Category Archives: general

750,000 views – another milestone!

As always, I am so pleased to be able to announce another viewing milestone – doubly pleasurable as the number we have just reached includes the number 75!

It seems incredible that the site has now recorded 3/4’s of a million views and of course it’s entirely down to all of you who have visited and in most cases, contributed to the information now presented on it – thank you to you all!

As I have remarked a number of times previously, I am aware that the nature of the function of the blog has seems to have changed. It’s sad that the majority of posts recently have to been to record the passing of our Squadron veterans. My efforts seem now spread between a losing battle to keep up with email enquiries – I will get to you all eventually! – and the slow but highly rewarding activity of researching and adding to the Nominal Roll section of the site – the last ‘great project’.

I would request as I always do, to please, please, download the aircrew information form from the top menu bar – complete as much as you can and send it to me – there is a lot of information that I want to add to the entries that I simply have no way of accessing or knowing – but family and relatives do – even the smallest piece of information when undertaking an activity like this is gold dust.

Again, I must always single out Chris Newey and Kevin King for their continuing support and efforts not only in the Nominal Roll Project, but also generally regarding information found and passed on

750,000 views – wow! – there won’t be another on of these milestone announcements till we hit that magical figure of 1 million views!

Thank you all

Simon

Owen Joseph ‘Cookie’ Cook – 1921 – 2021

It is with true sadness that I must report the recent passing of Owen Cook. This news is doubly sad as it was only a few weeks that we were wishing Owen congratulations of reaching the magnificent age of 100 years old.

As part of his birthday celebrations Owen had received representatives from the Royal Australian Air Force (also celebrating their centenary) – to receive a plaque commemorating Owen’s service and also the fact that he was older than the RAAF itself. Sadly a few days later on the 14th of May, Owen left us.

I have simply decided to reproduce the post below that I made for the celebration of Owen’s 100th, this time as a celebration of his life.

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

I am sure you will all join me in passing our condolences to Owen’s family

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!

ANZAC Day 2021

Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives.
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land they have
Become our sons as well.

 In 1934, Kemal Atatürk delivered these words to the first Australians, New Zealanders and British to visit the Gallipoli battlefields. They were later inscribed on a monolith at Ari Burnu Cemetery (ANZAC Beach) which was unveiled in 1985. The words also appear on the Kemal Atatürk Memorial, Canberra, and the Atatürk Memorial in Wellington.

Let us take this day to remember all those, from Australia and New Zealand who gave their lives, not only in 75(NZ) Squadron RAF, but in every conflict before and after.

We shall remember them………….

AHE AKE KIA KAHA

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!

Hoturoa Arnel Dean ‘Arnie’ Meyer

Portrait of Hoturoa Arnel Dean Meyer, NZ416968 (2014). © NZIPP Photograph by Tracy Stamatakos 9999-5064. CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Hoturoa Arnel Dean Meyer, a Pilot with the Squadron passed away on the 6th
of December. ‘Arnie’ formed with his crew on the 11th of December
1943 at No.11 Operational Training Unit, Wescott, before arriving with 75(NZ)
Squadron on the 12th of June 1944 – completing 30 Ops, before and
without a break, continuing to complete a further 25 ops with No.7 Squadron
(Path Finder Force). During 1948 he served in Japan with the British and
Commonwealth Occupation Forces.

Hoturoa was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on the 12th of December 1944.

Arnie was a source of confusion for Chris and I when we began to research the Maori aircrew of the Squadron, some years ago. With such an obvious first name, we initially assumed that Arnie was of Maori stock, however this was quickly corrected by his Daughter Lorraine, who explained the following;

Hoturoa Arnel Dean Meyer is not Maori.  No Maori blood anywhere in his heritage.! His mother’s best friend was Tainui and asked to honour the baby inutero with a royal Maori name. Princess Te Puea was approached and gave permission for Dad to be called Hoturoa, which was a huge honour and one we have passed down to one of our sons.  His heritage is Danish (his father’s side) and English/kiwi on his mother’s side).”

In 2015 he was awarded Frances highest honour of the Croix de Guerre for his participation in Operations to support the liberation of France during D-Day.

AKE AKE KIA KAHA!

We will Remember Them……….

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), published in The Times newspaper on 21st September 1914.

This year, Remembrance Sunday will stick in our minds I suspect for no reason other than it either feels as if it did not happen or happened in a very different way to what we are used to. As always however, it is a point in the year where we take time to pause and reflect on those who have fallen for the defence of their country. This is, quite rightly, an intensely personal moment and gesture and I am sure we all do it in our own ways, in some respects necessarily cocooned from those around us for those minutes and that silence – and it is this that makes this Sunday so important and resonant for all those who remember those who have fallen.

And so as a way allowing the act of remembrance to take place – some stories…..

Many of you will know Kevin King, either personally or by repeated mentions of him on this site. Chairman of the UK 75(NZ) RAF Squadron Association and probably the most knowledgeable person on the Squadron. Always at Mepal for Remembrance Sunday and always playing the Last Post, suddenly this year he is not going…… Kevin’s solution and a beautiful one I think, was to produce and display the following, I assume in his front garden, as a tribute and marker for the Squadron.

I met Mark Rae a good few years ago when he attended a Remembrance weekend reunion for the Squadron Association, which was also the debut of a song that he wrote and produced to honour the memory of his Grandfather, John Bell, Navigator with Ronald Gordon’s crew, one of 3 aircraft lost on the 20th November 1944 on one of the trips to what is widely recognised as 75(NZ) Squadron’s ‘bogey’ target, the Fischer Tropsch oil refinery at Homberg. I noticed Mark had paid a vist to the Lincolnshire Aviation Museum recently to take as I have done a taxi ride in their Lancaster NX611 ‘Just Jane’. Mark filmed the event and you can see it below.

I recently did a request for information/ contact post about Keith McGregors’s crew, with the simple objective of trying to reach out to and possibly hear back from relatives of his crew, 6 of whom were lost on the night of 30th of August 1943 whilst on War Ops to Berlin. Perhaps at the time my reasons other than important were a little guarded, as I was keen and I felt it fit to try first to talk to relatives before announcing as follows that I have been gifted, very kindly by Gerald a large number of pieces of wreckage from their Stirling Mk.III  Bomber, EF501, AA-K.

I must confess, after the first email contact form Gerald I was left a little cold, albeit flattered that he had thought to contact me having, himself come by the items from a German gentleman who had recovered the wreckage. I asked for some time to consider his offer. I have always been deeply uncomfortable with images particularly in some Facebook groups of boxes of wreckage jammed into cardboard boxes by enthusiastic crash hunters from all over Europe – I don’t damn them for it, certainly not, but personally I think crash sites, especially when in the ground are best left as they are, especially if the site is potentially and I hate the term – ‘wet’.

I mulled it over and on balance decided to take up Gerald on his very generous offer – now in the wild as it were, I think it was best I have them, given my links to the Squadron and through the blog it seems a perfect opportunity to return, if wished, the wreckage to the surviving relatives of the crew.

Having no reason whatsoever to doubt Gerald’s assertion that the wreckage was from EF501, I did some digging anyways and was happy when, after posting some pieces with manufacturing numbers on the Stirling Society Facebook page, received confirmation that not only were they from a Stirling, but that the part numbers identified it as being from the tail section of the aircraft. The images of these parts are below and show the serial numbers. The two parts both have serial numbers on them and both seem to be either mirror or perhaps each end of a larger part. They are double skinned aluminium and seem both to have a strip of wood/ plywood sandwiched between each pressing

I include some other parts now, simply perhaps to spark further debate discussion as to the position/ function of the pieces. Firstly, and perhaps most interestingly, a metal component with what is clearly fragments of plexiglass set into it – at this point my conjecture is possibly that this is a frame component of the Rear Turret – based on the previous 2 parts.

Next and possibly related is an iron, or perhaps heavily corroded steel rack – the teeth are clearly visible, and the depth of the teeth are about ¼ of an inch – perhaps again a part of the rear turret?

I have no means of identifying any functional aspect of this piece, however I include it simply to show the shocking concertinaing that an impact with the ground at speed and from altitude has on an airframe.

Finally, simply a fascinating example of multi-sheet construction utilising what in the day, was the main method of holding an airframe together – rivets. I would imagine though I have no proof that this is possibly a main member or possibly surface junction, possibly of the tail plane or rear wings. The following 2 pictures show the front and reverse of the same part.

I must confess when I had thought of this post and the presentation of this wreckage, I had lofty plans, however, handing and inspecting them, bought home to me 2 things. Firstly, that they are wreckage – broken, twisted, unidentifiable parts on the whole, of what was once a massive aircraft. Secondly that 6 allied airmen died in this aircraft and their bodies were never found. I am familiar with these pieces now, but still handle them with the respect that at least I think they deserve. I intend to continue to research the parts, document them all photographically and then, if and where possible return the pieces to family members of the crew. I am nothing more than a custodian of these remains, until ownership can be offered.

For the 6 McGregor crew and the other 1,133 members of the Squadron who were lost.

We will Remember Them

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!

Request for information – The McConnell crew

I have been contacted by Benard in France, who is seeking contact with relatives of the McConnell crew. For the last 9 years Benard has researched the losses that occurred during the War in the area of Avesnois, his home region.

Jim McConnell and his crew arrived with the Squadron on the 16th of September 1942, after flying a single 2nd dickie Op with Gerald Jacobson’s crew, the crew flew their first sortie to Terchelling on the 30th of September to drop sea mines.

The McConnell crews were all lost on their 8th Sortie on the 24th of October 1942, to Milan.

Wellington Mk.III BJ.725 AA-H was brought down by enemy action over France, crashing near Valencienns, 25 miles North East of Cambrai. All five crew were killed. They were buried at Valenciennes.

Sgt. James Allison Mcconnell, RNZAF NZ414646 – Pilot.
Killed age 21.
Son of James Allison Mcconnell and Jessie Campbell Mcconnell, of Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand.
Buried Valenciennes (St Roch) Communal Cemetery, France..
Grave location – Plot 4. Row A. Coll. Grave 15.

Sgt. Selwyn Clarence Smith, RNZAF NZ41952 – Observer.
Killed age 29.
Son of E. T. and Sarah Elizabeth Smith, of Winton, Southland, New Zealand.
Buried Valenciennes (St Roch) Communal Cemetery, France..
Grave location – Plot 4. Row A. Coll. Grave 15.

