Tag Archives: Derek Clare

Eric Reginald Jones RNZAF NZ404375 – Pilot, 1941

eric jones RNZAF CONT

Many thanks to Barbara and her Mother Lil for passing on the above portrait of Father and Husband respectively, Eric Reginald Jones, who flew with the Squadron between  September 1941 and the  January 1942.

As well at the portrait of Eric, his family also passed on an extract of Eric’s recollections that he wrote some years after his service and also pertinent pages of his logbook. At least initially, I must confess that my attention was very much drawn to the personal recollections that Eric had written. “A letter to my Grandchildren” was penned by Eric some 50 years after the war and, as you will read later goes into particular detail regarding his second Op as 2nd Pilot with Bob Bray.

After Barbara’s initial contact I inevitably looked for and found Eric in my database and at the time, thought there seemed to be a few discrepancies between what I had listed and what Eric recorded in his logbook. A closer inspection last night has thrown up the fascinating fact that there appears to be a mistake in the FORM 541 for 1941…………

I will let all of this unfold in a perhaps more manageable chronological order and I hope, in this way, it will make sense to you all.

Eric arrived at Feltwell on the 29th of September 1941, 15 days later he undertook his first Operation as 2nd Pilot with Bob Bray’s crew.

“This Feltwell place was about fifly miles north of London, fairly close to Cambridge, and we lived away from the airfield in tents, but within easy walking distance of the aerodrome, Our tents (four man) were erected under the trees which lined the drive leading up to a large country house, and we walked to the ‘drome each morning for breakfast and whatever came next.”

Recorded in Eric’s logbook, this is the first Op of 3 that do not appear to have been recorded, or perhaps have been recorded incorrectly in the Form 541 for this month.

13/10/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Bremen and Dusseldorf
Six* Wellington aircraft from this Unit were detailed to attack the above targets. A mixed bomb load was carried and consisted of 1,000 lb GP, 500 lb GP, 250 lb GP and SBC’s of 4 lb incendiaries. Considerable A.A. fire was experienced North and West of the target area, both light and heavy. Target was bombed and fires were observed on leaving. Many large cones of Searchlights were active West and North of the target. Enemy aircraft were seen on the return flight over the Dutch coast but no attacks were made on our aircraft. An unidentified aircraft followed Sgt Taylor and crew in X9977 for about 40 minutes. No attacks were initiated. The aircraft was using a hand lamp for signaling. The weather was 10/10 cloud over target area, with haze. Navigation was by Lorenz, QDM’s, Astro Fix and DR.

Form 541 Lists the participating crews as follows:

Sgt. S.J.G. Isherwood
P/O J.F Fisher
Sgt. R.H. Tye
P/O W.R. Methven
Sgt. N.G.C. Ramsey
Sgt. Taylor

Op 1

Mk.Ic X.9628 AA-A

*Sgt. Robert Walter Bray, RAFVR 113927 – Pilot.
Sgt. Eric Reginald Jones, RNZAF NZ404375 – 2nd Pilot..
Sgt. Sidney Joseph Lawrence Levack, RAFVR 971231 – Observer.
Sgt. Walter Victor Ashleigh Phear, RNZAF NZ37168 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Partridge, RAF – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Monk, RAF – Rear Gunner.

Take Off – Landed
Flight Time Not Known

15/10/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Cologne and Boulogne
Ten Wellington aircraft from this Unit were detailed to carry out the above attacks. A mixed bomb load was carried consisting of 1,000 lb, 500 lb, 250 lb GP’s and containers of incendiaries. Captains report that bombs were dropped on the target by estimation, but owing to slight haze over the target results were not seen. A considerable amount of heavy AA fire was experienced in and around the target area. Fire was accurate over Aachen. Searchlight activity was intense throughout the route but ineffective in the target area because of the cloud. Weather was fair en route but thick ground haze over all target area. Navigation was by Astro, D/R, QDM. Pinpointing and Lorenz check. Two of these aircraft, Z8945, captained by Sgt Barker, and X9916, captained by Sgt Matetich failed to return to base.

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9628 AA-A

Sgt. Robert Walter Bray, RAFVR 113927 – Pilot.
Sgt. Eric Reginald Jones, RNZAF NZ404375 – 2nd Pilot..
P/O Derek Clare, RAFVR 103536/ 951765 – Observer.
Sgt. Keith Douglas Sarginson, RNZAF NZ391978 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Partridge, RAF – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Monk, RAF – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 18:20 – Landed 23:20
Flight Time 05:00

“I did that on the morning of fifteenth October and on reporting to “A” flight, found out that our crew was down for Ops that night. Cologne, also in Happy Valley and not too far from Dusseldorf, was the target. During the morning hours the plane would be air tested to make certain that engines, hydraulics, guns, radios etc. were in good order, and afterwards the plane would be fuelled and bombed up. In the meantime, the crew would have some lunch and sleep or rest in the afternoon, ready for some wakeful hours in the night.

Briefing for the operation would take about thirty minutes, where the route to and from the target would be noted, expected weather conditions en route given by the Met. Ofiicer, aiming point specified, which could be industrial complexes, railway yards etc and anything else that was of interest to the airmen. The evening meal was the next on the list, and there must have been plenty of brussels sprouts and carrots around, as they appeared on the menu often, and I was soon sick of the sight of them.

