Tag Archives: Ake Ake Kia Kaha

Sad news…….

It gives me great sadness to report the passing of 2 75(NZ) Squadron veterans – Leonard Cooper and Charles Green

I received an email from Leonard’s son the day before last letting me know that Leonard passed on the 30th of March, aged 97. Yesterday I learnt through a post Vic Jay had made on his ‘The Mallon crew’ Facebook page that we had also lost Charles on the morning of the 8th, aged 98 years.

Leonard Cooper – Mid Upper Gunner
Leonard arrived first at Mepal, on the 17th of August 1944, as Mid Upper Gunner with Ken Southwards crew. The crew’s first Op together was on the 6th of the following month, attacking targets at Harqueoc, Le Havre. A further 5 Ops followed, until the crew took off on the 6th of October to attack targets at Dortmund.

Twenty nine aircraft were detailed to attack Dortmund, but one of these was withdrawn owing to a technical failure. Twenty six aircraft attacked the target in good weather and a very accurate and concentrated raid was reported, large fires being left burning. A.A. Fire was moderate, but fighters were active and the aircraft captained by NZ427798 F/S W. Farr, had a series of combats during which the enemy aircraft was claimed as being destroyed. One aircraft returned early and landed at Woodbridge owing to a technical failure and another (Captain NZ411048 F/O K. Southward) failed to return.

Lancaster Mk.I LM104 JN – K,  was at 22,000ft, probably en route to the target, when it was brought down by an enemy night-fighter SW of Monchengladbach, 50 miles south west of Dortmund, crashing near Willich. The Pilot was able to control the aircraft long enough to enable his crew to bailout successfully but was unable to do so himself and he bravely died in the crash. He was buried at Willich but later reinterred at the Rheinberg War Cemetery. All of Southward’s crew were captured as prisoners of war.

Taking prisoner number, 1060, Leonard was initially interned at Dulag Luft, before arriving at Stalag Luft VII, in Silesia, Germany (now Bąków, Opole Voivodeship, Poland). During his stay at Luft VII, he was promoted to Flight Sergeant.

On the 19th of January 1945, Leonard was one of the 1,500 RAF, RNZAF, RCAF and RAAF prisoners who were marched out of camp in the bitter winter cold. They crossed a bridge over the river Oder on 21st of January, reached Goldberg on 5th of February, and were loaded onto a train. On 8th of February they reached Stalag III-A located about 32 miles south of Berlin.

Leonard was liberated by the Russian on 22nd of April 1945 – his date of return to the UK is not known.

Charles Frederick Green – Mid Under Gunner
Charles Frederick Green arrived at Mepal on the 16th of January 1945, along with Gwyn Duglan, both as Mid Under Gunners.

Charlie was born in Peckham in October 1921 and volunteered to join the air force in January 1941 while still only nineteen. In September 1943 he was posted to No. 429 Squadron at R.A.F. Leeming, North Yorkshire.

He went on to complete 34 operations as a Halifax mid-upper gunner before becoming ‘tour expired’ in July 1944.

After further training at RAF Feltwell in the use of the 0.50 calibre machine gun as a Mid Under Gunner. Whilst at Mepal, he completed 13 more operations, all in the same aircraft, AA-L (HK562), but with 6 different crews, including 3 ops with the Mallon crew and 1 Op with my Father’s crew (Zinzan).

Charles married Marjorie, whom he originally met at Mepal, in the Officer’s Mess, in 1947 and moved from his home in Dagenham to the village of Dore, near Sheffield. In 1960, after a holiday in Blackpool, they decided to move to Poulton-le-Fylde.

When V.E. Day cut short his second tour, Charles had completed a total of fifty operations and, on the 25th September 1945, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He always insisted he was not a hero: ‘I was only doing what everyone else was doing’ he said, ‘We all did our bit’.

Our condolences extend to both families at this sad time

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!

