75(NZ) Squadron RAF Operational Record book entry
20th November 1944
Operations – Attack Against Homberg
Twenty eight aircraft took off to attack the Oil Refinery Plant at Homberg. Twenty two aircraft in daylight attacked the target in ten tenths cloud with tops at 23,000 ft, which made formation flying very difficult. They carried 4,000 lb, and 500 lb bombs. Results of bombing could not be observed, but it is considered that the raid was unsatisfactory. One aircraft returned early owing to icing trouble and two aircraft bombed last resort targets at Duisburg and Hamborn. Three aircraft failed to return. These were captained by 185116 F/O Gordon, Aus419328 F/O P. McCartin and 152402 F/O H. Rees.
22nd November 1944.
Correspondence with the McCartin Family
The family was advised by telegram delivered to Leo’s mother, Clare, at home, that Leo was “Missing as a result of air operations”.
POSTAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT DELIVERY PERSONAL…..
MR A M MCCARTIN
FLAT 3 48 EDWARDS ST
419328 P L MCCARTIN MISSING STOP REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT YOUR SON PATRICK LEO MCCARTIN IS MISSING AS A RESULT OF AIR OPERATIONS ON 20TH NOVEMBER 1944 STOP KNOWN DETAILS ARE HE WAS MEMBER OF CREW LANCASTER AIRCRAFT DETAILED TO ATTACK AN ENEMY TARGET AT HOMBERG GERMANY WHICH FAILED TO RETURN TO BASE PRESUMABLY DUE TO ENEMY ACTION STOP THIS INFORMATION IS CONFIDENTIAL AND NOT FOR PUBLICATION STOP MINISTER FOR AIR JOINS WITH AIR BOARD IN EXPRESSING SINCERE SYMPATHY IN YOUR ANXIETY STOP WHEN ANY FURTHER INFORMATION IS RECEIVED IT WILL BE CONVEYED TO YOU IMMEDIATELY… AIR FORCE 91 LITTLE COLLINS ST MELBOURNE (391 LITTLE COLLINS ST)
Annette Embrey recalls the time when the family became aware that Leo was missing:
“At that time we did not have a phone in the house and there was a knock at the door, quite late, I guess about 10pm and I believe that it was Basil Bates, the husband of Molly Halpin who brought the news to us with the request that my father would let Ces and Jack know.
I’m not sure if we knew then that Ces was newly pregnant, however Dad made some excuse which was probably implausible for calling so late and after a short time asked Ces for a drink of water and on her leaving the room, he advised Jack of the situation and left soon after. I heard that part of the saga repeated many times. I had been asleep at the time but woke up and gradually pieced it all together. I was 10 at the time.”
Cecily recalls that, on the evening that the family were advised that Leo was missing, there was a knock on her door in Geelong and Uncle Paul McCartin was there saying that “I thought that I would just pop in” to see her and Jack. Cecily, who was about to give birth to Pauline (now McNamara), went out to the kitchen to get Paul a glass of water and when she returned Paul had left. He had been asked by Bert McCartin to break the news to Jack Hennessy first.
Shortly afterwards the family received a letter from Leo’s Wing Commander also advising that he was missing.
21st November, 1944
Dear Mr. McCartin,
It grieves me deeply to have to write a letter of this description. During the time your son was a member of my Squadron, he had proved himself to be a most efficient captain of aircraft carrying out his duties with skilful leadership and determination. He was very popular here having made many friends on account of his cheerful and willing humour. His loss, a temporary one I trust, is indeed a grievous blow to yourself and he will be sadly missed by us all.
On this particular day, your son together with his excellent crew, had been detailed to attack a heavily defended target in Germany. I regret however, that I hold no clue as to the cause of their failiure to return, for after leaving Base no further signal was received from them. There is a possibility, of course, that they were forced down and may now be in enemy hands. Any news I may receive will be forwarded to you without delay.
In the meantime, all your son’s personal effects have been carefully collected for despatch to R.A.F. Central Depository, from which department you will receive them in due course.
It is desired to explain that the request in the telegram informing you of the casualty to your son was included with the object of avoiding his chance of escape being prejudiced by undue publicity in case he was still at large. This is not to say that any information about him is availible, but is a precaution adopted in the case of all personnel reported missing.
Please accept the deepest sympathy of all ranks of my Squadron and of myself during this time of sorrow and anxious waiting. We pray with you for his safety and well-being.
