Tag Archives: Berlin

Arthur George Bernard RNZAF NZ424964 – Rear Gunner. 1943 – Single crew

P1050895

Many belated thanks to Kerry for contributing another logbook from his collection. This logbook was owned by Arthur Bernard, rear Gunner with Alan Single’s crew. The crew arrived at Mepal on the 28th September 1943 (Alan, the Pilot arriving 6 days earlier. 2 months later, 6 of this original crew  were  lost on an Op to Berlin.

02.10.43. Gardening – Frisian Islands
Stirling Mk.III EH 939 JN-J ‘Johnny’
F/S Alan Roy Single RAAF AUS.413144 – Pilot.
P/O Jack Brothwell RAFVR 135042 – Navigator.
Sgt. John Edward Stanley Margetts RNZAF NZ422665 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Eric Richmond Whittingham RNZAF NZ416030 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. D. Harrington RAFVR 1477334 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Victor Stanley Hughes RAFVR 1796312 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Arthur George Bernard RNZAF NZ424964 – Rear Gunner.

4.10.43. Gardening – Gironde Estuary
Stirling Mk.III EJ901 (more likely EH901) JN-R
Same crew

18.11.43. War Ops – Attack Against Targets at Mannheim
Stirling Mk.III LK396
Same crew

22.11.43. War Ops – Attack Against Targets at Berlin

Stirling Mk.III LJ453 AA-K
Sgt. Ivor Hollbrook  replaces Sgt. Harrington as Flight Engineer.

AIRCRAFT FAILED TO RETURN
Crashed between Gemmerich and Dolberg, 6km SSE of Ahlen.
F/S Alan Roy Single RAAF AUS.413144 – Pilot.
Died Age 26.
Buried Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany.
P/O Jack Brothwell RAFVR 135042
– Navigator.
Died Age 24.
Buried Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany.
Sgt. John Edward Stanley Margetts RNZAF NZ422665 – Air Bomber.
Died Age 25.
Buried Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany.
Sgt. Eric Richmond Whittingham
RNZAF NZ416030 – Wireless Operator.
Died Age 22.
Buried Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany.
Sgt. Ivor George Holbrook, RAFVR 937367 – Flight Engineer.
Died age 23.
Buried Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany.
Sgt. Victor Stanley Hughes RAFVR 1796312 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Died age 19.
Buried Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany.
Sgt. Arthur George Bernard RNZAF NZ424964 – Rear Gunner.
Died age 22.
Buried Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany.

View Arthur’s logbook here.

Wynford Vaughan-Thomas recorded for the BBC live from a Lancaster Bomber during a bombing raid over Berlin.

Just found this on the BBC archive………

“Stephen Evans, the BBC’s Berlin correspondent, tells the story of Wynford Vaughan-Thomas’s report recorded aboard a Lancaster Bomber during a raid on Berlin.

In 1943 the RAF contacted the BBC with a dramatic offer: they were willing to send a two-man radio crew on a bombing raid over Berlin. The BBC chose Wynford Vaughan-Thomas for the mission. He accepted, knowing he might never return.

So on the night of 3rd September 1943, Vaughan-Thomas recorded for the BBC live from a Lancaster Bomber during a bombing raid over Berlin.

Wynford Vaughan-Thomas’s experiences as a wartime reporter were remarkable; he was at Belsen and at the Normandy landings, reporting as it happened. The recording over Berlin shows his remarkable courage, literally under fire, and his description of the bombing and the views from the plane are rich indeed.

Vaughan-Thomas went on to become one of post-war Britain’s most prominent media-intellectuals, a regular commentator and journalist, but those hours aboard the plane clearly remained a defining time in his life. Forty years later, interviewed by Parkinson, he called it “the most terrifying eight hours of my life. Berlin burning was like watching somebody throwing jewellery on black velvet – winking rubies, sparkling diamonds all coming up at you.”

Stephen Evans puts Wynford Vaughan-Thomas’s recordings in context. He looks at the experience on the ground in Berlin that night, reflects on the place of the broadcast in journalistic history, and dips into a lifetime of reflections from Vaughan-Thomas on a night which changed his life for ever.

