Tag Archives: 1944

“Campbell’s C**ts” – Terry Ford, Pilot – 1944

Campbells cnts

An extract of a letter written by Terry Ford to Bob Moore regarding notes for the Squadron History, eventually written by Norman Franks
© Julia Burke/ Meryl Poole

Many thanks to Julia, daughter of Terry Ford for passing on a remarkable collection of her Father and his crews time with 75(NZ) Squadron. The collection is sizable and will be shared and added to the crew’s Op History page to add to what Scott has already so generously given regarding his Father Reg Weeden, the crew’s Navigator.

The schoolboy in me, couldn’t help but smirk at the above extract, written by Terry to Bob Moore, who at the time, had started the Squadron History – eventually to see the light of day as ‘Forever Strong’ by Norman Franks.

If the text isn’t big enough, click on the above image to read the rather unflattering tale of a Canadian gentleman and his desire to see the Captains of the Squadron get the respect they deserved – it seems the crews saw to that………..

I am sure there will be more posts on the Ford crew in the near future, to read the Op History for the Ford crew as it currently stands, click here.

 

Alfred George Humphreys RAAF AUS.413157 – Pilot

then and now portraits copy

Alfred George Humphreys, Pilot with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF. © Alfred Humphreys/ John Humphreys

It is with great sadness that I must announce another significant addition to the Crew Op Histories section of the blog and with it, record the passing of another of the brave boys who flew with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF. This time it is Alfred George Humphreys, RAAF, who flew with the Squadron from Mepal between 1943 and 1944.

John, his son, contacted me and passed on a personal account of Alf’s time in training, Operations with 75(NZ) and subsequent War-time experiences as an Instructor.

Sadly, 10 days later Alf passed away.

In December of 2015, Alf was one of 5 veterans to be awarded the Légion d’Honneur by the French Ambassador to Australia. His award was featured in the Australian press (see below). Alf captured in so few words the events of the Op with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF on the 21st of May 1944 on the return from Duisberg, when their Lancaster was attacked be an Me,110.

“We were badly shot up by fighter aircraft. My navigator was wounded, we had one engine out and there was a hole in the plane where my parachute fell out – I told the crew to bale out and they said they would stay. We had to fly 100 miles across the North Sea to get back to our base at Mepal in Cambridgeshire….”

Read a more detailed account of this Op, as well personal anecdotes of his time with the Squadron on the Humphreys Crew Op page here.

Alf Humphreys Medal of Honour. tidied and cropped

The article that appeared in the Leader
piece supplied by John Humphreys

 

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!

The Kilpatrick crew – new material added to their Op History page…….

The Kilpatrick crew.
Back row from L to R: F/Sgt Jock Cattenach (A/B), Sgt Geoff Davenport (W/Op), F/Lt Mart Kilpatrick (Pilot), Sgt Ben Barton (F/E), Sgt Bob Olive (R/Gnr).
Front row: F/Lt Ray Tait (Nav), Sgt Albert Haliday (Mu/Gnr)

A notification, really, of an expanded Op history – this time for ‘Mart’ Kilpatrick’s crew. Already, the existence of the an Op History page for every single crew is providing a far easier way of adding received information and hopefully will, as posted material is cross referenced and added, result is some fascination personal histories.

Via Ginny, I must particularly thank Val, Martin Kilpatrick’s daughter for a wonderful personal biography of her Father, covering pre-war, training, Operations with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF and life after the RNZAF.

Heartfelt thanks also to Ann, Daughter of ‘Titch’ Haliday, who has been with me  since before the start of the blog, with the donation material of her Fathers.

View the updated Op History for the Kilpatrick crew here

75 x 2 – Leslie Edgerton, the Armstrong crew and Harry Yates – by David Yates

Leslie and logbook comp

Right: Leslie Edgerton, Wireless Operator with the Baines crew, now aged 95.
A bout of German measles meant Leslie had to leave the crew for a stay in hospital, on his return he discovered they had failed to return from their 27th Op. Until Leslie spoke to Harry, some 50 years later, he had held out a hope they might have survived.
Left: The addendum Leslie made to his log-book after speaking to Harry about the fate of his crew .

