Tag Archives: D. Baverstock

James Colin Burch, Air Bomber – Young crew

Many thanks to the family of James Colin Burch for passing on an astonishing autobiography of, (as he was known to everyone), Colin’s time in the RAF. Flying a full tour with 75(NZ) Squadron between 1943 and 1944. Colin then continued to serve an impressive and diverse career in the RAF post war, including Strategic Nuclear Missile Command.

Colin’s training follows an identical one to my father it would seem. Not only did they both enrol as Pilots, they both ended up as Air Bombers and there might be something in Colin’s recollection of his change in trades that might be true for Bob as well. Also, they both passed through No.11 OTU and 1651 HCU before arriving at Mepal, in Colin’s case, on the 27th of October – my Father and his crew  arriving 4 months earlier. Perhaps given this similarity, its perhaps not surprising, although perhaps it is, that Colin’s  Pilot, Arthur Young’s single 2nd Dickie Op, prior to taking his own crew on Ops was in fact with my Fathers crew on the 19th of November 1943 to Leverkusen.

The Young crew arrived at Mepal on the 27th  of October 1943, from 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit at Waterbeach.

‘Our crew was posted to No.75 (New Zealand) Squadron for operational duties in Bomber Command and were a little apprehensive at this Squadron‘s reputation for sustaining high losses – born out at the end of the WW2 having sustained the 2nd highest losses in Bomber Command.

It was based at RAF Mepal, near Ely, the name of a small local village, and although closer to the village of Sutton it could not be so named as there may have been some confusion with RAF Full Sutton in Yorkshire. The Squadron comprised of pilots of the RNZAF with one from the RAAF and one from the RAF. Other crew members, i.e. Gunners. Flight Engineers and Radio Operators were mainly RAF.’

Arthur completed a single  2nd Pilot Op with my father’s crew (AJ Mayfield) on the 19th November to Leverkusen.

‘On our first day with 75 (NZ) Sqn, the Squadron Commander, Wg Cdr Roy Max RNZAF, placed our crew on the Battle Order for that nights operation; mine laying in the Baltic Sea. At the eleventh hour we were pulled out by the Station Commander, Gp Cpt Wass , who wished us to carry out some simulated operations over the UK. code named Bullseye. before being committed to the main force. All the Squadron aircraft assigned to that minelaying operation were lost, so we considered ourselves very fortunate. Our crew was allocated the Stirling bomber JN ‘X‘ for X-ray in ‘C‘ Flight with the logo, ‘ Excuse please Mr, I go, I come back’, a catch phrase taken from the radio show, Tommy Handley’s ‘lTMA’.’

25.11.43. Gardening – Mining in the Frisian Islands
Stirling Mk.III EF507 JN-P
F/S Arthur Russell ‘Russ’ Young RNZAF NZ421133 – Pilot.
F/S Douglas Dean McDonald RAAF AUS.422632 – Navigator.
Sgt. James Colin Burch RAFVR 1434570/ 175383 – Air Bomber.
F/S Ronald Charles Axten RNZAF NZ404589 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Frederick ‘Fred’ Holt  RAFVR 1590363 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. M. ‘Mel’ Sumner RAFVR 1685755 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. R. ‘Jimmy’ Burrows RAFVR 1388459 – Rear Gunner .

‘My first operation was a mine laying sortie off the heavily defended Friesian Islands on 24th  November,1943 which was quite uneventful. This was quickly followed with minelaying operations in La Rochelle harbour, the bombing of the V1 rocket launch-sites in the Pas De Callaise area, mine laying in Kiel Bay, where the Royal Navy intelligence Officer hoped the new type magnetic mines we dropped would prevent the Germans from sailing any craft with even one nail in it. When mining Cherbourg harbour the aircraft immediately ahead of us exploded just prior to the release of the mines’.

30.11.43. Gardening – Mining in the Baltic Sea
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
F/Sgt. D. Baverstock replaces Sgt. M. Sumner as Mid Upper Gunner.

30.12.43. Gardening – Mining between Le Havre and Cherbourg
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Sgt. Sumner returns as Mid Upper Gunner.

