Tag Archives: John Smyrk

Don Day, Navigator – Leadley crew

Don Day portraits

Sgt. Donald A. Day, Navigator with the Leadley crew – 12th October 1944 to 18th February 1945. © Peter Day

Many thanks to Peter for passing on a wonderful set of photographs of his Father, Donald Day and the Leadley crew. In talking to Peter, I realised I was listening again to the recollections of the admiration that the crew held for their Skipper. Peter said he viewed Donald ‘Like a God‘ and I have heard this exact phrase used by others. No doubt each airman viewed their crew mates with respect and belief in their ability to do their job, but i think that ultimately, they all put their lives and trust in the hands of their ‘Skip’ – and they believed, come hell or high water that he would get them ‘back for breakfast’ after every Op.

Middle row far left 41 Air School Colindale East London South Africa Training

Don during his early training: middle row far left, whilst at No. 41 Air School, Colindale, East London, South Africa. © Peter Day

front row middle the Leadley crew

The Leadley crew on base, 75(NZ) Squadron RAF, Mepal, Cambridgeshire. Don is stood in the middle of the front row – I think, Bob Gill is stood behind Don, in the middle of the group. If this is Bob Gill, then based on the visibility of brevets as basic shapes within the photograph, I think that to the left of Bob, id Don Leadley, the Skipper. © Peter Day

The Leadley crew arrived at Mepal on the 12th of October 1944 from No.31 Base. Donald, the Skipper flew with Alan Baxter’s crew on the night of the 19th of October to Stuttgart. The Leadley crew flew their first Operational flight on the 21st of October to Flushing. The boys went on to complete their tour, their final Op with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF being to Munchen Gladbach on the 1st of February 1945 – ironically, the Op that marked my own Father’s return to the Squadron……..

front row rhs D Day lhs Bob Gill

The Leadley crew in front of an unknown Lancaster at Mepal. Don is knelt to the right in the front row, next to Bob Gill, the crew’s Air Bomber. © Peter Day

21/10/1944 – Attack Against Flushing
Twenty five aircraft took off to attack Flushing. All crews were able to identify the target visually and bombing was reported as being very accurate. A.A. opposition was moderate. One aircraft (Captain 176437 F/O J. Johnson) failed to return, but was seen to be shot down over the target by heavy A A fire.

Lancaster Mk.III PB520 AA-G (14)
Listed as a MK.III PB524 10 times (AC) (AIR14/3463 Damage Reports)

F/S Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S Percy Leonard Smith, RNZAF NZ39886 – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 11:05 – Landed 13:53
Flight Time 02:48

25/10/1944 – Attack Against Essen
Twenty six aircraft took off as detailed to attack Essen. Twenty three of these attacked the target and bombing was good, built up areas and factories being identified visually. One aircraft brought its bombs back owing to the failure of the bombing equipment when over the target and two other aircraft returned early owing to technical failures.

Lancaster Mk.III PB520 AA-G (15)

F/S Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S Percy Leonard Smith, RNZAF NZ39886 – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 13:02 – Landed 17:20
Flight Time 04:18

26/10/1944 – Attack Against Leverkusen
Ten aircraft were detailed to attack Leverkusen. They all bombed the target in formation and a successful raid was reported. A.A. opposition was very slight.

Lancaster Mk.III PB520 AA-G (16)

F/S Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S Percy Leonard Smith, RNZAF NZ39886 – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 13:04 – Landed 17:20
Flight Time 04:16

29/10/1944 – Attack Against West Kapelle
Fourteen aircraft took off to attack a target at West Kappelle. They all bombed as instructed by the Master Bomber and bombing was reported as concentrated, although it was thought to be slightly away from the correct aiming point. No opposition was encountered.

Lancaster Mk.III PB520 AA-G (18)

F/S Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S Percy Leonard Smith, RNZAF NZ39886 – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 10:10 – Landed 12:37
Flight Time 02:27

30/10/1944 – Attack Against Wessling
Six aircraft took off to attack a target at Wesselling. Bombing was reported as being rather scattered. A.A. opposition was moderate to intense, but only one aircraft suffered damage.

Lancaster Mk.III PB421 AA-K (26)

F/S Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S Percy Leonard Smith, RNZAF NZ39886 – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 09:06 – Landed 13:33
Flight Time 04:27

31/10/1944 – Attack Against Bottrop
Six aircraft took off as detailed to attack a target at Bottrop. they all attacked the target in formation and a fairly concentrated raid was achieved. A.A. fire over the target was intense but all of our aircraft returned safely.