Many thanks to David, son of Harry Yates, for contributing the following piece. It proves again that there are strange coincidences that time occasionally chooses to reveals to us – something I have experienced many a time while researching the Squadron.

75 x 2

by David Yates

Monday 8th May 1995 is memorable in our household not so much because it was the fiftieth anniversary of VE Day, and was marked accordingly with official ceremony all across the West, but because something kept secret from the family for four decades was finally revealed.

Not many days earlier, my wife Geraldine and I had completed a major extension and renovation to the house we then owned, tucked away in a pleasant downland village near Lewes in East Sussex.  I had taken upon myself the task of applying a paint roller to the expanse of brand new render, which would be followed with a fine brush to all the sashes – also new, and there were over thirty of them.  It was a labour of love already turning into just labour.

Anyway, my in-laws were driving over the downs from their home in East Dean to see their grandchild and have lunch with us.  At noon I was still balanced on my ladder at the back of the house, rolling on the second or, perhaps, third coat of emulsion.  From inside the house Geraldine was clattering away with pots and pans.  The smell of a roasting joint wafted through an open window.  Away to my right the crunch of wheels on gravel told me my morning’s work was at an end.  There were female voices, the sound of car doors closing.  A moment or two later my father-in-law Leslie appeared from around the side of the house, hand-in-hand with his infant grand-daughter.

We made the usual greetings and stood talking for a while, probably about not very much. Then, with no particular seriousness, I asked him what he had been doing fifty years ago, on 8th May 1945.  He didn’t seem too sure, “Joan and I were married by then,” he said eventually, “I think we must have been in London.”

Now, I had known for very nearly a quarter of a century, since not long after I started going out with Geraldine, that her dad’s war service had been as a wireless operator on heavy bombers.  My own father had served as a pilot on Lancs, flying alongside some New Zealanders, although he was a North Bucks country boy through and through.  I knew that the whole subject of the war had been handled differently in Leslie’s household than in ours.  My dad didn’t make a great thing out of it.  But his crew were all known to me from the letters and photos which arrived  in the family home (usually) at Christmas time.  Indeed, on one Sunday back in 1975, when we were still single, Geraldine and I waited at table on the whole crew when they – said to be already the last full 75 crew living – came to the house following a squadron reunion at Mepal.  But it wasn’t like that in Leslie’s house.  There, a discrete silence was maintained over the whole topic.  The detail of his own wartime service was unknown to his two sons and two daughters.

It was not that unusual.  I had childhood friends whose fathers wanted, for whatever reason, to close the wartime chapter and keep it closed, leaving their sons high and dry for knowledge.  One accepted that there were histories which were not happy, and men who were quietly haunted by them.  The tremendous will of the people to move on, which erupted so joyously with victory in Europe, gave such men the opening to a new life they needed, and they took it.  If there was no need to revisit the past, it was not revisited.

Still, standing there with Leslie I thought it was worth another question.  “So you weren’t still flying by this point?” I asked.

He wasn’t, having finished his tour in September 1944.

Then, out of nowhere he blurted out, “I didn’t finish with my own crew though.  I was sent to hospital with German measles, you see, and my own crew carried on flying without me.  It was six weeks before the doctor let me go back.  I expected them to still be there, but they weren’t.  I made enquiries.  But nobody seemed to know anything, just that they hadn’t come back from a raid.  The radio operator who had gone in my place was only young, and he’d just married, I think.  Anyway, over the years I’ve tried a few times to find out what happened to them – you know, at the library.  But I still don’t know.  I’ve always hoped one or two of them were made POWs, and got back home to New Zealand eventually.”

“New Zealand?” I retorted.

“Yes, it was a New Zealand squadron, based at Mepal in Cambridgeshire.”

I could scarcely believe what I was hearing.  “Wait a minute, you are saying you flew from Mepal?”

”Yes, that was the airfield.”

”Yes, but that’s the airfield which 75 Squadron flew from.”

”That’s right, 75 squadron.”

“Wait a minute, you are saying you flew from Mepal with 75 Squadron RNZAF?”

