Tag Archives: 100 op Lancaster

NE191 JN-M ‘The Captains Fancy’ – a new photograph…….

NE181 100th & aircrew VHD cleaned

A new photograph of the Bailey crew, taken prior to their 100th Op in NE181 JN-M ‘The Captains Fancy’ on the 29th January 1945, to Krefeld. L to R (back row), Jack Brewster (Nav), Norman Bartlett (F/E), Jack Bailey (Pilot), Jack Wall (A/B), Dick Pickup (W/Op). (front row) Roy Corfield (R/Gnr), Tony Gregory (MUG). Picture supplied by Tony Pickup ©

Many thanks to Tony, son of Dave Pickup, Wireless Operator with the Bailey crew for sending in another, we believe, unseen photograph of The Bailey crew and NE181 JN-M ‘The Captains Fancy’, prior to their departure to Krefeld on the 29th of January 1945 on ‘Mikes’ 100th Op.

It’s interesting to compare this picture with an earlier one that Tony supplied, which include the ground crew – it seems that the positions are barely changed – we can only guess which picture was taken first………

NE181 100th Jan 1945 tu low file

The Bailey crew in front of NE181 JN-Mike ‘The Captains Fancy’, just after ‘bombing up’ 29th January 1945. L to R (back row), Jack Brewster (Nav), Norman Bartlett (F/E), Jack Bailey (Pilot), Jack Wall (A/B), Dick Pickup (W/Op). (front row) Sgt. Phillips (Ground crew), LAC Thompson (Ground crew), Roy Corfield (R/Gnr), Tony Gregory (MUG), unknown ground crew member. picture supplied by Tony Pickup ©

LAC Thompson

 

 

Before she was famous – another picture of ‘Mike’

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The Wood crew in front of NE181 JN-Mike ‘The Captains Fancy’
Back row L to R: Arthur Taylor (W/Op), R. Johnson (Nav), Francis Wood (Pilot), Les Hurcombe (A/B)
Front row L to R: Sgt Woolley (MU/Gnr) & Sgt. Mahoney (R/Gnr) – who is who, not known, Les Gibbs (F/E)
Courtesy Kevin King/Alf Gibbs.

Many thanks to Kevin, who after the post from Chris last night, passed on this fantastic early photograph of NE181 JN-Mike, ‘The Captains Fancy’. Based on the Op count and referring to the history of the aircraft that Chris has been working on, the images dates between the 15th and 16th August 1944.

The photograph is very interesting as it shows a relatively clear version of Capt. Reilly Ffoul – interestingly it also shows a tonal difference around the character and also a box around the Op bombs. My understanding is that the original matt black paint on the side of production Lancasters tended to be repainted once on Squadron (when a new lick of paint was required) with a less matte, but practically more durable black paint. The flatness of the paint around the Op tally and Reilly makes me wonder whether ‘Mike’ had had a second coat of this very matte paint and the painter had perhaps framed the existing artwork, rather than trying to paint to the edges of the artwork? Conversely, perhaps a coat of less matte paint had been used to clean up the edges of Reilly after he had been added to the aircraft and or it had been applied initially to provide a better ‘key’ for the paint work of the mascot and Op tally.

If you count the bomb tally, it appears that on the penultimate row, one bomb on the left hand side of the row seems to have been blacked out, discounting this, the Ops are 38, including this omission as it were, gives us 39 Ops. This in itself provided another conundrum – Kevin said that the photograph had come from Alf Gibbs, Flight Engineer with the Wood crew, but again referring back to the history produced by Chris,  John Scott’s crew flew number 38  and John Lethbridge’s  crew flew number 39 – checking the ORB showed that Alf had not been a fill-in on either of these Ops – so I mailed Kevin back with this query.

Kevin’s answer back was I suppose obvious ‘it makes a good photo for the folks back home…..‘ – doubly so if the boys had any idea how many Ops ‘Mike’ would end up flying with the Squadron and that we would all still be talking about it now!

That famous first ton

NE181 100th Jan 1945 tu low file

The Bailey crew in front of NE181 JN-Mike “The Captains Fancy”, just after ‘bombing up’ for the Krefeld op’ on the 29th January 1945 (99 op’s marked).
L to R (back row), Jack Brewster (Navigator), Norman Bartlett (Flight Engineer), Jack Bailey (Pilot), Jack Wall (Bomb Aimer), Dick Pickup (Wireless Operator). (Front row) Sgt. Phillips and LAC Thompson (ground cre, Roy Corfield (Rear Gunner), Tony Gregory (Mid-Upper Gunner), Fred Woolterton (ground crew).
– picture supplied by Tony Pickup ©

Many thanks as always to Chris for a new post about NE181 JN-Mike, ‘The Captains Fancy’….