Sgt. Douglas Noel Tonkin, RNZAF NZ413285 – Front Gunner.
Killed age 22.
Son of Daniel and Annie Frances Tonkin, of Hastings, Hawke’S Bay, New Zealand.
Buried Valenciennes (St Roch) Communal Cemetery, France..
Grave location – Plot 4. Row A. Joint grave 16.

Sgt. Arthur Quinn, RAFVR 1095594 – Wireless Operator.
Killed age 21.
Son of Arthur and Margaret Quinn, of Seaham, Co. Durham.
Buried Valenciennes (St Roch) Communal Cemetery, France..
Grave location – Plot 4. Row A. Coll. Grave 15.
‘He giveth
His beloved sleep
At rest’

Sgt. Vallance Albert Oliver Dimock, RNZAF NZ412317 – Rear Gunner.
Killed age 22.
Son of Albert William and Rosy Dimock, of Wellington City New Zealand.
Buried Valenciennes (St Roch) Communal Cemetery, France..
Grave location – Plot 4. Row A. Joint grave 16.

700,000 views – and amazing new milestone!

We have reached another incredible viewing milestone – now over 700,000 views and almost 1,500 followers!

I find myself always saying the same at these points – but it still amazes me and also makes me incredibly proud that the viewing figures continue to rise – a single proof that there is still massive interest in the Squadron and support for it.

It’s been a strange and very testing time for all over us in the last 12 months or so. I must confess, the number of posts has perhaps reduced, but as a necessary need to enhance the website as a resource, I have found my attention almost completely dominated with the Nominal Roll project – but it has been worth it. Subject to revision and corrections, we now have a definitive list of all operational aircrew that flew with 75|(NZ) Squadron RAF during the War period. The first stage, listing all individuals alphabetically with text holders for their biographies is complete. Next will come the addition of these biographies and also where they exist, photographs of the individuals. I have to congratulate Chris Newey and Kevin King at this point for a herculean effort and forensic search to provide to date, photographs of almost 25% of those individuals listed on the Roll. My gratitude also to all of those that have so far downloaded, completed and returned the aircrew information sheets – they have, in all cases, added to our knowledge of those airmen.

By its nature the Nominal Roll project will still take a very long time to complete. I still have a lot of information to add that I hold and there is, I am pleased to say, an almost daily flow of new information that has to then be added to the database, output and either added or updated to an existing entry. I am also pleased that in this search, I and others are forming new links with other Squadron groups, whilst searching out the personal stories of the Squadron and through this new channels and exchanges of information are taking place – all incredible useful to all parties concerned.

It’s already becoming, I am sure a broken record, but please if you see this post, or are a regular reader of the blog, do consider downloading the aircrew information form and completing as much as you can – even small pieces of information such as date and place of birth add to the boy’s story.

Once again, thank you to all of you, both contributors and readers – you have all played a part in getting 75nzsquadron.com to where we are today!

Simon

Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz Spilman

The Spilman crew, with ground crew. Sidney; “Buzz” Spilman centre front. – Photo courtesy and copyright of NZ Bomber Command Association photo archives, from the collection of ”Buzz” Spilman.

It is with great sadness I must report the passing of another member of 75(NZ) Squadron RAF.

SIdney Lewis ‘Buzz Spilman, passed on Friday, September the 18th at The Wood Retirement Village, Nelson, aged 98.

Buzz’s flying career started when he was a student at Nelson College from 1936-38. When war broke out in 1939, his career as a pilot began with ground training in Levin, flight training in a Tiger Moth at Harewood and graduation to a Harvard at Woodbourne.

He finished his training and left New Zealand for England in November 1941 as a Sergeant Pilot, arriving in the United Kingdom on Christmas Eve 1941. A spell of instruction was followed by a move to the ‘Heavies’ of Bomber Command and Buzz and his crew arrived for operational duties with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF, at Mepal on the 2nd of January 1945.

Buzz undertook a full tour of 30 Ops with his crew (including 1 DNC), before posting out from the Squadron on the 13th of August 1945.

At the end of the war Buzz, who was by then a flight lieutenant, moved on to transport command in India, before returning home.

He met his future wife, Dinah, in Wellington in 1946, and embarked on a more sedate aviation career. He worked at Air New Zealand predecessor Teal Airways in administration for seven years before heading back to flying as an aerial topdressing pilot.

He and Mrs Spilman retired to Nelson in 1980.

I am sure all our readers join me in wishing the warmest of sympathies to the family at this sad time.

Ake Ake Kia Kaha

The McGregor Crew on this day, 77 years ago – a search for relatives…….

Today marks the 77th anniversary of the loss of 5 of the McGregor crew, whilst undertaking operations against Berlin. It is perhaps serendipity at play, that recently I have come by something that means that I need, if possible to reach out and hopefully, connect with any relatives of the crew that might be out there.

I have my fingers crossed – 7 years ago I was contacted by the great-nephew of the Pilot, Keith McGregor and I have been able to reconnect with him and his family again, just the day before last.

I am very keen to try to widen this circle of contact with other relatives of the crew and share with them, what I shall describe at this point as a very interesting find indeed.

The McGregor crew arrived at Mepal on the 29th of July. On the 30th of August the crew engaged with a an ME110 on a sortie to Munchen Gladbach – ‘The aircraft captained by F/S McGREGOR, K. sighted an ME110 astern, the rear-gunner fired a long burst, the Stirling corkscrewed and the Mid-upper gunner fired a long burst. The enemy aircraft replied and dived away with smoke pouring from its engine. It is claimed as possibly destroyed’.

The following day, the McGregor crew took off with 17 other Stirlings from Mepal to join a force to attack Berlin. Early in the hours of today,  77 years ago, Stirling Mk.III EF501, AA-K was, it is believed, attacked by a German night fighter. The attack was short and catastrophic, forcing an almost immediate dive which resulted in it crashing into the ground, south of Potsdam. Five of the seven crew were killed. The Flight Engineer and Mid-upper Gunner, were able to escape the aircraft whilst still airborne and it was a letter later sent by Geoffrey Bond, the Flight Engineer to Keith McGregor’s Mother, that shed light on the final moments of the crew and AA-K that night.

F/S Keith Alexander Mcgregor, RNZAF NZ415770 – Pilot.
Lost without trace age 21.
Son of Matthew Alexander Mcgregor and Jeanie Mcgregor, of Waikouaiti, Otago, New Zealand.
Commemorated Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England..
Grave location – Panel 199.

F/O James Benjamin Lovelock, RNZAF NZ416324 – Navigator.
Lost without trace age 26.
Son of John Edward Jones Lovelock and Ivy Evelyn Lovelock.
Commemorated Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England..
Grave location – Panel 197.

F/S William Adam Kilby, RNZAF NZ415261 – Air Bomber.
Lost without trace age 40.
Son of Henry John Kilby, and of Christina Kilby, of Ngaio, Wellington, New Zealand; Husband of Alice Kilby.
Commemorated Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England..
Grave location – Panel 199.

F/S James Guthrie Baker, RNZAF NZ41142 – Wireless Operator.
Lost without trace age 27.
Son of Henry and Charlotte Baker; Husband of Ellen Baker, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Commemorated Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England..
Grave location – Panel 198.

Sgt. Geoffrey Alec Arthur Bond, RAFVR 1801229 – Flight Engineer.
P.o.W
Prisoner of War Number: 43256
Prison Camps: Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft VI/357
Date of return to United Kingdom: not known

Sgt. George Frank Dummett, RAFVR 1377778 – Mid Upper Gunner.
P.o.W
Prisoner of War Number: 12730
Prison Camps: Dulag Luft, Stalags Luft VI and Luft IV
Date of return to United Kingdom: not known

Sgt. Terence Grange, RAFVR 1323448 – Rear Gunner.
Lost without trace age 22.
Son of John and Ellen Grange; Husband of Esther Grange, of South Lambeth, London.
Commemorated Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England..
Grave location – Panel 151.

I’ll take this opportunity to not only remember the boys who were killed this morning, but again, cast out a hope that I might now be able to connect with any other relative of the crew – however distant, so I can share with them what I have found.

I would ask any of you who read this post to try to spread it further, through any means possible to try to make a connection.

many thanks

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!

My Service at RAF Mepal, Cambridgeshire, April 1944 to March 1946 – By Chester G. Guttridge

Chester, probably 1943, soon after joining the RAF
– Chester Guttridge.

A massive thank you to Chester for generously sharing his memoirs!

These are memories of events that occurred over 70 years ago, now recalled by a 94 year-old man. I hope they are accurate.

I was called up in July 1943, aged 19 years and one month.

I did my initial training at Skegness, spent three weeks at RAF Costal Command Operational Training Unit at Withybush, near Haverfordwest, and eighteen weeks at RAF Cosford on the sixteen week Flight Mechanic Engines (FME) course.

3006180, AC2, Guttridge, C. arrived initially at Ely railway station on 16 March 1944 or thereabouts. The date of arrival was not necessarily the same as the official transfer date which did not recognise intervening periods of leave. 

A RAF lorry picked me and other airmen up and took us to Mepal, passing near Witchford, Waterbeach’s other satellite station, and dropped us at the guard house, manned by RAF police.

The ‘red caps’ were not our mates and kept to themselves. They represented discipline and were issued with arms. In the last resort they were there to defend us. When a German plane dropped anti personnel bombs on the airfield they disposed of them. Until cleared the airfield was out of bounds for the rest of us. I heard of no one killed or injured. Half a days flying was lost.

RAF Mepal was a satellite bomber station of Waterbeach, near Cambridge, that first operated in 1943. It was built mostly of Nissen huts, large, medium and small.

The wash houses and ablution blocks were of brick with asbestos cement roofs. Near the NAFFI Nissen hut stood a brick and asbestos toilet building with rarely used cubicle seating for some 24 airman at a time. I used it occasionally, only once hearing another flush.

The education hut was a little further away beside the concrete road to the airfield. I was often to be found there when work was done.

I must have been issued on arrival with a bicycle, three blankets and a pillow and directed to the Nissen hut that was to be my billet. I found an unused bed, inevitably near the door, but gradually worked my way up towards the central stove as airmen left on postings. A chap who specialized in long fruity farts which he announced to all when an eruption was imminent, fortunately slept at the other end. He had been a cowman and was at the lower end of our limited cultural range.

Formalities were minimal, we were there to do a job. I remember only one kit inspection, although we unmade our beds every morning just in case. I acquired a large soft blanket, which I folded to serve as top and bottom sheets. I never traded it in for clean blankets as required every few months. All our clothes were marked with our RAF number. Laundry was collected once a week. I once sent a rag that I had been using and got back a handkerchief.

