Jim Haworth, the Kiwi navigator in Bill Mallon’s crew (and later Eric Butler’s crew), wrote numerous letters to his wife, Sally, while he was overseas and their daughter Ruth has agreed to share them. They contain lots of fascinating information that fills in some of the gaps in the crews story and gives an insight into life with the air force during and shortly after the war and the importance of humour in difficult times! At 34 Jim was the oldest member of the crew and the only one with children. He had two daughters before the war and had only spent 6 weeks with the younger, Maryann. He was away from home for the next three years and this helps to explain the home sickness that is evident in almost everything he wrote.
To revisit these letters within the context of far more detailed history of Jim’s crew, go here to Vic’s blog on his Father, Bob Jay.
September 9th 1944.
‘Had our first trip last night but only as second nav, which means you are only in the way. I was only going to wear an outer suit but when we got the met report I dashed back for the inner too, as when on a trip as second nav you have to work back in the body of the fuselage where it is open and no heating and plenty of drafts. Supposed to climb up to fifteen thousand feet but had to climb up to twenty to get over some rough stuff. Believe me it was cold as charity, about 30 below or more. I pitied the gunner in the tail. My mike soon froze up so I was cut off from the rest for quite a bit of the trip. The 1st nav’s compartment is well heated, in fact too well heated, and does not need to wear any flying suit & even then complains of the heat! On Monday we join the rest of our crew over at another drome & start work with them. They are over there ahead of us so I’m hoping our pilot can set her down OK without too much of a bump. Suppose you are following the news over this way very closely. Things are continuing to move pretty fast and if everything goes as at present, seems to me we will be seeing the east instead.’
December 28th 1944.
‘I’m writing this hunched up over the stove in the hut. A good hard frost outside. We had a white Xmas here after all but not the sort of white one Canada might have had. It has been really cold over the last week with fogs up to the last 2 days, so that the country was white with hoar frost. I have never seen it so thick before, not even in ‘Cargill. I’ve got my good old NZ army undergear on for the first time and feel like putting on long flying underpants to keep warm. According to the papers it has been the coldest Xmas over here for the last fifty years. We only hope it doesn’t get any colder as it must be about fifty below up top these days. Thank goodness the Lancs are well heated in the cabin. I’ll need it. We have got out engineer now, a married chap from near Grimsby. Haven’t met him yet myself but hear he is OK. We now have a complete crew of seven. It’s been too cold to sample the shower house here, so I haven’t had a shower since a bath nine days ago at Westerham. We are all thinking of going into Nottingham to stay the night on our day off next Tuesday to get a good hot bath at a hotel. Quite likely we will get there to find no baths. Some country. I’ll have to organise somewhere handy I can get my feet under the table. Changed my Canucky giggle suit the other day for an English one with winter winter jersey and what not. It was like a straight jacket.’
January 3rd 1945.
‘Did I mention we have a flight engineer now, so have completed our crew. He is a married chap the only other one in our lot. Think he’s about 25 & comes from Grimsby up on the Humber & seems quite a good chap. I’m quite convinced this war is a single chap’s one. Perhaps the Pommie ones who are married are not so badly off as they do get home leave. If I had known what I know now I would have plonked for NZ training and the Pacific. They do get back now and then. Think I will have to dry up and sign off before I show how bolshie I’m getting these days.’
February 2nd 1945.
‘Bill is flying this afternoon & it will be the last opportunity to go to town as I have to go with them after today’s exercise – in case they get lost! I’ve done exactly twenty minutes work today. No fire in the plotting room was too much for me so I vamoosed after lunch and hitched into town. Again in the truck. Today has been the best day we have had for weeks, a bright sunny day (English standards of course). If the weather holds we should finish our time here quickly. All good bludges must come to an end I suppose.’
February 7th 1945.
‘Bill soloed today after four attempts to do the exercise. So we will be ‘pressing on regardless’ to finish the course.’
February 17th 1945.
