L.I.A. Millet crew 06.08.41 † & P.o.W.

IanMillett

Ian Millett – Reproduced from Into The Drink; By A Member Of The Goldfish Club Ian A Millett; The Memoirs Of A Royal Air Force Bomber Pilot 1940-1945, Copyright Ursula Millett.

Leopold Ian Adrian Millett was an Englishman who migrated to America after the war. I was loaned a copy of his memoirs,  ‘Into The Drink‘, by another 75’er, Doug Williamson.  Doug and Ian met in Canada after the war, and found out that they had both served with the same Squadron, albeit at different ends of the war.

Ian had trained as a Pilot, and met up with his crew at 11 OTU Bassingbourne:

11_OTU_Bassingbourn_May_1941

11 OTU Bassingbourne, Course No. 30, May 1941.

However, on arrival at 75 (NZ) Sqdn, ‘A’ Flight in June 1941, the crew was split up:

From Ian’s book “Into The Drink“:
“Eventually we completed our training, and our crew was sent to 75 New Zealand Squadron. Now don’t ask me why, except that before the war the New Zealanders bought a whole lot of Wellingtons, and they were going to form a squadron and take it back to New Zealand. The only trouble was there weren’t enough New Zealanders to fill the squadron out, so we got posted there. We, as a crew, reported to Squadron Leader “Popeye” Lucas – a great guy, and much loved by his men. He explained that he was going to break up the crew, I would fly as 2nd pilot to Pip Coney, a New Zealander, and Pip’s 2nd pilot Frankie Fox would take over the rest of the crew, and this way we would all be flying with experienced men”.

It was standard practice at 75 (NZ) Sqdn, at this stage of the war, for Pilots to fly as 2nd Pilots for up to 10 op’s before captaining their own crew.

Millett also flew 2nd Pilot with Fox, and there seems to have been some mixing of the two crews.

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

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1648 AA-K

Sgt. Phillip Ronald ‘Pip’ Coney, RNZAF NZ391825 – Pilot.
Sgt. Leopold Ian Adrian Millett, RAFVR 1164817 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Derek Clare, RAFVR 103536/ 951765 – Observer.
Sgt. Cliff Simpson, RAFVR 943822 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Wilson Bottomley, RAFVR 943398 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Kenneth ‘Tommy’ Oddie, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 00:20 – Landed 06:05
Flight Time 05:45

“My first operation was on June 10th, 1941. This was the time when the Bismarck accompanied by the Prinz Eugen and the Gneisenau, broke out of their base at Bremen, and started sinking any shipping they could find in the North Atlantic. Eventually they were located, after an intensive search (which included Bomber Command and my squadron) by a Coastal Command PBY aircraft. It shadowed them for some eighteen hours, which gave the British Navy time to intercept the ships. Fortunately for the Navy a “stringbag” – a torpedo carrying aircraft – got a torpedo hit on the steering gear of the Bismarck. As a result it could only steam in circles. The Navy moved in and proceeded to sink the Bismarck. There was no surrender. The other two ships made a run for Brest, and spent the rest of the war there. However they remained a threat to Atlantic shipping, so every once in a while, we visited them and left a few calling cards!

This operation was down to Brest, on the coast of Brittany, to bomb the German ships moored there. It was a clear night, however the Germans had blanked out the harbour using smoke generators on barges. The wind carried the smoke over both the docks and the town. Danny Clare the navigator and bomb aimer, had to guess the position of the ships and we bombed through the smoke.

The return trip brought us back over Lulworth Cove as dawn was breaking, and it was fascinating to see the land formation – a perfect example of a volcanic caldera, part of which had been eroded by the ocean. Our flight path also took us over Bournemouth and I was able to pick out my mother’s house quite easily.” 

R1648AA-K-taxying

Ian’s regular aircraft, and eventually his “own”, Wellington 1C R1648 AA-K Photo from Cliff Simpson, via www.feltwell.net.

