; we were one, Don Streeter’s crew the other. Don’s navigator was Pat Carling, a friend from Hastings  days. Our bomb load was 6 X 5001b armour piercing bombs, to be dropped from a height of 12,000 feet. The weather forecast predicted no cloud, visibility unlimited. Other formations would be attacking at the same time, from above and below us. Spitfires would escort us from the Scillies to the target area.

It was a strange sensation to walk out to the aircraft in the early hours of the morning, at a time when we were normally on the way to bed. The turret guns were harmonised to crossfire at 600 yards, to avoid a repeat of the Arado debacle. All aircraft carried two further Vickers machine guns mounted amidships, these, in our aircraft became my responsibility.”

24/07/1941 – Daylight Attacks Against Battleship Gneisenau at Brest
0024 7
Six Wellington aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out daylight attacks against the above target. One of these aircraft, N.2854 captained by SGT. Streeter failed to return to base. The bomb load consisted of 24 500lbs. S.A.P.
Results were unobserved by DNS.772.
DNS.329 reports bombs overshot aiming point. Direct hits on sheds or warehouses about half mile S.E. of aiming point were observed.
DNS.411 reports that one and possibly two hits were observed on north end of No.1 graving dock.
Results were not observed by P/). Ashworth.
S/L. Lucas reports that bombs were dropped in target area.
Balloons were observed in the harbour.
A.A. fire was very intense and accurate.
Enemy aircraft were numerous and our aircraft were attacked.
The weather was excellent and visibility was good.
Navigation was by D/R, and map reading.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1457 AA-P

Sgt. Anthony ‘Tony’ Saunders, RAF – Pilot.
Sgt. Raymond Fullerton Curlewis, RAAF AUS.402230 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Gwyn Martin, RAFVR 981426/ 110857 – Observer.
Sgt. Albert George Windiate, RAFVR 911390/ 112731 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Dennis Thompson, RAFVR 1152206 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Edward J. Callender, RAFVR 1061420 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 10:50 – Landed 16:35
Flight Time 05:45

“Take – off at 10.50 was uneventful, but it felt strange to be bouncing down the grass field with two other fully laden Wimpies on our left. We joined the remainder of the formation with little trouble, encountering slight buffeting from the slipstreams of the leading aircraft as we climbed. The Scillies seemed even more tranquil and other worldly than on the occasion of our Bismark epic. A solitary Spitfire appeared in the middle of our formation, giving us а glimpse of its beauty, speed and manoeuvrability, but, in less than two minutes, it vanished as suddenly as it had appeared. Then we were alone in the blue, with 22 aircraft in front of us, Don Streeter 50 yards away on the port side. Behind, above and below us there was no one, and we prayed it would stay that way. There being no need to navigate in this game of follow the leader, I alternated my position between the astrodome amidships and the pilot’s cockpit, all the while scanning the sky for any sign of fighters, theirs or ours.

The French coast was visible, but still there was no sign of the enemy. There was no idle chatter, and an occasional query met with a monosyllabic answer. Isle d’Quessant was our landfall, then our route led southwest to le Conquet, from where we crossed the estuary to start our bombing run.

This was the moment that the show started to fall apart for us. We followed a slight turn to port by the leading aircraft, and caught their slipstreams as we banked, as did Don Streeter on our port side. We came towards each other in an uncontrollable side slip until collision seemed inevitable. Don’s instrument panel was clearly visible as he slid beneath us. Some vagary of the slipstream current had taken us up and over Don, who now occupied our position in the formation. In the process of avoiding a collision, we had both lost position in relation to the leading aircraft. Adopting the survivor’s motto, “I care naught for thine predicament John, I am suitably accommodated”, our Section Leader went forward to rejoin the formation.

Jock reported five Messerschmitt 109s at 1,000 yards, coming at us from behind. Don’s gunner saw them at the same instant. The Me.109 attack took Don Streeter first; his Wellington seemed to stop in mid-air as the cannon shells hit him. He was on fire from the very  first burst, and I could clearly see Pat and Don in the cockpit, as they fell away beneath us. Half the enemy pack went after him, for target practice, the remainder re-grouped with their leader behind and above us at about 1,000 yards. Then they dived to finish us, and the leader hit us several times, before he broke off his attack and dived beneath us at about 200 yards. I could see Jock’s tracer framing him for the duration of his attack. My activities with the Vickers served as a morale booster in the aircraft, but in no way did I pose much of a threat to the 109s. My chief concern was to avoid shooting off my own wing-tips and tail-plane in the excitement.

Jock kept up his fire on the second 109, whose first burst missed us, the tracer passing harmlessly below. The German pilot lifted his nose to correct his aim and found himself too near us and climbing. Jock set him on fire at about 100 yards. The third 109 broke off his attack at 500 yards, diving to port without firing. There was no time to dwell on the fate of any of them.

