Tag Archives: Arthur Leonard Humphries

At this time, 70 years ago, a long dark shadow is cast…….

At the exact time of the publishing of this post, 70 years ago, Pilot John Wood and his Flight Engineer Dougie Williamson were easing the  throttles forward on their Mk.I Lancaster HK601 JN-Dog.

19 more Lancasters of 75(NZ) Squadron RAF would follow John Wood’s Lancaster into the cold Cambridgeshire night, to join up with a second-wave force of another 509 aircraft from Bomber Command.

The destruction caused and the debate that has continued over their target that night has been encapsulated into a single word, which in itself, has cast a long dark shadow over the activities of RAF Bomber Command and the boys that flew in it.

 Dresden

An article in today’s Guardian, titled ‘’We thought Dresden was invincible’: 70 years after the destruction of a city” provides a fascinating eye witness account of the raid on Dresden.

Eberhard Renner, a dentist’s son who was 12 years old on the night RAF bombers arrived tells of the Second World War bombing – and the moment his father thought the unthinkable.

The boy had gone to bed, his head buzzing with his chemistry experiments, when at around 9.45pm the first air raid warning sounded. “Air raid warnings had been an almost daily occurrence since December so I thought little of it and at first I really couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed. I went downstairs anyway but there was nothing special to indicate what was about to occur.

He and his parents noted the drone of the bombers in the distance, but they thought they were flying on to bomb Chemnitz or Leipzig. Then they saw the “Christmas trees” – magnesium flares that floated down on parachutes to light up the city.

Even then we were so secure in the belief that Dresden was invincible, we didn’t believe it was anything more than a reconnaissance mission,” he recalled. His parents told him the enemy pilots were only taking photographs and would soon be gone.

Only when the bombs started falling did we realise it was Dresden’s turn,” Renner, now 82, said. “First they dropped the explosive bombs to expose the roofs. Then came the incendiary bombs to do the real damage – a well-worked-out English strategy. By that time we were sitting in our cellar and I felt increasingly scared by the minute. One bomb exploded in our garden and blew the door in towards me and my mum, but luckily we weren’t hurt.

Dresdeners have always had an inflated feeling of their own importance and that extended to thinking that the English were too cultivated to destroy a city like Dresden, the so-called Florence on the Elbe. How incredibly naive we were.

And then I heard my father, who was not a courageous man at the best of times, say something that would have been unthinkable days before,” Renner, a retired engineer and architect who still lives in the city, recalled. “‘Well, it’s those criminals we’ve got to thank for this’,” he said, meaning Adolf Hitler. Like many people, it had opened his eyes. “Up until then it had been ‘be careful what you say in front of the kids’, now he was openly expressing his opinion in front of the neighbours!

No one contradicted him.

Read the full Guardian article ‘We thought Dresden was invincible’: 70 years after the destruction of a city here

Bomber Command War Diary (Martin-Middlebrook & Chris Everitt)
13 February 1945
Operation Thunderclap
The Air Ministry had, for several months, been considering a series of particularly heavy area raids on German cities with a view to causing such confusion and consternation that the hard-stretched German war machine and civil administration would break down and the war would end. The general name given to this plan was Operation Thunderclap, but it had been decided not to implement it until the military situation in Germany was critical. That moment appeared to be at hand. Russian forces had made a rapid advance across Poland in the second half of January and crossed the eastern frontier of Germany. The Germans were thus fighting hard inside their own territory on two fronts, with the situation in the East being particularly critical. It was considered that Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig and Chemnitz – all just behind the German lines on the Eastern Front now – would be suitable targets. They were all vital communications and supply centres for the Eastern Front and were already packed with German refugees and wounded from the areas recently captured by the Russians. As well as the morale aspect of the attacks, there was the intention of preventing the Germans from moving reinforcements from the West to face the successful Russian advance. The Air Ministry issued a directive to Bomber Command , at the end of January. The Official History. describes how Winston Churchill took a direct hand in the final planning of Operation Thunderclap – although Churchill tried to distance himself from the Dresden raid afterwards. On 4 February, at the Yalta Conference, the Russians asked for attacks of this kind to take place, but their involvement in the process only came after the plans had been issued. So, Bomber Command was specifically requested by the Air Ministry, with Churchill’s encouragement to carry out heavy raids on Dresden, Chemnitz and Leipzig. The Americans were also asked to help and agreed to do so. The campaign should have begun with an American raid on Dresden on 13 February but bad weather over Europe prevented any American operations. It thus fell to Bomber Command to carry out the first raid.

Dresden: 796 Lancasters and 9 Mosquitos were dispatched in two separate raids and dropped 1,478 tons of high explosive and 1,182 tons of incendiary bombs. The first attack was carried out entirely by No 5 Group, using their own low-level marking methods. A band of cloud still remained in the area and this raid, in which 244 Lancasters dropped more than 800 tons of bombs, was only moderately successful.