Next day I was drafted to a ‘wing’ of four aircraft and to a small corrugated iron ‘dispersal’ hut near a Lancaster bomber. It was to be my work place until 75 NZ Squadron left Mepal.

For most of my time at Mepal, I and my colleagues serviced aircraft S Sugar of “B” Flight, 75(N.Z.) Squadron.

There were five of us: Corporal Jim Cooper, engine mechanic; Max Barnes, engine mechanic (known as Binnie after the film star Binnie Barnes); bespectacled Corporal Shufflebottom, airframe rigger; Stan Hankins, airframe rigger, also bespectacled, and me.

Chester’s ground crew team beside S Sugar, L- R: (standing) Stan Hankins; Cpl Jim Cooper FME; Max (Binnie) Barnes FME; (kneeling) Cpl Jim Shufflebottom, Rigger; Chester Guttridge, FME;  name forgotten.
Cpls Cooper & Shufflebottom and AC2s Hankins, Barnes  and Guttridge stayed together as a team for Chester’s whole time with 75 NZ Squadron at Mepal.
– Chester Guttridge.

Binnie was in the same billet as me, eventually in the next bed. I got to know him well.

All four colleagues had been in the RAF longer than me and knew the ropes.

Jim Cooper had been a postman in Sheffield before call-up and Stan a house decorator in his father’s business in Hove. Binnie hailed from Ormskirk. I also became friendly with Corporal Alec Balfour from Aberdeen. Alec and I had a week’s holiday together in the Lake District after the war. Again after the war, I stayed for a weekend with Jim Cooper and his wife, Enid, in his terraced house in Sheffield, the smoky city of steel. I was appalled by the black smuts floating in the air and the grime everywhere, even in the park where we went for a walk on Sunday afternoon with seemingly half the population seeking greenery and fresh(er) air. Many years later Max came to stay with us at Nailsea, but by then he had a heart condition and died a few months later. Things did not go well for him after the war. Although his pre-war employer took him back as required, they sent him to work away from home, a circumstance that led to him divorcing his wife and selling the family home.

Some colleagues in the billet had seen service in Africa, either in the E. African pilot training stations, or in the Libyan desert. One had lived in a tent in N. Africa and had jumped on to a lorry, leaving everything behind, even his toolbox, as German forces threatened to overtake the airstrip. Those from E. Africa were yellow from quinine that had protected them from malaria. The colouration faded over a period of months. The day I arrived at the flight hut, the Avro Lancaster on our concrete standing ground and the three others in the flight area were all new. Ours had arrived the day before me, after the Stirling bombers had flown out. Records show that the first Lancaster arrived at Mepal on 13 March 1944. I suppose my colleagues on the flight had received some instruction on servicing the new planes. The Stirlings had four radial engines, the Lancaster’s four in-line Rolls Royce Merlins.

B Flight ground crew, Mepal, 1945. Top row L to R, Stan Hankins, Chester Guttridge;
Middle row, unknown, Small(s), unknown;
Bottom row, Cpl Jim Shufflebottom, Cpl Jim Cooper, Bill Rayner?, unknown. 

The bald airman was in charge of the billet site and responsible for the wash house.
– Chester Guttridge.

Sergeant Burkitt, an engine man, was in charge of all four planes and their ground crews. He was a regular, having joined the Service before the war. Above him was the Engineering Officer with the rank of a Flying Officer, one step above the lowest ranking Pilot Officer. Few of the ground staff that I met were New Zealanders. Sergeant Burkitt’s number two mechanic suffered with dermatitis caused by engine oil so was discharged.

Our jobs were to carry out daily inspections of engines and airframe and do minor servicing operations, then sign a chart recording completion.

Stan and his corporal checked that the control surfaces, rudder, ailerons, etc were working properly and that the outer skin of the aircraft was undamaged, patching it if necessary with dope and canvas. Stan cleaned the inside.

Having made visual inspections, we mechanics ‘ran up’ the engines, one at a time, to check their operation and that of the variable pitch propellers. While I was at Mepal, airscrews were renamed propellers (props.) to avoid confusion with aircrews.

It was some months before I was allowed to ‘run up’ the engines. I liked having so much power (c.1500 hp.) at my control. We checked the performance mainly by checking the rev. (revolution) counter and, of course, the oil pressure and temperature gauges. Merlin engines were fitted with two independent magneto ignition systems, a) in case one should fail and b) to improve engine performance. Two sparks ignited the petrol-air mixture in the cylinders faster than one, thus increasing power output. By observing the drop in revs when one ignition set was switched off one could tell if there was a faulty plug. In which case we changed all 24 plugs and tested the engine again.

Specialists dealt with the guns, the radio, the H2S (ground mapping radar), electrical systems, hydraulics and the automatic pilot. From time to time specialists ‘swung’ the aircraft to determine the deviation of the compass caused by magnetic metal on the plane, presumably mainly the engines.

“B” Flight ground crew, May 1944, with Acting Flight Commander F/L Eric Witting seated centre. Chester 7th from right (including individual almost cut off), 2nd row down;  Max (Binnie) Barnes (FME) 9th from right back row; Stan Hankins (rigger) standing far left, with specs.
– Chester Guttridge.
“Ground crew. Stan Hankins in rear turret, L- R, standing, unknown; Corporal Jim Cooper, FME; Chester Guttridge, FME; Squatting, Bill Rayner?; name forgotten; although I remember his face.”
– Chester Guttridge.

When Mepal was scheduled for a raid, armourers hung bombs in the bomb bay and loaded the Browning machine guns with ammunition while we filled the tanks with the specified quantity of petrol. To do this we had to climb on to the wings.

Before take-off time, which was usually in the evenings around dusk, one of us ground crew, as detailed, had to remove the cover from the pitot head (air speed indicator), remove the canvas engine covers, then, when all was ready and the air crew aboard, climb on to the wheels in the undercarriage nacelles, pump priming petrol into the engines, while the flight engineer (second pilot) in the cockpit pressed the starter buttons.

Finally, upon a signal from the pilot, we removed the chocks and guided the plane from its standing ground by hand signals. We had to remain on the station until called by Tannoy to receive our returning plane.

The Station’s Commanding Officer visited every crew in his camouflaged Austin Eight as they waited to board.

The planes lined up on the perimeter track waiting their turn to take off, loaded with petrol for up to a 10 hour flight. Flights were, as I recall, mostly of five to seven hours.  With four engines on full power they struggled to take off, the heavy, low pitched drone continued for perhaps half an hour before they were all away. Silence fell over the fens when the last of the planes disappeared into the distance to cross the North Sea.

Upon our plane’s return we guided it into its place with hand signals (holding torches in darkness), put chocks against the wheels, covered the four engines by again walking on the wings, then lacing them up underneath. The whole operation took some 30 – 40 minutes. We went inside to check that the crew had left everything switched off and safe, gathered up any sweets they had left, jumped out, locked the door and cycled back to our huts, perhaps stopping at the mess for a mug of hot cocoa. If late getting to bed, we were allowed to sleep in until lunchtime next day.

We were glad to see our plane back and its crew safe.

We lost two aircraft over the 15 months I was with 75 NZ Squadron at Mepal, hoping the crews had managed to bale out or had crash landed safely somewhere else, but we never heard. Had their bombs that night fallen on some German factory or marshalling yard or killed civilians in their beds, we never knew. Accuracy was hard to achieve in high-level bombing. Night bombing was dangerous and aircraft losses were heavy. The crews were being shot at two or three times a week or more and many lost their lives. I was at risk only of falling off the wing or walking under a spinning propeller.   

Next morning there was much to be done. All the engines had to be inspected, the sides and top cowlings removed, and the engines examined for cracks, damage, oil leaks and oil levels. When all was checked the engines were run up for rev. tests. These jobs took all morning, usually into the afternoon. Corporal Cooper once spotted a small crack about half an inch long on an engine casing that I had missed. The plane was towed by a David Brown tractor to the servicing hanger for fitters to change the engine. It was there that engines underwent major service after the specified number of flying hours.

When he got a chance, Hankins painted another yellow bomb symbol on the fuselage just below and forward of the cockpit, one for every raid.

Sometimes our plane dropped ‘Windows’ as well as bombs. Windows were strips of ‘silver’ lined paper varying in size from about 8 inches x ½ inch to 18 inches x two inches (as I recall), which, when floating down from the aircraft, were said to have confused enemy radar. Members of the crew  dropped it through a hatch fitted for the purpose. I’m told, although I don’t remember it.

The second “S-Sugar” that Chester looked after, LL866. She was re-coded “S” on or about the 5th of July 1944, having previously been coded “AA-W” and became known as “Swingtime”, with nose art depicting musical bars and a hangman’s noose. She was lost on her 19th operation as “Sugar” (50th in total), with F/Sgt Richard Barker RNZAF and all his crew on a trip to Russelheim.
On seeing this photo, Chester said “The gallows looks familiar, but I can’t be sure. When I saw it it rang a silent bell in my brain. How extraordinary.”
Chester’s first “Sugar” was HK553, which was lost just after D-Day on the 10th of June 1944 with F/Sgt Tom Donaghy RNZAF and his crew.
The third S-Sugar was was LM276, a lucky kite that went on on to fly 80 op’s, bringing her crews back safely each time and surviving the war.
– 75nzsquadron.com.
One of Chester’s crews, July-August 1944. The Perfrement crew flew LL866 on seven operations as AA-W “Willie”, and then on another ten ops after she was re-coded as AA-S “Swingtime”. F/S John Dudley Perfrement, DFC, RAAF standing left rear – he signed Chester’s Christmas menu as “Pranger Perf”.
– Chester Guttridge.

The largest bomb our plane carried was a 4,000 pound blockbuster. After being fitted with modification bomb doors, Sergeant Burkitt’s plane was loaded with an 8,000 pounder on a couple of occasions. Usually our planes were loaded with 500 or 1,000 pound bombs and/or incendiaries.

After the Normandy landings our planes went on short daytime tactical raids over France, in support of the army.  Aircrews never spoke of their operations and we ground crews never asked. I read on the web that 75 (N.Z.) squadron has an impressive reputation for its contribution to the bombing campaign, operating more sorties than any squadron in Group 3, I understand.

S Sugar, M Mother and W Willie (our planes during my period of service with 75 NZ Squadron) sometimes flew on training flights of one sort or another. If a novice pilot had made a bumpy landing, he would be ordered to do a few ‘circuits and bumps’, maybe half a dozen until his skill satisfied the flying control officer of the day. Ground crews were encouraged to join such trips although we tried to avoid circuits and bumps which we saw as more hazardous and less interesting than cross country flights. But one day, having been misinformed, I went on one. I sat in the rear gunner’s turret, closed the doors behind me and swivelled around, aiming the unarmed Browning machine guns at imaginary targets. A rear gunner would be cooped up in his turret perhaps for eight more hours on a long flight.

