Tag Archives: 1944

Cpl. Ronald Wood – Radar Technician

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Cpl. Ronald Wood, Radar Technician at Mepal, 1943 – 1945. © Malcolm Wood.

Many thanks to Malcolm for making contact and sending these wonderful pictures of his Father, Ron Wood, who was a Radar Technician with the Squadron at Mepal between September 1943 and his demob in August 1945. ©

Ronald enlisted in the RAF in March 1939 and Malcolm recalls the family being on a holiday in Anglesey, when on the 1st of September his Father received a telegram that cut the holiday short and required Ron to don his uniform. His first posting was to 924 Squadron, manning barrage ballons in the Manchester area, particularly Trafford Park – not far from where the Wood family lived. Whilst Malcolm was too young to realise the potential seriousness of the situation – he is sure it was a massive worry to his Mother, when in February 1940, Ronald was transferred to France.

Approximately 2 weeks after the Allied evacuation of Dunkirk Ron and his comrades left St. Malo, in a fishing boat in a rather rough journey back across the Channel. Arriving back in the UK on the 18th of June, he came straight back home on leave and Malcolm remembers being extremely disappointed that his Father did not have a rifle!

On his return to the UK, he continued with 924 Squadron at Eastleigh. After it was decided that the WAAF would take over Barrage Balloon duties, Ron went to Signals School which Malcolm recalls was near the Tower of London (Malcolm also says that Ron mentioned playing football in the Tower of London moat!) , perhaps at the University of London, and was retrained as a Radar Technician – something Ron would have been very pleased with, given his fascination with radio from a very early age.

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Ron stood, we presume at Mepal with a Lancaster of the Squadron in the background. © Malcolm Wood.

After 9 months of training, Ron arrived at Mepal to maintain radar equipment in September 1943, only a few months after 75(NZ) Squadron also had arrived at the new airfield.

Ron remembered Mepal as a sleepy, one pub, one shop village where you could get a puncture repair kit and not much else! – Perhaps a useful item given that bicycles were used extensively on and off the airbase. After the War, Malcolm remembers his Father saying that he had a ride in a Squadron aircraft to view the effects of the Allied bombing campaign.

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Ron, stood to the left, with 2 unknown technical or ground crew at Mepal. © Malcolm Wood.

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Another view of life in a nissan hut at Mepal with other technical. ground crew. © Malcolm Wood.

The only souvenirs of his time at Mepal, which Malcolm still has was some jewellery, fashioned from Perspex and two cannon shells – placed in a vice, the bullet and cordite would be removed before the detonator was struck with a punch and a hammer to fully deactivate it.

It exists without debate that the Ground and Technical crews performed a critical and perhaps nowadays a forgotten contribution to the Squadrons of Bomber Command and as such, perhaps the stresses and anxieties of that time were just as acute for them. Ron, according to Malcolm never did anything with his campaign medals or his Air Efficiency Award, all still being in their original delivery boxes when Malcolm had them mounted, to wear with pride as a son of one of the brave men of the RAF.

Retro Afternoon Tea Party – Mepal

Also thanks to Brian for a heads up regarding the forthcoming event in Mepal:

Event: Retro Afternoon Tea Party – Mepal

 

Date: 23 August 2015

Location: East Cambridgeshire

Time: 16:00 – 18:00

Cost: £5

Tea party to bring residents of Mepal together to commemorate anniversary of end of World War 2 and remember the contribution of the 75(NZ) Squadron RAF.

The event has been organised by the Mepal Archive Group and will include:

Tea party inspired by the way wartime rations were used to produce wholesome meals and snacks and display of photos and memorabilia.

The aims of the event are to commemorate the end of the war; inform the younger generations about this time and the contribution that  75(NZ) Squadron RAF, who were based at RAF Mepal, made; help integrate the established and newer residents of the village, and promote the community archive (CCAN) website.

