Tag Archives: Lyndon Oliver Sims

St. Helens Cemetery, Lancashire – F/S Derek Arthur Holt RAFVR 1217084. Whitkirk Cemetery, Leeds – Sgt. Ronald Smith RAFVR 1239376

D A Holt

It’s perhaps with the benefit of a delay, I have had time to do a bit of listing and planning and I realise after the gathering of these 2 headstones that Derek and Ronald were both killed in the same crew. The mechanics of the summer planning regarding my various trips to cemeteries was, perhaps inevitably, based entirely on opportunistic proximity or random opportunity to visit as many cemeteries as I could.

As I say, on realising these boys flew in the same crew, and having already started the post for Derek – it seemed more sensible and perhaps also, respectful to post them together.

The last post you have already digested, dear reader sees us leaving Selby Cemetery and heading off to Whitkirk Cemetery, just outside of Leeds to find Ronald Smiths headstone – I ask you to first suspend disbelief as we jump back a number weeks to pick me up leaving Liverpool Ford Cemetery……………

After the relatively time consuming search for Edward Appleton’s gravestone in Liverpool Ford Cemetery, it was a relatively quick sprint over to St. Helens Cemetery to find Derek Holt’s grave.

Mercifully, a very clear map at the entrance allowed me to locate the approximate position of the grave, though the decision no to take a picture of it meant i got half way there before walking all the way back down again to the map to do what I should have done first time around…….

Again, a check of all Commonwealth headstones in the vicinity proved it was a search for another family grave. Quite quickly a ‘Holt’ stone presented itself, but no instantly obvious reference to F/S Holt……….

family stone

Moving closer to try to understand the apparent absence of F/S Holt, my heart sank a little when, peering down between the headstone and the rather larger block of stone in front of it that in fact F/S Holt’s details were almost completely obscured by the stone……

gap

SO, whilst the image at the top of this post is not perfect, given the circumstances – I’m glad I live in a digital camera/ Photoshop world – wet film would have not allowed the final result.

DSC02814

The second ‘major’ expedition to gather headstone images presented itself when I had to drive over to Grimsby to pick up Bev from a stay at her Mothers. Plotting a course back from Grimsby to Cheshire suggested that on paper at least a number of cemeteries could be visited. As I have mentioned in previous posts on this projects there is a band of cemeteries that run from the North East to the North West coast – Edward Appleton’s and Derek Holts’ graves framing the left hand side of the map.

Other details of this ultimately over ambitious trip will be recorded in later (or perhaps now, previous posts….)|posts – suffice to say, the vast majority of the journey on A roads and torrential/ storm rain for half the journey made going tougher than expected – though the endeavour of recording the gravestones of boys, half my age, who made the ultimate sacrifice , makes any dampness or arguments a moot point….

Sgt. Ronald Smith lays in Whitkirk Church Cemetery, outside of Leeds. As I have already noted, the act of locating a headstone is remarkably accelerated if you know its a CWGC stone. If its not, you have a search on your hands – and if its raining what feels like a much longer one. In total 3 passes of the graveyard was necessary before, as usual, Bev found it.

Derek and Ronald were two of 6 of George Kerr’s crew who were killed on return from a Gardening OP to the East Coast of Denmark on the 1st of December 1943.

Sgt. George Kerr and his crew arrived at Mepal on the 16th 0f September 1943.
The Kerr crew’s Op history is as follows:

22/09/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Hanover
Twenty aircraft were detailed to carry out the above attacks with bombs of 1,000lb. and incendiaries of 30lb. and 4lb.. Three aircraft returned early, but the remainder dropped their bombs in the target area. This was a very successful and concentrated attack. Numerous fires which appeared to be merging into one large fire were seen, and were still visible as the aircraft were returning over the DUTCH Coast. Heavy A.A. fire and a great number of searchlights were encountered, but proved ineffective. Several enemy aircraft were seen and one of our Stirlings was hit, but the attacker was not seen, damage was received to the tail and main plane, and the port petrol tanks were punctured. The aircraft, however, was safely flown back to base and a crash landing was made with three engines. It was clear over the target and visibility was excellent. Navigation was very good.

Stirling Mk.III EE897 AA-G

F/O Norman Clarence Bruce Wilson, RNZAF NZ417139 – Pilot.
Sgt. George John Stewart Kerr, RAFVR 1558163 – 2nd Pilot.
F/O Thomas Lodge, RNZAF NZ417284 – Navigator.
P/O Alfred Thomas Dance, RNZAF NZ42495 – Air Bomber.
F/S Ronald Charlton, RAFVR 644136 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Raymond Walter John Stratton, RAFVR 1166593 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Leonard Charles Gaskin, RAFVR 1392668 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/O Donald Arthur Laycock, RAFVR 1457004/ 130451 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 19:20 – Landed 02:00
Flight Time 06:40

24/09/1943 – Mining in the Frisian Islands
Two aircraft were detailed to carry out the above operation with mines of 1,500lb., which were successfully dropped in the allotted area and the parachutes were seen to open. No A.A. fire, searchlights, or enemy aircraft were encountered. 8/10ht cloud and intermittent rain were prevalent in the mining area, although visibility was fairly good. Navigation was very good.