(Signed) R.J.C. Leslie
“Missing” – The Pain felt by the McCartin Family
Naturally the family was hoping that Leo and the crew had all been taken prisoner and there appears to have been an ongoing exchange of letters between the RAF, the RAAF and the McCartin, Martin , Miles, Smith and Gray families in an endeavour to establish what had happened to the men.
We can only wonder at the upset that must have ensued for the family and, particularly for Bert and Clare McCartin who, a generation before had seen their brother and brother-in-law killed on the Somme in 1918. The hope that Leo and his crew had survived the crash was a strong driving force and the family began to seek information about the addresses of the other crew members so that they could contact them to see if any further information was available……..
November or December 1944.
Letter from Clare McCartin asking for contact details for Phillip Smith’s Family.
To the Secretary, Department of Air Casualty Section.
My son FO McCartin PL (419328.) has been posted missing on Nov 20th. He was Captain of a Lancaster and had Sgt Phil Smith West Australia as a wireless operator.
Would you please tell me if he is also posted missing and give me the address of his next of kin in Western Australia. There were only 2 Australians in the crew according to my son’s last letter dated Nov. 12th.
Would be glad to receive any further details of my son’s fate, if any has been forwarded to you.
I do not know P. Smith’s number
21st December 1944.
Advice of Phillip Smith’s next of Kin.
DEPARTMENT OF AIR
391 Lit. Collins St.,
I refer to your son, Acting Flying Officer Patrick Leo McCartin, who is reported missing as a result of air operations on the 20th November, 1944.
As requested by Squadron Leader Baison, on your behalf, I wish to advise that Flight Sergeant Smith’s next of kin is his father, Mr. A.J. Smith, who resides at 35 Tenth Avenue, Maylands, Western Australia.
I trust this will be of some assistance to you in your anxiety.
30th December 1944.
Advice of Phillip Smith’s next of Kin and other crew names.
DEPARTMENT OF AIR
391 Lit. Collins St.,
I acknowledge receipt of your letter, concerning your son, Acting flying Officer Patrick Leo McCartin, who is reperted missing as a result of air operations on the 20th November 1944.
I desire to inform you that Flight Sergeant P.F. Smith, who is also reprted missing, is the only other Australian member of your son’s crew. Flight Sergeant Smith’s next of kin is his father, Mr. A.J. Smith, who resides at 35 Tenth Avenue, Maylands, W.A.
The names of the remainder of the crew, who are all members of the Royal Air Force are as follows:-
Sergeant Miles, Flying Officer Martin, Sergeant Warlow, Sergeant Bryer, Sergeant Gray.
I regret that I am unable to give you the addresses of the next of kin of the Royal Air Force members as this information is not held in this Department, but if you wish to correspond with them I would suggest that you send this letter to this Department together with the necessary instructions and they will be forwarded for you through official channels.
I trust that the above information will be of some assistance to you.
Letter from John Gray’s Mother to John Miles’ Wife.
(The letter appears to have been written before John Gray’s repatriation to England after the War)
John Gray was known as Ian not Jan by his family. Ian is the Scottish version of John. Mrs Gray’s handwriting is a bit confusing and I and J are very similar.
Dear Mrs Miles
Thanking you for your kind letter which I received today 28th I have tried to get in touch with you for a long time & kept wondering if you had the same good news about your husband. Ian wrote home after his last leave & said how nice you & John had been to the crew & he talked a lot about your John when on leave.
We haven’t had any more word from Ian only the printed card saying he was safe & well & it was in his own writing it was posted on the 29th of Nov. & got it 29th of Jan.
(I) had the same feeling as you that nothing could happen to them as they were such a happy lot.
I sincerely hope you will get the same good news soon.
did you receive Photo of crew
6 February 1945.
Letter from Bert McCartin – Disposal of Leo’s Bicycle held at Mepal.
48 EDWARDS ST
Feb 6th 1945
I am in receipt of your letter – R.A.A.F. 166/26/659(13A)referring to the private affairs of my so, Acting Flying Officer Patrick Leo McCartin who is reported missing, on the xxxx of xxxxxx over – on the 20th November 1944. I note your reference to a bicycle owned by him and held at his former unit and it appears to me that the practical thing to do, is to dispose of the bicycle, for the reason stated in your letter. In letters received from him he mentioned too tht he had purchased a travel clock whilst in New York. He also had a radio. Perhaps it may be possible for your department to make enquiries concerning these articles, so that they may be held in safe keeping, pending as we hope – his safe return.
21 February 1945.
Advising that John Gray is being held as POW – but no news of the rest of the crew.
