Tag Archives: Bomber Command

For the Fallen – Lest we forget

Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), published in The Times newspaper on 21 September 1914.

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon composed his best known poem while sitting on the cliff-top looking out to sea from the dramatic scenery of the north Cornish coastline. A plaque marks the location at Pentire Point, north of Polzeath. However, there is also a small plaque on the East Cliff north of Portreath, further south on the same north Cornwall coast, which also claims to be the place where the poem was written.

The poem was written in mid September 1914, a few weeks after the outbreak of the First World War. During these weeks the British Expeditionary Force had suffered casualties following its first encounter with the Imperial German Army at the Battle of Mons on 23 August, its rearguard action during the retreat from Mons in late August and the Battle of Le Cateau on 26 August, and its participation with the French Army in holding up the Imperial German Army at the First Battle of the Marne between 5 and 9 September 1914.

Laurence said in 1939 that the four lines of the fourth stanza came to him first. These words of the fourth stanza have become especially familiar and famous, having been adopted by the Royal British Legion as an Exhortation for ceremonies of Remembrance to commemorate fallen Servicemen and women.

Laurence Binyon was too old to enlist in the military forces but he went to work for the Red Cross as a medical orderly in 1916. He lost several close friends and his brother-in-law in the war.

Bevis Harpham, Wireless Operator – Good crew

As always, many thanks for Kevin for passing on the sad news of the passing of another 75(NZ) Squadron veteran.

Bevis Harpam, Wireless Operator, arrived as part of Tom Good’s crew on the 11th of February 1945. The crew flew their first Op with W/Cdr Mac Baigent 11 days later, reforming with Tom Good to undertake their first Op as a crew on the 23rd of February to Gelsenkirchen.

Bevis completed another 7 Ops with the Good crew, his last being on the 17th of March to Auguste Viktoria. Inexplicably, at this point, Bevis never flew with the Good crew again, but did fly another Op on the 24th of April to Bad Oldsloe with Matthew Watson’s crew.

I am sure you will all join in wishing condolences to Bevis’ family at this sad time for them.

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!

A request for help – and information!

The majority of my time over the last 6 years or so, has been spent completing a number of large scale projects which have resulted in sizeable amounts of information being added to the site.

To date, the largest has been the creation of a database to enable me to list an Op history for every crew that flew with the Squadron during the War. I was also able to relatively recently announce the completion of the transcription of the entire collection of Form 540 documents for the Squadron. In addition to this, the Roll of Honour has been dramatically expanded, all available air combat reports have been catalogued and added and a large number of MI.9 debriefing interviews are currently being processed and added to the Evaders, Escapers and P.o.W sections  of the site.

The final, and largest piece of the jigsaw is a record of all individuals that flew with the Squadron, or as it is often referred to, a Nominal Roll.

Those of you that have followed the blog form the beginning, might recall a very brief period when a Nominal Roll was available, which had been passed onto me form the 75 Association in New Zealand. This had to be removed not long after publishing, owing to what I will simply describe as a misunderstanding, more within the Association, regarding the apparent sense of making the list public to correct and expand it.

Aware of the sensitivities surrounding this Nominal Roll document and owing to the apparent reluctance on the part of the NZ Association to make public any information that they hold, I have come to the simple conclusion that the only way to proceed is to create from scratch, our own Nominal Roll.

I have spent the last few months reviewing the information held on the blog, the National Archives and London Gazette and am satisfied that, in principle this is entirely possible.

The scope of the document will be from the point the ‘New Zealand Flight’ was formed in the United Kingdom in June 1939 through to the point the Squadron was disbanded at Spilsby in October 1945.

Based on available information, I have reluctantly decided at least initially, to focus the Nominal Roll on Aircrew only. I am not comfortable with this decision, but the simple fact of the matter is that I seem so far to have found no sources of information that lists any useful records, regarding Ground crew and as such barely have a starting point for a basic list, let alone, sadly a Nominal Roll document.