Leslie Edgerton, 1921 – 2020

by David Yates

My father-in-law Leslie Edgerton passed away in Conquest Hospital, Hastings in the early hours of Tuesday 14th January.  Another 75 man, and another of the dwindling band of Bomber Command veterans, has quit us.

IMG_2514 (1)

Leslie photographed on the occasion of his 98th birthday on 23rd April – St George’s Day – 2019.

 

 

 

 

Leslie volunteered for RAF service in the autumn of 1942 hoping, as they all did, to be a pilot.  It wasn’t until spring of 1943, as the Battle for Berlin was hitting the headlines, that things began to get going for him.  A reserved, unassuming, and thoughtful man, Leslie was not selected for pilot training but was sent to No2 Radio School, Yatesbury.  He gained his first air experience on 6th April 1943.  He was then sent on a gunnery course at RAF Manby, and on to AFU at Millom.

A transfer to No.11 OTU Westcott followed, and after an ab initio course in which he was subjected to the usual night vision and decompression tests, he had his first taste of crewing a medium bomber.  On 3rd September 1943 he flew for the first time with F/S C.E. Armstrong, with whom he had crewed up.  The fateful eight-month journey to Dortmund had begun.  The Armstrong crew was signed off on 24th October 1943 and despatched to Wratting Common for conversion to Stirlings.  After little more than 40 hours flying and then two-weeks’ leave the Amstrong crew mustered at Mepal for operational duty with 75 RNZAF Squadron, Mepal.  They had arrived on the front line.

They had a good initial run, starting on 14th January 1943 with laying six mines in the Fresians area.  The squadron was untroubled by losses until 24th February 1943.  But then on their seventh op, laying mines in Kiel Bay, Stirling EH984 captained by PO H.H. Bruhns crew went down.  They were all killed.  Leslie and the Armstrong boys came safe home.

The next day Leslie was asked to fill in for the absent w/op of the Willis crew, who were down for mine-laying in Copenhagen Bay.  Their Stirling was attacked head-on by a flight of six JU88s.  The aircraft was riddled with canon-fire, and Leslie later reported actually seeing the tracers scorching by him as he sat at his station.  Everyone survived and the aircraft landed safely back at Mepal.

No doubt gratefully, Leslie returned to his crew mates.  A couple of quiet mine-laying ops followed and then on 4th March they were sent on a special French op where another Stirling was lost, captained by the New Zealander PO S.L. Watson.  The Mid-Upper was taken prisoner.  Watson and the other crew members were killed.  But the ops, either mine-laying or targets in France, continued to tick quietly by for Leslie.  Then, suddenly, the great change finally came to 3 Group and Mepal, and the conversion from Stirlings to Lancasters was begun.  The Armstrong crew were among the first shipped off to Feltwell for conversion, followed back at Mepal by a series of preparation flights in the beautiful, shining new machines.  Then on the evening of 9th April their first 75 op was mounted.  The Armstrong crew were given ND768 F-Freddie.  In the words of my father Harry:

“Eleven of them were sent to attack the railway yards at Villeneuve St.Georges.  They had all bombed successfully in clear weather, though one had been damaged by friendly bombing and landed at Ford, a fighter station conveniently situated on the coast across from Selsey Bill.”

After the Villeneuve raid the crew flew three ops to Germany – first Karlsruhe, then Essen, then Friedrichshaven; and it was on the latter that another loss occurred.  FO R.W. Herron and his crew were all killed.

By this point Leslie had flown 22 ops and would not have been blamed for beginning to look forward to the end of his tour.  But in early May he began to feel unwell and was diagnosed with a contagious childhood disease most unwelcome at the advanced age of 22.  He was whisked off to the Princess of Wales Hospital in Ely and put in isolation.  It quite likely saved his life.  On 22nd May, Armstrong and his boys, with Sgt C.A. Warburton replacing Leslie, flew F-Freddie to Dortmund and never came back.