LETTERGRAM: MR. A.M. MCCARTIN
FLAT 3 48 EDWARDS ST
BRUNSWICK. MELBOURNE. VIC.
INFORMATION RECEIVED THROUGH INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS FROM GERMAN AUTHORITIES
THAT ONE ROYAL AIR FORCE MEMBER OF YOUR SON’S CREW SERGEANT J. GRAY IS A PRISONER OF WAR STOP CREW CONSISTED OF SEVEN MEMBERS STOP REGRET NO NEWS OF YOUR SON ACTING FLYING OFFICER PATRICK LEO MCCARTIN OR REMAINDER OF CREW
AIR FORCE, 391 LITTLE COLLINS ST. MELBOURNE
20 April 1945.
Advising that there is no further news from the International Red Cross.
DEPARTMENT OF AIR
391 Lit. Collins St.,
I refer to previous correspondence concerning your son, Acting Flying Officer Patrick Leo McCartin, who is reported missing as a result of air operations on the 20th November, 1944.
It is regretted that a report has been received from the Air Ministry, London, which states that according to special enquiries made through the International Red Cross Committee, Geneva, no further news of your son is availible.
Permit me to assure you, however, that should any further information be received it will be conveyed to you immediately.
27 April 1945.
From Bert McCartin – Requesting the address of John Gray’s Family.
48 EDWARDS ST
I am in receipt of your letter referring to my son Acting Flying Officer Patrick Leo McCartin, for which I thank you. xx to be regrettable?? that enquiries?? made by the International Red Cross have failed to xxx the whereabouts of his crew or himself. Considering the state of chaos in Germany perhaps this is not surprising and xxxxxxxx the hope that he may be a prisoner of war. We have already be notified that one member of his crew is a prisoner (I assume) in Germany. He is Sergeant John Gray, and in a letter which we?? had prior xx xxxx xxxx xxxxx as missing my son mentioned his address as being Berwick-on-Tweed. Xx I thought of writing to his next of kin. I would be grateful if you could furnish the address and advise as to where be obtained??. Xxxxxx that the people have heard from him, they may be able to supply some information.
I wrote to the next of kin of the only other Australian in the crew (a xxx xxxxxxxxx) immediately, but have not had a reply. With the end of the war in Europe apparently in sight, it should not be long, before something xxxxx is received and the anxiety?? xxxxx xxxxxx
I shall be grateful for any further information, and thanking you in anticipation.
10 May 1945.
Advising of means of contacting Gray Family.
DEPARTMENT OF AIR
391 Lit. Collins St.,
I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated the 27th April, 1945, with reference to your son, Acting Flying Officer Patrick Leo McCartin, who is reported missing as a result of air operations.
I regret that I am unable to give you the address of Sergeant Gray’s next-of-kin as the addresses of the next-of-kin of Royal Air Force members are not held in this Department. However, if you wish to correspond with his next-of-kin, I would suggest that you send the letter to this Department, together with the necesary instructions and it will be forwarded for you through official channels.
I trust that the above information this will be of some assistance to you in the anxiety you are suffering.
25 May 1945,
Enclosing two letters, one to John Gray and one to his family, to be forwarded to them.
48 EDWARDS ST
Some little time a go I xxxxx asking for the address of Sergeant John Gray, a member of a crew of a lancaster bomber of which my son A.F.O Patrick Leo McCartin was pilot and which failed to return from operations xx Homberg, Germany on November last.As your suggestion I have written, and am forwarding two letters for despatch when, or if you have obtained Sergeant Grays address. As you will see I have addressed one to the Sergeant and one to his next of kin as?? xx xx xxxxx I thought there would be a double chance of getting in touch.
I thought of addressing them to his squadron (75th New Zealand Squadron). We received a letter in November last from Wing Commander RJ Leslie and addressed from R.A.F. Mepal, Nr. Ely, Cambs England.
xxx xxx be in the best position to know what course to pursue xxxx
I quote R.A.A.F. 166/26/659(21A)
Thanking you in anticipation
30 May 1945
From John Gray to John Miles’ Wife – written after his Repatriation to England.