Featuring Karin Finell, Max Hastings, Roger Moorhouse, Harold Panton, Jean Seaton, Dietmar Seuss and David Vaughan-Thomas.”

Listen to the recording here.

Flight Sergeant Keith Alexander McGregor 415770 – Pilot

Keith McGregorcomp

F/Sgt Keith Alexander McGregor .

Many thanks to Matt for making contact regarding his Great Uncle, Keith Alexander McGregor who was tragically killed on the 31st August 1943 whilst taking part on a raid on Berlin.

The McGregor crew were;
F/Sgt Keith Alexander McGregor RNZAF. (NZ415770) – Pilot. Died Wednesday 1st September 1943, age 21. No known grave, Commemorated on Panel 199 Runnymede Memorial.
F/O James Benjamin Lovelock RNZAF, (NZ416324) – Navigator. Died Wednesday 1st September 1943, age 26. No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 197 Runnymede Memorial.
F/Sgt William Adam Kilby RNZAF, (NZ415261) – Air Bomber. Died 1st September 1943, age 40. No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 199 Runnymede Memorial.
F/Sgt James Guthrie Baker RNZAF (NZ41142) – Wireless Operator. Died Wednesday 1 September 1943, age 27. No known grave, commemorated on Panel 198, Runnymede Memorial.
Sgt G A A Bond RAFVR (1801229) –  Flight Engineer. Shot down, wounded, night of 31 Aug-1 Sep 1943. PoW no. 43256. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft VI/357.
Sgt George F Dummett RAFVR (1377778) – Mid Upper Gunner. Shot down night of 31 Aug-1 Sep 1943. PoW no. 12730. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalags Luft VI and Luft IV.
Sgt Terence Grange RAFVR (1323448) – Rear Gunner. Died Wednesday 1st September 1943. No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 151 Runnymede Memorial.

McGregor Op History
29.7.43 McGregor crew posted from 1665 CU.
2.8.43 Hamburg K.McGregor 2P with Arthur Burley’s crew.
6.8.43 Mining in the Gironde Estuary (W/O C. Skripsy is MuG).
16.8.43 Turin.
Whole crew flew with Wing Commander Michael Wyatt (Keith McGregor listed as 2nd Pilot)
23.8.43 Berlin.
27.8.43 Nurenburg.
30.8.43 Munchen-Gladbach EF501 Stirling Mk.III
The McGregor crew were involved in a combat that is recorded in the Squadron ORB;
‘The aircraft captained by F/S McGREGOR, K. sighted an ME110 astern, the rear-gunner fired a long burst, the Stirling corkscrewed and the Mid-upper gunner fired a long burst. The enemy aircraft replied and dived away with smoke pouring from its engine. It is claimed as possibly destroyed’.

31.8.31 Berlin Stirling Mk.III EF501.
Failed to Return

According to Matt, Keith kept a diary during his training and in the lead up to his death. Sadly, apparently in a fit of overwhelming grief after the war, his mother threw his diary in the fire. By all accounts, some quick thinking person pulled it out, but most of it was lost. A few years ago, Matt’s grandmother typed up the remnants and emailed them to him. Matt feels the extract below gives some idea of the thoughts and feelings these young boys had while going into such perilous situations.

Extract from Diary of Keith Alexander McGregor;
JUNE
‘June has almost gone and the summer is speeding by. I’m smiling, for I’m even more alive than ever. Every day that goes by I decide more resolutely to embark on a career in art after the war. It becomes almost an obsession with me now days, perhaps because it is my only expression of freedom.

Life in the Air Force is rather cramped in a way that makes me feel that I’ll go nuts if I don’t get relief. It’s so regular and unimaginative, so scientific and mechanical, yet my friends are all content and thrilled. I don’t understand that, perhaps that is why they don’t understand me. I am wrong to say I don’t understand, for I can see in them – just as everywhere and in everyone – the reaction of war, the false sense of new success. For it is successful to be in an air crew, to have so much money to spend and to act like a lord instead of just a humble citizen. That is our life you know.

I say all this on the threshold of my greatest and most dangerous adventure. I may never return from that adventure. In a few weeks I’ll be regularly over Germany and the Continent. Night after night, my crew and I will plunge into that awful madness, for months it will go on until I finish my tour or I don’t return. I don’t really mind which way it goes. I cannot turn back. But it does seem a waste of a good life if anything should happen’.