We were now alone and on the last 5 kilometres of our bombing run. The starboard engine had lost power and we were now 1,000 yards behind the main formation. I had come forward, after my interlude on the Vickers, to set my airspeed, wind-speed and direction on the bomb- sight. It only remained for me to guide Tony for these last, long two minutes to the target before our task was complete.

The flak that day was awesome in quantity and accuracy. The sky was filled with black, bursting shells, showing red and orange in the explosion before soiling the sky with the evil, black, cordite smoke. Interspersed with the heavy flak was the equally deadly but more beautiful, lazy stream of light flak, coming at us like strings of cotton wool balls being thrown at a party. At night, this flak would have looked less menacing, the colours would have been brighter, prettier and more vivid, the limitation of vision would have added to the illusion that matters were not quite as bad as they really were. This, though, was daylight, and everything outside the aircraft was directed at us; it was almost personal; it made concentration on the two aiming beads on the bomb sight very difficult.

I shouted my course corrections to Tony, and all the time the flak kept coming up. Normally I spoke, but this day I felt I had to shout in order to make myself heard above the din outside.

“Left, left, steady, steady, right, steady.”

The battle-cruiser in the western dry dock appeared eventually in the drift wires and, ever so slowly, came down the wires to the sighting marks. The Gneisenau was heavily camouflaged with netting, through which her flak barrage was being tired. I aimed my stick of six bombs to hit the ship on a long diagonal and watched the bombs fall in a perfect flight towards the side of the netting. Jock reported a hit as I was making my way back to Tony to guide him out over Roscoff on the Brittany coast.

The flak stopped on the outskirts of the town, and, right on cue, there were two Me 109s coming to meet us. Jock hit the leading 109 at the same instant as he hit us. A cannon shell exploded under my feet, a fragment went through the side of the front turret, and finished, spent, in Thompson’s groin. The second fighter attacked briefly, from a distance, then followed his leader down towards their base at Morlaix.

The loss of power in our starboard engine made it difficult for Tony to fly at a constant height and airspeed. We crabbed our way across the Channel, all the while losing height. As the Isle of Wight appeared before us, Tony and I conferred and concluded that we would not get back to Feltwell. Windy sent out a Mayday distress signal.

We were comforted by the instant response, the illusion of comfort and the feeling that our troubles were over was soon shattered by a stream of light flak from Portsmouth, which came too close for comfort. We fired the colours of the day from the Very pistol, upon which the firing stopped before any damage was done to the aircraft. The warning sirens, indicating the close proximity of balloon barrages, were now incessant and deafening. Tony temporarily switched off the TR 9, our air to ground radio link. He and I could see the balloons at Southampton and over Portsmouth, to our right. Flying over Hamble we continued up the corridor to the edge of the Southampton balloons, and from here we were instructed to fly on a course of 300° to Boscombe Down, the R.A.F. centre for advanced flying. Boscombe tower brought us safely on to their circuit. Tony prepared to land, but found that neither the undercarriage nor the flaps were functioning; he told us to take up crash positions for a wheels up landing. Thompson, nursing his wounded crotch, sat on the ‘office’ floor, jammed in between Windy and me. Tony put the Wimpey down beautifully, but it was still a noisy and frightening business as the propellers dug into the ground and the aircraft slid along, like a runaway sled, with sparks flying everywhere. All was forgiven and forgotten, as we streamed out of the astrodome and slid down the side of the Wimpey into the arms of the crash tender crew. However, there was no fire, we were all safe and with the exception of Thompson, uninjured. Jock had remained in his turret for the landing and had been seen encouraging the ambulance and fire engines as they raced along behind us. Tony had performed miracles that day, having been unable to hand over control to Ray Curlewis at any time.

Intelligence debriefing took place in the Control tower, from where we could see how close we had come to crashing into the first three Flying Fortresses in Britain. We had come to a stop a few yards away from their dispersal point. The Fortresses had been to La Pallice that day, to bomb the Schanlhorst from the safety of the unheard of height of 30,000 feet. They returned after an uneventful trip!

Thompson went to sick quarters, while we had tea and waited for the arrival of an aircraft from Feltwell. Fatigue and exhaustion were not sufficient to stop us holding a post mortem on the day’s events. thee more we talked, the angrier we became. We had seen nothing of the promised fighter escort, and we were angry at the alacrity with which our formation leader had secured his safety by leaving us on the run into target. Above all, we were shocked at the memory and manner in which Don Streeter and Pat Carling had been killed, and felt that we had contributed t Proud of our own performance, twenty yards away from us. We were proud of our performance, and felt that we had contributed to a successful raid, and we had survived.

Wilson arrived in F for Freddie and flew us back to Feltwell, where we landed at. 20.30 hours, different persons from those that had left that morning. A second report was made to our own Intelligence Officers, and as we proceeded with the debriefing tiredness and bitterness of the memories of the day, led me to voice my feelings in an emotional manner. I remember Eric Fowler, our Navigation Officer, comforting me like a father, when I broke down giving an account of Streeter’s end.