F/Sgt Ian Gray
50 Tweed Street
Dear Mrs Miles,
Just a few lines to let you know that I have arrived back in England, and am quite well Mrs Miles. I regret to say that I have no news to give you of John and the crew. I have tried many times to trace them both in Germany and over here, and I will try again when I go back to the repat centre, the only information I have is this Mrs Miles, we where shot down by flak soon after we bombed the target and the aircraft broke up, and I baled out and got down alright, when I reached a German army camp, I was told that two members of the crew were killed in the crash, but they did not give me their names, nor did they mention the other four lads. Well Mrs Miles I am deeply sorry that this is the only news that I can give you, but keep smiling and I am sure something will turn up, if and when any news reaches you concerning John, or the crew, please let me know, as I worried about them, as I thought the world of them. I know how you feel Mrs Miles and you have my deepest sympathy, but keep smiling Mrs Miles I know something will turn up.
P.S. how are the kiddies.
27 August 1945.
From John Gray to Bert McCartin.
1777605 F/S I Gray
50 Tweed St
Dear Mr McCartin
Many thanks for letter which I received a few days ago. I hope you will excuse me for not writing before this as I have been waiting for my photos to come back from the printers but they have not arrived back, so I will send them on to you as soon as I get them. I trust you are all keeping well out there. I am sorry you have no word from the air-M concerning as far as I hear the next of kin of the rest of the crew have received no word up till now. I am sorry to say that I cannot say if any of the rest of crew baled out, if any of them did, it was impossible to see as the cloud base was only a few feet from the ground, again I cannot say if Leo gave any orders to the crew when we were hit as I broke communication with the others in getting out of my burning turret. I am sorry I cannot give you any information to the questions you asked me in your letter. I am sorry you did not get an answer from the wireless-ops people, but I trust you have by now. I have just got a letter from some friends of Leo in Scarborough so if I get the chance I will take a trip down as I am stationed beside York these days, on a refresher course until they can find a place for me back in the service.
I haven’t had word lately from the rest of crews relatives so I am afraid I cannot say very much more. I hope you will forgive me for such a short letter, if anything turns up please let me know and I will do the, regards to the family
I remain yours Truly
17 October 1945.
Official Presumption of Death
391 Lit. Collins St.,
I deeply regret to inform you that all efforts to trace your son, Acting Flying Officer Patrick Leo McCartin, have proved unavailing, and it is feared that all hope of finding him alive must be abandoned.
It has now become necessary to consider the question whether in these circumstances an official presumption of your son’s death should be made.
In order that the full facts may be placed before the Air Ministry for its decision in this matter, it is requested that you advise this Department in writing that you have received no further news of your son since the date when he became missing, if such is the case.
In the event of your son’s death being presumed you will be notified by letter and his name will subsequently be published on the Casualty List in the Press.
I desire to extend to you the constant sympathy of this Department.
18 October 1945.
The McCartin’s reply.
The receipt of your letter R.A.A.F. 166/26/659(27A)
His mother, brother and sister and myself have waited many long months xxx xxx officially informed that one member of the Lancaster he was flying was reported a P.O.W. in Germany. Through official channels obtaining his name and address and xxx xxxx letter to both he and his next of kin.
xxx xxx xxxxx xx received a xxxx xxxx a detailed account of what happened on that fateful day xxx months ago xxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxx xxx xxx. To this I replied xxxxxx xxx for the information and xx x xxx xxxx xxxx xx which he replied, but it was proved conclusively the fate of our son or the remainder of his crew.
We can bear?? his great loss personally?? but my point is this. Assuming that on his xxxx to Britain xxx xxxx was xxxx reported furnished?? the same story as has xxx xxxxx to us here in Australia
how has it come to pass at this late hour, should be asked whether we have received any further news of our boy.
One would expect?? assuming that your?? department has this information, that we would long since have received notification?? of it officially.
Some months ago I made the xxxxsimple?? request that any further correspondance be forwarded to the above address. Although that assurance was given, it was not carried out.
We are only numbers? among the millions of beareaved ones but I feel ? x xxx never? the xxx xxxxx xx xxx xxx xxx of xxxxx which I have very regretfully done.
5 November 1945.
Follow-up interview with Bert McCartin in Ministry of Air
Mr. McCartin called and expressed dissatisfaction at (i) lapse of time without acknowledgement of Enclosure 28A and (ii) no official advice or statement by ex P.O.W. Sgt. Gray.
2. As to (i) explained systems as to handling correspondance and assured him careful check had made it certain enclosure 28A received only on 31st October.
3. As to (ii) Admitted delay but explained release of P.O.W. after V.E. Day had resulted in avalanche of such statements overseas beyond power of availible staff to handle; and that need for trained staff made it very difficult to enlarge the numbers handling work. Gave detailed explanation of problems of research, of which P.O.W. statements only small part, and assured Mr. McCartin research would continue of all missing personnel irrespective of death presumption.