Excitement is building amongst us Kiwi 75’ers as we look forward to the re-paint of (one side of) Auckland’s MoTaT Lancaster to represent 75(NZ) Squadron RAF’s famous ‘ton-up’ Lanc’, NE181 JN-M Mike “The Captains Fancy”. A formal hand over ceremony will be conducted at MoTaT in April, with veterans and the families of JN-M’s crews invited to attend.

Amongst the NZBCA’s photo archive are two photos that appear to be part of the documentation of that famous event, the day NE181 achieved the 100 op’s milestone. They have been published elsewhere, but for the record, it would be great to have them together displayed together with the other priceless record of the occasion.

This is the historic picture (top of post) of the Bailey crew, published previously on this site alongside Bomb Aimer Jack Wall’s memoirs. The seven crew are shown with three of Mike’s ground crew, about to leave on that famous 100th operational sortie to Krefeld. It looks to have been a freezing cold day, complete with snow and fog, in the middle of what was one of Europe’s coldest winters for many years.

The next two photos are from the NZBCA archive, from the collection of Alan Scott, Wireless Operator with the Anderson crew (April-July 45). They appear to have been taken the same day, going by the weather, light and backgrounds, and form a nice sequence as the crew apparently pause for a photo, board the aircraft, and then taxy out into the snow.

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The Bailey crew boarding NE181 “The Captain’s Fancy” at dispersal, to begin pre-flight checks before flying to Krefeld, 29th of January, 99 op’s marked.
New Zealand Bomber Command Assn. archive / Alan Scott

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NE181 “The Captain’s Fancy” apparently taxiing out from her dispersal, preparing to fly to Krefeld, 29th of January, 99 op’s marked.
New Zealand Bomber Command Assn. archive / Alan Scott

Once again, if anyone has more information about these photos – or in fact, ANY other photos of NE181, we would love to hear from you – and thanks again to Peter Wheeler and the NZBCA for permission to share photos from their archives.

MOTAT Lancaster to be repainted as NE181 JN-‘Mike’, ‘The Captains Fancy’

JNM cropped comp

NE181 JN-‘Mike’ – The Captains Fancy’ – the new paint scheme for the Lancaster on display at the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland, New Zealand.
Image via NZBCA Facebook page – © Peter West

I woke up this morning to see the exciting news on the New Zealand Bomber Command Facebook page, that the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland has announced their Lancaster will be repainted in the markings and nose art of 75(NZ) Squadron RAF NE181 JN-Mike – ‘The Captains Fancy’.

The Lancaster on display at MOTAT was built in June 1945. NX665 was destined for service in the Pacific as part of the proposed Allied invasion of Japan. However, Japanese surrender in September 1945 made the deployment unnecessary. The aircraft instead went into storage at Llandow until sold to the French navy in 1951.

Following acquisition by the French, NX665 was given the military registration WU13, and deployed first in France, then Morocco and Algeria on anti-submarine patrol, maritime reconnaissance, and air-sea rescue operations. After service in North Africa, WU13 returned to France in preparation for deployment in the Pacific with Escardrille 9S based in Noumea, New Caledonia. This was the aircraft’s last period of active service before being gifted to MOTAT as a good will gesture to New Zealand by the French Government.

‘The Captains Fancy’ holds a special fascination with 75(NZ) Squadron as it was the only aircraft in the Squadron to pass its ‘century’ of completed Operations. Perhaps inevitably because of this ‘fame’ there is a degree of ‘fogginess’ that exists around the aircraft, regarding the exact number of Ops credited to it and even in some quarters, what crew and what date the magic figure of 100 Ops final was recorded. The mystery is compounded by the fact that ‘Mike’ never carried more that 101 bombs (indicating Ops completed), even though research strongly suggests this figure is possibly 104 – after leaving Mepal for maintenance, it returned, but the ORB’s seem to contain inaccuracies regarding ‘Mike’s’ further flights and in some cases it is a matter of vigorous conjecture as to whether the  aircraft listed are others or in fact NE181. What we do know of course is that ‘Mike’ DID complete at least 101 Ops whilst with the Squadron – so I am very interested to see how MOTAT will present and try to communicate the disparity between the ‘official’, painted total and the higher figure that many, including myself, think she reached.

The bittersweet irony of this aircraft’s presence in the Museum is that the officers in 75(NZ) Squadron lobbied hard to have NE181 bought home (some believe the maintenance break towards the end of the war was as much to prepare ‘Mike’ for the flight back home as it was to simply overhaul her for further Ops). Despite the desire of the Squadron to bring the old girl back home with them, it would appear that the New Zealand government baulked at the fuel bill for the homeward flight……..