A gross list of Aircrew names can be extracted from the Form 541 ‘diary of work carried out’ that already exists in database format and this will form the first ‘impression’ of the Roll. Additional information contained in the Form 540 regarding postings in and out of the Squadron and promotions will add to this. Six years of contact with relatives, plus a summer going through the AIR 78 personnel list documents, has generated a significant amount of new information regarding RAF aircrew christian/ middle names and service numbers.

What follows is a theoretical Nominal Roll entry based on my own Father. I have used Bob as an example because all I have on him comes from publicly  accessible  documents, information held in my database and his service records obtained from the RAF.

By way of trying to explain the composition of Bob’s record, the following colours have been used:

Blue = Database
Green = Service record
Red = Personal/ anecdotal information

SOMMERVILLE
Robert Douglas ‘Jock’ Sommerville, DFC. RAFVR 1562617/ 161049
42 Ops
2 tours with Squadron, 1943 & 1945. Crewed with Allan Johnson Mayfield (1st tour) and Vernon John ‘Taffy’ Zinzan (2nd tour).

Born 1st of November 1922, Irvine, Ayr, Scotland
Previous occupation, Clerk, Ayr County Council, Public Assistance Department.
Enlisted, 9th of October 1941 at Aircrew Selection Board (ACSB), Edinburgh – Recommended for training as Pilot/ Observer.
23/3/42 Reserves to No.1 Aircrew Reception Centre (ACRC), St. Johns Wood.
11/4/42 No.11 Initial Training Wing (ITW)
14/7/42 No.3 Elementary Flying Training School (E.F.T.S)
10/8/42 Recommended for re-mustering to Unit
29/8/42 Re-mustered to Unit
10/11/42 No.2 (O) Advanced Flight Unit (Course 87). Millom, Cumbria
6/4/43 No.11 Operational Training Unit, Oakley (11 O.T.U)
24/6/43 No. 1651 Conversion Unit, Waterbeach (1651 C.U.)

Posted to Mepal on the 21st of July 1943 from 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit, Waterbeach.
1562617.  SGT.A/B.  SOMMERVILLE, R.  Posted from No.1651 Con. Unit, w.e.f. 21/7/43.  (Authy.P/N.3G/855/49 dated 19/7/43).

Completed 21 Ops between 30/07/1943 and 19/11/1943 with Mayfield crew

30/07/1943 – Mining off the Frisian Islands, 02/08/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Hamburg, 06/08/1943 – Mining in the Gironde Estuary, 10/08/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Nurenburg, 12/08/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Turin, 16/08/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Turin, 17/08/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Peenemunde, 27/08/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Nuremburg, 30/08/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Munchen-Gladbach, 31/08/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Berlin, 05/09/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Mannheim, 08/09/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Boulogne, 15/09/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Montlucon, 16/09/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Modene, 22/09/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Hanover, 23/09/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Mannheim, 03/10/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Kassel, 04/10/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Frankfurt, 08/10/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Bremen, 18/11/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Mannheim, 19/11/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Leverkusen.

Arrived on Station as Sgt. Promoted to P/O with effect from 20/10/43 (Gazetted 14/12/43). Promoted to F/O 20/4/44. Promoted to F/L 20/10/45 (Gazetted 25/9/45). Commission relinquished 1/7/59

Posted from Mepal to No.3 Lancaster Finishing School, Feltwell on the 15th of December 1943.
P/O Sommerville, R. D. 161049 (GD) Posted to No.3 L.F.S. w.e.f. 15/12/43. Auth: P/N 3G/3398/43 dated 10/12/43.

4/3/44 – 11/10/44 No. 1 Air Armament School (AAS), Manby – Bomb Leaders Course Assessed as 5 – Category B Bomb Leader
11/10/44 – 9/11/44 Hereford. Air Crew Officers School (A.C.O.S) 58% (below average)
Posted to Mepal on the 25th of January 1945 from No.3 Lancaster Finishing School, Feltwell.

