Tag Archives: 1944

The Air Forces Memorial, Runnymede


I am pleased to announce a fairly significant addition to the Gravestone Project for the Roll of Honour pages of the blog. A chance decision to visit my Sister in the summer while down with  Mum led me to the snap decision to go over the the Air Force Memorial at Runnymede.

In hindsight, a little more planning might have helped. At least I had the sense to extract and reorder those from the Squadron in panel, rather than date or name order……….

I had been to Runnymede before – but walking through the drizzel to the gate entrance, my recollections of my earlier visit felt dream-like. The memorial building was not at all as I thought I remembered it – somehow smaller, less spread out.

I had last been when, I think, I was perhaps about 9 or 10. I had gone, if I recall with Mum, Dad and I think Sandra, who today we were visiting. Like a dream, I had broken images of Dad, walking alone, stopping, searching the panels, pausing before walking onto another one. At the time I had little idea and even less interest as to what this place was, let a lone why I was required to be there.

Again with many things since Bob’s passing, I have stood, or sat in a bittersweet puddle and this was another of them……..

The Air Forces Memorial, or Runnymede Memorial, in Englefield Green, near Egham, Surrey, is a memorial dedicated to the 20,456 men and women from the air forces of the British Empire who were lost in air and other operations during World War II. Those recorded have no known grave anywhere in the world, and many were lost without trace. The name of each of these airmen and airwomen are engraved into the stone walls of the memorial, according to country, squadron and date of loss.

The memorial was designed by Sir Edward Maufe with sculpture by Vernon Hill. The engraved glass and painted ceilings were designed by John Hutton, and the poem engraved on the gallery window was written by Paul H Scott. It was the first post-World War II building to be listed for architectural merit.

In practical terms my photographic endeavours were not made easier by torrential rain and variable light conditions. The panels are tall – much taller than I imagined – and I was loathe to stand on the seats between each set of panels. Lifting the camera to arms length went some way to ‘square’ the camera to some of the names higher up, but, again I have to thank Photoshop and my camera’s massive resolution for the quality of some of the images.

Armed with the list and slowly disappearing light I set to the task and am (relatively) pleased to say I managed to record 144 – approximately half the names I needed to. On reflection I am glad I only managed half – it means I have to go back and returning means I will go back better prepared – probably to take all of them again.

Perhaps fate, perhaps just numerical chance, but it meant a lot to find and photograph 2 names in particular – and if another 2 people find and read this post, they have my warmest regards and thoughts.



Please view individual names within the relevant alphabetical sections of the Roll of Honour pages of the blog, in the top menu bar.

A quarter of a million views – thank you all so much


Love Bob xxx

As regular readers know, I have always tried to record and thank everybody when the blog has reached another viewing milestone.

Today I do the same, but almost breathlessly, given that we have reached the magic quarter of a million mark. Writing this, I have a smile from ear to ear every time I type quarter of a million.

Quarter of a million

I have reflected many times on occasions like this that the scale of interest and support has never ceased to amaze and touch me – and, without sounding repetitive, I do this again. I continue to come into contact with new people, relatives and interested individuals and it is their generosity and desire to share stories of the members of 75(NZ) Squadron RAF, both air and ground crew which allows me to keep posting and you all to keep viewing them.

The reservoir of information has steadily increased and recently, my ability to process and present this wonderful information seems to have, annoyingly,  decreased……

We also now have an online store for memorabilia that contributes to the UK Squadron Association and the Memorial Garden in Mepal.

The Squadron database reached a significant milestone while I was down in Wiltshire visiting my Mother – lack of internet and my Mothers eclectic TV viewing habits allowed me to complete “phase 2” of the database.

We now have every operational flight with aircraft type, serial and where known, flight and individual designator number. We now have at least a surname for every crew member of every crew who flew on all of these Ops.

As I think I have explained before to give a sense of scale of this activity, the database is approximately 8,400 rows long as a list and each row currently is made up of about 85 cells that contain pieces of information about the Op, aircraft or airmen in any particular crew. When complete therefore, the database will contain in total, approximately 714,000 pieces of information.