See a past post by Ian and Chris regarding the mystery of the final Ops and in fact whereabouts of NE181 here.

See the announcement on the NZBCA Facebook page here.
Visit the MOTAT Lancaster webpage here.

The final mystery of Mike……..

It seems only fitting to pose the following questions from Ian after the Jack Wall memoirs. There are clearly a number of question marks hanging over NE181 around and after her 100th Op and we are all keen to find the answers that might complete another one of the pieces of this historical jigsaw.

Ian and Chris have spent a lot of time over the last few months trying to build an accurate history of this aircraft and now Mikes latter period with the Squadron is under scrutiny.

ac card NE181 cropped

The aircraft movement card for NE181, JN-M, The Captains Fancy.
© Royal Airforce Museum, Hendon/ Crown

NE181 (JN-M)
20 May 1944: NE181 joins 75 Sqn – ref. NE181 Aircaft Movement Record

29 Jan 1945: Completes her 100th operation, to Krefeld under S/L Bailey – ref. 75 Sqn ORBs

2/3 Feb 1945: Completes her 101st operation, to Wiesbaden under S/L Bailey – ref. 75 Sqn ORBs
Photos are extant showing 101 operations for her.

16 Feb 1945: Completes her 102nd operation, to Wesel under S/L Bailey – ref is Bomb Aimer Jack Wall’s notes, which state “M” (it was our 102nd operation for “M”) but ORBs list this aircraft as RF129, JN-M, a Lancaster I (the first reference made to RF129 in the ORBs)

17 Feb 1945: Alex Simpson flies her to Waterbeach – ref my letters from Alex and ‘Forever Strong’. Rather than being ‘struck off’, it seems highly likely that NE181 just spent several weeks here being refitted.

20 Mar 1945: We believe this was her 103rd op, to Hamm under S/L Bailey – no ref, just a hunch as S/L Bailey is flying this operation (all other listings in ORBs for RF129 have a different captain, except 16 Feb, 20 Mar and 24 Apr). ORBs list as RF129.

24 Apr 1945: Completes her 104th operation, to Bad Oldesloe under F/O Ware – ref is F/O Ware pilot’s logbook, Colin Emslie navigator’s log (Kiwis Do Fly) and a photo of the Ware crew beneath the nose of NE181; however, the bomb tally shows only 101 operations.

After this date, there is anecdotal evidence that she flew several PoW repatriation operations – ref??

19 Jul 1945: – goes to 514 Sqn – ref. NE181 Aircraft Movement Record

4 Sep 1945: goes to 5 MU – ref. NE181 Aircraft Movement Record

30 Sep 1947: Struck off charge – ref. NE181 Aircraft Movement Record

So the questions are:

  1. Why does the ORB list RF129 as having flown operations on the 16.2.45 and 24.4.45 (and probably the 20.3.45), when the crews, who seem well-aware of her fame,  state they were flying in NE181?
  2. If the above is correct, then there seem to have been two JN-Mikes kept on squadron after 16.2.45 – was NE181 returned to 75 Sqn from Waterbeach in anticipation of her being ‘repatriated’ to NZ?
  3. If NE181 was going to be returned to NZ, why was she flown on further operations? Two were flown by S/L Bailey – did he use her because she was ’his’ aircraft? (Did he fly any other operations between 16 Feb and 24 Apr in other aircraft?*) For the final operation, NE181 was the lead aircraft on a G-H raid – was she used this day because of her G-H ability? (Note- no one was aware of the significance of this ‘final’ operation for 75 Sqn.)
  4. Why, if she indeed did fly another 3 missions after the 2/3.2.45 as seems very likely, were NE181’s operational bomb tally on her nose not updated beyond 101? (Ref the photo of the Ware crew, taken after final operation 24.4.45)
  5. What references do we have for NE181 flying POW repatriations after operations ceased?

*Dick Pickups’s logbook lists; 22 Feb Osterfeldt, JN-Z, 26 Feb Dortmund, JN-P, 5 Mar, Gelsenkirchen, JN-P, 9 Apr Kiel, JN-K

So, as always if anybody has any thoughts, ideas or better still, factual information on this subject and these questions – please dive into the conversation!……..

(personally, I’d LOVE to see any correspondence between the Squadron and the New Zealand Government regarding the failed attempt to bring her home – Simon)

The memoirs of Jack Wall – Part 14. We will remember them

I didn’t want to let Jack Wall’s memoirs just stop, so I will finish them simply, but in a way that I think is fitting.