‘We have now finished our day exercises and have only the night ones to do before being posted to a squadron, which we understand will be at the end of this month. Bill has put in for the NZ one. The other day I had the first experience of being airsick while we were on what is called fighter affiliation exercises. We had a screen instructing Bill & he certainly chucked the kite around. Too much for my stomach, so when it came to the bombing exercise at the end I was fit for ‘nowt’. Johnny, our rear gunner, was quite amused when I had to give a course for home while seated on the Elsan, after losing everything. The Elsan is the chemical lav. in the kite, aft in the fuselage. The engineer was just as bad as me, so I wasn’t the only one. Today was our last day trip – we covered a distance about two-thirds of the width of the Tasman, partly across sea. Worst part of these trips we do not have a meal from breakfast until tea, & no flying rations, so believe me we were hungry when we got back. Don’t think we saw the ground more than once or twice, only cloud well below, really punk conditions to get in & land – cloud down to about five hundred feet above ground. The only boob I made was to arrive a minute early on the required time. Yesterday our trip was scrubbed with bad weather.’
March 5th 1945.
‘Missed writing you the last few days as we have been kept busy each night until the 28th when we were given three days leave before being posted. We were only getting a 48, but at the last minute when we had finished our trips here, we were put on another do as they wanted every kite they could get for this particular job, so to make it up for us we got another day off. Up until the day we went on leave we had been on for seven out of eight nights, so felt like a rest somewhat. The last night’s trip we had quite a series of things going haywire but nothing serious & landed back OK. The night before we had covered a distance only about a hundred miles short of the smallest distance across the Tasman. If someone had told me a few years ago that I would be doing that distance a night I wouldn’t have believed it, but trips we will have from now on will be longer still. ………………We have been posted to the NZ 75 Squadron along with the other Newzie crew who have been with us from O.T.U. Believe Ken Dalzell’s crew is going there also so three of us who were in Canada together, will still be with each other. Think I mentioned in my last note that String Staples, I heard had been grounded medically. Believe we will probably get six days’ leave as soon as we arrive on the squadron. Hope so anyway.’
March 7th 1945.
‘Well we have reached a squadron at last & are now with the No 75 NZ Squadron. We got here yesterday morning or rather afternoon & Bill our skipper is on a second Dicky trip tonight, so you can see that they do not waste any time here before starting you to work. The rest of us will probably have our first trip tomorrow night. The old gang is regathering again, String Staples is here, Slim Somerville another chap who was at AFU with us arrived today & Ken Dalzell is due to arrive in a few days. There are quite a lot of Newzies here. The squadron C.O. is a cousin of Hec Baigent’s of the same name from Nelson. You may remember the Rogers Cycle shop in Timaru. One of the brothers has just finished. He apparently has a good memory of faces as he remembered me. Have also come across another chap who was at ChCh Boys’ High with me. Suppose I’ll probably come across a few more I know. We are still quartered in Nissen Huts as at the previous place…’
March 9th 1945.
‘We may get our leave next week. In the meantime we have started productive work. First trip today – a daylight one & a very quiet one – may they all be like that! One part of our load must have caused a big headache for someone. Couldn’t see the ground though as it was fully covered by cloud. Only a short way into Germany to deliver our cargo. The news today is very good. My own opinion is that it will not be very long now. I hope so. …. If the war finishes quickly over here they have had me for the East as far as I am concerned.’
March 11th 1945.
‘At present I’m reclining on my bed (for a week) in a central-heated room on a large peace- time RAF station. Yesterday we went on our second trip into Germany and no sooner had we landed than the C.C. told us we were going over here in about an hour and a half’s time for a six day course, with the remark that it would be our six-day leave. But I think he was pulling our leg about the leave because other crews go it after they have got back. Yesterday’s trip was about as quiet as the previous day’s with some flak near the target but not amongst our lot. Another oil plant but not very far into the Ruhr past the front line, so hope our landed on it particularly the ‘blockbuster’. Thick cloud so could not see anything…..Talking about food when we go on these day trips or night trips too we seem to lose a meal. The egg (one) we get before & after is a poor makeweight. I really felt like the little pup being rewarded when we got back from our first trip. When we went in to the usual interrogations we were given a cup of tea plus one chocolate biscuit. I felt like wagging my tail & couldn’t resist some sarcasm……….Please don’t worry over me –I’ve a good steady skipper.’
March 18th 1945.