The generosity of people contacting me about their relatives means the database already contains new personal information – specifically the Christian names of the RAF airmen that flew with the Squadron and also, just as importantly, designator letters and names of individual aircraft that are totally new information.

In real terms the database project in content is now about 50% complete and as sections of information are completed, the natural tendency and inevitable likelihood is that extra information will be added. At a point of ‘critical completion’ the database ‘en masse’ will be made freely accessible to the public. Whilst a database/ search interface might allow swifter interrogation of the data, I am at least personally cautious about reducing the boys of the Squadron to data returns. To this end, I would still prefer to present static, laid out biographies of crews and or individuals, based on gathered filtering of the gathered information.

Perhaps ironically, my decision to start the database was simply if I could understand who the other crew that like my Father’s had been told on the 20th of November 1943 that they, on instruction from 3 Group needed to be made an example of to the other aircrews in the Squadron. They were tour expired – in Bob’s crews case after 21 Ops – the remaining crews at Mepal that early winter had to be shown it was possible to survive the ‘Chop’ Squadron. Of course as things develop you tend to get distracted (or I do) and to be honest I am actually no closer to knowing who that other crew was – but I shall.

Given that after Dad died at the end of August 2011, I knew nothing of his time in the War, let a lone anything about 75(NZ) Squadron RAF, its been a hell of a journey. I know more now than I could have possibly anticipated and have the utter privilege of presenting material that in many cases has never before been seen. I am humbled and proud of the task that has befallen me, albeit, perhaps at least initially unwittingly…..

Dad is perhaps still rather a nebulous cloud – I certainly know more, but in real terms, relatively little. My Mum, Wife and myself have on occasions mused that perhaps the joke is on me – this was Dad’s final problem, set to his only son to try to figure out. Perhaps as ignorant as me at the end of his journey and the start of mine as to what would be discovered and where the path would lead – if he could come back, only long enough for me to scream at him for not talking to me about it, he would probably nod, grunt affirmatively a number of times and then swear – and that would be enough.

The mystery of Jock Sommerville in some small part continues. Having completed the name stage of the database, I perhaps indulgently did a data sweep for the AIr Bombers of the Squadron. I know that some will say that its not about best or highest and I would normally agree, but this was a search that it felt as if I had spent the previous 2 1/2 years working to – building a huge machine (readers familiar with Douglas Adam’s ‘Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy’ will know where I am going with this) to perform a single calculation.

The answer as we all know was 42 – in this case the Ops Dad completed and the answer (subject to final checking) is that F/O (highest rank with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF) Robert Douglas ‘Jock’ Sommerville had the second highest tally of Ops flown for any Air Bomber in the Squadron – I find this incredible, amazing and heart breaking that he did this – very probably in ignorance of this fact himself – and that I have to now type this without him to tell you all this fact about this quiet, funny, warm, pig headed, bullish, generous man.

and so, if on reading this, people, for what ever reason take offense at my statistical analysis, my stripping of history and the horrors of Bomber Command to discover something about my dad, I will answer as Jock would in the same situation:



In some respects, it’s been a strange summer. Having finally shed the infection and dragging symptoms from it that I picked up before Christmas, my expectation was that I could use my leave to try to get at least slightly back on top of the mountain of information I still have to share. However, a new car as perhaps always provided an excuse to drive and enjoy it and as a result a fair few days have been spent driving between the North East and North West coast recording gravestones for the Roll of Honour section of the blog – I have posted some already and I have some still to present. Sitting behind the wheel, eye on the satnav, it began to dawn on me that apart from the Marker stone at the airfields the Squadron flew from and the plinth stone in the Memorial Garden in the village of Mepal, nowhere else on the mainland of the UK are our Squadron airmen and their losses commemorated.

By geographical necessity, the boys I have been visiting this summer were all killed over or on British soil, however I am not aware of any specific memorial information that identifies the sites or areas that these losses occurred.

Having been running this amazing project for the time I have, I am all too aware of the wonderful opportunity it provides for a multitude of new ‘projects’. I wish to propose another.

