Tag Archives: Henry John Burtt

‘Maximum Effort’ – The Witting Crew

Many thanks to Adrian for passing on a links for the full version of the film ‘Maximum Effort’, from Youtube in 2 parts.

‘Maximum Effort’ was one of many propaganda films shot during the war that focused on the efforts of Bomber Command, however it’s the only one to feature 75(NZ) Squadron – and we should count ourselves fortunate that finally in the summer of 1944 the cameraman’s lens turned to Mepal – many Squadrons were never recorded for posterity in this manner.

Perhaps with all pieces such as this there is very staged feel to this film and in fact, when the film crew arrived at Mepal and decided to base the film around Eric Witting’s crew it was started in ignorance of the fact that they would leave Mepal before the film was fully finished – ironically, but perhaps lucky for us who have an interest in the Squadron, final filming was undertaken using John Aitken’s  crew and is mentioned in Ron Mayhill’s book ‘Bombs on Target’.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the nature of the film regarding its purposes of propaganda and particularly in the case of this film, taking the stories of the crews of Bomber Command and especially those of New Zealand all the way home, the film begins with the introduction of an ‘ordinary’ crew from 75(NZ) Squadron. The film is narrated by Ted Anderson, the Kiwi Navigator and introduces all the members of ND752 AA-O ‘Oboe’ before a raid to ‘The Ruhr’

The Witting crew were (for the sake of the film);
Eric Francis Witting, DFC, RNZAF NZ415212. Pilot.
William Edwin ‘Ted’ Anderson, DFC, RNZAF NZ416073. Navigator.
Jack Thomas RAF 138463. Air Bomber.
Glen Osmond Marshall RNZAF NZ416011. Wireless Operator.
Reg Gunn RAFVR 1583849. Flight Engineer.
William Bryce ‘Jerry’ Campbell RCAF R.176432 J. /86746. Mid Upper Gunner.
Joseph William Collins RNZAF NZ424969. Rear Gunner.

I am not sure of the specific dates that the film was shot over. In ‘Bombs on Target’, Ron records the following regarding the end of filming;
‘Leave went far too quickly, yet it was great to be back on 75 Squadron again with the smell and noise of aircraft, and the unique comradeship and excitement of station life. Hank Burtt a gen man with over 20 Ops, was away on leave. This gave our crew the chance to fly his O-Oboe and do the final sequences for the final sequences for the film crew which had been on and off station for some time making Maximum Effort, and for propaganda pieces, We Fly Together, two movies for home consumption. Eric Witting had done most of the flying but having finished his tour he had been posted.

We stooged around while they took a few more shots using a dark, red filter to make it look like night. Then we had to do a bombing run into the camera and bank steeply away so they could get a close up of the 33 foot bomb bay. We obliged in style, sweeping away for like a fighter making a strafing pass. The boys ribbed us about doing Errol Flynn stuff, the latter by the way, none too popular since his latest film showing how he and a couple of other Americans had won the Burma war almost single-handed. Flynn wasn’t even in uniform, not like James Stewart who actually flew a tour of missions in a Flying Fortress or Clark Gable who did some trips as a gunner.

All the boys were only too eager to join the fun when they filmed us in full flying kit boisterously  piling out of briefing  and clambering into the transports driven by pretty WAAFS. The boys thought it hilarious as they jostled to scramble up the high tail-board and some wag yelled all aboard before I was up. The truck moved off and I fell off with the camera still working. I wondered if they ever showed that sequence amidst the hoots of laughter…….’

‘Hank’ Burtt, mentioned in Ron’s account was I assume, Henry John Burtt (RNZAF NZ414560). Without scrutinising the ORB at this point, the inference is that Henry and his crew took ND752 over from the Witting crew, after Eric and the boys were posted out after their tour. This suggests a delay in departure for the Witting crew – records suggest that they left on or around the 1st August 1944. Henry Burtt and all but 2 of his crew were lost on the nightmare raid to Homberg on the 21st July, in ND752 AA-O, along with 6 other aircraft from the Squadron.

Prior to Ron Mayhill’s description of their participation in filming he remarks that ‘After 4 weeks on station our crew were entitled to seven days leave’. The Aitken crew arrived at Mepal on the 7th June 1944, giving this leave date as approximately 3rd to 10th July – this would perhaps tally – returning to take part in filming and then the next dated point in his book being the 12th of July when it is noted that Ops had been scrubbed for the second day – suggesting perhaps that the filming a few days before had been the resultant opportunity of the weather being too poor to fly in……….