Stirling Mk.III EF512 AA-A

Sgt. George John Stewart Kerr, RAFVR 1558163 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Frank Wort, RAFVR 1585034 – Navigator.
Sgt. Ronald Smith, RAFVR 1239376 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Derek Arthur Holt, RAFVR 1217087 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Leonard George Copsey, RAFVR 1691471 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. George William Thomas Lucas, RAFVR 1250557 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Kenneth Gordon Hook, RAFVR 1335989 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 19:20 – Landed 22:45
Flight Time 03:25

27/09/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Hanover
Sixteen aircraft were detailed to attack the above targets with incendiary bombs of 30lb. and 4 lb. Two aircraft failed to return and one returned early owing to its rear turret being unserviceable. The remainder dropped their bombs in the target area. This was an exceedingly successful and well concentrated attack, considered to be even better than the previous one. Numerous large fires and columns of smoke rising to 12,000ft., were seen and the fires were again visible at the DUTCH coast. Very moderate, ineffective heavy A.A. Fire numerous searchlights and flares were encountered. Many enemy aircraft were seen and several combats took place. The aircraft captained by F.Sgt. HORGAN, D. had a combat with a JU88 which was claimed to be destroyed. The aircraft captained by F/Sgt. BURTON, H., sighted a JU88 and the Rear Gunner fired, it was then seen to fall in flames and was claimed as destroyed. Two other short combats took place and one of our aircraft received slight damage. The weather was poor on the outward and return journeys, but good with clear visibility over the target. Navigation was very good. The missing aircraft were Stirlings Mk.III, EF515 captained by Sgt. Martin, R., and EH877 captained by F/Sgt. WHITMORE, R.

Stirling Mk.III EF514 AA-?

P/O John Milward Mee, RNZAF NZ416518 – Pilot.
Sgt. George John Stewart Kerr, RAFVR 1558163 – 2nd Pilot.
F/S David Percy Bain, RNZAF NZ415814 – Navigator.
F/S David Newbury Luxton, RNZAF NZ414310 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. R. Haydon, RAFVR 1384978 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. S. Allan, RAFVR 1558635 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. J.D. Sofrin, RAFVR 1493880 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Richard Arthur Webb, RAFVR 1473046 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 19:40 – Landed 00:40
Flight Time 05:00

 03/10/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Kassel
Fifteen aircraft were detailed to attack the above targets with incendiary bombs of 30lbs. and 4lbs. One aircraft returned early as the Navigator was ill, but the remainder successfully dropped their bombs in the target area. This was a good concentrated attack, large fires and heavy explosions being seen. Moderate A.A. Fire was encountered, which was ineffective except for one aircraft which received damage. This aircraft was captained by F/Sgt. N. PARKER, damage was received to the starboard elevator , starboard tail plane and the rear turret war partly shot away. The rear gunner Sgt. S.W. RIDDLER was lost over the target when the rear turret was damaged. It is considered that he may have baled out as the escape hatch was found to be open. The aircraft successfully landed at WING. Very few enemy aircraft were seen. It was clear at the target, but slight haze was encountered on the return journey. Navigation was very good.

Stirling Mk.III EF465 AA-H

Sgt. George John Stewart Kerr, RAFVR 1558163 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Frank Wort, RAFVR 1585034 – Navigator.
Sgt. Ronald Smith, RAFVR 1239376 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Derek Arthur Holt, RAFVR 1217087 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Leonard George Copsey, RAFVR 1691471 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Kenneth Gordon Hook, RAFVR 1335989 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. George William Thomas Lucas, RAFVR 1250557 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 18:45 – Landed 00:45
Flight Time 06:00

04/10/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Frankfurt
Thirteen aircraft were detailed to attack the above targets with incendiary bombs of 30lb. and 4lbs. Three aircraft returned early and one failed to return. This was a good attack, ten aircraft successfully dropped their bombs in the target area. Very good concentrated fires and enormous explosions being seen, the fires were still visible on the homeward journey. A.A. Fire was negligible, there were many search lights which were cooperating with enemy night-fighters. The aircraft captained by S/Ldr. J.JOLL had a combat with a M.E. 109, which was claimed as possibly damaged. The weather was poor on the outward and return journeys, but clear over the target, visibility was good except for smoke haze. Navigation was very good. The missing aircraft was captained by SGT. H.J. MIDDLETON.

Stirling Mk.III EF465 AA-H

Sgt. George John Stewart Kerr, RAFVR 1558163 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Frank Wort, RAFVR 1585034 – Navigator.
Sgt. Ronald Smith, RAFVR 1239376 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Derek Arthur Holt, RAFVR 1217087 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Leonard George Copsey, RAFVR 1691471 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Kenneth Gordon Hook, RAFVR 1335989 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. George William Thomas Lucas, RAFVR 1250557 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 18:50 – Landed 21:35
Flight Time 02:45

08/10/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Bremen
Twelve aircraft were detailed to attack the above targets with bombs of 1,000 lbs., 500lbs., and indendiaries of 30lbs. and 4lbs. All of the aircraft successfully dropped their bombs in the target area. Results were rather disappointing as owing to thick cloud, it was not possible to assess damage. Very few fires were seen and only one large explosion was observed. Slight ineffective A.A, Fire was encountered. Searchlights were active but hampered by cloud. Several combats with enemy aircraft took place. The aircraft captained by F/SGT. SPIERS, R. claimed a M.E. 109 as probably destroyed and a M.E. 110 as damaged. Another M.E. 109 was claimed as damaged by the aircraft captained by P/O o. WHITE. Navigation was very good.

Stirling Mk.III BF461 JN-B

Sgt. George John Stewart Kerr, RAFVR 1558163 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Frank Wort, RAFVR 1585034 – Navigator.
Sgt. Ronald Smith, RAFVR 1239376 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Derek Arthur Holt, RAFVR 1217087 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Leonard George Copsey, RAFVR 1691471 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Kenneth Gordon Hook, RAFVR 1335989 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. George William Thomas Lucas, RAFVR 1250557 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:10 – Landed 04:10
Flight Time 05:00

19/11/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Leverkusen
Sixteen aircraft were detailed to attack the above target with bombs of 2,000lbs, 1,000 lbs and incendiaries of 30 lbs and 4lbs. One aircraft failed to return, but the remainder successfully dropped their bombs in the target area. Except for one vivid  red flash seen through the clouds, little results were observed. Heavy and medium A.A. Fire co-operating with Searchlights was encountered, but caused negligible damage. Some enemy aircraft were seen and a few combats took place but no damage was sustained by our aircraft. The aircraft  captained be F/S R.Hunt met a J.U.88 which attacked his aircraft, the fire was returned and strikes were seen on the enemy aircraft. Our aircraft was then attacked by a FW190, the first was returned but the enemy aircraft disappeared. The weather was poor, being ten-tenths cloud over the target, there was also a fog at base which necessitated the aircraft landing at BRADWELL BAY on return. Navigation was very good. The missing aircraft was captained by F/Sgt. N. PARKER.