Lancaster Mk.I NG113 AA-D (22)

F/S Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S Percy Leonard Smith, RNZAF NZ39886 – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 11:49 – Landed 16:32
Flight Time 04:43

02/11/1944 – Attack Against Homberg
Twenty aircraft took off to attack the Oil Refinery at Homberg, carrying 7 x 8,000 lb, 13 x 4,000, 99 x 1,000 and 132 x 500 lb Bombs. All aircraft were successful in bombing the target in clear weather, and a concentrated raid developed. A large pall of black smoke was soon burning in the target area, and many crews saw their bombs burst in the smoke, through which parts of the factory were observed. Flak opposition was moderate to intense and eight aircraft suffered minor damage, but one aircraft captained by NZ421343 F/L V.J. Andrew, was hit by heavy flak when over the target and the starboard engine caught fire which the crew only managed to extinguish with great difficulty.

Lancaster Mk.III PB421 AA-K (28)
Hit by flak once (AIR14/3463 Damage Reports)

F/S Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S Leslie Charles Witchard, RAAF AUS.424334 – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 11:34 – Landed 15:40
Flight Time 04:06

05/11/1944 – Attack Against Solingen
Eighteen aircraft detailed to make a second attack in daylight on Solingen carrying 8,000 lb, 4,000 lb, 1,000 lb, 500 lb, 4 lb inc. No.17 Clusters. All crews were successful in bombing in formation and reports indicate that bombing was more concentrated than in the previous raid.

Lancaster Mk.I HK593 AA-H (7)

F/S Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S Leslie Charles Witchard, RAAF AUS.424334 – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 10:16 – Landed 15:30
Flight Time 05:14

06/10/1944 – Attack Against Coblenz
Sixteen aircraft were detailed for a night attack against Coblenz carrying 8,000 lb; 4,000 lb; No.14 clusters; No.17 clusters; 4lb inc. Fifteen aircraft were successful. The aircraft captained by F/O T. Winter (152351) returned early on account of engine trouble. Crews were able to identify the target visually in clear weather and a good concentrated raid developed, with smoke rising to 10,000 feet. NZ421919 F/O Kilpatrick, M had a short inconclusive encounter with a JU.88. Flak was moderate to slight.

Lancaster Mk.I HK593 AA-H (8)

P/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S S. Cooke, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 16:57 – Landed 22:12
Flight Time 05:15

08/11/1944 – Attack Against Homberg
Twelve aircraft took off to attack the Oil Refinery at Homberg in daylight carrying 8,000 lb., 4,000 lb., 1,000 lb., 500 lb., and No 14 Clusters.  All crews report identifying the target visually through breaks in the clouds, and bombing was fairly concentrated, much smoke and many explosions were seen around the target.  Flak defences were moderate, but no fighter opposition was encountered.

Lancaster Mk.I NG113 AA-D (25)

P/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
P/O Henry James Abrahams, RAFVR 1313153/ 183761 – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 08:01 – Landed 12:16
Flight Time 04:1

27/11/1944 – Attack Against Cologne Marshalling Yard
Twenty three aircraft carried out a successful attack on Cologne Marshalling Yard with 4,000 lb and 500 lb bombs. Flak over the target was moderate but accurate. One aircraft captained by F/O D.P. Leadley landed away at Manston. The crew were unhurt, but the aircraft was damaged.

As is sometimes the case, the reportage of the Form 541 Raid Summary barely fails to describe the actual events for the Leadley crew this night. As noted by Ron Mayhill, A/B with Jake Aitken’s crew HK 593 was, he thinks. one of the aircraft that he saw get hit by flak over the target.

Lancaster Mk.I HK593 AA-M (16)
Bomb load 1 x 4,000 H.C., 16 x 500 M.C.,
Primary target Cologne M/Y.
Landed at Manston on two engines

Hit by flak 20 times (AC) Landed at Manston, crew unhurt. (AIR14/3463 Damage Reports)

Cologne extract from logbook

From Don Day’s logbook ‘s/c on 3 engines, bomber late – shot up by flak landed Marston with 1 1/2 engines.

