Tag Archives: March 1945

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

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

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

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

Read my original post about the Milsom crew here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mepal gunners ?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Landing, or taking off?? © Matt Smith

Ted Smith motorbike

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

AMCC Ted far left (side on)

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

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

Form 540 March 1945 complete for Project ORB

Many thanks to Martyn for completing a new month for the ORB project. I am pleased to announce and present a new complete Form 540 for March 1945.

This is Martyn’s first experience at a transcription activity and he noted in his email with the month that the concentrated process of reading, typing and reviewing  made him feel that he was actually within the events being described on the pages of the document – I know this feeling and from personal experience, I have also felt a real sense of sadness when a crew, who through a protracted transcription activity, becomes a regular and familiar set of names, are it feels, suddenly lost again in front of your eyes.

I was told repeatedly at school, that the best way to learn and understand something is to copy it down – I think this is doubly true for the ORB’s.

There are plenty of pages left – maybe some of you might like to see the events of a month with the Squadron in a new light.

See March 1945 here.

A new group photograph from ‘Dying for Democracy’ by Grant Russell – Air Bomber, Stevenson crew

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‘Some of the Bomb Aimers of 75(NZ) Squadron, yours truely in the front row, 5th from left as you look at the photograph. A Lancaster bomber in the background’.
Front row: 2nd from left Stan Heald (Ware crew), 5th from Left :F/Lt. Grant Alan Russell
Middle row: 2nd from right Jim Saunders (Stevens crew), 6th from Right: F/O Jimmy Wood (A/B Banks crew)
Photograph from ‘DYING FOR DEMOCRACY’, Flt Lt G A Russell DFC, 1997, self-published (Russell), Wanganui, NZ

Many thanks to Chris for this photograph from ‘Dying for Democracy’, written and self published by Grant Russell, who was the 75(NZ) Squadron Bombing Leader from March 44 to May 45. In this role, which seems more of a training and admin role, he would occasionally fly op’s as fill-in for ill or absent A/B’s. During his stay with the Squadron he flew with amongst others, the Stevenson and Zinzan crew. He also flew a number of times with the Thomson crew – Don Thomson was his old Pilot from OTU and 218 Squadron, who ended up at 75(NZ) on his second tour.

I must confess, I was quite taken a back and excited when I saw the photograph, titled as it is ‘Some of the Bomb Aimers from 75(NZ) Squadron – especially as I instantly saw the grinning face of Jimmy Wood (Russell Bank’s A/B)………But no, sadly my Father is not in it.

As a self published book, this is a very scarce publication. Chris is currently reading through it, but he passed on the following extract that has a direct relevance to me;

Flight No 35. Wanne-Einkle, Germany. Date 16/1/1945.
Mk III Lancaster NoPB427.
Pilot: F/O Zinzan.
Load carried:  1 x 4,0001b H.C. bomb, plus 12 x 500 M64 bombs, plus 4 x 2501b G.P. bombs1. Total weight = 11,466 lbs or 5.12 tons.
Distance flown: 1,055 miles.
Time airborne:       5hrs l0min.
 
This was a night flight and once again against Germany. Over the target, things became exciting and exasperating as I unhappily watched a Lancaster at our level, and only a few yards in front, explode into many small pieces. Very unnerving. The Germans had assessed our level of flying and great masses of enemy shells were exploding all around us. But it was always like that at every target. Pilots had to have wonderful nerve control to be able to fly their aircraft straight and level under such conditions, yet they all did. It was absolutely necessary, otherwise bomb aimers would never be able to take aim at the target. At each pre-flight briefing, a certain point of a broad target was invariably indicated as the aiming point and that aiming point was usually a very industrious war producing business.
 
We were coned by search lights just as we cleared the target but my very experi­enced pilot quickly whisked us out of that by dropping the nose of our kite, diving downwards while banking steeply to port and cleared the cone of search lights. We then swooped smartly up to 20,000ft again from which height I had just dropped our load. Our considerably reduced all up weight rendered our kite readily manoeuvrable.
 