After the debriefing, I was ragged and raging, when the Mess sergeant informed us we were too late for supper. Fortunately, he sensed my anger in time and went back on his word, otherwise Jock and I would have done him serious harm. None of us was in any sort of mood for a party that night. I was ready for bed and I slept through to midday. Then we drank ourselves stupid for two nights. This took us into August, we had already completed twenty operations and had the prospect of just ten more to finish the Tour.”

 

03/08/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Hanover
003 8
Ten Wellington Aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out the above attacks. One of these aircraft, YAM.189 captained by SGT. Matetich was intercepted by fighters and bombs were jettisoned. The aircraft was damaged and a landing was made at Newmarket. The remaining aircraft all dropped bombs and fires were started. The aircraft met heavy and light A.A. fire which was fairly accurate, but searchlights were ineffective owing to cloud. Three enemy aircraft were seen but no attacks were made. Heavy cloud was experienced over most of the route and in target area.

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9757 AA-S

Sgt. Anthony ‘Tony’ Saunders, RAF – Pilot.
Sgt. Raymond Fullerton Curlewis, RAAF AUS.402230 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Gwyn Martin, RAFVR 981426/ 110857 – Observer.
Sgt. Albert George Windiate, RAFVR 911390/ 112731 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Kent Monk, RAFVR – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Edward J. Callender, RAFVR 1061420 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:40 – Landed 05:40
Flight Time 07:00

“Kent Monk replaced Thompson as front gunner. We flight tested а new, replacement aircraft for height and fuel consumption, and, satisfied with our results, we were restored to operational readiness. Two non-effective but dangerous raids to Hanover and Mannheim followed in quick succession. Danger on both flights presented itself in different ways. Returning from Hanover, we crossed the Dutch coast in the light of a brilliant dawn, fortunately no enemy fighters appeared, but we suffered pangs of anxiety for fifteen minutes, and just could not believe our luck, when the danger had passed.

Over Luxembourg, on the way to Mannheim, we ran into a severe electrical storm, with thunderheads reaching up to 30,000 feet. Unable to fly over them, we skirted the edges of the clouds, involving me in continuous alterations of course, a navigation exercise made more difficult by the complete absence of radio bearings. St. Elmo’s Fire danced along the leading edges of the wings and between the guns, frightening the new front gunner out of his wits. Jock sat in the rear, never uttering a word other than to say it was a grand sight.

The bombs were dropped on an estimated position for Mannheim, before we set course for home. Landfall was made at Brighton instead of Southend, a mere 80 miles off track, but we were better off than those unfortunates who missed England completely or were forced to ditch in the Channel.”


06/08/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Mannheim and Calais
006 8
Thirteen Wellington aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks against the above targets. One of these aircraft, R.1648 captained by SGT. Millet, failed to return to base. The bomb load was mixed and consisted of 1000lbs; 500lbs; 250lbs; and containers of incendiaries.
GHC.170 sighted river near target but had to bomb through 10/10 cloud. Glow of a fire was seen through clouds. Bomb bursts were observed in target area by GHC.231. GNC.265 observed bomb bursts in dock area. GHC.279 bombed target area but was unable to pinpoint target on account of haze. GHC.324 saw bombs burst across outer harbour of Ostend. Unable to reach primary target owing to loss of time and petrol in extensive thunder cloud on East Coast. GHC.470 dropped bombs in target area but results were not observed. GHC.535 bombed target through 9/10 cloud. Fire observed on departure. GHC.688 failed to attack target. GHC.719 bombed flak and searchlight concentrations on E.T.A. through 10/10 cloud. Results were not observed by GHC.750.
P/O. Williams reports direct hit on lock gates. Results were not observed by P/O. Scott owing to heavy cloud.
A fair amount of activity was observed on enemy aerodromes in Brussels-liege area.
A.A. fire was slight but accurate.
Searchlights were ineffective owing to cloud.
GHC.279 reports encounter with probable JU.88. Three attacks were made but the enemy was driven off by return fire. Rear gunner believes he scored hit with third burst, causing aircraft to break away.
Weather was not favourable, there being heavy cloud, thunder, electric storms, and bad icing conditions.
Navigation was by W/T, D/R, astro and loop.

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9757 AA-S

Sgt. Anthony ‘Tony’ Saunders, RAF – Pilot.
Sgt. Raymond Fullerton Curlewis, RAAF AUS.402230 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Gwyn Martin, RAFVR 981426/ 110857 – Observer.
Sgt. Albert George Windiate, RAFVR 911390/ 112731 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Kent Monk, RAFVR – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Edward J. Callender, RAFVR 1061420 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:30 – Landed 04:45
Flight Time 06:15

“Then it was Hamburg again, my fourth visit, with a mixed bomb load of H.E. and incendiaries. That night the moon was full, the Aurora bright in the northern sky. Twenty minutes after crossing the Coast at Great Yarmouth, the guns were tested. Winds-speed and direction were confirmed by drift bearings on a flame float. With everything in order, we settled down to flying the long North Sea leg. Good astro shots, coupled with cross bearings from the radio stations on Texel and Terschelling on the Friesian islands, confirmed my position. The pilot conferred with the gunners, stressing the need for а good look out for fighters as we passed Heligoland on our starboard. The island defences greeted us with a barrage of flak. I moved up to Tony’s side, to acclimatise my eyes to the darkness, before I gave him the last course to fly from Busum to the target.