Stirling Mk.III EH880 AA-J

Sgt. George John Stewart Kerr, RAFVR 1558163 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Frank Wort, RAFVR 1585034 – Navigator.
Sgt. Ronald Smith, RAFVR 1239376 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Derek Arthur Holt, RAFVR 1217087 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Leonard George Copsey, RAFVR 1691471 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Kenneth Gordon Hook, RAFVR 1335989 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. George William Thomas Lucas, RAFVR 1250557 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 17:12 – Landed 21:49
Flight Time 04:37

01/12/1943 – Mining off the East Coast of Denmark
Three aircraft were detailed to carry out the above operation with mines of 1,500lb. Two of the aircraft successfully dropped their mines in the allotted area, but the parachutes were not seen to open owing to ten tenths cloud. Some heavy A.A. Fire was encountered, but caused negligible opposition. Visibility was poor in the mining area. Navigation was very good. On returning the aircraft captained by SGT. F/SGT.G.J.KERR crashed whilst attempting to land at R.A.F. Station ACKLINGTON. The aircraft crashed into a house and all of the crew were killed, except for the Mid Upper Gunner SGT. K.G.HOOK who was seriously injured. In addition to the crew, five children who were in the house were killed and their parents were admitted to Hospital.

Stirling Mk.III EH880 AA-J

F/S George John Stewart Kerr, RAFVR 1558163 – Pilot.
Sgt. Donald Frank Wort, RAFVR 1585034 – Navigator.
Sgt. Ronald Smith, RAFVR 1239376 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Derek Arthur Holt, RAFVR 1217087 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Leonard George Copsey, RAFVR 1691471 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Kenneth Gordon Hook, RAFVR 1335989 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. George William Thomas Lucas, RAFVR 1250557 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 15:16 – Landed 22:40
Flight Time 07:24

It would appear that owing to low visibility because of fog, the aircraft undershot the runway and crashed into the second story of Cliff House Farm. All the crew were killed except for the the Mid Upper Gunner, Sgt. Kenneth Hook, who escaped, but suffered serious burns. Tragically, also killed in the impact were all 5 children of the Robson family.

“Aircraft Crash on Farmhouse. Family of five young children killed.

Five children – all their family – of Mr and Mrs W. Robson were killed when an Aircraft crashed into Cliff House, a small dairy farm near Amble, Northumberland, on Wednesday night. The children’s ages ranged from one to nine years. They were sleeping in an upstairs room.

The mother and father, who with two friends Mr. and Mrs Rowell of Dilston [Terrace] Amble, were sitting in a downstairs room, were injured but not seriously. One of the crew of the aircraft, a gunner, was saved by Mr. Rowell.

Mr Rowell said last night: “We did not realize what had happened until the house collapsed above our heads. We managed to stand up, bruised and badly dazed, and, looking upward we saw the sky. Mrs Robson tried to make her way towards the stairs, which had been blown away. My wife called my attention to a burning object outside which was moving about.  We rushed over and found it was a gunner with his clothes alight. Mr Rowell rolled the airman on the ground to extinguish the burning clothes. Although badly burned, the gunner was alive.

The children’s partly charred bodies were recovered later.”

Extract from ‘The Times’ Newspaper, published 3rd December 1943

Despite Kenneth Hooks injuries, he returned to the Squadron and continued to fly:

15/02/1944 – Mining in the Mouth of River Ardour
Six aircraft dropped mines of 1500 lbs in the mouth of the river Adour. The visibility was excellent and all crews reported a successful operation. Photographs taken show the aiming point in three cases, and the factory is covered in two more. Unfortunately the sixth aircraft did not carry a photo-flash bomb. The Bomb Development Unit have, however, got the evidence from which to calculate where the mines dropped.

Stirling Mk.III LK378 ??-?

P/O Colin Roy Baker, RNZAF NZ42999 – Pilot.
F/S Charles Le Gallals Gardner, RNZAF NZ425204 – Navigator.
F/S Raymond Alexander Ramsay, RNZAF NZ416866 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. G. Marden, RAFVR 1585273 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. R. Conner, RAFVR 1603909 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Kenneth Gordon Hook, RAFVR 1335989 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. R. Cornish, RAFVR 1280506 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:35 – Landed 06:30
Flight Time 06:55

20/02/1944 – Mining off Morlaix
Two aircraft were detailed to lay mines of 1,500 lbs in the channels leading to Morlaix. They both completed their tasks without incident.

Stirling Mk.III EF454 ??-A

P/O Colin Roy Baker, RNZAF NZ42999 – Pilot.
F/S Charles Le Gallals Gardner, RNZAF NZ425204 – Navigator.
F/S Raymond Alexander Ramsay, RNZAF NZ416866 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. G. Marden, RAFVR 1585273 – Wireless Operator .
F/L Lyndon Oliver Sims, RAFVR 148590 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Kenneth Gordon Hook, RAFVR 1335989 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. R. Cornish, RAFVR 1280506 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 18:45 – Landed 22:35
Flight Time 03:50

25/02/1944 – Mining in Baltic Sea
Fifteen aircraft were detailed to lay mines of 1500 lbs, south of Zealand, an island in the Baltic Sea. Thirteen aircraft completed their mission successfully. The weather was good with excellent visibility. One aircraft (Captain NZ421803 F/Sgt. Willis W.) encountered six JU.88s, four of which fired short bursts, our rear gunner and mid-upper gunner returning fire. Our aircraft was not damaged and no claims were made on the enemy aircraft. Two aircraft returned early with engine trouble.