F/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S P. Kidd, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 12:13 – Landed 17:10
Flight Time 04:57

For his efforts and skill on the return flight, F/O Donald Percy Leadley was awarded an Immediate Distinguished Flying Cross. The citation for this raid adds extra detail to the events of that night:

Citation DFC (Imm) 21st Dec 1944): In November 1944 this officer was pilot of an aircraft detailed to attack Cologne. Early on the outward flight the propeller of the starboard outer engine had to be feathered. Although some height was lost, Flying Officer Leadley went on to the target and executed his attack. During the operation the aircraft was hit by shrapnel . Some time later, en-route for home, the port inner engine commenced to emit smoke , whilst oil poured from it. Soon afterwards yet a third engine became defective. In spite of this Flying Officer Leadley flew to the nearest available airfield in this country and effected a safe landing. This officer has completed numerous sorties and has invariably displayed a high degree of skill, coolness and courage.

02/12/1944 – Attack Against Dortmund
Seventeen aircraft took off to make a daylight attack on the Coking Plant at Dortmund. All crews were successful in attacking the target which was covered by 10/10 cloud, tops being about 12,000 ft. and the raid was thought to be successful, though the Bomber stream was not as concentrated as usual. Flak was moderate, but very erratic, and none of our aircraft suffered damage. Bombs carried on this attack were 4,000 lb H.C., 1,000 lb. M.C. and 1,000 lb ANM.

Lancaster Mk.I NG113 AA-D (33)
Bomb load 1 x 4,000 H.C., 5 x 1,000 M.C., 4 x 1,000 ANM.
Primary target Dortmund.
Scattered attack.

F/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S Leslie Charles Witchard, RAAF AUS.424334 – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 12:47 – Landed 17:18
Flight Time 04:31

04/12/1944 – Attack Against Oberhausen
Twenty aircraft took off as detailed to attack an Oil target at Oberhausen, carrying 1 x 12,000 lb, 8,000 lb, 4,000 H.C., 1,000 ANM, 500 G.P., 500 M.C. and 4 lb I.B. bombs. Nineteen aircraft attacked the target using navigational aids and the raid was reported as well concentrated though results were unobserved owing to 10/10 cloud with tops 10,000 ft covering the target. One aircraft bombed Gelsenkirchen, having been damaged by flak.

Lancaster Mk.I NG113 AA-D (34)
Bomb load 1 x 4,000 H.C., 6 x 1,000 ANM, 6 x 500 G.P.
Primary target Oberhausen.
Second wave well concentrated bombing.

F/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S Leslie Charles Witchard, RAAF AUS.424334 – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 12:24 – Landed 16:08
Flight Time 03:44

05/12/1944 – Attack Against Hamm Marshalling Yards
Twenty one aircraft set out as detailed to attack the Railway Marshalling Yards at Hamm during daylight, carrying 8,000 lb H.C., 4,000 H.C., 500 G.P., 500 G.P. (LD.), 500 M.C., 4 lb I.B. bombs and Munroe bomb. Twenty aircraft attacked the target area through 10/10 cloud but a break in the cloud a little later disclosed bomb bursts to be rather scattered. One aircraft was led astray by the leader, and bombed a last resort target at Heintrop.

Lancaster Mk.I NG113 AA-D (35)
Bomb load 1 x 4,000 H.C., 12 x 500 G.P., 2 x 500 G.P. LD 6hrs
Primary target Hamm M/Y.
Good concentration.

P/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/L Stanley William Galloway, RAFVR 148919 – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 09:09 – Landed 13:50
Flight Time 04:41

06/12/1944 – Attack Against Mersburg Leuna Oil Refinery
Twelve aircraft took off as detailed to participate in a night attack o the Merseburg Leuna Oil Refinery, carrying 8,000 lb, 4,000 H.C., 500 G.P., 500 G.P.(LD) bombs. The target was covered with 10/10 cloud, tops about 14,000 ft and all aircraft were successful in bombing the target with navigational aids. The attack was considered to be concentrated, though bombing results could not be seen, apart from the glow of fires seen beneath the cloud. Flak was intense in the target area and a few enemy fighters were seen en route but no attacks were reported. One aircraft, AA “R” captained by 1585981 F/O D. Atkin, had engine trouble after leaving the target, the starboard inner catching fire, and it was with great difficulty that the crew managed to keep the fire under control. When approaching this country the starboard inner engine went u/s and after jettisoning all equipment and with the aircraft losing height at 100 feet per minute, the Captain made a very good ditching in the River Orwell. None of the crew were hurt.