”That’s right ….”
“But my father flew with them”.

“No no no” he said, completely certain of his facts.  Well, he had been an accountant in civilian life.  “Your father was a fighter pilot with the New Zealand ‘fighter’ squadron.”

I put him right as gently but firmly as I could.  That evening, after Leslie and Joan had returned home to East Dean, I telephoned my dad to tell him what had come to pass.  I knew that he possessed a well-thumbed copy of Forever Strong, Norman Franks’ history of 75, which I had borrowed and read myself.  Norman and Dad had met or exchanged correspondence at some point and become friendly, and Norman and his wife had visited for dinner.  Norman wrote in Dad’s copy of Forever Strong (which I have in my office at home today):

“To Harry Yates DFC -Who completed a tour of with 75 Sqn
and was seen in the smoke 30 times
Best wishes,
Norman Franks”

Information on the fate of Leslie’s crew had to be in there.  I gave Dad Leslie’s number, and he duly checked and telephoned the next day.  The information was that Leslie’s skipper P/O Armstrong and all his crew were killed on the Dortmund raid of 22/23 May, 1944.  Flt Sgt George Leslie Edgerton – taciturn, stoic man that he was – now knew for certain that he was the only Armstrong crew-member to survive the war.  But at least he had that knowledge, and the long vigil of the heart that he had kept for his crew could be brought to a close at last.

Extraordinarily, Geraldine and I were in the nineteenth year of our marriage when he had finally spoken of his sorrow that day in our garden, and the coincidence of our respective dad’s war service came to light.

The event only spurred my dad on in a plan he was quietly hatching to research, write and publish the story of his flying years, centred on five hard months at Mepal.  At the time I knew nothing about this.  I was aware that, always a reader of history, he had become focussed on RAF history and had amassed quite a comprehensive book collection.  I also knew he had been to the Public Records Office at Kew and acquired a large pile of yellow sheets logging 75 operations for the period of his service.  I thought it was just a surfeit of nostalgia.

Harry at about the time he was planning Luck and Lancaster

Harry at about the time he was planning Luck and Lancaster
supplied by David Yates

It was my mother who finally told me that dad had quite forsaken her company in the evenings to disappear upstairs and start tapping on his 1970s IBM golf-ball typewriter.  Apparently, he had been hammering away at the keyboard for a year or more.  When I asked him about it he showed me a sheath of close-typed A4 sheets, the front one of which read:

“Luck and a Lancaster by Harry Yates DFC”

It was a pretty chaotic presentation, it must be said, with passages long and short crossed out everywhere and re-typed, and lengths of type stuck with sellotape on top of other lengths, or across the whole of the top or bottom of the sheet.  But there was the unmistakable voice of my dad talking quite naturally about events in his life I had little or no idea had ever taken place.  For his part, he was very unsure about the quality of the thing, which was obviously why he had kept quiet about it.  Did I think anyone would publish it, he asked.  I had no idea. “Let me take it home and read it properly,” I said.

I began reading that night, sitting up in bed.  A few pages in I turned to my wife and said, “Some of this is beautiful.”

My judgement on the manuscript was that it had to be worth sending off to publishers, but not in that condition.  So dad bought himself a modern electronic machine and re-typed the whole thing, which at that point ran up to his release from the eye hospital at Littleport.  But he had lost his creative impetus in the laborious typing process.  I suggested that he send what he had to some publishers anyway, and if one of them was interested he could return to writing, and finish the thing.

The first manuscript went, for some reason known only to dad, to Haynes, the technical manual publisher.  Unsurprisingly, it bounced back with a rejection slip within a month or two.  He then posted a copy to (the now defunct) Airlife Publishing, who were a much more likely prospect.  But weeks of silence turned into months.  I urged dad to find another publisher to try.  But he had become disheartened, quietly concluding that he had probably miscalculated, and there wasn’t really any interest in a septuagenarian heavy bomber pilot with only half his story told.