The second raid, 3 hours later, was an all-Lancaster attack by aircraft of Nos 1, 3, 6 and 8 Groups, with No 8 Group providing standard Pathfinder marking. The weather was now clear and 529 Lancasters dropped more than 1,800 tons of bombs with great accuracy. Much has been written about the fearful effects of this raid. Suffice it to say here that a firestorm, similar to the one experienced in Hamburg in July 1943, was created and large areas of the city were burnt out. No one has ever been able to discover how many people died but it is accepted that the number was greater than the 40,000 who died in the Hamburg firestorm and the Dresden figure may have exceeded 50,000.

Bomber Command casualties were 6 Lancasters lost, with 2 more crashed in France and 1 in England.

311 American B-17s dropped 771 tons of bombs on Dresden the next day, with the railway yards as their aiming point. Part of the American Mustang-fighter escort was ordered to strafe traffic on the roads around Dresden to increase the chaos. The Americans bombed Dresden again on the 15th and on 2nd March but it is generally accepted that it was the RAF night raid which caused the most serious damage.

13/02/1945 – Attack Against Dresden (Form 541 75(NZ) Squadron RAF)
Twenty aircraft attacked Dresden as detailed. Very slight H/F was only opposition. The first aircraft over the target reported thin cloud which had cleared for later aircraft. Some aircraft were able to bomb visually. Crews reported the whole town was well alight and could see the glow of fires 100 miles away on return A highly successful raid.

Lancaster Mk.III LM740 AA-B

Reginald Arthur Smith

Extract from the logbook of Reg Smith, Rear Gunner with the Adamson crew

F/O Maurice James Adamson, RNZAF NZ426904 – Pilot.
F/S Arthur Edwin Noel Unwin, RNZAF NZ427347 – Navigator.
F/O Kenneth William Rathbride Mitchell, RNZAF NZ425700 – Air Bomber.
F/S John William Fisher, RNZAF NZ4211617 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt John Palmer, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Frank Rhodes, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Reginald Arthur Smith, RAFVR 1606544 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:17 – Landed 07:04
Flight Time 08:47

Lancaster Mk.I NG113 AA-D
F/O Ronald Wynn Russell, RNZAF NZ37220 – Pilot.
F/O Francis Neville Selwood , RNZAF NZ4215756 – Navigator.
F/O Victor Digger Hendry , RNZAF NZ425570 – Air Bomber.
F/S F. Jillians, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. J. Hunt , RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S William Henry Grout, RCAF R.109213 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. E. Bates , RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:17 – Landed 07:25
Flight Time 09:08

Lancaster Mk.I NF935 AA-P
F/O Valentine Richard Egglestone, RNZAF NZC429998 – Pilot.
F/S Gordon McDonald Mitchell, RNZAF NZ4211764 – Navigator.
F/S James Frederick Freestone, RNZAF NZ4213370 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. R. Akehurst, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. P. Hill, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Jack Truman, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. P. Goldie, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:09 – Landed 06:57
Flight Time 08:48

Lancaster Mk.I LM266 AA-F “The Seven Sinners”
F/O John O’Malley, RNZAF NZ428276 – Pilot.
F/S F. Cousar, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Septimus Robinson, RAFVR 1432941/ 190538 – Air Bomber.
F/S Frank Henry Gimblett, RNZAF NZ427520 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt W. Ireland, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. W. Ramsay, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. B. Stacey, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:11 – Landed 06:49
Flight Time 08:38

Lancaster Mk.I HK576 AA-G
F/O John Rees Layton, RNZAF NZ425914 – Pilot.
Sgt. Lloyd Edward Anger, RCAF R.200903 – Navigator.
W/O Clive Woodward Estcourt, RNZAF NZ391045 – Air Bomber.
F/S Ta Tio Tuaine Nicholas, RNZAF NZ425658 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt F. Samuel , RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S David Onslow Light, RNZAF NZ4212848 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Leslie Dixon Moore , RNZAF NZ421327 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:19 – Landed 06:21
Flight Time 08:02

Lancaster Mk.I HK573 AA-H
F/L George Stanley Davies, RNZAF NZ427262 – Pilot.
F/S Claude Cuthbert Greenough , RNZAF NZ429069 – Navigator.
F/S Henry Edward Chalmers, RAFVR 1565986 – Air Bomber.
F/S T.M. White , RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt I.R.H. Evans, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. J.J. Maher, RAFVR 1434090 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S R. Muir, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:13 – Landed 07:22
Flight Time 09:09

Lancaster Mk.I RA510 AA-J
F/O Robert Jaspar Pearson, RNZAF NZ39575 – Pilot.
W/O Alick Segnit, RAAF AUS.28834 – Navigator.
F/S B. Farmer, RAFVR – Air Bomber.
F/S William Arthur Johnston, RAAF AUS.432239 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt S. Miller, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. A. Smithson, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. E. Hadigate, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:20 – Landed 06:37
Flight Time 08:17

