E.R. Jones crew 23.11.41

eric jones RNZAF CONT

Many thanks to Barbara and her Mother Lil for passing on the above portrait of Father and Husband respectively, Eric Reginald Jones, who flew with the Squadron between  September 1941 and the  January 1942.

As well at the portrait of Eric, his family also passed on an extract of Eric’s recollections that he wrote some years after his service and also pertinent pages of his logbook. At least initially, I must confess that my attention was very much drawn to the personal recollections that Eric had written. “A letter to my Grandchildren” was penned by Eric some 50 years after the war and, as you will read later goes into particular detail regarding his second Op as 2nd Pilot with Bob Bray.

After Barbara’s initial contact I inevitably looked for and found Eric in my database and at the time, thought there seemed to be a few discrepancies between what I had listed and what Eric recorded in his logbook. A closer inspection last night has thrown up the fascinating fact that there appears to be a mistake in the FORM 541 for 1941…………

I will let all of this unfold in a perhaps more manageable chronological order and I hope, in this way, it will make sense to you all.

Eric arrived at Feltwell on the 29th of September 1941, 15 days later he undertook his first Operation as 2nd Pilot with Bob Bray’s crew.

“This Feltwell place was about fifly miles north of London, fairly close to Cambridge, and we lived away from the airfield in tents, but within easy walking distance of the aerodrome, Our tents (four man) were erected under the trees which lined the drive leading up to a large country house, and we walked to the ‘drome each morning for breakfast and whatever came next.”

Recorded in Eric’s logbook, this is the first Op of 3 that do not appear to have been recorded, or perhaps have been recorded incorrectly in the Form 541 for this month.

13/10/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Bremen and Dusseldorf
Six* Wellington aircraft from this Unit were detailed to attack the above targets. A mixed bomb load was carried and consisted of 1,000 lb GP, 500 lb GP, 250 lb GP and SBC’s of 4 lb incendiaries. Considerable A.A. fire was experienced North and West of the target area, both light and heavy. Target was bombed and fires were observed on leaving. Many large cones of Searchlights were active West and North of the target. Enemy aircraft were seen on the return flight over the Dutch coast but no attacks were made on our aircraft. An unidentified aircraft followed Sgt Taylor and crew in X9977 for about 40 minutes. No attacks were initiated. The aircraft was using a hand lamp for signaling. The weather was 10/10 cloud over target area, with haze. Navigation was by Lorenz, QDM’s, Astro Fix and DR.

Form 541 Lists the participating crews as follows:

Sgt. S.J.G. Isherwood
P/O J.F Fisher
Sgt. R.H. Tye
P/O W.R. Methven
Sgt. N.G.C. Ramsey
Sgt. Taylor

Op 1

Mk.Ic X.9628 AA-A

*Sgt. Robert Walter Bray, RAFVR 113927 – Pilot.
Sgt. Eric Reginald Jones, RNZAF NZ404375 – 2nd Pilot..
Sgt. Sidney Joseph Lawrence Levack, RAFVR 971231 – Observer.
Sgt. Walter Victor Ashleigh Phear, RNZAF NZ37168 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Partridge, RAF – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Monk, RAF – Rear Gunner.

Take Off – Landed
Flight Time Not Known

15/10/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Cologne and Boulogne
Ten Wellington aircraft from this Unit were detailed to carry out the above attacks. A mixed bomb load was carried consisting of 1,000 lb, 500 lb, 250 lb GP’s and containers of incendiaries. Captains report that bombs were dropped on the target by estimation, but owing to slight haze over the target results were not seen. A considerable amount of heavy AA fire was experienced in and around the target area. Fire was accurate over Aachen. Searchlight activity was intense throughout the route but ineffective in the target area because of the cloud. Weather was fair en route but thick ground haze over all target area. Navigation was by Astro, D/R, QDM. Pinpointing and Lorenz check. Two of these aircraft, Z8945, captained by Sgt Barker, and X9916, captained by Sgt Matetich failed to return to base.