Jerry must have been as thick as two planks not to have got the British message by now. But we would keep on and on until he really and fully understood.
 
This night was my pilot’s second consecutive almost all-night flight, all of which was of course under high tension. Coming in to land, he made a slight miscalculation. He levelled out while the aircraft was still some 15 or so feet above the runway, causing the kite to drop with a considerable thump. Our heavy landing was at 15 minutes after four in the morning. No one was actually hurt. An inspection in daylight revealed no damage to the aircraft. The strong construction only served to heighten my admiration of Lancasters. Further proof that it was still in good shape was illustrated by the fact that it did another all-night trip the very next night with another crew and returned safely to Base’.

Grant was one of a number of Air Bombers that flew with Vernon and the boys, before my Father returned to Mepal to become their new, regular Air Bomber. I can’t help but smile at Grant’s description of Vernon’s landing – Ken Mesure was lost from the crew after their first Op owing to a heavy landing and Dougie Williamson has also recounted to me a particularly ‘acrobatic’ landing by Vernon on another occasion. Despite these recorded mishaps, Vernon and his original crew completed their 1st tour before the end of the war, including 21 with Dad as Air Bomber, so perhaps, it suggests that style didn’t count for much after being in the air for over 5 hours.

Now of course, this photograph, which until yesterday I didn’t even know the existence of, means that there could potentially be more equivalent group photographs of this kind, collecting together the different aircrew trades of the Squadron. Individuals present in the picture would suggest March 1945 and possibly/ perhaps the same time when the full Squadron and Flight group photographs were taken – though, in the absence of a concrete date for ANY of these photographs this is conjecture.

Please please, please, if anybody has an original copy of this group photograph, or indeed one of possibly the equivalent for another trade group taken at the same time, I would love to have a copy to add to the ‘Group Photographs’ section of the blog.

Milsom crew – 1945

Many thanks to Keith, son of Gilbert Randal Springer, Wireless Operator in the Milsom crew for not only passing on the wonderful ‘A’ Flight group photograph, but for also supplying some photographs taken by Randal of the boys from his crew. Apparently Gilbert was named after uncle who was killed in 1916, in France when only 19. Despite this, he was always known as Randal

Perhaps the Misom crew were lucky to arrive at the beginning of March. Whist exposed to the still present dangers of flying War Ops, the war came, relatively quickly to an end after 7 Ops and they spent their remaining time at Mepal participating in Operation Manna and also repatriation of Prisoners of War from Juvincourt.

The Milsom crew were;
F/O Robert Sinclair Milsom RNZAF NZ429356 – Pilot.
F/S Rex Baxter RNZAF NZ432738 – Navigator
F/O Lancelot Osgood Waugh RNZAF NZ429021 – Air Bomber
F/S Gilbert Randal Springer RNZAF NZ4213129 – Wireless Operator
Sgt. William ‘Bill’ Smith RAFVR – Flight Engineer
F/O John Alexander ‘Rex’ Williamson RNZAF NZ4210049 – Mid Upper Gunner
F/O John ‘Ted’ Smith RNZAF NZ428291 – Rear Gunner

Crew Op history;
Administration 6.3.45
P/O Misom R.S. and crew arrived on posting from No. 72 Base.

7/8.3.45 War Ops – Attack against Dessau.
Lancaster Mk.I RA541 AA-J
Bob Milsom 2nd Pilot with Laurence McKenna’s crew.

17.3.45 War Ops – Attack Against Auguste Viktoria.
Lancaster Mk.III PB418 AA-C
Bomb Load 1×4,000 H.C., 14x500ANM.,
Primary Targey – Auguste Viktoria
Formation seemed pretty well together.

20.3.45 War Ops – Hamm Marshalling Yards
Lancaster Mk.I HK573 AA-H
Bomb Load 6×1,000 ANM., 1×350 Munro
Primary Target – Hamm M/Yard
Nothing to report.

9/10.4.45 War Ops – Attack on Kiel
Lancaster Mk.I RF190 AA-F
Bomb Load 1×4000 HCN, 12×500 ANM,
Primary Target – Kiel.
Well concentrated and some good fires starting. Should be successful if TI’s were right.

