J.N. Collins crew 15.3.40

15/03/1940 – Two Aircraft carried out Operational exercise. Special Sweep, as detailed in No.3 Gropu Operation Order No.7, dated 14.3.40.
Both aircraft were airborne at FELTWELL at 10.30 hours and set course at 10.34 hours in formation with P.9207 leading. The coast was crossed at 10.50 hours and course set fr the target area.

Fix requested from HULL by aircraft P,9212 at 11.35 hours , but not available until 12.50 hrs, when half-way down on correct line, but South of actual position, formation proceeded to position but, target not located. Sweep carried out this area and returned to Base direct. Little activity noticed other than numerous friendly aircraft and a few ships. Coast was cut at HOLME-NEXT-THE-SEA at 14.20 hours, sighting FELTWELL at 14.35 hours and landing at 14.40.
Had fix been received when requested, instead of 1hr. 15 mins later, the error in co-ordinates would have been discovered and the destroyer probably located.

Wellington Mk.1A P.9207 AA-?

F/O John Noel Collins, RNZAF NZ2513 – Pilot.
P/O Donald Joseph Harkness, RAF 41694 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. G. Thorpe, RAFVR 523426 – Observer.
AC Francis William Green, RAFVR 581283 – Wireless Operator.
AC John Stanley Brooks, RAFVR 622115 – Front Gunner.
AC Gibb, RAFVR – Rear Gunner .

Take Off 10:30 – Landed 14:40
Flight Time 04:10

27/03/1940 – Reconnaissance and Nickle Operation. Brunswick – ULZEN – LUNEBURG) Raid No.s. PCB136, PCB137, PCB138, respectively.
The three Wellington aircraft took off independently and proceeded to a point at 54° 06′ N – 06° 00′ E, from which point a course was set for DORUM on the German coast. Nickels were dropped over the areas named above from heights of 7,000 to 10,000 feet, and from 14,000 feet over HOOGE. Navigation was by DR and Astro, very few D/F fixes were obtained and were considered unreliable.

PCB.136 (S/Ldr. Kay) had considerable success with Astro navigation and this proved fortunate, for later, while entering heavy cumulus clouds the W/T transmitter burned out and was useless for the remainder of the flight. Latitude checks on the Pole Star particularly, were extremely useful and reasonably accurate, although conditions were made extremely awkward for ‘Astro’ by the exceptionally bumpy weather prevailing. The freezing up of the Astro-dome was also severe, the temperature being -28°. The weather generally 7/10 to 10/10 from 3,000 – 10,000 ft, but over the target areas hazy with slight rain. Visibility generally very good. The strength of the wind was considerably in excess of the Met: forecast, especially over the sea on the return trip. The only A.A. fire encountered was over HAMBURG and the German FREISAN ISLANDS. Bursts were noticed near HAMBURG at about 8,000 feet.

Searchlights were active near HAMBURG and the ISLANDS OF NORDEONEY, WANTROOG AND SYLT. No trouble was experienced in avoiding them. As soon as engines were put out of synchronisation the lights fell away. Only one aircraft seen at AMRUM with navigation lights on, these were switched off immediately, and the aircraft disappeared. No Balloons observed.

General Reconnaissance.
It was possible to locate only a few positions and these only when lighted by the moon. HAMBURG especially the dock areas and canals leading to them was clearly visible. Such positions as the junction of the South and JADE CANALS were recognised. Considerable flooding was noticed in the lower areas. Blast furnaces were clearly visible near HAMBURG.

GROUP INSTRUCTIONS NO.25 PARA 13
(a) BRUNSWICK, LUNEBURG, and ULZEN
(b) Areas around the above towns
(c) Cloudy 10/10th. with haze underneath.
(d) Moon three quarters full and bright when not covered by cloud.
(e) Targets covered by low cloud.
(f) two targets only, located with difficulty.
(g) does not apply.
(h) (LUNEBURG) by layout and railways.
(Brunswick) by following river from HAMBURG and thence by compass course to objective.
(j) Does not apply
(K) Targets not seen clearly, but, precision bombing could have been carried out on Docks and shipping at HAMBURG, canals and waterways, and also the German Islands in the Heligoland Bight.