Lancaster Mk.I NG113 AA-D (36)
Bomb load 1 x 4,000 H.C., 6 x 500 G.P., 2 x 500 G.P.L.D. 6hrs
Primary target Meresburg Oil Refinery.
Fairly good concentration on markers.

P/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/L Stanley William Galloway, RAFVR 148919 – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 17:05 – Landed 00:16
Flight Time 07:11

12/12/1944 – Attack Against Witten
Sixteen aircraft were detailed to attack Witten in daylight and again found their target obscured by ten tenths cloud. Moderate flak was encountered and enemy fighters were seen attacking the first wave of aircraft ahead. No results were observed owing to cloud. The aircraft captained by F/Lt Hannan collided with another aircraft just before reaching the target, however the target was bombed and base reached safely. The a/c captained by F/S Zinzan was damaged in landing and the Air Bomber F/O Mesure sustained a broken leg.

Lancaster Mk.I NG113 AA-D (39)
Bomb load 1 x 4,000 H.C., 14 x 500 G.P., 2 x 500 M.C.
Primary target Witten.
Lead in first wave somewhat scattered due to attack by enemy fighter.

F/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S J. Brown, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 11:19 – Landed 15:54
Flight Time 04:35

21/12/1944 – Attack Against Trier
Fourteen aircraft were detailed to attack the above target in daylight. Crews bombed by instruments in ten tenths cloud. Results were unobserved. NZ42397 F/L I. Hannan landed at Mendlesham on return, but reached Base later the same evening.

Lancaster Mk.I PB132 AA-X (55)
Bomb load 1 x 4,000 H.C., 8 x 500 ANM, 2 x 500 M.C., 6 x 250 G.P.
Primary target Trier.
Gunners saw target through gap, seemed well hit.

F/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S J. Brown, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 12:19 – Landed 16:50
Flight Time 04:31

23/12/1944 – Attack Against Trier
The twenty one aircraft detailed on the 22nd December took off to attack Trier in improved weather conditions, carrying 4,000 H.C., 500 G.P., 500 M.C., 500 ANM., 250 G.P. bombs. The target could be identified visually and T.Is were aimed at by most crews. The attack was reported as being good with very few scattered bombs. Several explosions were seen as our aircraft left the target.

Lancaster Mk.III LM544 AA-J (76)
Bomb load 1 x 4,000 H.C., 8 x 500 ANM, 2 x 500 M.C., 6 x 250 G.P.
Primary target Trier.
Very good concentration of bombs in target area.

F/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
F/S Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S J. Brown, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 11:44 – Landed 16:37
Flight Time 04:53

27/12/1944 – Attack Against Rheydt
As many crews as possible were required for an attack on Cologne. The target was cancelled and an attack on Rheydt was substituted. Inexperienced and special equipment leaders not being required the offer of 26 was reduced to 20. Aircraft took off carrying 1,000 ANM., 500 ANM., 500 M.C. and 250 G.P. Bombs. Visibility over the target was excellent and crews were able to identify the target, the flares being accurately placed. Clouds of smoke were seen to rise from the target. One aircraft AA”Q” captained by NZ421746 F/O H. Miles failed to return. This aircraft was seen to be hit by bombs and to spiral down.

Lancaster Mk.I LM266 AA-F  (49)
Bomb load 6 x 1,000 ANM, 4 x 500 ANM, 2 x 500 M.C., 4 x 250 G.P.
Primary target Rheydt.
Very good concentration of bombing over target. AA-O dropped bombs from 23,000ft. after being directly above for 3 minutes and had to take violent evasive action to avoid being hit.

P/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
F/S Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S J. Brown, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 12:27 – Landed 16:45
Flight Time 04:18

28/12/1944 – Attack Against Gremberg M/Y at Cologne
Twenty one aircraft were detailed to attack the Gremberg Marshalling yard at Cologne carrying 4,000 H.C., 1,000 ANM., 500 ANM., 500 M.C., and 250 G.P. Bombs. Nineteen aircraft bombed the target and one bombed short due to technical failure. One aircraft AA”S” captained by NZ425292 F/O D. Sadgrove returned early owing to engine trouble. Crews were satisfied that the attack was successful, many reporting smoke rising well above the cloud tops. Slight H/F was experienced, but no fighter opposition.