25.1.45
Administration. 161049 P/O R. Sommerville A/B arrived on posting from No. 3 L.F.S.

Completed 21 Ops between 01/02/1945 and 14/04/1945 with Zinzan crew

01/02/1945 – Attack Against Munchen Gladbach, 02/02/1945 – Attack Against Wiesbaden, 09/02/1945 – Attack Against Hohenbudburg, 13/02/1945 – Attack Against Dresden, 14/02/1945 – Attack Against Chemnitz, 16/02/1945 – Attack Against Wesel, 19/02/1945 – Attack Against Wesel, 20/02/1945 – Attack Against Dortmund, 02/03/1945 – Attack Against Cologne, 04/03/1945 – Attack Against Wanne Eickel, 06/03/1945 – Attack Against Salzbergen, 07/03/1945 – Attack Against Dessau, 09/03/1945 – Attack Against Datteln, 10/03/1945 – Attack Against Gelsenkirchen Buer, 12/03/1945 – Attack Against Dortmund, 14/03/1945 – Attack Against Heinrich Hutte, 20/03/1945 – Attack Against Hamm, 23/03/1945 – Attack Against Wesel, 29/03/1945 – Attack Against Salzgitter, 04/04/1945 – Attack on Meresburg, 13/04/1945 – Attack on Kiel, 14/04/1945 – Attack on Potsdam.

* For an unexplained reason did not fly with the crew on 17/03/1945 – Attack Against Auguste Viktoria

5/5/45 – Posted from Mepal to Aircrew Allocation Centre.
16/6/45 – RAF Halfpenny Green, Birmingham.
16/7/45 – 26/8/45 RAF Flying Control School, Shawbury(?)
27/9/45 – No.7 Air Navigation School, Bishops Court, Northern Ireland.
23/4/46 – No.7 Air Navigation School, Bishops Court, Northern Ireland – Flying Control Officer.
10/8/46 – No. 100 Personnel Dispersal Centre, Uxbridge.

Awarded DFC (Non Immediate)
Citation DFC (24 Sep 1945):
“This officer, as Air Bomber, has completed many successful operations against the enemy, in the course of which he has invariably displayed high skill, fortitude and devotion to duty”.

Passed away through illness 29th of August 2011. Ashes scattered in 75(NZ) Squadron Memorial Garden, Mepal Cambridgeshire.

Now, you can see from this that it gives a good record of the individual, and also that the information comes really from the database and the individuals RAF Service Records.

I must therefore put out a request for you all to apply for your relatives Service Records. My understanding is that still, as next of kin the service is free (though I stand to be corrected).

Whilst this is a MASSIVE task, there exists an opportunity to complete the final section of the site and then make it the utterly definitive resource for the Squadron.

Information on how to apply can be accessed here:

For RAF – click here
For RNZAF – click here
For RAAF – click here
For RCAF – click here

Squadron Leader Garth Reginald Gunn – MiD, RNZAF NZ411397

Many thanks indeed to Ian for having the presence of mind to research the above item, having come across it during a house clearance. One shivers at the thought of the countless items that have been literally thrown away since the War.

This small, folded thank you card, one surmises a reply to an expression of condolence, commemorates the death of S/L Garth Reginald Gunn, who died of injuries on the 21st of September 1944, 3 days after his aircraft crash landed at RAF Hawkinge, having received damage during an Op to Boulogne on the 17th of that month. The thank you card was sent by Mrs Alice Melva Gunn, Garth’s Wife.

S/L Gunn and crew, received a direct hit, from 30mm shell fire, which severely damaged the aircraft necessitating both starboard engines to be shut down. The Captain and Flight Engineer had difficulty in maintaining control of the aircraft returning across the Channel. A decision was made to carry out an emergency landing at RAF Hawkinge, an airfield with a short runway. The Lancaster overshot the runway and crashed. The Captain, Navigator and Air Bomber were injured, two seriously. The Flight Engineer was killed in the crash. The other three crew escaped uninjured.The Pilot, S/L L G Gunn (‘B’ Flight Commander) died three days later from his injuries.

