Tag Archives: 1944

Roy Akehurst, Wireless Operator – Egglestone crew

Chris has contacted me to pass on the sad news that Roy Akehurst, Wireless Operator with Val Egglestone’s crew has passed away.

Roy and the crew arrived at Mepal on the 19th of December 1944 and completed 29 Ops with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF between the 28th of December 1944 and the 18th of April 1945.

Chris has also passed on the following reference to Roy that is in his Uncle Gerry’s diary:

On the 1st of May 1945, with the end of the war imminent, Gerry received a telegram to return from leave in London to Mepal.

 The next day, he wrote,
“Took the 11.40 to Ely & met Roy Akehurst who also has a recall. Arrived in camp at 2 and the Adj (Adjutant F/L Charles Bewsher) informed us that we are on a signals attachment effort. We have to go to Waterbeach tomorrow & get the lowdown from the Base Signals Officer.”

 As part of the planning for anticipated mass P.o.W repatriation flights from Europe, the Waterbeach Signals Officer told them they were to be posted to Germany to help with flying control. “We are to have a portable R/T set & two mechanics to maintain it.” However, the posting fell through for Gerry, as it was decided that no Dominion aircrew would take part. Instead he was posted to Air Crew Allocation Centre (ACAC) at RAF Catterick, basically a holding camp, and eventually to wait for passage back to NZ.

It is not clear, whether indeed Roy did go to Germany………

Roy’s full tour history with the Squadron can be seen here.

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!

Jack Meehan – Wireless Operator, Glossop crew

jack-meehan

Jack Meehan, Wireless Operator with the Glossop crew
image copyright New Zealand Herald

It is with great sadness that I must report the passing of Jack Meehan, Wireless Operator with the Glossop crew, on the 27th of December.

Jack and the Glossop crew flew out of Mepal with the Squadron between July and December 1944, taking part in Ops to support the Allied invasion of Europe, before switching back to the main bomber campaign against targets in Germany.

Jack’s full obituary in the New Zealand Herald can be read here.

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!

Seasons greetings for 2016

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The Bailey crew boarding NE181 “The Captain’s Fancy” at dispersal, to begin pre-flight checks before flying to Krefeld, 29 February 1945 – 99 op’s marked.
New Zealand Bomber Command Assn. archive / Alan Scott

A suitably wintery photograph of the Squadron’s most famous Lancaster NE181 “The Captains Fancy” prefaces this years Christmas message.

Another year has passed and more remarkable material has so generously been shared by relatives of those who flew with the Squadron. The blog has grown considerably over this last year, now allowing access to Operational histories for every crew that flew with the Squadron during the War period. Where necessary, these histories also have loss details which include, where they exist, gravestone inscriptions.

These crew pages will now form the main points of archive for material as it is added to the site – in this way, the crews will have their own commemorative pages and their contribution to the Squadron and Bomber Command will be recorded in memoriam.

I would encourage you all to think where appropriate, about personal additions to the crew pages – I am keen  to see these histories personalised – I know you are all so proud of the boys and I think this needs to be recorded as well.

The blog now has a full set of transcribed Combat Reports. Whilst the archiving of these records has highlighted what appears to be significant gaps in this record, we now at least know where these gaps exist and the opportunity of course, now exists to keep an eye out to add to it.

Recently, Chris submitted an update to the aircraft database and this prompted me start a more detailed presentation of the gathered research on the aircraft of the Squadron. As an equivalent record to the Crew Op histories, each aircraft will have its own operational history presented with, where it exists, a photograph of the aircraft and additional material and or information as and where it exists.

This expansion to the database is another significant undertaking – but, as with the majority of the information presented to date, has it never been presented digitally before in a format that is accessible to everybody. You can have a sneak preview of what will for sometime be a work in progress here.

The blog traffic continues impressively – recently passing 370,000 views. This translates to over 93,000 individual visitors with over 700 following the blog through WordPress, Twitter or Facebook.

We are the largest, most viewed and most followed online resource dedicated to 75(NZ) Squadron RAF and as always I have to say that this is all thanks to you guys, the relatives and readers of the blog.

My efforts to build the infrastructure for the site has meant that I have not been able to post as much as I have wanted and also to reply to what seems always now to be a significant backlog of emails – a New Years resolution is to get back on track with all this – I promise.

So, to all of you from 75nzsquadron.com, I wish you a Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year!

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!

The War Log of Bill Allen – part 16

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Epilogue…..