4. Told him signal out for precis of Sgt. Gray’s statement.
5. Informed him also that death now presumed and letter formally confirming advice would be forwarded.
6. Mr. McCartin stated he had telephoned shortly after caualty requesting the correspondance be sent to his business address and had been assured this would be done. Told him no note on file. He requested that action be taken now to address correspondance to him at:-
184 Sydney Road,
7. Although still critical of delay in conveying P.O.W. statement Mr. McCartin appeared much less hostile on leaving.
21 November 1945.
Official Presumption of Death
391 Lit. Collins St.,
I refer to your interview with an officer of this Department concerning your son, Acting Flying Officer Patrick Leo McCartin.
It is with deep regret that I now inform you that the death of your son has been presumed for official purposes, to have occurred on the 20th November, 1944.
I desire to advise that although your son’s death has been officially presumed, this Department will not relax its efforts to secure any evidence of the circumstances of the loss of your son’s aircraft, and to transmit?? to you any facts which might at least afford the comfort of more definite knowledge.
As conveyed to you on the occasion of your visit to this Department, the Missing Research and inquiry service has been designed to collect evidence of the fate of all aircrews who became missing over Europe during the war. This organisation will, in time, make thorough investigations into your late son’s case and should any further information become availible at a later date, you may rest assured that it will be forwarded to you immediately at your business address, which has now been recorded in this Department.
I desire to confirm that I have cabled Overseas Headquarters, Royal Australian Air Force, London, requesting that a precis of Sergeant Gray’s statement be forwarded to this Department and when a reply is received, I will write to you again.
The Minister for Air and members of the Air Board desire me to extend to you their profound sympathy. It is hoped that the accompanying enclosures will be of satisfaction to you.
From Bert McCartin to John Gray.
48 Edward Street,
Sgt. John Gray,
My Dear John Gray,
I must apologise for not acknowleging your second letter. However, we have been negotiating here with local or our Australian Air Force with regard to Leo, and it seems to have absorbed us. They firstly wrote suggesting that the time had arrived when it would be necessary to presume Leo dead. I took the matter up and wanted to know why they had no information whatever of what had occured on your fateful trip over Homberg, when in fact I could have related your story as written to us in Australia. They actually asked me to supply in writing, any news we may have had of him. Up to date they have no news at all, although they say they have sent a signal to Air Force England.
Notwithstanding this, on Friday last I received an official notification of the presumption of death, and I would be very grateful if you could shed any light on this very distressing case. I am wondering for instance if you could help no the location of the Camp you were held in. Or Or where you landed in Germany. I am wondering how I could go about finding out the names of the German Doctors who told you there were two in the plane. If they could be located, we may possibly succeed in getting names of them. You of course could not suggest where the others would have been likely to leave the damaged plane or where they may have reached earth. We have had a etter from Mrs. Myles, your navigators wife and she like us has had no news either from the English Air Force and wants to know if we have. Mrs. M Carbin replied to her at the same time forwarded a food parcel. If you can give us any news at all we will be grateful if it will help us in any way at all. We are disappointed that the Air Board has nothing to help us and I have gone as far as to suggest that there is incompetence somewhere, or neglect, call it what you like, its strange that you were good enough to help us what you know, and I assume they should know these facts and yet they do not seem to have them. We feel very disappointed over the whole position I intend writing the Air Force in England. Well I’ve exhausted my writing space. I hope you have quite recovered from your experience and trying to forget.
With kind regards,
14 December 1945.
To the McCartin Family from Ministry of Air.
391 Lit. Collins St.,
I refer to my letter to you dated 21st November 1945 concerning your late son, Acting Flying Officer Patrick Leo McCartin, in which I advised you that a cable had been despatched to Overseas Headquarters, Royal Australian Air Force, London, requesting a precis of Sergeant Gray’s statemt.
In the reply now received, it is advised that Sergeant Gray made the following statement;-
“When I was taken prisoner, a German doctor told me that two members of the crew had been found dead in wreckage, but nothing was said of the other members of the crew. Their names were not told to me.”
It is regretted that Sergeant Gray was unable to give any specific information concerning your son, but it is thought you would wish to know of the result of my enquiries on your behalf.
Permit me to assure you of the constant sympathy of this Depatment in the loss you have suffered
November/ December 1945.
Formal Statement by John Gray on the loss of lancaster JN-V ND 911 and crew.
Statement of Loss of Aircraft.