4.1.44. Attack against a Special Target (V1 flying-bomb sites at Pas de Calais and at Bristillerie near Cherbourg)
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Sgt. J. Wainwright joins crew as 2nd Pilot.
This seems like a very small Op total to date to have a new Pilot/ 2nd Pilot fly with the crew – excruciatingly, there seems to be little known of Sgt. Wainwright – not even a Christian name being recorded.

21.1.44. Attack against a Special Target (V1 flying-bomb sites at various locations)
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Same crew

28.1.44. Gardening – Mining in the Kiel Bay
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Same crew

3.2.44. Gardening – Mining off Cherbourg
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Same crew

11.2.44. Gardening – Mining off Mouth of River Ardour
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Same crew

15.2.44. Gardening – Mining in the Mouth of River Ardour
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Same crew

‘The mining of the River Adour near Bayonne in SW France had to be done twice in four nights as this very first attempt at mine laying from high level – around 6000 ft. was considered a partial failure –  one crew dropped their mines in the wrong river. The second attempt was a complete success.’

19.2.44. Gardening – Mining in Kiel Bay
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Same crew

‘Stirling bombers in early 1944 suffered unacceptable losses and were gradually withdrawn from the main stream operations being carried out by the Lancasters which from time to time had a nasty habit of dropping their loads onto the lower flying Stirlings. In March 1944, and still flying Stirlings we were switched to carrying out some covert low flying operations supplying the French resistance movement – The Maquis. These were very hazardous having to fly at around 5000 feet relying on Dead Reckoning navigation and map reading, and having to descend to around 200-300 feet over the DZs. On receiving a prearranged flashlight coded signal and acknowledging it, we dropped the supplies alongside a quickly prepared bonfire and then made a hasty retreat before the Germans were able to locate and reach the dropping zone. The enemy would obviously be alerted to the presence of our aircraft during the time we were circling the area allowing the Maquis to prepare to receive the consignment and light the fire. Many crews were lost on these missions, one being a 75(NZ) Sqn. crew which on several occasions had failed to locate the DZ and vowed before their final attempt that they would succeed or bust; they were lost. This crew was piloted by Sqn Ldr Watson and it was many years later I learned that the only survivor was the mid-upper gunner, Colin Armstrong.’

2.3.44. Special Operations – March Moon Period TRAINER 115b (SUCCESSFUL) Bordeaux?
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN X
Same crew

4.3.44. Special Operations – March Moon Period TRAINER 129 (SUCCESSFUL) Clermontfear
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Same crew

5.3.44. Special Operations – March Moon Period TRAINER 149 (SUCCESSFUL) Lemoges
Stirling Mk.III LK384 JN-X
Same crew

The following 2 Special Operations Ops are not recorded in Colin’s Logbook – I do not have an instant explanation for this – there does appear to be an administrative difference regarding the recording of these ‘Special Operations’ in the Squadron ORB’s, being individually recorded as a distinct chronological list in Form 540. Whilst these Ops are mentioned in Form 541, there is a handwritten note at the end of that months Form 541 which suggests additional information was sent from the Squadron directly to the Air Ministry – this might have contained more detailed information regarding the destinations of these aircraft. It might be that the secrecy of these operations were not, or perhaps latterly were not recorded in the crew logbooks – hence explaining the absence of these 2 OPs in Colin’s logbook.

10.3.44. Special Operations – March Moon Period MONGREL 6 (SUCCESSFUL)
Stirling Mk.III (assume LK384) JN-X
Same crew

‘For my last operation on Stirlings I was briefed for another supply dropping mission whilst complaining of severe earache. At this juncture there was no way l could pull out as it could have been misconstrude as LMF, but by the time we returned to base the earache was so severe that l was quickly transferred to the military hospital in Ely. Concern for my possible permanent loss of hearing led the ENT Specialist to severely chastise me not reporting my earache before getting airborne He could not appreciate my predicament of being unable to tell my Sqn OC that I had earache when l had already been detailed to fly – earache is not ‘visible‘ and the wrong conclusion could easily have be drawn.’