I had been in this position for no more than a minute or so when I thought I saw a light approaching us from below, at about 10 o’clock. My shouted warning coincided with the noise of a very short burst of fire from Jock, who had engaged an Me 110 attacking from the rear. The aircraft attacking from the front, switched on a powerful light as he closed rapidly. Both our gunners opened fire, but the guns in both turrets jammed. Tracer from the fighters passed by us, uncomfortably close, and beautifully coloured. The fighters had exchanged positions in this well co-ordinated attack. The 110 with а light was now behind us, his light extinguished, and we were uncertain as to the precise position of the other.

Both gunners laboured frantically but unsuccesfully to clear their stoppages before the next inevitable attack. Jock shouted as the 110 opened fire, Tony put on full flap, the Wimpey lifted bodily, and the tracer passed beneath us. The 110 started to pull out of his attack some 400 yards in front of us on the port side. Tony took off flap and dived to port with both engines at full power, heading for the cloud 10,000 feet below us. The 110s were slow to pick us up, only firing at us as we entered the cloud. I stood by Tony’s side during the dive, fascinated by the sight of our Wimpy, U for Uncle, in a vertical mode. Tony was having trouble moving the control column, and I leant across to assist, but it was solid, giving only grudgingly as we heaved. When the nose of the Wimpey lifted, I found myself with my head against the doors of the front turret. I had been unable to resist the G force as we pulled out of the dive. The fighters had not finished with us, however, and as we broke cloud briefly in our ascent, they hit us again. A large hole appeared in the starboard wing and the radio was out of commission.

Tony returned smartly to our protective cloud bank, where we orbited for some minutes, taking stock of the damage sustained. As It was not a feasible proposition to carry on to Hamburg, we bombed a small town on the coast, which could have been Busum. From here, I gave Tony a course of 270° to steer, secure in the knowledge that, provided we stayed in the air, we would hit England somewhere along its length. I was only able to give Tony a very approximate Е.Т.А.‚ based upon the equally approximate airspeed that Tony calculated from his engine rev. counter. Windy, meanwhile, struggled to repair the radio, succeeding eventually as we crossed the Yorkshire coast а mere 100 miles north of track, but within minutes of our Е.Т.А. and he contacted Dishforth, where we finally landed with our wheels down but without brakes or flaps. We covered the length of the flarepath before our aircraft ground looped, before going into a sturdy farm wall. Transport arrived to take us to S.H.Q. for debriefing followed by a welcome breakfast.”


08/08/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Hamburg
008 8
Eight Wellington aircraft of were detailed to carry out the above attacks. One of these aircraft, WAX.319 captained by SGT. Saunders, jettisoned bombs in Westhaven area while taking evasive action to escape enemy fighter. The weather was poor, there being

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9757 AA-S

Sgt. Anthony ‘Tony’ Saunders, RAF – Pilot.
Sgt. Raymond Fullerton Curlewis, RAAF AUS.402230 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Gwyn Martin, RAFVR 981426/ 110857 – Observer.
Sgt. Albert George Windiate, RAFVR 911390/ 112731 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Kent Monk, RAFVR – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Edward J. Callender, RAFVR 1061420 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:25 – Landed 06:05
Flight Time 07:40

“It was now 0600 hours, and, for the second time in a fortnight, we were sitting down in a strange place to await transport home, and again it was the same Aussie, Wilson, in F for Freddie, who came to pick us up. We transferred our portable gear from our own aircraft to Freddie, and as we dld so we could see the damage we had sustained. There was a twelve foot piece of canvas missing from the starboard wing and numerous holes in the fuselage. The Wimpy looked a sad sight, leaning like a drunk against the wall. For us, the trip was by no means over. We were only about 45 minutes out from Dishforth when the deadly mist rolled in over the Fens, forcing us to land at Sutton Bridge, a tiny air field, near Kings Lynn. Wilson had difficulty in getting off safely, three hours later. Fifteen hours after take off for Hamburg, we arrived back at Feltwell to learn that Jock and I had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for our part in the Brest raid. Tony, the real hero of the day, got nothing. We were too tired to celebrate that night, and on the next day we went on seven days leave.”

“Ray Curlewis came with me to Aberystwyth, which was at its best in that summer of 1941. Life was pleasant, beer was good and plentiful, the girls were lovely and the swimming perfect. We enjoyed the leave, eating well and resting well. Ray fell in love with a girl and with the Welsh community. The time passed all too quickly.”