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

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1648 AA-K

Sgt. Phillip Ronald ‘Pip’ Coney, RNZAF NZ391825 – Pilot.
Sgt. Leopold Ian Adrian Millett, RAFVR 1164817 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Derek Clare, RAFVR 103536/ 951765 – Observer.
Sgt. Cliff Simpson, RAFVR 943822 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Wilson Bottomley, RAFVR 943398 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Kenneth ‘Tommy’ Oddie, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:40 – Landed 04:45
Flight Time 05:05

16/06/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Dusseldorf
Fifteen Wellington aircraft were detailed to carry out the above attacks. All bombs were dropped and bursts and fires were observed in target areas. Fairly accurate heavy and light A.A. fire was encountered, and searchlights, working in cones, were very active. FKU.846 reports being attacked by JU.88 on return journey. Cannon shells entered fuselage near elevator and machine gun bullets hit rear turret. There were no casualties. The weather was fine. Navigation was by D/R, W/T, map reading, astro, loop, lorenz

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1648 AA-K

Sgt. Phillip Ronald ‘Pip’ Coney, RNZAF NZ391825 – Pilot.
Sgt. Leopold Ian Adrian Millett, RAFVR 1164817 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Derek Clare, RAFVR 103536/ 951765 – Observer.
Sgt. Cliff Simpson, RAFVR 943822 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Wilson Bottomley, RAFVR 943398 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Robert William Toller, RAFVR 1054292 – Rear Gunner. *

Take Off 23:35 – Landed 04:15
Flight Time 04:40

*
For this op’ only, Rear Gunner Oddie was replaced by Sgt Robert William TOLLER, RAF. (1054292). Three months later (15th September) Toller was W/Op in the crew Captained by James Allen “Jimmy” Ward V.C. that was shot down over Hamburg – 4 of the 6 crew were lost, including Toller and Ward.

Between op’s, Ian tells some intriguing stories about life on Base.
“The New Zealanders stationed at Feltwell had a little mascot, he was a monkey and had a neat little uniform that the girls in the canvas shop made him. He used to sit on the radiator in the Sergeants’ ante room to the mess – a room where the armchairs and tables were, not the dining part of the mess.

And we had this one Warrant Officer, one of the ones who had been in the Air Force all his life. Well, he didn’t like this monkey, and he came storming in and opened the window, threw the monkey out and closed the window which was rather unfortunate for him, because two very large New Zealanders seized him by arms and legs, and they threw him right through the window, which was by then closed.
 
Well when he got out of hospital, he was posted on to the machine gun and bombing range, which was our practice range, where we used to nip in and test our guns before an operation. And man, every one, on any excuse, used to go over to Laken Heath firing range, and I’ve seen them put smoke bombs right through the hut where he had to sit. He came back, one time, and he was a shaken man, absolutely trembling. They never quite got him, but man they did their best.”

18/06/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Brest
Seventeen Wellington aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out the above attacks. One aircraft, MFW.819 was unable to locate the target on account of low cloud and smoke screen and bombs were bought back. Bombs were dropped by the remaining aircraft, but owing to smoke screen, bursts were not observed. Moderate light and heavy A.A. fire was encountered, and searchlights were active. The weather was fine but there was slight haze over target area. Navigation was by D/R, W/T, map reading, astro.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1648 AA-K

Sgt. Phillip Ronald ‘Pip’ Coney, RNZAF NZ391825 – Pilot.
Sgt. Leopold Ian Adrian Millett, RAFVR 1164817 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Derek Clare, RAFVR 103536/ 951765 – Observer.
Sgt. Cliff Simpson, RAFVR 943822 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Wilson Bottomley, RAFVR 943398 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Kenneth ‘Tommy’ Oddie, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:45 – Landed 04:20
Flight Time 05:35

21/06/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Cologne and Dunkirk
Fifteen Wellington aircraft of this Unit carried out the above attacks. Bombs were dropped in target areas and a number of large fires were started. Moderate heavy and light A.A. fire was experienced, ut searchlights were moderate. A few enemy aircraft were seen but no attacks were made. Weather was fine but there was ground haze and cloud in Cologne area. Navigation was by D/R, W/T, astro, map reading.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1648 AA-K

