Tag Archives: Jack Britnall

John ‘Ted’ Smith, Rear Gunner – Milsom crew (and Banks crew it would seem….)

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The photograph that started it all……..Ted Smith (Hop Head), Norman Allen, Jimmy Wood, Russell Banks, John Mossman (standing), Jock Fraser and Maurice Wiggins. © Jimmy Wood

At the end of July last year I posted this photograph from Jimmy Wood’s photo album of the Banks crew. The photograph had caused me a degree of frustration because (at the time) I couldn’t understand the presence of the individual stood up behind Jock Fraser and Maurice Wiggins. A signature  ‘J. B. Mossman’ seemed to make no sense to me – research indicating that this individual was possibly F/Sgt John Edward Barry Mossman, RNZAF NZ42112587, Wireless Operator with Wi Rangiuaia’s crew. I was also vexed by a second signature which seemed to read ‘Ted Smith ‘Hop Head” – this signature seemed all the more strange as it was next to Jack Britnell…..

I am pleased to report that my wonderings have been, at least partly answered. I have been contacted by John and Matt, Son and Nephew respectively of John ‘Ted’ Smith, Rear Gunner with the Milsom crew and latterly also it would appear, with the Banks crew…..Many thanks also to them for supplying some fantastic pictures of Ted, both from the War period and before it.

Read my original post about the Milsom crew here.

Clearly in hindsight, a fundamental mistake I was making was to assume that the individual next to the signature ‘Ted Smith’ was Jack Britnell – obviously, I now understand it was Ted!

I have become acutely aware, that errors do exist in the ORB’s and the problem I suppose I and others have is that we have to take what is recorded in them on face value. If I take my own knowledge of the Zinzan crew, I know that 2 entries concerning the identity of the Air Bomber are incorrect – Dad flew these 2 Ops, but the ORB’s list another individual for one and someone with the same surname for the other – its only because I have his logbook that I know the information to be wrong. I say this, because this post potentially throws up another inaccuracy regarding Ted Smith and John Mossman and the Banks crew. What follows is what individuals have told me and what I have gleaned from the ORB’s – and to put no finer point on the fact that they are utterly contradictory – however as I have already observed from personal experience with Dad, given the toss up between the ORB’s and known fact – its probably better to go with the known fact…….

Now, whilst my questions have been partly answered, they have thrown up another mystery – despite the fact that John and Matt say that Ted is in the the photograph because he flew with the Banks crew – and one must assume the same for John Mossman, there appears to be no evidence of this in the ORB of this. The story is further and tantalisingly complicated by a message from Jimmy Woods, Air Bomber with the Banks crew, via his son Roger, that John Mossman did fly with the Banks crew.

Based on a 3-way scouring of the 1945 Form 541’s:
Banks crew – Norman Allen and Jack Britnell are listed as flying in every Op with the Banks crew as Mid Upper and Rear Gunner respectively apart from in 3 cases. 3rd and 7th of May, Jack, then Norman flies as Rear Gunner for 2 ‘Manna’ Ops (these did not utilise Mid Upper Gunners). on the 14th of May (Exodus), Jack Britnell is replaced by Charlie Carey as Rear Gunner.

Milsom crew – The two ‘Johns’, Williamson and Smith, fly every Op, apart from the 2nd of May, when as standard for a ‘Manna’ Op, only Ted Smith flies, as Rear Gunner.

Rangiuia crew – John Mossman flies all Ops with the crew apart from 2. These are on the 10th and 12th of May and are ‘Exodus’ flights to Juvincourt in France. On both occasions, his position as WIreless Operator is taken by Pat Wilson.

Having looked at the crew histories like this, I now simply have no idea whatsoever what is going on, part from the terrifying thought that significant portions of the ‘541 are simply wrong.

‘But……….’, I hear you ask, ‘The 541 stop at June – Russ Banks, Ted Smith and John Mossman didn’t leave till July 1945, perhaps some of these flights were in July???….’

