Tag Archives: John Lethbridge

Before she was famous – another picture of ‘Mike’


The Wood crew in front of NE181 JN-Mike ‘The Captains Fancy’
Back row L to R: Arthur Taylor (W/Op), R. Johnson (Nav), Francis Wood (Pilot), Les Hurcombe (A/B)
Front row L to R: Sgt Woolley (MU/Gnr) & Sgt. Mahoney (R/Gnr) – who is who, not known, Les Gibbs (F/E)
Courtesy Kevin King/Alf Gibbs.

Many thanks to Kevin, who after the post from Chris last night, passed on this fantastic early photograph of NE181 JN-Mike, ‘The Captains Fancy’. Based on the Op count and referring to the history of the aircraft that Chris has been working on, the images dates between the 15th and 16th August 1944.

The photograph is very interesting as it shows a relatively clear version of Capt. Reilly Ffoul – interestingly it also shows a tonal difference around the character and also a box around the Op bombs. My understanding is that the original matt black paint on the side of production Lancasters tended to be repainted once on Squadron (when a new lick of paint was required) with a less matte, but practically more durable black paint. The flatness of the paint around the Op tally and Reilly makes me wonder whether ‘Mike’ had had a second coat of this very matte paint and the painter had perhaps framed the existing artwork, rather than trying to paint to the edges of the artwork? Conversely, perhaps a coat of less matte paint had been used to clean up the edges of Reilly after he had been added to the aircraft and or it had been applied initially to provide a better ‘key’ for the paint work of the mascot and Op tally.

If you count the bomb tally, it appears that on the penultimate row, one bomb on the left hand side of the row seems to have been blacked out, discounting this, the Ops are 38, including this omission as it were, gives us 39 Ops. This in itself provided another conundrum – Kevin said that the photograph had come from Alf Gibbs, Flight Engineer with the Wood crew, but again referring back to the history produced by Chris,  John Scott’s crew flew number 38  and John Lethbridge’s  crew flew number 39 – checking the ORB showed that Alf had not been a fill-in on either of these Ops – so I mailed Kevin back with this query.

Kevin’s answer back was I suppose obvious ‘it makes a good photo for the folks back home…..‘ – doubly so if the boys had any idea how many Ops ‘Mike’ would end up flying with the Squadron and that we would all still be talking about it now!

Carl Arthur Warburton Wireless Operator – Armstrong crew

I have recently received  a request from Sarah, regarding her Great Uncle, Carl Warburton, who was a Wireless Operator with the Armstrong crew. She is keen to try to find a photograph of him and his crew from their time at Mepal – as always, anybody that can help, please contact me.

The Armstrong crew arrived at Mepal on the 10th January 1944. The crew undertook their first raid on the 14th of January;
14.1.44. Mining off The Frisian Islands
Cecil Armstrong. Pilot
Douglas Payne. Nav.
Eric Marshall A/B.
L.Edgerton W/op.
David Sleightholm F/E.
James Pepper MU/Gnr.
Roy Davies R/Gnr.
Stirling Mk.III LJ457

20.1.44. Mining off The Frisian Islands
Alan Kay. A/B.
William Reid R/Gnr.
Stirling Mk.III LJ441

21.1.44 Attack Against Special Target
Eric Marshall A/B.
Roy Davies R/Gnr.

25.1.44 Attack Against Special Target
Roy Davies MU/Gnr.
James Pepper R/Gnr.

27.1.44 Mining in the Heligoland Area
T. Derbyshire R/Gnr*
*Sgt. Derbyshire flew the majority of his time with my father, his late arrival in the crew meant that when they were screened he continued for another 4 ops. This was the first of 3 with the Armstrong crew.

28.1.44 Mining in Kiel Bay
28.1.44 Mining in Kiel Bay
(return to target the same day)

3.2.44 Mining off CherbourgW. Worthington MU/Gnr
Roy Davies R/Gnr.

15.2.44 Mining in Kiel Bay
Roy Davies MU/Gnr.
James Pepper R/Gnr.

20.2.44 Mining off St.Malo
22.2.44 Mining Kiel Bay
24.2.44 Mining in Kiel Bay
2.3.44 Operational Wheelwright69 (aborted)
4.3.44 Operation Trainer129
7.3.44 Operation Trainer 121 (aborted)
10.3.44 Operation trainer 121 (aborted)
13.3.44 Mining off Lorient
15.3.44 Operation Musician5 (aborted)
23.3.44 Attack Against Targets at Laon
9.4.44 Attack Against Villeneuve St.George
24.4.44 Attack Against Karlsruhe
26.4.44 Attack Against Essen
27.4.44 Attack Against Friedrichshafen

10.5.44 Attack Against Coutrai
Ralph Barker W/Op

11.5.44 Attack Against Louvain
William Lake W/Op*
*As with the Rear Gunner Sgt. Derbyshire, Bill Lake had also joined my Father’s crew and like Sgt. Derbyshire had to fly  more ops before they were screened – this was his 5th and final.

19.5.44 Attack Against Le Mans
Carl Warburton W/Op

21.5.44 Attack Against Duisberg
John Lethbridge 2nd Pilot

22.5.44 Attack Against Dortmund – Aircraft Failed to Return
The crew that night were;

Plt Off. Cecil Ernest Armstrong RNZAF NZ42354 Pilot. Died Tuesday 23 May 1944, age 27, during a raid on Dortmund. Buried Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany.
a little more here

F/Sgt Douglas Beardsley Payne RNZAF NZ426917 Navigator. Died Tuesday 23rd May 1944, age 22, during a raid on Dortmund. Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.

F/Sgt Eric William Elliott Marshall RNZAF NZ415637 Air Bomber. Died Tuesday 23rd May 1944, age 31, during a raid on Dortmund. Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Germany.
a little more here

Sgt Carl Arthur Warburton RAFVR. 1484107 Wireless Operator. Died Tuesday 23rd May1944 during a raid on Dortmund. Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Germany.

Sgt David Sleightholm RAFVR 1684309. Flight Engineer. Died Tuesday 23rd May 1944, age 22, during a raid on Dortmund. Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Germany.

Sgt Roy Joseph Davies RAFVR 1603898 Rear, then Mid Upper Gunner. Died Tuesday 23rd May 1944, age 21, during a raid on Dortmund. Buried Reichs Forest War Cemetery, Germany.

F/Sgt James Pepper RAFVR 1682572)Mid Upper then rear Gunner. Died Tuesday 23rd May 1944, age 23, during a raid on Dortmund. Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery Germany.

The crew were flying a MK. III Lancaster serial no. ND768 designator AA-F (AA denotes the aircraft was either ‘A’ or ‘B’ flight).

At the beginning of my search through the Operational Record Book for the flights of the Armstrong crew, I had assumed that Carl was an ‘original’ member – this seems clearly to not be the case. I have reviewed the Squadron records to see if I could find a loss of a Pilot prior to Carl’s first flight with the Armstrong crew, that Carl might of in fact arrived with at Mepal.

It was not an unknown occurrence for a crew to loose their pilot on a ‘2nd Dickie’ flight and then be dispersed into other crews if gaps existed – this was how Bill Lake and T. Derbyshire ended up flying with Dad on his first tour. Their Pilot, Sgt. Jack Thomson RNZAF NZ421145 was killed on his second ‘2nd Dickie’ operation with the Bailie crew on the 3rd August to Hamburg. Currently I am unable find a likely candidate regarding the pilot and as such, perhaps the original composition of the crew that Carl Warburton arrived at 75(NZ) Squadron with might never be known……….

Unless you know otherwise…….