Sgt. Phillip Ronald ‘Pip’ Coney, RNZAF NZ391825 – Pilot.
Sgt. Leopold Ian Adrian Millett, RAFVR 1164817 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Derek Clare, RAFVR 103536/ 951765 – Observer.
Sgt. Cliff Simpson, RAFVR 943822 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Wilson Bottomley, RAFVR 943398 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Kenneth ‘Tommy’ Oddie, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off – – Landed –
Flight Time –

“We could volunteer to carry cameras on bombing raids. Normally if you were doing photography from the air, you were doing line overlaps with a camera mounted in the aircraft. We had these beautiful Fairchild hand held cameras, with about 8.5in lenses in them. You were supposed to take so many photographs a month. So what we used to do, was go down to low level, open the astrodome and at low speed with flaps down at about 85 mph, which is pretty bloody slow, take pictures of pubs from sometimes 50 feet and sometimes 100 feet. Then the photographic department would develop them and then we’d go round to the pubs and sell them the photographs.

 
I often wonder how many of these are still around. Of course, they always gave you a beer on the house and all that good stuff. Some of the guys were very good at taking these photographs and also very handy with the barmaids.”

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

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1648 AA-K

Sgt. Phillip Ronald ‘Pip’ Coney, RNZAF NZ391825 – Pilot.
Sgt. Leopold Ian Adrian Millett, RAFVR 1164817 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Derek Clare, RAFVR 103536/ 951765 – Observer.
Sgt. Cliff Simpson, RAFVR 943822 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Wilson Bottomley, RAFVR 943398 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Kenneth ‘Tommy’ Oddie, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:15 – Landed 04:25
Flight Time 06:10

“Altogether I flew fourteen operations, and the most memorable of these was a raid on Kiel, where we got ”coned” by searchlights. Our usual practice when dealing with the German searchlight and anti-aircraft batteries as we crossed the coastline, was to drop empty beer bottles over them.

The bottles screamed like bombs, and the men on the searchlights would dive for cover, and we could make it through, without losing any altitude. Sometimes of course, this did not work, and we had to let a live bomb go.

On this particular night out target was the U-boat pens at Kiel. We were carrying 2000 lb armour piercing bombs, hoping they would penetrate the very thick concrete surrounding and covering the pens. We came in from the North, over Denmark but in spite of this they “coned” us, meaning that a great white searchlight was focussed on each aeroplane, one at a time, and all the other searchlights and anti-aircraft guns were able to range in on us. Our Wellington was the first to be picked out and everything in the town opened up on us. The only thing that saved us was the fact that we had our bombs on board, and they acted as armour plate in the floor. The bomb doors were shredded, so we jettisoned our load and high tailed it for home. I shall always remember flying down the Kiel canal amongst the barrage balloons, hoping we were just high enough to miss them, and knowing they wouldn’t fire at us in case they hit their own balloons. Whilst we were scooting along the canal, our rear gunner, Ken Oddie, yelled “I’ve just shot down one of those balloons, and it’s burning nicely!” “

Note: The practice of dropping empty beer bottles from the bombers is also mentioned by Jack Moller, Bomb Aimer with the Kearns crew, 1942.