Stirling Mk.III EE958 ??-V

P/O Colin Roy Baker, RNZAF NZ42999 – Pilot.
F/S Charles Le Gallals Gardner, RNZAF NZ425204 – Navigator.
F/S Raymond Alexander Ramsay, RNZAF NZ416866 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. G. Marden, RAFVR 1585273 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. W. Thompson   not listed?, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Kenneth Gordon Hook, RAFVR 1335989 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. R. Cornish, RAFVR 1280506 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 19:40 – Landed 03:05
Flight Time 07:25

10/03/1944 – Special Operations – March Moon Period MONGREL 6 (SUCCESSFUL)
Operation MONGREL 6 (Successful).
   The m/n crew in Stirling III ‘J’ took off at 20.53 hours. The target was reached at 00.17 hours and pin pointed. The reception letter was flashed very quickly and twelve containers were dropped from 300′ at 00.29 hrs. The weather was very good. Course was set for Base at 00.30 hours, two packages being dropped in the Chambery area. The aircraft, without further incident, landed at Base at 04.20 hours.

Stirling Mk.III EF236 AA-J

P/O Colin Roy Baker, RNZAF NZ42999 – Pilot.
F/S Charles Le Gallals Gardner, RNZAF NZ425204 – Navigator.
P/O Raymond Alexander Ramsay, RNZAF NZ416866 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. G. Marden, RAFVR 1585273 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. R. Hughes, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Kenneth Gordon Hook, RAFVR 1335989 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt R. Cornish, RAFVR 1280506 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 20:53 – Landed 04:20
Flight Time 07:27

13/03/1944 – Mining off Brest
Sixteen aircraft were detailed for mine laying off St. Nazaire, Lorient, La Rochelle, and Brest. One aircraft (Captain NZ414567 F/Sgt. Rowberry T.) failed to return. Another aircraft (Captain NZ42999 P/O. C. Baker) returned early with aileron trouble and crashed at Castle Comb, without injury to the crew although the aircraft was burnt out. The remaining fourteen successfully laid their mines, one aircraft landing at Woodbridge on return.

Stirling Mk.III EF236 AA-J

P/O Colin Roy Baker, RNZAF NZ42999 – Pilot.
F/S Charles Le Gallals Gardner, RNZAF NZ425204 – Navigator.
P/O Raymond Alexander Ramsay, RNZAF NZ416866 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. G. Marden, RAFVR 1585273 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. R. Hughes, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Kenneth Gordon Hook, RAFVR 1335989 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt R. Cornish, RAFVR 1280506 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off – – Landed –
Flight Time no record

16/03/1944 – Attack Against Targets at Amiens
12 aircraft were detailed to attack the marshalling yards at Amiens. One aircraft was withdrawn and one, being unable to maintain height owing to engine trouble, was forced to jettison near the target. The remaining ten aircraft successfully bombed the target although haze prevented identification of ground detail. No fighter opposition was encountered, and only very slight A.A. Fire.

Stirling Mk.III EF137 AA-E

P/O Colin Roy Baker, RNZAF NZ42999 – Pilot.
F/S Charles Le Gallals Gardner, RNZAF NZ425204 – Navigator.
P/O Raymond Alexander Ramsay, RNZAF NZ416866 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. G. Marden, RAFVR 1585273 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. R. Hughes, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Kenneth Gordon Hook, RAFVR 1335989 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt R. Cornish, RAFVR 1280506 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 20:15 – Landed 00:10
Flight Time 03:55

20/04/1944 – Attack Against Cologne
Nine Lancaster aircraft were detailed to attack Cologne, of which one failed to take off and one returned early owing to the illness of the wireless operator. The remainder successfully completed their mission.

Lancaster Mk.I LL865 ??-?

P/O Colin Roy Baker, RNZAF NZ42999 – Pilot.
F/S Charles Le Gallals Gardner, RNZAF NZ425204 – Navigator.
P/O Raymond Alexander Ramsay, RNZAF NZ416866 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. G. Marden, RAFVR 1585273 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. R. Hughes, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Kenneth Gordon Hook, RAFVR 1335989 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. R. Cornish, RAFVR 1280506 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 00:20 – Landed 04:00
Flight Time 03:40

19/05/1944 – Attack Against Le Mans
Twenty for aircraft successfully bombed the marshalling yards at Le Mans. Good results being reported.

Lancaster Mk.I LL921 AA-E

P/O Colin Roy Baker, RNZAF NZ42999 – Pilot.
F/S Charles Le Gallals Gardner, RNZAF NZ425204 – Navigator.
F/O Raymond Alexander Ramsay, RNZAF NZ416866 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. G. Marden, RAFVR 1585273 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. W. P. Watson, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Kenneth Gordon Hook, RAFVR 1335989 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. R. Cornish, RAFVR 1280506 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:15 – Landed 03:00
Flight Time 04:45

21/05/1944 – Attack Against Duisberg
Twenty five aircraft took off to attack Duisburg, of which twenty one attacked the primary target. Three returned early with various technical failures and one failed to return (Captain NZ421803 P/O. W. Willis). Another aircraft (Captain AUS413157 P/O. A. Humphreys) was attacked by an enemy fighter and the navigator 1438903 F/Sgt. Hill, A. was injured, the aircraft also being damaged.