Wellington Mk.1A P.9207 AA-?
Raid No. PCB.137

F/O John Noel Collins, RNZAF NZ2513 – Pilot.
P/O Donald Joseph Harkness, RAF 41694 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. G. Thorpe, RAFVR 523426 – Observer.
AC Francis William Green, RAFVR 581283 – Wireless Operator.
AC John Stanley Brooks, RAFVR 622115 – Front Gunner.
AC Gibb, RAFVR – Rear Gunner .

Take Off 22:40 – Landed 08:15
Flight Time 09:35

12/04/1940 – Search for enemy warships off the coast of Norway
As Captain of aircraft P.9207 I took off in a formation consisting of 8 aircraft from No.37 Squadron and 4 from No. 75(NZ) Squadron, at 09.16 hours to search for enemy surface craft in position 58° 00′ N, 06° 00′ E. The formation flew about 7/10 cloud at 8,500 feet until 11.30 hours when due to bad weather it came down to sea level but with the weather deteriorating badly the formation split up and proceeded independently. A search was carried out on various courses and at 12.45 hours course was set for Base, and the Coast was crossed at NEW HUNSTON at 14.30 hours. Base being reached 20 minutes later

Wellington Mk.1A P.9207 AA-?

F/O John Noel Collins, RNZAF NZ2513 – Pilot.
F/O Frederick John ‘Popeye’ Lucas, RNZAF NZ1056 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. G. Thorpe, RAFVR 523426 – Navigator.
AC Francis William Green, RAFVR 581283 – Wireless Operator.
AC John Stanley Brooks, RAFVR 622115 – Front Gunner.
AC Gibb, RAFVR – Rear Gunner .

Take Off 09:15 – Landed 14:50
Flight Time 05:35

17/04/1940 – Bombing raid on STAVANGER, Norway
The target STAVANGER AERODROME was located at 21.10 hours on the 17/4/40, and was clearly visible from 5,000 feet. On arriving at the target, a flare dropped by the previous machine was seen. This aided the task of finding the aerodrome. At 21.15 hours the Aerodrome was bombed from 5,000 ft. and presumed hit, as the target ran well along the drift wires of the C.S.B.S. The bomb bursts were not noticed as we were held by a searchlight at the time of running over the aerodrome. The bombs were dropped in a stick along the NW SE Runway. Intense and accurate Flak was encountered as well as intermittent heavy fire, which lasted all the time the aircraft was in range. No hits on aircraft. Weather over the target was good and visibility 20-30 miles.

The lake South of STAVANGER AERODROME was a particularly good landmark. Navigation was D/R assisted by M/F fixes. Although the night was perfect for Astro no sextant available. Landfall on Norwegian was made at OGNE, and course altered for target. No enemy aircraft was observed. Black-Out was exceptionally good and STAVANGER TOWN was not seen. Course was set for Base at 21.30 hours and aircraft sighted Aerodrome at 00.55 hours, landing at 01.00 hours on 18/4/40.

Distance covered: – 1,038 miles
Time in Air :- 6 hours 50 minutes
Petrol Consumption: – 490 gallons. M.P.G. 2.12
Oil               ”     : – 5 galls. Stbd. 5 1/2 gallons Port.
”                  ”     ; – 12 pints an hour

Wellington Mk.1A P.9207 AA-?
Raid No. PCB.162

F/O John Noel Collins, RNZAF NZ2513 – Pilot.
F/O Frederick John ‘Popeye’ Lucas, RNZAF NZ1056 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. G. Thorpe, RAFVR 523426 – Navigator.
AC Francis William Green, RAFVR 581283 – Wireless Operator.
AC John Stanley Brooks, RAFVR 622115 – Front Gunner.
AC Edwards, RAFVR – Rear Gunner .

Take Off 18:10 – Landed 01:00
Flight Time 06:50

07/05/1940 – Bombing raid on Stavanger Aerodrome
Three aircraft took off with the intention of bombing STAVANGER aerodrome at 19.05 hours and set course at 19.14 hours. Coast was crossed at 19.30 hrs. and due to cloud the North Sea was crossed at approx. 3500ft. At 20.26 hrs on the outward journey a submarine was sighted at position BFWY5530, but owing to orders was allowed to proceed unmolested. Low cloud was encountered about 100 miles off the Norwegian coast appeared to be 10/10, height of top estimate at 500ft, extended over a wide area. The target area was completely covered in cloud but after continuing on a course of 30°(M) for some time tops of mountains were seen to the starboard. A wide sweep was made bringing the formation around onto a Westerly course.