 

VC for Jimmy Ward

Jimmy Ward VC.
After the award of his Victoria Cross, Sgt. James Allen Ward VC celebrates with his comrades.
from L to R: Gwyn Martin, Charlie ‘Paddy’ Black, Albert ‘Windy’ Windiate, Ray Curlewis, Jimmy Ward and Monty Partridge.
image supplied by David Martin.


“We returned to a Feltwell agog with excitement and celebration. Jimmy Ward had received an immediate award of the V.C. for climbing out on to the wing of his aircraft to put out a fire in the starboard engine. The aircraft was under attack by a Ju. 88 night fighter at the time, and he was unable to wear his parachute. They were at 13,000 feet over the Zuider Zee. The rear gunner, Alan (Shorty) Box, won a D.F.M. and the pilot, Ben Widdowson, a D.F.C. Joe Lawton, the navigator, was overlooked in the handout of awards, in spite of his having made a significant contribution to the success of Jimmy’s brave wing walk.”

 

VC for Jimmy Ward

A second picture commemorating Jimmy Ward’s VC.
From L to R where identified: (3) Gwyn Martin, (4) Ray Curlewis, (5) Jimmy Ward, (6) Joe Lawton, (7) Charlie Black, (8) W/C Cyril Kay, (9) Allan Box possibly, (10) G/C John ‘Speedy’ Powell possibly, (12) John Breckell.
© David Martin

“The V.C. was well deserved. It couldn’t have been given to a nicer man. There were celebrations in all Messes. The Duke of Kent Visited us, staying for a couple of nights, along with the NZ High Commissioner and many of the R.A.F.s top brass. It was a timely interlude.”

Read more about the events of the night that Sgt. James Ward won his VC here and see some rare pictures of his Wellington showing the damage caused by the German fighter here and finally a Pathé News reel here.


26/08/1942 – Bombing Attacks Against Cologne and Boulogne
0026 8
Fourteen Wellington aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out the above attacks. SWU.567 failed to identify the target and bombs were jettisoned over the sea when petrol gauges had been showing zero for approximately one hour. Another aircraft, captained by Sgt Curlewis, failed to identify the target owing to 10/10 cloud and bombs were returned. All other aircraft dropped their bombs, but heavy cloud in the target area prevented observation of results. A.A. fire was moderate and predicted. Searchlights were ineffective owing to cloud. A few enemy aircraft were seen, but no attacks made

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9834 AA-O

Sgt. Anthony ‘Tony’ Saunders, RAF – Pilot.
P/O William Reginald Methven, RAFVR 67072 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Gwyn Martin, RAFVR 981426/ 110857 – Observer.
Sgt. Albert George Windiate, RAFVR 911390/ 112731 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Kent Monk, RAFVR – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Charles Thomas Black, RAFVR 1377719 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 00:10 – Landed 05:30
Flight Time 05:20

“We had behind us twenty-five sorties completed, and ahead of us five more to go before we could enjoy a well earned rest. Our experience and survival as a crew made us objects of awe, to be stared at by new crews. Pressure to survive at this stage of an operational tour was intense and not helped by “Speedy” Powell’s ill-timed pep talks on the need for lower bombing heights and greater aggression in pressing home attacks. Four raids followed in quick succession: Frankfurt, Kassel, Kiel and Hüls. The Frankfurt raid was a wasted effort, Kassel was attacked on a moonlit night and was a poorly defended target, conditions which guaranteed success. Kiel, as always, had been tough.”

02/09/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Frankfurt
002 9
Ten Wellington Aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out the above attacks. One of these aircraft, GYM.475 failed to reach the target owing to failure of the rear gunners oxygen  supply. Bombs were dropped by the remaining aircraft, and large fires were started. A.A. fire was slight but accurate in target area. Several cones of searchlights were reported near the target but these were not very accurate. Three enemy aircraft were seen, but no attacks  developed. The weather was clear over the target area, but hazy on the return journey.

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9834 AA-O

Sgt. Anthony ‘Tony’ Saunders, RAF – Pilot.
P/O William Reginald Methven, RAFVR 67072 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Gwyn Martin, RAFVR 981426/ 110857 – Observer.
Sgt. Albert George Windiate, RAFVR 911390/ 112731 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Kent Monk, RAFVR – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Charles Thomas Black, RAFVR 1377719 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 20:15 – Landed 02:45
Flight Time 06:30

“Hüls, situated on the northern fringe of the Ruhr, was the centre of the German synthetic rubber industry. Before the Hüls operation, I had believed most of the reports on our activities and on the progress of the war, but after Hüls I believed in nothing. It was my night of disillusionment, the night the skin peeled away from my eyes.

