S.L. Spillman crew 6.1.45

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The Spilman crew, back from left to right: Gerry Abrahams, Wireless Operator; Tom Corlett, Bomb Aimer; Norm Holbrook, Navigator; Harry Thorne, Flight Engineer. Front, from left to right: Vern Clouston, Mid Upper Gunner; Sidney “Buzz” Spilman, Pilot; Pat Burke, Rear Gunner. – Photo courtesy and copyright of NZ Bomber Command Association photo archives, from the collection of ”Buzz” Spilman.

Many thanks to Chris for this post on Gerry Abrahams and the Spilman crew. I think its fitting given the contribution that Chris has made regarding posts to the blog since the start that he should tip us over the 250,000 views count – thanks Chris for all your efforts!

A letter to the Editor in The New Zealand Herald (Auckland’s daily newspaper) caught my eye a few weeks ago, commending the New Zealand cricket team on their sporting manner during the recent test and one-day series in  England. The writer began by saying “As someone who had the pleasure of serving with  your forces in the last war …”, and that’s probably what caught my eye, even though I’m also a Black Caps fan.

The letter was signed by a “Gerry Abrahams, Birchington, Kent” – could this be 75 (NZ) Squadron veteran Gerry Abrahams? A quick check with Dee Boneham and Glen Turner via the 75 Squadron Assn Facebook page confirmed Gerry’s location as Birchington, not far from Manston, where he volunteers as a guide at the Spitfire & Hurricane Memorial Museum.

Shortly afterwards Gerry himself popped up on the Facebook page, contributing to a thread of great historical importance, listing the pubs frequented by the boys based at Feltwell and Mepal, 1940-45!

I mentioned in the thread that he probably drank with my uncle, both being W/Op’s, both being in crews that were partial to Percy’s Pub in Sutton, and both being named Gerry!

I also mentioned an entry in my uncle’s diary for 13 March 1945: “The W/Ops had a fair beat up in Sutton at the Royal Arms. Old Flip (?) swallowed his false teeth & finished up in Ely hospital.”

And sure enough, Gerry says he was there! Not an evening to easily be forgotten, by the sound of it.

So since I have been sitting on these photos of Gerry and his crew, I thought I should post them here, as a tribute, and as a “thank you” to Gerry, his skipper “Buzz”, who still lives in Nelson, NZ, the other members of their crew, and the hard-working ground crews of “B” Flight.

”Buzz” Spilman did his basic training at ITW Levin, then went through fighter pilot training; Tiger Moths at Harewood and Harvards at Woodbourne. He shipped out for England in November 1941 on the troopship Monterey, via the Pacific Islands and Hawaii (passing through only 10 days before the Japanese attacked!) to Canada. He crossed the Atlantic on the SS Letitia, arriving in Liverpool on Christmas Eve 1941. After a stint as a flying instructor, he transferred to Bomber Command, and after further training, was posted to 75 (NZ) Squadron. He was still only 22.

2.1.45: Administration. NZ4210535 F/S Stevens, C.M. and NZ413138 F/L S.L. Spilman. and crews arrived from No. 31 and No. 73 Bases respectively.

B Flight Commanding Officer S/L Bob Rodgers took the crew on their first op’, a daylight G-H attack on rail marshalling yards.

05/01/1945 – Attack Against Ludwigshafen
Twenty one aircraft attacked Ludwigshafen, carrying 4,000 H.C., 500 ANM., 500 G.P. 500 M.C., and Munro bombs. Visibility was clear. H/F was met, but all aircraft returned safely. A scattered raid was reported.

“A good concentration of bombs in target area and stream well together; should have been a good attack. Good concentration about 200 yds from river bank.”

Lancaster Mk.III LM740 AA-B
Hit by flak 5 times (AIR14-3463)

S/L John Robert “Bob” Rodgers, RNZAF NZ413956, Pilot.
F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 11:32 – Landed 17:32
Flight Time 06:00

06/01/1945 – Attack Against Neuss
Fifteen aircraft were detailed to attack Neuss but the operation was cancelled just prior to ‘take-off’. However, one hour after this cancellation, the operation was put on again. The fifteen crews were briefed a second time and eleven aircraft made an accurate attack on Neuss. Four aircraft captained by F/O Cumberpatch, F/S Russell, F/O Crawford and F/lt. Hannan had technical trouble and returned early. On this attack the aircraft carried 4,000 H.C., 500 ANM., and Munro bombs. Cloud was nine to ten tenths. Crews bombed with the aid of instruments and sky markers.