The whole project was put away in a chest of drawers, and he returned to mum’s company in the evenings.  Then, right out of the blue in the early summer of 1999, fully a year after shipping off the manuscript, he received a letter from Airlife’s managing editor.  “Dear Mr Yates,” it began, “Thank you very much for sending me the manuscript for your memoir, Luck and a Lancaster.  I sincerely apologise that I had rather a lot of submissions to read before I could get to yours.  But I have now read it with much interest, and would be very pleased indeed to publish the finished manuscript for you if you are still seeking a publisher.”

Still seeking a publisher!  Dad was electrified.  A standard authors contract was received, signed and shot back within a few days.  The only thing was that Airlife wanted to have the book available for its Christmas list, which meant finishing the whole manuscript in three months.  Everything came out of the chest of drawers and Dad threw himself back into his writing.  He made the deadline, but he wasn’t entirely happy about having to work so fast.  He felt that something was lost that perhaps did not return until the very last chapter and the epilogue.  I know there were two small factual mistakes that made it into print, and they always annoyed him.  But when I read the new material I thought it worked in rather well, given that this was the hard-grind of the tour from which all naivety had been drained by his hospitalisation.

Today, in one form or another, <em>Luck and a Lancaster</em> has probably sold getting on for 45,000 copies.  The response of readers has been incredibly generous and kind.  Hundreds of people, some of them fellow aircrew, many more of them relatives of aircrew, wrote often touching letters to dad.  He was very grateful and answered all he could until, over the final six years of his life, illness drained him too much.

He passed away in Hastings Conquest hospital on 20th November 2011, two months short of his 90th birthday.  He had lived a wonderful, satisfying life, which was what he deserved, and a life which is very much caught and held in aspic as the memory of a young flyer by his much older self.

One of the things Dad had done in his research period was to visit Barry Aldridge’s museum at Witchford, and sign the visitors book.  In the summer of 2001, I took Leslie up to Cambridgeshire to re-connect with his own past.  We visited Ely and the Cathedral, and we went to the old airfield, of course, and to the village green at Mepal.  Then we went on to Barry’s museum.  Leslie wandered through the exhibits and breathed in the pungent perfume of that Hercules power-plant which fills the place.  But some private regret, that will obviously never be expunged, stopped him from signing the visitors book.

Leslie had his 95th birthday dinner with Geraldine and I on St George’s Day this year.  He is still surprisingly hale and very determined to remain independent as long as possible.

ANZAC Day 2016

https://i0.wp.com/www.cityofsydneyrsl.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/anzac-day.jpg

Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives.
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land they have
Become our sons as well.

In the spirit of ANZAC day and the opportunity it provides for us to remember the fallen, I wish to announce a significant addition to the blogsite.

What now must be about three and a half years ago I began to slowly transcribe the contents of the Form 541 ‘Details of work carried out‘. Broadly speaking, for those of you that are not familiar with the physical contents of the Squadron Operational Record Books, that I often mention, FORM 541 lists all aircraft and crews that took part in all Ops throughout the period of the War.

The transcription from these forms to a database has been good and bad. It has been very useful and efficient regarding individual queries about crew, but it has also been, at times, a right royal pain in the arse……….

Now that I try to remember the various ‘stages’ of completion I outlined over the last 3 years, I can now, to be honest, not recall a single one.

Suffice to say, in broad strokes, it is now done.

We now have, online, for all to look through and perhaps add to, an Operational history for every crew that flew Ops between 1940 and 1945. By extrapolation, we also therefore have a record of every Op that every individual undertook throughout the same period.

Each year can be viewed through each of the following respective links:

Crews starting 1940.
Crews starting 1941.
Crews starting 1942.
Crews starting 1943.
Crews starting 1944.
Crews starting 1945.

By Navigation each year can alternatively be accessed from the top menu under ’75(NZ) Squadron RAF’ and then from that drop menu under ’75(NZ) Squadron RAF Crews’

No such collection exists anywhere else on the web for 75(NZ) Squadron RAF and to the best of my knowledge, I think, it may be unique as a ‘fixed’ collection, as opposed to a dynamic search and return data based approach for any Squadron from the War.

The ordering and layout may undergo some subtle changes as we move forward, but I have applied the following approach.