Contact phone no: 01353 777621

Contact email address: jane.edmenson@gmail.com

Full address: Mepal Village Hall, School Lane, Mepal, Ely, CB6 2AJ

 

Joe Tomlin – “C” Flight Instrument Section 1943 -1944

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Ground crew with Stirling, Mepal, late 1943 / early 1944. Caption on the back: “C Flight Inst Sect Mepal. Mac, Doherty, Burley, Frost, Ansell and Dave Smith.” – Photo courtesy and copyright of NZ Bomber Command Association photo archives, from the collection of Joe Tomlin.

Many thanks to Chris as always for supplying the following post:

In memory of Robert Arno “Joe” Tomlin, RNZAF (NZ401045):  1920 – 3rd June, 2015

Just recently we heard the sad news that another 75 (NZ) Squadron veteran had passed away, Joe Tomlin of Tairua, aged 95 years.

Joe Tomlin was an horogolist by trade, an expert in timepieces. At the  outbreak of war, he joined the RNZAF as an Instrument Repairer and left for  the UK in November 1941.

After serving on Air Search & Rescue squadrons and at 1651 Heavy Conversion  Unit (heavy bomber training) he applied to NZ High Commissioner Bill Jordan  to get “operational” and was posted to 75 (NZ) Squadron at Mepal, arriving  on 21 November 1943 .

There he served as a member of the “C” Flight Instrument Section,  specialising in the repair and maintenance of “George” the auto pilot, first on Stirlings, then later on Lancasters.

Joe remembered one particular autopilot repair job in “Kiwis Do Fly”, as told to Peter Wheeler:

“The crew of this aircraft was skippered by a mad Aussie pilot named Popsy. They were most concerned as they only had two Ops to go to finish their tour and felt that a change to a new aircraft might change their luck. Popsy asked if there was any way their regular mount could be made serviceable. I suggested we do a flight test.”

The flight test resulted in the Lancaster going into a steep dive as soon as “George” was engaged, and Joe floating around the cockpit while the Pilot desperately tried to to reach the autopilot disengage lever, and regain manual control.

Instead of following the proper procedure of returning the unit to base maintenance for repair and testing, the Pilot insisted that Joe do an on-the-spot repair, so they could fly in their own kite that night. Joe managed a fix, and after another air test, signed off the aircraft as serviceable on the Form 700. Needless to say, the improvised repair worked and Popsy and crew made it back safely that night.

“My diary of 13 June 1944 reads; “went up to the White Horse for a loaf of bread and a few drinks and met Popsy, the mad Aussie. He and his crew had just finished their tour of Ops and when they saw me, they stood me several beers saying I was responsible for getting them home several times and did so much by getting ‘George’ spot on. It was nice to be appreciated.”

“Popsy” appears to have been P/O Robert Albert Potts, DFC, RAAF (AUS.415353), and the Lancaster in question would have been LL866, the original S-Sugar from “Luck and a Lancaster”.

Luckily for us, Joe took several photos during his time at Mepal, and many years later allowed the NZ Bomber Command Assn to take copies for their archives. These photos, and their captions, give an insight into the ground crew’s view of life on Base.

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Stirlings, Mepal, late 1943 / early 1944. – Photos courtesy and copyright of NZ Bomber Command Association photo archives, from the collection of Joe Tomlin.

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Unknown groundie and what looks to be an 8000lb H.C “cookie” on its bomb trolley. – Photo courtesy and copyright of NZ Bomber Command Association photo archives, from the collection of Joe Tomlin.

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Crashed Stirling AA-R? Caption on the back: “R 75 Sqdn Pranged at Mepal” – Photo courtesy and copyright of NZ Bomber Command Association photo archives, from the collection of Joe Tomlin.

This is possibly Stirling LJ473, AA-R, piloted by Des Horgan, which overshot Mepal runway on return from a mining op’ north of Biarritz on the morning of 16.12.43, swung into a steep turn and had to belly-land.  Although looking at this photo, it’s hard to believe that none of the Horgan crew was injured!