A slim chance perhaps – but Norman, Jimmy, Alex and Jack had left Mepal by the end of June – which means they simply couldn’t have been there to be in these photographs…..

Tantalisingly, Matt has passed on another  crew photo that was in Jimmy Wood’s photo album, showing the boys of the Banks crew, both including Ted and John Mossman…..

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The Banks crew in front of LM276 AA-S. Back row, left to right – Ted Smith, Jimmy Wood, Russell Banks and Maurice Wiggins. Front row, left to right – Norman Allen, John Mossman and Jock Fraser. © Matt Smith

Based on the ORB’s, The Banks crew flew LM276 AA-S 8 times (one occasion, incorrectly listed in the ORB as ‘D’ on the 7th May). This is the only ‘S’ the crew flew, so we must therefore assume that the aircraft certainly in the picture above is LM276. Between the 27th March (Hamm) and the 14th of May (Juvincourt), the Banks crew flew 10 Ops – 7 of which were in LM276. The only other time the crew flew this aircraft was on the 28th of February to Gelsenkirchen – the Milsom crew did not arrive at Mepal until the 6th of March.

During this ’10 Op period’, the Milsom crew fly 8 times – however, there is a disparity of Ops in April – the Banks crew fly only 3 against the Milsom crew’s 5. In May, the Banks crew fly 6 times, against 3 for the Milsom crew. Whilst through absolutely no proof or argument whatsoever, it might be during May that  Ted might have picked a up a few Ops with the crew – additionally, overall looking at the 2 crew’s Ops history , they appear ‘out of sync’ as it were. I have noticed that certainly towards the latter stages of the war, the larger number of crews on station seem to suggest rotated groups of aircrew, that fly as ‘sets’  on raids – these ‘sets’ seem to, broadly speaking, dovetail between each other in the Ops in the ORB.

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The Banks crew in front of an unidentified aircraft. Back row, left to right – John Mossman, Jimmy Wood, Maurice Wiggins and Russell Banks. Front row, left to right – Jock Fraser, Ted Smith and Norman Allen. © Matt Smith

Additionally to these crew photographs, Matt has also passed on the following group training photograph taken whilst Ted was  in Canada.

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A group training photograph from Canada of Air Gunners, Ted Smith, standing furthest to the right. © Matt Smith

Mepal gunners ?

With Both Ted Smith (second row from front, 5th from right)) and Norman Allen (second row from front, 4th from left) present in this photograph, I believe this to be a group photograph of Air Gunners, taken at Mepal sometime between March and June 1945. © Matt Smith

This second  photograph I think is potentially the most interesting. Ted can be seen in this picture, second row from the front, fifth from right. Initially I wondered if this was possibly another training group photograph, however on closer inspection, I realised that also on the second row from the front, this time fourth from left is, (I am pretty sure) Norman Allen, A/G with the Banks crew. The arrival of the Milsom and Banks crew at Mepal are  a month apart, so I am disinclined to believe that this is a training group photograph and that perhaps this is actually a  Squadron photograph of Air Gunners from Mepal, one would assume close to the end of the war. Based on a comment Chris made on the full Squadron photograph couple of weeks ago, a figure of approximately 70 crews were at Mepal by the end of the war – if one assumes that by this point the aircraft were essentially ‘double crewed’ the number of individuals in this photograph would be about right – I think…….

I would be fascinated if anybody can either prove or disprove this theory (having shown the picture to Kevin, he tends to agree with my theory) – if anybody can recognise any more 75(NZ) Air Gunners in the photograph, then it must be another photograph for the ‘Group Collection’

 

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Ted in competition for the Ashburton Motorcycle Club, pre-war. © Matt Smith

In correspondence with John, he said that Ted was a bit of a motorcycle nut. Ted was Mid Canterbury Motorcycle Club champion several years running in the late 1930’s – what would be today’s moto-cross.  He worked as a motor cycle mechanic pre and post war.  John says he certainly wouldn’t be surprised if someone has some stories about Ted and motorcycles at Mepal!