Lancaster Mk.I NG113 AA-D (41)
Bomb load 2 x 1,000 ANM, 15 x 500 ANM.
Primary target Grenberg M/Y.
A bit too concentrated to be safe.

F/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
F/S Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S J. Brown, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 12:15 – Landed 16:58
Flight Time 04:43

31/12/1944 – Attack Against Vohwinkel
Seventeen aircraft were detailed to attack Vohwinkel in daylight. Moderate accurate heavy flak was met over the target, but all aircraft returned safely. A scattered raid was reported.

Lancaster Mk.I PB741 AA-E (16)
Bomb load 1 x 4,000 H.C., 8 x 500 ANM, 2 x 500 M.C. 4 x 250 G.P.
Primary target Vohwinkel.
Generally good but some scattered bombing.

F/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
F/S Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S J. Brown, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 11:44 – Landed 16:23
Flight Time 04:39

01/01/1945 – Attack Against Vohwinkel
Twenty one aircraft were detailed to attack Vohwinkel, in datlight. Nineteen aircraft took off, seventeen of which attacked the primary target. F/O McMillan attacked a last resort target. NZ40984 W/Cdr. R.J. Newton and NZ429286 P/O R. Aitchison as second pilot, failed to return. There was very little opposition in the target area.

Lancaster Mk.I NG113 AA-U (44)
Bomb load 1 x 4,000 H.C., 12 x 500 ANM, 2 x 500 M.C. 4 x 250 T.I.
Primary target Vohwinkel.
Uneventful trip.

F/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
F/S Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S J. Brown, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 16:01 – Landed 21:38
Flight Time 05:37

03/01/1945 – Attack Against Dortmund Oil Refinery
Fourteen aircraft were detailed to attack Dortmund Oil Refineries in daylight. Crews bombed by instruments in ten tenths cloud. Results were unobserved. The aircraft carried 4,000 H.C., 500 M.C. 500 G.P. 500 ANM and Munro bombs. NZ42397 F/L L. Hannan landed at Mendalsham on return, but reached base later the same evening.

Lancaster Mk.I LM266 AA-F (53)
Bomb load 1x 1,000 H.C., 13 x 500 G.P., 2 x 500 M.C. 1 Munro.
Primary target Dortmund oil refinery.
Good concentration on flares.

Hit by flak once (AIR14/ 3463 Damage reports)

F/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
F/S Noel Thorpe, RNZAF NZ428168 – 2nd Pilot.
F/S Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. W. Pugh, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 12:39 – Landed 17:35
Flight Time 04:56

11/01/1945 – Attack Against Krefeld
Nineteen aircraft were detailed to attack Krefeld, carrying 4,000 H.C., 500AMN., 500G.P., 500 M.C., 250 G.P., and Munro bombs. Seventeen aircraft bombed the target in tenths cloud with special equipment and two aircraft bombed last resort. Slight H/F was met over the target, but no fighters were seen.

Lancaster Mk.I NG113 AA-D (48)
Bomb load 1 x 4,000 H.C., 8 x 500 M.C., 4 x 250 G.P., 1 x 350 Munroe.
Primary target Krefeld.
Fairly good bombing around flares.

F/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
F/S Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S D. Brazier , RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 11:34 – Landed 16:46
Flight Time 05:12

13/01/1945 – Attack Against Saarbrucken
Eighteen of nineteen aircraft detailed carried out a successful daylight attack on Saarbrucken Marshalling Yard, carrying 4,000 H.C., 500AMN., 500G.P., 500 M.C., 250 G.P., and Munro bombs. W/Cdr Baigent in ‘A’ had to return with his full load after reaching the target owing to technical trouble which prevented release of bombs. Crews bombed on special equipment. The Marshalling Yard was visible and many bursts were seen on the target. No opposition reported. All aircraft were diverted owing to bad visibility at Base.

Lancaster Mk.I NG113 AA-D (49)
Bomb load 1 x 4,000 H.C., 7 x 500 ANM, 4 x 250 G.P., 1 x 350 Munroe.
Primary target Saarbrucken.
A very good attack. Blue markers a great improvement.