27/06/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Bremen
Sixteen Wellington aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks against the above target. The bomb load consisted of 1000 lbs; 500 lbs; 250 lbs; and containers of incendiaries.
TYF.138 bombed fire in target area, but failed to observe results owing to cloud.
TYF.200 reports that fires started.
TYF.226 was unable to pinpoint target owing to cloud, but bombs were dropped east of river just south of target.
TYF.393 observed bursts in target area.
TYF.447 dropped bombs on west side of river in town through gap in clouds. Bursts not observed but fire was seen in town area.
TYF.501 bombed target and observed bursts. No fires started.
TYF.571 bombed target and observed three fires started.
TYF.602 reports target obscured by cloud, but bombed flak concentrations.
TYF.617 bombed fire and enlarged it.
TYF.716 saw bombs burst in Southern part of the town.
TYF.741 reports incendiaries started fire about one mile S.E. of aiming point.
S/L. Lucas saw bombs burst across centre of city.
Results were not observed by P/O Scott.
F/Lt. Fletcher bombed factory in Bremen area, believed to be Focke Wolfe factory. Large fires seen after bombing.
F/Lt. Gill dropped bombs on town.
P/O Hamlin saw bombs burst and reports that two small fires started.
Several large fires were seen in target area. A number of dummy fires were seen on outskirts of City.
There was fairly accurate and intense heavy and light A.A. fire.
Searchlights were active, but hampered by cloud.
A few enemy aircraft were seen over the target area, but no attacks made. There was fairly heavy cloud on parts of route end in target area.
Navigation was by D/R, loop, astro, map reading, W/T.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1177 AA-C

Sgt. Phillip Ronald ‘Pip’ Coney, RNZAF NZ391825 – Pilot.
Sgt. Leopold Ian Adrian Millett, RAFVR 1164817 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Derek Clare, RAFVR 103536/ 951765 – Observer.
Sgt. Cliff Simpson, RAFVR 943822 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Wilson Bottomley, RAFVR 943398 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Kenneth ‘Tommy’ Oddie, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:40 – Landed 04:05
Flight Time 04:25

30/06/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Cologne
Eleven Wellington aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out the above attacks. Owing to engine failure, RYX.129, jettisoned bombs in Aachen area and a large fire was seen. The remaining aircraft all dropped bombs in target area and bursts were seen. No results were observed owing to haze. Fairly accurate heavy and light A.A. fire encountered, and searchlights were active and working in cones. RYX.627 reports being attacked by HE.111 from 50yds astern, 50 miles west of Cologne. The attack put the rear turret and hydraulics out of action. Fine weather was experienced. Navigation was by D/R, W/T, map reading, Q.D.N, astro.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1177 AA-C

Sgt. Francis Charles Fox, RNZAF NZ40762 – Pilot.
Sgt. Leopold Ian Adrian Millett, RAFVR 1164817 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Derek Clare, RAFVR 103536, 951765 – Observer.
Sgt. Cliff Simpson, RAFVR 943822 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Wilson Bottomley, RAFVR 943398 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Kenneth ‘Tommy’ Oddie, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:10 – Landed 04:00
Flight Time 04:50

“Most of the night flights were on moonlit nights, because our navigation systems were so poor that we were literally going on what was called DR navigation, or Dead Reckoning, where you calculate where you are by using windspeed, ground speed and direction. We got a lot of help from the big German radio stations, we used Texal, and we could pull in the Swiss stations – they had one very powerful one – and of course, the dear old Vatican, the world’s most powerful station, I think it was 1500 watts that it put out and you could put a loop on it to get a bearing.

Moonlit nights over Germany were quite something. Cologne was a great place which we loved to bomb because all the targets were in a straight line, and if you missed the tank works you could get the bridge, if you missed the bridge you could get the cathedral. We missed the cathedral and got a big block of flats, and I swear to this day, that when we hit that block of flats one night, every light in that building was turned on, and I also swear that I saw a man blown through the roof in his bed! I was sober at the time too.”

The 7th of July Op to Munster whilst described in Ian’s book, does not list either Ian, Pip Coney or Frank Fox in the ORB as participating in this raid.

07/07/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Munster
Ten Wellington aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks against the above targets. One of these aircraft, CNF.994, captained by S/Ldr. Widdowson, was attacked by one Me.110 over the middle of the Zuider Zee and was badly damaged. The rear gunner attacked the enemy aircraft which fell away and dived into the sea with heavy smoke pouring from the port engine. On the journey back to base, fire broke out on the Wellington and the 2nd Pilot, SGT. Ward, climbed out on to the starboard wing and attempted to smother the fire, but with only partial success. The fire eventually burned itself out and a landing was made at Newmarket. For his courageous action SGT. Ward was awarded the Victoria Cross; while S/Ldr. Widdowson and Sgt. Box the rear gunner received immediate awards of the D.F.C. and D.F.M. respectively. (For fuller story see “SUMMARY OF OUTSTANDING EVENTS” at end of Forms 540).
CNF.240 reports bombs fell right on aiming point; 1000lbs. caused red glow which sprang into two fires, afterwards running into one.
CNF.260 reports bombs fell across target.
CNF.401 bomber center of target area. Several large fires within target area seen as well as numerous scattered small fire in other parts of town.