By the time this blog has recorded another 250,000 views, that between us and whatever number of other individuals or groups we must become involved in, this will be rectified.Their names and sacrifice will be commemorated in a physical memorial at or as close to the point of their loss as can be achieved.

I don’t know how we will do this, where the money will come from or who will help, but I figure by saying we should do it, it might give a few people the thought they would like to get involved and that’s a start – and at this point, that’s what we need.

Thank you all again – without all of your help and interest, there would be nothing for me to type now.


Australian War Memorial – information update

Aus WM2

I am pleased to relay to all of you that I received an email from Chris,
Assistant Curator, Military Heraldry & Technology at the Australian War Memorial this morning informing me that, to the best of his and his teams knowledge all items held in the collection which encompasses uniforms, badges, medals  etc and items of military technology has had it’s information updated to correctly/ accurately  reflect the name of the Squadron.

I am really pleased to have received this information as it represents an ongoing effort by the AWM to update their records after an initial request made by myself slightly over a year ago. My first contact was replied to very quickly, but obviously a task of this kind takes time and coordination and obviously has to fit within other projects and activities that the curatorial staff are involved with.

As I said in my original post about this work, whilst a small detail of correction, it’s a significant one , I am sure , for the families and relatives of the 32 Australian airmen that died with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF.

Many thanks to all of the Australian War Memorial staff who have helped make this happen.

Visit the Australian War Memorial here.

75(NZ) Squadron RAF map of Cemeteries – UK

Based off my previous post regarding my decision to visit as many cemeteries as I can this summer, I thought it might be of interest/ useful to people if I shared the Google map I have produced for my research.

If you expand the map you can fill your screen and navigate as you would in a normal Google Map. The colour convention is simple – GREEN means the graveyard has been visited and the relevant gravestones have been recorded. RED, perhaps obviously, shows a graveyard where the resting airmen’s stones are still to be photographed.

Having spent some time at the Air Force Memorial at Runnymede already this summer, I have managed to photograph approximately half of the names there. If anybody wishes to record more, then please do – but PLEASE contact me first to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort and time.

I thought that the basic adding of the locations to an accessible map would be straightforward, but quickly realised that in some cases, in the absence of a postcode, being exact was actually quite difficult. Where necessary I have confirmed map position with the Commonwealth War Grave Commission’s cemetery locator maps.

If you wish to navigate to any of the cemeteries, I would suggest either do it through Google Maps or you use the coordinates at the bottom of each location info panel – put them into Google Maps, it will take you too the location again, but will also give you the pure Long. and Lat.  coordinates that most vehicle GPS systems can take and use.

I am hoping that as I progress, I can turn the locators from red to green and this will update on the map……….hopefully……..

Happy hunting!!

75(NZ) Squadron and ND801 in print…….!

Jet and prop cover 1

Something perhaps a little different, but nevertheless very much worth telling and an opportunity to get the Squadron name known by more people.

Off the back of the fantastic pictures that Pauline sent to me, now over 12 months ago, regarding her father, Mike Smith, Rear Gunner with Bruce Crawford’s crew, I was contacted by Christian from the German scale modelling magazine ‘Jet and Prop’.

Recently, two internationally renown manufacturers of model kits announced a work over / new release of Avro Lancaster (B) Mk. III kits. While HK-Models features a giant 1/32 scale version, Tamiya launched a 1/48 kit. These aircraft are amazingly big and of incredible detail. Having come across the post, Christian was sure that his readers would firstly love to know about ND801 and would find the photograph of its final demise in the Bakery an irresistible opportunity for a super detailed diorama.

What follows is the article, presented in the July/ August edition of Jets and Props.

jet and prop 3

jet and prop4

jet and prop 5

So, we will have to wait to see if any of the readers of Jet and Prop rise to the challenge to model the crash of ND801 ‘Get Sum Inn’!

Earlier posts on the Crawford and Waugh crew and ND801 ‘Get Sum Inn’ can be seen here:
Arthur George Smith, Mid Upper Gunner – Crawford crew, 1944 – 1945 here
The Crawford crew – some new information here
Colin Woonton, Navigator – Waugh crew and ND801’Astra’ here

Cpl. Ronald Wood – Radar Technician


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.


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.


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


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