Lancaster Mk.I ME752 AA-E

P/O Colin Roy Baker, RNZAF NZ42999 – Pilot.
F/S Charles Le Gallals Gardner, RNZAF NZ425204 – Navigator.
F/O Raymond Alexander Ramsay, RNZAF NZ416866 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. G. Marden, RAFVR 1585273 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. W. P. Watson, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Kenneth Gordon Hook, RAFVR 1335989 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. R. Cornish, RAFVR 1280506 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:10 – Landed 03:40
Flight Time 04:30

22/05/1944 – Attack Against Dortmund
Twenty three aircraft were detailed to attack Dortmund of which eighteen completed their mission successfully. Three aircraft returned early and two failed to return (Captains NZ417016 P/O. E. Burke and NZ42354 P/O. C. Armstrong). The raid was well concentrated and carried out in good weather with excellent visibility. One aircraft had an inconclusive combat with a JU 88. Otherwise the operation was uneventful.

Lancaster Mk.I LL866 AA-S Sugar

P/O Robert Albert ‘Popsy’ Potts, RAAF AUS.415353 – Pilot.
F/S Dudley Joe Hall, RNZAF NZ426996 – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Edwin Fletcher, RNZAF NZ427195 – Air Bomber.
F/S George Wilks, RAFVR 1601175 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. W. Andrews, RAFVR 1129988 – Flight Engineer.
F/S Elmer Roy Kanenen, RCAF R.178271 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Kenneth Gordon Hook, RAFVR 1335989 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:50 – Landed 02:50
Flight Time 04:00

05/06/1944 – Attack Against Ouistreham
The target for No.3 Group was the coastal battery at Ouistreham in N. France. This target, and others in the same area were attacked by strong forces of Bomber Command aircraft immediately prior to the Anglo-American Invasion of the Continent. Twenty six aircraft from this Squadron participated and all were successful in bombing their target with the aid of markers. Opposition was very slight.

Lancaster Mk.I LL866 AA-S Sugar

P/O Robert Albert ‘Popsy’ Potts, RAAF AUS.415353 – Pilot.
F/S Dudley Joe Hall, RNZAF NZ426996 – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Edwin Fletcher, RNZAF NZ427195 – Air Bomber.
F/S George Wilks, RAFVR 1601175 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. W. Andrews, RAFVR 1129988 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Elmer Roy Kanenen, RCAF R.178271 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Kenneth Gordon Hook, RAFVR 1335989 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 03:35 – Landed 07:05
Flight Time 03:30

06/06/1944 – Attack Against Lisieux
Twenty four aircraft took off, as detailed, to attack a target at Lisieux, in support of the invading forces which were establishing a bridge head in Normandy. All aircraft successfully bombed the target and an accurate attack was reported. Only slight opposition was encountered.

Lancaster Mk.I LL866 AA-S Sugar (20)

P/O Robert Albert ‘Popsy’ Potts, RAAF AUS.415353 – Pilot.
F/S Dudley Joe Hall, RNZAF NZ426996 – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Edwin Fletcher, RNZAF NZ427195 – Air Bomber.
F/S George Wilks, RAFVR 1601175 – Wireless Operator .
Sgt. W. Andrews, RAFVR 1129988 – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Elmer Roy Kanenen, RCAF R.178271 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Kenneth Gordon Hook, RAFVR 1335989 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 23:45 – Landed 03:55
Flight Time 04:10

Ken Hook was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal on the 19th of December 1944. HIs citation reads as follows:

“As an air gunner, Sergeant Hook has completed many operational sorties and has at all times shown great determination to engage the enemy. This airman was involved in a serious air crash during December 1943 of which he was the sole survivor, he himself receiving very serious injuries. Despite this, since his recovery he has displayed great eagerness to participate again in operations. His courage and efficiency have been an example and inspiration to the remainder of the squadron”.

 

 

 

Reconnecting in New Zealand – a trip by David McFarland

IMG_0237

Graves of Murray, Kayler, Mulligan and Woolham after 70th anniversary ceremony April 2014

Many thanks to David, son of John McFarland for passing on the following record of his trip to New Zealand at the end of last year. David and his family went out to meet up with relatives of the airmen that his Father flew with in 75(NZ) Squadron RAF. The crew were posted to the Squadron in February 1944, flying their first op on the 11th February, and after conversion to Lancasters took part in the first 75 operation with Lancasters, bombing mashalling yards in Paris on 9th April.   Four of the crew are buried at Gram, Denmark – James Murray RNZAF (Pilot), Haymen Kahler RAFVR (Flight Engineer) Jack Mulligan RCAF and Peter Woolham RAFVR (Air Gunners).   Gordon Irwin RNZAF (Wireless Operator) John ‘Paddy’ McFarland RAFVR (Navigator) and Douglas Hill RNZAF (Air Bomber) became Prisoners or War.

Detail POW Log (2)

Extract from a POW notebook kept by Gordon Irwin © Marg Collins

The pilot James, “Jim”, Murray was from Pleasant Point near Timaru on South Island.   His sister, and three brothers all joined the New Zealand forces, with four serving overseas.   Sadly two brothers died, one in Crete in 1941 and the other at El Alamein in 1942.   After Jim’s death, the fourth and youngest son, then stationed in New Zealand, was not permitted to serve overseas and was discharged from military service to pervent a further loss to the Murray family.   We had the pleasure of meeting his daughter Alice, and her husband Mike Constantine, who live in Timaru.

anzac_memwindow

Memorial Library window at Timaru Boys High School (Copied by kind permission of Timaru High School Old Boys Association)

Rosewill School with Alice Constantine

(from left) Paddy’s son and granddaughter – David and Emily and Alice Constantine at the Memorial stone at Rosewill Junior School, Pleasant Point.