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9628 AA-A

Sgt. Robert Walter Bray, RAFVR 113927 – Pilot.
Sgt. Eric Reginald Jones, RNZAF NZ404375 – 2nd Pilot..
P/O Derek Clare, RAFVR 103536/ 951765 – Observer.
Sgt. Keith Douglas Sarginson, RNZAF NZ391978 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Partridge, RAF – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Monk, RAF – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 18:20 – Landed 23:20
Flight Time 05:00

“I did that on the morning of fifteenth October and on reporting to “A” flight, found out that our crew was down for Ops that night. Cologne, also in Happy Valley and not too far from Dusseldorf, was the target. During the morning hours the plane would be air tested to make certain that engines, hydraulics, guns, radios etc. were in good order, and afterwards the plane would be fuelled and bombed up. In the meantime, the crew would have some lunch and sleep or rest in the afternoon, ready for some wakeful hours in the night.

Briefing for the operation would take about thirty minutes, where the route to and from the target would be noted, expected weather conditions en route given by the Met. Ofiicer, aiming point specified, which could be industrial complexes, railway yards etc and anything else that was of interest to the airmen. The evening meal was the next on the list, and there must have been plenty of brussels sprouts and carrots around, as they appeared on the menu often, and I was soon sick of the sight of them.

Getting near time for take off, and we dress up in the warmest clothes we have, topped off with fleecy lined flying jacket and pants, with overalls on top of that, several pairs of socks on our feet and flying boots, and waddle out to the truck which will drop us off at the right place. Climb up into the old Wimpy per ladder, through a hatch in the floor, sort out all the gear and make certain there will be no hold-ups later on. Time to start up, and the silence is broken by the sound of twenty four engines starting up, being warmed up, and then run up to take off revs, while the magnetos are tested, and then the line of aeroplanes begins to move out along the taxi ways, to the take-off point. There’s the green aldis light and away we go. Brakes hard on, control column hard forward, and full revs, and the tail comes up until the plane is in flying position. Brakes off, slam the control column as far forward as it will go, to keep the tail up, and we gradually gain speed as we use up the runway. Come on, come on, there’s six hundred gallons of gas and four thousand pounds of bombs to lift off, and Bob, the pilot, holds her down until we run out of space, then eases back on the control column and we are over the boundary fence and on our way. Ease back to climbing revs and we go, very slowly, to twelve thousand feet, which is just about as high as a Wimpy will go with a heavy load.

Soon the coast of Holland is coming up, and all along this coast the Germans have set up a searchlight barricade, and with the help of a well organised radar tracking system, are very good at making a rendezvous between a German fighter and an Allied bomber. There are some broken clouds around, and Bob makes the best possible use of them, and the front and rear gunners and one new chum Second Pilot looking out of the astrodome see nothing of any fighters. That’s the first obstacle passed, and as long as we don’t go too near any town or cities, we should be clear of flak until we near Happy Valley, so it’s keep a good look out, up, down, front, back and sideways, for German fighters.

Cloud most of the way, and at one stage the airscrews are ringed with St. Elmo’s Fire, caused when atmospheric conditions are right, and I reckon an enemy fighter could pick us out from a fair distance. Still, that doesn‘t last long, and soon, in the distance, we pick up cones of searchlights and the flak over Cologne, and I must say the Jerries could put on an excellent fireworks display, with dozens of searchlights and the flak guns pumping all they had into the centre of the cone of light, where some poor blighter was getting the daylights knocked out of him.

A good time to go in while the flak and lights are busy elsewhere, so straight and level when conditions permit, we head towards the aiming point, and all hell breaks loose. A bluish searchlight, which we reckoned was radar controlled, catches us, and very soon we are blinded when some more lights join in. So bright I can’t see a thing, and I can imagine Bob, with his head down low and flying on instruments, working like a one armed paper hanger, as he reverses course, and twists and tums, and dives and climbs in an effort to put the flak off. I can see the flak bursts, I can hear some of them, and I can smell them, and we eventually finish up at three thousand feet with no great damage done to anyone.

In the clear now, and back we go as high as we can once again, but watch out for fighters as they usually hang around on the outskirts of the flak. Someone else held in the searchlight cone and keeping some of the guns occupied, and we are ready for another run. We weave around a bit until our navigator can pick up the aiming point, then it is straight and level once again, bomb doors open, and I think we all heave a great sigh of relief when we hear “bombs away”.