Again in my father’s words:
“Knowing nothing of this, a fully recovered F/Sgt Edgerton returned to Mepal resigned to the fact that his crew mates would have completed their tour, but nevertheless hopeful of hearing something of them.  In fact, nothing was offered.  He managed to discover that they were logged FTR, but that was all.  As a pool w/op he went dicing with scratch crews to the end of his tour,”

I have told the story, on this site, of how Harry was able to inform Leslie of the fate of his crew, and how that came to happen fifty years after the event itself, and anyone who would like to read about that can do so here:

Leslie went into the pool, and flew seven more ops with the Crawford, Adolph, and Lethbridge crews.  His last but one op was to Bremen on the night of 18th August 1944, when Harry’s crew were given such a fiery time; and his finale was to the Kamen refinery in daylight on 11th September 1944, when Harry’s R-Roger lost its nose and Harry himself was consigned to Littleport Eye Hospital for seven weeks.

Tour-expired and with other things on his mind, Leslie married Joan Underwood, a Red Cross nurse, on 21st September 1944 at St Mary’s Church, Sanderstead.  The church had been damaged at some point by a stray bomb, and workmen on ladders stopped their repairs and took off their caps to peer benignly down, the most earthly of angels, while the ceremony proceeded.  The couple would have four children over the ensuing ten or so years, the third of them my wife Geraldine.  Leslie worked as an accountant in the post-war years, and did pretty well for himself, living a life of respectable, quiet prosperity in Purley, Surrey and, in retirement, on the south coast near Eastbourne.   But I don’t think he was ever free from the sense of guilt and loss which consumed him that day he returned to Mepal to find his crew mates missing.

Leslie and Joan’s elder daughter Helen and her husband Andrew McGillivray have kindly forwarded me photographs of the crew’s graves, including that of Sgt Warburton, which we hope will serve as an on-line memoir of those brave boys as long as this website is active.

joined comp

Andrew writes:
“In 2012, on one of Helen’s visits to Seaford, Leslie had mentioned that the name of the wireless operator who stood in for him on the Dortmund trip was Warburton.  Out of interest I visited the Commonwealth Graves Commission website and found that he and the other members of the crew were buried in a large military cemetery in Germany, close to the Dutch border.  As it happened, we had been invited to a 60th birthday party in a town close by and we decided whilst we were there to visit Arnhem and the cemetery on the same trip. As with all of the Commonwealth Grave cemeteries that I have visited it is beautifully maintained and very moving when you see the perfectly aligned white headstones stretching out in all directions. What makes it all the more saddening is the ages of these young men most of which were in their early twenties. The entire crew are buried beside one another including Leslie’s replacement.”

In old age Leslie, who kept his wits about him till the end, thought more and more about those times at Mepal.  He was the lucky one.  Now he is gone one wonders how many others are still with us.

Another milestone – 600,000 views!

Just to let everybody that we have just passed the latest big viewing milestone – 600,000 views!

Almost 13 months to the day since we passed the half a million mark, you, the blog audience have added another 100,000 views to our tally and with it we get another small step closer to the magic figure of 1 million views. I think the passing of this new milestone, in the time it has happened is all the more remarkable given my silence regarding posts for essentially 1/4 of the year owing to the self inflicted loss of my laptop!

I have received questions over the years regarding what has been claimed to be my unnecessary emphasis on statistics and particularly the total viewing figures. In the past, I have tried to explain, but now I simply refute these queries. Put simply, this website has become, the largest single resource for 75(NZ) Squadron RAF in the world. It has achieved this by having the most comprehensive collection of records, information and images on the Squadron, which is freely accessible to all. This complete open door policy regarding information is vindicated by the volume of visitors and views that are recorded.

Frustratingly I am picking my way through the busiest part of my professional year – assessment, the awarding of Degrees, the preparation for our annual London show and planning for next academic year means that I am waiting for a clear gap in the next few months to present new material that has come to me over the last 6 months or so – all of you have have contacted me, please be patient – it will all be presented as soon as I can!.