The target was a factory situated near a frog shaped lake, north of Essen. It proved to be a most difficult target, which we approached from the town of Wesel, on the Rhine. I searched the area at ever decreasing heights, and the Ruhr defences gave us a hard time, until we found ourselves at 1,500 feet over the middle of Essen being subjected to intense light flak and searchlight activity, as we were passed from one flak concentration to another. The bomb load was jettisoned over an urban complex, after which, we dived at speed and turned north towards safety. Three to four minutes into our return flight, I caught sight of the frog shaped lake on our starboard side, lit by the light of a waning moon, and beyond it lay our target covered by camouflage netting extending out into the lake, thereby altering its characteristic shape. We were flying at less than 1,000 feet at the time, there was no sign of activity at the target nor were there any fires within miles of it.”

06/09/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Hüls
006 9
Thirteen Wellington aircraft were detailed to carry out the above attacks. One of these aircraft, X9767 captained by P/O Johnson, failed to return to base. A mixed bomb load was carried and consisted of 1,000 lb GP, 500 lb GP, 250 lb GP, and SBC’s of 4lb incendiaries. One aircraft was seen under attack on the Dutch-German frontier. Another aircraft was observed possibly being shot down by dual AA fire/searchlight action about 15 miles west or south-west of the target. An enemy aircraft was seen taking off from Schipol, but no attacks occurred Bombs were dropped in the target area and numerous fires were started. A.A. fire was light over the target area, but heavy en route, while searchlights were working in cones around target. Three enemy  aircraft seen but no attacks made. The weather was good over the whole journey.

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9834 AA-O

Sgt. Anthony ‘Tony’ Saunders, RAF – Pilot.
P/O William Reginald Methven, RAFVR 67072 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Gwyn Martin, RAFVR 981426/ 110857 – Observer.
Sgt. Albert George Windiate, RAFVR 911390/ 112731 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Dennis Thompson, RAFVR 1152206 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Charles Thomas Black, RAFVR 1377719 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 20:10 – Landed 00:35
Flight Time 04:25

“We flew home without further incident, arriving only twenty minutes later than expected. Debriefing was attended by “Speedy himself, who, on hearing our story of the unsuccessful search for the target and the subsequent jettisoning of our bomb load, accused us of cowardice. He told us that we were admitting that enemy defences were defeating the attacking bomber for the first time in the night war, What bullshit! I stuck to my account and emphasised I had а good View of the factory as we were making our way back out of our trouble.

This conflicted With the reports of all 57 and 75 squadron aircraft, who all reported fires in the immediate vicinity of the target. My account was corroborated by another navigator from 40 Squadron at Wyton, Joe Noble R.C.A.F. A photographic reconnaissance Spitfire picture taken a few hours after the raid confirmed our claims. The headlines in the news-papers that morning read, “Our Bombers criss-crossed the fields of Europe last night to destroy the German rubber industry at source, etcetera.” It was all а load of absolute bullshit. The Hüls factory was not hit until the Americans succeeded in doing so in a daylight raid in the summer of 1944.

Overnight, my Virginal, idealistic respect for the truth and for the rights of our cause, were destroyed. My country could tell bigger lies than Goebbels, and I had been made a party to the lie.”

 

08/09/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Kassel
008 9
Ten Wellington aircraft from this Unit were detailed to make individual bombing attacks against the above target. A mixed bomb load was carried and consisted of 1,000 lb, 500 lb, (including delay), 250 lb (including delay fuses), and containers of incendiaries. AA fire was very light and searchlight activity was also light and ineffective. No enemy aircraft seen. The weather conditions were excellent in the target area and en route. Navigation includes:- D.R., Q.D.M., Astro., Pinpoint., Loop and Lorenz.

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9834 AA-O

Sgt. Anthony ‘Tony’ Saunders, RAF – Pilot.
Sgt. Ralph Holland Tye, RNZAF NZ404002 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Gwyn Martin, RAFVR 981426/ 110857 – Observer.
Sgt. Albert George Windiate, RAFVR 911390/ 112731 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Dennis Thompson, RAFVR 1152206 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Charles Thomas Black, RAFVR 1377719 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 20:35 – Landed 03:00
Flight Time 06:25

11/09/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Kiel
0011 9
Twelve Wellington aircraft were detailed to carry out the above attacks. One of these aircraft, R1038 captained by Sgt Roe, failed to return to base. Four aircraft failed to locate the targets, but the remainder all dropped bombs and fires were started. A.A. fire was intense and working in co-operation with searchlights which were working in cones. The weather was clear over the target.

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9834 AA-O

Sgt. Anthony ‘Tony’ Saunders, RAF – Pilot.
Sgt. John William Black, RNZAF NZ402843 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Maiter, RAF – Observer.
Sgt. Albert George Windiate, RAFVR 911390/ 112731 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Dennis Thompson, RAFVR 1152206 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Charles Thomas Black, RAFVR 1377719 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 21:10 – Landed 04:40
Flight Time 07:30

“My operational tour came to an end over Brest on the thirteenth of September 1941, two years to the day after joining up. The target was still tough, with flak and searchlights as concentrated as anywhere in Europe. Fog at base on our return meant a diversion to Honington, adding a further seven hours to our night’s work.”