‘At present I’m down in Kent again as we were told as soon as we got back we had six days leave to enjoy. You are wondering who Bill is – I thought I had mentioned his name previously and who he was. Bill Mallon is our skipper – single age 24 & hails from New Plymouth. Ken Philp is the bomb aimer, single age 32. Frank Symes, the wop, single age 21. The two gunners Johnny Eynstone & Don Cook are English, both youngsters 19 & 20 & the Engineer is also an English chap named Bob Jay but married aged 24. So now you should know the names of the crew except the extra gunner we carry who is not a regular member of the crew. I’ll be sending you a copy of a photo taken of six of us when we can get enough copies printed.
Bill had the bad luck of finding a telegram waiting when we got back with the news of his elder brother’s death. He was flying mossies and is the second brother Bill has lost. The rest of the chaps have gone up to Grimsby to Bob’s place to celebrate his first wedding anniversary. I’ll bet they have sunk some beer today – not for me.’
March 28th 1945.
‘We had a couple of quiet days after we got back before going on our third trip on Tuesday night. Another benzol plant in the Ruhr. We cooked some Hamm that day. And had the egg when we got back. Full cloud over the target again but we managed to collect some flak in the port inner engine, so came back on three, tailing well behind the squadron. Think we were about a quarter of an hour behind them in landing, so made quite good time considering. The old kite we have been flying in ‘L’ for Love has now done ninety nine ops & is due to be pensioned off after the next one. Neville the Devil flies in it when we don’t. At present he is on the course we did the other week. Another of our Canadian course came her two days ago, Dave Knight, so that makes five of us here now. Bill Mallon, our skipper, if you haven’t grasped that yet, was asked today if he wanted a compassionate posting back to NZ owing to the death of his second brother. After talking it over, he has cabled to his people & is leaving the decision to them. Looks to me we may lose him, worse luck, as he is a good steady type. Still, my own opinion was that he should accept for his people’s sake. Got any doctor’s certificate for me, eh?………The news today is the best ever & looks as if it won’t be long over here now, then I’ll be pestering Halifax House like a lot of others. We will be adding our quota tomorrow to the headaches they are getting in Germany. The trip today was scrubbed.’
March 31st 1945.
‘On Thursday we were in a show which was the deepest penetration in daylight the RAF heavies have made so far, to a place just near Brunswick which you ought to be able to find on an atlas, only about a hundred miles from Berlin and yet the bombline today is fast overhauling where we went, so it will give you an indication of how quickly events are moving over there. There was a whistle when the target went up but during the whole trip we did not have very much trouble with flak & none with fighters. Over the target was pretty dicey, in thin cloud & quite a bit of flak but nothing hit us. Full cloud over the target, thank goodness. These days with the ‘special instruments’ as the papers call them, everyone hopes it won’t be clear over the target on daylights. Coming back we had some more stuff chucked up at us near the Ruhr but they should be out of business nearly by now. Been nothing doing the last two days but yesterday did not seem like Good Friday at all. In the morning the Wing Co. gave us a lecture on what was going to happen when things are over on the other side. It raised many laughs but looks to me from what he said we will probably be repatriated home & not sent out east. I’m hoping so but suppose it will be two or three months before a general move is made. This morning we had a visit from Sid Holland who is over here – only took him four days by air to get here from NZ. Bill is still waiting to hear from his people but from little bits I hear, it looks as if he will have no say in the matter. Still the way things are moving on the other side, it simply cannot last much longer. If the bombline goes much further in, we will be going to Berlin in daylight shortly, as the Yanks have done before………………..Don’t worry over me, we’ll get through.’
April 4th 1945.
‘We have not been on any more trips since last Thursday, weather & other things have grounded the squadron the past week, so as we were on the last two battle orders, we missed tonight’s one. There are so many here now the place is packed out& a huge queue each meal time in the mess. Bill, our skipper, is still waiting a reply from his people in NZ, but just from what he has been saying I think he has made up his mind that he will apply to go back home. The way things are in Germany, the war may be practically finished before the H.Q. make up their mind, if he does want to go. Even so, I think the English papers (as usual) were too damned optimistic & if you believed all they said it was all over bar the shouting.
They are climbing down the last few days as progress has slowed down again. Still, quite a few here have been betting whether they will have to do any more trips. Myself, I think at the shortest, it will last another six weeks. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.’
April 6th 1945.