There’s those searchlights, and they latch on to us once again, and the flak gives us a real good pasting as we dive and twist and tum and once again finish up at three thousand feet, which is just about .303 range, and kid stuff for the eighty-eight millimeter guns that had been annoying us. Once again no great problems barring for few small holes in the fuselage, which were patched up next day.

Right, back we go, and with a much lighter aeroplane we are soon back at a safe operating height where we can open our thermos flasks and have a quick snack while we go hell for leather back home again. Dodge the towns and cities, back through the searchlight belt along the coast, pick up a beacon to give us some idea of where we are, and we are soon over England once again. Still keep a good look out as we are not out of the woods yet, and there are barrage balloons around, other planes flying around with no lights showing, and there could be some German intruders waiting to knock us down when we come in to land. However, we are looking good and soon the truck is taking us for debriefing by the Intelligence Officer, where we tell our little story and enjoy a welcome cup of coffee laced with rum and served up by one of our Air Force ladies, off to breakfast and into bed for some well-earned rest. That was the end of my second operational flight which was quite a short one taking five hours, but one of the more interesting ones, and I only had to do another twenty eight ops to complete a tour when I would have earned a break from operational flying. Casualties ran at about five percent on average, just work that out for yourself!”

20/10/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Bremen
Six* Wellington aircraft from this Unit were detailed to attack the above target. One of these aircraft, captained by Sgt Parnham, crash landed at Marham. Target area was bombed but results were not observed owing to low cloud. Activity was observed North and North West of target following river at Oldenburgh. Heavy and medium A.A. fire was met and a belt of searchlights was observed at Bremen and Oldenburgh. Three enemy aircraft were seen but no attack was made. Weather was poor, with low cloud and thick ground haze over the target.

Form 541 Lists the participating crews as follows:

S/L F.J. Lucas
Sgt. J.F.M. Parnham
Sgt. N.G.C. Ramsey
Sgt. G.S. Nunn
Sgt. R.H. Tye
P/O J.F. Fisher

Op 3

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9628 AA-A

*Sgt. Robert Walter Bray, RAFVR 113927 – Pilot.
Sgt. Eric Reginald Jones, RNZAF NZ404375 – 2nd Pilot..
P/O Derek Clare, RAFVR 103536/ 951765 – .
Sgt. Keith Douglas Sarginson, RNZAF NZ391978 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Partridge, RAF – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Monk, RAF – Rear Gunner.

Take Off – Landed
Flight Time Not Known

22/10/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets Mannheim
*Six Wellington aircraft from this Unit were detailed to carry out the above attacks. A mixed load was carried and consisted of 1000lbs, 500lbs, 250lbs and containers of incendiaries. Owing to the weather conditions operations were marred, but a fire was bombed in a town on the Rhine, probably Mannheim and bomb bursts seen. There was  slight A.A. activity and searchlights were ineffective where seen. Electrical storms, thunder cloud and snow storms were met throughout operations. Navigation was good. D.R. and special beam No.6 used. Icing (black) was experienced over Continent. Unable to see through windscreens owing to accumulated snow, from Belgian coast onwards. Severe weather conditions made accuracy impossible. One of these aircraft, X.9914, captained by Sgt. Taylor, failed to return to base.

Form 541 Lists the participating crews as follows:

S/L F.J. Lucas
Sgt. J.F.M. Parnham
Sgt. N.G.C. Ramsey
Sgt. G.S. Nunn
Sgt. R.H. Tye
P/O J.F. Fisher
Sgt. Taylor – listed as missing/ FTR, but not listed as crew on Op

log 2 mannheim

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9628 AA-A

*Sgt. Robert Walter Bray, RAFVR 113927 – Pilot.
Sgt. Eric Reginald Jones, RNZAF NZ404375 – 2nd Pilot..
P/O Derek Clare, RAFVR 103536/ 951765 – Observer.
Sgt. Keith Douglas Sarginson, RNZAF NZ391978 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Partridge, RAF – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Monk, RAF – Rear Gunner.