Lancaster Mk.III PB421 AA-K

Stan Heald

Extract from the logbook of Stan Heald, Air Bomber with the Ware crew

W/O Esmond Edgar Delwyn Ware, RNZAF NZ42486 – Pilot.
F/O Colin Campbell Emslie, RNZAF NZ431170 – Navigator.
F/S Stanley John Heald, RNZAF NZ415319 – Air Bomber.
F/S Wilfred Darling Cairns, RNZAF NZ427794 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. David Carter, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S G.B. White, RCAF R.209852 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Richard H. Wright, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:16 – Landed 07:23
Flight Time 09:07

Lancaster Mk.I HK597 JN-N

jimmy-wood-001-40

Extract from the logbook of Jimmy Wood, Air Bomber with the Banks crew

W/C Cyril Henry ‘Mac’ Baigent, RNZAF NZ411973/ 70038 – Pilot.
F/L Russell Ashley Banks RNZAF NZ416437 2nd Pilot.
F/O Maurice Wiggins , RAFVR – Navigator.
F/O James ‘Jimmy’ Earnest Wood , RAFVR 1801019/154906 – Air Bomber.
F/L Alexander Reid Hirst, RNZAF NZ41588 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. H. “jock’ Fraser, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
W/O John Edward Britnell, RAFVR 1579917 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt Norman ‘Paddy’ Allen, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:11 – Landed 07:15
Flight Time 09:04

Lancaster Mk.III NG448 JN-P
F/L Ernest Joseph Abraham, RNZAF NZ428061 – Pilot.
F/S Louis Eldon Bernhardt Klitscher RNZAF NZ415262 2nd Pilot.
F/O Donald John Glengarry, RNZAF NZ422059 – Navigator.
F/O David George William Hubert Jones, RAFVR 186301 – Air Bomber.
F/S Stanley Graham Watson, RAFVR 1124508/ 195948 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Samuel Joseph Hughes, RAFVR 2218612 – Flight Engineer.
F/S Ronald William Makin, RNZAF NZ4212812 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. R. Evans, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 21:53 – Landed 06:40
Flight Time 08:47

Lancaster Mk.I LM276 AA-S
F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. N. Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest Corlett, RNZAF NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. G. Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt H. Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:14 – Landed 07:11
Flight Time 08:57

Lancaster Mk.I NG449 AA-T
F/L Jack Plummer, RNZAF NZ42451 – Pilot.
F/S Arthur Leonard Humphries, RNZAF NZ428244 – Navigator.
W/O Edgar John Holloway, RNZAF NZ429923 – Air Bomber.
W/O Robert William ‘Bobby’ West, RAFVR 1077746 /195545 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Maurice Fell, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/O Russell James Scott, RNZAF NZ428984 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Alexander Malcolm McDonald, RNZAF NZ426070 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:10 – Landed 07:06
Flight Time 08:56

Lancaster Mk.III PB132 AA-X
F/L Douglas Ross Sadgrove, RNZAF NZ425292 – Pilot.
F/S Robert Trevor Dixon, RNZAF NZ4212652 – Navigator.
Sgt. D. Stimpson, RAFVR – Air Bomber.
F/S Frederick Fleming, RNZAF NZ425241 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Bernard John Mahoney, RAFVR 1628335/ 190539 – Flight Engineer.
F/S Robert Samuel Bawden, RNZAF NZ4212629 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. D. Dalimore, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 21:52 – Landed 07:07
Flight Time 09:15

Lancaster Mk.I ME450 AA-W

SONY DSC

Extract from the logbook of Robert ‘Jock’ Sommerville, Air Bomber with the Zinzan crew

F/O Vernon John ‘Taffy’ Zinzan, RNZAF NZ425314 – Pilot.
W/O James Sydney George Coote, RAFVR 517881/ 56715 – Navigator.
F/O Robert Douglas ‘Jock’ Sommerville, RAFVR 1562617/ 161049 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Miles ‘Joe’ Parr, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. A. Ackroyd, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. H. Hutchinson, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Frank Watts, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:13 – Landed 06:32
Flight Time 08:19

Lancaster Mk.I HK561 AA-Y

Gordon Ford

Extract from the logbook of Gordon Ford, Wireless Operator with the Watson crew (the clipped reference to ‘1 A/C lost’ refers to the Chemnitz Op, the following night

F/O Matthew Watson, RAFVR 1495959/ 176130 – Pilot.
F/S Kenneth Raffill Wood, RNZAF NZ4212783 – Navigator.
F/S Richard Godfrey Dawson, RNZAF NZ421686 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gordon Ford, RAFVR 1523080 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. R. Pare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. W. Mentiply, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. A. Bolland, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:15 – Landed 07:13
Flight Time 08:58