“A lot of small fires and some smoke rising; quite good flares seen after leaving.”

Lancaster Mk.III PB427 AA-U

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 15:47 – Landed 20:49
Flight Time 05:02

8.1.45. The crew ferried Lancaster PB761, AA-Y back to Mepal from RAF Waterbeach, a 25 minute flight, presumably after heavy maintenance. This was the aircraft that crashed 9 days later at Woodditton, Suffolk, England on the way back from a raid on a benzol oil plant at Wanne- Eickel, Germany, killing Pilot Tim Blewett, Navigator Bryant Cornell, and Johnny Wilson, Air Bomber.

11/01/1945 – Attack Against Krefeld
Nineteen aircraft were detailed to attack Krefeld, carrying 4,000 H.C., 500AMN., 500G.P., 500 M.C., 250 G.P., and Munro bombs. Seventeen aircraft bombed the target in tenths cloud with special equipment and two aircraft bombed last resort. Slight H/F was met over the target, but no fighters were seen.

“Nothing to report.”

Lancaster Mk.III LM733 AA-R

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston*, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke*, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

*NOTE Clouston and Burke swapped positions at this point and the change seems to have been permanent.

Take Off 11:41 – Landed 16:57
Flight Time 05:16

13/01/1945 – Attack Against Saarbrucken
Eighteen of nineteen aircraft detailed carried out a successful daylight attack on Saarbrucken Marshalling Yard, carrying 4,000 H.C., 500AMN., 500G.P., 500 M.C., 250 G.P., and Munro bombs. W/Cdr Baigent in ‘A’ had to return with his full load after reaching the target owing to technical trouble which prevented release of bombs. Crews bombed on special equipment. The Marshalling Yard was visible and many bursts were seen on the target. No opposition reported. All aircraft were diverted owing to bad visibility at Base.

“Blue puffs very good. A2/D* bombed 50ft above, was in no formation causing me to take avoiding action.”

* Lancaster LL674, A2-D, 514 Squadron, based at RAF Waterbeach, was lost two weeks later.

Lancaster Mk.I PB761 AA-Y

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 11:41 – Landed 18:17
Flight Time 06:36 (Landed Port Reath)

14.1.45. Ferrying PB761, AA-Y from Port Reath back to Mepal, 1 hr 55 mins.

15/01/1945 – Attack Against Langendreer
Eighteen aircraft were detailed to attack Langendreer, carrying 4,000 H.C., 500AMN., 500 M.C., 250 G.P., and Munro bombs. One aircraft ‘D’ captained by F/O Leadley failed to reach the target owing to starboard inner engine failing. No results were observed owing to ten tenths cloud. Flak was slight over the target. No fighter opposition was encountered.

“Hit by flak when stream turned short and passed over Gladbach. Had to feather port outer. Stream weaved when flak came up and had no window cover.”

Lancaster Mk.III LM733 AA-R
Hit by flak once (AIR14-3463)

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 11:33 – Landed 16:59
Flight Time 05:26

16/01/1945 – Attack Against Wanne Eickel
Seventeen aircraft attacked Wanne Hickel in ten tenths cloud, tops 6/7000 feet, carrying 4,000 H.C., 500 G.P. 500 ANM, 500 M.C. 250 G.P. and Munro bombs. Crews bombed with the aid of instruments and sky markers. Flak was moderate. The general impression was that bombing was concentrated on markers and red glow seen through cloud. The aircraft captained by NZ426235 F/S Wood, J, was attacked by a F.W. 190. The rear gunner opened fire, but no hits were observed and our aircraft suffered no damage. The aircraft captained by NZ414376 F/L T. Blewett unfortunately crashed in this country. The captain and Air Bomber NZ426234 F/O J. Wilson were killed. The Navigator 1398282 F/S Cornell, B.T. died later as a result of severe injuries.