‘The way the bombline is moving forward in Germany, it looks as if all our trips until it’s over will be quite long ones. Our Engineer Bob was sent on one on Wednesday night to take a chap’s place, so he is up one on us now. Our life the past week has been eating, sleeping & watching footie matches in the station. I was down for a game today but they had enough without me. I’d have been winded in about five minutes’ play. Still may try my hand one day. Tonight four of us having been sitting by the stove in the hut, listening to rain on the iron roof – too wet for me to do anything else. Did I mention that our kite had only one more trip, its 100th, to do before being pensioned off? Well, they made up the hours with local flying, so we had the last trip in her, the one where we lost an engine over the target. Our new kite – or one we share with another crew is named ‘Liefy’. Don’t know who was responsible for that. It’s done quite a few trips too but is much faster than old ‘Love’ which Bill had to thrash to keep up speed with the load up.’
April 10th 1945.
‘Saturday night we were down for a do but had it scrambled just when I had more than half the flight plan done which means quite a lot of work. The next night another lot did the place over instead of us. But we got another trip last night, this time to the docks at Kiel- our first night trip, so I had to work like a one- armed paper hanger. A case of P.Y.F.O. all the way in and back. Too much sea for Bill’s liking. Quite a bit of flak going in and coming out but less in the target area than we expected. Even so, Frankie the wireless op & myself both had our ‘shutes on while we made our run – just in case. I’m still patting myself on the back today as I got us on the target bang on the required time & when I mean ‘bang on’ I mean not to the nearest minute but nearest six seconds. Not bad after doing about four hundred and fifty miles there. Between you & Me, I think it was mostly by ‘Guess and by God’ than good management but Bill had to belt old Liefy along to do it. Back to bed about half past three so didn’t get up till midday for lunch. Funny to think of it, but I haven’t seen a bit of flak yet myself nor the ‘rumpty’ fires last night. I believe in what the eye doesn’t see, the less pants are dirtied, so just keep the old head behind the curtain in my part of the dog-box. Ken, our bomb aimer, had the bad luck to twist his ankle last night & is now having a rest in the station hospital, so we may not be on again for a few days. Bill is still waiting for news though I believe the matter is right out of his hands & to hear the Wing Co. has cabled NZ about him, we will probably lose him soon. If that happens we have no idea what they will do with us. Did you see in the papers that we may have the job of carting food over the other side when things collapse.’
April 13th 1945.
‘Just before I started thisI have been out watching the boys set off tonight on the ‘freight’ service. Nev. is on again but Dazzy and I are n ot. Suppose you have seen by the papers that the ‘Sheer’ copped it on Monday night at Kiel. Seeing the three of us were on that do Nev. reckons we can claim equal credit for it. Such modesty!! He will be one trip up on me after this one. The number required has been reduced by five so I have now done one seventh! Can’t see us finishing them all unless we do a lot of food carrying. In another six months I’ll be done for my warrant but that is a long way off yet. By the way, I forgot to mention that after a night trip, we get a tot of rum before being interrogated. Makes me feel like a good little dog again. Bill has heard from his people, they want him to go back. So now he is waiting for NZ to OK the recommendation. His commission is due any day now so he will be OK for a good comfortable trip back home. He gets that as captain of a heavy bomber.’
April 16th 1945.
‘We have done one more trip, on Saturday night. A really long one, in fact the longest we could do at present. Just fifteen miles from the centre of Berlin to a place called Potsdam, practically a suburb of the big city. We were lucky to get away at all as ‘Liefy’ was having some work done on her & we took off ten minutes after the others had set course. Still we soon caught the stream up before very long. It was quite daylight for a long way in and finally went in to the target with the previous lot – six minutes early. So my nav. was not so hot in timing. Still I think most were early. Plenty of searchlights and flak but both missed us. Coming back I could easily have gone to sleep two hours before reaching base. Altogether eight and a half hours up. We could have crossed the Tasman & gone back for a third of the way again in the time. Unless things slow up over here I can’t see us doing many more trips now. The papers are very optimistic again but I still give it a few more weeks- perhaps a month. Another one of the chaps who went to Canada the same time as me as a bomb aimer arrived on the squadron today.’
April 22nd 1945.