The final installment of Bill’s memoirs is told by his sister, it seems clear that the loss of his crew, the privations and pressures, fears and anxieties were simply too much. Upon returning home, despite his promise to finish his record, it never was – perhaps like all that went through similar experiences, the thought to revisit it, was simply too much – it was best forgotten perhaps…….

‘When my brother Bill arrived home I was very thrilled when he gave me his Diary inscribed on the cover “Dedicated to my Sister”. He explained that now he was safely home, he would finish writing it up for me, but as time went on he seemed less inclined to even want to talk about it so it remained unfinished.

However, on his first evening at home he did tell me what happened when the Russians reached the camp he was then in at a place called Luckenwalde just a few miles outside of Berlin. This was the camp to which they had been force marched by the Germans from the POW camp in Silesia, Poland (about 800 miles) when they were retreating from the Russians. Many of the POW’s died on the way, Bill was one of the lucky ones.

This is the final chapter as Bill told it to me:’

 “The Joy they felt when the Russians broke into the camp was very short lived and after a few hours freedom, they were very securely back in their huts and the camp had more armed guards around it than when it was in German hands. Bill did say that when the Russians stormed in they (the POWs) ran out into the town but when they saw the very dreadful behavior of the Russians they felt sick and went back into the camp. The following day they were delighted to see a convoy of American Army trucks surround the camp and they cheered and shouted expecting to be released but their excitement turned to horror when they saw the American Officers in charge being escorted back to their armoured cars and all the convoy moved off again. The POWs couldnt believe their eyes and the Russians wouldnt tell them anything and treated them very badly. This happened again on each of the next three days and on the third day Bill managed to squeeze through trees and bushes and up to the barbed wire where he got the attention of a black American truck driver parked just outside. He told Bill they had come to take the POWs to freedom but the Russians wouldnt part with them. The driver after talking to Bill for a while said he didnt like the look of things and if any of them wanted to take a chance and run for it he would back during the night and help them because he didnt trust the Russians and said he himself wouldnt like to be in their hands and his officers were very worried about the POWs. Bill told him he would like to risk it so it was arranged that the driver would come back at an arranged time during the night and bring what was necessary to cut the wire.

 He told Bill his truck could carry 20 but not one more so it was up to Bill to arrange it with the POWs. Enough of them gave their names to Bill to make up this number and when it was time to go he went quietly to each one to tell them but only 5 of them came with him. The others had decoded they may be released the next day so they didnt want to risk it.

 The driver was there with his truck and had cut a considerable hole in the wire for them to crawl through and they were on their way. It was a very tricky journey because it meant crossing the River Elbe to get to where the Americans were stationed and when he went to the first crossing (held by the Russians) they told him be could cross but he had to leave his passengers behind. He told them what to do and put his foot down to get to the next crossing but the same thing happened again and eventually they crossed over via a pontoon bridge put down by the Americans. They were very good to them but said if their mothers saw the condition they were in they would have heart attacks. So they put them in their sick bay for a few days and then laid them out on mattresses in the hot sunshine for two days before passing them on to the British.”

‘Bill says he owes his life to the American truck driver – he was a hero. He came on extended leave but some months later he had to report to London to be officially demobbed. He met a former POW from his hut who told him the Russians treated them worse every day and three of them had been shot dead trying to escape. It was a further three weeks before the Russians would release them so Bill was pleased he had taken his chance and gone with the black American driver who risked his neck for them.’

 

Many thanks to Katherine , the Niece of Bill Allen and Christina , whose Great Uncle was BIll Reaveley for supplying this additional material on the Bonisch crew.

The gathered material is a moving collection of material that spans the extremes between death and survival. Fragments of memories remember a crew who clearly were close and had more than a mutual respect for each other. The presence of 3 “Bills’ in the crew shows a touching method of differentiation – William Reaveley, Frank William Cousins and Bernard ‘Bill’ Allen became known as ‘Uncle Bill’, ‘Brother Bill’ and ‘Cousin Bill’ respectively.

The updated Bonisch crew Ops page can be read here.

The War Log of Bill Allen – part 15

Liberation – of a kind…..

15th April 1945
“After two days hanging around at the Goods Yard at the Luckenwalde Station, we are back at the Camp again, as the Germans realised that they would be unable to move us to the new Camp due to the speed of the Americans advance on Leipzig. The Country is almost cut in half so it looks as though we will now remain in IIIA until we are taken by the Allies or Russians, who we have just heard have also launched a large scale attack on Berlin.