It was the crew’s 20th sortie with the Squadron and the 4th for Garth, as Squadron Leader of ‘B’ Flight.

The thank you card was found by Ian in a property in Herne Hill, South East London. The owner of the property was a  George Lackford, who Ian informs me, was a Naval Wireless Operator during the War.

S/L Gunn’s death was recorded on the 20th of October 1944 by the New Zealand Evening Post as follows:

DIED OF INJURIES
Flight Lieutenant G. R. Gunn, who has died of injuries received over enemy country, joined the Air Force in March, 1941, and gained his commission in August of that year, sailing immediately afterwards for overseas service. , He served through the African campaign, and after 12 months’ service in the Middle East was sent to England, from where he was flying when he received his injuries. He was 26 years of age, the elder son of Mr. and Mrs. R. W. Gunn, of Lower Hutt, and was born in Masterton.

An enthusiastic sportsman, he was a senior member of the Hutt Football and Athletic Clubs. He was educated at Miramar South and Eastern Hutt Schools and Wellington Technical College, and was senior sports champion of his college in 1934, 1935, and 1936, and head prefect in 1936. In 1934-35 he was junior champion of the Lower Hutt Athletic Club.

Flight Lieutenant Gunn was attached to Bomber Command,. and was acting Squadron Leader, flying a Lancaster bomber, when he received the injuries from which he later died. He leaves a wife, Mrs. A. M. Gunn, of Dolly Varden Bay, Plimmerton. His brother Sergeant C. H. Gunn, is at present in New Zealand on furlough, and his sister is Mrs. T. E. Mason, of Milford, Auckland. He was well known in the building trade, and prior to enlisting in the Air Force was on the staff of the Fletcher Construction Company, Wellington.

Garth Gunn was laid to rest in Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey, England. Grave location – 8. AA. 10

Whilst I have received this item from Ian and will hold it accordingly, I am also happy to pass it on to any relatives of Garth, if they see this and wish to have it.

 

RAF Bomber Command Profiles – 75(NZ) Squadron

I am quite excited to be able to announce the imminent release of a new book on 75(NZ) Squadron RAF.

This book is the latest of the  RAF Bomber Command Profiles that were first published in the 1990’s and takes and extends the original format.

Due to the special character of the Squadron, and the level of interest, Chris Ward and the publishers wanted to obtain input and perspective from New Zealand, and approached the NZ Bomber Command Assn. for assistance.

Executive Officer of the NZBCA, Peter Wheeler, provided access to the Association’s extensive photo archives and offered the help of NZBCA member and 75 (NZ) Sqdn enthusiast (and our own) Chris Newey.

The last history of the squadron, “Forever Strong”, was published in 1991, 27 years ago. While it contained many valuable personal recollections and photographs, there were some factual errors, and not a lot of operational detail. Given that, and the rare opportunity that this project represents, there was a determination from both parties to make the book as accurate as possible, and the photo collection as comprehensive as possible.

The text is written by Bomber Command specialist Chris Ward, and like his other Profiles, it is based around the squadron’s Operational Record Books. However he brings a detailed knowledge of 3 Group and the broader sweep of events that the squadron operated in, and makes the narrative easy to follow. The extract below gives an idea of the level of detail provided, attempting to include pilot’s full names, aircraft serial numbers, identification codes and details for all significant events, to give readers a strong starting point for further research.

There are 395 photos included, many previously un-published, plus copies of rare documents, the NZBCA’s archives supplemented by sources that include the Air Force Museum of NZ, Archives NZ, Simon Sommerville’s 75nzsquadron.com, Auckland War Memorial Online Cenotaph, and several collectors, families and individuals who generously contributed to the project.

The soft-back edition will be published in the next few days, to be followed at a later date by a limited edition, glossy hard-back.