One other Stirling crashed at Mepal while Joe was there, returning from a mining op’ off the Frisian Islands on 16.12.43, Stirling EF163, JN-L, captained by P/O Colin John Kinross, RNZAF (NZ417069). In this case, all crew were killed except for the Mid Upper Gunner, Sgt S. T. Newman, RAF (928207) who was only slightly injured.

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Caption on the back: “EH955 JN-K. Lost 19 April 1944 shot down by nightfighter over Denmark. Due to “C” Flight re-equipping with Lanc’s in March 44 this a/c re-lettered “AA-K” just before being lost.” – Photo courtesy and copyright of NZ Bomber Command Association photo archives, from the collection of Joe Tomlin.

This is the Stirling that the Murray crew was shot down in on 19 April, and  from which Sgt. John Edward Lithgow “Paddy” McFarland, F/S Gordon James  Irwin, and F/S Douglas John Hill parachuted.

There are several posts on this site about the Murray crew and much more about Paddy McFarland’s story here:

Caption on the back: “Lancaster Mepal. ND914 AA-H. Swung on landing 28-5-44. Written off.” - Photo courtesy and copyright of NZ Bomber Command Association photo archives, from the collection of Joe Tomlin.

Caption on the back: “Lancaster Mepal. ND914 AA-H. Swung on landing 28-5-44. Written off.”
– Photo courtesy and copyright of NZ Bomber Command Association photo archives, from the collection of Joe Tomlin.

More about ND914 here:

Joe (“Cpl Tomlin”) appears on this Battle Order for the Duisburg op’, 14 October 1944, bottom right, where he is listed as duty Instrument Repair technician.

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Joe left 75 (NZ) Squadron on 19 Dec 1944 and was posted back to New Zealand shortly afterwards.

Peter Wheeler:
Of course post war Joe didn’t slow down, being one of the very first commercial divers, using old CO2 cylinders as air tanks, as well as building and flying Jodel ZK ECF.

In later years he rebuilt our (MoTaT’s) Lancaster’s auto bomb sight, and we have a great video of him using it to control a bombing run over a large scale map on his garage door.

I last visited him after Christmas and he was still full of energy and ideas. A very special person.

Our thoughts and condolences go to the Tomlin family, and our thanks to Joe for his valued service, and for passing on his memories of those Mepal days long ago.

– And as always, thanks to Peter Wheeler and the NZ Bomber Command Assn. for permission to reproduce these photos, and the excerpt from “Kiwis Do Fly”.

2015 Friends of 75(NZ) Squadron Association Winter Reunion

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It seems a good time having gotten an email from Margaret last week to try to utilse the wider reach of the blog to try to attract more new people to the Association’s Winter Reunion this November.

If you are an Association regular it’s a wonderful annual opportunity to catch up with friends and if you are new to the Squadron and Association, it’s a chance to meet like minded people, share information and perhaps learn some things about a relative.

As in previous years, accommodation for the reunion event will be in Dolphin Hotel in St. Ives.

The Reunion weekend runs over 2 nights, with an informal dinner on Friday night, before the Reunion Dinner ‘proper’ on Saturday night. After the Dinner on Saturday night there is a raffle (so don’t forget to bring something, somebody else would like to win!) and usually any announcements related to the Association.

The Dolphin has been generous enough to charge the same as they did last year.

The charges for the weekend are as follows:
£118 per person for the weekend for dinner, bed & breakfast

For those staying 1 night the charge is £87.15 per person for a double room, or £71.75 for a single – breakfast is included in this, but the evening meal is extra.

There will be a trip out on the Saturday morning – which is yet to be confirmed, but information on this visit will be available closer to the date.

On Sunday we all move to Mepal village for a service in the Memorial Garden and the laying of wreathes at the village cenotaph before joining the people of Mepal in the chapel for a service of remembrance. There are then refreshments in the village hall.