Searchlights swept the sky at D.R. position of STAVANGER on a course of 222°(M). Course was set for Base at 22.35 hrs and due to bad visibility, formation split up 200 miles out from English coast on return. Navigation was by D.R. assisted by MF fixes. Bombs were jettisoned “live” at approx.: 150 miles out on the return journey. ALL aircraft had landed at Base at 0200 hrs.

Wellington Mk.1c R.3157 AA-H

F/O John Noel Collins, RNZAF NZ2513 – Pilot.
P/O Francis Albert Gabriel Joseph De Labouchere-Sparling, RAF 41990 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. G. Thorpe, RAFVR 523426 – Navigator.
AC Francis William Green, RAFVR 581283 – Wireless Operator.
AC John Stanley Brooks, RAFVR 622115 – Front Gunner.
P/O Leonard Phillip Redcliff Hockey, RAF 76011 – Rear Gunner .

Take Off 19:05 – Landed 02:05
Flight Time 07:00

10/05/1940 – Bombing attack on Waalhaven Aerodrome
Three Wellington Aircraft carried out individual attacks on the WAALHAVEN (ROTTERDAM) Aerodrome, in accordance with instructions contained in Form :B” 132 of 10th May 1940.
Each aircraft carried the following bomb load 12 – 250 lbs. G.P. fused N.D.T. only. TCB.189 reported that target was located with difficulty, assisted by flare dropped by a preceding aircraft. A stick of 6 bombs dropped from 2000ft observed to hit at 20 yards intervals among the aerodrome buildings. Remainder of bombs dropped 200 yards S.W. of buildings from same height.

TCB.190 reported that two runs with sticks of 6 bombs each dropped. First stick and two bombs of second stick seen to strike the buildings, while remaining four fell on aerodrome. All turrets used their guns on buildings.

TCB.191 reported that after a dummy run over ‘Drome, 12 bombs also dropped in two sticks. Hits observed on aerodrome surface from centre to perimeter, 5 bombs falling just on Northern edge. Surface appeared well pitted with bomb craters, some of which were still smouldering. Large fires reported by all crews, mostly in South east part of ROTTERDAM.

Very little A.A. Fire encountered, and searchlights feeble, not in usual groups. No enemy aircraft seen, weather good and clear, but dark owing to the absence of moon.
All aircraft were safely landed at Base by 02.50 hours on 11th May 1940.

Wellington Mk.1c R.3157 AA-H

F/O John Noel Collins, RNZAF NZ2513 – Pilot.
P/O Francis Albert Gabriel Joseph De Labouchere-Sparling, RAF 41990 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. G. Thorpe, RAFVR 523426 – Navigator.
AC Francis William Green, RAFVR 581283 – Wireless Operator.
P/O Leonard Phillip Redcliff Hockey, RAF 76011 – Rear Gunner .

Take Off 23:00 – Landed 02:45
Flight Time 03:45

15/05/1940 – Bombing Attack on Target A.79 (Holten Sterkrade) and Target A.H.18 (Bridges at Turnhout)
Three aircraft attempted to attack target A.79 and three A.H.18, all attacks being made independently.

Aircraft on target A.79 carried 12 – 250lbs. G.P. fused 50% N.D.T. and 50% 6,8 and 12 hour delay.

Aircraft on target A.H.18 carried 12 – 250lbs G.P. 50% N.D.T and 50% 3,6,8 and 12 hours delay.
Only TCB.210 able to find target owing to exceptionally poor visibility. Stick of 12 bombs dropped by TCB.210 on by TCB.210 on bridge over canal at TURNHOUT, height 4,000 feet, bursts observed from canal at about 100 yards to North.