Getting near time for take off, and we dress up in the warmest clothes we have, topped off with fleecy lined flying jacket and pants, with overalls on top of that, several pairs of socks on our feet and flying boots, and waddle out to the truck which will drop us off at the right place. Climb up into the old Wimpy per ladder, through a hatch in the floor, sort out all the gear and make certain there will be no hold-ups later on. Time to start up, and the silence is broken by the sound of twenty four engines starting up, being warmed up, and then run up to take off revs, while the magnetos are tested, and then the line of aeroplanes begins to move out along the taxi ways, to the take-off point. There’s the green aldis light and away we go. Brakes hard on, control column hard forward, and full revs, and the tail comes up until the plane is in flying position. Brakes off, slam the control column as far forward as it will go, to keep the tail up, and we gradually gain speed as we use up the runway. Come on, come on, there’s six hundred gallons of gas and four thousand pounds of bombs to lift off, and Bob, the pilot, holds her down until we run out of space, then eases back on the control column and we are over the boundary fence and on our way. Ease back to climbing revs and we go, very slowly, to twelve thousand feet, which is just about as high as a Wimpy will go with a heavy load.

Soon the coast of Holland is coming up, and all along this coast the Germans have set up a searchlight barricade, and with the help of a well organised radar tracking system, are very good at making a rendezvous between a German fighter and an Allied bomber. There are some broken clouds around, and Bob makes the best possible use of them, and the front and rear gunners and one new chum Second Pilot looking out of the astrodome see nothing of any fighters. That’s the first obstacle passed, and as long as we don’t go too near any town or cities, we should be clear of flak until we near Happy Valley, so it’s keep a good look out, up, down, front, back and sideways, for German fighters.

Cloud most of the way, and at one stage the airscrews are ringed with St. Elmo’s Fire, caused when atmospheric conditions are right, and I reckon an enemy fighter could pick us out from a fair distance. Still, that doesn‘t last long, and soon, in the distance, we pick up cones of searchlights and the flak over Cologne, and I must say the Jerries could put on an excellent fireworks display, with dozens of searchlights and the flak guns pumping all they had into the centre of the cone of light, where some poor blighter was getting the daylights knocked out of him.

A good time to go in while the flak and lights are busy elsewhere, so straight and level when conditions permit, we head towards the aiming point, and all hell breaks loose. A bluish searchlight, which we reckoned was radar controlled, catches us, and very soon we are blinded when some more lights join in. So bright I can’t see a thing, and I can imagine Bob, with his head down low and flying on instruments, working like a one armed paper hanger, as he reverses course, and twists and tums, and dives and climbs in an effort to put the flak off. I can see the flak bursts, I can hear some of them, and I can smell them, and we eventually finish up at three thousand feet with no great damage done to anyone.

In the clear now, and back we go as high as we can once again, but watch out for fighters as they usually hang around on the outskirts of the flak. Someone else held in the searchlight cone and keeping some of the guns occupied, and we are ready for another run. We weave around a bit until our navigator can pick up the aiming point, then it is straight and level once again, bomb doors open, and I think we all heave a great sigh of relief when we hear “bombs away”.

There’s those searchlights, and they latch on to us once again, and the flak gives us a real good pasting as we dive and twist and tum and once again finish up at three thousand feet, which is just about .303 range, and kid stuff for the eighty-eight millimeter guns that had been annoying us. Once again no great problems barring for few small holes in the fuselage, which were patched up next day.

Right, back we go, and with a much lighter aeroplane we are soon back at a safe operating height where we can open our thermos flasks and have a quick snack while we go hell for leather back home again. Dodge the towns and cities, back through the searchlight belt along the coast, pick up a beacon to give us some idea of where we are, and we are soon over England once again. Still keep a good look out as we are not out of the woods yet, and there are barrage balloons around, other planes flying around with no lights showing, and there could be some German intruders waiting to knock us down when we come in to land. However, we are looking good and soon the truck is taking us for debriefing by the Intelligence Officer, where we tell our little story and enjoy a welcome cup of coffee laced with rum and served up by one of our Air Force ladies, off to breakfast and into bed for some well-earned rest. That was the end of my second operational flight which was quite a short one taking five hours, but one of the more interesting ones, and I only had to do another twenty eight ops to complete a tour when I would have earned a break from operational flying. Casualties ran at about five percent on average, just work that out for yourself!”

20/10/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Bremen
Six* Wellington aircraft from this Unit were detailed to attack the above target. One of these aircraft, captained by Sgt Parnham, crash landed at Marham. Target area was bombed but results were not observed owing to low cloud. Activity was observed North and North West of target following river at Oldenburgh. Heavy and medium A.A. fire was met and a belt of searchlights was observed at Bremen and Oldenburgh. Three enemy aircraft were seen but no attack was made. Weather was poor, with low cloud and thick ground haze over the target.