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Landing, or taking off?? © Matt Smith

Ted Smith motorbike

Ted in his racing top from when he rode for the Ashburton Motorcycle Club (AMCC). © Matt Smith

AMCC Ted far left (side on)

A group photograph of the Ashburton Motorcycle Club – Ted is sat on his bike far left. © Matt Smith

So, as always, if anybody reads this and can shed light on this little conundrum, I and I am sure Matt and John, would love to hear from you.

All I bring is questions…………The Banks crew.

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Regular visitors will remember the fantastic images I posted a from Jimmy Wood, Air Bomber with the Banks crew. I held back on this image, as I was a little confused by one individual in the photograph and also 2 of the signatures.

On first inspection the photograph is of the Banks crew, however on closer inspection, Alex Hirst, the Wireless Operator with the crew is missing and the fellow stood behind Jock Fraser is a mystery to me……..

Secondly, there are 2 unexplained signatures on the photograph. On the left hand side of the image is what I make out to be  – and I am going out on a limb here – ‘JB Mossman’. Next to Jack Britnall is the signature ‘Ted Smith – Hop Head’

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The fellow on the left hand side back row is clearly the same chap stood behind Jock in the previous picture……….

Now this all gets stranger when I remember the wonderful pictures of Maurice Wiggins that Catherine and John sent to me last month – I recall there was this strange character in the crew photo again………

If we take a punt on my ‘JB Mossman’ guess, interestingly we find the following airman;

F/Sgt John Edward Barry Mossman, RNZAF NZ42112587 – Wireless Operator. Rangiuaia crew.

The fact that he is a WOp like Alex makes it all the more bizarre. Having been through Jimmy’s logbook and the ORB’s, Alex Hirst flew every Op with the boys.

I am at a loss – someone see the obvious for me please……

Maurice Wiggins, Navigator – Banks crew

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Two lovely photographs of Maurice in the ‘Office’

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Many thanks to Catherine for supplying these wonderful images of Maurice Wiggins, Navigator with the Banks crew in 1945. I have a keen interest in this crew, having had the pleasure spending time with both Jimmy Banks, the Air Bomber and Norman ‘Paddy’ Allen the Mid Upper Gunner.

The third picture – a fantastic crew photo is a little bit of a conundrum – it shows the majority of the Banks crew – but the first individual on the back row, is clearly not. Could it be that this might be a training flight crew photo and Alex Hirst joined the crew later ????

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The Banks crew ??
Back row L to R: ?,  Jimmy Wood, Maurice Wiggins, Russell Banks.
Front Row L to R: Jock Fraser, Jack Britnall and Norman Allen.

 

Jimmy Wood birthday celebrations at the R.A.F Club

SONY DSCIt was with great pleasure that I went down to the RAF Club today to attend Jimmy Wood’s 90th birthday celebrations with his family and relatives of his aircrew from 1945.

Obviously the celebrations were a private family affair, so if I receive any photos from the day I will be happy to put them up, but I will not act on a presumption at this time.

It was a lovely day and it was good to see Jimmy and his son Roger, as well as meet Barry (his elder son) for the first time after all the emails and phone calls we have had since he first got in contact with me.

Jimmy was in fine form, despite what obviously must have been a long day for him, beginning at 12 o’clock at the Bomber Command Memorial just across the road from the RAF Club. Sadly limited departure times from my village and a delay owing to snow meant that I arrived, just as the memorial service was concluding, but it was good to hear Barry shout out “Ake Ake Kia Kaha!” (the Squadron Maori motto – Forever and Ever be Strong)……..

The event also allowed me to meet again Janet, Norman Allen’s daughter and her brother Ronnie and also Jill and her husband Jim, daughter of Russell Banks, Jimmy’s pilot.