Plaque Rosewill School

Roll of Honour Board, Rosewill Junior School

Timaru War Memorial

Timaru War Memorial

Detail Timaru War Memorial

Detail Timaru War Memorial

Roll of Honour Airforce Museum of NZ Christchurch (2)

Roll of Honour Air Force Museum of New Zealand, Christchurch

Detail Roll of Honour AFMofNZ

Detail from Roll of Honour

Gordon Irwin returned to New Zealand after the war and married Amy, who had served as a WAAF, stationed in New Zealand.   He initially resumed the family farming business but later was a green-keeper at several golf courses on the North Island.   He died on 28th December 1994 aged 77 years.   He is buried, with his wife, at Russell Services Cemetery – a beautiful tranquil spot overlooking the Bay of Islands.   We had the pleasure of meeting his daughter Kathy Wright who lives in Russell, and were the guests of Marg Collins his other daughter at her home at Helensville, north of Auckland.   There we enjoyed a splendid meal in the company of her husband and her son and daughter in law, and with Ron Irwin, her brother and his wife.   Gordon and Paddy were particularly close as Gordon’s father had lived in Ulster before emigrating to New Zealand. Gordon had enjoyed several leave trips to Ireland in the early months of 1944.

Marg Collins and Ron Irwin

Marg Collins and Ron Irwin

Kathy Wright at Russell

David McFarland and Kathy Wright

Medals Gordon Irwin (2)

Gordon Irwin’s medals (the New Zealand War Service medal on the right)

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Russell Services Cemetery

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Memorial plaque Gordon and Amy Irwin

Postscript
In the village of Glenorchy near Queenstown on South Island we saw the local War Memorial.   Beside it was a noticeboard which helped to put details of the service of the men remembered on the Memorial.   Listed was Alistair Henry Scott 75 (NZ) Squadron.   As I was reading the detail, a lady approached and introduced herself to me as his niece, Adrienne Reid.   She lives on the east coast of South Island and was visiting Glenorchy that day.   It was a remarkable chance meeting with a member of the wider 75 family!   She told me that Alistair had a cousin piloting the Lancaster.   Sadly all the crew were lost on the 4th November 1944 on the daylight Solingem raid and are buried in Rheinberg War Cemetery in Germany.

War memorial

Glenorchy War Memorial

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Adrienne Reid, niece of F/Sgt Alistair Scott at Glenorchy War Memorial Noticeboard

Other posts about the Murray crew and more specifically John McFarland can be read here:

John McFarland, Navigator – Murray crew. 1944. here.

Letters from behind the wire – John McFarland, here.

John Edward Lithgow McFarland RAFVR 1503993 – Navigator. 1944. Logbook. here

Gram Churchyard, Denmark. here.

Gram Churchyard, Denmark – John Macfarland visits and remembers. Danish TV article. here

 

 

Letters from behind the wire – John McFarland, part I

RAF ex POW Group 1945crpd

John McFarland, second row, 4th in from the left. This photograph is of a group of RAF PoW’s, though the date and location is unknown. © John Edward Lithgow McFarland

A really nice surprise this morning – David sent me 2 letters, written by his Father, John McFarland, Navigator with Henry Murray’s crew, after he was captured and interred in Stalag Luft III

By John’s own observation the decision to volunteer for the Gardening Op to Kiel on the 18th April 1943, in a Stirling was seen as a soft and easy extra trip to their tour…..Perhaps this decision can be understood – the crew had suffered 3 aborted Ops in a month and it probably felt to them as if their time at Mepal was never going to end – add to this a 10 day hiatus for conversion to Lancasters at Feltwell and the soles of their feet may well have been getting itchy…….

Based on the events of that night, it would appear that their aircraft was fired on from underneath by a ‘Schräge Musik‘ equipped aircraft. Typically, the aircrew would get no warning of the attack until it was too late – John recalls his navigators desk exploding as the cannon shells hit.

Of the 7 crew, John, Gordon Irwin the Wireless Operator and Doug Hill, the Air Bomber survived. The rest of the crew, Pilot, Henry James Murray, Flight Engineer, Hyman Chaim Mordecai Kahler, Mid Upper Gunner John Mulligan and Peter Woolam, the Rear Gunner all perished and now lay together in Gram Churchyard in Denmark.

David along with the letters supplied a brief explanation as to some aspects of the content and also, interestingly, notes that it would appear that the positions of the gunners may well have been reversed that night.

“Understandably the content is rather mundane, but they are fascinating records which may be of interest to you as unofficial archivist!   (Lithgow was my father’s third christian name and the one that was used by his family, although he would have used John – and ‘Paddy’ of course would be used by his crew.)   The reference to Margt is my aunt Margaret – I think the 11th May was her birthday, and Gordon, is the New Zealander – Gordon Irwin the wireless operator, who was also in Stalag Luft III.   His father came from Northern Ireland, hence the reference to a letter from Ireland.   Peter Woollam, rear gunner, died on the 19th when his parachute failed to open, although strangely Jack Mulligan’s body was found in the tail section so he may well have been the Rear Gunner that op, with Peter Woollam Mid Upper Gunner.   Dad’s birthday is 22nd September.   I smiled at the April Fool joke!

To put the 11th May letter in context, Dad was shot down in the early hours of the 19th April, captured on the 21st, in solitary confinement in Dulag Luft 23rd – 29th, arriving in Sagan on 1st May.”

Letter POW May 1944 A crtd

A first letter written by John and sent home to his family in May 1944. © John Edward Lithgow McFarland

Letter POW May 1944 B crtd

© John Edward Lithgow McFarland

“Dear Mother & Dad.   This finishes my quota of letters for this month but I wanted to get as many as I could write as soon as possible as some may go astray.   The weather is really lovely now and we are settling down quite well.   We find that this life is really what one makes it.   When I make up my mind I may start studying of some kind or another.   You may remember me mentioning some photos we had taken.   Well I had ordered some and paid for them and if you write to the C.O. I am sure that he will send them on.   I hope you get all my belongings safely including my watch.   If you ever want any gen about what & how to send parcels just ask the Red Cross folks and I think you can send cigarettes through any tobaccanist duty free which makes them 3d or 4d per packet.   I suppose Margt is having quite a spree today and I do hope that you will have heard the news that I am OK.   I have made many new friends and so far I can’t say I’ve felt homesick, but I suppose that will come in due course.   Well this is all like April 1st.   Remind my friends that mail is more welcome than ever in a P.O.W. camp.  