Form 541 Lists the participating crews as follows:

S/L F.J. Lucas
Sgt. J.F.M. Parnham
Sgt. N.G.C. Ramsey
Sgt. G.S. Nunn
Sgt. R.H. Tye
P/O J.F. Fisher

Op 3

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9628 AA-A

*Sgt. Robert Walter Bray, RAFVR 113927 – Pilot.
Sgt. Eric Reginald Jones, RNZAF NZ404375 – 2nd Pilot..
P/O Derek Clare, RAFVR 103536/ 951765 – .
Sgt. Keith Douglas Sarginson, RNZAF NZ391978 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Partridge, RAF – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Monk, RAF – Rear Gunner.

Take Off – Landed
Flight Time Not Known

22/10/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets Mannheim
*Six Wellington aircraft from this Unit were detailed to carry out the above attacks. A mixed load was carried and consisted of 1000lbs, 500lbs, 250lbs and containers of incendiaries. Owing to the weather conditions operations were marred, but a fire was bombed in a town on the Rhine, probably Mannheim and bomb bursts seen. There was  slight A.A. activity and searchlights were ineffective where seen. Electrical storms, thunder cloud and snow storms were met throughout operations. Navigation was good. D.R. and special beam No.6 used. Icing (black) was experienced over Continent. Unable to see through windscreens owing to accumulated snow, from Belgian coast onwards. Severe weather conditions made accuracy impossible. One of these aircraft, X.9914, captained by Sgt. Taylor, failed to return to base.

Form 541 Lists the participating crews as follows:

S/L F.J. Lucas
Sgt. J.F.M. Parnham
Sgt. N.G.C. Ramsey
Sgt. G.S. Nunn
Sgt. R.H. Tye
P/O J.F. Fisher
Sgt. Taylor – listed as missing/ FTR, but not listed as crew on Op

log 2 mannheim

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9628 AA-A

*Sgt. Robert Walter Bray, RAFVR 113927 – Pilot.
Sgt. Eric Reginald Jones, RNZAF NZ404375 – 2nd Pilot..
P/O Derek Clare, RAFVR 103536/ 951765 – Observer.
Sgt. Keith Douglas Sarginson, RNZAF NZ391978 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Partridge, RAF – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Monk, RAF – Rear Gunner.

Take Off – Landed
Flight Time Not Known

01/11/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Kiel
Eleven Wellington Ic Aircraft from this Unit were detailed to attack the above targets. The whole Operation was marred by bad weather there being 10/10th. Cloud throughout the trip and no results were observed. Bomb load consisting of 1000lbs, 50lbs, 250lbs and incendiaries was dropped on un-identified town, and on area to the West of the target. Very heavy predicted A.A. fire was encountered over target area together with 75m.m. tracers. Searchlights were isolated and ineffective owing to cloud. One M.E. 110 enemy aircraft was seen but no attack was made. Navigation was good, Astro and D.R. loop being used. A convoy fifteen miles off the Wash fired at the aircraft until the colours were fired. There was a surprising lack of enemy fighters.

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9628 AA-A

Sgt. Robert Walter Bray, RAFVR 113927 – Pilot.
Sgt. Eric Reginald Jones, RNZAF NZ404375 – 2nd Pilot..
P/O Derek Clare, RAFVR 103536/ 951765 – Observer.
Sgt. Keith Douglas Sarginson, RNZAF NZ391978 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Partridge, RAF – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Monk, RAF – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 17:40 – Landed 23:55
Flight Time 06:15

07/11/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Berlin and Ostend
Fourteen Wellington Ic aircraft were detailed from this Unit to attack the above targets. Two of these aircraft, X.9951, captained by F/O Methven and X.9976, captained by Sgt. Black, failed to return to base. A mixed bomb load was carried consisting of 1000lbs, 500lbs, 250lbs and containers of incendiaries. Bombs were dropped in target area and some large fires were started, but results were not clearly observed owing to heavy cloud over target area. A considerable amount of heavy flak was met over target area but searchlights, where seen, were ineffective. No enemy aircraft were met throughout the trip. Weather was poor with 10/10th cloud over target area. Navigation was good, Astro and D/R loops being used. Wellington Z.1091, captained by P/O Sandys returned to base owing to engine trouble. Wellington Z.1068, captained by Sgt. Parham returned to base owing to Navigator being sick.

Wellington Mk.Ic X.9628 AA-A

Sgt. Robert Walter Bray, RAFVR 113927 – Pilot.
Sgt. Eric Reginald Jones, RNZAF NZ404375 – 2nd Pilot..
P/O Derek Clare, RAFVR 103536/ 951765 – Observer.
Sgt. Keith Douglas Sarginson, RNZAF NZ391978 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Partridge, RAF – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Monk, RAF – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 17:30 – Landed 04:15
Flight Time 10:45

Between the 11th and 16th Eric undertook 8 flights at No. 5 B.A.T. at Honnington.

“November 1941, I had completed six freshman trips with Bob and it was time to take over my own crew and my own Wimpy, so I finished up with one Canadian and four Englishmen, most of whom stayed with me until January 1942. Lousy weather in the middle of winter, and we managed another three operations, before I was sent on a Blind Approach training course, which I found most interesting. Just two of us in a Wimpy, an instructor and pupil, which was me, and the object was to find and fly on a radio beam, when the pupil was surrounded by a screen and couldn’t see a thing outside of the aeroplane. We found this beam many times in the week I was there, and before I was finished I could fly on the beam, and come in over the same fence post ready for a landing, every time a coconut, and then the instructor would whip the screen away, and we would open up and go around again for another practice run.