The flight hut was our shelter in rain and a focus for a little social life. A small coke stove made it cosy in cold weather except by the doorless opening. When WAAF drivers called to deliver items or to bring news, they were invited in for a gossip. Airman from nearby huts called, but not often. Some aircrews came to chat with us during daytime or watch us carrying out the service checks. When the NAFFI van called at the flight area mid mornings and afternoons we took our mugs over for ‘tea and a wad’ – the wad being a rectangle of cake costing a couple of pence or so.

The flight ‘Elson’ toilet in its little hut was indescribably filthy, seat and container, never cleaned. I lined the seat with toilet paper when necessity overrode disgust. Now and again a team of civilians tipped the contents into a larger container which they humped on their backs and emptied into an even filthier container on a lorry. We urinated behind the hut, where we also washed our overalls in high octane leaded aviation fuel. They dried in the wind a slightly grey colour from the lead in the petrol.

One day I and five colleagues were called upon to guard a crashed Lancaster on the fens overnight. We were issued with rifles and ammunition. The night was uneventful. Otherwise fatigues were rare. I once scoured roasting tins in the cook house and on another occasion painted stones lining the path to the education hut in preparation for a ‘high ups’ inspection. ‘If it moves, salute it, if it doesn’t, paint it’, the saying went.

Once I cleaned billet hut windows. Airmen (never me) sent to clean WAAF hut windows reported seeing topless young ladies lying on their beds in their service knickers, colloquially known as passion dampers. Such boasting was always doubted. The ladies sought their male friends from among the aircrews, preferably officers, of which there were plenty. We ground staff lacked money and glamour.

I was sent on a three day anti aircraft gunnery course at RAF Mildenhall where I aimed at pictures of moving aircraft projected on the domed ceiling of the special building, accompanied by the noise of planes and gunfire. Not knowing what to do in the evenings, my colleague and I went twice to the local cinema to see a glamorous Betty Grable on film. Another time I went on an overnight visit to Waterbeach for a forgotten purpose. Such occasions were opportunities for the exchange of disgusting jokes.

Once a fortnight we joined pay parade in the NAFFI. I was then getting four shillings and six pence a day (?) as a Leading Aircraftsman (LAC), the highest grade I was ever likely to achieve as a late entrant conscript. Having initially received 3/- (?) a day, I had been promoted to AC2 on completion of the mechanics course at Cosford.  Promotion to LAC on 1 June 1944 followed an assessment for colour blindness and an intelligence test in which I did quite well. Being a light smoker and seldom drinking alcohol, my pay more than met my need for pocket money and the purchase of an occasional train ticket from Ely to Cambridge, so I arranged for a small portion of my pay to be paid to my mother who saved it for me.

Once we were summoned to VD inspection, FFI it was called – free from infection. Some 100 airman with dropped trousers were examined in the NAFFI by a sturdy lady doctor who carried a knee donger to dong any attachments that failed to dangle. An airman, hero of the hour, said that being donged hurt. Nobody was diagnosed with VD as far as I know, but it had been only a cursory examination.

B Flight ground crew in a Nissen hut billet, Mepal. “Customized! Note curtained off bit.”
The caption on the back lists Bill Rayner, Fred, Jock, Townsend and Small (standing rear).
– Chester Guttridge.

I spent many evenings in the billet hut, chatting, reading, darning socks or listening to the distorted noise of a wireless, or perhaps having a bath in one of the two bath cubicles in the wash building where we daily washed faces and hands in bowls lined with thick soapy scum. A 39 year old airman stoked the boiler that kept the water hot but didn’t clean the bowls.

Sometimes I cycled the half mile to the NAFFI for tea and a bite or to the education hut. There were no ENSA visits that I can recall and no place for them to perform. During winter I joined WEA (Workers Education Association) evening classes in nearby Sutton. One course was on literature, another on poetry. I remember studying Irish poet W. B. Yeats and the English Jesuit, Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem ‘Pied Beauty’.

      ‘Glory be to God for dappled things. For skies of couple colour as a brindled cow …’    


On the way back to camp from Sutton one evening, I and numerous other airman were caught cycling without lights. I had no red rear light. I wrote to the court truthfully explaining that the rear light battery had been stolen in Ely a few days before and I had had no opportunity to buy another. I was fined 5/-.

Ely and its sparse entertainment was five miles away and, in practice, could only be reached by bicycle. It had one small cinema, a WI or YMCA canteen, pubs, a cafe that served beans or sometimes an egg on toast, and the cathedral which I, among few airmen, visited a couple of times. The cinema changed its programme twice a week but showed films only long after their initial release. I watched ‘Fantasia‘ twice in three days, probably having beans on toast on the outskirts of Ely on the way back to Mepal on my sturdy service bike.

I have no recollection of seeing officers or NCO aircrew in the Ely canteen, nor in any other one.

Chester Guttridge, FME and Stanley Hankins, rigger on Lancaster tail wing.
– Chester Guttridge.
RAF Mepal 1944 Christmas Dinner Menu, autograph page. Signatures include Townsend, “Smithy”, “No Snags”, Tennant, Wing Commander Jack Leslie (previous Commanding Officer, 75(NZ) Sqdn), Squadron Leader “Slim” Ormerod (Squadron Navigation Leader), Group Captain Patrick Campbell (Mepal Station Commander), Flight Lieutenant Alan Barton (pilot) and “Pranger” Perf.
– Chester Guttridge

I cycled one summer afternoon to St Ives, looked round, had a bite to eat and cycled back over the fen to Mepal at dusk. An owl swept silently across the road close to my face, frightening me. Another afternoon I cycled to Chatteris and on to March, much impressed by the huge bog oak trunks on the roadside that had been preserved in the peat fen for several thousand years. A couple of times I cycled four or five miles with Binnie to earn cash stripping damsons from laden branches.

Towards the end of the war, after D-day, our planes gave tactical support to the army while the continuing strategic bombing of Germany.

Operations permitting, all ground staff enjoyed a week’s leave every three or four months and a 48 hour break in the interval, service needs permitting, for which we were issued with rail passes. We also got a 36 hour breaks from time to time, from Saturday lunch time to 23.59 hours on Sunday, but travelled at our own expense. When going on leave, Corporal Cooper allowed me to go for early tea if our daily engine checks were completed. Early tea, from 3.30, was much desired. Queues were shorter, the mess less crowded, the food freshly cooked and the tea freshly brewed. When without a travel pass, I caught a train to Cambridge, hitchhiked to Watford and bussed the final five miles to Kings Langley. Trains were often overcrowded so we stood in the corridor or sat on the floor. Fare dodgers piled into the loos and locked the door when a ticket inspector approached. Hitch hiking luck varied although I was never stranded. Once a Sunderland’s lorry picked me up probably on the A1 at Baldock and took me all the way to his base near my home in Kings Langley. Another time a US Army truck took me from Cambridge to Watford, the black driver swigging whiskey from a bottle every few miles. But lifts were mostly from town to town – Royston, Baldock, Stevenage, Hatfield bypass and Watford, usually having to walk across town for the next pick-up. Sometimes I rode in comfort, other times I bumped along on the back of a lorry. In Cambridge, I liked to browse in Heffer’s bookshop, then in Petty Curry. I returned by train, not wishing to risk Sunday evening lifts.

I chanced it one glorious summer evening. After waiting perhaps half an hour at Waterbeach, a few miles beyond Cambridge, I was picked up by an army dispatch rider and taken pillion for the last 15 miles or so. He went out of his way to drop me, much relieved, a couple of hundred yards from my hut at Mepal as the sun set. 

The European War ended on 7 May 1945 and bombing ceased. The country celebrated. Our plane flew less often. Ground crews were invited on ‘Baedaker’ flights over Germany to see what our bombs had done. I went on one, lying on my tummy in the bomb aimer’s position in the nose of the plane, with an excellent view of the ground beneath as we flew over the coast, low over the North Sea, over the coast of Holland or Belgium and on to Germany. I remember seeing the floor of the North Sea clearly beneath the waves, the sandy beach of the European coast, then, from about 1,000 feet, saw the wrecked German factories and marshalling yards of the Ruhr and residential Dresden, famous for its almost complete destruction, hardly a building remained standing. The Germans had started the war, bombed our cities, killed thousand of our civilians and almost certainly killed two crews that I had served. They had ‘sown the wind and reaped a whirlwind’.

According to Wikipedia, 75NZ Squadron left Mepal in July 1945. I don’t remember the details. At some point I was transferred to a different Nissen hut to join men I didn’t know. The New Zealand Squadron was replaced by 44 Squadron, also operating Lancasters. I remember little about my six months with 44.

Sometime in 1945 an urge to learn came upon me. From whence it came, I know not. Where it led is the story of my life. It was not long after I had read an abandoned coverless copy of Pickwick Papers with the last page missing. I had left school at 15 years of age without any qualifications.

The education officer seemed pleased to have someone interested in his world. He gave lectures on rehabilitation into the expected post-war better world. I borrowed books from his small library and he offered me a new book he had just received – ‘The Song of Bernardette’ about the shrine at Lourdes which was and is said to have miraculous healing powers. I know a disabled man for whom it failed. I took an English correspondence course first, studying in the education hut. The Education Officer set me up in a quiet place to study. Then, getting ambitious, I started courses leading to London Matriculation, part one. I registered for the examination and later sat several three hour papers in London with hundreds of others at widely separated desks in a huge hall, writing furiously. I passed, then embarked on part two.

Meanwhile the European war ended. A few mechanics like me were being transferred to the Royal Navy to work on aircraft carriers (presumably) in the Far East. I was selected but the education officer said he would try to get me off on the grounds that I was studying for an examination. He succeeded, and a hut colleague went instead. I was unpopular and uncomfortable for a while but there was no going back.

A couple of months later my substitute came to see his old mates, proud of his sailor’s uniform, not unhappy. I doubt whether he saw action in the Far East as Japan surrendered three months after Germany, following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, although he may have gone there and seen more of the world.

It must have been well into the part two course when, out of the blue, the unbelievable happened. I was to be released back into civilian life at the request of the Ministry of Labour and National Service, specifically to go back into poultry keeping. Colleagues were madly envious, some of them having served up to five years. Perhaps someone in Whitehall thought that the national diet lacked sufficient animal protein and that poultry meat could be produced more quickly than any other.