‘On Friday last, the 20th, we did another trip – a daylight one, our seventh all told. This was a long one, the longest so far, to a place called Regensburg in Southern Germany on the upper reaches of the Danube. I didn’t have time to look out but Johnny our rear gunner says it definitely isn’t blue but a dirty brown. Nearly seven and a half hours airborne, so it was our second longest trip. Beautifully clear weather the whole way. On the way had quite a good view of some of the broken bridges on the Rhine. Couldn’t make out the front line but we saw quite a lot of fires so that is where it must have been. It was quite an uneventful trip except over the target where there was quite a bit of flak. None of our squadron was hit though. When we were near it we could see the Swiss Alps in the distance standing out quite distinctly. ‘Fraid though that after going all that way our load was nowhere near where it should have been. Not our fault though but I knew we were damn well overshooting before Ken pressed the tit. Can’t tell you how I knew. The boys were out again today but not our turn this time. Even so our last three have all been long trips, so we seem to have missed the short ones. Just our luck……Suppose you are following the news as closely as me these days. Tomorrow should read most of Berlin occupied. Why they continue to fight on beats me. But it can’t be very long now.’
April 25th 1945.
‘Anzac Day again but we have been working, not on a trip but just a small trip to give Ken our bomb aimer some practice. Our first time up with our new skipper. Yes, Bill has been told that he is being repatriated so the C.O. has pulled him off ops. He let him go on our last one yesterday, our eighth – before telling him. He left his last trip in a blaze of glory by nearly doing a ground hop on landing. A tyre burst just as we touched down & he could not correct it enough to keep it straight so it turned off the runway & finished up facing the way we had come. Quite exciting – the fire section jeep was there by the time we had stopped – or nearly so – followed by the fire wagon and two meat wagons. Horrible disappointment to all concerned there wasn’t even a bleeding nose. Anyway Bill’s namesake ‘Willie’ has to have a new undercart now. The trip was a daylight one to a place called Bad Oldesloe above Hamburg. The tamest trip so far – not a bit of flak anywhere except for an odd burst crossing the coast. We were deputy-leader of the squadron but that’s all. Bill be just mucking about for a while until he goes down to the despatch centre to catch a boat. He’ll be like a lost sheep. Our new skipper is the oldest (in time) skipper on the station. He has not done any ops since last NW until one on Bremen a few days ago. We didn’t do that one. He had been in hospital for a while. Comes from Wellington- Eric Butler by name – F/O by rank – and seems to be a good type. We are sorry to lose Bill as we have been together nearly eight months now. I’ll be giving him your address before her goes. Did I mention we have a new kite W for ‘Willie ? Quite a newish job with all the latest bits and pieces in it….. Think we will be food dropping very shortly. Don’t know how those trips will count. Things are still moving too slow in Germany for me but it can’t be too long now.’
May 4th 1945.
‘We have not done much since I wrote on 30th.The next day we were again on a supply dropping near the Hague. Six hundred kites on that day. The day after we were up early to help load up for the next lot. We get a trip one day and a turn in loading the next. By tonight’s news the boys are now on the job of bringing prisoners of war back from Germany. The idea is to pack in about twenty-six into a Lanc. What a scrum it will be. By the time we get back to camp (from leave) it looks as if the scrapping will be over altogether unless the Germans continue to hold out in Norway. Yesterday they gave in Italy – today in Holland & Denmark- tomorrow perhaps the rest of them. So I think I can say we have done our last op from England. What they do with us afterwards I can’t guess. But the fact remains that even if we are sent back home it may be six months before there is transport. Even the repat. P.O.W’s may be held up over here for a while & they will have first preference. Still home for Christmas is what I am hoping for.’
May 12th 1945.
‘The squadron is at present on the job of bringing back P.O.W.’s from France. We are not on the order tomorrow either so have not had turn yet. Lancs are flying back ten thous. a day at present.’
May 15 1945.
‘Yesterday we went up with Eric & did a couple of circuits and landings, so we could do our turn at bringing back some POW’s. We had not flown for about eleven days hence the need for C&L’s. About half the crews here, including us, have been picked to the job of passenger carrying until the POW’s are all back. The others are starting a training programme of training flights and whatnot. Beyond that concrete news there are all sorts of rumours of what is going to happen to us or where we are going but nothing official yet.