Take Off – Landed
Flight Time Not Known

01/11/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Kiel
Eleven Wellington Ic Aircraft from this Unit were detailed to attack the above targets. The whole Operation was marred by bad weather there being 10/10th. Cloud throughout the trip and no results were observed. Bomb load consisting of 1000lbs, 50lbs, 250lbs and incendiaries was dropped on un-identified town, and on area to the West of the target. Very heavy predicted A.A. fire was encountered over target area together with 75m.m. tracers. Searchlights were isolated and ineffective owing to cloud. One M.E. 110 enemy aircraft was seen but no attack was made. Navigation was good, Astro and D.R. loop being used. A convoy fifteen miles off the Wash fired at the aircraft until the colours were fired. There was a surprising lack of enemy fighters.

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9628 AA-A

Sgt. Robert Walter Bray, RAFVR 113927 – Pilot.
Sgt. Eric Reginald Jones, RNZAF NZ404375 – 2nd Pilot..
P/O Derek Clare, RAFVR 103536/ 951765 – Observer.
Sgt. Keith Douglas Sarginson, RNZAF NZ391978 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Partridge, RAF – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Monk, RAF – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 17:40 – Landed 23:55
Flight Time 06:15

07/11/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Berlin and Ostend
Fourteen Wellington Ic aircraft were detailed from this Unit to attack the above targets. Two of these aircraft, X.9951, captained by F/O Methven and X.9976, captained by Sgt. Black, failed to return to base. A mixed bomb load was carried consisting of 1000lbs, 500lbs, 250lbs and containers of incendiaries. Bombs were dropped in target area and some large fires were started, but results were not clearly observed owing to heavy cloud over target area. A considerable amount of heavy flak was met over target area but searchlights, where seen, were ineffective. No enemy aircraft were met throughout the trip. Weather was poor with 10/10th cloud over target area. Navigation was good, Astro and D/R loops being used. Wellington Z.1091, captained by P/O Sandys returned to base owing to engine trouble. Wellington Z.1068, captained by Sgt. Parham returned to base owing to Navigator being sick.

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9628 AA-A

Sgt. Robert Walter Bray, RAFVR 113927 – Pilot.
Sgt. Eric Reginald Jones, RNZAF NZ404375 – 2nd Pilot..
P/O Derek Clare, RAFVR 103536/ 951765 – Observer.
Sgt. Keith Douglas Sarginson, RNZAF NZ391978 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Partridge, RAF – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Monk, RAF – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 17:30 – Landed 04:15
Flight Time 10:45

Between the 11th and 16th Eric undertook 8 flights at No. 5 B.A.T. at Honnington.

“November 1941, I had completed six freshman trips with Bob and it was time to take over my own crew and my own Wimpy, so I finished up with one Canadian and four Englishmen, most of whom stayed with me until January 1942. Lousy weather in the middle of winter, and we managed another three operations, before I was sent on a Blind Approach training course, which I found most interesting. Just two of us in a Wimpy, an instructor and pupil, which was me, and the object was to find and fly on a radio beam, when the pupil was surrounded by a screen and couldn’t see a thing outside of the aeroplane. We found this beam many times in the week I was there, and before I was finished I could fly on the beam, and come in over the same fence post ready for a landing, every time a coconut, and then the instructor would whip the screen away, and we would open up and go around again for another practice run.

Fog, darkness and dirty weather didn’t worry me after doing that course, and I reckoned as long as I could find that beam I could put the aeroplane down in the right place no matter what the weather was like. There were other aids for lost airmen, such as friendly searchlights which would raise the beam to the vertical and then lower it until it pointed to the nearest RAF statiora used in really dirty weather. There was another system which used a flashing light which sent out a two letter code in morse, the code being changed daily, and all one had to do was read the letters, look up the position of the light as shown on a piece of paper, and bobs your uncle. These flashing beacons were situated near airfields and there were heaps of them around and they were a great help when a crew wasn’t too sure where they were or didn‘t have a clue just where they were.”

