Tag Archives: 1651 COnversion Unit

An amazing coincidence – John Hulena – a face to a name?

John Hulena in ITW and CU photos

2 images of who I believe to be John Sebastian Hulena, Rear Gunner with the Mayfield crew. The first taken at Initial Training Wing Wereroa, RNZAF Levin, January 1942. The second image is from a group photograph taken at 1651 Conversion Unit, Waterbeach, I believe mid July 1943.

I received an email from Chris this morning which confirmed a discovery I made last night. It’s all the more amazing because it’s come through 2 totally unconnected photographs that represent wider training outside of 75(NZ) Squadron. Ironically I recently posted an image of ‘B’ Flight  from 1651 Conversion Unit at Waterbeach. By simple argument of logic, I know that within this picture were Dads first tour crew, even though to date I have only been able to identify Dad, Allan Mayfield, Jack Jarmy and from the other crew that arrived with them at Mepal on the same day, Eric Roberts, Kensington Jackson and Darcy Haub.

Last week I was sent some information by Peter regarding a number of his relatives (which hopefully will be posted soon). One image was of a group photo from Air Gunner’s course, Flight 3A, Course 30, 21 January 1942, Initial Training Wing Wereroa, RNZAF Levin, Levin, NZ. It seems near simultaneously, both Chris and I noticed one signature on the back – ‘J. S. Hulena’
John Hulena signature ITWLevin-30Course-210142- rear-signatures

Of course, this didn’t identify John in the ITW photograph, however it was fairly easy to match 2 faces between the ITW and 1651CU photographs. When I had found the faces, I realised that for some strange reason that I had looked at the face a number of times in the CU Photograph – John was born in 1913, so was 9 years older than Dad – I had looked at this individual, simply because he looked older – it seems my ‘gut’ feeling was perhaps correct……

1651 Conversion Unit, Waterbeach, July 1943 – Names to faces – please help…..

'B' Flight, 1651 Conversion Unit, Waterbeach, July 1943

‘B’ Flight, 1651 Conversion Unit, Waterbeach, July 1943

I am keen to try and identify as many individuals in this photograph as possible, whether they ended up going to Mepal or not. I hope this image will be good enough to view and if you recognise anybody in it, I am happy to supply you with a high resolution version of it, able to be printed at A3.

So far;
Mayfield Crew.
Back row 2nd from left – Allan Johnson Mayfield.
Back row 3rd from right – John Sebastian Hulena*
Back row 4th from right – Walter James Gee*.
Middle row 7th from left – Robert Douglas ‘Jock’ Sommerville.
Front row (seated on chairs) 7th from left – Jack Francis Jarmy.

Roberts Crew
Middle row 1st from right – Kensington Campbell Jackson.
Middle row 2nd from right – Darcy Leslie Conrad Haub.
Middle row 3rd from right – Eric John Roberts.

*Not confirmed

Jack gets the 1651 photo and calls me back…..

from L to R; Sgt. Allan Johnson Mayfield, Sgt. Robert Douglas ‘Jock’ Sommerville and P/O Jack Francis Jarmy. 1651 Conversion Unit, Waterbeach, July 1943.

I’m sat in the studio for an early start on Saturday morning. The phone rings  – its Jack, saying he received the big ‘B’ flight photograph and he has ‘had a look at it’…… — my heart is in my mouth and I have 6 featureless faces with question marks on them slowly flashing in my head……

There is, perhaps with this sort of search, good and bad news. The good news is that Jack has found Allan and himself in the photo – exquisitely, Jack is sat in front of Bob.

I know I put too much hope into these things, but I am gutted when Jack says he can’t recognise any more of the crew. I desperately try to hide the disappointment in my voice – I don’t know whether I manage it. We chat a bit more – Jack confirms my contention from our first phone call in December that yes, they only flew 21 ops, having been through his own log book. Again, he observes their immediate screening one morning when they went into see the Battle Orders for the following night – there must be a story about this……

Fingers crossed……

Stirling bomber N6101 from 1651 Conversion Unit, Waterbeach. Image © Imperial War Museum.

I am having a search through the Imperial War Museum image archive – I have no idea what I am looking for, but I guess I’ll know if and when I find it…….

And then I think I do……

1651 Conversion Unit, Waterbeach, Cambridge shire photo taken around 1943. The image is of a Stirling with a bomb train leading to it – The designator letter on the aircrafts side is quite clear – “E” and the aircraft serial number is listed as N6101. I go back to Bob’s logbook to have a look…..just in case….

Bugger me – there is an aircraft listed July 19th 23.30 (night training) – ‘Stirling ‘E’’. Its too good a chance to pass up, so I order a hi res digital copy of the image.
I know the chances of it being the same aircraft is incredibly unlikely – laughably so, I suspect, so I throw out a question on the LAF – perhaps actually hoping not to get an answer back……
Perhaps inevitably, I get the answer back I am expecting from Neilw;

Sorry! – The Stirling Story (Bower) has N6101 as crashed by runway and burnt out 09/12/42.

Oh well, it was a nice dream for as long as it lasted and it’s a beautiful picture of a Stirling anyway…….

Trawling and pondering

As terrible as it sounds, I felt a certain reluctance in leaving to go down to see mum for Christmas. Initially it felt that I was leaving the computer and therefore the forums and therefore the chance to find more things out – I am prepared to admit, this aircrew research is bloody addictive – and this feeling makes me admit to myself that I am probably holding on a bit too tight…… A compromise seems to be to take the iPad with the ORB’s on it and a pad of paper. This decision proves to be an astonishingly good one…..

With only the ORB’s to protect me from the annual rubbish on TV I realise I now have the time and space to truly read them and I quickly begin find more about the boys in Bob’s 2 crews. A  cursory skim through  an ORB gives you a relatively easy crew list and raid history. With time and concentration this expands to find promotions and secondary histories of those that either passed briefly through the crew, or in the case of Sgt. Derbyshire, arrived late and then had to stay on to complete his 30 with another crew.

An evening flipping through my notes and staring at Dad’s logbook on the ‘Pad provides me with an epiphany moment. Staring at a page covering his time at 1651 Conversion Unit, prior to deployment at Mepal, I suddenly realise I am seeing ‘B’ flight in front of me on the page – until now I have drawn a complete blank with one of the pictures that I got from Helen, the only ‘B’ flight Dad was in was in 1945 when he was back with 75(NZ)………apart from here, at 1651 – , if this is 1651, then the picture will contain his first tour crew.

I get home 2 days later, print a copy of the ‘B’ photo as large as I can, put it into a tube and send it to Jack………….and wait.