It is rather early to hear something definite anyway.’
May 17th 1945.
‘Incidently on the bus coming back from Cambridge I met a repatriated Newsie POW. He had been in Germany for three years & had arrived over here a few days ago. Turned out he was only six miles from the spot we pranged in our last op near Lubeck. So he was able to tell me what it was like on the ground that day. ….We were taken off the select list (carrying POW’s) owing to the fact that Eric has done so little flying in the last six months through being in hospital. So we are on training trips instead. You may be wondering what all the training is for now things have finished over here. Here’s a knock my dear, it looks as if we have another job to finish off first in the Far East, so as I haven’t done a tour over this side or been away more than two years, it appears that the chances of my coming back for some leave first are slim. I have learnt that there is an age limit of 35 for aircrew, so I’m going to enquire all about it. Anyway I still have a few months to go before I reach that. Still keep your fingers crossed for me and it might come out the right way in the finish. As things are we have no idea who, when & how we will go, but it will probably take some time for bases to be completed out there. You may hear things over there earlier than we do, so keep the old waggers open & let me have any news you here, particularly about chaps like me in the Army. I’d hate you to exist on Army pay though.’
May 20th 1945.
‘We are still sitting on our backsides, doing very little although there is a lot of bolony doing here, because of a visit in a few days by the C in C. So we have been filling in time doing various jobs, cleaning weeds & whatnot. Up to now we have only 5 hours flying this month. Tomorrow we start the training, ground & air, in earnest, so we will probably be kept busier. It’s very boring when there is nothing to do except Maori PT. I’ve made a record the last four days. I’ve been to the pictures three times & an Ensa show last night. That was simply pure unadulterated filth, nothing less, & not worth seeing. Tonight I saw ‘the Prisoner of Zenda’ on the station. It’s an old one & been out home a year or two ago but very well acted. That’s all I seem to do these days to fill in time or get a book from the library. From all we hear it appears that some of the crews here will be kept here as part of the Police Force. If it is a choice between that & the East you can guess which I would prefer, if there is no chance of returning in the meantime. We are shifting over tomorrow with Shorty Baxter & co as the other lot who were with them are going on indefinite leave after nearly finishing a tour. We’ll have more congenial company then. Incidently the Aussie in the lot moving out tells me he believes all Aussies will be going back before going elsewhere. Seems we Newzies are just the mugs. The Canucks are doing the same as the Aussies. The training programme does not appear to be as strenuous as it was made out to be. I think the section leaders are just as browned off as we are. Believe the usual six day leave we have been getting every six weeks in the squadron will be cut down soon and we go back to peace timetable just when they could afford to make the leave more often. Perhaps the idea is to make everyone so cheesed off, they will volunteer for the East. There was an item in the Newzie paper printed for us over here, that things had not been finalised yet, so not to bother Halifax House, so the best policy will be to sit tight & not stick one’s neck out in the meantime.’
24th May 1945.
‘All the Aussies have been withdrawn from crews on the squadron and are going home very soon before being posted to the East. The Wing Co. seems hopeful that they will do the same with us too, but knowing what our government is like, I am not too sure. Seems that we will be eligible for for a couple of ribbons – the 1939-45 Spam ribbon and the France& Germany one. Perhaps the Defence one too. Can you imagine me? Received a photo from Bill Mallon today, taken just after he got his pansy suit on the way to Brighton. Believe he has not left yet so he will be getting plenty cheesed off down there waiting for a boat. Still we are not doing much here. We were on battle (?) order for an exodus trip today – that’s POW’s from France- but it was scrubbed. We are back on the list again and as a result had to have a jab today, the first of a series three over three weeks against infection. The squadron has started running Cook’s Tours’ Trips now. Two crews a day make a low level tour of the main bombed cities in Germany. We’ll be able to see some of our handiwork. Takes about six hours so you can see it covers a trip of about twelve hundred miles base to base. Did I mention that our new skipper Eric Butler is now a Flight- Lieutenant? He was like Bill, only a Flight- Sergeant when he arrived here last Sept, only acting rank though. …We get an egg once or twice a week plus the one when we do a trip. I’m missing the chocolate flying rations we used to get & don’t now.’
29th May 1945.