23/11/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Dunkirk
Seven Wellington Ic aircraft were detailed from this Unit to attack the above targets. A mixed bomb load was carried consisting of 500lbs, 250lbs and containers of incendiaries. Bombs were dropped on target area and flashes seen but full results were not seen. Heavy A.A. fire was met over target area and searchlights in large cones were active. No enemy aircraft were met. Weather was fair with 7/10th. Cloud over target area and freezing level was at 9,000ft. Navigation was good.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.3176 AA-E

Sgt. Eric Reginald Jones, RNZAF NZ404375 – Pilot.
Sgt. Higgins, RAF – 2nd Pilot..
Sgt. Hanstock, RAF – Observer.
Sgt. McKinley, RAF – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Oulton, RAF – Front Gunner.
Sgt. James William Hinton, RAF 1150584 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 17:25 – Landed 20:25
Flight Time 03:00

26/11/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Emden and Ostend
Seventeen Wellington Ic aircraft were detailed from this Unit to attack the above targets. A mixed bomb load was carried consisting of 4000,lbs, 1000lbs, 500lbs. 250lbs and containers of incendiaries. Very bad weather prevented the target being identified and results were not observed. A few bombs were however dropped in target area and one flash was seen. The remainder were brought back to base. Heavy and light predicted A.A. fire was met over target area and cones of searchlights were active. One single engine aircraft and one Junkers 88 enemy aircraft were seen but were successfully evaded. Weather was extremely bad and marred the whole operation. 10/10th cloud was met throughout the journey to and from the target. Navigation was D.R. and Q.D. M.s. One of these aircraft, Z.1114, captained by Sgt. Evans, returned to base with engine trouble.

Wellington Mk.Ic Z.1108 AA-X

Sgt. Eric Reginald Jones, RNZAF NZ404375 – Pilot.
Sgt. Higgins, RAF – 2nd Pilot..
Sgt. Joseph Guy Quinn, RAFVR 1256373 – Observer.
Sgt. Duxton, RAF – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. McKinley,   – Front Gunner.
Sgt. James William Hinton, RAF 1150584 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 19:20 – Landed 21:50
Flight Time 02:30

“Getting around to December I941, and the big news is the arrival of our first child, Valerie, and the news that all is OK at home in New Zealand. Ouma and I must have kept the Postal Service fairly busy with a two way traffic, and the cameras in NZ worked overtime, as I soon had a good collection of photos of Ouma and the new arrival.

December 1941 was quite a newsy month as on the seventh the Japanese made a surprise attack on Pearl Harbour which was an American Naval Base in Hawaii, and almost finished off the Pacific section of the American Navy, which included about four battleships. Things really started to hum when the Japs started running rampant in the Pacific with their attacks on Singapore, Malaya, Burma and any other place they could knock off easily, and the Allied forces, which at that time was the British Empire almost on its own, started sending some reinforcements to the Far East”

02/01/1942 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Brest
Five Wellington IC aircraft from this unit were detailed to carry out the above attacks. Bomb load consisting of 500 lbs and containers of incendiaries was dropped in the target area but results were not observed owing to 10/10th cloud. A.A. fire was only slight, only a few searchlights were active and no enemy aircraft were seen. The weather was poor and there
was 10/10 cloud throughout the operation. Navigation was entirely by D.R. Wellington aircraft R1457 returned to base with it’s bomb load.

Wellington Mk.Ic Z.1083 AA-K
Sgt. Eric Reginald Jones, RNZAF NZ404375  – Pilot.
Sgt. Young, RAF – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Joseph Guy Quinn, RAFVR 1256373 – Observer.
Sgt. Allan, RAF – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Oulton, RAF – Front Gunner.
Sgt. James William Hinton, RAFVR 1150584 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 16:10 – Landed 21:50
Flight Time 05:40

“The RAF called for volunteers and I reckoned the Far East was a lot closer to NZ than Britain was, and my name went in. Another factor was that I was getting rather lonely in 75 as the twelve New Zealand pilots who accompanied me’ to that station had been reduced to two in five months, and the other fellow was in hospital, having been shot up by a night fighter.

I reckon it was a good time to find a new stamping ground.”

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