13/09/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Brest
0013 9
Twelve Wellington aircraft were detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks against the above targets. One aircraft, GYM.833 was unable to identify target and returned to base with bomb load. The remaining aircraft bombed the target and bursts were seen A smoke screen covered the target area. A.A. fire was heavy, and searchlights were working in cones. The weather was clear over the target.

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9834 AA-O

Sgt. Anthony ‘Tony’ Saunders, RAF – Pilot.
Sgt. Gwyn Martin, RAFVR 981426/ 110857 – Observer.
Sgt. Albert George Windiate, RAFVR 911390/ 112731 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Dennis Thompson, RAFVR 1152206 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Charles Thomas Black, RAFVR 1377719 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:00 – Landed 04:25
Flight Time 06:25

“My tour was over, I had survived, I went off to Wisbech for an extended bender. Jock and Windy had one more trip to complete their tour, both survived, flying in different crews. Windy completed his as the only NCO member of a very high powered officer crew that had “Speedy” Powell as captain, a Wing Commander as second pilot, a Squadron Leader as navigator and bomb aimer, and. two other Squadron Leaders. The target was a soft one, a long. flight of nine hours plus to Turin and back. “Windy”, not a malicious kind of person, nevertheless enjoyed telling me of “Speedy’s” dlscomfiture when told by his navigator that he was virtually lost over France on return. Windy was asked to obtain repeated courses to steer home, a device never resorted to by his old crew, except in emergencies far more dire than that in which “Speedy” found himself.

I was posted to No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School to be trained as a Bombing Leader. The course was for me, a disaster. Manby was a pre-war station that clung to pre-war systems of discipline, and had work parades, kit inspections etcetera. Every Friday morning, I found myself in the adjutant’s office on some charge or other, and I managed to accumulate 56 days detention in 4 weeks of residence. I hated the place, I failed the course and I was glad to return to Feltwell and the prospect of finishing the 28 days unfinished punishment.”

15/09/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Hamburg
Twelve Wellington aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out the above attacks. Two of these aircraft failed to return, one being captained by Sgt J. A. Ward who was awarded the Victoria Cross on 4 August 1941. There was clear weather over the target, and bursts were seen in many parts of the target area. A.A. fire was heavy over and near target area. Searchlights were numerous, working in cones, and co-operating with A.A. fire and night fighters.

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9834 AA-O

Sgt. Anthony ‘Tony’ Saunders, RAF – Pilot.
P/O William Reginald Methven, RAFVR 67072 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Sidney Joseph Lawrence Levack, RAFVR 971231 – Observer.
Sgt. Albert George Windiate, RAFVR 911390/ 112731 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Dennis Thompson, RAFVR 1152206 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Charles Thomas Black, RAFVR 1377719 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 20:10 – Landed 02:45
Flight Time 06:35

30/09/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Stettin and Hamburg
Six Wellington aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks against the above targets. A mixed bomb load was carried and consisted of 1,000 lbs; 500 lbs; 250 lbs; and containers of incendiaries. Light and heavy flak was encountered and this was fairly accurate. Searchlights were not very active. No enemy aircraft were encountered. Weather was fairly good, slight haze in target areas. Navigation was by D/R, map reading, loop, lorenz, W/T.

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9975 AA-U

Sgt. Anthony ‘Tony’ Saunders, RAF – Pilot.
Sgt. John William Black, RNZAF NZ402843 – 2nd Pilot.
P/O Eric Lloyd, RNZAF NZ402197 – Observer.
Sgt. Leslie Cyril Green, RAF 755095 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Kent Monk, RAFVR – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Charles Thomas Black, RAFVR 1377719 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 19:10 – Landed 01:25
Flight Time 06:15

10/10/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Cologne
Eight Wellington aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out the above attacks. One of these aircraft, Z8969, captained by Sgt Kurlewis, failed to return to base. Another, X9825, captained by S/Ldr Chamberlain, jettisoned bombs on a road WSW of Cologne, as owing to damage to hydraulics, the aircraft was unable to maintain height with bombs on. Centre of town was successfully attacked and bombs were seen to burst. large fires were started and were seen to be burning twenty minutes later. One aircraft was seen to crash and explode in the city area. A.A. fire was intense at all heights from 12,000 feet, to 4,000 feet. Searchlights were active in two cones, one each side of target. Visibility was good, with large clearing in low cloud over the target area.