‘Today, Tuesday, we were down for some air firing out to sea, but after waiting about for three quarters of an hour and nearly lunchtime & no sign of our kite returning from another trip, Eric had it scrubbed. We are down tomorrow for some practice bombing in the afternoon so we may get off if we are lucky. It is the start of a group competition. Our squadron holds the cup at present. Shorty Baxter & co are now on leave prior to being posted to another squadron for the Far East…..There was a note in Sunday’s papers , I think it was, that Nash has declared NZ is bringing back twenty thousand Army chaps from overseas. That will make a big hole in the division. The chappie today was asked why the Aussies and the Canucks could withdraw all their chaps & the reply was – they pay their Air Force chaps themselves whereas the RAF pay us & not NZ !! What the hell did NZ do?
Tomorrow we are down again in the detail for an exodus trip – POW’s from France – but so far we have been on about four times but have not done one of them – all scrubbed. Had a second jab yesterday so have got a sore wing today, in case we bring any lice back with us.’
5th June 1945.
‘We have done very little since my last note four days ago. Saturday simply nil. Sunday we did another spot of fighter affil. again. We had a spot of bother with the door continually coming open so it took us about twice as long as usual and got over an hour in. Incidently we had all told only eight hours and a bit flying last month including one spam trip. Yesterday, Tuesday, we were lucky enough to get our turn on one of the Cook’s Tours or Baedeker trips as they are now called. The part that narked us was that we were called at six & then did not leave until about quarter to four in the afternoon. We took some bods from Bomber Command as passengers. This is where we went. First to Walcheren Island on the Dutch coast where the dyke was breached to flood the island and trap the Germans. It was done, as the Wing Co said “by 75 assisted by the RAF”. Some snobs aren’t we? There is very little of the place left above the sea with the exception of the town of Flushing. Then across Belgium to Munchen Gladbach, well damaged. Then to Cologne where by the main bridge across the Rhine the cathedral is the only large building left mainly intact, if knocked about. The city has had a real bashing. From there across several towns in the Ruhr as far as Hamm, which was one of the places we had visited ourselves. Then back to Dortmund, on past Gelsenkirchen, another of our targets, to Essen. That city is just dead. You may have heard & read about the damage done to the Krupp armament works there. It’s not exaggerated a bit. The works themselves are just a huge mass of rusty twisted iron framework & most of the town centre is flat. From there to Duisburg, the biggest inland port in Germany.
Every railroad bridge is down & there does not seem to be any movement on the railways. Nor could there be without considerable repairs & new rolling stock. We struck north from there to Wesel, rather I should say where it was. There is just some parts of walls standing & in some places just a flattened mass of rubble. You will remember my mentioning we bombed several times through full cloud cover, by instruments as the papers called it. This place is an indication of the accuracy & concentration obtained. On the way back we passed near Nijmegen & Arnheim, I got Eric to turn off to see the first but by that time he was too tired to go as far as Arnheim. There are still many wrecked gliders lying round in the fields there. Took us just over four hours. If we had gone in the morning we would have been able to have gone up to Bremen& Hamburg too.’
7th June 1945.
‘We have not managed to do any of the POW trips, when they were on each day we were taken off & now we are back on again, all we have done is to stand-by in case a call comes. Anyway we have got several lots of flying rations out of it at no cost. …..Life is very boring….’
10th June 1945.
‘Had rather nice surprise today. Found there was another parcel for me. Came just at the right moment when my supply of condensed milk was nearly out. Today I had another surprise when I ate a slice of your cake. I struck the sixpence. Is it an omen? We have done exactly nothing since I last wrote on Thursday. Yesterday was our day off so I went into Cambridge. We managed to hitch a ride so we were two bob up on the fares to start with. Had some lunch & then we hired a canoe & went for a row on the Cam. Can’t go far though owing to the weirs. After that as it had started to rain we went to the flicks, then tea at the canteen & back to camp. Did I mention that that they have started to make this a fully Newzie squadron. There are plenty of guesses as to why but your guess is probably as good as mine…………..That reminds me too – my warrant will be due in October – that’s when I can wear a flat top. If I’d been in the squadron somewhat over a month earlier, I would probably have had enough ops in to be recommended for something else. No chance here now but I’d rather return as I am, than go East just for that.’