Four aircraft returned with bombs, but the fifth jettisoned load in Sea.
Many fires observed in all areas. A.A. fire slight in target area, but heavy over HOLLAND. Searchlights numerous in target area and generally all over enemy territory. No enemy aircraft seen. Weather very hazy over all areas with 9/10’s Cumulo-Nimbus from Easter HOLLAND to RUHR area.

Thunder and lightening interfered with W/T.
Navigation by D.R. and W/T bearings. All aircraft returned safely, but operations a failure owing to weather conditions.

Wellington Mk.1c R.3157 AA-H

F/O John Noel Collins, RNZAF NZ2513 – Pilot.
P/O Francis Albert Gabriel Joseph De Labouchere-Sparling, RAF 41990 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. G. Thorpe, RAFVR 523426 – Navigator.
AC Francis William Green, RAFVR 581283 – Wireless Operator.
P/O Leonard Phillip Redcliff Hockey, RAF 76011 – Rear Gunner .

Take Off 21:40 – Landed 02:15
Flight Time 04:35

17/05/1940 – Bombing Attacks on Targets, A.64, A.75, A.79, M.435, M.464, M.458, AC.6 and AC.7
Attacks were made independently each aircraft 12 – 250lbs. bombs the fusing for each aircraft’s bomb load being 3 N.D.T., 6 D.A. and 31/2hr delay.
Target AC.6 bombed with 2 sticks of 3 bombs and direct hits seen to strike centre of base of bridge. On target AC.7 stick of 6 dropped across road and rail bridges on river MAAS. TCB.214 reported that target A.75 successfully attacked and also convoy at VALHENSWAARD, 6 direct hits being observed. TCB.215 bombed Blast Furnaces of target in RUHR, but results not known, due to intense searchlight activity, afterwards attacked a mechanized unit from 1,500 feet and direct hits observed. Both TCB.216 and 217 failed to locate targets and returned to Base with bomb load. Bombs dropped on target A.64 by TCB.218 only after difficulty due to low cloud.
Black-out over whole area good, but all targets hard to locate due to slight ground haze.
Illuminated drome 8 miles West of WESEL, thought to be a dummy. A.A. fire active and light flak intense and accurate, All aircraft held in searchlights beams in all areas, harder to escape than usual, no enemy aircraft observed.

Aircraft landed at other dromes due to fog at Base.
Navigation by D/R and Map Reading on outward flights and by D/R and D/F fixes and homing bearings on return.

Wellington Mk.1c R.3157 AA-H

F/O John Noel Collins, RNZAF NZ2513 – Pilot.
P/O Francis Albert Gabriel Joseph De Labouchere-Sparling, RAF 41990 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. G. Thorpe, RAFVR 523426 – Navigator.
AC Francis William Green, RAFVR 581283 – Wireless Operator.
P/O Leonard Phillip Redcliff Hockey, RAF 76011 – Rear Gunner .

Take Off 22:30 – Landed 03:45
Flight Time 05:15

19/05/1940 – Bombing Operations over Enemy Territory
All aircraft carried out individual attacks and carried 6. 250 lbs. G.P. and 6 containers of 4lbs. incendiary bombs each.

On run up to target KCB.235 received heavy burst of machine-gun fire, result that 2nd Pilot struck by bullet in right shoulder and main bonded cable for bomb release equipment shot away. KCB.238? attacked road targets at HAYBES, starting many fires. Afterwards convoy of 10 trucks attacked in nearby road, hits observed. One incendiary container and one 250lbs. bomb failed to release. Targets FUMAY and TUBIZE successfully attacked by KCB.237, hits being observed on both. Rail junction 3 miles South of MEZIERES bombed with three 250lbs. bombs two direct hits observed, a further three bombs dropped on railway north of DEVILLE bursting at side of the line. Incendiary bombs then dropped on wood one mile East of MONTHERNE and fires started.

KCB.239 attacked large mechanised column at FUMAY with 3 250lbs. bombs and rear gunner sprayed with machine-gun fire, hits observed. Target “B” at FUMAY attacked with 6 containers of incendiaries, and road and rail bridge at NIVELLES bombed. KCB.240 bombed woods 5 miles West of VOUZIERS and convoy of transport waggons, many seen to catch fire. KCB.241 reports dropping incendiaries in woods ½ mile South of HAYBES and attacked bridge, hits observed on road alongside.