“A promising attack.”

Lancaster Mk.I HK562 AA-L “Lucy”/ “Love”

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:31 – Landed 04:27
Flight Time 04:56

22/01/1945 – Attack Against Duisburg
Fifteen aircraft attacked Duisburg carrying 4,000 H.C., 500 ANM., 500 G.P. (I.D) 250 G.P. and Munro bombs.Visibility was good. Crews saw the Rhine. Fires and explosions were seen coming from a concentrated area. A successful attack was reported. No opposition encountered.

“Good attack plumes of black smoke seen after bomb bursts and red glow on route home.”

Lancaster Mk.III LM733 AA-R

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 17:20 – Landed 21:54
Flight Time 04:34

28/01/1945 – Attack Against Cologne (Gremberg)
Twenty aircraft attacked Cologne (Gremberg) as ordered, carrying 4,000 H.C., 500 ANM., 500 M.C. “50 G.P. and Munro bombs. Cloud broke to nil just before the target and crews were able to identify the marshalling yard. Accurate slight to moderate H/F was met over the target. No fighters were seen. Bursts were seen on the marshalling yard. All returned to base.

“Bombing seemed accurate on Marshalling Yard.”

Lancaster Mk.III LM733 AA-R

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 10:25 – Landed 16:12
Flight Time 05:47

29/01/1945 – Attack Against Krefeld M/Y
Nineteen aircraft attacked Krefeld marshalling yard in ten tenths cloud, carrying 4,000 H.C., 500 ANM., 500 M.C., and 250 G.P. Bombs. Aircraft bombed in formation with the aid of instruments. A good concentration was reported. Slight H/F over the target was the only opposition encountered.

“Seemed a very good attack.”

Lancaster Mk.III LM733 AA-R

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 10:10 – Landed 15:40
Flight Time 05:30

09/02/1945 – Attack Against Hohenbudburg
Twenty one aircraft were detailed to attack Lutskendorf, but the target was changed during the afternoon to Hohenbudberg. This operation was carried out in 8/10th cloud with tops about 10,000. Flak was slight to moderate and S/L effective. A scattered raid was reported.

“Fair concentration of bombing.”

Lancaster Mk.I HK561 AA-Y “Liefy”

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 04:14 – Landed 08:41
Flight Time 04:27

13/02/1945 – Attack Against Dresden
Twenty aircraft attacked Dresden as detailed. Very slight H/F was only opposition. The first aircraft over the target reported thin cloud which had cleared for later aircraft. Some aircraft were able to bomb visually. Crews reported the whole town was well alight and could see the glow of fires 100 miles away on return A highly successful raid.

“Good attack with very little flak. No S/L no fighters.”

Lancaster Mk.I LM276 AA-S “Sugar”

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:14 – Landed 07:11
Flight Time 08:57

14/02/1945 – Attack Against Chemnitz
Twenty one aircraft were detailed to attack Chemnitz. Nineteen attacked primary. AA”J” F/O R.J. Pearson, returned early through engine failiure. Cloud was ten tenths with tops 16-17000 over the target. Aircraft bombed with the aid of special equipment. No resilts were observed, very slight H/F was met over the target. AA”D”, captained by F/L G.S. Davies failed to return.

“Master Bomber ordered bombing on navigational aid on good D.R. but later he changed to Wanganui flares. These were disappearing into cloud.”

Lancaster Mk.I LM276 AA-S “Sugar”

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 20:41 – Landed 05:12
Flight Time 08:31

16.2.45. Two brief Air Tests with S/L Rodgers, in AA-T and AA-X.

18/02/1945 – Attack Against Wesel
Twenty aircraft attacked Wesel. Twenty one were detailed but AA”R” F/S Scott, returned early through technical trouble. Aircraft bombed on special equipment in ten tenths cloud with tops about 10,000 ft. Leaders were satisfied it was a good raid. Very slight H/F was only opposition

“Lead-in erratic – rather scattered bombing released over green puffs.”