Lancaster Mk.I HK601 JN-D

Gerry Newey

Extract from the logbook of Gerald Newey, Wireless Operator with the Wood crew

F/O John Henry Thomas Wood, RNZAF NZ426235 – Pilot.
F/S John Austin White Pauling, RNZAF NZ422976 – Navigator.
F/S Noel Ridley Hooper, RAFVR 1336483/ 196925 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gerald Newey, RNZAF NZ425285 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt Douglas Williamson, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Albert John Tipping Cash, RCAF R.147817 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Ralph Charles Sparrow, RCAF R.263518 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 21:52* – Landed 06:44
Flight Time 08:52
*While listed as 21:52, Gerry Newey’s logbook lists the crew’s take-off time as 21:50

Lancaster Mk.I NG322 JN-F
F/O Wi Rangiuaia, RNZAF NZ427319 – Pilot.
Sgt. A. Matthew, RAFVR – Navigator.
Sgt. D. Morrison, RAFVR – Air Bomber.
F/S John Edward Barry Mossman, RNZAF NZ42112587 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt L. Player, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. T. Mynott, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. T. Morgan, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:07 – Landed 07:20
Flight Time 09:13

Lancaster Mk.I PB820 JN-V
F/L Donald Winter Thomson, RNZAF NZ41613 – Pilot.
F/S Herbert Ronald Holliday, RAAF AUS.434602 – Navigator.
F/L Grant Alan ‘Russ’ Russell, RNZAF NZ411729 – Air Bomber*.
F/S D. Brazier, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. C. Payne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Jack Heaton, RAFVR 982650/ 196880 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S J. Messer, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.
*Hilray Hubert Stratford, the crew’s regular A/B is listed in the Form 541, however, the position of A/B was in fact taken by the Squadron Bombing leader Grant Alan Russell, Hilary Stratford being ill for this Op – from A.G. Russell’s book ‘Dying for Democracy’

Take Off 22:08 – Landed 07:08
Flight Time 09:00

Lancaster Mk.I HK593 JN-X
F/O Ronald Christie Flamank, RNZAF NZ427270 – Pilot.
F/S A. Westbury, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S E. Carver, RAFVR – Air Bomber.
F/S Douglas Haig Rapson, RNZAF NZ428323 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. V. Saunders, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. K. Moore, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. D. Hills, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:08 – Landed 06:34
Flight Time 08:26

Lancaster Mk.I HK554 JN-Z
F/O Herbert Wilfred Hooper, RNZAF NZ40111 – Pilot.
Sgt. Royston Edgar Lane, RAFVR 195332 – Navigator.
Sgt. E. Holt, RAFVR – Air Bomber.
W/O A. Gordon, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. J. Petrie, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. R. Sturrock, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. J. Spiby, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 21:54 – Landed 06:59
Flight Time 09:05

 

Lest we forget………

Munster Viaduct 21st March, 1945 – mea culpa

I have been mulling over my previous post regarding the fateful events of the Munster raid for the Squadron and have, until I feel I have a better and, it would suggest through subsequent research, a much bigger picture of the circumstances, decided to remove the original post.

In hindsight, I gathered together what information I had and probably tried to create too big a picture with it. In doing so, I think by inference, I suggested positions and actions that were too heavily based on conjecture and not enough on definitive information.

Clearly, what happened on the 21st of March were based on a series of circumstances, the result of which led to the loss of 3 of the Squadrons aircraft and the lives of 12 airmen. The true story may never be known, but the effort needs to be made to try.

If anybody has any information relating to this raid, including identification of the other Squadrons that flew on the Op and in particular any crew comments from the respective Form 541’s I would be very interested in seeing them – I already have information from 115, 514 and 218 Squadrons respectively, but I think more Squadrons might have taken part – I am keen to try to understand from the comments in these logs any additional information relating to the timing or position of 75(NZ) under the main stream.

I would also be grateful for any general information on bombing tactics, regarding formation and structure to a raid. I believe 75(NZ) lead the Op that day, but would like to understand if this is correct, what implications it might have had regarding bombing height and target marking.

Finally, despite the general and ongoing request for logbooks, I would be very interested to see any logbooks that are from individuals that flew on this Op – particularly to try to identify the G-H leaders and gather any other notes or observations about the raid.

many thanks in advance

Simon

Munster Viaduct 21st March, 1945 – The final operational losses for 75(NZ) Squadron

IMG_5223 cropped to munster

The route for the Munster Viaduct Op
courtesy Steve Smith

My previous post about Robert William ‘Boby’ West, Wireless Operator with the Barr crew, one of 3 Lancasters to be lost from 75(NZ) Squadron, on the Munster Viaduct Op of the 21st March 1945, started a bit of a research activity, to try to understand what happened that afternoon.

I must confess, when normally doing a post, I will assemble a starting crew list and then trawl through Form 541 of the Squadron Operational Record Books to assemble a raid history for the crew. Sadly, in many cases, the terminating Op of this list results in the loss of that crew – the word ‘missing‘, instead of a down time is enough of an epitaph for the boys as far as Form 541 is concerned.