Fog, darkness and dirty weather didn’t worry me after doing that course, and I reckoned as long as I could find that beam I could put the aeroplane down in the right place no matter what the weather was like. There were other aids for lost airmen, such as friendly searchlights which would raise the beam to the vertical and then lower it until it pointed to the nearest RAF statiora used in really dirty weather. There was another system which used a flashing light which sent out a two letter code in morse, the code being changed daily, and all one had to do was read the letters, look up the position of the light as shown on a piece of paper, and bobs your uncle. These flashing beacons were situated near airfields and there were heaps of them around and they were a great help when a crew wasn’t too sure where they were or didn‘t have a clue just where they were.”

23/11/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Dunkirk
Seven Wellington Ic aircraft were detailed from this Unit to attack the above targets. A mixed bomb load was carried consisting of 500lbs, 250lbs and containers of incendiaries. Bombs were dropped on target area and flashes seen but full results were not seen. Heavy A.A. fire was met over target area and searchlights in large cones were active. No enemy aircraft were met. Weather was fair with 7/10th. Cloud over target area and freezing level was at 9,000ft. Navigation was good.

Wellington Mk.Ic R.3176 AA-E

Sgt. Eric Reginald Jones, RNZAF NZ404375 – Pilot.
Sgt. Higgins, RAF – 2nd Pilot..
Sgt. Hanstock, RAF – Observer.
Sgt. McKinley, RAF – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Oulton, RAF – Front Gunner.
Sgt. James William Hinton, RAF 1150584 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 17:25 – Landed 20:25
Flight Time 03:00

26/11/1941 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Emden and Ostend
Seventeen Wellington Ic aircraft were detailed from this Unit to attack the above targets. A mixed bomb load was carried consisting of 4000,lbs, 1000lbs, 500lbs. 250lbs and containers of incendiaries. Very bad weather prevented the target being identified and results were not observed. A few bombs were however dropped in target area and one flash was seen. The remainder were brought back to base. Heavy and light predicted A.A. fire was met over target area and cones of searchlights were active. One single engine aircraft and one Junkers 88 enemy aircraft were seen but were successfully evaded. Weather was extremely bad and marred the whole operation. 10/10th cloud was met throughout the journey to and from the target. Navigation was D.R. and Q.D. M.s. One of these aircraft, Z.1114, captained by Sgt. Evans, returned to base with engine trouble.

Wellington Mk.Ic Z.1108 AA-X

Sgt. Eric Reginald Jones, RNZAF NZ404375 – Pilot.
Sgt. Higgins, RAF – 2nd Pilot..
Sgt. Joseph Guy Quinn, RAFVR 1256373 – Observer.
Sgt. Duxton, RAF – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. McKinley,   – Front Gunner.
Sgt. James William Hinton, RAF 1150584 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 19:20 – Landed 21:50
Flight Time 02:30

“Getting around to December I941, and the big news is the arrival of our first child, Valerie, and the news that all is OK at home in New Zealand. Ouma and I must have kept the Postal Service fairly busy with a two way traffic, and the cameras in NZ worked overtime, as I soon had a good collection of photos of Ouma and the new arrival.

December 1941 was quite a newsy month as on the seventh the Japanese made a surprise attack on Pearl Harbour which was an American Naval Base in Hawaii, and almost finished off the Pacific section of the American Navy, which included about four battleships. Things really started to hum when the Japs started running rampant in the Pacific with their attacks on Singapore, Malaya, Burma and any other place they could knock off easily, and the Allied forces, which at that time was the British Empire almost on its own, started sending some reinforcements to the Far East”

02/01/1942 – Bombing Attacks Against Targets at Brest
Five Wellington IC aircraft from this unit were detailed to carry out the above attacks. Bomb load consisting of 500 lbs and containers of incendiaries was dropped in the target area but results were not observed owing to 10/10th cloud. A.A. fire was only slight, only a few searchlights were active and no enemy aircraft were seen. The weather was poor and there
was 10/10 cloud throughout the operation. Navigation was entirely by D.R. Wellington aircraft R1457 returned to base with it’s bomb load.

Wellington Mk.Ic Z.1083 AA-K
Sgt. Eric Reginald Jones, RNZAF NZ404375  – Pilot.
Sgt. Young, RAF – 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. Joseph Guy Quinn, RAFVR 1256373 – Observer.
Sgt. Allan, RAF – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Oulton, RAF – Front Gunner.
Sgt. James William Hinton, RAFVR 1150584 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 16:10 – Landed 21:50
Flight Time 05:40

“The RAF called for volunteers and I reckoned the Far East was a lot closer to NZ than Britain was, and my name went in. Another factor was that I was getting rather lonely in 75 as the twelve New Zealand pilots who accompanied me’ to that station had been reduced to two in five months, and the other fellow was in hospital, having been shot up by a night fighter.

I reckon it was a good time to find a new stamping ground.”

Bob Bray 1919 – 2014

bray_3058533b

Wing Commander Robert Walter Bray D.F.C & Bar

Many thanks to Ed for making me aware of the passing of Wing Commander Bob Bray who has recently passed away, aged 93. A veteran of 92 Operations over occupied Europe and th winner of 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses.