Thanks to Andy, the son-in-law of Jack Thomas for filling in some of the gaps around this period. The last Op recorded in Jack’s logbook was on the 5th May to Aachen – ‘A wizard prang (!), bags of fighters and new type of flares-13,000 lb’. His last flight with Eric was on the 30th May, described as ‘Formation flying for film sequences, (50 mins)‘. The next flight logged was at No. 12 Operational Training Unit at Edgehill.

The credits for the film are listed at the beginning to ‘Maximum Effort’ as follows;
Story – Arnot Robertson
Photography – A.H. Luff
Sound – Harry Reynolds
Editing – Ralph Kemplen
Musical Arrangement – Ken Hughes
Director – Michael Hankinson

As always, any information anybody has about any individual involved in this film, either directly, or indirectly be very gratefully received!

Request for information – Henry John Hiscox RAFVR 928092 – Rear Gunner. Davidson crew.

I have been contacted by Gaynor, the great niece of Henry Hiscox, Rear Gunner with Neil Davidson’s crew and one of seven aircraft lost on the nightmare Op to Homberg on the 21st July 1944 – the Squadrons highest loss total during the War.

The following information about the loss of HK569 comes from http://wikimapia.org/14265238/Final-Resting-place-of-Flt-Sgt-Henry-Hiscox-RAFVR-July-1944-Old-Cemetery – the author of the information is listed as ‘Typhoon’, so I credit Typhoon with the piece and the obvious research effort that supports it.

Beesel (old) cemetery Contains one Commonwealth War Grave, that of tail gunner (tail end charlie) Flt/Sgt Henry Hiscox RAFVR.

His Avro Lancaster B.I bomber (code name AA-Q, fuselage No. Hotel Kilo 569). of 75 (NZ) Squadron RAF, took off from RAF Mepal, Cambridgeshire, England, on its way to bomb the Fischer Tropsch oil refinery/aviation fuel producer in Homberg, Germany with a full load of bombs on the 21st of July 1944. It was attacked by a German night-fighter over Heibloem, Limburg, The Netherlands on its way to the target.

The pilot, a 21 year old New Zealander, Flt. Sgt. Neil Douglas Davidson RNZAF flew the badly damaged and blazing aircraft on over the River Maas towards Reuver (Beesel council area) but turned and tried to land it in the river, he succeeded but it hit the river bank and exploded. The bomb aimer, Sgt. T.G. Little RAF, had managed to bail out on his parachute but it failed to open fully and he was badly wounded when he fell into the garden of a house in the village of Kessel. He was taken to a hospital, subsequently made a prisoner of war (POW No. 52469) in Muhlhausen POW camp and survived World War II, passing away in 1990.

The tail of the aircraft fell away from the fuselage into a field just before impact on the river. Flt/Sgt Hiscox was in his tail machine-gun turret and fell with it into the corn field. It is thought he died a day or two afterwards, was found two weeks later by a Dutch farmer’s labourer, Sef Willems, who turned out to be a member of the Dutch resistance movement under cover. Henry was buried in the Beesel grave yard. The grave digger had a bunch of flowers with him, the German soldiers threatened to shoot him if he laid them on completion of the burial, He passed the flowers on to local people who in the dark of night threw them over the cemetery wall onto the grave !

No remains of the pilot and the rest of the crew were found and they are presumed missing in action. A memorial plaque to the 6 crew members who died has been put up close to the scene of the crash in the town of Kessel. That took place with many notables attending on 21st July 2011, exactly 67 years to the day and unveiled by the Brother and Sister of the Pilot. They came all the way from New Zealand specially for that. Family members of Sgt Goddard and Sgt Sloman also came to the unveiling from England.

After the war the people of Beesel looked after Henry Hiscox’s grave erecting a wooden head piece, with propeller on it and Henry’s flying helmet hanging on it, until it was given a standard Commonwealth War Graves head stone.

Since the 1960’s Mrs. Tiny Claessen has voluntarily tended the grave on a weekly basis, winning the admiration of many visitors. On Dutch Remembrance day 4th May 2006 Tiny was presented with a plaque of thanks by the Mayor of Beesel, coinciding with the first visit of Henry’s Daughter, Grandson and Great Grandson to his grave (they knew he was buried in The Netherlands but not where until found by retired Sgt Pilot A.A.C. Barrie Davies. That was the first ‘thank you’ she had ever received for over 40 years of work. To date she is still tending Henry’s grave.