In email correspondence with Malcolm, Margaret’s husband, he alluded to a question over the reason for the loss of Boby and his crew mates and it perhaps slightly shames to me to admit that it was only at this point that I actually began to read the notes for this Op – expanding my attention beyond the word ‘missing’

In advance of the rest of this post, I’d like to thank Margaret and Malcolm, Kevin and especially Steve for helping me piece together information that sheds a few more perhaps fractured beams of light on the events of that March afternoon.

I would also like to stress that in no way does the following post look to apportion responsibility for what happened that day – there are too many gaps to be definitive, I have simply tried to gather information and present it in a logical order. Having said this, this is perhaps the most difficult post I have put together, including those dealing with the loss of my father.

Form 541 of 75(NZ) Squadron contains a consistent series of observations regarding the events of that afternoon………

P/O John O’Malley RA510 AA-E – ‘Bombing was upset when bombs from another formation fell through – it appeared as though the leader overshot the tracking pulse.’

S/L Jack Wright EF190 AA-F‘Converging aircraft dropped bombs from above us. Attempted to swing off in effort to avoid bombs.’

F/O Trevor Cox PB418 AA-C – ‘Should have followed JN-Z but as he was weaving considerably it was found better to go ahead and bomb on AA-F, following was very difficult owing to the fact that another squadron was bombing from height up.’

W/O Fred Bader LM276 AA-S‘Impossible to assess owing to bombs falling from above and need for evasive action.’

F/S Tom Good HK561 AA-Y‘Bombed in steep turn when cookie fell 10 feet to port.’

F/L Russ Banks RF129 AA-M‘Leader overshot target and bought Squadron over other Aiming Point where bombs were falling all around aircraft and had to S turn to come over Aiming Point.’

F/O Duncan Stevenson PP663 JN-Z‘G.H. went u/s just before the final run to target. Attempted a visual run on the railway lines east of the viaduct, but bomb aimer had not time to reset the time interval after swerving to avoid bombs from aircraft from another Squadron at about 20,000 ft. ‘

F/O Les Sinclair NG322 JN-F‘Leader lost when formation was broken by bombs falling from above.’

F/O Wi Rangiuaia HK563 JN-W‘Formation broken by falling aircraft and bombs from aircraft above.’

F/L Bill Alexander HK593 JN-X‘Found difficulty in following original leader JN-F as he was constantly weaving and forced out of formation by slip -stream and on final run up so connected with nearest available aircraft JN-D.’

Loss of G-H tracking
G-H was the final development of transmitter based navigation systems used by Bomber Command and it would appear, particularly 3 Group, to guide aircraft to a target and also to set and synchronise the release of bombs over the target. A ‘G-H Leader’ would bomb on a transmitted signal from the UK, with usually another 2 aircraft following in close formation would then release their bomb load at the same time. This process would then be repeated a number of times with the following aircraft and their respective G-H leaders.

RAF Waterbeach Station ORB Records“GH run was short by aircraft off track” 

No.3 Group ORB (Air25/54) – Weather Clear Good Vis. – ‘Although some good results were achieved this attack was a bit of a shambles. GH co-ordinates for the two aiming points were reversed and the main weight of the attack fell on the smaller of the two. Two aircraft were destroyed by flak and one by falling bombs.’

The G-H leaders, so far identified, for 75(NZ) on that Op were;
F/O Sinclair JN-F
F/O Eggleston AA-U
S/Ldr Wright  AA-F (G-H u/s)

Twenty one aircraft took off from Mepal – this would suggest based on 3 G-H leaders, that the aircraft were split into 3 groups of seven – the ‘uneven’ 7th, or 1st, being the G-H leader at the front of each group, the others in the group either flying in line or in a ‘v’, 3 aircraft on either side of the Leader. As noted in the comments by Chris, smaller figures would normally format behind a G-H Leader, so it strongly suggest that within the 21 aircraft, there were other, as yet unidentifed G-H Leaders

Sinclair’s and Egglestone’s comments are perhaps relevant based on this possible ordering;
F/O Les Sinclair NG322 JN-F‘Leader lost when formation was broken by bombs falling from above.’
F/O Val Egglestone PB427 AA-U‘Poor lead in and bombs appeared to fall south of Aiming Point.’

These comments seem to feel like a comment regarding another leading aircraft and by simple elimination, this suggests S/Ldr Wright (simply because at this point he is the only other identified G-H leader), may have been the LEAD, lead aircraft for the Squadron that day. The note that the G-H was u/s (unserviceable) adds a terrifying immanency to the events that were to unfold as the Squadron approached the target……

The note from No.3 Group ORB (Air25/54) –
GH co-ordinates for the two aiming points were reversed and the main weight of the attack fell on the smaller of the two.
perhaps suggests that the overshoot was a result of the G-H coordinates ‘swapping around’, thus causing the overshoot as a result. Though perhaps what is not clear is whether this affected all aircraft in the Op or just those of 75(NZ). Clearly, at the point the error was realised, action had to be taken to try to get the Squadron back on course, relative to the primary aiming point.