Walking down the corridor out side of the Ballroom, where the birthday lunch buffet was served, I was pleased to find the 75(NZ) Squadron badge .Given that the name and badge had been gifted by the RAF to the RNZAF at the end of the war in appreciation of the sacrifices the country had made, I wasn’t sure it would be there.
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Glad to be going

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“Leaving Do” – The Red Lion, Granchester, Cambridgeshire 1945.
Back row, L to R: Alex Hirst, Jack Britnall, Russell Banks.
Front row, L to R: Jock Fraser, Maurice Wiggins, Norman Allen (apparently wearing Russell’s jacket).
Foreground: Jimmy Wood.
© Jimmy Wood collection.

Though perhaps tinged with a little sadness that they would now be split up, I think this  picture captures the relief that any crew that were lucky enough to complete their tour would feel. Based on the changing responsibilities of the Squadron, with the creation of ‘Tiger Force’, it could well be that Russell and Alex found themselves initially preparing to stay, only to leave after the surrender of Japan. Once again, the records by this point are scant in detail and the sudden collapse of the Squadron regarding the end of the need for a bomber force for the Far East simply lists the large scale demobilisation of aircrew, rather than the specific departure of named individuals.

Surprisingly perhaps, I learnt from Jack Jarmy, my father’s navigator, that as a crew, they went out only occasionally. After they had learnt they were to be screened in 1943 after 21 ops, they all went on a final trip out to Cambridge – the faces in the picture would be different, but I am sure the sentiments would have been the same..

Jimmy Wood RAFVR 1801019/154906 logbook

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As promised, the first of no doubt a number of posts of material from JImmy Wood, Air Bomber with the Banks crew from 1945.

This is a beautifully written out log book and spans the crews flights from Dreseden as their first op through to flights to view the effects of the bombing after hostilities had finished, in between the Banks crew also flew food drops to Holland and repatriation flights of Allied prisoners from Juvincourt, in France.

Amusingly, and perhaps terrifyingly, in conversation with Jimmy, he recalled whilst laying in the bomb nacelle during an op he suddenly felt a painfully cold sensation between his legs. After the bombing run he got to up to discover a flak hole about 1/4 of an inch below where his ‘undercarriage’ had just been and the fragment of shrapnel buried in the front gun turret…….. In his log book, the incident, on the 22nd April to Bremen, is simply recorded as ‘Holed’…..

See Jimmy’s logbook here

A wonderful afternoon with Jimmy Wood…..

Caption for group photoThe Banks crew. Back row L to R, Alexander Hirst, Jack Britnall, Norman Allen, Jock Fraser.Front row L to R Jimmy Wood, Russell Banks, Maurice Wiggins.

The Banks crew. Back row L to R, Alexander Hirst, Jack Britnall, Norman Allen, Jock Fraser.
Front row L to R Jimmy Wood, Russell Banks, Maurice Wiggins. © Jimmy Wood

A couple of weeks I was passed an email contact from Kevin from Barry Wood, who’s father, Jimmy was the Air Bomber  with the Russell Banks crew. Barry was looking for information of the other members of the crew, in advance of Jimmy’s 90th birthdays celebrations at the RAF Club in London on the 23rd  March.

After an email to Barry I discovered that Jimmy lives only 25 miles from me, so yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Jimmy and his other son Roger. The meeting was tinged with a little sadness, Prior to the meeting I discovered that the crew’s Mid Upper Gunner, remembered by Jimmy as ‘Paddy’ from Ireland was in fact Norman Allen, who sadly passed away just before Christmas (see here).

Jimmy was good enough to lend me a photo album and his logbook and these will appear here as I have time to up load them and do a bit of research to add information to them.

The Banks crew were as follows;
F/Lt. Russell Ashley Banks RNZAF – Pilot.
F/O Maurice Wiggins RAFVR– Navigator
F/O. Jimmy Wood – Bomb Aimer
F/Lt. Alexander Reid ‘Pat’ Hirst RNZAF – Wireless Operator
Sgt. ‘Jock’ Fraser – Flight Engineer
Sgt Norman ‘Paddy’ Allen RAFVR– Mid Upper Gunner
W/O Jack Edward Britnall DFC RAAF – Rear Gunner

If you know anything about any of the boys in the Banks crew, I am sure Jimmy would love to know what happened to them – as would Barry, Roger and I……