Without sounding like a broken record – please can everybody share the site – so many relatives of the boys who flew with the Squadron have made contact over the years, that it makes me think that there are still many more that have yet to find the site. Please, share the site address, on social media, through the facebook groups you are members of – we need to find these people and we need to encourage them to share what they have or might know.

Also, please, please, please apply for your relatives service records! I cannot overstate the value and importance of the contents of these records to me and the site. Many dates and locations, because of the points of formation of a crew and their subsequent training means that details supplied for one person means that the same details of movement and training can be added to up 6 other individuals. As soon as I can, I will make a downloadable template available to hopefully streamline the transfer of personal details etc that I need for the database.

Here’s to the next 100,000 views!

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!

D-Day

75(NZ) Squadron RAF Operations log for the 5th/6th of June 1944.
The Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

Thanks to Chris for this piece, on the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Allied liberation of Europe.

The Air Force Museum of New Zealand in Christchurch holds a copy of the 75(NZ) Sqn Operations Log, a document which we were not previously aware of, and which gives us a much more detailed insight into 75 (NZ) Squadron’s contribution to D-Day. On the night of 5th of June 1944, 75(NZ) Squadron had prepared twenty-six Lancasters (a record at that point), and they took off either side of 0330hrs in the morning of the 6th to attack the coastal battery at Ouistreham. They were timed to reach the target at first light, and, on arrival, found a layer of cloud at 7,000 feet, with occasional gaps, through which some crews were able to see the markers. The bombing appeared to be fairly concentrated, no opposition was met, and all aircraft returned safely to Mepal after a round-trip of less than four hours. 

Ouistreham was at the eastern end of the invasion area, where Sword and Juno Beaches would be the scene of the Anglo-Canadian landings. However Mepal crews had not been told of the invasion, but they knew something was up as they were told that more than a thousand aircraft would be operating throughout the night, and that they must adhere to assigned flight routes, heights and times, and not jettison bombs over the Channel.  

From the 75(NZ) Sqn Operations Log: 
At 0730hrs,15 minutes after the last aircraft had landed back at Mepal, one of several ‘top secret’ messages came through from Waterbeach:

 ”D-Day is 6-6-44,  H Hour 0600” 

There were also messages about the distinctive markings of aircraft, and tight restrictions on the use of I.F.F. 

At 0810hrs Waterbeach advised the Colours of the Day: 
1400 – 2000 RY – Q – O
2000 – 0200 RG – J – I   Chaffinch OX
0200 – 0800 GG – C – D
0800 – 1400 GY – H – W 

Duty Beacon 62 – 285

 At 1105hrs Group requested 24 Lancasters be made available for an attack that night, Bomb Loads 18 x 500, petrol 1250 (gallons). 

W/T call signs were advised:  A & B Flt  M.K.H. and C Flt  P.O.K. 

At 1130hrs Target and Aiming Point coordinates were advised and an amendment to the Bomb Load, specifying 90% .025 fusing and 10% long delay (spread evenly over a period of 6 to 36hrs). H Hour 0235hrs. 

At 1610hrs W/C Leslie put the petrol up to 1366 (gallons). 

At 1620hrs Waterbeach advised the route coordinates (there and back). They also advised a bomb jettison location and repeated the instructions not to jettison in the Channel, mentioning “a very considerable volume of shipping”. 

At  1935hrs the target was altered to one of two possible targets (Lisieux one of them) and new route coordinates were advised.  

“Note: The alteration in route is to avoid low flying airborne forces, which are again operating tonight”. 

“A/C in two waves … 75 Sqdn 12 A/C in 1st wave, 12 2nd wave”. 

I.F.F. not to be used except in real emergency – sets were to be sealed in the “Off” position. “Window” and photography instructions given.  