F/L Russ Banks RF129 AA-M‘Leader overshot target and bought Squadron over other Aiming Point where bombs were falling all around aircraft and had to S turn to come over Aiming Point.’

No.218 Squadron ORB (No.31 Base) F/Lt. Les Harlow DFC who flew a number of Base Leader operations makes an interesting comment – ‘Formation was fairly compact but stream ahead was well off track and the Base ahead was scattered.’

F/O Arthur ‘Tiny’ Humphries (Navigator NG449 AA-T – Jack Plummer crew)
“On this daylight raid to Munster things went reasonably well until we were almost coming up to the target, flying in formation. But something went wrong with the leading aircraft and we overshot the turning point and flew on for quite some distance. Then we turned onto the target but now on the wrong heading and in fact, under-flew another squadron bombing from above. At that stage the flak was very, very heavy. We didn’t get hit by falling bombs, although there were bombs falling all around us. We were hit by flak, in one engine which went on fire and another engine got hit on the other side.”
(page 156 ‘Forever Strong, The story of 75 Squadron RNZAF 1916-1990. Norman Franks, Random Century)

It would seem that 75(NZ) were due to bomb first – with this final error and desperate need for correction, the delay and advancing Squadrons meant the outcome was almost enevitable………

Bombed from above
No.195 Squadron ORB (No.31 Base) –
‘Some aircraft bombed from below our height at 18,000ft.’

Arthur Robson, Wireless Operator with Alfred Brown’s crew :-
“A bomb or bombs hit the front of the aircraft. One knocked the nose right off, taking (James) Wood with it as he huddled over his bomb sight. ‘The was a massive explosion and the Window the Flight Engineer was throwing out was whirling through the aircraft’. Robson had already seen what he thinks was the third 75 Lancaster going down – ‘the one in which they were all killed – It was all buckled up, hit right in the bloody middle’………..”
(page 494 ‘Night after Night – New Zealanders in Bomber Command, Max Lambert, Harper Collins)

Arthur’s description ‘hit in the bloody middle’ is ambiguous – though if applied to a hit by flak, the likelihood of seeing the aircraft ‘all buckled up’ is dubious – it would have almost certainly exploded if the strike was prior to the dropping of its payload. His description of the subsequent events in his own aircraft make it clear that a bomb strike from above in the center of a Lancaster- even without detonation –  would certainly have resulted in a catastrophic structural failiure.

The ensuing loads on the remaining airframe and the effects on the aircrew tend to suggest little chance of survival. Interestingly, the only body recovered was that of Alwyn Amos, the Rear Gunner. I do not know if he was found within wreckage or clear of wreckage, but it would suggest a pattern evidenced before regarding survivors in the Squadron, where the rear portion became detached and the occupant was able to exit the broken end (Jack Hayden, Roberts crew, Berlin Op – was sent to rear of a/c to check rear gunner after fighter attack. The aircraft then exploded and he fell out of the open end of the fuselage. John Gray, rear gunner with the McCartin crew, Homberg Op. The aircraft exploded and he came round in the detached rear portion of the fuselage).

I will observe before anybody else does that these 2 examples are both the result of explosions not falling bombs, however, I think I am trying to identify a structural failure (probably at the incomplete cross section at the mid upper turret) which might at least allow the back of a bomber, Stirling or Lancaster a separation from a much heavier mass within the rest of the aircraft.

The ensuing forces on the occupants of an aircraft in rapid decent would have made escape impossible. The final impact, if still with a full bomb load would have been utter.

The only losses on the Munster Op were the 3 Lancasters from Mepal.

They were the Squadron’s last operational losses of the war.

Ake Ake Kia Kaha

Robert William ‘Boby’ West, Wireless Operator – Barr crew

Bobby In Flying Gear 6th June 1943 cropped and b&W

Robert Willian ‘Boby’ West, Wireless Operator with the Barr crew. Killed 21st March 1945 on the Munster Viaduct Op.
© Margaret Fox

I had the pleasure of spending time with Margaret and Malcolm Fox at this last Winters 75(NZ) Squadron Reunion. Margaret’s brother was ‘Bobby’ West, Wireless Operator with Derek Barr’s crew, who were all lost n the 21st March 1945 on the Op to the Munster Viaduct.