AUGUST
‘It’s August now and I’ve been over to Germany once. My crew and I have just joined the 75th Squadron……………’.

 

The following letter was written in 1969, and is from Sgt. G. Bond, Keith’s Flight Engineer.  Sgt. Bond and the Mid Upper Gunner Sgt. George Dummett were the only members of the crew to survive that night.

Dear Mrs. McGregor,
I cannot thank you enough for your letter and also for the delightful calendar which I received today.   

Before I get down to writing this letter can I ask you to please try and forgive me for not having written before.   I have been going to write time and time again, but really and truly I didn’t know how to start, because like you I too have hoped that somehow Keith might have somehow survived, and quite honestly I didn’t have the heart to write and tell you that I have now given up hope.

I should like to offer at this stage my sincerest sympathies for your most grievous loss, I have a very good idea at the sorrow and suffering you must have all undergone.   I too lost one of the finest comrades and really true friend one could ever wish to have.

Keith is always in my thoughts, and I shall never forget him.   As a skipper he was outstanding, it was indeed an honour to fly with him and call him my friend.   As a pilot Keith left nothing to be desired, and myself and I’ll vouch for the rest of the crew also, I’ll say that we had every confidence in him and always had that happy state of security.   Keith was always quiet, but so very cool in danger or otherwise, and I can assure you he had got us out of many hot spots only by his steadfast courage and coolness.    Please do not think that I’m telling you this just to console you in anyway, I really mean every word of it from the bottom of my heart.   As you know perhaps, I first joined Keith about June 1943 at Woolfox Lodge, in Lutland, we did a course there and then went to N. 75 New Zealand Squadron, stationed at Mepal in Cambridgeshire.   We operated from there until we were shot down on the 31.8.43.   I will set out briefly the operations that we accomplished, they were:-
Hamburg    (bombing)
A small town in the Ruhr , the name of which I can’t just remember (bombing)
The Frisian Islands, just off Holland, we were mining on that trip.
Turin, in Italy   (bombing)
Nuremburg,  deep into Germany
Nrunchen  Gladbach, just on the fringe of the Ruhr valley.
And lastly Berlin.

Berlin was the target where we bombed for the last time.   We did do half an operation, and were to have mined the sea just off Bordeaux (South of France) but we had to turn back just after we had crossed the French coast owing to some technical trouble.

On the night of 31.8.43 we reached Berlin about midnight, the city was burning fiercely and we had just dropped our bombs, and were just on the outskirts of Berlin when two German night fighters suddenly attacked us without the slightest warning from our two Gunners who hadn’t evidently spotted them.   Cannon fire hit us from underneath and I was hit by the first burst.   We immediately went into a dive which gave me the impression that the controls had been hit, or forgive me please, that Keith was also hit by the first burst too.   I was blown  from my position, and when I came too, tried to use my intercommunication, but these were out of order.   By this time the aircraft was burning and it was impossible for me to get to the front of the plane where Keith and four of the other boys were, but believe me Mrs. McGregor if it had been humanly possible to have helped Keith or any of the other lads, I should not have left the plane until I did so.   As it was I had to get out and after assisting the mid upper gunner to get out, this was George Dummett, who had been hit just below the eyes, and was blinded for a week I jumped clear of the burning aircraft.   I watched it going down, and to the best of my belief, it exploded shortly after, only we were still in the anti aircraft defenses and it could have been a shell that exploded, but I am quite sure it was the aircraft.   I do not believe however, that Keith could have possible suffered, it was far too quick.  

I do hope that my description has not hurt you too much, but I thought that if I told you everything it would be far better.   I made many enquiries at the hospitals and camps which I was imprisoned in  Germany, but am afraid I never heard anymore of my comrades.  

As regards a photograph, I regret very much to say that we never had any taken as a crew, and I don’t remember any of Keith.   I will try to find out if there is any, but as you can imagine there weren’t many people I know in England who knew Keith, and therefore please do not be too hopeful.

I do sincerely trust that sometime when you have a spare moment, you will write again and let both my wife and myself know how you are getting on.  

 With our very best wishes.         

