Tag Archives: 1944

Harold Whittington crew 1944

The Whittington crew. Back Row: F/S Andrew Crawford Fletcher, RNZAF, Rear Gunner; F/O Philip Edwin Tompkins, RAFVR, Wireless Operator; Sgt Don W Gore, RAFVR, Flight Engineer; Sgt Alfred Alexander Simpson, RNZAF, Bomb Aimer. Front Row: F/L Joseph Stevens, RAFVR, Navigator; P/O Harold (Dick) Whittington, RNZAF, Pilot; Sgt Ronald John Morton Batty, RAFVR, Mid Upper Gunner.
Photo from Graham Nicholson.

Many thanks to Chris and all those involved in gathering information for this post!

On the 20th/ 21st of July 1944, 75 (NZ) Squadron RAF suffered one of its worst disasters, the loss of seven Lancasters and their crews in the attack on an oil refinery at Homberg. This the story of one of those crews.

Pilot Harold Whittington, from Hamilton, NZ, initially crewed up at No. 11 OTU, Westcott, Buckinghamshire, while training on Vickers Wellingtons.

11 OTU graduation photo, Course 66, 1944 – cropped version below to identify crew members: Back Row: 9th from left – Andrew Crawford Fletcher. Middle Row: 2nd, 3rd and 4th from left – Don W Gore, Alfred Alexander Simpson and Harold Whittington. Front Row: 1st and 2nd from left – Philip E Tompkins, Joseph Stevens and on the end Ronald John Morton Batty.
Photo from Graham Nicholson.

During April the full seven man crew, two Kiwis and four Englishmen, converted to Stirling bombers at 1657 Heavy Conversion Unit, RAF Stradishall, Suffolk. They then spent about a week at Lancaster Finishing School, RAF Feltwell.

 The Whittington crew was posted to No. 75 (NZ) Squadron at Mepal, Cambridgeshire, arriving on the 12th of June 1944, to report for operational duties.

The crew was:
F/S Harold “Dick” Whittington, RNZAF NZ42488 – Pilot.
F/O Joseph Stevens, RAFVR 125607 – Navigator.
Sgt. Alfred Alexander Simpson, RNZAF NZ425112 – Air Bomber.
F/O Phillip Edwin Tompkins, RAFVR 157922 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. Don W. Gore, RAFVR 1624691 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Ronald John Morton Batty, RAFVR 548542 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Andrew Crawford Fletcher, RNZAF NZ42675 – Rear Gunner.

As part of his preparation for operations, Whittington flew a second dickie trip to Le Havre on the 14th of June with the McRae crew in Lancaster ND752, AA-O “Oboe”.

ND752 was at the time starring in a short film being made at Mepal, “Maximum Effort”, featuring Eric Witting’s crew.

Then the crew flew their first op’ together on the night of the 15th/16th of June, an attack on the Marshalling Yards at Valenciennes in France.

15/16.6.1944 – Attack Against Valenciennes
Lancaster Mk.III ND756, AA-M
F/S Harold Whittington, RNZAF NZ42488 – Pilot.
F/O Joseph Stevens, RAFVR 125607 – Navigator.
Sgt. Alfred Alexander Simpson, RNZAF NZ425112 – Air Bomber.
F/O Phillip Edwin Tompkins, RAFVR 157922 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. Don W. Gore, RAFVR 1624691 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Ronald John Morton Batty, RAFVR 548542 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Andrew Crawford Fletcher, RNZAF NZ42675 – Rear Gunner.

The crew flew eight more op’s over France, in support of the Normandy invasion, and attacking V1 rocket launching sites:

17.6.44 – ND756, AA-M – Montdidier.
 Jettisoned bombs in the Channel after combat with a Fw190 – claimed as possibly destroyed.

 24/25.6.44 – ND747, AA-T – Rimeux.

 27/28.6.44 – ME691, AA-R – Biennais
The Form 541 says that F/S David Fox RNZAF NZ426065 replaced Andrew Fletcher as R/Gnr for this operation.

2.7.44 – ME691, AA-R – Beauvoir.
Harold Whittington promotion – now listed as W/O.

12.7.44 – ND747, AA-T – Vaires.

15/16.7.44 – ND747, AA-T –  Chalons Sur Marne.

17.7.44 HK562, AA-L – Vaires.
Recalled, refuelled and placed on standby.

18.7.44 HK562, AA-L Cagny.

18/19.7.44 HK562, AA-L Aulnoye.

See the crew’s full operational history here: https://75nzsquadron.wordpress.com/h-whittington-crew-15-6-44/

Then came the fateful Homberg operation on the night of the 20th/21st of July.