It was not demobilisation, only a Class B release. I was to report to Watford Employment Exchange within seven days of release. I was relegated to class GII of the reserve and required to keep my uniform and be available for recall at a week’s notice. I was granted 21 days release leave before taking up employment. I received a gratuity of £15 (30 months @ 10/- a month) and a Post War Credit of £24 0s. 6d. (961 days at 6d per day).

So it was that 3006180 L.A.C. Guttridge, trade F.M.E., of V.G. Character and Sat. proficiency and NIL Marks and Scars, said goodbye to the RAF on Wednesday, 20 February 1946. The three week leave was counted as service so my release date was 13 March. Not until 30 June 1959 was I finally discharged from the reserve.

But first were the formalities. Once again I packed all my possessions in my kit bag, left an empty hut at Mepal – colleagues were all at their duties – humped my kit bag upon my back  and caught the duty lorry to Ely station, changed at Cambridge for Cardington where I surrendered part of my kit, had my genitalia examined yet again for V.D. and was issued with a civilian suit of my choice – I chose a brown one. The single breasted jacket was too small, the trousers, with turn-ups, too baggy and the trilby hat looked silly on my head. I kept one uniform (my comfortable working battle dress), my RAF shirts, socks and underclothes. In my new suit, release papers in my pocket, train pass in hand and a lighter kitbag on my shoulder, I caught a train to Bletchley and changed to a stopping train for Kings Langley. I remember being restless, finding the journey slow and tedious in the non-corridor coach. At Kings Langley, I caught a bus to the common and walked the quarter mile home. I felt strange, empty of purpose. Mother was unimpressed with my suit.

My RAF career had been a happy time, generally speaking. I had been lucky. I had not been called upon to serve in North Africa, in France after D-day nor in Burma.  I had done my job, enjoyed the camaraderie, the friendships, the responsibilities, the feeling of doing something useful.

I reported to the Labour Exchange. The man shook his head, ‘I’ve got no jobs in poultry keeping. Don’t know what to do with you.’ I explained that I could work on my father’s poultry farm. That satisfied him.

I continued to study for matriculation, passed part two and qualified for university.

Extract from my service record, with notes
75 Sqdn.     16. 3. 44.      Arrived at Mepal.
33 Base (A) 26. 3. 44.     But still at Mepal with 75 Sqdn.
75 Sqdn.     31. 4. 44.     Still at Mepal.
33 Base.       1. 8. 44.     Still at Mepal.
Mepal          18. 8. 45.    This entry may be a consequence of 75 (N.Z.) Sqdn’s departure from  Mepal while I stayed.
10a PDC.    20. 2. 46.     Personal Dispatch Centre.  Release at Cardington.

Classification
A.C.2.        27.7. 43.       Aircraftsman 2. The lowest rank.
A.C.1.         8. 3. 44.       Following completion of Flight Mechanics Engines course.
LAC.           1. 6. 44.       Leading Aircraftsman.

My character was described a VG and my proficiency as ‘Sat’ on 5.2.44 and 31.12. 45.

‘Ex Remust FMA 63%’ was recorded on 8. 3. 44.  I assume this refers to my completing the FME course at Cosford, 63% being my pass mark and Ex Remust being my remuster from FMA (Apprentice?) to Flight Mechanic Engines.

I was finally discharged on 30. 6. 59.

My membership of the Air Training Corp was noted in my service record.



– All text and photos (except for “S-Sugar”) Copyright © of Chester G. Guttridge.

– Thanks to Chester Guttridge for permission to reproduce this memoir and photographs from his collection.

– Thanks also to Kevin King, Chairman, Friends of 75 (New Zealand) Squadron Association, whose newsletter first published this account, and for his help in contacting Chester.

Nominal Roll update – significant progress!

I am really excited to announce a very significant step forward with the Nominal Roll project. All letters, A-Z have now been created and populated with all aircrew names that appear on the Roll as operational aircrew.

In addition to this, “A” has been completed based on the first pass of information held in the database.

I have said many times before, the term ‘completed’ is a very relative one. It seems each time I return to an individual and metaphorically stare at them, another small piece of information comes to light and thus can be added – contacts this week alone have added the first names of 5 of the boys.

Additionally to this, I have dragged Kevin and Chris on board and we have had a massive increase in photographs of Squadron members, as well as new information to add.

At this point we have 431 photographs – 12% of the 3578 individuals listed – I am sure we will find many more – with your help!

Also, for easier access and perhaps to catch the eye of new visitors to the site, I have now created a specific top menu item that takes you to the downloadable aircrew information form – PLEASE if you haven’t filled one in, or thought about it and then forgot – go back, roll up your sleeves, put on your glasses, make a cup of tea and make your contribution to the Squadron, this site and the individual you are remembering!

View the “A” page……….

here

Ralph Brumwell – 100 not out!

Many thanks to Kevin for providing me with advance warning that today is Ralph Brumwell’s 100th birthday – I am sure you will all join with me in wishing Ralph the most heartfelt wishes on this remarkable milestone.

This notable event also gives me an excuse to make use of the Nominal Roll database to provide the following summary of Ralph’s time with the Squadron!

Ralph William Brumwell,  D.F.C.  RAF 127140 – Pilot  
Born on Saturday, 24 July 1920.
Arrived Saturday, 20 May 1944 at R.A.F. Mepal, Cambridgeshire, aged 23 from No.31.Base.

1st Tour
Ops total with Squadron – 27
total sorties undertaken 28 (96 % completion rate)

Undertook 28 Ops as Pilot , including 1 DNC – 17/07/1944 Attack Against Vaires

Tour History
27/05/1944 Attack Against Aachen, 28/05/1944 Attack Against Angers, 30/05/1944 Attack Against Boulogne, 31/05/1944 Attack Against Trappes, 02/06/1944 Attack Against Wissant, 12/06/1944 Attack Against Gelsenkirchen, 14/06/1944 Attack Against Le Havre, 21/06/1944 Attack Against Domleger, 23/06/1944 Attack Against L’Hey, 24/06/1944 Attack Against Rimeux, 30/06/1944 Attack Against Villers Bocage, 02/07/1944 Daylight Attack Against Beauvoir, 07/07/1944 Attack Against Vaires, 10/07/1944 Attack Against Nucourt, 12/07/1944 Attack Against Vaires, 15/07/1944 Attack Against Chalons Sur Marne, 17/07/1944 Attack Against Vaires (DNC), 18/07/1944 Attack Against Cagny, 01/08/1944 Attack Against Le Nieppe, 12/08/1944 Mining in the Gironde Estuary, 14/08/1944 Attack Against Hamel, 15/08/1944 Attack Against The Aerodrome at St. Trond, 16/08/1944 Attack Against Stettin, 18/08/1944 Attack Against Bremen, 29/08/1944 Attack Against Stettin, 31/08/1944 Attack Against Pont Reny, 05/09/1944 Attack Against Le Havre, 06/09/1944 Attack Against Harqueboc Le Havre

Operational Duration (first to last Op) – 3 months 10 days

Posted out from 75(NZ) Squadron Monday, 25 September 1944. Time with Squadron – 4 months 5 days

Awards & Citations
LONDON GAZETTE 8th of December 1944
Distinguished Flying Cross
Ralph William BRUMWELL (127140), R.A.F.V.R., 75(N.Z.) Sqn

This officer has completed many operational sorties against a wide variety of targets in Germany and Northern France. He has shown himself to be a cool and resourceful captain of aircraft and has displayed outstanding courage and keenness to engage the enemy. In August 1944, Flight Lieutenant’ s aircraft was detailed to attack a target at Le Nieppe. Several hits were sustained by anti-aircraft and on engine was rendered unserviceable. Although the damage to his aircraft was severe, he successfully flew it back to base and execute a perfect landing.

Once again Ralph – all the best wishes for the day and literally in your case………

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!

Ronald Desmond Mayhill DFC, KLH 1924 – 9.7.2020

Very sad news was received recently of the death of Ron Mayhill DFC KLH, distinguished 75(NZ) Squadron veteran and past President of the New Zealand Bomber Command Association. 

Ron leaves behind a very significant legacy, not only from his long service with the Association, but in the form of a significant historical record of his time with the squadron. Ron was the Bomb Aimer in John Aitken’s crew, arriving at Mepal just one day after D-Day, June 1944.

Photo: The Aitken crew, 75(NZ) Squadron, Mepal, 1944
L-R: William Monk, Gordon Grindlay, Duncan Hodgson, Jake Aitken, Taffy Taylor , Ron Mayhill and Henry Monk.
– NZ Bomber Command archives, Ron Mayhill collection.

Ron and his skipper Jake Aitken shared a camera and between them captured many of the images that would come to define our memory of those times. Their regular “kite” was Lancaster ND782, “U-Uncle”. Ron survived 27 operations before their Lancaster was hit by flak when just about to drop their load on a flying bomb supply depot at Pont Remy. Ron was wounded in the eye and face by splinters of perspex and since he had missed the target indicators, they had to go around again.  For completing the bombing run, despite his injuries, he was awarded the DFC. “Once you’re in a war there’s no way out. It’s not just courage — you’re on a treadmill and you know what you’re facing and we just decided: right, if you’re going to get killed we’re going to sell our lives dearly and we’re going to fight.”
– Ron Mayhill DFC, “Memories Of Service”, NZ On Screen. By the time he had recuperated, the rest of his crew had completed their tour and been posted to No.3 Lancaster Finishing School as instructors, so Ron’s tour of operations was also over.

He became a school teacher after the war, apparently a very good one, at Pukekohe High School and later at Auckland Grammar, where he taught for 27 years.

During that time he wrote books on geography, and after he retired, together with and encouraged by his old crewmates, decided to write a memoir of their wartime experiences. 

He eventually found a publisher in England, but frustratingly was told to cut the book down to half the size! Published in 1991, “Bombs On Target” by Ron Mayhill FC (Patrick Stephens) is one of the two definitive books covering the Lancaster years at Mepal (“Luck and a Lancaster” by Harry Yates DFC being the other).

With Ron’s insightful writing, sense of humour, Kiwi perspective and Bomb Aimer’s technical detail, the book is a mine of information, and it immerses the reader in the life of an airman at Mepal in 1944.  It’s one of those books that you don’t want to end … and we are very grateful that men like Ron and Harry Yates took the time to record their experiences in such wonderful detail.

Photo: Ron talking about his 1991 book, “Bombs On Target”. 
– “Memories Of Service”, NZ On Screen.