Love to all.   Lithgow”

Letter POW Sept1944 A crtd

A second letter sent in September 1944. © John Edward Lithgow McFarland

Letter POW Sept1944 B crtd

© John Edward Lithgow McFarland

The second is dated 17th September 1944 –
“Dear Mother & Dad.   As usual no news but at least I can tell you that I am in the best of health except for an annoying head cold but that doesn’t cause much trouble except for washing of hankies.   I’ve had no mail yet but my hopes are rising as Gordon had 3 a couple of days ago, one from NZ, England & Ireland.   He had one from Pete our rear gunner’s girlfriend and it’s really sad to read her letter as they are under the impression that he is still alive since they have heard that G and I are prisoners.   Well I am afraid that I am doomed to spend at least this birthday in Deutschland but the boys are baking me a cake so we can celebrate in a small way.   (CENSORED) the issue of Red Cross parcels is now half per week.   However my weight is still around 11st so the food must be good enough.   Well I do hope that my mail is reaching you OK and I shall get at least one letter soon.   Once again hoping you are all well and that I’ll see you very soon.

Your loving son.  Lithgow”

Tomorrow, 2 letters written at home………….

To read an earlier post about the Murray crew, click here.
To read John’s logbook, click here.
To read about John and his families trip to Gram (including an article by Danish TV), click here.

Gram Churchyard, Denmark – John Macfarland visits and remembers

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Many thanks to David for passing on a clip from Danish TV that shows a visit to Gram Churchyard by his Father John McFarland, Navigator with the Murray crew, who were shot down on the 18th of April 1944, whilst on a Gardening Op over Kiel Bay. John and the family went to pay their respects at Gram Cemetery to the 4 members of the crew who did not survive.

F/O Henry James Murray RNZAF NZ415820.  Pilot.
Buried Gram Churchyard Denmark.

Sgt. John Edward Lithgow McFarland  RAFVR 1503993. Navigator.
PoW No. 4193. PoW Camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft III. Promoted to F/Sgt while a PoW.

F/S Douglas John Hill RNZAF NZ415761. Air Bomber.
Doug Hill had a miraculous escape when his parachute harness, which was cut by a burst of fire from the night fighter, came off. His left foot caught in the harness and he descended hanging by his foot.
PoW No. 3550. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalags Luft VI and 357. Safe UK 6 May 1945.

F/S Gordon James Irwin RNZAF NZ415698. Wireless Operator.
Wounded when attacked by night fighter. PoW camps Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft III. Promoted to W/O while a PoW. Safe UK 14 May 1945.

Sgt. Hyman Chaim Mordecai Kahler RAFVR1803280. Flight Engineer.
Buried Gram Churchyard Denmark.

Sgt. John Mulligan RCAF R.195834. Mid Upper Gunner.
Buried Gram Churchyard Denmark.

Sgt. Peter Woolam RAFVR 1890807. Rear Gunner.
Buried Gram Churchyard Denmark.

Click here to see the TV clip – it’s obviously in Danish, but you can understand the sentiment and luckily, John doesn’t speak Danish!

John Edward Lithgow McFarland RAFVR 1503993 – Navigator. 1944

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Many thanks again to John and David for passing on the full (colour) version of John’s logbook.

Browse John’s logbook here

Browsing the internet, I cam across Johns recollections on the ‘Big Lottery Fund’ website of all places. John had been successful in an application to get over to the UK for a Squadron Association reunion.

John’s story began when he came to Belfast in 1940 to sit a Latin exam for a pharmacist’s apprenticeship he’d secured in Derry.  “I’d always found the Latin a chore and a friend had told me about the great time he was having in the RAF so when I was in Belfast I went to the RAF recruiting office and joined up,” he said.

In June 1941 John was formally called up and began training as a navigator. After graduating, he should have gone to an Operational Training Unit where the air crews were put together, though they were infamous for their 20% loss of life.

“But then word came through that I was to by-pass this, I never knew why, and join a crew before going onto the 75th New Zealand Squadron as a replacement navigator – and you never asked who you were replacing,” said John.

He continued: “We flew from a remote base near Ely in East Anglia and were engaged mainly in sea and French railway yard mining operations as well as drops to the French Resistance. It was during one of these we were shot down. The Germans had the capability to fire vertically upwards. We were over Denmark and it was around midnight when my navigator’s table shattered and I knew we’d been hit from below.

“Everything happened so fast. We had to bail out and use our parachutes. The parachute wrappers used to put little notes in with the silk saying things like ‘all the best’!  Only three of us survived that night – the rear gunner’s parachute failed to open. That could have been any one of us for you just grabbed a parachute on your way out to board the aircraft…”

John landed in a ploughed field and was rescued by the farmer’s son whose family sheltered him for three days before the Germans found him. “I was sent to the same prison camp which featured in The Great Escape,” he explained. “Life there wasn’t great but some of the lads had built a radio and brought us news every day so we heard about D-Day and thought we’d be home by Christmas. Of course we weren’t.”

In January 1945 with the Russians advancing the POWs were put to march, sleeping in barns along the roadside, despite the bitter winter. “I’ve never experienced cold like it. One POW found a rat and held onto it just to keep his hands warm!” recalled John.

“I remember one morning though, two British fighter planes were circling overhead, making to attack because they thought we were Germans. We tried to spell out ‘POWs’ with towels on the ground but they came in, all guns blazing. Twenty men died – friendly fire I think they would call it today. Just days later we were freed by the British…”

Despite his stoicism in recounting the story, the tragic irony of that loss of life still sits heavily on John McFarland’s heart. “Back in the UK we were de-loused, de-briefed and told we could go home – so home it was,” he said.  “That’s when I understood what it must’ve been like for our families. Our Commanding Officer, a wonderful man, had sent a personal letter to them when our plane hadn’t come back that night…”.

read the entire article here

John McFarland, Navigator – Murray crew. 1944

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Sgt. John McFarland receiving his Navigators badge at the end of training in Canada.
© John McFarland

Many thanks to John McFarland, his son David and his daughter Emily for contacting me and passing on this wonderful photograph of John receiving his ‘Air Observer’s Wings’ (David assures me this is Canadian for Navigator!).