15.3.44. Special Operations – March Moon Period TOM 46 (ABORTIVE)
Stirling Unknown identity
P/O Tom Bradley (RAAF) replaces Colin as Air Bomber

‘On my return to the Squadron after discharge from hospital l discovered that we were to fly Lancasters, and that our Flight, ‘C’ Flight, was the first to be converted. The new aircraft was equipped with the latest radar, H2S, which together with the Gee made navigation a lot easier. We chose the same aircraft call-sign letter, ‘X’, which seemed appropriate as it had served us admirably on the Stirling, the ‘C‘ Flight prefix letters JN remaining the same, A and B Flights prefix being ‘AA’ My role now became radar operator! navigator! Bomb Aimer and part time 2nd  pilot which was more in keeping with my training. I now felt more productive, and as crew members were encouraged to familiarise themselves with other crew duties l was able to fly the aircraft on many occasions thus allowing the pilot to participate in duties other than being the ‘driver airframe’. This proved to be extremely valuable when one squadron pilot was so badly wounded during an operation over Nantes and unable to fly the aircraft, the bomb aimer was able to take control and fly it back to base and land safely, thus saving the pilots life as well as a very valuable aircraft.’

24.4.44. War Ops – Attack Against Karlsruhe
Lancaster I LL888 JN-X
Colin Burch returns to crew as Air Bomber

26.4.44. War Ops – Attack Against Essen
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

‘The H2S proved its worth on a bombing mission to Friedrichshaven, the farthest target we had to reach, and after a considerable period of flying on the return journey without any real pinpoint I managed to identify Paris on the radar screen. We were well off our intended track, and away from the main stream which made us extremely vulnerable to attack. by radar controlled enemy fighters. ‘Fishpond‘ radar, designed to give warning of enemy night fighter attacks, sometimes had a detrimental effect for if the main stream bombers identified an approaching aircraft and suspected it to be a night fighter and took evasive action, other bombers were quite likely to assume that such an aircraft coming toward them was the enemy. This had a domino effect and l suspect many bombers collided, we will never know.’

27.4.44. War Ops – Attack Against Friedrichshafen
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

1.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Chambly
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

9.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Cap Gris Nez
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

19.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Le Mans
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

21.05.44. War Ops – Attack Against Duisberg
Lancaster MK.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

22.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Dortmund
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

24.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Aachen
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

There is another instance where the Ops recorded by Colin do not tally with the Form 540 records. Colin’s logbook does not list the following 2 Ops, to Aachen and Angers, however the Young crew and JN-X are listed as flying on both Ops…….

27.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Aachen
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

28.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Angers
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

31.5.44. War Ops – Attack Against Trappes
Lancaster Mk.I LL888
Same crew

We now operated with the main bomber force carrying out bombing missions to Karlsruhe. Essen. Friedrichshaven, and the Normandy beachhead at Ouistraham just prior to the landing of the invasion forces on 6″‘ June. On returning from this raid we were surprised by a formation fighter aircraft which we initially took to be Messerscmitts and were greatly relieved when they were identified as RAF Spitfires. We also witnessed the shooting down of a Lancaster by the naval escort to the invasion fleet when flying well below the pre-briefed height for which we were strongly warned not to do on pain of being fired upon by our own side. The sight of so many vessels at sea was awe inspiring and presented a very unique spectacle, especially on the H25 screen where the sea was hardly distinguishable from the solid mass of shipping.’

5.6.44. War Ops – Attack Against Ouistreham
Lancaster Mk.III ND904 JN-P
Same crew

‘Other targets we bombed following on from the invasion of Normandy were Lisiuex. Fougers. Dreux and Nantes all carried out without much opposition from either the Luftwaffer or ground defences. The total casualties on 75(NZ) Sqn were very high and are reflected in the book about the Squadrons‘ History, ‘Forever Strong‘, by Norman Franks.’

6.6.44. War Ops – Attack Against Lisieux
Lancaster Mk.III ND904 JN-P
Same crew

8.6.44. War Ops – Attack Against Fougreres
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same crew

10.6.44. War Ops – Attack Against Dreux
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same Crew

11.6.44. War Ops – Attack Against Nantes
Lancaster Mk.I LL888 JN-X
Same Crew

Read Colin’s memoirs here – they cover his teenage years prior to enlistment, his training and his Operational flying with 75(NZ) Squadron.