In 2012 he travelled to London as part of the official RNZAF veterans group to attend the unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial. Ron was very happy to share his great knowledge of Bomber Command and was very generous with his time – he recorded several interviews and spoke often at functions, services and schools. He made many memorable addresses at Bomber Command services, thought-provoking and well-researched.

He gave this excellent interview in 2015 as part of a series called “Memories of Service”
https://www.nzonscreen.com/title/memories-service-ron-mayhill-2015  
In 2015, Ron was awarded the Croix de Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, for his part in the air war over Normandy.

https://75nzsquadron.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/scczen_271015nzhjolegion01_480x270.jpg

Photo: Ronald Mayhill (left)  receives his Legion of Honour medal from the French Ambassador Florence Jeanblanc-Risler. 
– Jason Oxenham,  New Zealand Herald.

Ron had been fit, sharp and active and it was only a deterioration in his eyesight and hearing that caused him to step down as President of the New Zealand Bomber Command Association in late 2018, a role that he performed admirably right up to the age of 94.

Ronald Desmond Mayhill passed away on Thursday 9 July 2020.

A great man and a very nice man – he will be sadly missed. 

Ake Ake Kia Kaha.

Nominal Roll – another update!

I am pleased/ relieved to announce that the Nominal Roll for the Squadron is now complete! Possibly, this sounds a lot better than it actually is, but it represents a significant point as I now have an individual Op history attached to every individual who flew Operationally with the Squadron. As I have observed many times previously, this was never going to be a quick or easy project. Starting with a blank sheet of paper and interrogating my original crew history spreadsheet, I have now, over a number of years, generated a basic list of names and then to these, attached Operational histories. Additionally, I have begun to add extra information to individual records from published sources and the extensive, if patchy historical records that exist and that are accessible.

The size of the basic list, when extracted from the spreadsheet into a Word document is 1249 pages – if laid out end to end, it would be 370 meters long…….

The histories I now have are are highly variable in size, both by duration and Op count, ranging from a number of individuals who completed 2 tours with the Squadron to, too many, who excruciatingly only have a single Op recorded, on which they were lost…..

Soberingly, based on the arrived figure of 3,480 individuals who flew operationally, based on total losses for the Squadron of 1,139, the maths shows an almost exact 1/3 chance of not surviving the Squadron, once you had arrived. Clearly, not simply by fancy, the unofficial moniker of “The Chop Squadron” was chillingly true.

I am keen to try (eventually) to provide as detailed a record for all individuals as I can. For some this will be a proud point of reference for a family, for others it will be simply a record of their contribution and a permanent statement of their commitment and bravery through the War.

The database has been built to be flexible and to accept whatever information I am able to gather on an individual. In truth, a lot of this information I have no way of gathering without the help of all the readers of this site. Without being unnecessarily wordy, I am keen that these records have a narrative feel to them – after all, it is these boy’s story that is being told – a small thing like a date of birth allows me through the database to have an age for the individual airman when he arrived at the Squadron. A service record allows their journey prior to Operational duties to be known and also the date of arrival and departure from 75(NZ) Squadron, as well as where they went afterwards. Working through Errol Martyn’s breathtaking record of all RNZAF losses – “For your Tomorrow” I have been able to add to all RNZAF aircrew lost on Operations, small details of life – whilst known on this site as a Pilot, an Air Bomber or Rear Gunner, it’s touching to discover that they were also clerks, shepherds, plumbers, plasterers and teachers. The extensive records held and accessible in the Australian National Archives, for those RAAF aircrew that flew with the Squadron provides the same personal insight into an individuals life before service and in many cases the pain when they were lost.

I am also pleased to say that WordPress have recently provided an alternative method of creating pages. One addition is a 2 column block, which means that, where it exists, a photograph of the individual can also be included. A sneak peek of what I envisage for the Nominal Roll when it becomes live can be seen here – this is ‘Z’, mercifully small, but it let’s you see the planned layout and the wonderful visual addition to a record that a picture makes – by coincidence Vernon Zinzan, my Father’s 2nd Tour Pilot.

I have also produced a pro forma for submitting individual information, which can be downloaded here

I still have a lot of information to add to the database and I hope I might receive more based on this request! – at a point in the next month or so I will begin uploading information in the format previously mentioned…………

Jimmy Ward meets the Prime Minister

Image from the Jack Way personal album collection. A group of, believed to be No. 75 Squadron aircrew, gathered in front of a Wellington to meet the New Zealand High Commissioner Bill Jordan. Unknown location. NB. The Wellington is not a No. 75 Squadron aircraft. – Air Force Museum of NZ ref. ALB88125123b098.

From Chris…..

Just recently the Air Force Museum of New Zealand’s Keeper of the Photographs, Matthew O’Sullivan has published a wonderful online collection of beautiful photographs from the Museum’s archives:

Amongst them is this photo, showing a visit by NZ High Commissioner Bill Jordan to 75(NZ) Squadron at Feltwell.

However, the gentleman in the dark suit shaking hands right of centre is clearly the New Zealand Prime Minister of the time, Peter Fraser. Jordan appears to be at far left, also in a dark suit.

A bit of searching of newspaper reports from 1941 has revealed more information.

NZ Prime Minister the Right Hon. Peter Fraser NZ and High Commissioner Bill Jordan visited the NZ Bomber Squadron at Feltwell on 13 August 1941, as reported in The Press:

“Arriving at their station a few hours after their aeroplanes returned from plastering Hanover, Mr Fraser visited the New Zealand bomber squadron.

Among the men he saw was Sergeant Pilot J. A. Ward, V.C..

Mr Fraser said: “New Zealand is very proud of you. I congratulate you heartily on your well deserved honour.”

Mr Fraser was introduced to members of Sergeant Pilot Ward’s crew, including Sergeant Gunner A. R. T. Box, D.F.M., of Auckland, and Sergeant Observer L. A. Lawton, of Wellington.

The squadron paraded in a hangar, and Mr Fraser walked down the lines, shaking hands with every man. He talked with the men in the sergeants’ mess. His audience included more than a dozen winners of D.F.C.’s and D.F.M.’s, who have distinguished themselves over Germany.”

In the photo, Bill Jordan is 2nd to left, and next to him is Sgt James Ward V.C., and then two of his crew mates, skipper S/L Reuben “Ben” Widdowson DFC RCAF (with moustache) and rear gunner Sgt Allan “Shorty” Box DFM RNZAF. Another crew mate, navigator Sgt Joe Lawton RNZAF is identifiable five along from Box, standing at the rear.

In the official party in the foreground, 2nd from left is Station Commander W/C Maurice Buckley, performing one of his final duties before being posted out from Feltwell. PM Fraser (in dark suit) is shaking hands with an unknown airman.

Several other airmen are identifiable – Sgt Joe White (Wireless Specialist, in front of Joe Lawton, looking back towards Ward & Jordan), unknown, F/O Graham Parker (pilot), Sgt Alec Rowe (rear gunner, Parker crew), and (F/O?) Ted Williams (squadron Signals Leader, with moustache, behind W/C Buckley).

Mr Jordan had also been at Feltwell two nights earlier, when the squadron held a special smoking concert in Jimmy Ward’s honour.

New photo – ‘C’ Flight Pilots, June to September 1945

© Simon Sommerville/ 75nzsquadron.com

© Simon Sommerville/ 75nzsquadron.com

I am really pleased to present what I think, is a ‘never seen before’ photograph of ‘C’ Fight Pilots taken, sometime between June and and September 1945. A quick pass around between Chris and Kevin has suggested some ideas, but at this stage I am happy to present it and add it to the ‘Group Photographs’ section as a numbered version to aid identification of individuals.

I have often resisted the urge to search Ebay for Squadron memorabilia, partly as I know if I started I would not be able to stop! Having said this, I came across this image and despite no response from the seller regarding provenance, I thought it was worth a punt. Thus, I have the original and for anybody who comes across a relative I am happy to supply a ridiculously high resolution digital file for printed output.

Personally, I think the image is that more fascinating, as it’s apparent date places it during the period that 75(NZ) Squadron was transitioning from Bomber Command to “Tiger Force”. We can, obviously be assured that at least one of the Pilots is James Sutherland.

Jimmy completed 2 Post War sorties on the 14th and 25th of June and was then retained to join the ‘new ‘ Squadron. In the absence of any substantial details in the Squadron ORB’s, this period is really a black hole, regarding aircrew details – it might perhaps have been taken just at the transition – I do not know, and until perhaps we have identified some of the individuals in the photograph we shall have to wait to see.

I look forward to any suggestion as to the identities of the airmen in the photograph!

View the numbered, identification version of the photograph here

Victory in Europe – 8th of May 1945

A wonderful opportunity today, to remember the cessation of hostilities in Europe, on this date, 75 years ago. I am sure we are all sat here today, having perhaps expected to engage with these anniversary celebrations in a way significantly different to how and where we find ourselves on this Friday.

The report of this momentous day was recorded in the Mepal Station Log, with, typically understated, yet factually precise manner as can be seen below:

One assumes that there was the odd beer and celebrations a plenty, though, the Squadron was still tasked with flying responsibilities, perhaps fittingly, it was this day that saw the final ’Manna’ sortie flown from Mepal in support of humanitarian efforts for the Dutch people.

Strangely, I have found no specific recollections of this day, though one must assume for many it represented a massive release, but perhaps also the start of the collective burden that many of the boys would carry to varying degrees for years after.

It was not long before attentions turned from the smouldering devastation of the defeated Third Reich to the Far East, where the War continued and as such, plans were made to reconfigure the Squadron to support these intended needs – 75(NZ) Squadron was to join ‘Tiger Force’. I was perhaps a cruel irony that these plans did not include the RAF aircrew of the Squadron, the Squadron being crewed exclusively by RNZAF aircrew.

75(NZ) Squadron RAF finished the War with highest number of sorties flown in all of Bomber Command, the second highest number of operational aircraft loses and the second highest number of aircrew loses in the Command – a total of 1,139

 

AKE AKE KIA KAHA!

ANZAC Day 2020

Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives.
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land they have
Become our sons as well.

 In 1934, Kemal Atatürk delivered these words to the first Australians, New Zealanders and British to visit the Gallipoli battlefields. They were later inscribed on a monolith at Ari Burnu Cemetery (ANZAC Beach) which was unveiled in 1985. The words also appear on the Kemal Atatürk Memorial, Canberra, and the Atatürk Memorial in Wellington.

Let us take this day to remember all those, from Australia and New Zealand who gave their lives, not only in 75(NZ) Squadron RAF, but in every conflict before and after.

We shall remember them………….

AHE AKE KIA KAHA

Sad news…….