CNF.477 reports S.B.C.’s started good fire near target.
CNF.523 was unable to pinpoint Munster.
CNF.605 bombed target.
CNF.708 bombed target and added to fires already there.
CNF719 reports G.P. bombs seen to burst in target. Incendiaries fell close to bursts.
CNF.994 saw bombs burst on target.
F/Lt. Gill bombed target.
Many large fire were observed on aiming point. Dummy fire and explosion seen 10 miles N.E. of target.
There was very slight medium light A.A. fire.
Searchlight activity was very slight.
The weather was fine and clear.
Navigation was by D/R, pinpoints, beacons, astro, W/T. map reading.

This was the op’ that resulted in probably the Squadron’s most famous act of heroism, from efforts by the Widdowson crew flying Wellington L7818, AA-R to put out an engine fire and bring the a/c and crew safely home.

2nd Pilot, Sgt “Jimmy” Ward, RNZAF, earned the Victoria Cross; S/L Ben Widdowson, RAF, the Distinguished Flying Cross; Sgt Allen Box, RNZAF, the Distinguished Flying Medal, and Sgt R A Lawton, RNZAF, Navigator, was to receive the Air Force Cross.

“We had a New Zealander, a Sergeant Ward, who was awarded an instantaneous Victoria Cross. How he earned it was, that he was 2nd Pilot on a Wellington, and they were coming home and they were attacked by a night fighter and the right engine caught fire, because there was a 60 gallon tank of fuel in the Nacelle, and so the flames were pouring out. So this guy takes down the astrodome puts the fire extinguisher in his Sidcop flying suit, kicked holes in the Wellington till he got to the wing, proceeded to punch holes in the wing until he got out to the Nacelle in which the reserve fuel tank was sitting, and sprayed it with the fire extinguisher, put the fire out and climbed back in – and all this at about 10,000 feet.

A Wellington’s body and wings were covered with canvas, and this was why he could punch holes in it. We tried it out next day; we went out to our flights, took down the astrodome and tried to get out, and it was bloody near impossible as the force of the wind pushed you back in. Anyway, by mid-day the whole squadron had been assembled for the Victoria Cross award. The Duke of Kent came and they had a great big bean feast for him in the Officers’ Mess, and they did the most unusual thing, they invited all Sergeant air crews to join the officers in their mess. And I tell you, that was one of the wildest parties I ever went to in my life. We were all very happy about that, and very proud of Ward.”

JAWardVC-Menu

Autographed menu, “On the occasion of the approval of the award of the Victoria Cross to Sgt. James Allen Ward. 7 August 1941” – Copyright Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

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

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9628 AA-A

Sgt. Francis Charles Fox, RNZAF NZ40762 – Pilot.
Sgt. Leopold Ian Adrian Millett, RAFVR 1164817 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Derrick Polley, RAFVR 977080 – Observer.
Sgt. Cliff Simpson, RAFVR 943822 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Wilson Bottomley, RAFVR 943398 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. James Blake Stevenson, RCAF – Rear Gunner.

Take Off – Landed
Flight Time

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

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1648 AA-K

Sgt. Francis Charles Fox, RNZAF NZ40762 – Pilot.
Sgt. Leopold Ian Adrian Millett, RAFVR 1164817 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Derrick Polley, RAFVR 977080 – Observer.
Sgt. Cliff Simpson, RAFVR 943822 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Wilson Bottomley, RAFVR 943398 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. James Blake Stevenson, RCAF – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:00 – Landed 04:00
Flight Time 05:00

“We used to come home off an operation for our eggs and bacon, if nothing else. There was a civilian cook attached to the Sergeants’ Mess and there was also a civilian Mess Steward, who had hired this cook. So we all came in, very hungry for breakfast one day, after having been debriefed. While you were being debriefed, you could drink as much rum as you wanted, and there were cases of beer. So by the time you had finished the de-briefing and told your story, you were pretty happy.