Lancaster Mk.I LM276 AA-S “Sugar”

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 11:59 – Landed 17:07
Flight Time 05:08

19/02/1945 – Attack Against Wesel
Twenty one aitcraft were again detailed to attack Wesel. AA”J”, captained by F/S Lukins, B.L., returned early through engine trouble. Cloud was 1-10/10ths with some haze. A few crews were able to identify the river bend. Bombing appeared to be accurate. Very slight H/F was the only opposition.

“Bombing concentrated and seemed to be going into centre of town. Some fires had started.”

Lancaster Mk.I LM266 AA-F “The Seven Sinners”

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 13:33 – Landed 18:30
Flight Time 04:57

20, 21, 23.2.45. G-H Photography and G-H Bombing practice, 2:25 – 2:35 hrs each.

23/02/1945 – Attack Against Gelsenkirchen
Sixteen aircraft attacked Gelsenkirchen as detailed. There was ten tenths thin cloud over the target with horizontal visibility between 500/ 1000 yds. Formation keeping was very difficult in these conditions, but crews reported quite a good bombing concentration on special equipment and leaders. Opposition from flak was very slight and no fighters were seen. F/S Barr, D. landed at Warboys.

“Several G.H. Leaders released at the same spot, a very poor visibility.”

Lancaster Mk.III PB427 AA-U

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 11:40 – Landed 17:27
Flight Time 05:47

25.2.45 Air Test – Lancaster I, HK562, AA-L “Lucy” (aka. “Love”), 10 mins.

26/02/1945 – Attack Against Dortmund
Eighteen aircraft attacked Dortmund as detailed. Cloud was ten tenths over the target with tops 5-6,000 ft. No results were seen but bombing is thought to be concentrated. NZ428168 F/O N.H. Thorpe crashed in this country after passing over base in formation. Four members of the crew were killed.

“Formation flying above bombed through the formation and broke it up rather badly.”

Lancaster Mk.I NG449 AA-T

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 10:39 – Landed 16:14
Flight Time 05:35

27/02/1945 – Attack Against Gelsenkirchen
Eighteen aircraft were detailed to attack Gelsenkirchen, carrying 4000 HC 500 ANM 500 MC bombs. NZ426904 F/O M. Adamson and NZ425292 F/L D. Sadgrove returned early through engine trouble. Cloud was ten tenths. Leaders met slight to moderate H/F. No results were seen.

“Attack seemed scattered. Also a squadron was seen 1,000 ft above overtaking with bomb doors open. Squadron believed W.P.” (90 Squadron)

Lancaster Mk.I LM276 AA-S “Sugar”

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 11:28 – Landed 16:24
Flight Time 04:56

01/03/1945 – Attack Against Kamen
Seventeen aircraft were detailed to attack Kamen, carrying 4,000 H.C., 500ANM., 500 M.C. and Munro bombs. F/O D. Barr in AA”C” jettisoned and returned early through engine trouble. Crews bombed on special equipment as the target was obscured by ten tenth cloud. Flak was negligible.

“Consider very good run into target – checked with own G.H. fix. Good concentration of smoke puffs.”

Lancaster Mk.I NG449 AA-T

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
F/S Donald Babington Shearer, RNZAF NZ4210512 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 11:46 – Landed 17:18
Flight Time 05:32

02/03/1945 – Attack Against Cologne
Twenty aircraft were detailed to attack Cologne. No aircraft bombed owing to special equipment failiure. Three aircraft jettisoned due to flak damage to engines, the remainder bringing their bombs back. F/O Woodcock was wounded in the neck and his engineer F/Sgt. Gibb in the legs but landed safely at base.

“G.H. Leaders did not bomb. Formation went on to Coblenz area before turning off. Bombs brought back.”

Lancaster Mk.I LM276 DNC AA-S “Sugar”

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 13:11 – Landed 18:22
Flight Time 05:11

04/03/1945 – Attack Against Wanne Eickel
Eighteen aircraft were detailed to attack Wanne Eickel. JN”O” F/O D. Barr returned early through engine failiure. Crews bombed with the aid of special equipment in 10/10ths cloud. No results were seen but crews were satisfied that it was a good attack. Slight to moderate H/F was experienced.