2130hrs – target confirmed as Lisieux.
Strict adherence to routes and times required. Crews to fly below any bad weather over England, up to Thames Estuary, then climb through clouds to 7 or 8000 ft. Keep that height over enemy coast if weather fine, but if 5/10 cloud or more, drop below cloud and bomb below. Be prepared to come down below cloud over the target if markers are not visible. Balloon locations advised. PFF Aiming Point marking colours advised (Red & Green at H-3 to H-2, followed by Yellow & White) 

Master Bomber call sign “Wastepipe 1
Deputy M/B call sign       “Wastepipe 2
Cease Bombing call sign  “Sugar-plum
B/C Frequency 5105 Kc (B); 6440 Kc (D) 

At 2250hrs new instructions came through from BC HQ: 

– no Window- if crews can’t visually identify the target must not bomb any other target
– if any light flak received do not fire back (could be ours)
– route coordinates confirmed, H Hour brought forward to 0135hrs. 

At 2344hrs the first of 24 Lancasters took off from Mepal to attack the railway junction in the town of Lisieux, some twenty miles to the east of Caen.. They reached the target to find a thin layer of cloud at 5,000 feet, which obscured the aiming-point, but the Oboe markers could be seen clearly, and the bombing was considered accurate and concentrated. All returned home safely, the last landing at 0359hrs early on the morning of the 7th.

ANZAC Day 2019

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 1934, Kemal Atatürk delivered these words to the first Australians, New Zealanders and British to visit the Gallipoli battlefields. They were later inscribed on a monolith at Ari Burnu Cemetery (ANZAC Beach) which was unveiled in 1985. The words also appear on the Kemal Atatürk Memorial, Canberra, and the Atatürk Memorial in Wellington.

Let us take this day to remember all those, from Australia and New Zealand who gave their lives, not only in 75(NZ) Squadron RAF, but in every conflict before and after.

We shall remember them………….

AHE AKE KIA KAHA

75nzsquadron.com – back on Ops!

I am pleased to say that having finally taken ownership of a replacement to my once faithful MacBook Air, I am back and up and running!

Thankfully, the archived image of, lets call it MBA 001, whilst inaccessible as files has populated MBA 002 exactly and nothing of any significance has been lost whatsoever relating to the site or my archives – testament to the benefits of regular backing up methinks……..

It’s been a frustrating few months, but having said this, a constant stream of emails has ensured that there is plenty of content to add and this will happen through posts and updates over the next few months.

I owe a sincere thanks to 2 truly kind hearted souls who actually not only clicked on the ‘just Giving’ link of my ‘dead MacBook’ post from before Christmas, but also were prepared to put their hands in their pockets! In honest truth, as they were the only donations, I didn’t feel it fair to take the money, so I returned it. Many thanks to my lovely wife as always for having the financial clout to be able to step in during my darkest hour(s) and contribute to the effort!

During my imposed absence I have at least been able to continue with the Nominal Roll research, albeit on a PC (yuk). I have now reconciled the original Form 540 database to generate a list of all individuals who flew with the Squadron during the War. I am currently merging this information with individual information gathered form the Form 78 records for RAF personnel, as well as promotions and awards from the London Gazette. Additionally, book references have also added a significant amount of detail.

My searching has highlighted the significant discrepancies and variability of accessible information depending on country. A massive applause to the Australian National Archive, who have digitised the service records of those RAAF personnel who flew with the Squadron – to a level that is only, it seems, possible to obtain form other nations archives if you are a direct relative.

As I have already asked, please, find the time to contact your nations archives and request your loved ones service records – I have often remarked on the fact that this site is only what it is because of the generous contributions by all of you – this is so much more true in the creation of this new record.

As an aside and as a result of my database noodling, I would also like to know the dates of birth of your relatives. Whilst a small detail perhaps, it allows me vey easily to generate the actually, very poignant in some cases, age of the boys when they arrived at a front line bomber squadron. To this end, dates of passing, post-war would also be most welcomingly received.

In other, but potentially far more exciting news, Chris has begun to dig through the Air Force Museum of New Zealand’s archive and it seems at the moment almost every day is discovering some astonishing documents and records. Some material, is so unique as to have not even thought that it might exist! Having wetted your appetite, I am sure more details and posts will follow!

a thousand thanks for sticking with it!

Simon