TO ALL AIRCREW OF ’75’ SQUADRON WHO FLEW IN WORLD WAR TWO

Boys of then, who are men today, turned in their civvies to free my land
Volunteers they were, these aircrew chaps who gave the hun no place of fun
Bomber Command this mighty force, had boys of spirit to serve the cause
Belgium people in those days would listen carefully to their voice
The voice of Merlin who night and day, boosted their morale in a magnificent way
No one else as those involved, will ever understand the meaning of it all
A song of freedom high above, who would bring relief for the people I so dearly love
My father and mother and many more, have prayed for you, who helped to win the war
We think of them, these magnificent men of ’75‘, who served and died to free my land
Standing here today, is thanks to them, who served and died
We will remember them.

Peter Loncke.
First Sergeant Belgium Air Force.

Ake Ake Kia Kaha
forever and ever strong

The memoirs of Jack Wall – Part 13. NE181, The Captains Fancy

NE181, JN-Mike – ‘The Captains Fancy’ holds a special fascination with 75(NZ) Squadron as it was the only aircraft in the Squadron to pass its ‘century’ of completed Operations. Perhaps inevitably because of this ‘fame’ there is a degree of ‘fogginess’ that exists around the aircraft, regarding the exact number of OPs credited to it and even in some quarters, what crew and what date the magic figure of 100 Ops final was recorded. Certainly yesterdays post makes it clear from Jack’s and no doubt the entire Bailey crew that it was them!

NE181 original artwork

(Original caption from Jack Wall); 75(N.Z.) Squadron – Mepal. The Captains Fancy prior to the Air Ministry order that the majority of the figure was to be blacked out as it was too visible at night……
NE181 sporting a ‘brighter’ version of ‘The Captains Fancy’ nose art, after her 51st Op, which was to Calais, 20th September 44, piloted by S/L Williamson.

The picture below showing The Captains Fancy prior to her 100th Op with a clearly ‘blacked out’ version of the original artwork……..

The Bailey crew in front of NE181 JN-Mike ‘The Captains Fancy’, just after ‘bombing up’ 29th January 1945. L to R (back row), Jack Brewster (Nav), Norman Bartlett (F/E), Jack Bailey (Pilot), Jack Wall (A/B), Dick Pickup (W/Op). (front row) Sgt. Phillips, unknown ground crew member, Roy Corfield (R/Gnr), Tony Gregory (MUG), unknown ground crew member. picture supplied by Tony Pickup ©

The Bailey crew in front of NE181 JN-Mike ‘The Captains Fancy’, just after ‘bombing up’ 29th January 1945.
L to R (back row), Jack Brewster (Nav), Norman Bartlett (F/E), Jack Bailey (Pilot), Jack Wall (A/B), Dick Pickup (W/Op). (front row) Sgt. Phillips, unknown ground crew member, Roy Corfield (R/Gnr), Tony Gregory (MUG), unknown ground crew member.
picture supplied by Tony Pickup ©

original advertisement artwork

An image supplied by Mirror Group Newspapers, dated 27th July 1988; ‘We are enclosing with our compliments a copy of the cartoon character which you requested. He is Capt. Reilly-Ffoul, and he appeared in our ‘Just Jake’ strip during the 1939-45 war.’

JCWall Memoir Appendices_0001

Air Ministry Bulletin announcing the award of a Bar to Jack Bailey’s D.F.C., won during the Osterfeld OP
Jack Wall’s Recollections of the OSTLEFELD Opoeration;
This was a daylight raid and we led the flight formation – this was probably why we had so much flak aimed at the aircraft. When the other aircraft in the formation saw our bomb doors open they opened theirs and when they saw our bombs start to fall they followed with theirs. If we had been shot down they were instructed to bomb on their own. We did take a battering and Jack had to feather one engine over the target. However he still managed to fly straight and level for our bombing run and I have a good photo of the bombing in my small collection. Our load was 1×8,000 lb., 6×500 lb., and 1×250 lb. Bombs. When we landed it was found that we had been hit in all engines and had a total of 57 holes in various sizes. However no one was injured and all 21 Aircraft from the Squadron that took part returned
safely I cannot remember if any others were hit by flak; It was for his skill and courage on this operation that Jack was awarded the Bar to his D.F.C. – John was always known as Jack.

JCWall Ops Log & Bombing Photos_0006

A letter from Fred Woolerton, one of the ground crew that looked after NE181 throughout her stay at Mepal. The first part is an extract from an Air Ministry Bulletin, sent by Fred to Jack, the second part an explanation from Fred why ‘The Captains Fancy’ missed that one Op…….