Sincerely      

(signed) GAA Bond
November 1969

Sgt. Bonds recollection of the Ops the crew flew seems at odds with the list extracted from The Squadron ORB, though perhaps without his logbook and almost 30 years after the  event, its harsh to judge these slight errors.

 

F/O Jack Henry Haydon RAAF AUS.408400 – Roberts Crew and the ‘Great Escape’.

I had been aware for a while that 75(NZ) Squadron had an association with the ‘Great Escape’ from Stalag Luft 3, immortalised, of course, in the film of the same name. A few weeks ago, whilst at my Mother’s 90th birthday party, I was remarking on the same fact to a relative who had asked me about the blog and research on Bob.

Incredibly, on returning home I received an email from Dianne about her father,  Jack Haydon – who had been involved in the escape from Stalag Luft III. My initial excitement about the contact  was increased when it dawned on me later that Jack was the sole survivor of the Roberts crew, who were lost on the night of the 31st August on the Berlin Raid. My interest in this crew has existed since the early days of my research when I discovered through the Squadron ORB’s that the crew had arrived at Mepal with my father and his crew from 1651 Conversion Unit. My initial investigations had led me to pictures of some of the Roberts crew, but at the time I had not been able to find anything about Jack – including his Christian name. It shames me to admit that with the time involved processing information on the other aircrews that was being sent to me that even when I received the Squadron Nominal Roll from Stewart, I didn’t think to look for Jack in the Roll.

In a return mail to Dianne, I included a group picture including dad from 1651 – I had already identified Eric Roberts, the Wireless Operator Kensington Jackson and Darcy Haub, the Rear Gunner. Dianne was unable to identify Jack in the image – but I am confident we will find him.

The Roberts Crew were;
F/Sgt Eric John Roberts RNZAF NZ417107. Pilot .
Died Tuesday 31st August 1943, age 25, during a raid on Berlin. Buried Hanover War Cemetery Germany.
24.7.43 first 2nd Dickie flight with the Whitehead crew – Hamburg.
25.7.43 second 2nd Dickie flight with the Baile crew – Essen.

F/O. Robert Gorman Rainford RAFVR 134553. Navigator.
Died Tuesday 31st August 1943, age 28, during a raid on Berlin. Buried Hanover War Cemetery Germany.

Plt Off John Cecil Giles RAFVR 138329. Air Bomber.
Died Tuesday 31st August 1943, age 19, during a raid on Berlin. Buried Hanover War Cemetery, Germany.

F/Sgt Kensington Campbell Jackson RNZAF NZ 42330. Wireless Operator.
Died Tuesday 31st August 1943, age 23, during a raid on Berlin. Buried Hanover War Cemetery, Germany.

Sgt Eric Saunders RAFVR 1605321. Flight Engineer.
Died Tuesday 31st August 1943 , age 20, during a raid on Berlin. Buried Hanover War Cemetery Germany.

F/O Jack Henry Haydon RAAF AUS.408400. Mid Upper Gunner.
Shot down night of 31st Aug 1943 during a raid on Berlin, the sole survivor of a crew of seven. PoW # 2366. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft III. Safe UK NK.

F/Sgt Darcy Leslie Conrad Haub RNZAF NZ42326. Rear Gunner.
Died Wednesday 31st September 1943, age 23, during a raid on Berlin. Buried Hanover War Cemetery, Germany.

Roberts crew Operational History;
27.7.43 Hamburg EE897 AA-G
29.7.43 Hamburg EH880 AA-J
2.8.43 Hamburg BF518 AA-E
6.8.43 Mining in the Gironde Estuary EF461
16.8.43 Turin EF518
23.8.43 Berlin EE918 AA-D
27.8.43 Nuremburg EE918 AA-D
30.8.43 Munchen-Gladbach  EE918 AA-D
31.8.43 Berlin Failed to Return. EE918 AA-D

Dianne sent the following regards the event of that tragic night;
On the night of 31 August, 1943 he was mid-upper gunner  in Stirling Mk.111 EE918 AA-D and was returning home, having dropped bombs on Berlin, when the aircraft was hit by enemy fire. The aircraft sustained damage but continued to fly for possibly 10 – 15 minutes. Eric, the pilot radioed Jack (as mid upper gunner he was the closest to the rear gun turret) and requested that he go back and check on Darcy (rear gunner) because he had heard nothing from him since the attack. Jack discovered that he was dead and was returning to his position when there was an explosion which broke the plane into two pieces.