“11.50 hrs 51.30 N 04.00 E G.H. Fixes were not correct as checked by D.R. from 10.45 hrs. W/T Received intermittent. Broadcast only partly received.”

Lancaster Mk.I NG449 AA-T

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 09:45 – Landed 14:47
Flight Time 05:02

06/03/1945 – Attack Against Wesel
Five aircraft attacked Wesel carrying 4,000 H.C. and 500 ANM Bombs. These aircraft comprised the first attack and later three more aircraft carrying the same type bombs attacked. On both attacks aircraft had an excellent run in and report bomb flashes well concentrated round target area. Flak opposition was slight. No fighters were seen.

(One of the three 75 (NZ) Sqdn a/c in the second wave.)
“If photo comes out it should be to port of bombing run as aircraft went to port to avoid other aircraft.”

Lancaster Mk.I ME751 AA-M

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 18:22 – Landed 23:32
Flight Time 05:10

07/03/1945 – Attack Against Dessau
Thirteen aircraft attacked Dessau as ordered. Aircraft bombed in 10/10ths haze and thin cloud. Crews were given instructions by M/B to bomb on Skymarkers but some were able to make out T.I’s and in two cases identify the street. Fires were burning over a wide area when aircraft left the target. Flak practically nil in target area. Some E/A were seen and AA”S” F/L Spilman had a short inconclusive encounter. A satisfactory operation.

“Good concentration of bombing and fires.”

Lancaster Mk.I LM276 AA-S “Sugar”

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
F/S William Mallon, RNZAF NZ427521 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 17:23 – Landed 02:10
Flight Time 08:47

The Combat Report says that at 9.12pm and flying at 18,000 ft, a FW.190 dived on the a/c from the port quarter, the Mid Upper Gunner, F/S Clouston firing immediately and ordering the Captain to Corkscrew Port. Clouston fired continuously until the E/A, which didn’t fire back, broke away 300 yds to Starboard. Clouston observed hits on the wings and fuselage.

CombatReportSpilmanDessau7Mar45

Combat report, 7 March 1945.

10/03/1945 – Attack Against Gelsenkirchen Buer
Twenty one aircraft attacked Gelsenkirchen as detailed. Aircraft bombed in light formation and all bombs were dropped together. Cloud was ten tenths. Slight H/F was encountered.

“Good formation over target G.H. run steady HS4/5 W/T set became heated was switched off and sprayed, fire averted.”

Lancaster Mk.I ME751 AA-M

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
P/O William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 12:20 – Landed 17:25
Flight Time 05:05

11/03/1945 – Attack Against Essen
Twenty one aircraft were again detailed for operations, tis time against Essen. Very slight H/F was the only opposition. Cloud was 10/10ths. A gradual blackening of the cloud tops was all that could be seen.

“Good bombing of target – could see brown smoke coming through the cloud.”

Lancaster Mk.I NG449 AA-T

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
P/O William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 11:42 – Landed 17:11
Flight Time 05:29

14/03/1945 – Attack Against Heinrich Hutte
Twenty aircraft were detailed to attack the above target. Crews found the target covered with 10/10ths cloud. Formation was good though the target and bombs fell away together. Very accurate moderate H/F was met on the run in and over the target. F/Lt. E. Parsons in AA”E” failed to return. His aircraft was seen to be hit causing it to spiral into cloud. F/S McLernon landed at Woodbridge but returned to base the following day.

“Very concentrated attack with good formation.”

Lancaster Mk.I ME751 AA-M

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
P/O William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 13:32 – Landed 18:28
Flight Time 04:56

23/03/1945 – Attack Against Wesel
Eight aircraft were detailed to attack Wesel carrying 1,000 M65 (RT), 1,000 M65 (B.T.) and Munro bombs. The target was attacked with the aid of special equipment. There was no cloud over the target but the visibility was poor owing to smoke. All crews reported a good concentration of bombs on the A/P. Very slight H/F was experienced.

“A well concentrated effort. Should be very successful.”