Each crew is placed, relative to their first Operational sortie. This is important to note because there may be situations when a Pilot begun flying as a ‘2nd Dickie’ in one year, but began flying with ‘his’ crew in another.

Because each history exists on its own page, a rule and structure had to be decided on and in keeping with  protocols within the documents these histories were built from, this is the Pilot.

I appreciate if an individual possibly flew with a number of crews, this might make the tracing of their history a little circuitous, but if it proves that problematic, I am happy on contact to generate a ‘custom’ individual history directly from the database.

The creation of these pages means broadly 2 things:
1. Visitors can search and access crew histories.
2. Information can be added to these pages as it is donated.

The blog will obviously continue as the main method of communication information, but I have become aware as information has increased, that a blog post becomes quite unwieldy regarding a long and detailed Op history.

In the future, a new post about a crew, or individual,  will contain perhaps one or two images and a broad outline of the crew, but a link will be placed to take an interested reader to that crew’s Op history page.

In this way, relatives will have a single static location to visit regarding information on their loved ones.

Perhaps in the spirit of today’s remembrance, I would also note that even though we may never receive new information on a particular crew, their bravery and participation now exists as a permanent record for all to find and read – none of those brave boys will be forgotten……..

This project continues and is certainly not (if it ever will be) complete. There is more information to gather from official documents, more (I am sure) contacts to be made with relatives and the process of adding to each page what currently exists in the 600+ posts the blog already contains. As a matter of relative priority the next project is to ensure loss and burial details are added to all pages where a crew, or crew member was lost.

I am sure there are buried within the many pages, mistakes and errors – I would simply ask, that in the same spirit that I have taken regarding making my last three and a half years efforts accessible to all, others who might have information and corrections, share them to refine and improve the database – if knowledge is not shared – it has no value.

I must also, belatedly, thank you all for your continuing support and the passing of the amazing milestone of 300,000 views – daily traffic, despite my relative silence over the last few months means a great deal to me and I know i have to get back to my email and respond to what is a sizable list of contacts – I will get to you all !

Looking back, I have to be honest and say it’s been a day to day struggle to deal with things over the last few months, but despite this, the blog keeps on being visited and people keep reaching out – and its this that keeps me going – thanks to you all.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

 

Ake AKe Kia Kaha

New logbooks……..

In some cases, a very belated thank you to everyone who over the last 12 months or so have passed on logbooks. I have finally loaded up ten to the logbook section, though I am aware there are some more still to process and add, which will happen as soon as I can manage to do it.

Ten extra books to the collection is a significant addition and now brings this online collection to a total of 45 logbooks, with examples representing Operational careers in all years of the War. In itself, this must represent one of the largest online collections of this kind, for a  Bomber Command Squadron.

This new collection in itself represents a spread of trades and periods and in itself, again spreads across all years of the War.

The log books and their owners are as follows, listed chronologically:

Frank Albert Andrews, Pilot – 1940-1941 & 1943
A highly detailed logbook describing Franks entire flying career, through training and 2 tours with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF. Frank Andrews returned to the Squadron for his second tour as Squadron Leader.
Read Frank’s logbook here.

Eric Reginald Jones, Pilot – September 1941 to February 1942
Flying 9 Ops with the Squadron, Eric’s logbook is interesting as it shows  omissions regarding a number of Ops in the Official Form 540 for the Squadron.
Read Eric’s logbook here.

Verdun Cecil ‘Mick’ Strickland, Front Gunner – June 1941 to March 1942 (Francis Fox, Hone Roberts, John Sandys & Reginald Sawrey-Cookson)
Mick joined 75(NZ) Squadron in June 1941 flying with Sgt Francis Fox and Hone Roberts. After a refresher course at No. 3 G.T.F. he returned to Hone Robert’s crew. On the 12th of August 1941, after being attacked by an ME110, the crew baled out leaving P/O Roberts at the controls – eventually successfully landing the damaged aircraft. Mick then crewed with John Sandys , flying occasional Ops with Reginald Sawrey-Cookson’s crew. At the end of March 1942, Mick transferred ro No.11 O.T.U at Bassingbourne.
Read Mick’s logbook here.