Well, the whole troop of us, about 50 or 60, sat down waiting for eggs and bacon, and this bloody cook, served us BOILED FISH! Well, they got the mess secretary but even better than that two very large New Zealanders (who shall be nameless, but probably the same two who heaved the Warrant out of the window) went and got the cook; and they held him up against the wall, at the end of the mess, spread-eagled, and we threw all the fish at him until there was no fish left and he was plastered with it; then he was told in accents loud and clear that if he ever served fish again he’d be feeding the fish on the end of a hook.”

24/07/1941 – Night Attacks Against Targets at Kiel
Five Wellington aircraft of this Unit were detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks against the above targets. A mixed bomb load was carried and consisted of 1000lbs; 500lbs; 250lbs; and containers of incendiaries.
RTH.140 bombed target area slightly north of target.
RTH.183 reports incendiaries burst on N.E. corner of target and moderate fires were started.
RTH.215 reports that fires were started.
The target area was bombed by RTH.242.
Owing to evasive action P/O. Scott did not observe results.
A.A. fire was heavy and predicted.
Searchlights were plentiful and fairly accurate.. No enemy aircraft were encountered. FIne weather was encountered all the way.
Navigation was by D/R, astro, loop, map reading, W/T.

Wellington Mk.Ic T.2805 AA-E “D for Donald”

Sgt. Francis Charles Fox, RNZAF NZ40762 – Pilot.
Sgt. Leopold Ian Adrian Millett, RAFVR 1164817 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Derrick Polley, RAFVR 977080 – Observer.
Sgt. Cliff Simpson, RAFVR 943822 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Wilson Bottomley, RAFVR 943398 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. James Blake Stevenson, RCAF – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:15 – Landed 05:10
Flight Time 06:55

WellingtonR1648AA-K

Another view of Ian’s regular aircraft, Wellington 1C R1648 AA-K Photo from Cliff Simpson, via http://www.feltwell.net.

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

Wellington Mk.Ic R.1648 AA – K

Sgt. Leopold Ian Adrian Millet, RAFVR 1164817 – Pilot.
Sgt. Richard Grosvenor Morgan, RNZAF NZ402239 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Derrick Polley, RAFVR 977080 – Observer.
Sgt. Clifford Simpson, RAFVR 943822 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Jack Wilson Bottomley , RAFVR 943398 – Front Gunner.
F/S William Neill Kennedy Mellon, RAFVR 176808 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off – – Landed –
Flight Time missing

” I was, of course, flying a Wellington 1C. Our mission that night was to bomb the tank works at Mannheim. I was the captain, Derrick Polley was the navigator, Simpson was the wireless operator, there was a fellow called Morgan, a New Zealander, who was the second pilot, Bottomley was the front gunner, and the rear gunner was Mellon, a replacement for our regular gunner, Oddie. Derrick and I were all out to get our names in print, so we volunteered that night to carry a camera, which was a foolish thing because after we had done our bomb run, we had to go back and do a couple more runs for filming, so we were late getting off the target.
We were intercepted over Germany. A cry came from the rear gunner “There’s an aircraft behind us!” Before I could yell at him, “Fire!”, we received the first burst which hit us and made a mess of the aeroplane, and she caught fire. I promptly went into a left hand turn and yelled at the front gunner “watch out!”.

We circled, the guy came by, he came right up alongside of us on the right hand front, which was a stupid thing to do because Bottomley raked him from end to end, and it was a Messerschmitt 110, and they had no armour on the side anyway, and he pulled away in a dive.
We were, of course, in bad shape. The good old Wellington caught fire in the fuselage, not anywhere else, and eventually it was put out, by Derrick Polley with the use of a fire extinguisher. I decided we would head for home, even though we had been badly hit.