Bobby @ EvantonNov 1942-1

No.8 AGS RAF Evanton, Rosshire
Bobby during his RAF training, front row far right.
© Margaret Fox

Bobby's letter from EvantonScotland 30th Nov 1942 joined

Dear Mam and Dad
Well I have arrived here at last after a twenty two hour train journey. The first thing they did to us on arriving here was to make each one of us a leading aircraftsman as you will see by the address. We will pass out here on the 23rd of December so I am afraid I shall not be home for Christmas but I should be home for New Year. The pay we get now is 7 shillings per day of course us unmarried men have to pay income tax off that but still I think I will be able to save something from now on. It seems to be a good camp this, the food is great and there is plenty of entertainment to go to every night inside the camp, but still I will let you know as much as I can. Later I will have to be more careful now because all letters coming from North of Inverness are liable to be censored. Well I am very tired after the journey so think I’ll close now and go to bed so for now cherrio.
Love to all
Boby
p.s. There is snow on all the hills around here and oh boy is it chilly. Not arf.
Boby
© Margaret Fox

Bobby's citation  08061944

Bobby’s citation for his Mention in Dispatches. The date shows that he would still have been in training, however the act that resulted in the MiD is not known….
© Margaret Fox

17.1.45. Administration
176130 F/O M. Watson and 1394583 F/S Barr. D.S. and crews arrived on posting from No.31 Base

22.2.45. War Ops – Attack Against Osterfeld
Lancaster Mk.I NG322 JN-F
F/S  Derek Singleton Barr RAFVR 1394583/190947 – Pilot
F/S  Arthur Leslie Archibald Oakey RNZAF NZ4213810 – Navigator
Sgt.  Dryden Stewart RAFVR 1673061 – Air Bomber
W/O  Robert William West, MiD, RAFVR 1077746 /195545 – Wireless Operator
Sgt.  Clifford Isaac Stocker RAFVR 1587275 – Flight Engineer
Sgt.  Bruce Henry Nichol RAFVR 746205 – Mid Upper Gunner
W/O  Alwyn Amos RAFVR 1578224 – Rear Gunner

23.2.45. War Ops – Attack Against Gelsenkirchen
Lancaster Mk.I NG322 JN-F
same crew

26.2.45. War Ops – Attack Against Dortmund
Lancaster Mk.I NG322 JN-F
Same crew

27.2.45. War Ops – Attack Against Gelsenkirchen
Lancaster Mk.I NG322 JN-F
Same crew

1.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Kamen
Lancaster Mk.I PB418 AA-C
Same crew

2.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Cologne (Aborted)
Lancaster Mk.I HK593 JN-X
Same crew

4.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Wanne-Eickel
Lancaster Mk.I NG448 JN-P
Same crew
F/O Barr & crew, suffered a failure of their starboard-outer engine following take-off. The aircraft was flown to the Wash where the bomb load was jettisoned and then returned to base, landing at 10.58hrs.

5.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Gelsenkirchen
Lancaster Mk.I NG322 JN-F
Same crew
On the way homeward, crews encountered slight, heavy flak. NG322, F/O Barr and crew, received minor shrapnel damage to the mainplane.

6.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Wesel
Lancaster Mk.I PB820 JN-V
Same crew

9.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Dattelen
Lancaster Mk.I NG322 JN-F
Same crew

10.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Gelsenkirchen-Buer
Lancaster Mk.I LM266 AA-F ‘The Seven Sinners’
Same crew

12.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Dortmund
Lancaster Mk.I HK554 JN-Z
Same crew

14.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against  Heinrich Hutte
Lancaster Mk.I NG448 JN-P
Same crew

17.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Auguste Viktoria
Lancaster unknown
Same crew
Of the original crew list, F/O Barr’s aircraft became unserviceable before T/O and was withdrawn, leaving 19 aircraft and crews for the mission.

Bobby's Last Letter 17 03 1945 IMG

Bobby’s last letter home.
Dear Mam and Dad
Just a few lines to let you know that I’m still OK and getting along fine and that I’m looking forward to the 29th when I come on leave again. A bit of fresh news is that I have only one more bloke to see and pass and I shall get a commission which will be a nice thing to have won’t it, the only snag is seeing myself in one of those big hats I will look a mess. I have only twelve more trips to do now so I should be nearly finished by the time I come on leave. The weather is still fine down here and it has been like summer for quite a while. Tell Margaret that I am still saving those sweets and chocolate up for her and if I don’t send it I’ll bring it for her when I come. I think this is all for the time so I’ll say cheers for now, Love to all
Boby xxxxxx
© Margaret Fox

18.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Bruchstrasse
Lancaster Mk.I RA564 JN-P
Same crew

21.3.45. War Ops – Attack Against Munster Viaduct
Lancaster Mk.I Lancaster Mk.I RA564 JN-P
Same crew
AIRCRAFT FAILED TO RETURN
RA564 was bombing the target at Munster when it was struck by a bomb falling from another aircraft flying above, which exploded. There were no survivors. Only the body of the rear gunner was found and buried at Margraten, Holland. The other crew members have no known graves.

The ORB describes the fate of the Barr crew ‘believed shot down by flak in target area’. this clearly conflicts the previous description.

It is clear from the Ops notes recorded from the participating crews that there was an error regarding formations – with another Squadron (at this point unknown) bombing from  20,000ft – it is difficult to know if this Squadron was ‘high’ or if the 75(NZ) aircraft were below the main force……..