I have the honour to report of aircraft, Lancaster III, No. ND911, marking JN-V of 75 N.Z. Squadron, Mepal, Nr Ely, Cambs. Command, 3 Group, Bomber Command.
On the day of November 20th 1944 the above aircraft was detailed to attack an oil refinery at Homberg in the Ruhr, at 1300 Hours, on the bombing run up, we were forced to lose height, through engine trouble in the starboard outer, the trouble forced us to feather the motor, a few minutes lat at 1515 hours we dropped the bombs, according to the bomb aimer all the H.E. left the aircraft. About 5 minutes later the port wing burst into flames. No order was given by the Captain F/O P.L. McCartin RAAF to abandon aircraft. By this time the aircraft was in a very violent spin during which I was knocked unconscious, when I came to the entire tail unit had broken off from the fuselage. I then got out of the rear turret and bailed out from approx 10,000ft.
On the way down I saw nothing to indicate anything of the other crew members having bailed out. About 2000ft I was fired on by light gunfire. I was not hit. I was taken prisoner by a soldier who took me to a flak battery H.Q. near ORSNA, when I landed pieces of aircraft were still falling giving a strong indication that the aircraft had blown up in mid-air.
Later that night I was treated by a German Doctor who told me that two members of the crew had been found dead in the wreckage and that I would be required to identify the bodies the next day. He didn’t tell me who they were, he made no mention as to what happened to the other 4 members of the aircraft.
The next day I was taken away to a night fighter base again near OSNA without identifying the bodies. I was there for 3 days. None of the members came while I was there. Finally I was taken to Frankfurt-on-Main for final interrogation. I was told again by an officer that two of the members were dead, he refused the names, and said that as far as he knew the other four members of the crew had not been found, and were still at large. I was 5 days there and three weeks in transit camp, none of the crew came to any of the camps I was in.
This is all the information I can give on this unfortunate incident.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient Servant
1777605 F/S Grey.
F/O P.L. McCartin. Pilot. R.A.A.F.
P/O L. Martin B/A. R.A.F.
Sgt. J. Miles. Nav. R.A.F. Later F/O
F/S F. Smith. W/Op. R.A.A.F.
Sgt. R. Warlow. F/E. R.A.F.
Sgt D. Bryer. M/U Gnr. R.A.F.
Sgt J. Gray. R/G.(self) R.A.F.
From Clare McCartin to John Miles’ Wife.
XXXX Kisses for Jeffery & Margaret from Uncle Mac’s Mummy
48 Edward St
My dear Mrs Miles
We have not recd any news of our son, & how fortunate really Mrs Martin is to at least know the resting place of her dear husband – I do not expect any of them will ever be found alive, unless those Russians have taken them over to Russia to work for them. We cannot find the town on our German maps & wonder if it is a hospital town. If so it shows some of them got out as well as Sgt Gray. Have you heard from him at all. He certainly should come & see you, as you were so very good to all the crew when they were at that station. I know Leo would not have treated his friends relatives in that way. When he was home he used to visit all the grief stricken relatives he knew & did not spare himself as several of his school fellows were missing before he left Aus. My husband has written to Town Clerk at Homberg to see if Leo’s grave is located there. A friend of ours wrote to T.C in town where his son came down & missing since Dec 44 & recd word the grave is recorded there & is going to send a photo & explained how accident happened & they rescued bodies out of the plane. We may hear something that way now. You should write there too and you may hear before us. How are you & Jeffery and Margaret? I hope you are all well & be sure & send me what color the children wear at school & I’ll post some more wool. It is very plentiful here & no coupons so we have no worry on that score.
Parcel sent on 29th Oct
I have sent you a Xmas parcel but could not get any fancy wrapping, but will send the children a nice one later as paper is available now in shops. Everything is very dear in toy line & only rubbish that people are foolish to patronize the shops until they can provide something better. Leo’s log book came some weeks ago & what a job those poor boys had to do thro all Germanys toughest defences. It made us very sad indeed, but know how proud he was of what he had achieved. If they had only been spared to come back to us, how happy we would have been, but we must bow to Gods Holy Will & hope to meet them all one day in Heaven. The saddest thing is that your little children will never have their wonderful daddy to help them thro life & it is a great responsibility for you, dear friend. I do wish we lived nearer one another so we could meet and have a talk. I treasure your letters & feel we must always keep in touch with one another. Leo’s School pupils put a nice In Mem in papers on his anniversary Also service men and women from his School town. We put a “Tribute to Leo’s Gallant Crew” in with ours.