The following is an extract from Bob’s obituary, published in the Telegraph on the 1st of October, 2014. The full obituary can be read online here.

Wing Commander Bob Bray, who has died aged 93, flew 94 bombing operations over occupied Europe and won two DFCs.

Robert Walter Bray was born on May 5 1921 in Sheffield and educated at King Edward VII Grammar School in the city. He joined the RAF in June 1940 and trained as a pilot.

In June 1941 he joined No 75 (NZ) Squadron to fly the Wellington, and over the next six months bombed many targets in Germany . In September he attacked La Spezia in Italy . On December 23 he took part in a raid on Düsseldorf, his 32nd and final operation with No 75 Squadron. He was later awarded his first DFC .

Ake Ake Kia Kaha

Leopold Ian Adrian Millett, RAFVR (1164817), 2nd Pilot / Pilot. 1941

IanMillett

Ian Millett – Reproduced from Into The Drink; By A Member Of The Goldfish Club Ian A Millett; The Memoirs Of A Royal Air Force Bomber Pilot 1940-1945, Copyright Ursula Millett.

Many thanks again and always to Chris for another fantastic and well researched post – especially gratefully received as I am still working through my emails, rather than writing posts myself!

Leopold Ian Adrian Millett was an Englishman who migrated to America after the war. I was loaned a copy of his memoirs,  ‘Into The Drink‘, by another 75’er, Doug Williamson.  Doug and Ian met in Canada after the war, and found out that they had both served with the same Squadron, albeit at different ends of the war.

Ian had trained as a Pilot, and met up with his crew at 11 OTU Bassingbourne:

11_OTU_Bassingbourn_May_1941

11 OTU Bassingbourne, Course No. 30, May 1941.

However, on arrival at 75 (NZ) Sqdn, ‘A’ Flight in June 1941, the crew was split up:

From Ian’s book “Into The Drink“:
“Eventually we completed our training, and our crew was sent to 75 New Zealand Squadron. Now don’t ask me why, except that before the war the New Zealanders bought a whole lot of Wellingtons, and they were going to form a squadron and take it back to New Zealand. The only trouble was there weren’t enough New Zealanders to fill the squadron out, so we got posted there. We, as a crew, reported to Squadron Leader “Popeye” Lucas – a great guy, and much loved by his men. He explained that he was going to break up the crew, I would fly as 2nd pilot to Pip Coney, a New Zealander, and Pip’s 2nd pilot Frankie Fox would take over the rest of the crew, and this way we would all be flying with experienced men”.

It was standard practice at 75 (NZ) Sqdn, at this stage of the war, for Pilots to fly as 2nd Pilots for up to 10 op’s before captaining their own crew.

Millett also flew 2nd Pilot with Fox, and there seems to have been some mixing of the two crews.

Operational history (Ian Millett):
10/11.6.41, Brest
Wellington 1C R1648, AA-K
Sgt Phillip Ronald Coney  RNZAF (NZ391825), Pilot
Sgt  Ian A Millett RAFVR (1164817), 2nd Pilot / Flight Engineer
P/O Derek Clare RAF (103536, 951765), Navigator
Sgt Cliff Simpson RAFVR (943822), Wireless Operator
Sgt Jack Wilson Bottomley RAFVR (943398), Bomb Aimer/Front Gunner
Sgt (Ken?) Tommy Oddie RAF, Rear Gunner

From “Into The Drink”:
“My first operation was on June 10th, 1941. This was the time when the Bismarck accompanied by the Prinz Eugen and the Gneisenau, broke out of their base at Bremen, and started sinking any shipping they could find in the North Atlantic. Eventually they were located, after an intensive search (which included Bomber Command and my squadron) by a Coastal Command PBY aircraft. It shadowed them for some eighteen hours, which gave the British Navy time to intercept the ships. Fortunately for the Navy a “stringbag” – a torpedo carrying aircraft – got a torpedo hit on the steering gear of the Bismarck. As a result it could only steam in circles. The Navy moved in and proceeded to sink the Bismarck. There was no surrender. The other two ships made a run for Brest, and spent the rest of the war there. However they remained a threat to Atlantic shipping, so every once in a while, we visited them and left a few calling cards!

This operation was down to Brest, on the coast of Brittany, to bomb the German ships moored there. It was a clear night, however the Germans had blanked out the harbour using smoke generators on barges. The wind carried the smoke over both the docks and the town. Danny Clare the navigator and bomb aimer, had to guess the position of the ships and we bombed through the smoke.

The return trip brought us back over Lulworth Cove as dawn was breaking, and it was fascinating to see the land formation – a perfect example of a volcanic caldera, part of which had been eroded by the ocean. Our flight path also took us over Bournemouth and I was able to pick out my mother’s house quite easily.” 

R1648AA-K-taxying

Ian’s regular aircraft, and eventually his “own”, Wellington 1C R1648 AA-K Photo from Cliff Simpson, via www.feltwell.net.

12/13.6.41, Hamm
Wellington 1C R1648, AA-K
From the ORB: Sgt Coney’s crew observed their bombs bursting among fires already started in the rail yards.