It gives me great sadness to report the passing of 2 75(NZ) Squadron veterans – Leonard Cooper and Charles Green

I received an email from Leonard’s son the day before last letting me know that Leonard passed on the 30th of March, aged 97. Yesterday I learnt through a post Vic Jay had made on his ‘The Mallon crew’ Facebook page that we had also lost Charles on the morning of the 8th, aged 98 years.

Leonard Cooper – Mid Upper Gunner
Leonard arrived first at Mepal, on the 17th of August 1944, as Mid Upper Gunner with Ken Southwards crew. The crew’s first Op together was on the 6th of the following month, attacking targets at Harqueoc, Le Havre. A further 5 Ops followed, until the crew took off on the 6th of October to attack targets at Dortmund.

Twenty nine aircraft were detailed to attack Dortmund, but one of these was withdrawn owing to a technical failure. Twenty six aircraft attacked the target in good weather and a very accurate and concentrated raid was reported, large fires being left burning. A.A. Fire was moderate, but fighters were active and the aircraft captained by NZ427798 F/S W. Farr, had a series of combats during which the enemy aircraft was claimed as being destroyed. One aircraft returned early and landed at Woodbridge owing to a technical failure and another (Captain NZ411048 F/O K. Southward) failed to return.

Lancaster Mk.I LM104 JN – K,  was at 22,000ft, probably en route to the target, when it was brought down by an enemy night-fighter SW of Monchengladbach, 50 miles south west of Dortmund, crashing near Willich. The Pilot was able to control the aircraft long enough to enable his crew to bailout successfully but was unable to do so himself and he bravely died in the crash. He was buried at Willich but later reinterred at the Rheinberg War Cemetery. All of Southward’s crew were captured as prisoners of war.

Taking prisoner number, 1060, Leonard was initially interned at Dulag Luft, before arriving at Stalag Luft VII, in Silesia, Germany (now Bąków, Opole Voivodeship, Poland). During his stay at Luft VII, he was promoted to Flight Sergeant.

On the 19th of January 1945, Leonard was one of the 1,500 RAF, RNZAF, RCAF and RAAF prisoners who were marched out of camp in the bitter winter cold. They crossed a bridge over the river Oder on 21st of January, reached Goldberg on 5th of February, and were loaded onto a train. On 8th of February they reached Stalag III-A located about 32 miles south of Berlin.

Leonard was liberated by the Russian on 22nd of April 1945 – his date of return to the UK is not known.

Charles Frederick Green – Mid Under Gunner
Charles Frederick Green arrived at Mepal on the 16th of January 1945, along with Gwyn Duglan, both as Mid Under Gunners.

Charlie was born in Peckham in October 1921 and volunteered to join the air force in January 1941 while still only nineteen. In September 1943 he was posted to No. 429 Squadron at R.A.F. Leeming, North Yorkshire.

He went on to complete 34 operations as a Halifax mid-upper gunner before becoming ‘tour expired’ in July 1944.

After further training at RAF Feltwell in the use of the 0.50 calibre machine gun as a Mid Under Gunner. Whilst at Mepal, he completed 13 more operations, all in the same aircraft, AA-L (HK562), but with 6 different crews, including 3 ops with the Mallon crew and 1 Op with my Father’s crew (Zinzan).

Charles married Marjorie, whom he originally met at Mepal, in the Officer’s Mess, in 1947 and moved from his home in Dagenham to the village of Dore, near Sheffield. In 1960, after a holiday in Blackpool, they decided to move to Poulton-le-Fylde.

When V.E. Day cut short his second tour, Charles had completed a total of fifty operations and, on the 25th September 1945, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He always insisted he was not a hero: ‘I was only doing what everyone else was doing’ he said, ‘We all did our bit’.

Our condolences extend to both families at this sad time

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!

Update to Nominal Roll – B

Before you all get excited, the apparently quick arrival of ‘B’ to the Nominal Roll section of the site is more to do with the built up reservoir of gathered individual Op histories for this section, than an indication of the speed that the whole list might appear.

A few little tweaks to the database – I realised when I updated ‘A’ that there was no way to automatically differentiate between a single Op and multiple ones, regarding ‘Op’ or ‘Ops’ – a little bit of extra code and that’s been solved. Whilst a small detail perhaps, it looks tidier and saves me from having to manually check and correct prior to up loading.

The surname Brown has been quite problematic, I must confess. A large number of RAF aircrew of this surname have no differentiating initials and a certain amount of conjecture has had to be performed to arrive at what will probably be refined and corrected over time. As always and particularly with this project, I welcome comments, corrections and suggestions regarding the accuracy of the records and especially with individuals where only a surname and therefore possible errors or discrepancies exist.

View the updated section B of the Nominal Roll here.

Update to the Nominal Roll

Personal circumstances have forced me away from broad research, emails and general site activities recently, owing to Mum’s health taking a dip and the family having to take it in turn’s to go down and be with her – but for 97, she’s still going strong!

The time has at least allowed me to push on with the data entry for the Nominal Roll. As I have noted in previous posts, this is a colossal task and will potentially dwarf the Crew Op History database, when it is finally (if ever) completed. Aside from the gathering and researching of information on the individuals in the roll, it’s entry into the database and the subsequent generation of entries for the NR section of the site has proved to be quite problematic – some individuals, such as Dad, flew with just one crew for each of his tours – others have (so far) flown with 8 during their stay with the Squadron.

Initially I had arranged the database with a series of repeated sections to record each crew that an individual might have been part of – resulting in a series of ‘blank’ lines which would contain joining text such as “Flew with xxxx for xxx Ops as xxxx” but no actual data as they were extra to that individual. Initially, I was happy with this and thought I could just delete the empty rows of each entry when I added the information to the relevant page. Of course, as this project has continued, the individual secondary editing of entries prior to publishing is a completely ridiculous strategy, given there are approximately 3,500 individuals contained in the list.

At the start of the new year I decided I had to dig deeper into the database and give it the intelligence to understand presence and absence of data and give it the ability to subsequently gather the separate pieces of information in a presentable format, automatically. 3 months later I am pleased to present the next stage of the NR project – All of the A’s have been updated to the next level of data completion – this will steadily increase as repeated sweeps are performed or new information comes in on individuals, but as you will see, it s shows a significant upgrade from the basic name and trade position that remains for the time, for the rest of the NR section. Perhaps a little smugly, I would draw your attention to the fact that the entries added have been added as is, straight from the database – the only work I have done is to bold the surname and add a divider line between each individual’s entry.

I have also taken the decision to generate a ‘completion’ rate for each individual. In discussion with Chris, it seems that at least the post war “Manna” flights were counted as a third of an Op, however in the absence of confirmation for the other post war sorties, the CR figure is based on completed operational sorties undertaken during the War. Broadly, an Op that resulted in the individual’s death, capture etc have been not counted, but an entry of this kind does reflect the event – the individual in question having for example 7 Ops as completed, but killed on the 8th Op. I am aware that there are instances where an aircraft would have been bought down after bombing and thus the sortie would count – these will be identified and corrected accordingly in time.

View the new updated ‘A’ section of the Nominal Roll here.

Leslie Edgerton, 1921 – 2020

by David Yates

My father-in-law Leslie Edgerton passed away in Conquest Hospital, Hastings in the early hours of Tuesday 14th January.  Another 75 man, and another of the dwindling band of Bomber Command veterans, has quit us.

IMG_2514 (1)

Leslie photographed on the occasion of his 98th birthday on 23rd April – St George’s Day – 2019.

 

 

 

 

Leslie volunteered for RAF service in the autumn of 1942 hoping, as they all did, to be a pilot.  It wasn’t until spring of 1943, as the Battle for Berlin was hitting the headlines, that things began to get going for him.  A reserved, unassuming, and thoughtful man, Leslie was not selected for pilot training but was sent to No2 Radio School, Yatesbury.  He gained his first air experience on 6th April 1943.  He was then sent on a gunnery course at RAF Manby, and on to AFU at Millom.

A transfer to No.11 OTU Westcott followed, and after an ab initio course in which he was subjected to the usual night vision and decompression tests, he had his first taste of crewing a medium bomber.  On 3rd September 1943 he flew for the first time with F/S C.E. Armstrong, with whom he had crewed up.  The fateful eight-month journey to Dortmund had begun.  The Armstrong crew was signed off on 24th October 1943 and despatched to Wratting Common for conversion to Stirlings.  After little more than 40 hours flying and then two-weeks’ leave the Amstrong crew mustered at Mepal for operational duty with 75 RNZAF Squadron, Mepal.  They had arrived on the front line.

They had a good initial run, starting on 14th January 1943 with laying six mines in the Fresians area.  The squadron was untroubled by losses until 24th February 1943.  But then on their seventh op, laying mines in Kiel Bay, Stirling EH984 captained by PO H.H. Bruhns crew went down.  They were all killed.  Leslie and the Armstrong boys came safe home.

The next day Leslie was asked to fill in for the absent w/op of the Willis crew, who were down for mine-laying in Copenhagen Bay.  Their Stirling was attacked head-on by a flight of six JU88s.  The aircraft was riddled with canon-fire, and Leslie later reported actually seeing the tracers scorching by him as he sat at his station.  Everyone survived and the aircraft landed safely back at Mepal.

No doubt gratefully, Leslie returned to his crew mates.  A couple of quiet mine-laying ops followed and then on 4th March they were sent on a special French op where another Stirling was lost, captained by the New Zealander PO S.L. Watson.  The Mid-Upper was taken prisoner.  Watson and the other crew members were killed.  But the ops, either mine-laying or targets in France, continued to tick quietly by for Leslie.  Then, suddenly, the great change finally came to 3 Group and Mepal, and the conversion from Stirlings to Lancasters was begun.  The Armstrong crew were among the first shipped off to Feltwell for conversion, followed back at Mepal by a series of preparation flights in the beautiful, shining new machines.  Then on the evening of 9th April their first 75 op was mounted.  The Armstrong crew were given ND768 F-Freddie.  In the words of my father Harry:

“Eleven of them were sent to attack the railway yards at Villeneuve St.Georges.  They had all bombed successfully in clear weather, though one had been damaged by friendly bombing and landed at Ford, a fighter station conveniently situated on the coast across from Selsey Bill.”

After the Villeneuve raid the crew flew three ops to Germany – first Karlsruhe, then Essen, then Friedrichshaven; and it was on the latter that another loss occurred.  FO R.W. Herron and his crew were all killed.