I had the pleasure of meeting John last November at the ‘Friends of 75(NZ) Squadron Association’ winter reunion – taking the chance to ask him to sign my copy of ‘Forever Strong’ the Squadron history – something he was happy to do.

I am happy to report that John is still in good health and I hope to see him and possibly some of the family at the next winter reunion this November.

The Murray crew were Posted into Mepal from No. 31 Base on the 25th January 1944;
11.2.44. Gardening – Mining in St. Malo Bay.
Stirling Mk.III LK396
F/O Henry James Murray – Pilot.
Sgt. John Edward Lithgow McFarland – Navigator.
F/S Douglas John Hill – Air Bomber.
F/S Gordon James Irwin – Wireless Operator
F/L Lyndon Oliver Sims – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. John Mulligan – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Peter Woolam – Rear Gunner.

20.2.44. Gardening – Mining off the Frisian Islands
Stirling Mk.III EJ108
Sgt. Hyman Kahler replaces Lyndom Sims as Flight Engineer.

22.2.44. Gardening – Mining in the Kiel Bay (Aborted)
Stirling Mk.III EF181
W/C Roy Max as 2nd Pilot.

15.3.44. Special Operations – Operation BOB 157 (Abortive)
Stirling Mk.III JN-U

16.3.44. War Ops – Attack Against Amiens
Stirling Mk.III  BK777 JN-F

18.3.44. Gardening – Mining in the Heligoland Bight
Stirling Mk.III  EH949 JN-R

19.3.44. Gardening – Mining of River Adour
Stirling Mk.III  EH955 JN-K

21.3.44. Gardening – Mining off Le Havre (Aborted)
Stirling Mk.III  EJ108 JN-K
Prop broke on take-off – jettisoned mines and made 3 engined landing.

22.3.44. Gardening – Mining in Kiel Bay
Stirling Mk.III  EH955 JN-K

25.3.44. War Ops – Attack Against Special Target.
Stirling Mk.III  LK378 JN-O
Sgt. Taylor in for Kahler as Flight Engineer.

26.3.44. Administration
The following proceeded for Lancaster conversion to No.£ L.F.S. Feltwell:- NZ415820 F/O H. Murray and crew, NZ42354 F/S Armstrong C. and crew, NZ414591 A/F/L S. Clark and crew, NZ403561 A/S/L J. Climie and crew, 151118 A/F/L D. Warren and crew, NZ422282 F/O R. Herron and crew, NZ401266 A/S/L D. Gibb and crew, AUS413157 P/O A. Humphreys and crew, and NZ421105 Sgt. Scott F. and crew.

1.4.44. Administration
The following crews ceased to be detached to No. 3 L.F.S. Feltwell:- NZ415820 F/O H. Murray and crew, NZ42354 F/S Armstrong C. and crew, NZ414591 A/F/L S. Clark and crew, NZ403561 A/S/L J. Climie and crew, 151118 A/F/L D. Warren and crew, NZ422282 F/O R. Herron and crew, NZ401266 A/S/L D. Gibb and crew, AUS413157 P/O A. Humphreys and crew, and NZ421105 Sgt. Scott F. and crew.

9.4.44. War Ops – Attack Against Villeneuve St. George.
Lancaster Mk.III  ND802 JN-O
Sgt. F. Holt in for Taylor as Flight Engineer.

18.4.44. Gardening – Mining in Kiel Bay
Stirling Mk.III EH955 AA-K
Hyman Kahler returns as Flight Engineer.
Missing – Shot down by a night fighter.

F/O Henry James Murray RNZAF NZ415820.  Pilot.
Buried Gram Churchyard Denmark.

Sgt. John Edward Lithgow McFarland  RAFVR 1503993. Navigator.
PoW No. 4193. PoW Camps – Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft III. Promoted to F/Sgt while a PoW.

F/S Douglas John Hill RNZAF NZ415761. Air Bomber.
Doug Hill had a miraculous escape when his parachute harness, which was cut by a burst of fire from the night fighter, came off. His left foot caught in the harness and he descended hanging by his foot.
PoW No. 3550. PoW camps – Dulag Luft, Stalags Luft VI and 357. Safe UK 6 May 1945.

F/S Gordon James Irwin RNZAF NZ415698. Wireless Operator.
Wounded when attacked by night fighter. PoW camps Dulag Luft, Stalag Luft III. Promoted to W/O while a PoW. Safe UK 14 May 1945.

Sgt. Hyman Chaim Mordecai Kahler RAFVR 1803280. Flight Engineer.
Buried Gram Churchyard Denmark.

Sgt. John Mulligan RCAF R.195834. Mid Upper Gunner.
Buried Gram Churchyard Denmark.

Sgt. Peter Woolam RAFVR 1890807. Rear Gunner.
Buried Gram Churchyard Denmark.

By John’s own observation the decision to volunteer for the Gardening Op to Kiel in a Stirling was seen as a soft and easy extra trip to their tour…..Perhaps this decision can be understood – the crew had suffered 3 aborted Ops in a month and it probably felt to them as if their time at Mepal was never going to end – add to this a 10 day hiatus for conversion to Lancasters at Feltwell and the soles of their feet may well have been getting itchy…….

Based on the events of that night, it would appear that their aircraft was fired on from underneath by a ‘Schräge Musik‘ equipped aircraft. Typically, the aircrew would get no warning of the attack until it was too late – John recalls his navigators desk exploding as the cannon shells hit.