Our best love.
8 January 1946.
From E Gray (John Gray’s mother) to Clare McCartin.
50 Tweed Street
Berwick / Tweed
My Dear Mrs McCartin
Just a few lines in answer to your most welcome letter which I received a few days ago. If only we could have given you some good news about your dear boy we would have been so happy. It hurt us a lot when things went wrong with Leo and the rest of the boys. I was like you, I knew them all by name & talked about them as if we had known them and spoken to them all, our sorrow goes out to you & yours in your great loss.
We have a lot to thank God for in getting John back with us, it was awfull & I know how you must feel.
We have another boy, Jimmee 15 years & is working serving his time as electrain & John was a joiner we don’t call him John at home his pet name is Jan.
He has been on a course for motor driving & has passed out he was home for a few days at Xmas, when he got Mr McCartin’s last letter. He went and saw his C. Officer & he promised he would look into things. I often wonder what his thoughts are poor Jan he was broken hearted about the boys we have written to all there next of kind more than once it was a sad day for us all.
We are very sorry about the Photos Jan took them to have some taken off & they went missing but we hope they will turn up one of these days.
So with our very best wishes in the New Year to you & all at home,
18 February 1946.
Request For Copies of Leo McCartin’s Death Certificate.
184 Lyndham Road
To the Officer in charge
Casualty section R.A.A.F.
I have already applied for two certificates of Death (presumed)for my son, flying officer P.L. Mccartin, no.419328.
As I find that this is insufficient, would you please forward me an additional two to the above address.
Thanking you in anticipation.
Phone Call and Follow-up letter From Ministry of Air, enclosing a copy of John Gray’s Formal Statement
391 Lt. Collins St.
It is desired to confirm your conversation with an officer at Air Force Headquarters recently, when you were informed that this Department had received from Overseas Headquaters, Royal Australian Air Force, London a copy of a staement made by Flight Sergeant Gray, Royal Air Force, apparently as a result of a letter addressed by you to him in which you made enquiries concerning your late son, Flying Officer Patrick Leo McCartin.
As was then arranged a copy of this statement is forwarded herewith for your information.
Enclosed also is a certificatre of death on War Service issued in accordance with your request.
15 May 1946.
Return of Leo McCartin’s personal effects to the family.
Central Repository Kit Store,
Cnr. Howard & Rosslyn St.,
WEST MELBOURNE. VICTORIA
15 MAY 1946
With reference to the service affairs of your late son, Flying Officer Patrick Leo McCartin, I desire to inform you that his personal effects as shown on the attached inventory have been received by Royal Australian Air Force Central Repository, West Melbourne, from the United Kingdom, and are being forwarded to you under seperate cover.
I shall be glad if you will kindly acknowledge receipt of the effects referred to by signing the form of receipt endorsed on the duplicate copy of the inventory and returning same to this Headquarters in due course.
(W.R. Williams) Flyig Officer,
Officer in Charge,
PERSONAL EFFECTS OF THE LATE AUS. 419328 F/O P.L. McCARTIN
2 suitcases containing
1 bundle of maps and navigation books
4 prs black shoes
1 pr slippers
1 pr sandshoes
1 pr goloshes
1 pr gum boots
1 pr black boots
4 clothes hangers
1 leather strap
5 clothes pegs
3 prs blue trousers
1 radio set (badly damaged)
2 Officer’s blue tunics with Pilot’s badge
4 drab stockings
1 pr wool mittens
1 cranwell front
1 wool skull cap
1 pr seabboot stockings
1 pr leather gloves
1 wool scarf
2 wool pullovers
3 prs shorts
11 prs drawers
1 pr swim trunks
2 face flannels
5 prs pyjamas
2 linen bags
1 tobacco pouch
1 pr civillian trousers
1 zip golf jacket
1 photo in frame
1 dressing gown
2 clothes brushes
2 cycle pumps 3 hair brushes
1 shaving brush
1 Conway Stewart fountain pen
1 reel of cotton
1 Onoto fountain pen
1 darning block
1 comb case
1 chrome cigarette case
1 Westclox alarm clock
1 tin opener
1 shoe horn
1 wrist watch on strap (no make)
1 knife, fork and spoon in case
2 cigarette lighters
1 soap tin
2 wrist watch straps
1 bottle opener in case
1 tape measure
2 pkts pipe cleaners
1 magnifying glass
1 pr nail clippers
1 nail file
1 match case
1 set squar
1 pr dividers
6 cloth badges
2 metal badges
2 Plety kits
2 prs cuff links
1 length of flex and adaptors
2 torch cases
2 cycle lamps
1 cycle bell
1 bakerlite cup (damaged)
1 glass ashtray
1 leather folder
1 tin containing boot laces, brushes and polishing pad
1 toilet case containing 8 pieces
1 glass mirror
1 pr sunglasses in case (damaged)
