Tag Archives: Ground Crew

Cpl. Ronald Wood – Radar Technician

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Cpl. Ronald Wood, Radar Technician at Mepal, 1943 – 1945. © Malcolm Wood.

Many thanks to Malcolm for making contact and sending these wonderful pictures of his Father, Ron Wood, who was a Radar Technician with the Squadron at Mepal between September 1943 and his demob in August 1945. ©

Ronald enlisted in the RAF in March 1939 and Malcolm recalls the family being on a holiday in Anglesey, when on the 1st of September his Father received a telegram that cut the holiday short and required Ron to don his uniform. His first posting was to 924 Squadron, manning barrage ballons in the Manchester area, particularly Trafford Park – not far from where the Wood family lived. Whilst Malcolm was too young to realise the potential seriousness of the situation – he is sure it was a massive worry to his Mother, when in February 1940, Ronald was transferred to France.

Approximately 2 weeks after the Allied evacuation of Dunkirk Ron and his comrades left St. Malo, in a fishing boat in a rather rough journey back across the Channel. Arriving back in the UK on the 18th of June, he came straight back home on leave and Malcolm remembers being extremely disappointed that his Father did not have a rifle!

On his return to the UK, he continued with 924 Squadron at Eastleigh. After it was decided that the WAAF would take over Barrage Balloon duties, Ron went to Signals School which Malcolm recalls was near the Tower of London (Malcolm also says that Ron mentioned playing football in the Tower of London moat!) , perhaps at the University of London, and was retrained as a Radar Technician – something Ron would have been very pleased with, given his fascination with radio from a very early age.

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Ron stood, we presume at Mepal with a Lancaster of the Squadron in the background. © Malcolm Wood.

After 9 months of training, Ron arrived at Mepal to maintain radar equipment in September 1943, only a few months after 75(NZ) Squadron also had arrived at the new airfield.

Ron remembered Mepal as a sleepy, one pub, one shop village where you could get a puncture repair kit and not much else! – Perhaps a useful item given that bicycles were used extensively on and off the airbase. After the War, Malcolm remembers his Father saying that he had a ride in a Squadron aircraft to view the effects of the Allied bombing campaign.

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Ron, stood to the left, with 2 unknown technical or ground crew at Mepal. © Malcolm Wood.

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Another view of life in a nissan hut at Mepal with other technical. ground crew. © Malcolm Wood.

The only souvenirs of his time at Mepal, which Malcolm still has was some jewellery, fashioned from Perspex and two cannon shells – placed in a vice, the bullet and cordite would be removed before the detonator was struck with a punch and a hammer to fully deactivate it.

It exists without debate that the Ground and Technical crews performed a critical and perhaps nowadays a forgotten contribution to the Squadrons of Bomber Command and as such, perhaps the stresses and anxieties of that time were just as acute for them. Ron, according to Malcolm never did anything with his campaign medals or his Air Efficiency Award, all still being in their original delivery boxes when Malcolm had them mounted, to wear with pride as a son of one of the brave men of the RAF.

The ‘Fitters’ Lament

March May 1944 ground crew

Many thanks to Dave for posting the following poem on the Bomber Command Research Facebook page today – I thought I would share it as a poignant thought to the boys in ground crew – as vital as the boys that flew, but I think in honest truth usually overlooked, in terms of their contribution to the success of the Bomber Squadrons.

On querying the origin of the piece Dave said that in truth he had found it a few years online under the title ‘The Riggers lament’, but felt it worked better for a fitter – if anybody out there knows anything more about this piece, I’d and I am sure Dave would like to know.

The ‘Fitters’ Lament
He wears a suit of faded blue, no brevet on his chest,
And you’ll find more streaks of grease and oil than medals on his breast,
He doesn’t sit behind the guns of a multi-engined ‘plane,
Or steer a graceful fighter above the cloud and rain.

He wields a hefty spanner and a bit of oily rag,
While the other fellow shoots the Hun and boasts about his bag,
He works in sleet and mud and rain and curses this senseless war,
And wonders ninety times a day what he joined the Air Force for.

He’s just an Engine Fitter,
Nothing more and nothing less,
With a suit of dirty blue instead of battle dress,
He strikes a blow at the filthy Boche with his honest British skill,
As sure as the man who aims the bomb or the gunner who makes the kill.

More information about 75(NZ) Squadron Ground Crew – Christmas 1944.

Many thanks to Chris for the following information about some of the groundcrew who attended the Station Christmas party in 1944.

Further to recent posts on 75 (NZ) Sqdn groundcrew, there was a fascinating item posted on the Lancaster Archive Forum a few years ago.

It is a 1944 RAF Mepal Christmas Day programme and Christmas Dinner menu card:
MepalChristmasMenu1944This in itself conjures up all sorts of thoughts, about what it must have been like for the boys and girls of 75 to celebrate Christmas in the middle of a war, but even better, it has been autographed on the inside by what appear to be a group of C Flight personnel (going by the “JN” a/c codes):
MepalChristmasMenu1944-insideThe first time I saw this, my eyes popped when I saw “JN-D”, my uncle Gerry’s a/c listed, but the name alongside it and the “Snifter” nickname didn’t fit.

Looking back through the LAF postings, I think the card may have come from Trevor Penfold, whose Dad Colin Penfold was groundcrew at 75 (NZ) Sqdn between 1944 and 1946.

1814705 LAC. Fred Woolterton, F/M/E (Flight Mechanic Engines), is listed in one of the posts on this site as a member of the groundcrew for NE181, JN-M The Captains Fancy, and there is his signature above, alongside “M-Mike”.

The other names don’t seem to correspond to aircrew of the respective a/c mentioned, so I’m guessing that they are all groundcrew.

The list (?):
? Gibbon, “Paper Doll”
Gerald Tiller, JN-O (“Dogsbody Again”)
Bob ?, “Zebra”
Cyril Stone (Rockefeller) JN-V
Roland Stroud “F-Fox”
F. Woolterton, “M-Mike”
J.D. Jones (“Jonah”), JN-D, “Snifter”
P.C. Rainbow, JN-P Bad Penny IV
? Smith, one of the ? Gang, now JN-V
? Woods, Tim “The Gremlin”

So was J.D. (Jonah) Jones one of the groundcrew for Lancaster HK601 JN-Dog?

And what about “Snifter”? Doug Williamson, Gerry’s Flight Engineer, recalls the nose-art on JN Dog as a “Pluto-like” cartoon dog.

Well after a bit of Googling, I found that there was a wartime cartoon dog called Snifter, which features in the nose art on at least one other Lancaster (below), and he looked a bit Pluto-like:
Snifter1So Snifter was probably the subject of the nose-art on JN-Dog – but was it also a nickname? Doug doesn’t remember it being used as such, he remembers her only as “JN-Dog”, so perhaps not.

“Dogsbody Again” (NN747, JN-O), and “Bad Penny IV” (HK597, JN-P) do sound like nicknames however.

And it looks like there was a “Paper Doll” and “The Gremlin” on C Flight.

Other a/c referred to:
“Zebra” – probably HK554, JN-Z
“F-Fox” – probably NG322, JN-F
– and JN-V would be PB820.

So does anyone recognise any of the other names listed, or do the nicknames above ring a bell with anyone?

Cheers,
Chris