Tag Archives: Arnot Robertson

‘Maximum Effort’ – The Witting Crew

Many thanks to Adrian for passing on a links for the full version of the film ‘Maximum Effort’, from Youtube in 2 parts.

‘Maximum Effort’ was one of many propaganda films shot during the war that focused on the efforts of Bomber Command, however it’s the only one to feature 75(NZ) Squadron – and we should count ourselves fortunate that finally in the summer of 1944 the cameraman’s lens turned to Mepal – many Squadrons were never recorded for posterity in this manner.

Perhaps with all pieces such as this there is very staged feel to this film and in fact, when the film crew arrived at Mepal and decided to base the film around Eric Witting’s crew it was started in ignorance of the fact that they would leave Mepal before the film was fully finished – ironically, but perhaps lucky for us who have an interest in the Squadron, final filming was undertaken using John Aitken’s  crew and is mentioned in Ron Mayhill’s book ‘Bombs on Target’.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the nature of the film regarding its purposes of propaganda and particularly in the case of this film, taking the stories of the crews of Bomber Command and especially those of New Zealand all the way home, the film begins with the introduction of an ‘ordinary’ crew from 75(NZ) Squadron. The film is narrated by Ted Anderson, the Kiwi Navigator and introduces all the members of ND752 AA-O ‘Oboe’ before a raid to ‘The Ruhr’

The Witting crew were (for the sake of the film);
Eric Francis Witting, DFC, RNZAF NZ415212. Pilot.
William Edwin ‘Ted’ Anderson, DFC, RNZAF NZ416073. Navigator.
Jack Thomas RAF 138463. Air Bomber.
Glen Osmond Marshall RNZAF NZ416011. Wireless Operator.
Reg Gunn RAFVR 1583849. Flight Engineer.
William Bryce ‘Jerry’ Campbell RCAF R.176432 J. /86746. Mid Upper Gunner.
Joseph William Collins RNZAF NZ424969. Rear Gunner.

I am not sure of the specific dates that the film was shot over. In ‘Bombs on Target’, Ron records the following regarding the end of filming;
‘Leave went far too quickly, yet it was great to be back on 75 Squadron again with the smell and noise of aircraft, and the unique comradeship and excitement of station life. Hank Burtt a gen man with over 20 Ops, was away on leave. This gave our crew the chance to fly his O-Oboe and do the final sequences for the final sequences for the film crew which had been on and off station for some time making Maximum Effort, and for propaganda pieces, We Fly Together, two movies for home consumption. Eric Witting had done most of the flying but having finished his tour he had been posted.

We stooged around while they took a few more shots using a dark, red filter to make it look like night. Then we had to do a bombing run into the camera and bank steeply away so they could get a close up of the 33 foot bomb bay. We obliged in style, sweeping away for like a fighter making a strafing pass. The boys ribbed us about doing Errol Flynn stuff, the latter by the way, none too popular since his latest film showing how he and a couple of other Americans had won the Burma war almost single-handed. Flynn wasn’t even in uniform, not like James Stewart who actually flew a tour of missions in a Flying Fortress or Clark Gable who did some trips as a gunner.

All the boys were only too eager to join the fun when they filmed us in full flying kit boisterously  piling out of briefing  and clambering into the transports driven by pretty WAAFS. The boys thought it hilarious as they jostled to scramble up the high tail-board and some wag yelled all aboard before I was up. The truck moved off and I fell off with the camera still working. I wondered if they ever showed that sequence amidst the hoots of laughter…….’

‘Hank’ Burtt, mentioned in Ron’s account was I assume, Henry John Burtt (RNZAF NZ414560). Without scrutinising the ORB at this point, the inference is that Henry and his crew took ND752 over from the Witting crew, after Eric and the boys were posted out after their tour. This suggests a delay in departure for the Witting crew – records suggest that they left on or around the 1st August 1944. Henry Burtt and all but 2 of his crew were lost on the nightmare raid to Homberg on the 21st July, in ND752 AA-O, along with 6 other aircraft from the Squadron.

Prior to Ron Mayhill’s description of their participation in filming he remarks that ‘After 4 weeks on station our crew were entitled to seven days leave’. The Aitken crew arrived at Mepal on the 7th June 1944, giving this leave date as approximately 3rd to 10th July – this would perhaps tally – returning to take part in filming and then the next dated point in his book being the 12th of July when it is noted that Ops had been scrubbed for the second day – suggesting perhaps that the filming a few days before had been the resultant opportunity of the weather being too poor to fly in……….

Thanks to Andy, the son-in-law of Jack Thomas for filling in some of the gaps around this period. The last Op recorded in Jack’s logbook was on the 5th May to Aachen – ‘A wizard prang (!), bags of fighters and new type of flares-13,000 lb’. His last flight with Eric was on the 30th May, described as ‘Formation flying for film sequences, (50 mins)‘. The next flight logged was at No. 12 Operational Training Unit at Edgehill.

The credits for the film are listed at the beginning to ‘Maximum Effort’ as follows;
Story – Arnot Robertson
Photography – A.H. Luff
Sound – Harry Reynolds
Editing – Ralph Kemplen
Musical Arrangement – Ken Hughes
Director – Michael Hankinson

As always, any information anybody has about any individual involved in this film, either directly, or indirectly be very gratefully received!