The instrument panel was non-existent, and of course, in the Wellington, once your hydraulics were hit, your undercarriage tended to hang down. So I did a long sloping dive, trying to get out of altitude and down to ground level where I thought we would be somewhat safer than if we sat up top at 18,000 feet and let the anti aircraft guns have at us. Well, Derrick threw all the spare ammunition out, the oxygen bottle, everything except his astro-compass, which was a Mark 8, and he wanted to keep it.

We plodded on, and I guess we got fairly close to the English coast. Unfortunately, we ran into the fog, and without any instruments, and precious little but a compass, I just ended up flying it into the sea.

 There was a terrific crash – the Wellington has a big belly, of course, and it took it. And when it was all over, four of us climbed out. Derrick Polley, Simpson, Mellon and I were the four who made it. Bottomley had gone back to get his little mascot out of the front turret, but the front turret had snapped when we hit the water. I pulled the release handle over the pilot’s cockpit, jumped out only to be pulled back again because I had forgotten to unhook the pipe that brings the oxygen to the oxygen mask. So I threw my helmet away, swam round to the left engine, put my foot up on the spinner, grabbed the prop and climbed up onto the wing. By this time, Simpson, who had his wits about him, had released the large round dinghy, which was stowed in the wing, and the four of us climbed in. The rear gunner appeared to be jammed in his turret, and we couldn’t get him out. So we just drifted away, watching the Wellington sink. “

Shot down after bombing target Mannheim 6.8.41; ditched in North Sea; crew 4 POW and 2 killed:

Sgt. Leopold Ian Adrian Millet Millet, RAFVR 1164817 – Pilot.
P.o.W
Prisoner of War Number: 106
Prison Camps: Dulag Luft, Stalags IIIE, Luft III, Luft VI and 357. Promoted to W/O whilst interred
Date of return to United Kingdom: not known

Sgt. Richard Grosvenor Morgan, RNZAF NZ402239 – 2nd Pilot.
P.o.W
Prisoner of War Number: not known
Prison Camps: not known
Date of return to United Kingdom: not known

Sgt. Deryck Polley, RAFVR 977080 – Observer.
P.o.W
Prisoner of War Number: 104
Prison Camps: Dulag Luft, Stalags IIIE, Luft III, Luft VI, and 357
Date of return to United Kingdom: not known

Sgt. Jack Wilson Bottomley, RAFVR 943398 – Front Gunner.
Lost without trace age 24.
Son of Benjamin and Nellie Bottomley, of Bradford, Yorkshire.
Buried Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England..
Grave location – Panel 40.

Sgt. Simpson, RAFVR 943822 – Wireless Operator.
P.o.W
Prisoner of War Number: 150
Prison Camps: Dulag Luft, Stalags IIIE, Luft VI and 357
Date of return to United Kingdom: not known

Sgt. William Neill Kennedy Mellon, RAFVR 1176808 – Rear Gunner.
Lost without trace age 27.
Commemorated Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England..
Grave location – Panel 48.

letter

“Failed To Return” letter from W/C Cyril Kay to Ian’s mother. – Reproduced from Into The Drink; By A Member Of The Goldfish Club Ian A Millett; The Memoirs Of A Royal Air Force Bomber Pilot 1940-1945

After 6 days in their inflatable dinghy, Ian and the other three survivors, Simpson, Polly and Morgan, were picked up by a German flak ship, and transferred to first the German navy, and then to the Luftwaffe, for interrogation.

Ian spent the rest of the war as a POW, promoted to Warrant Officer while still a prisoner.

After the war, Ian and his wife moved to California. Ian passed away on December 10, 2010 at 90 years of age.

Reference and excerpts from: “Into The Drink; By A Member Of The Goldfish Club, Ian A Millett; The Memoirs Of A Royal Air Force Bomber Pilot 1940-1945”, Publisher: Ian A. Millett (2000).
Special thanks to Mrs Ursula Millett for permission to reproduce these extracts and photo.