Hector Alistair Stewart, Navigator – April to July 1943 (Alfred Thomas crew)
Flying out of Newmarket and then Mepal, the Thomas crew were lost on the 31st of July 1943 while attacking Remscheid. Only Hector and the crew’s Wireless Operator survived.
Read Alistair’s logbook here.

Douglas Hugh Trigg, Rear Gunner – May to September 1944  (John Perfrement crew)
30 Ops with John Perfrement, including the infamous July 21st Op to Homberg, when the Squadron lost 5 aircraft. The crew also flew on the 6th of June in support of the D-Day landings.
Read Douglas’s logbook here.

Reginald Charles Weeden, Navigator – August to December 1944 (Terry Ford crew)
Arriving with the Squadron on the 27th of August 1944, Reg completed 34 Ops with the Ford crew, including 2 to the infamous target of Homberg. Despite completing his Operational Tour, he stayed with the Squadron, instructing in Navigation, completing training flights, right up to the Squadrons disbandment after its move to Spilsby after the end of hostilities in Europe.
Read Reginalds’s logbook here.

Laurence Percy Bergman, Wireless Operator – September 1944 to December 1944 (Charlie Spain crew)
Completing a total of 29 Ops, through the second half of 1944, Laurence Bergman’s logbook contains detailed Op notes which are of great interest.
Read Laurence’s logbook here.

John Lawrence Beard, Mid Upper Gunner – December 1944 to March 1945  (Eric Parsons crew)
Flying on their final Op of 30, the Parsons crew were hit by heavy flak whilst over target at Heinrich-Hutte. Their Lancaster, PB741 AA-E suffered catastrophic damage to the port side engines, the wing being seen to break off as the aircraft disappeared under the clouds. John Lawrence Beard was aged 19.
Read John’s logbook here.

Sidney George Frederick Sizeland, Rear Gunner – January to July 1945 (Wallace Bassett, Laurence Mckenna crew).
Having flown 2 Ops with 149 and 4 Ops with 218 Squadron, Sid flew 4 Ops with Wallace Bassett, before flying the rest of his tour with Laurence McKenna, being involved in main War Ops, Gardening, Operation Manna, Prisoner Repatriation and Baedecker.
Read Sidney’s logbook here.

Fred Charles Entwistle Potter, Wireless Operator – 1945 (Don Culling crew)
Whilst short in duration, the latest logbook currently held, detailing sorties flown after the Squadron had moved to Spilsby as part of Tiger Force.
Read Fred’s’s logbook here.

Thomas Fredrick Duck display dedication service, MoTaT, Auckland, 2 February 2016

Thanks again to Chris for this post………

DSC_0372[3]

The Thomas Fredrick Duck crew families and friends at the dedication service, MoTaT Aviation Hall, 2 February 2016 (NZ Bomber Command Association).

A wonderful gathering took place at Auckland’s Museum of Transport & Technology (MoTaT) on the 2nd of February, a meeting born out of friendships first made over 70 years ago.

A special dedication service was held for the “Thomas Fredrick Duck” display, put together by MoTaT and the NZ Bomber Command Association, and recently opened in MoTaT’s Aviation Hall. The display commemorates the crew of the famous 156 Path Finder Squadron Lancaster, JA909, GT-T, Thomas Fredrick Duck, as featured in Alan Mitchell’s book, “New Zealanders in the Air War”.

You can read the Thomas Fredrick Duck story here. https://75nzsquadron.wordpress.com/new-zealanders-in-the-air-war-john-leonard-wright-the-crew-of-thomas-frederick-duck/

There is a very strong 75 (NZ) Squadron connection. All six New Zealanders in Jack Wright’s crew at 156 PFF Squadron had crewed together or got to know each other on their previous tour of op’s with 75, along with a seventh individual, Jack’s original Rear Gunner, Bruce Neal.

Members of the families of five of the TFD crew were represented at the service, plus the family of Bruce Neal, who would also have been part of the legend if tragedy had not intervened.