1 ink bottle container
1 blade sharpener
1 canvas bag
1 cycle saddle containig
1 repair outfit
3 tyre levers
2 model aeroplanes
1 S.D. cap and badge
1 pr armbands
4 tooth brushes
1 pr scissors
2 kit bag handles
2 Prayer Books
1 padlock and chain
1 pkt. razor blades
1 safety razor and 9 blades
53 souvenir coins
2 leather wallets
1 writing case
2 photos in frames
4 note books
1 tobacco pouch
1 Soldiers pocket book
2 boxes senitised paper
1 bundle of stationary and photos
2 drivers licences
1 paper knife
1 package of photos and negatives
17 July 1946.
From Bert McCartin about handling of the return of Leo McCartin’s personal effects
After the distress that the telegram of 22 November 1944 had caused the McCartin family, Bert McCartin had asked the Air Force to ensure that any further communication about Leo was to be delivered first to him at the shop and not to Clare who was at home. However, one afternoon in 1946, there was a knock at the front door of the house and Clare could see as she went to open the door that it was two RAAF airmen carrying a trunk. She was convinced that it was Leo returning home along with another airman to help him with the trunk. But the sad news was that it was Leo’s belongings being returned to his family.
Cecily can remember that the trunk sat unopened for months and months. When it was finally opened Clare McCartin ripped out the final page of Leo’s Log Book, saying;
“no one is going to know that my son ran over a piece of tin on an airfield”.
22 April 1948.
Advice of the details of Leo McCartin’s grave in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery in Germany.
DEPARTMENT OF AIR
Albert Park Barracks
I refer to previous communications concerning your late son, Acting Flying Officer Patrick Leo McCartin and now advise that a report of his burial has been received by the War Office, London.
The report states that the remains of your son are interred in Plot XXIX, Row G, Grave No. 4 of the Reichswald Forest British Cemetary (R.A.F. extension), situated 3 miles west of Cleve, Germany.
Your son’s grave has been marked by a temporary cross bearing his name and service particulars. At a later date the cross will be replaced by a permanent headstone to be erected by the Imperial War Graves Commission which will maintain and care for the grave in perpetuity.
This Department has not received any burial details of the other members of the crew who lost their lives, nor has any advice been received concerning the recovery and burial of your son’s body. However, further enquiries are being made Overseas and as soon as additional information is received it will be conveyed to you without delay.
Permit me to assure you of the constant sympathy of this Department in the great loss which you have suffered.
There is a danger that we forget the individual human stories when we look at the horrendous statistics of RAF losses but these letters capture the unbearable anguish of one family. To lose a son in these circumstances was terrible but I cannot begin to imagine the pain of not knowing if he is dead or alive or what happened in those last few minutes. Thank you to Leo’s family for sharing this and to Simon for providing the means.
This was a fascinatinfg read as it referred to my uncle John ”Ian ” Gray. After his shooting down and incarceration in a POW camp he suffered frostbite and consequently lost both legs . On a motorcycle tour of Germany in 1979 I visited the two cemetaries that his crew are buried in and took photos of the graves of his fellow crewmembers for my uncle Ian to take them back to his home in Scunthorpe , Lincs. Unfortunately my Uncle Ian passed away on 26th Sept. 2009.
These tragic stories are repeated over and over. I have seen some of the letters relating to the period of “Missing” of my uncle WOff FA Page RAAF, of the Burke crew who was posted Missing in May 1944. Their tenor is as for the above letters and the grief within the words is palpable. It was so hard for families to find out what had happened to loved ones and the service was under such incredible pressure trying to fight a war, chase up information and keep up with correspondence. As evidenced in this chain of correspondence the situation became more chaotic once the war ended. It is sobering to revisit this terrible time through these letters. “Lest we forget” is so apt but unfortunately the memories of the sacrifices of these young men will fade over a few generations which is the way of the world. Who now mourn those lost at Waterloo?
I found the thread of posts covering the departures on the Homberg raid incredibly moving, particularly the first with the evocation of the scene at Mepal as the aircraft started engines and took off on the raid. Thank you sincerely for that and for the sensitive way this huge 75 Sqn story is being handled.