In order to try to help Margaret and hopefully make the Reunion accessible to more people I have set up an Eventbrite page, which is accessible to the right of this post. Booking a free ticket for the event only indicates an interest in the event  and lets us gauge interest – though if you change your mind, please let us know so we can give someone else a chance.

You can book up to 3 Double or Single  rooms for the reunion and, as is always the case, these will go, so, to avoid disappointment, book early!!

Hope to see you all at the Winter Reunion……..

A new range of T-shirts – and something personal to you and them……..

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Firstly, a massive thank you to everybody who has so far visited the blog shop and generously put their hands in their pockets, in some cases multiple times, to buy something and by doing so, contributing some money to the UK Association and Memorial Garden.

I am really pleased to present a new collection of T-shirts, designed to allow relatives of the brave boys of 75(NZ) Squadron RAF to celebrate and commemorate their contribution to the Squadron, Bomber Command and the Allied War effort.

The Redbubble model of production means I am able to offer a range of ‘named’ T-shirts to commemorate your dearly loved relative.

If your relative is not listed, then let me know and I can create one unique to them and special to you.

The T-shirt features the Squadron crest with motto ‘Ake Ake Kia Kaha’ (Forever and ever strong’, the personalisation statement and then front views of 75(NZ) Squadron’s aircraft, from top to bottom, the Wellington, the Stirling and the Lancaster.

Because of the way I have designed this T-shirt in particular, I can and if someone requires it provide further customisation.

If your relation to the individual ( I think that’s the right way to describe it) is not listed, then please say what you want and I can create one. This will be without extra cost.

If you want the T-shirt utterly personalised with your relatives rank, name and position, I can add this as an additional line under the ‘My Xxxxxxxxxx’ – so I will still need your relationship to them. Because of potentially another 2 lines of text, I will also require the aircraft he flew in – based on my broad estimations this means at maximum, a permutation of 2 of the 3 aircraft the Squadron used. For this service, the T-shirt will have a 50% mark up, relative to the normal 25% to reflect the time I will have to spend doing it.

As with everything else, all profits to the UK Association and the Memorial Garden in Mepal.

Many thanks in advance

Simon

A Redbubble walk through…….let’s make it easier for you to spend your money!

I have had a few queries regarding finding things on the Redbubble store – which I think are all entirely fair and obviously flags up a bit of an issue with people finding stuff – and I want you to find it, so you can buy it! Firstly, if you are gripped with the random need to buy some merchandising and don’t have the blog open, then you can go to Redbubble and put a search in for:

75nzsquadron

All one word. This should bring you to the portfolio page. screen 1

The rectangles named ‘Insignia’ and ‘Design’ are group collections of the artwork so far produced and the ‘Recently added’ below seems to just literally show all recently uploaded artwork – you can click on either to get to a merchandise range, based on that piece of artwork. I would note that there seems to not be an instant visual way to differentiate between the 2 full colour Squadron crest logos (one being full size and one being breast pocket size) but if you move your mouse over each or one, a logo name will appear and you can see the one marked ‘(small)’ We’ll go through one of the collections, ‘Design‘.

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Clicking on this collection obviously reveals all the designs in this collection. We’ll pick the ’75’ Racing number with RAF roundel colour stripes, as it’s already become one of the more popular designs.

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This brings us to the T-shirt page for this design and its worth noting a couple of things about this page regarding ordering options.

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Firstly, there is a VERY wide choice of garments that the artwork can be applied to. I must confess I do not understand why the default range seems only to show a unisex and female T-shirt.

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The second thing to note is that you can choose to have the logo printed on the front or the back of your garment – obviously for some garments, such as the racing back vest, it will make it small, but cool, nevertheless. And the next one is the proverbial ‘elephant in the room‘ regarding navigation of the site – ridiculously obvious, but only when you actually notice it – it took me a good 10 minutes to realise myself……… Just below the main merchandise section is a series of information links and one is the other products available with the chosen design……..