P/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
F/S Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
W/O John Smyrk, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 11:31 – Landed 17:14
Flight Time 05:43

15/01/1945 – Attack Against Langendreer
Eighteen aircraft were detailed to attack Langendreer, carrying 4,000 H.C., 500AMN., 500 M.C., 250 G.P., and Munro bombs. One aircraft ‘D’ captained by F/O Leadley failed to reach the target owing to starboard inner engine failing. No results were observed owing to ten tenths cloud. Flak was slight over the target. No fighter opposition was encountered.

Lancaster Mk.I NG113 X AA-D (1)
Bomb load 1 x 4,000 H.C., 9 x 500 ANM, 2 x 500 M.C., 4 x 250 G.P. 1 x 350 Munroe.
Primary target Langendreer, but abortive.
Furthest point reached 5027/0530 E 14:14hrs 16,000ft. Bombs jettisoned, stbd. inner failed.

Confirmed in Don Day’s logbook – ‘Engine failiure – returned’

F/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
F/S Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
P/O F. Power – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 11:31 – Landed 17:02
Flight Time 05:31

16/01/1945 – Attack Against Wanne Eickel
Seventeen aircraft attacked Wanne Hickel in ten tenths cloud, tops 6/7000 feet, carrying 4,000 H.C., 500 G.P. 500 ANM, 500 M.C. 250 G.P. and Munro bombs. Crews bombed with the aid of instruments and sky markers. Flak was moderate. The general impression was that bombing was concentrated on markers and red glow seen through cloud. The aircraft captained by NZ426235 F/S Wood, J, was attacked by a F.W. 190. The rear gunner opened fire, but no hits were observed and our aircraft suffered no damage. The aircraft captained by NZ414376 F/L T. Blewett unfortunately crashed in this country. The captain and Air Bomber NZ426234 F/O J. Wilson were killed. The Navigator 1398282 F/S Cornell, B.T. died later as a result of severe injuries.

Lancaster Mk.I PB763 AA-A (18)
Bomb load 1 x 4,000 H.C., 10 x 500 G.P, 2 x 500 M.C., 2 x 250 G.p, 1 x Munroe.
Primary target Wanne Eickel.
Bombing scattered – saw red glow – S/L followed stream in and out this side of front line.

Hit by flak twice (AIR14/3463 Damage Reports)

F/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
F/S Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
F/S D. Brazier , RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:35 – Landed 04:09
Flight Time 04:34
28/01/1945 – Attack Against Cologne (Gremberg)
Twenty aircraft attacked Cologne (Gremberg) as ordered, carrying 4,000 H.C., 500 ANM., 500 M.C. “50 G.P. and Munro bombs. Cloud broke to nil just before the target and crews were able to identify the marshalling yard. Accurate slight to moderate H/F was met over the target. No fighters were seen. Bursts were seen on the marshalling yard. All returned to base.

Lancaster Mk.I NG113 AA-D (50)
Bomb load 1 x 4,000 H.C., 8 x 500 ANM, 2 x 500 M.C., 2 x 250 G.P, 1 Munro.
Cologne (Gremburg).
Target seemed to get a good plastering with tendency to overshoot.

Hit by Flak twice (AIR14/3463 Damage Reports)

P/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
F/S Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. W.E. Campin, RAFVR 1673010 – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 10:20 – Landed 16:24
Flight Time 06:04

29/01/1945 – Attack Against Krefeld M/Y
Nineteen aircraft attacked Krefeld marshalling yard in ten tenths cloud, carrying 4,000 H.C., 500 ANM., 500 M.C., and 250 G.P. Bombs. Aircraft bombed in formation with the aid of instruments. A good concentration was reported. Slight H/F over the target was the only opposition encountered.

Lancaster Mk.III PB418 AA-G (63)
Bomb load 1 x 4,000 H.C., 9 x 500 ANM, 2 x 500 M.C., 4 x 250 G.P.
Primary target Krefeld M/Y.
Other aircraft were bearing through the target and upset the formation after owing to slipstream.

F/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
F/S Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. W.E. Campin, RAFVR 1673010 – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 10:02 – Landed 15:40
Flight Time 05:38

01/02/1945 – Attack Against Munchen Gladbach
Seventeen aircraft bomber Munchen Gladbach. No results were observed owing to cloud being ten tenths over the target.