Jack, the only member of the crew not in his position, was not in his harness and therefore fell out of the plane which went down with the rest of the crew all still harnessed in. Upon landing, Jack only suffered a badly injured foot, which caused him trouble for the rest of his life. He began walking to habitation, where he was captured.

After  being given medical treatment for his , Jack was now a Prisoner of War and was first moved to Dulag Luft.

Dulag Luft was the abbreviated name given to Prisoner of War (POW) transit camps for Air Force prisoners captured by Germany during the Second World War. Their main purpose was to act as collection and interrogation centres for newly captured aircrew, before being transferred in batches to the permanent camps. Dulag Luft derives from the German Durchgangslager der Luftwaffe (Transit Camp – Air Force). Several camps where set up throughout Germany and the occupied countries, however the main centre used throughout the war was at Oberursel near Frankfurt. A satellite camp at Wetzlar was set up later in the war to help cope with the large numbers of aircrew captured as the bombing campaign intensified against Germany. Allegations of interrogation under torture have been made by numerous POWs who passed through the camps.
Wikipedia

Jack was next moved to the now (in)famous  Stalag Luft III.

Stalag Luft III (Stammlager Luft, or main camp for aircrew) was a Luftwaffe-run prisoner-of-war camp during World War II that housed captured air force servicemen. It was in the German province of Lower Silesia near the town of Sagan (now Żagań in Poland), 100 miles (160 km) southeast of Berlin. The site was selected because it would be difficult to escape by tunneling. The camp is best known for two famous prisoner escapes that took place there by tunneling, which were depicted in the films The Great Escape (1963) and The Wooden Horse (1950), and the books by former prisoners Paul Brickhill and Eric Williams from which these films were adapted.
Wikipedia

During his incarceration, Jack “celebrated” his 21st birthday and the birth of his first daughter.

One of the activities he participated in was stacking wood on the back of a truck. The instructions were to put a nail in every 5th /6th log to secure the load for travel. The prisoners placed a nail in every log so that the logs were absolutely solid wood when they came to be unloaded. Apparently, every PoW took very seriously the order to hinder the enemy in any way possible!

Jack  was involved in the preparations for the Great Escape. His skill as a cabinetmaker was useful to maintain the stability of the bunks which were depleted of wood and he also had gold fillings in his teeth which were removed to make compasses.

On the night of the escape Jack  was waiting to go when the alarm was raised. Like others, he was placed in solitary confinement for at least 3 week and on 5 days running was dragged out and actually lined up in front of a firing squad. No one knows why he was not shot, but one theory was that he was young and good-looking and as Hitler wanted a pure Aryan race he may have been spared for that. He was also given a photograph of a young, pretty blonde woman, maybe to encourage his willingness.

Towards the end of the war, when defeat was inevitable, the Germans removed the prisoners and they began “The March”.

“The March” refers to a series of forced marches during the final stages of the Second World War in Europe. From a total of 257,000 western Allied prisoners of war held in German military prison camps, over 80,000 POWs were forced to march westward across Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Germany in extreme winter conditions, over about four months between January and April 1945. This series of events has been called various names: “The Great March West”, “The Long March”, “The Long Walk”, “The Long Trek”, “The Black March”, “The Bread March”, but most survivors just called it “The March”. As the Soviet Army was advancing, German authorities decided to evacuate POW camps, to delay liberation of the prisoners. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of German civilian refugees, most of them women and children, as well as civilians of other nationalities, were also making their way westward on foot, in hazardous weather conditions.
Wikipedia

Jack Haydon was returned to England and later embarked on a ship headed for the war against Japan, but peace was declared while he was en route – Dianne does not know if he was returned to England or Australia at that stage.

On his return home he spent many weeks in rehabilitation and in truth, she believes he suffered from PTSD for the rest of his life. He apparently did manage to write to the families of at least 2 of the 3 NZ members of his crew.

Jack Henry Haydon died at the age of 48, in 1971.