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The ‘Available products’ – quite obviously (duh) lists all products available linked to the design – as I say this took me 10 minutes to actually see – I’ll claim because I do all this on a Mac Book Air and the screen wasn’t big enough to let me notice it…….ahem……… Clicking on this then reveals a full list of merchandise available…….

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And obviously, clicking on any of these items, takes you to the equivalent ordering page as you have just been on for the T-shirt. Hopefully this will clarify and help those of you who have yet to make a purchase. Many thanks again to all of you who have already found something you like and bought it – the money is slowly but steadily building up in the Redbubble account! cheers Simon

Another new project and an ideal present for Christmas!!!!…….(only 221 days left)

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I am please to announce another expansion of the blog!. As of today, merchandise is available through Redbubble, with all profits going to the “Friends of 75(NZ) Squadron Association UK, and the Memorial Garden in Mepal.

Since becoming President in November last year, I have been, I suppose concerned, about how, as an Association, we move on and leave a legacy and tangible memory of the Squadron for those generations that follow.

In discussion with members of other squadron associations, it became very clear that the ‘traditional’ method of memorabilia creation and selling simply does not work. In simplistic terms, you pay for something to be made, you need to sell them all to make anything and very quickly the small devoted members of the association becomes pressurised and begin to disengage as they are bombarded more and more with the tacit responsibility of buying the ‘latest thing’ to contribute funds to that particular group. Indeed, one member of another association told me simply ‘ don’t bother, it will bankrupt you’…..

A chance discussion with a friend at work led me to an online portfolio site called Redbubble. A significant feature of this site is the ability to attach artwork to items and then make them available for sale. The beauty of this model being that Redbubble charges a flat production fee for the item and you (the artist of the work) decides what percentage you want to add on top for your own profit – or in the case of my plans, rather than profit – donation to the UK Association and Garden.

I will jump straight in at this point and level with you all – I have levied 25% on the price of everything – the artwork is good quality – some has taken me a while to produce – and its all for a good cause, which I would imagine if you are reading this, must be close to your heart.

Coming from a design background and now teaching it at a UK university, its nice to have the chance to do something creative, related to the bog. I am keen to not only appeal to aficionados of all things 75(NZ) RAF, but also hopefully create things that have a wider appeal – people might buy something and then be inclined to find out about the story behind the item, or they might simply like it and buy it.

Some pieces, such as the colour Squadron crest is clean crisp and I suppose I would describe as traditional in terms of its style and appeal. Other items are more graphic and perhaps will appeal to a different market – if this widens their appeal and helps more items to be sold – I am happy with that. Irrespective of the style or content however, I can assure you all that the designs will be considered, respectful and commemorative of the Squadron and the boys that flew with it during the War.

From my time in the world of professional design I am acutely aware that it’s better to get somebody to buy something if they like it, rather than if they feel politely obliged to buy it. If you keep doing things people like, they will (hopefully) keep buying things…….

The readership of the blog is large and geographically diverse – I hope if not straightaway, everybody might find something they like and maybe make a purchase.

As I mentioned at the top of this post, I have been wondering about methods to raise funds for the Association here in the UK. As time passes and our few remaining veterans eventually leave us, I think personally, that as an Association we have to take on the responsibility to reach out as widely as possible to ensure the story of the Squadron is mot only maintained, but taught to younger generations. We need to identify some projects, perhaps commemorative memorials at Squadron crash sites in the UK, but of course, to undertake this sort of activity, we need funds. Whilst a straight donation model is still a nice way of giving, your are at the whim of the individual to some extent – personally, I think that if you are something of a quality, people will want it, rather than feel they must take it.

Hopefully this has at least got you curious.

Visit my Redbubble portfolio here – as a guide, in the first instance you see designs, rather than purchase items – by clicking on a particular graphic, you will see the available items – for some designs, the options will remain limited, others as you will see, offer quite a range to tempt you.

I hope you find something you like

Cheers

Simon