Lancaster Mk.I ME751 AA-M

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
P/O Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
P/O William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 15:12 – Landed 19:04
Flight Time 03:52

29/03/1945 – Attack Against Salzgitter
Twenty one aircraft attacked Saltzgitter as detailed. Cloud was ten tenths, tops up to 19,000 ft and thin cloud and contrails persisting above, reducing visibility to 500yds. No results were observed and a scattered raid is reported. Flak moderate.

“Formation very poor due to poor weather conditions. No release pulse – number aircraft bombed together.”

Lancaster Mk.I ME751 AA-M
Hit by flak once (AIR14-3463)

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
P/O Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
P/O William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 12:40 – Landed 19:05
Flight Time 06:25

13/04/1945 – Attack on Kiel
21 aircraft were detailed to attack Kiel. The target was covered by 10/10 cloud with tops 4/5000. Bombing was concentrated and fires were seen on leaving the target. Flak was slight. M/B was clearly heard. (AA’K’ F/O. Morgan W.) returned early, bombs were jettisoned. This was also a leaflet raid.

“Lots illuminating flares and red and green TI’s with some explosions on target. Good bombing on target. Large glow seen.”

Lancaster Mk.I ME751 AA-M

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
F/O Allan Ralph Baynes, RNZAF NZ427453 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
P/O Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
P/O William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 20:33 – Landed 01:54
Flight Time 05:21

18/04/1945 – Attack on Heligoland
25 aircraft were detailed to attack the target HELIGOLAND. Weather was good with good visibility. Crews were able to identify northern top of Island and also western edge. The rest of the Island was obliterated by smoke. Bomb bursts on fires. The crews bombed as ordered by the Master Bomber and bombing was thought to be well concentrated, but there was some overshooting as well as undershooting.

“Clear visibility. Good concentration of bombing.”

Lancaster Mk.III PB418 AA-C “Charlie”

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
F/O William Roy Brinsden, RNZAF NZ427573 – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
P/O Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
P/O William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 10:26 – Landed 15:08
Flight Time 04:42

22/04/1945 – Attack on Bremen
21 aircraft were detailed to attack BREMEN. 2-5/10ths cloud over target and many crows (???) made out river bend and factory area. Bombing results were satisfactory though slight overshooting and undershooting but not outside built up area. Flak from Wilhemshaven and Bremen was at intervals moderate and very accurate. Flight Engineer (Sgt. R. Clark) of AA/P was killed. No fighters seen.

“Bomb bursts around A/P seen on run in. Air Bomber appeared to overshoot by 15 seconds according to GH check. AA/S was next leader, this aircraft was level with it for bombing.”

Lancaster Mk.III RF157 AA-X
Hit by flak 6 times and category ‘AC’ damage.

F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
F/S Norman ‘Norm’ Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest ‘Tom’ Corlett, RAFVR NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gerald ‘Gerry’ Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Harold ‘Harry’ Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
P/O Vernon Alfred ‘Vern’ Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
P/O William Patrick ‘Pat’ Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 15:18 – Landed 20:36
Flight Time 05:18

DSC_0240 (2)

The Spilman crew, with ground crew. Gerry Abrahams, standing, second to left; “Buzz” Spilman centre front. – Photo courtesy and copyright of NZ Bomber Command Association photo archives, from the collection of ”Buzz” Spilman.

The crew appear to have been tour-expired after the Bremen op’, and most of the crew were posted out. Buzz stayed on, moving with the squadron to Spilsby.

13.8.45 – NZ413138 F/L SL Spilman Pilot was posted to No. 109 OTU for Instructor duties.

At the end of the war Buzz moved on to transport command in India, before returning to New Zealand. He worked at Air New Zealand predecessor Teal Airways in administration for seven years before heading back to flying as an aerial topdressing pilot.
He and Mrs Spilman retired to Nelson in 1980.

After the war Gerry had a successful career as a civil aviation pilot. These days he volunteers as a guide at Manston’s Spitfire and Hurricane Museum.

The two crewmates met up in 2012 when Buzz came over to the UK with the RNZAF Bomber Command vet’s for the unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial.

As always, many thanks to Peter Wheeler and the NZ Bomber Command Assn. for permission to reproduce the above photos.