The soft cover edition will be available on Amazon, but other distribution and retail details still to be advised.

478 pages, 8.5 inches x 11, 175 pages of photos.  Probably US$ 25 due to the size.

I will update you all when I know exact dates of release, points of sale and price. I would encourage you all to support this publication as an essential printed reference companion to the blog.

 

The Wainwright crew 1944

Johnny Wainwright and the “Dead-Beat crew”.
Back row, (L to R):Harold Howard Bell (Rear Gunner),John Francis Schofield ‘Johnny’ Wainwright (Pilot) andMelvin Russell Bloomfield (Air Bomber).
Front row (L to R): Sydney Clement Woolley (Wireless Operator), John Francis Richards (Navigator), Stanley Starling (Mid Upper Gunner) and Noel Vernon Roberts (Flight Engineer).
Image provided by Lindsey Wainwright.

The “Dead-Beats” re-mustered at Oakington with No.7 P.F.F. in October 1944.
Image supplied by Lindsey Wainwright

Many thanks to Lindsey for providing these 2 fantastic pictures of her Father and his crew for the Wainwright crew page.Johnny and the boys arrived at Mepal from 1657 Conversion Unit on the 27th of December 1943, flying their first Op on the 2nd of January 1944, Gardening in the Frisian Islands. The crew completed 23 Ops, including 3 SOE sorties, initially flying Stirlings, before converting with the rest of the Squadron to Lancasters in March 1944.

The “Dead-Beats” last Op with the Squadron was on the 24th of May with an Op to Aachen. The crew later re mustered at Oakington to fly with No.7 Squadron (P.F.F.)

Lindsey has admitted that, inspired by our very own Vic Jay’s remarkable research into his Father Bob, she has been incredibly lucky to make contact with the son and daughter of Syd Woolley, the crews Wireless Operator and also the son of Navigator, John RIchards.

Bitten with the bug, she is really keen to try and make contact with other relatives of the crew – particularly those of the two Canadians in the crew  – who knows? – it’s happened before after a blog post!

See the Wainwright crew history page here.

Half a million views!

Half a million views!

I must take this opportunity to let everybody know, that today, 75nzsquadron.com passed the incredible milestone of 500,000 views. This amazing figure has taken almost 7 years to reach, but it has truly been worth the wait, given the amazing journey that many others and I have enjoyed in the mean time.

The growth and success of the blog has really been remarkable – I have said it before – but I certainly never dreamt that it would grow the way it has and been able to engage so many people – as I write, the blog contains 721 posts, is followed across all platforms by 852 people and has been visited over 123,000 times.

The interest in the Squadron seems unabated and it’s my plan to get back to the old days of regular posts – we have a lot of new material in the pipeline which will all be share in due course. We have now complete all the large structural projects, so as new information appears, it can all be added to what is possibly the most detailed record of an RAF Bomber Squadron that exists.

This wonderful event in the site’s history is perhaps a timely point to make another important announcement:

Project ORB is complete!

Five and a half years ago I began the slow transcription of the Squadron’s Form 540 “Operations Carried Out” for the duration of 75(NZ) Squadrons existence. Many have contributed, but special thanks must go to Hubert, David and Brian for their protracted efforts to complete certain years. In recent months I have turned my attention to 1942, and the latter months of 1940 – finally it is finished.

Whilst other Squadrons have already had their diary documents transcribed in whole, this is the first time that it has been achieved for 75(NZ) Squadron – an other first for the site!

I have also added a little navigation to make the reading of the individual months a little easier. Clicking in the “75(NZ) Squadron RAF Records” section in the top menu and then clicking on any specific year will give you a page with links to all months in that particular years (as opposed to holding on a year to get the jump off menu that will take you to a certain month).

In addition, at the foot of each month is a link which will take you automatically to the next month – at December you will progress to the following year.

For ease of entry to the records, please click below to go to the relevant year sets:

1940
1941
1942
1943
1944
1945