Lancaster Mk.I NG113 AA-D (51)
Bomb load 1x 4,000 H.C., 9 x 500 ANM, 2 x 500 M.C., 3 x 250 G.P., 1 x 240 Smoke Puff.
Primary target Munchen Gladbach.
Seemed a scattered affair. Blue puffs over a wide area. A shakey port inner which caught fire on way home was cause of low maximum height.

F/O Donald Percy Leadley, RNZAF NZ427062 – Pilot.
F/S Donald Arthur Day, RAFVR 1602082 – Navigator.
F/S Robert A. ‘Bob’ Gill, RAFVR 1292170 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. W.E. Campin, RAFVR 1673010 – Wireless Operator.
F/S R. Clare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Phillip Baden Baker, RNZAF NZ416976 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Keith Kitchener Heslop, RNZAF NZ425422 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 12:36 – Landed 18:19
Flight Time 05:43

 

2nd right Brother Daves wedding

Don stood second from right on his Brother, Dave’s wedding day. © Peter Day

 

Bill Pridmore, Air Gunner – Blewitt crew

It is with great sadness that I must report the passing of Bill Pridmore, Air Gunner with the Blewett crew who passed away recently on the 6th of October.

Bill was one of 4 members of the crew who survived a crash on the return from the 17th of January 1945 from a raid on Wanne Eickel, claiming the lives of the Pilot, Tim Blewitt,  Johnny Wilson, the Air Bomber and after succumbing to his injuries, the crew’s navigator Bryant Cornell.

Ake Ake KIa Kaha

The Blewett crew – John Smyrk Wireless Operator.

I was contacted by Phil last week regarding his father John Smyrk, who was Wireless Operator  with the Blewett crew. John and the rest of the Blewett crew arrived at Mepal on the 6th of December. He had previously flown with 150 Squadron in North Africa.

The Blewit Crew;
F/Lt. Terence Douglas ‘Tim’ Blewett, RNZAF NZ414376. Pilot.
6 Dec 1944 to 17 Jan 1945. Died Wednesday 17 January 1945, age 26. His aircraft crashed at Woodditton, Suffolk, England on return from a raid on a benzol oil plant at Wanne- Eickel, Germany. Buried Cambridge City Cemetery, England.

F/Sgt Bryant Thomas Cornell RAFVR 1398282  Navigator.
6th December 1944 to 18th January 1945. Seriously injured 17th January 1945. Died Thursday 18th January 1945, age 22. Buried Southgate Cemetery, England.

F/O John Stanley ‘Johnny’ Wilson, RNZAF NZ426234 Air Bomber.
6th December 1944 to 17th January 1945. Died Wednesday 17th January 1945, age 34.

W/O John Smyrk RAFVR. Wireless Operator.
6th December 1944 to injured 17th January 1945.

Sgt Ronald Hunwicks RAFVR Flight Engineer.
6th Dec 1944 to seriously injured 17th  Jan 1945.

Sgt Kenneth Hollins RAFVR 2221435 Mid Upper & Rear Gunner.
6th December 1944 to 17th January.

Sgt William H Pridmore RAFVR Rear then Mid Upper Gunner.
6th December 1944 to injured 17th January.

Crew Operational History.
11.12.44 Tim Blewit completes ‘2nd Dickie’ op with Yates crew  Attack against  Osterfeld.
12.12.44 Attack against Witten PB761 AA-Y
16.12.44 Attack against Siegen PB761 AA-Y
21.12.44 Attack against Trier PB761 AA-Y
23.12.44 Attack against Trier PB761 AA-Y
27.12.44 Attack against Rheydt PB427 AA-U
28.12.44 Attack against Grenberg Marshalling Yards, Cologne PB761 AA-Y
31.12.44 Attack against Vohwinkel HK563 JN-W
1.1.45 Attack against Vohwinkel PB761 AA-Y
3.1.45 Attack against Dortmund Oil Refinery PB761 AA-Y
5.1.45 Attack against Ludgishaven PB761 AA-Y
7/8.1.45 Attack against Munich PB761 AA-Y
11.1.45 Attack against Krefeld PB761 AA-Y
15.1.45 Attack against Langrendreer PB761 AA-Y
16/17.1.45 Attack against Wanne-Eickel PB761 AA-Y. Crashed on return.

from the Squadron ORB;
The aircraft captained  by NZ414376 FLT. Blewett unfortunately crashed in this country. The captain and Air Bomber NZ426234 F/O. J. Wilson were killed and the Navigator 1398282 F/S. Cornell died as a result of injuries.