At 75 (NZ) Squadron, Feltwell, Pilot Jack Wright, Navigator Charles Kelly, W/Op Nick Carter and gunners Podge Reynolds and Bruce Neal, had flown Wellington BJ772, AA-D “Donald”, which proudly carried  nose art depicting an aviator-attired Donald Duck sitting in a half-shell. Navigator Alf Drew had flown with Neville Hockaday’s crew in BJ837, AA-F “Freddie”.

“Donald” and “Freddie” were in adjacent dispersals, so the two crews had got to know each other well. At the same time, Rear Gunner Ken Crankshaw had been flying as a “spare part” gunner with a variety of crews, including Squadron Leaders Frank Denton, Ray Newton, and Artie Ashworth. He ended up his tour flying with Frankie Curr and his crew.

After completing their tour, most of the “Donald” crew were posted to 30 OTU as instructors for six months, before being posted to 156 Path Finders Squadron at Warboys.

Tragically, Bruce was killed while instructing at a Bombing & Gunnery School, and never got the chance to re-join his mates at 156 PFF Sqdn.

Path Finder Lancaster crews needed two Navigators, so their mate Alf Drew was recruited to join them. Crankshaw was already at 156 when they arrived, so he joined the crew as Rear Gunner, along with an English Flight Engineer, Harry Hammond.

Legend has it that the boys had brought the original Donald Duck nose art with them, on a piece of Wellington canvas, but in fact their old “Donald” had been burnt out when a Boston bomber crash landed at Mildenhall, just before they were posted out. Apparently copies of the nose art were made at 156, and after the “Donald” and “Freddy” veterans had been allocated Lancaster GT-T for “Tommy”, “Duck” was applied to their new aircraft, along with the compromise name, “Thomas Fredrick Duck”.

After the TFD crew had safely completed their tour at 156, the nose art was removed from their Lancaster and kept by Nick Carter, and a second copy was kept by Jack Wright.

Many years after the war, the original art was donated by Nick to the Air Force Museum at Wigram, and the second copy was donated by the Wright family to MoTaT. The latter has become the centre piece of the new display.

12039411_450862885120804_5193800136261138643_n[3]

Thomas Fredrick Duck copy artwork produced on canvas at 156 PFF Sqdn, 1943, signed on the back by a member of TFD’s ground crew, LAC Maund (NZ Bomber Command Assn).

DSC_0379[3]

A representative of each Thomas Fredrick Duck crew member family, in front of the display – L-R: Alf Drew’s son, RNZAF Chaplain S/L Stuart Hight, Charles Kelly’s son Steve, Jack Wright’s daughter Lesley, Ron Mayhill (NZBCA President), Nick Carter’s widow, Ken Crankshaw’s grandson Clayton (NZ Bomber Command Assn).

There was an impressive turn-out of around 50 people. Sadly, none of the crew survives, the last, Nick Carter, passing away last year. However it was very special that his widow was able to attend.

RNZAF Chaplain S/L Stuart Hight led the service, and NZBCA President Ron Mayhill DFC, Legion of Honour, Peter Wheeler and Chris Newey each spoke about aspects of the crew and the significance of the display in helping us to remember the contributions of the airmen of Bomber Command.

It was an uplifting and at times very emotional occasion to have all six families together, 70 years later, to pay our respects to these brave men, for individuals to be able to speak to the gathering, read items from diaries, logbooks and memoirs, recount favourite anecdotes, and then meet and chat afterwards. The respect and affection felt towards their skipper and crewmates was a strong common theme in the stories that have been handed down, and it must have been deeply satisfying for descendants to hear these shared again after so many years.

One very exciting thing that emerged from the gathering was the realisation that the families collectively hold a large amount of previously unknown material, so the full story of the Thomas Fredrick Duck boys is yet to be told.

It was just a shame that no-one from the family of Raymond “Podge” Reynolds could be located in time for the occasion. Raymond passed away in 1991 and is buried at Otaki – the NZBCA would very much like to hear from anyone who can help put them in contact with relatives.

– Thanks to Peter Wheeler and the NZ Bomber Command Assn for these photos.