Every year the local school ‘last term’ children have a ‘Sgt. Hiscox’ project and led by the Mayor hold a remembrance ceremony on the 4th of May, at the grave side.

To the people of Beesel this grave and a recently erected civilian memorial close by is the focal point on the Dutch Remembrance day of 4th May.”

The Davidson crew were;
Lancaster Mk.I HK569
F/Sgt Neil Douglas Davidson RNZAF NZ422057 – Pilot.
Died age 21. Commemorated on Panel 263 Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt Arthur Ernest John Goddard RAFVR 1323147 – Navigator. Died age 22. No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 230 Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt T. G. Little RAFVR 1459875 – Air Bomber.
Shot down 20 Jul 1944, the sole survivor of the crew of seven. PoW # 52469. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag IXC.

Sgt Douglas Corris RAFVR 1501099 – Wireless Operator.
Died age 21. No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 227 Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt Robert Gerald Sloman RAFVR 914220 – Flight Engineer.
Died age 24. No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 237 Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt Raymond Stanley Lang RAFVR 1896528 – Mid Upper Gunner
Died age 32. No known grave, Commemorated on Panel 233 Runnymede Memorial.

F/Sgt Henry John Hiscox RAFVR 928092 – Rear Gunner
Died age 35. Buried Beesel Roman Catholic Cemetery, Netherlands.

Gaynor would dearly like to know about the crew and in particular she is hopeful that there may be a photograph of the boys. As always, if you have any information on Henry, or the Davidson crew, please contact me.

Given the calamitous events of the night of the 21st – it seems only fitting that in remembering Henry and the Davidson crew, we should do the same for the other airmen that were either killed or captured that night.

Gilmour crew – 5 crew killed, 2 captured.
Lancaster  Mk.III ND915
W/O Hugh Edward Gilmour RAAF AUS.22776 – Pilot.
Died age 24. Buried Eindhoven Woensel) General Cemetery, Netherlands.
W/O Lindsay Arthur Woodward RAAF AUS.417257 – Navigator.
Shot down and captured at Antwerp Aug 1944. PoW # 726. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft VII.
F/Sgt Samuel Mills RAAF AUS.425036 – Air Bomber.
Died age 32. Buried Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery Netherlands.
F/Sgt John Edward Osborne RAAF AUS.417877 – Wireless Operator.
Died age 23. Buried Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery Germany.
Sgt Reginald Ernest Buzza RAFVR 2203174 – Flight Engineer.
Died age 24. Buried Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery, Netherlands.
Sgt W. J. S. Ballard, RAFVR 1853215 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Shot down. PoW# 602. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft VII.
Sgt John Leonard Stephenson RAFVR 2202048 – Rear Gunner.
Died age 18. Buried Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery Netherlands.

Howell crew – all crew lost
Lancaster Mk.III PA967
P/O Edward Howell RNZAF NZ428819 –Pilot.
Died age 21. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery Germany.
F/Sgt Richard John Wilkinson RAFVR 1585068 – Navigator.
Died age 21. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery Netherlands.
F/O John Ronald McGeorge RAFVR 152740 – Air Bomber.
Died age 23. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery Nijmegen Netherlands.
F/Sgt Gerard Henry Redwood RNZAF NZ425012 – Wireless Operator.
Died age 34. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery Nijmegen Netherlands.
Sgt John James Blundell RAFVR 2205143 – Flight Engineer.
Died age 19. Buried JonkerbosWar Cemetery, Netherlands.
Sgt Robert Douglas McAdam, RAFVR 2210689 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Died age 21. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Nijmegen Netherlands.
F/Sgt Leonard Charles Hickford RNZAF NZ426886 – Rear Gunner.
Died age 21. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery Nijmegen. Netherlands.