The following details regarding the crash can be found here;
Taken from notes written by Felix Bailey, deceased.

“On the night of January 17th 1945, a Lancaster bomber from 75 squadron 3 group was returning from a bombing raid over Germany. It was in serious trouble, and hit the old Suffolk thatched barn behind Hill Farmhouse. The telephone and electric wires were severed in its wake.

It left one engine in the thatch of the barn, and then veered right, ploughing through the field which was meadow land. Shedding parts of the plane as it went, ammunition, fuel and all sorts of debris was sent tumbling about, knocking down the out-houses behind Hill Cottage and a corner of the cottage. The main fuselage finished up nose across the road, its tail broken off so you could stand on the bank and look into it. One engine was catapulted onto the farm land beyond the road.

A fire started and the people living in Hill Cottage, which was two houses, could not get out. Very flare lights started to go up. Mr Gent leapt out of bed, fumbled for his trousers, as he ran to help. It was dark and he kept falling over little heaps of hedge trimmings that had been piled up after hedge cutting ready for burning.

He was first on the scene. He climbed up the bank beside the cottage and fell over something. It was an airman. As the airman sat up he spoke “My mate’s gone for help”.

His mate was the gunner, who in his turret had got thrown clear. He ran down the road – the first house he came to he could get no help. He then arrived at Hall Farm. Knocking so hard on the door that he smashed a pane of glass. He eventually raised the occupants and was given help. Mrs Savage and her two sons lived in Hall Farmhouse at the time. Her husband was in the army in Italy.

 Back at the crash site, Mr Gent managed to find a torch and he bent down to help the airman on the ground and noticed both his feet were missing. He managed to find a parachute to wrap the airman up in.

Bill Cook and Eric Simpson arrived. They started to try and get the occupants out of the cottage. The fire engine arrived and they got Shim Howe out. His tunic was on fire. Hasby Howe was clutching his cash box (he worked for Cooper Bland). The Ambulance arrived from Ely. Mr Reeve, the Hill Farm foreman arrived. All these people wanted tea. The police promised to return the next day with extra coupons to replace the tea but they never did.

When daylight came and the people who worked at Hill Farm came to work they found the carthorse still feeding in the yard beside the battered barn and an engine hanging in the thatch”.

I found more information in ‘Luck and a Lancaster’ by Harry Yates – Tim Blewett flew his 2nd Dickie flight with Harry and his crew;

“As luck would have it, we also had a 2nd Dickie with us. Flying Officer T.D. Blewitt was atall but slight, quiet mannered New Zealander. He had waited 5 days for this. Now, at last, he was getting started. But here was little sign of the pounding heart and sweating palms that I was sure Messers Aitken & Co. would have divined in me back on 8th August. My strongest impression of Tim, for that was his name, was how self assure he was. I could only wish him 30 trips that did nothing to alter that, the least remarkable of them Osterfeld today.”

Then in the Epilogue at the end of the book……

“Tim Blewitt, the middle of our initiatives, died in the early hours of 17th January 1945. The previous evening Tim and his crew had boarded PB761 Y-Yoke, the kite in which the boys and I had taken him to Osterfeld. The target this time was a Benzol plant at Wanne-Eickel.They bombed successfully but came down on the journey home at Wood-Ditton in Suffolk. Tim and his Bomb Aimer were killed on impact. Y-Yoke quickly became an inferno. the surviving crew members dragged the navigator clear but he was beyond help and succumbed in hospital 2 days later.

The cause of the crash was pilot error.In the official accident report Tim’s relative unfamiliarity with night flying was cited as a contributory factor. This seemed a harsh and convenient judgement to me.Immediately prior to the Wanne-Eickel raid Tim and his crew had twice experienced the tensions of briefing, gearing up and the long wait at dispersal only for control to call them back. One can only guess at their feelings as they climbed aboard for a third time in 21 hours.

A few days after this event I returned from leave to collect my remaining possessions and be signed off by Mac Baigent. I found that my treasured American flying jacket was missing. Tim had ‘borrowed’ it that night. I couldn’t resent the fact, of course. I’d just wished it had bought him some luck.”

Personally, I think the official decision of ‘pilot error’ is harsh – Tim and the boys were almost half way through their tour.

John Smyrk passed away in 2011