16/17.6.41, Dusseldorf

Wellington 1C R1648, AA-K
From the ORB: Observed bomb bursts among fires in the target area.

Note: For this op’ only, Rear Gunner Oddie was replaced by Sgt Robert William TOLLER, RAF. (1054292). Three months later (15th September) Toller was W/Op in the crew Captained by James Allen “Jimmy” Ward V.C. that was shot down over Hamburg – 4 of the 6 crew were lost, including Toller and Ward.

Between op’s, Ian tells some intriguing stories about life on Base.
“The New Zealanders stationed at Feltwell had a little mascot, he was a monkey and had a neat little uniform that the girls in the canvas shop made him. He used to sit on the radiator in the Sergeants’ ante room to the mess – a room where the armchairs and tables were, not the dining part of the mess.

And we had this one Warrant Officer, one of the ones who had been in the Air Force all his life. Well, he didn’t like this monkey, and he came storming in and opened the window, threw the monkey out and closed the window which was rather unfortunate for him, because two very large New Zealanders seized him by arms and legs, and they threw him right through the window, which was by then closed.
 
Well when he got out of hospital, he was posted on to the machine gun and bombing range, which was our practice range, where we used to nip in and test our guns before an operation. And man, every one, on any excuse, used to go over to Laken Heath firing range, and I’ve seen them put smoke bombs right through the hut where he had to sit. He came back, one time, and he was a shaken man, absolutely trembling. They never quite got him, but man they did their best.”

18/19.6.41, Brest
Wellington 1C R1648, AA-K
From the ORB: R1648  failed to observe any bursts.

21/22.6.41, Cologne
Wellington 1C R1648, AA-K
From the ORB: R1648 confirmed that their bomb bursts were observed in the dock area on the Rhine.

“We could volunteer to carry cameras on bombing raids. Normally if you were doing photography from the air, you were doing line overlaps with a camera mounted in the aircraft. We had these beautiful Fairchild hand held cameras, with about 8.5in lenses in them. You were supposed to take so many photographs a month. So what we used to do, was go down to low level, open the astrodome and at low speed with flaps down at about 85 mph, which is pretty bloody slow, take pictures of pubs from sometimes 50 feet and sometimes 100 feet. Then the photographic department would develop them and then we’d go round to the pubs and sell them the photographs.
 
I often wonder how many of these are still around. Of course, they always gave you a beer on the house and all that good stuff. Some of the guys were very good at taking these photographs and also very handy with the barmaids.”

24/25.6.41, Kiel
Wellington 1C R1648, AA-K
From the ORB: R1648 failed to observe their bomb strikes.

“Altogether I flew fourteen operations, and the most memorable of these was a raid on Kiel, where we got ”coned” by searchlights. Our usual practice when dealing with the German searchlight and anti-aircraft batteries as we crossed the coastline, was to drop empty beer bottles over them.

The bottles screamed like bombs, and the men on the searchlights would dive for cover, and we could make it through, without losing any altitude. Sometimes of course, this did not work, and we had to let a live bomb go.

On this particular night out target was the U-boat pens at Kiel. We were carrying 2000 lb armour piercing bombs, hoping they would penetrate the very thick concrete surrounding and covering the pens. We came in from the North, over Denmark but in spite of this they “coned” us, meaning that a great white searchlight was focussed on each aeroplane, one at a time, and all the other searchlights and anti-aircraft guns were able to range in on us. Our Wellington was the first to be picked out and everything in the town opened up on us. The only thing that saved us was the fact that we had our bombs on board, and they acted as armour plate in the floor. The bomb doors were shredded, so we jettisoned our load and high tailed it for home. I shall always remember flying down the Kiel canal amongst the barrage balloons, hoping we were just high enough to miss them, and knowing they wouldn’t fire at us in case they hit their own balloons. Whilst we were scooting along the canal, our rear gunner, Ken Oddie, yelled “I’ve just shot down one of those balloons, and it’s burning nicely!” “

Note: The practice of dropping empty beer bottles from the bombers is also mentioned by Jack Moller, Bomb Aimer with the Kearns crew, 1942.

27/28.6.41, Bremen
Wellington 1C R1177, AA-F
From the ORB: Sgt Coney’s crew dropped their bombs and observed bursts in the target area.

Millett-crew

L to R: Cliff Simpson, Frankie Fox, Danny Clare, Pip Coney, Jack Bottomley, Tommy Oddie. The a/c behind them appears to be R1648. Photo from Cliff Simpson, via http://www.feltwell.net

30.6/1.7.41, Cologne
Wellington 1C R1177, AA-F
Sgt Francis Charles Fox, RNZAF (NZ40762), Pilot (later F/L, DFC)
Sgt Ian A Millett RAFVR (1164817), 2nd Pilot / Flight Engineer
P/O Derek Clare RAF (103536, 951765), Navigator
Sgt Cliff Simpson RAFVR (943822), WO/AG
Sgt Jack Wilson Bottomley RAFVR (943398), F/Gnr
Sgt (Ken?) Tommy Oddie RAF, R/Gnr

11 crews were briefed to carry out individual attacks against Cologne. A mixed bomb load was carried, consisting of 1,000lb GP, 500lb GP, 250lb GP and containers of incendiaries.
From the ORB: Sgt Fox’s crew observed their bomb bursts in the target area. No results given.