The two days that we were in the town were quite a pleasant change. The weather was good, and we were given a surprising amount of liberty, such as talking to the German civilians, and walking up and down the railway tracks. We were exchange soap for eggs and bread from the civvies, soap being the only thing we have plenty of, and a thing of which the Germans are very short. A tablet of English soap will purchase the half of the town. The Germans are getting very slack and easy with us now that it is near the end of the War, they know that they have lost and are doing their best to be friendly with the prisoners, but we won’t wear them. All the young men have been put in the front lines and only sixty year old Volk Sturm (Home Guards) guard the camp, some of them are almost too old to carry a rifle.

20th April 1945
Strong rumours are running round the camp that the Russian Army is within eleven kilometers from the Camp, so if it is true they should be here by the morning.

21st April 1945
Apparently the rumours were true regarding the Russians, as all the guards have got their kit packed, and are ready to move out this morning, some of them have gone already, and the remainder are more or less on their way.

We can hear the Russians fighting in the town already and the last of the Germans are leaving the camp. The k’g’s are breaking down the wire, and roaming all over the camp, great excitement is everywhere.

A Norwegian General has taken command of the camp, with an R.A.F. Wing Commander as second in command, guards were organized to prevent the food stores being looted by the Russian prisoners who have gone berserk.

The sky is full of Russian and German aircraft engaged in combat, it is very thrilling to watch but very dangerous, occasionally one comes down and strafes the camp, and it is not very funny, especially as the buildings are so flimsy and are no protection from cannon shells.

22nd April 1945
At six o’clock this morning a Russian tank entered the camp, and at last we were liberated, the fellows went mad, cheering their heads off. An Officer jumped out of the tank and the R.A.F. lads mobbed him, he was very embarrassed at the enthusiasm shown him, and I gave him my last cigarette, and was happy to do so.

At ten o’clock a whole armoured column moved into the camp, they were also mobbed. Some of the tanks had Germans riding on top, they had been taken in advance. I am very pleased that we are fighting with the Russians, and not against them, they are a very ugly, bestial crowd, half savage and very badly clothed. In the town of Luckenwalde they looted, and wrecked everything, shooting all the German civilians that they met and destroying the shops and houses. I can almost feel sorry for the Germans.

The camp is now completely in the hands of the Prisoners with a Norwegian General in camp, great excitement is everywhere.

A Norwegian General in command, he being the senior Officer at the camp, and the second in command is W/Cdr. Collard R.A.F…..”

The War Log of Bill Allen – part 14

Left page“The autograph of Max Schmelling the German heavyweight boxer whom I spoke to in Stalag IIIA. His home is in Luckenwalde a town near the Stalag. He was in civilian clothes and is engaged by the German Red Cross doing welfare work, the nature of which no one seems to have any idea, all that he appeared to do was sign autographs. Some form of propaganda I suppose” a drawing by the author of ME702 AA-Q image © Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

Left page
“The autograph of Max Schmelling the German heavyweight boxer whom I spoke to in Stalag IIIA. His home is in Luckenwalde a town near the Stalag. He was in civilian clothes and is engaged by the German Red Cross doing welfare work, the nature of which no one seems to have any idea, all that he appeared to do was sign autographs. Some form of propaganda I suppose”
RIght page
A drawing by the author of ME702 AA-Q
image © Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

Breaking point…..

12th February 1945
“A few words about IIIA. We have so little food that we can only lie on our beds all day and think of home and food, we have no energy for anything else. It is a large camp, divided into a number of smaller compounds each of these containing so many men. The Officers are in i=one, Americans, Serbs, Poles, French etc., in the others, yet they meticulously count us twice a day at 7.00a.m. and 5.00p.m. How they think anyone can escape heaven knows, there are about nine walls of barbed wire before you reach the outer fence, and there are hordes of armed guards all along the wire.

14th February 1945
We learned today that our bread is to be decreased again from today so that we now receive three ounces per day. If the War does not end very soon a lot of us will not survive this imprisonment, we are taking on the appearance of skeletons, I would not like my Mother to see me in this condition.

23rd February 1945
Since last making an entry in this book I have had seven days in bed (if you can call it a bed) with tonsillitis and flu, and due to our undernourishment condition I have had a rough time. The food rations are getting less, due we are told to the R.A.F. bombing of Berlin, which is only 25 miles away, and also to rail junctions in this area. Germany is in a grim state and I don’t know how they stand up to this pounding that they are receiving from the Allied Air Forces. A sensation was created by the British Camp Leader giving us each twelve cigarettes, the first since Christmas. It was a decided booster of moral.

27th March 1945
The moral of the chaps has received a great fillip at the news of Field Marshall Montgomery’s big drive in the West, and we are all beginning to see visions of an early finish to the War and our return home. The food in Germany has become worse during the last week. Our rations have again been cut very drastically by order of the German High Command. We now receive three thin slices of black bread, and a half lire of soup per day. Luckily a consignment of Red Cross food parcels came in, and we each received one this week, it will supplement the meager German rations for a few days.