A force of 147 Lancasters, including 26 from 75 (NZ) Squadron, and 11 Mosquito’s of 1, 3 and 8 Groups, were dispatched to attack the synthetic oil plant at Homberg (8 mls NE of Düsseldorf). Although the refinery was severely damaged in this attack, aircraft losses were heavy. German night-fighters wrought havoc on the bombers, shooting down 20 aircraft – 13.6 per cent of the attacking force.

20/07/1944 – Attack Against Homberg
Twenty six aircraft took off, as detailed, to attack the oil refinery at Homberg. Nineteen aircraft were successful in bombing the target, with the aid of markers, which seemed well concentrated. Two good explosions were seen and smoke came up from the target area. Heavy A.A. fire was moderate, but fighters were very active, eight combats taking place. Seven aircraft failed to return, the captains were AUS22776 W/O. Gilmour, H., NZ428819 F/S. Howell, E., NZ421829 F/S. Mackay, K., NZ422057 F/S. Davidson, N., NZ42488 W/O. Whittington, H., NZ413219 F/S. Roche, G. & NZ414560 P/O. Burtt, H.

Lancaster Mk.I ME691 AA-R

W/O Harold Whittington, RNZAF NZ42488 – Pilot.
F/O Joseph Stevens, RAFVR 125607 – Navigator.
Sgt. Alfred Alexander Simpson, RNZAF NZ425112 – Air Bomber.
P/O Phillip Edwin Tompkins, RAFVR 157922 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. D. W. Gore, RAFVR 1624691 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Ronald John Morton Batty*, RAFVR 548542 – Mid Upper Gunner.
* ORB for this Op lists Sgt. Leslie De’Lungo, RAFVR as Mid Upper Gunner, however the recorded loss of Sgt. Batty clearly identifies this as an error.
F/S Andrew Crawford Fletcher, RNZAF NZ42675 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:35 – Landed –
Flight Time Missing

Lancaster Mk.I ME691 AA-R was brought down by an enemy aircraft at 01:33hrs beside a road near Veghel (Noord Brabant), 4 miles South West of Uden. All but the flight engineer perished in the crash and were buried in the local War Cemetery, Uden. Sgt Gore, the flight engineer, survived but was taken as a P.o.W.

P/O Harold Whittington, RNZAF NZ42488 – Pilot.
Killed age 26.
Son of John Richard and Minnie Whittington, of Hamilton, Auckland, New Zealand.
Buried Uden War Cemetery, Holland.     .
Grave location – 3. I. 2. 203

F/L Joseph Stevens, RAFVR 125607 – Navigator.
Killed age 32.
Son of Joseph and Hilda Stevens, of Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire. M.Sc.
Buried Uden War Cemetery, Holland.     .
Grave location – 5. A. 8. 103
‘Greater love Hath no man than this,
That a man lay down
His life for his friends’

F/S Alfred Alexander Simpson, RNZAF NZ425212 – Air Bomber.
Killed age 28.
Son of Frederick John and Jessie Ann Simpson, of Gisborne, Auckland, New Zealand; husband of Gladys Simpson, of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
Buried Uden War Cemetery, Holland.     .
Grave location – 3. I. 4. 205

F/O Phillip Edwin Tompkins, RAFVR 157922 – Wireless Operator.
Killed age 21.
Son of Edwin George and Gladys Elizabeth Tompkins; of Merton Park, Surrey; husband of Joan Grace Tompkins, of Merton Park.
Buried Uden War Cemetery, Holland.     .
Grave location – 5. A. 10. 105
‘Father, In Thy gracious keeping
Leave we now
Thy servant sleeping’

Sgt. Donald W. Gore, RAFVR 1624691 – Flight Engineer.
P.o.W
Prisoner of War Number: 455
Prison Camps: Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft VII
Date of return to United Kingdom: not known

Sgt. Ronald John Morton Batty, RAF 549542 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Killed age 26.
Buried Uden War Cemetery, Holland.     .
Grave location – 5. A. 9. 104

F/S Andrew Crawford Fletcher, RNZAF NZ42675 – Rear Gunner.
Killed age 24.
Son of Daniel Fletcher and of Jeanie Fletcher (nee McNeill), of Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand; husband of Dorothy May Fletcher, of Devonport, Auckland.
Buried Uden War Cemetery, Holland.     .
Grave location – 5. A. 1. 101

Back in New Zealand, Harold Whittington, Alfred Simpson and Andrew Fletcher were listed as missing.
photos from the Weekly News, via AWMM Online Cenotaph.

It is incredibly sad to note that at least three of  the crew left behind young widows.