By this point Leslie had flown 22 ops and would not have been blamed for beginning to look forward to the end of his tour.  But in early May he began to feel unwell and was diagnosed with a contagious childhood disease most unwelcome at the advanced age of 22.  He was whisked off to the Princess of Wales Hospital in Ely and put in isolation.  It quite likely saved his life.  On 22nd May, Armstrong and his boys, with Sgt C.A. Warburton replacing Leslie, flew F-Freddie to Dortmund and never came back.

Again in my father’s words:
“Knowing nothing of this, a fully recovered F/Sgt Edgerton returned to Mepal resigned to the fact that his crew mates would have completed their tour, but nevertheless hopeful of hearing something of them.  In fact, nothing was offered.  He managed to discover that they were logged FTR, but that was all.  As a pool w/op he went dicing with scratch crews to the end of his tour,”

I have told the story, on this site, of how Harry was able to inform Leslie of the fate of his crew, and how that came to happen fifty years after the event itself, and anyone who would like to read about that can do so here:

Leslie went into the pool, and flew seven more ops with the Crawford, Adolph, and Lethbridge crews.  His last but one op was to Bremen on the night of 18th August 1944, when Harry’s crew were given such a fiery time; and his finale was to the Kamen refinery in daylight on 11th September 1944, when Harry’s R-Roger lost its nose and Harry himself was consigned to Littleport Eye Hospital for seven weeks.

Tour-expired and with other things on his mind, Leslie married Joan Underwood, a Red Cross nurse, on 21st September 1944 at St Mary’s Church, Sanderstead.  The church had been damaged at some point by a stray bomb, and workmen on ladders stopped their repairs and took off their caps to peer benignly down, the most earthly of angels, while the ceremony proceeded.  The couple would have four children over the ensuing ten or so years, the third of them my wife Geraldine.  Leslie worked as an accountant in the post-war years, and did pretty well for himself, living a life of respectable, quiet prosperity in Purley, Surrey and, in retirement, on the south coast near Eastbourne.   But I don’t think he was ever free from the sense of guilt and loss which consumed him that day he returned to Mepal to find his crew mates missing.

Leslie and Joan’s elder daughter Helen and her husband Andrew McGillivray have kindly forwarded me photographs of the crew’s graves, including that of Sgt Warburton, which we hope will serve as an on-line memoir of those brave boys as long as this website is active.

joined comp

Andrew writes:
“In 2012, on one of Helen’s visits to Seaford, Leslie had mentioned that the name of the wireless operator who stood in for him on the Dortmund trip was Warburton.  Out of interest I visited the Commonwealth Graves Commission website and found that he and the other members of the crew were buried in a large military cemetery in Germany, close to the Dutch border.  As it happened, we had been invited to a 60th birthday party in a town close by and we decided whilst we were there to visit Arnhem and the cemetery on the same trip. As with all of the Commonwealth Grave cemeteries that I have visited it is beautifully maintained and very moving when you see the perfectly aligned white headstones stretching out in all directions. What makes it all the more saddening is the ages of these young men most of which were in their early twenties. The entire crew are buried beside one another including Leslie’s replacement.”

In old age Leslie, who kept his wits about him till the end, thought more and more about those times at Mepal.  He was the lucky one.  Now he is gone one wonders how many others are still with us.

George Augustus Shotun Williams – Navigator, Wright crew

George Augustus Shotun Williams – the portrait clearly has been taken at some point during his training. Flying first with 296, 297 and then 196 Squadron, being awarded a DFC on the 12th of December 1943. Image supplied by the family of George Williams.

Many thanks to Mike for contacting me recently about George Augustus Shotun Williams, with a query regarding his presence in the Squadron. Mike had visited the site and came back to me with a question about the recorded Navigator for Jack Wright’s crew – listed at this point as a F/Lt C. Williams. Mike, thanks to impeccable prior research, noted that on the day of the Wright’s crew arrival at Mepal, on the 28th of November 1944, 2 other crews also arrived, all from No.31 Base.

On all the operations that Jack Wright took part in from the 5th December 1944 to the 2nd of January 1945, his navigator was shown as Ft/Lt C. Williams. At this point, the only Navigators of a rank of F/Lt. was C. Williams of the Wright crew, Ron Payne, Jack Brewster and Arthur Creagh.

As Mike noted: “As ‘A’ Flight leader Jack Wright seems to have assembled an experienced crew, many with a DFC and mainly composed of officers, and George Williams fits into this perfectly. He was a navigation instructor at RAF Stradishall before he transferred to 75(NZ) Sqdn”.

The additional fact that George’s service record clearly shows his arrival at Mepal on the 28th of November clearly identifies him as ‘C’ Williams. Anyone who has spent any time in Squadron documentation knows the number of errors present when one, as it were, knows the truth and it would seem that up until Mike’s contact, George was lost in these errors – to this end it’s always a wonderful personal feeling when we are able to add another name and thus another actual person to the Squadron’s history.

George flew 6 Ops with Jack Wrights crew, the last being on the 2nd of January 1945, to Nuremberg. On the 20th of February he was posted to 218 Squadron. Ironically Mike reports that here at 218 he is recorded as ‘H’ Williams

If anybody is able to shed any further light on Georges wartime career, i am sure his family would love to find out.

It’s a pleasure to meet you George……

RAF Tholthorpe Control Tower, North Yorkshire

Sat well back from the road, ostensibly in a huge cornfield, sits RAF Tholthorpes Control Tower – the same design that was at Mepal airfield throughout 75(NZ) Squadrons stay there.

Whilst not directly related to 75(NZ) Squadron, an interesting week spent and worth mentioning to you all. Always at this point of the summer, after a busy year at the University I invariably sink into a panic of how to spend what only feels like a very short month before going back for the new academic year. This year was no different, but seizing the nettle Bev and I decided to at least make sure we got away for a week. A very quick and deliberate google thrash turned up a restored Bomber Command Control Tower in North Yorkshire – and we thought well, that’s different, why the hell not and so it was booked.

I am loathe to turn this post into a TripAdvisor review, suffice to say, that Tholthorpe Control Tower is an amazing place to stay and really worth a week if you wish to stay not only in an immaculately restored and appointed period building, but perhaps more importantly to all of us who have visited RAF Mepal airfield to be left perhaps with that gnawing feeling of disappointment that so little of it all now remains, that the Control Tower at Tholthorpe is the same 343/43 design that stood at Mepal. It’s quite an amazing feeling to stand and look either through the windows, or climb the metal staircase to the roof, to stand and gaze out on what is now agricultural land to know that once, heavy bombers took off for the same period of time as Stirlings and Lancasters did from Mepal.

From Wikipedia….
RAF Tholthorpe was a Royal Air Force air station operated by RAF Bomber Command during the Second World War. The station, which had been opened in the late 1930s as a grass airfield, was located near Easingwold, North Yorkshire, UK. Tholthorpe airfield operated as a sub-station of RAF Linton-on-Ouse.

From August 1940 to December 1940, Tholthorpe was a landing field for Whitley bombers of No. 58 Squadron RAF and No. 51 Squadron RAF based at Linton.

From January 1941 to June 1943, Tholthorpe underwent maintenance to upgrade to Class A standards, with three intersecting concrete runways designated main 10-28 at 2,000 yards, 06-24 at 1,430 yards and 16-34 at 1,400 yards.

Tholthorpe was assigned to No. 6 Group RCAF in June 1943. RCAF squadrons stationed here included No. 434 Squadron “Bluenose”, 431 Squadron “Iroquois”, 420 Squadron “Snowy Owl”, and 425 Squadron “Alouette”.

No. 434 Squadron, flying Halifax bombers, was formed and headquartered at Tholthorpe airfield from June 1943 until the squadron was moved to Croft. In July 1943, 431 Squadron moved to Tholthorpe airfield from Burn. It was later moved to Croft airfield as well. Not only were the operational squadrons quartered here, also their service echelons, -respectively Nos. 9431 and 9434 Service Echelon, which were formed from the ground crew of nos. 431 and 434 Squadron on 3 November 1943 and who moved with their squadrons on to Croft in December 1943.

In December 1943 No. 420 and No. 425 Squadrons (together with their service echelons, nos. 9420 and 9425 Service Echelon) were moved to Tholthorpe airfield from Dalton and Dishforth respectively. These squadrons had returned from service with Wellingtons in North Africa, and it took them several weeks to work up on the newly acquired Halifax bombers. They were therefore unable to fly their first raids from Tholthorpe until mid-February 1944. No. 420 Squadron flew 160 operations from Tholthorpe airfield and lost 25 Halifaxes. No. 425 squadron flew 162 operations from Tholthorpe airfield and lost 28 Halifaxes. In all, 119 Halifax bombers were lost from Tholthorpe. In April and May 1945 nos. 420 and 425 Squadron converted to Avro Lancasters, which they took with them when they left for RCAF Debert, Nova Scotia, Canada in June 1945.

Another milestone – 600,000 views!

Just to let everybody that we have just passed the latest big viewing milestone – 600,000 views!

Almost 13 months to the day since we passed the half a million mark, you, the blog audience have added another 100,000 views to our tally and with it we get another small step closer to the magic figure of 1 million views. I think the passing of this new milestone, in the time it has happened is all the more remarkable given my silence regarding posts for essentially 1/4 of the year owing to the self inflicted loss of my laptop!

I have received questions over the years regarding what has been claimed to be my unnecessary emphasis on statistics and particularly the total viewing figures. In the past, I have tried to explain, but now I simply refute these queries. Put simply, this website has become, the largest single resource for 75(NZ) Squadron RAF in the world. It has achieved this by having the most comprehensive collection of records, information and images on the Squadron, which is freely accessible to all. This complete open door policy regarding information is vindicated by the volume of visitors and views that are recorded.

Frustratingly I am picking my way through the busiest part of my professional year – assessment, the awarding of Degrees, the preparation for our annual London show and planning for next academic year means that I am waiting for a clear gap in the next few months to present new material that has come to me over the last 6 months or so – all of you have have contacted me, please be patient – it will all be presented as soon as I can!.

Without sounding like a broken record – please can everybody share the site – so many relatives of the boys who flew with the Squadron have made contact over the years, that it makes me think that there are still many more that have yet to find the site. Please, share the site address, on social media, through the facebook groups you are members of – we need to find these people and we need to encourage them to share what they have or might know.

Also, please, please, please apply for your relatives service records! I cannot overstate the value and importance of the contents of these records to me and the site. Many dates and locations, because of the points of formation of a crew and their subsequent training means that details supplied for one person means that the same details of movement and training can be added to up 6 other individuals. As soon as I can, I will make a downloadable template available to hopefully streamline the transfer of personal details etc that I need for the database.

Here’s to the next 100,000 views!

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!

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.