MacKay Crew – all crew lost
Lancaster Mk.III ND800
P/O Kenneth McIndoe MacKay RNZAF NZ421829 – Pilot.
Died age 27. Lost without trace, commemorated on Panel 263 Runnymede Memorial.
F/Sgt Eric James Quinn RNZAF NZ4210077 – Navigator.
Died age 20. No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 264 Runnymede Memorial.
F/O Roy King Jones RNZAF NZ425611 – Air Bomber.
Died age 26. Lost without trace, commemorated on Panel 262 Runnymede Memorial.
W/O William John Davies RAFVR 616191 – Wireless Operator.
Died age 25. Lost without trace, commemorated on Panel 213 Runnymede Memorial.
F/Sgt Ronald Knapton RAFVR1681317 – Flight Engineer.
Died age 22. Lost without trace, commemorated on Panel 219 Runnymede Memorial.
Sgt William Joseph Dunn RAFVR 1520456 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Died age 23. Lost without trace, commemorated on Panel 228 Runnymede Memorial.
F/Sgt Jim Worth RNZAF NZ425510 – Rear Gunner.
Died age 24. Lost without trace, commemorated on Panel 264 Runnymede Memorial.

Whittington crew – 6 crew killed, 1 captured.
Lancaster Mk.I ME691
Plt Off Harold Whittington RNZAF NZ42488 – Pilot.
Died age 26. Buried Uden War Cemetery Netherlands.
F/L Joseph Stevens RAFVR  125607 – Navigator.
Died age 32. Buried Uden War Cemetery Netherlands.
Sgt Alfred Alexander Simpson RNZAF NZ425112 – Air Bomber.
Died age 28. Buried Uden War Cemetery Netherlands.
F/O Phillip Edwin Tompkins RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Died age 21. Buried Uden War Cemetery Netherlands.
Sgt D. W. Gore RAFVR 1624691 – Flight Engineer.
Shot down. PoW no. 455. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft VII.
Sgt Ronald John Morton Batty RAFVR 548542 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Died age 26. Buried Uden War Cemetery, Netherlands.
F/Sgt Andrew Crawford Fletcher RNZAF NZ42675 – Rear Gunner.
Died age 24. Buried Uden War Cemetery, Netherlands.

Roche Crew – 5 crew killed, 2 captured.
Lancaster Mk.I ME752
F/Sgt Gerald Brian Roche RNZAF NZ413219 – Pilot.
Died age 21. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery Nijmegen Netherlands.
Fg Off. Horace Callow RNZAF NZ427185 – Navigator.
Died age 27. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Netherlands.
F/Sgt John Burgess RNZAF NZ4211008 – Air Bomber.
Shot down. PoW no. 442. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft Vii. Promoted to W/O while a PoW. Safe UK 26 May 1945.
Sgt Jack Frank MacDonald Barson RAFVR 1324529 – Wireless Operator.
Died age 21. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Netherlands
Sgt Joseph Armstrong RAFVR 1684332 – Flight Engineer.
Died age 40. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery War Cemetery, Netherlands.
F/Sgt William Edward Mcgee RNZAF NZ427902 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Shot down. Successfully evaded capture and was safe in the U.K. 14 September 1944.
F/Sgt Keith Emmett Smith RNZAF NZ425179 – Rear Gunner.
Died age 21. Buried Jonkerbos War Cemetery Nijmegen Netherlands.

Burtt crew – 5 crew killed, 2 captured.
Lancaster Mk.III ND752
Fg Off Henry John Burtt RNZAF NZ414560 – Pilot.
Died age 31. Buried Tilburg (Gilzerbaan) General Cemetery, Netherlands.
F/Sgt Vivian Connell RAAF AUS.424158 – Navigator.
Shot down. Captured at Antwerp 7 Aug 1944. PoW no. 696. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft VII.
Fg Off. Herbert John Wellington Coedy RCAF R.130143 J.96491 – Air Bomber.
Shot down. PoW no. 562. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft VII. Safe UK 15 May 1945.
W/O Gottfred Lyall Gillan RNZAF NZ42324 – Wireless Operator.
Died age 31. Buried Tilburg (Gilzerbaan) General Cemetery, Netherlands.
Sgt Vernon Charles Cornish RAFVR 1609419 – Flight Engineer.
Died age 20. Buried Tilburg (Gilzerbaan) General Cemetery, Netherlands.
Sgt Walter Frederick Carter RAFVR 1543208 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Died age 21. Buried Tilburg (Gilzerbaan) General Cemetery, Netherlands.
Sgt George Arthur Levy RAFVR 1893404 – Rear Gunner.
Died age 39. Buried Tilburg (Gilzerbaan) General Cemetery Netherlands.