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9976 AA-O

Sgt. Anthony ‘Tony’ Saunders, RAF – Pilot.
Sgt. John William Black, RNZAF NZ402843 – 2nd Pilot.
P/O Eric Lloyd, RNZAF NZ402197 – Observer.
Sgt. Leslie Cyril Green, RAF 755095 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Dennis Thompson, RAFVR 1152206 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Charles Thomas Black, RAFVR 1377719 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:55 – Landed 06:40
Flight Time 06:45

12/10/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Bremen and Nurenburg
Nine Wellington aircraft from this Unit were detailed to carry out these attacks. One of these aircraft, X9981 captained by S/Ldr Chamberlain, failed to return to base. Wellington IC X9975, captained by P/O Fisher returned to base owing to over heating of an engine. Direct hits were observed on the docks at Ostend and large fires were started which were visible for 90 miles. Incendiary bombs were dropped on a large factory and fires left burning. Other machines were dropping loads within 50 mile radius. A.A. fire was nil at primary, but there was a heavy flak after dropping bombs on Ostend. Searchlights were active to the East and West of target area. Weather was good.

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9976 AA-O

Sgt. Anthony ‘Tony’ Saunders, RAF – Pilot.
Sgt. Francis Charles Harrison-Smith, RNZAF NZ403959 – 2nd Pilot.
P/O Eric Lloyd, RNZAF NZ402197 – Observer.
Sgt. Leslie Cyril Green, RAF 755095 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Dennis Thompson, RAFVR 1152206 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Charles Thomas Black, RAFVR 1377719 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 19:00 – Landed 03:40
Flight Time 08:40

“My first official day back at 75 Squadron found me booked for an interview with W/Cdr. Sawrey-Cookson, not on defaulters parade, but close to it. I was marched into the CO’s office, I saluted smartly and, standing to attention, I awaited my sentence. “Cookie”, black moustached and po faced, looked up from a sheaf of papers and said,

“Taffy, you didn’t exactly cover yourself with glory on your Manby course, did you?”
“No, sir.”
“Do you know how badly you have performed?”
“I have an idea, sir.”
“Take a look at this report.”

He handed me a pink report sheet, it made very poor reading. I felt I had let the side down, and I felt very uncomfortable. As I handed back the sheet, his eyes gave the vaguest of twinkles as he gave me a white sheet in its place.

“Read that, cheer up, congratulations. You can buy me a drink and tell me all about Manby when you return from leave.”

I read an Air Ministry Order announcing my commission to the rank of Pilot Officer. I collected my authorisation and clothing coupons enabling me to buy my new uniform. I had ten days leave at home, and I took Pat Townsend, Jackie Joll’s sick navigator, with me.

Pat was the epitome of all rabid NZ rugby fans, so I took him to Cardiff, to the bombed Arms Park where, for a few minutes, he was in heaven, standing on the very spot, where the disputed try of 1905 was or wasn’t scored. (Pat talked of that leave forty years later, remembering every rain drop that fell on him that wet October day in 1941). Pat returned to 75 Squadron before me. I stopped in London to collect my uniform from Austin Reed’s in Regent Street, I entered the store as a veteran operational NCO, I left it as a brand new, self conscious rookie officer. Within yards of the store, I was saluted by two cadets seeking to embarrass any sprog officer. Momentarily I looked around to see whom they were saluting, I recovered in time to make my acknowledgement. It was with a feeling of relief that I arrived back at Feltwell.

I had been away from 75 Squadron for a month, during which much had changed. Friends had been posted, killed or gone missing.

Ray Curlewis and his crew were missing, believed killed, Hutchinson, the Bondi Beach lifeguard, flew into a hill near Cambridge in a morning mist that killed Rishworth* and his crew on the aerodrome. “Pissy” Roe, B flight’s youngest pilot, was also missing. ~ Deryck Polley, from Cardiff, was a POW, after surviving five days in a dinghy in the North Sea. Johnny Matetich, a Rhodesian, but Yugoslav by birth, was missing. So the list went on.

(* Sgt Sidney Richard Rishworth, Pilot – Killed 16th of July 1941, aged 21 – 57 Squadron. Buried Feltwell (St. Nicholas) Churchyard.

From Chorley BC Losses 1941′ T/o 22:55 Feltwell.  Crashed 03:40 while trying to land, coming down 800 yards from the Q site at Brandon, Suffolk, 5 miles NW of Thetford, Norfolk. Heavy  rain was a contributory factor in the cause of this accident – the whole crew of 6 were killed)

Hank Corrin, Jackie Joll and Pat Townsend, having finished their tour, were posted to an OTU, as were Eric Cox and Jock Stanford, two Kiwis from 57 squadron. Eddie B— — —. still survived and still lived with his beautiful wife. Damn him!

Being in the officer’s Mess heightened the changed atmosphere of the place that I had come to regard as home. I missed my games of snooker with Joe Lawton and sessions of poker dice with Alec Rowe and Eric Boon, the champion boxer from nearby Chatteris. “Speedy” Powell was still the CO, this alone was reason enough to want to be away from the place that held so many memories for me. Eric Fowler was at his most persuasive in trying to make me stay as his assistant Navigation Officer, with a view to succeeding him, but nothing would make me stay at the time. Jock, Windy and I left for instructional posts at different OTUs on the same day. We parted at Liverpool Street Station, each of us with our own memories of a high standard of comradeship in a great squadron. I never saw Windy after that, but Jock and I were to meet once again in another place……….”