The area of this camp is about two square miles and is situated twenty five miles from Berlin. The air-raid sirens are howling day and night as the R.A.F. and the Americans bomb Berlin and Leipzig. The Germans in the principal towns of Germany must be bomb happy by now, we stand for hours every day watching dog fights between American and German fighters, its quite thrilling especially when great formations of Allied bombers fly over to bomb Berlin.

9th April 1945
News keep on coming in every day of the Allies push in the West, and we are all looking forward to being released, as quite a number of P.O.W. camps have been already. It will be great to get home again, especially from the point of view of food. The rations are getting less every day, and the quality worse.

11th April 1945
Once again we have had the grim news that we are to be moved from the camp to another camp in Bavaria, near Munich, we are to go in the morning at 8 o’clock. The distance is so great and the railway service so bad that we don’t expect to get to 7A Camp inside two or three weeks, if at all, it is possible we may be cut off by the Americans in the Leipzig area.

12th April 1945
We marched down to Luckenwalde and boarded box cars on the Railway for our journey South. There were sixteen hundred of us, twelve hundred Officers and four hundred N.C.O.’s, all R.A.F. Air Crews, they seem to be hanging on like grim death to R.A.F. Personnel. However, the box cars will be better than another march like the one from Bankau, we are to be packed 40 in a truck like cattle nevertheless……”

The War Log of Bill Allen – part 13

The March continues…..

“Our next two days of marching took us to Prousnitz and then on to Goldberg where we were supposed to get on board a train, which prospect cheered the men considerably, but this proved to be just another of the Commandant’s idle and empty promises. We stayed at Prousnitz for two days and then marched out to Goldberg where we were again installed in a barn, this time in a very filthy farm yard, and where our awful predicament really reached a most grim state. The first thing, out bread ration was cut to an eighth of a loaf, and soup almost disappeared. We looked a rough crowd by this time, we had been marching for sixteen days and were unshaven and in the most cases unwashed. We had not had our clothes off either day or night from leaving Bankau, many of the chaps were lousy through sleeping in dirty cowshed and barns. The worst part of the whole trip was the perpetual hunger which we were all suffering from. Men were exchanging gold watches, some valued at £15 and £20 for one small loaf of bread.

5th February 1945
The seventeenth day on the road and a nightmare march through the night ended the marching. We had again been promised rail transport from Goldberg and had 10 K to march to get to the town and station. We left the farm in the middle of the night and we set off marching in a long weary straggling column, and after an hour we were caught in a fierce blizzard whilst out in the open and on top of a range of hills. It was terrible to see men collapsing in the snow and laying there until the Padre’s coaxed them to go on. We passed on dead man frozen in the snow, it made one think of stories we had heard of the Artic region. We passed lots of German Army transports stuck in snow drifts, some overturned, and Germans cursed us because we would not help them dig the trucks out. We arrived in the Railway Station at eight o’clock the next morning and were herded into the box cars, 56 men to a truck and were packed in worse than in the barns, we could neither sit or lie down, it was grim. We only travelled 200k’s (125 miles) but it took us three days. We stood as long as sixteen hours at a time in sidings with about two or three travelling in between, and worst of all, we had no food whatsoever throughout the journey on the train, the result being that we were all too weak to stand on arrival at our destination. It took us two and a half hours to stagger, I won’t say march, to the P.O.W. Camp, outside the town. The Camp number was IIIA and was an old last war camp, at the moment containing 38,000 men and built for 8,000. There were French, Yugoslavs, Serbs, Italians, Poles, Russians, Americans and English prisoners in separate compounds. It was very much overcrowded, we were put into barracks meant to hold 150 men, 400 in each, it was almost as bad as the train.

At this camp we expected to get Red Cross Parcels, but there were none to be had, and hadn’t been for weeks previously. The German rations were also very poor, namely 1/24 of a 1lb. block of margarine, 1/5 of a loaf of bread and 1 cup of thin soup per day, the whole camp was in a state of semi-starvation. On arrival in the Camp, we were taken for a hot shower which we badly needed and when I had stripped off my clothes I was quite scared at the sight of my thin limbs and exposed ribs, I looked almost emaciated, it will take a long while to get our bodies built up and our strength back.

The whole twenty-one days of the marching was a grim nightmare which is best forgotten, but not easy to forget, and the sooner the War ends so that we can get home from this horrible camp, the better….”