Many fires seen, visibility excellent. A.A. fire extremely heavy and accurate in target area and fur machines sustained hits, one having a 3” shell pass right through the PORT aileron, without exploding and searchlights active and accurate.

A few enemy aircraft seen on flight. Navigation by D.R. and Map Reading on way out and D.R. and homing bearings on return journey.

Wellington Mk.1c R.3157 AA-H
Target: Haybes

F/O John Noel Collins, RNZAF NZ2513 – Pilot.
P/O Francis Albert Gabriel Joseph De Labouchere-Sparling, RAF 41990 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. G. Thorpe, RAFVR 523426 – Navigator.
AC Francis William Green, RAFVR 581283 – Wireless Operator.
P/O Leonard Phillip Redcliff Hockey, RAF 76011 – Rear Gunner .

Take Off 21:15 – Landed 01:50
Flight Time 04:35

21/05/1940 – Bombing Operations over Enemy Territory (Aachen and Dinant)
Eight aircraft detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks on above targets, six on target AACHEN and two on target DINANT.
All aircraft carried 12 – 250lbs. G.P. fused N.D.T. bombs each.

KCB.248 dropped 12 bombs on Marshalling yards and scored direct hits, and also KCB.249.

KCB. 252 failed to locate target and returned to base with bomb load.

KCB.253, KCB.256, KCB257 successfully attacked target, but unable to observe results due to intense searchlight activity. KCB.256 proceeded and attacked Power Station on S.E. of MAASTRICHT dropping three sticks of two bombs each. Two hits seen on railway siding beside station.

KCB.267 attacked road and rail bridge at DINANT, all strikes very near.

KCB.266 also on target failed to return.

Wellington Mk.1c R.3157 AA-H

F/O John Noel Collins, RNZAF NZ2513 – Pilot.
P/O Francis Albert Gabriel Joseph De Labouchere-Sparling, RAF 41990 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. G. Thorpe, RAFVR 523426 – Navigator.
AC John Stanley Brooks, RAFVR 622115 – Wireless Operator.
P/O Leonard Phillip Redcliff Hockey, RAF 76011 – Rear Gunner .

Take Off 21:20 – Landed MISSING
Flight Time – Missing

While attacking the road/rail bridge at Dinant from a height of approximately 3,000ft, Wellington Mk.1c R.3157 AA-H received a direct hit by an AA shell in the starboard engine. The aircraft crashed in flames near the township of Kain (Hainaut), 2-3 miles North North West of Tournai, Belgium. Both pilots were killed in the crash but the other crew-members baled out safely, thanks to courageous efforts by John Collins in controlling the burning aircraft long enough to enable them to escape at low level. They survived and were captured. This was 75 Squadron’s first operational loss of the war, and the death of F/O. Collins (one of the original members of the New Zealand Flight) was the RNZAF’s first fatal casualty of the war.

F/L John Noel Collins, RNZAF NZ2513 – Pilot.
Lost without trace age 23.
Commemorated Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England..
Grave location – Panel 27.

P/O Francis Albert Gabrial Fernand Joseph De Labouchere-Sparling, RAF 41990 – 2nd Pilot.
Killed age 20.
Son of Francis De Labouchere-Sparling and of Alice De Labouchere-Sparling (Nee Pollet).
Buried Kain Communal Cemetery, Belgium..
Grave location – Grave 1.
‘For the people I love
I would gladly give my life’

Sgt. G. Thorpe, RAFVR 523426 – Observer.
P.o.W
Prisoner of War Number: 5399
Prison Camps: Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft III
Date of return to United Kingdom: not known

AC John Stanley Brooks, RAFVR 50392 – Wireless Operator.
P.o.W
Prisoner of War Number: 50392
Prison Camps: Dulag Luft, Stalag 357. Promoted to W/O whilst interred
Date of return to United Kingdom: not known

P/O Leonard Phillip Redcliff Hockey, RAF 76011 – Rear Gunner.
P.o.W
Prisoner of War Number: 410
Prison Camps: Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft III. Promoted to F/L whilst interred
Date of return to United Kingdom: not known