F/O  Derek Singleton Barr RAFVR 1394583/190947.  Pilot
Died age 29.
No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 266, Runnymede Memorial.
F/S  Arthur Leslie Archibald Oakey RNZAF NZ4213810. Navigator
Died age 33.
No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 285 Runnymede Memorial.
Sgt.  Dryden Stewart RAFVR 1673061. Air Bomber
Died age 22.
No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 273 Runnymede Memorial.
P/O  Robert William West, MiD, RAFVR 1077746 /195545. Wireless Operator
Died age 22.
No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 269 Runnymede Memorial.
F/S  Clifford Isaac Stocker RAFVR 1587275. Flight Engineer
Died age 30.
No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 273 Runnymede Memorial.
Sgt.  Bruce Henry Nichol RAFVR 746205. Mid Upper Gunner
Died age 26.
No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 276 Runnymede Memorial.
W/O  Alwyn Amos RAFVR 1578224. Rear Gunner
Died age 24.
Buried Venray War Cemetery, Netherlands.

Dads Last Letter to Bobby 21st 031945 IMG

Excruciatingly, Bobby’s Father replied to his last letter on the day he and his crew mates were killed.
Dear Boby
Just a few lines hoping you are still keeping A1 as it leaves us the same here. We have Denis at home for 10 days and he goes back on Friday 30th so if you get home on the 29th you will see him. Well Boby, your Mam would like to see you come home with that big hat on.
We have got your coupons put away and you will get your coat all right and stick in and get the hat to go with it. Mam had a letter from Stan this morning and he seems to be going all right they had a test on Saturday morning and he got 62%.
Stan says he met a nice girl where he’s at and he even went to see her Father and Mother they’re not to bad he says, he is coming home at Easter. Well I think this is all this time. So will close now
With best love
Dad and Mam and All xxxxxxxx
From Margaret xxxxxxx
© Margaret Fox

75(NZ) lost 3 aircraft in this raid the other 2 were as follows;

Plummer crew
Lancaster Mk.I NG449 AA-T
‘Aircraft failed to return, seen to be shot down by flak over target.’

F/Lt. Jack Plummer, DFC, RNZAF NZ42451. Pilot
Died age 29.
Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.
F/O Arthur Leonard Humphries, DFM, RNZAF NZ428244. Navigator
Shot down
PoW No. 65026. PoW camps – Stalag VIF and XIB. Safe UK 11 May 1945.
F/O Edgar John Holloway RNZAF NZ429923. Air Bomber.
Died age 29.
Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Germany.
F/O Joseph James ‘Joe’ Wakerley RAFVR 1325219/169159. Wireless Operator.
Shot down
PoW No. not known. PoW camps, Oflag 79 ?. Safe UK – NK.
Sgt Maurice Fell RAFVR. Flight Engineer
Shot down, wounded, baled out.
PoW No. not known. PoW camps – Stalag XIB.
F/O Russell James Scott RNZAF NZ42898. Mid Upper Gunner.
Died age 23.
Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Germany.
F/Sgt Alexander Malcolm MacDonald RNZAF NZ426070. Rear Gunner
Shot down in flames, baled out.
Successfully evaded capture. Safe UK 7 Apr 1945.

Brown crew
Lancaster Mk.III LM733  AA-E
‘Aircraft failed to return and was seen to break in two over target, possibly due to bombing from above but may have been flak.’

F/O Alfred Errol Brown RNZAF NZ429139. Pilot.
Died age 25.
Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.
F/S Arthur Donald Baker RNZAF NZ4214043. Navigator
Shot down, baled out
PoW No. and PoW camps not known. Safe UK 21 Apr 1945.
F/S James Haswell Wood RNZAF NZ425811. Air Bomber
Died age 29.
Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Germany.
F/S Arthur Elliott Robson RNZAF NZ4210853. Wireless Operator
Shot down.
PoW No. not known, PoW camps – Stalag XIB. Escaped on the march, recaptured and again escaped. Safe UK 21 Apr 1945.
F/S R. H. Lawrence RAFVR 1607264. Flight Engineer.
Shot down.
PoW No. and PoW camps and Safe UK not known.
Sgt.  J. Grierson RAFVR 1593931. Mid Upper Gunner.
Shot down.
PoW No. and PoW camps and Safe UK not known.
Sgt. H. Barraclough RAFVR 1590144. Rear Gunner.
Shot down.
PoW No. and PoW camps and Safe UK not known.

Having researched this post, I must confess I realised it was only Malcolm’s remark in an email, regarding a question over the exact reason for the loss of Bobby and his crew mates, that made me look further. I was struck by the repeated references in the crew remarks for this raid in Form 541 of falling bombs and the need to constantly avoid them and also that the G-H guidance had appeared to fail. Of course I felt I needed to do some digging and contact a few people for their opinions.

What I have pieced together is certainly interesting and will be posted next when I have drawn it all together………..