It seems only fitting to pose the following questions from Ian after the Jack Wall memoirs. There are clearly a number of question marks hanging over NE181 around and after her 100th Op and we are all keen to find the answers that might complete another one of the pieces of this historical jigsaw.
Ian and Chris have spent a lot of time over the last few months trying to build an accurate history of this aircraft and now Mikes latter period with the Squadron is under scrutiny.
The aircraft movement card for NE181, JN-M, The Captains Fancy.
© Royal Airforce Museum, Hendon/ Crown
20 May 1944: NE181 joins 75 Sqn – ref. NE181 Aircaft Movement Record
29 Jan 1945: Completes her 100th operation, to Krefeld under S/L Bailey – ref. 75 Sqn ORBs
2/3 Feb 1945: Completes her 101st operation, to Wiesbaden under S/L Bailey – ref. 75 Sqn ORBs
Photos are extant showing 101 operations for her.
16 Feb 1945: Completes her 102nd operation, to Wesel under S/L Bailey – ref is Bomb Aimer Jack Wall’s notes, which state “M” (it was our 102nd operation for “M”) but ORBs list this aircraft as RF129, JN-M, a Lancaster I (the first reference made to RF129 in the ORBs)
17 Feb 1945: Alex Simpson flies her to Waterbeach – ref my letters from Alex and ‘Forever Strong’. Rather than being ‘struck off’, it seems highly likely that NE181 just spent several weeks here being refitted.
20 Mar 1945: We believe this was her 103rd op, to Hamm under S/L Bailey – no ref, just a hunch as S/L Bailey is flying this operation (all other listings in ORBs for RF129 have a different captain, except 16 Feb, 20 Mar and 24 Apr). ORBs list as RF129.
24 Apr 1945: Completes her 104th operation, to Bad Oldesloe under F/O Ware – ref is F/O Ware pilot’s logbook, Colin Emslie navigator’s log (Kiwis Do Fly) and a photo of the Ware crew beneath the nose of NE181; however, the bomb tally shows only 101 operations.
After this date, there is anecdotal evidence that she flew several PoW repatriation operations – ref??
19 Jul 1945: – goes to 514 Sqn – ref. NE181 Aircraft Movement Record
4 Sep 1945: goes to 5 MU – ref. NE181 Aircraft Movement Record
30 Sep 1947: Struck off charge – ref. NE181 Aircraft Movement Record
So the questions are:
- Why does the ORB list RF129 as having flown operations on the 16.2.45 and 24.4.45 (and probably the 20.3.45), when the crews, who seem well-aware of her fame, state they were flying in NE181?
- If the above is correct, then there seem to have been two JN-Mikes kept on squadron after 16.2.45 – was NE181 returned to 75 Sqn from Waterbeach in anticipation of her being ‘repatriated’ to NZ?
- If NE181 was going to be returned to NZ, why was she flown on further operations? Two were flown by S/L Bailey – did he use her because she was ’his’ aircraft? (Did he fly any other operations between 16 Feb and 24 Apr in other aircraft?*) For the final operation, NE181 was the lead aircraft on a G-H raid – was she used this day because of her G-H ability? (Note- no one was aware of the significance of this ‘final’ operation for 75 Sqn.)
- Why, if she indeed did fly another 3 missions after the 2/3.2.45 as seems very likely, were NE181’s operational bomb tally on her nose not updated beyond 101? (Ref the photo of the Ware crew, taken after final operation 24.4.45)
- What references do we have for NE181 flying POW repatriations after operations ceased?
*Dick Pickups’s logbook lists; 22 Feb Osterfeldt, JN-Z, 26 Feb Dortmund, JN-P, 5 Mar, Gelsenkirchen, JN-P, 9 Apr Kiel, JN-K
So, as always if anybody has any thoughts, ideas or better still, factual information on this subject and these questions – please dive into the conversation!……..
(personally, I’d LOVE to see any correspondence between the Squadron and the New Zealand Government regarding the failed attempt to bring her home – Simon)