“Most of the night flights were on moonlit nights, because our navigation systems were so poor that we were literally going on what was called DR navigation, or Dead Reckoning, where you calculate where you are by using windspeed, ground speed and direction. We got a lot of help from the big German radio stations, we used Texal, and we could pull in the Swiss stations – they had one very powerful one – and of course, the dear old Vatican, the world’s most powerful station, I think it was 1500 watts that it put out and you could put a loop on it to get a bearing.

Moonlit nights over Germany were quite something. Cologne was a great place which we loved to bomb because all the targets were in a straight line, and if you missed the tank works you could get the bridge, if you missed the bridge you could get the cathedral. We missed the cathedral and got a big block of flats, and I swear to this day, that when we hit that block of flats one night, every light in that building was turned on, and I also swear that I saw a man blown through the roof in his bed! I was sober at the time too.”

7/8.7.41, Münster
(This op’ is listed in the book, but neither Millett, nor Coney or Fox crews appear in the ORB for this night?)

This was the op’ that resulted in probably the Squadron’s most famous act of heroism, from efforts by the Widdowson crew flying Wellington L7818, AA-R to put out an engine fire and bring the a/c and crew safely home.

2nd Pilot, Sgt “Jimmy” Ward, RNZAF, earned the Victoria Cross; S/L Ben Widdowson, RAF, the Distinguished Flying Cross; Sgt Allen Box, RNZAF, the Distinguished Flying Medal, and Sgt R A Lawton, RNZAF, Navigator, was to receive the Air Force Cross.

“We had a New Zealander, a Sergeant Ward, who was awarded an instantaneous Victoria Cross. How he earned it was, that he was 2nd Pilot on a Wellington, and they were coming home and they were attacked by a night fighter and the right engine caught fire, because there was a 60 gallon tank of fuel in the Nacelle, and so the flames were pouring out. So this guy takes down the astrodome puts the fire extinguisher in his Sidcop flying suit, kicked holes in the Wellington till he got to the wing, proceeded to punch holes in the wing until he got out to the Nacelle in which the reserve fuel tank was sitting, and sprayed it with the fire extinguisher, put the fire out and climbed back in – and all this at about 10,000 feet.

A Wellington’s body and wings were covered with canvas, and this was why he could punch holes in it. We tried it out next day; we went out to our flights, took down the astrodome and tried to get out, and it was bloody near impossible as the force of the wind pushed you back in. Anyway, by mid-day the whole squadron had been assembled for the Victoria Cross award. The Duke of Kent came and they had a great big bean feast for him in the Officers’ Mess, and they did the most unusual thing, they invited all Sergeant air crews to join the officers in their mess. And I tell you, that was one of the wildest parties I ever went to in my life. We were all very happy about that, and very proud of Ward.”

JAWardVC-Menu

Autographed menu, “On the occasion of the approval of the award of the Victoria Cross to Sgt. James Allen Ward. 7 August 1941” – Copyright Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

10/11.7.41, Cologne
Wellington L9626?
For this trip, Ian is re-united with his original Navigator, Deryck Polly, and regular Rear Gunner Oddie is replaced by a Sgt Stevenson:
Sgt Francis Charles Fox, RNZAF (NZ40762), Pilot (later F/L, DFC)
Sgt Ian A Millett RAFVR (1164817), 2nd Pilot / Flight Engineer
Sgt Deryck Polly RAFVR (977080), Navigator
Sgt Cliff Simpson RAFVR (943822), WO/AG
Sgt Jack Wilson Bottomley RAFVR (943398), F/Gnr
Sgt James Blake Stephenson (Stevenson?) RCAF, R/Gnr

13.7.41, Bremen

Wellington 1C R1648, AA-K
From the ORB: Sgt Fox’s crew bombed their target but the results were not observed.

“We used to come home off an operation for our eggs and bacon, if nothing else. There was a civilian cook attached to the Sergeants’ Mess and there was also a civilian Mess Steward, who had hired this cook. So we all came in, very hungry for breakfast one day, after having been debriefed. While you were being debriefed, you could drink as much rum as you wanted, and there were cases of beer. So by the time you had finished the de-briefing and told your story, you were pretty happy.

Well, the whole troop of us, about 50 or 60, sat down waiting for eggs and bacon, and this bloody cook, served us BOILED FISH! Well, they got the mess secretary but even better than that two very large New Zealanders (who shall be nameless, but probably the same two who heaved the Warrant out of the window) went and got the cook; and they held him up against the wall, at the end of the mess, spread-eagled, and we threw all the fish at him until there was no fish left and he was plastered with it; then he was told in accents loud and clear that if he ever served fish again he’d be feeding the fish on the end of a hook.”

21/22.7.41 Mannheim
Millett is replaced by P/O Raphael as 2nd Pilot in the Fox crew for this op’.

24/25.7.41, Kiel
Wellington 1C T2805, AA-D
From the ORB: Sgt Fox’s crew completed a bombing attack and observed fires starting .

WellingtonR1648AA-K

Another view of Ian’s regular aircraft, Wellington 1C R1648 AA-K Photo from Cliff Simpson, via http://www.feltwell.net.