Dave Homewood has put together a wonderful record of Andrew Fletcher’s life and full service history on his Wings Over Cambridge website:  http://www.cambridgeairforce.org.nz/Andrew%20Fletcher.htm

F/O Philip Edwin Tompkins, RAFVR, Wireless Operator.
Photo from Graham Nicholson.

Wireless Operator Philip Tompkins was 21, and had married the girl next door, Joan, only two months earlier.

Later, she re-married, and it is her second husband, Graham Nicholson, that we have to thank for these photos of Philip and his crew. Graham (86 at the time) posted about Lancaster ME691 on the Wings Over New Zealand forum a couple of years back, and he and I briefly corresponded by email. He was very keen to share the photos, to make sure that the crew is remembered.

A further postscript can now be added to the story, as the same WONZ thread recently led to contact with Dutch researcher Adrian van Zantvoort. Adrian has long been interested in crash sites in the area where he lives, the South East of The Netherlands.

In 2005, he spotted an article in a local newspaper, the Udens Weekblad, about the discovery of a wartime photo album. This is Adrian’s translation:

Herman du Maine, a citizen from Haarlem, found a shelter from November 1943 until the liberation in September 1944 in a farm at Maria-Heide (a village east of Veghel).  After his death his daughter, Willie Bloks-du Maine, discovered a pile of letters and documents about the war period, and also a photo album with never published pictures.

It took some to getting used to but the stay of Herman went very well. He started with buying postcards and also he got a photo camera and a few rolls of film to take pictures of certain events in his neighbourhood. The pics he took were printed by Johan van Eerd, a photographer from Veghel. Herman started with taking some pics of his fellow hiding comrades. In the night of 20/21 July 1944, a Lancaster bomber crashed on the edge of Maria-Heide village. The cockpit touched the farmhouse which was belonging to the Family A. Vissers. The remainder of the aircraft fell around the farm in a field. Six crew members where killed and buried at Uden War Cemetery. One crew member managed to bale out, but was arrested later and became a POW. Willie Bloks-Du Maine said “as soon as he got the chance my Father Herman made a pic of the damaged farm with in front a part of the aircraft”. 

The article was published alongside Herman’s photo of the crash site. Adrian contacted his daughter Willie, and has obtained a copy:

ME691 crash site, with the Vissers family and their damaged farmhouse, 1944. Piece of Lancaster wreckage at left.
Photo from Mr H.F.Du Maine, via his Daughter Mrs Willie Bloks-Du Maine, and Adrian van Zantvoort.

Adrian is very keen to visit the crash site, although Willie says that the original farmhouse is currently being demolished to make way for a new one. Apparently Mr Du Maine only took the one photo, but Mrs Bloks-Du Maine has provided a map.

The photo has revealed another piece of fascinating information. The aircraft wreckage lying on the ground at left of the photo is part of the fuselage, from just below the cockpit where the Pilot would be sitting, and there are faint bomb markings and clear writing on it – evidence of nose art and probably a name that was applied to ME691.

The visible lettering is “.. RGAN GRINDER’S SWING”, probably “Organ Grinder’s Swing”. This was a popular song of the 30s and 40s (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organ_Grinder’s_Swing) and perhaps there is also a humorous reference to the place where the (street entertainer) organ grinder’s monkey sat, ie., the guy who is not really the boss at all.

Referring back to the operational history of the aircraft, Avro Lancaster ME691, AA-R (https://75nzsquadron.wordpress.com/me691/), her first five op’s were flown by W/O Des HORGAN and his crew! So the nose art was probably applied by or for them.

In fact, Des Horgan & crew flew all of their last seven op’s in ME691 before ending their tour (https://75nzsquadron.wordpress.com/horgan-crew-27-8-43-empty/).

There may be more to add to this story, as Adrian continues his research, as I try and track down Andrew Fletcher’s family (he came from Devonport where I live), and as we try and learn about Flight Engineer Don Gore’s POW exploits. Hopefully, someone will see this post and be able to contribute more about the other crew members.

However, in the meantime it is very satisfying to put together the pieces that we do have, in memory of Harold Whittington, Philip Tompkins, Andrew Fletcher and the rest of the crew of Lancaster ME691.

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!

Special thanks to Graham Nicholson, Adrian van Zantvoort, Mrs Willie Bloks-Du Maine. Thanks also to Dave Homewood and the fantastic resources and community that he has created and fostered at Wings Over New Zealand and Wings Over Cambridge.

 

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

DSC_0092(2)

The Bailey crew boarding NE181 “The Captain’s Fancy” at dispersal, to begin pre-flight checks before flying to Krefeld, 29th of January 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

003

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……”