6/7.8.41 Mannheim
Wellington 1C, R1648, AA-K
Finally, Ian got to fly as Captain of his own crew:
Sgt Ian Adrian Millett RAFVR (1164817), Pilot
Sgt Richard Grosvenor Morgan RNZAF (NZ402239), 2nd Pilot / Flight Engineer
Sgt Deryck Polly RAFVR (977080), Navigator
Sgt Cliff Simpson RAFVR (943822), WO/AG
Sgt Jack Wilson Bottomley RAFVR (943398), F/Gnr
F/Sgt William Neill Kennedy Mellon RAF. (176808), R/Gnr

” I was, of course, flying a Wellington 1C. Our mission that night was to bomb the tank works at Mannheim. I was the captain, Derrick Polley was the navigator, Simpson was the wireless operator, there was a fellow called Morgan, a New Zealander, who was the second pilot, Bottomley was the front gunner, and the rear gunner was Mellon, a replacement for our regular gunner, Oddie. Derrick and I were all out to get our names in print, so we volunteered that night to carry a camera, which was a foolish thing because after we had done our bomb run, we had to go back and do a couple more runs for filming, so we were late getting off the target.
We were intercepted over Germany. A cry came from the rear gunner “There’s an aircraft behind us!” Before I could yell at him, “Fire!”, we received the first burst which hit us and made a mess of the aeroplane, and she caught fire. I promptly went into a left hand turn and yelled at the front gunner “watch out!”.

We circled, the guy came by, he came right up alongside of us on the right hand front, which was a stupid thing to do because Bottomley raked him from end to end, and it was a Messerschmitt 110, and they had no armour on the side anyway, and he pulled away in a dive.
We were, of course, in bad shape. The good old Wellington caught fire in the fuselage, not anywhere else, and eventually it was put out, by Derrick Polley with the use of a fire extinguisher. I decided we would head for home, even though we had been badly hit.

The instrument panel was non-existent, and of course, in the Wellington, once your hydraulics were hit, your undercarriage tended to hang down. So I did a long sloping dive, trying to get out of altitude and down to ground level where I thought we would be somewhat safer than if we sat up top at 18,000 feet and let the anti aircraft guns have at us. Well, Derrick threw all the spare ammunition out, the oxygen bottle, everything except his astro-compass, which was a Mark 8, and he wanted to keep it.

We plodded on, and I guess we got fairly close to the English coast. Unfortunately, we ran into the fog, and without any instruments, and precious little but a compass, I just ended up flying it into the sea.

 There was a terrific crash – the Wellington has a big belly, of course, and it took it. And when it was all over, four of us climbed out. Derrick Polley, Simpson, Mellon and I were the four who made it. Bottomley had gone back to get his little mascot out of the front turret, but the front turret had snapped when we hit the water. I pulled the release handle over the pilot’s cockpit, jumped out only to be pulled back again because I had forgotten to unhook the pipe that brings the oxygen to the oxygen mask. So I threw my helmet away, swam round to the left engine, put my foot up on the spinner, grabbed the prop and climbed up onto the wing. By this time, Simpson, who had his wits about him, had released the large round dinghy, which was stowed in the wing, and the four of us climbed in. The rear gunner appeared to be jammed in his turret, and we couldn’t get him out. So we just drifted away, watching the Wellington sink. “

Shot down after bombing target Mannheim 6.8.41; ditched in North Sea; crew 4 POW and 2 killed:
PILOT Sgt Ian Millet RAFVR POW. PoW No. 106, PoW Camps – Dulag Luft, Stalags IIIE, Luft III, Luft VI and 357. Promoted to W/O while a PoW.
2nd Pilot Sgt Richard Grosvenor Morgan RNZAF POW.
NAV Sgt Derek Polly RAFVR POW. PoW No.104. PoW Camps – Dulag Luft, Stalags IIIE, Luft III, Luft VI, and 357.
W/AG Sgt Cliff Simpson RAFVR POW. PoW No. 150. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalags IIIE, Luft VI and 357.
F/Gnr Sgt Jack Wilson Bottomley  RAFVR (+) Commemorated on Panel 40 Runnymede Memorial.
R/Gnr William Neill Kennedy Mellon RAFVR (+) Commemorated on Panel 48 Runnymede Memorial.

letter

“Failed To Return” letter from W/C Cyril Kay to Ian’s mother. – Reproduced from Into The Drink; By A Member Of The Goldfish Club Ian A Millett; The Memoirs Of A Royal Air Force Bomber Pilot 1940-1945

After 6 days in their inflatable dinghy, Ian and the other three survivors, Simpson, Polly and Morgan, were picked up by a German flak ship, and transferred to first the German navy, and then to the Luftwaffe, for interrogation.

Ian spent the rest of the war as a POW, promoted to Warrant Officer while still a prisoner.

After the war, Ian and his wife moved to California. Ian passed away on December 10, 2010 at 90 years of age.

Reference and excerpts from: “Into The Drink; By A Member Of The Goldfish Club, Ian A Millett; The Memoirs Of A Royal Air Force Bomber Pilot 1940-1945”, Publisher: Ian A. Millett (2000).
Special thanks to Mrs Ursula Millett for permission to reproduce these extracts and photo.