14/15.4.45 War Ops – Attack on Potsdam
Lancaster Mk.I RF190 AA-F
Bomb load 1x4000HC, 5×500 ANM, 1×350 Munro:
Primary target – Potsdam
Bombed easterly red TI. Very good prang on A/P. Explosions and fires with large glow as returning.

20.4.45 War Ops – Attack on Regensburg.
Lancaster Mk. I HK573 AA-H
Bomb Load 4×1000 ANM, 7×500 ANM.
Primary Target Regensburg
Numerous explosions N of A/P and few S of A/P. Fair prang. Good line of bombing but considered A/P slightly overshot.

24.4.45 War Ops – Attack on Bad Oldsloe
Lancaster Mk. I RA510 AA-E
Bomb load 11×500 ANm, 4×1000 ANM, 1×350 Munro.
Primary target Bad Oldsloe
Considerable smoke and fire near the railway line. GH Leader went u/s so crossed over the target area and came in second time to bomb visually following the railway line.

30.4.45 – Supply Dropping Rotterdam
Lancaster Mk.I RF190 AA-F
Supplies carried – 5 Packs.
Very good concentration of bags. House seen on fire to starboard of field where TI also seen. Crowds running in to collect food. 1 Pack hung up.

2.5.45 – Supply Dropping at Delft.
Lancaster Mk.I RF190 AA-F
SuppliesCarried – 5 Packs.
Saw white cross, red TI and bags. Crowds were waving as usual. All packs were dropped.
As with all other a/c on this flight, the crews flew without their Mid Upper Gunner.

11.5.45 – Repatriation of Prisoners of War at Juvincourt.
Lancaster Mk.I RF190 AA-F
Number of men carried – 24.
Starboard outer engine U/S at Tangmere. Delayed return.

14.5.45 Evacuation of Prisoners of War from Juvincourt.
Lancaster Mk. I NN747 ??-D
Number of men carried – 24

Interestingly, the Milsom crew arrived at Mepal on the same day as the Mallon crew (Bob Jay), whether by chance or planning, at the end of the war campaign, the majority of the Milsom crew volunteered for ‘Tiger Force’, except for Lance Waugh, the Air Bomber. As a consequence, he went to the Mallon/Butler crew.

As I have already mentioned, Keith notes that Randal was quite a keen photographer and perhaps sneaked a camera on board now and then – certainly, it would seem that by this point, either the rules were a little more relaxed, or the aircrew were simply adept at hiding and being prepared to take pictures – certainly, cameras were still  banned from the airfield.

Steamer point Aden

Steamer point, Aden.
© Keith Springer

view from Steamer Aden

‘View from the Steamer…..’, Aden.
© Keith Springer

The 2 photographs above were taken on Randal’s return boat trip from the UK and were taken in Aden, one assumes a stopping off point for the ships on their long journey to the New Zealand.

the 2 Smiths by AA-F

The 2 Smiths stood under AA-F.
© Keith Springer

Bill  Smith, Flight Engineer on the left and Ted Smith, Rear Gunner, stood by the starboard undercarriage of what we might assume to be RF190 AA-F, their regular aircraft.

Ted Smith in rear turret

Ted Smith, Rear Gunner with the Milsom crew.
© Keith Springer

Ted Smith sat in his ‘Office’……

Bill smith at the controls

Flight Engineer, Bill Smith sat at the controls, one assumes of RF190 AA-F
© Keith Springer

….and Bill Smith having a go in the ‘Bosses’ seat……..

AA-F Mepal 1945

RF190 AA-F, the Milsom crew’s ‘regular’ aircraft.
© Keith Springer

And finally, a photograph just titled ‘AA-F’, which based on the ORB information identifies the aircraft as RF190, sat on Mepal airfield, sometime between March and June 1945.

‘A’ Flight group photograph, March 1945 in front of PB820 JN-V

photo3-0001 cropped

Many many thanks to Keith for passing on this, it would seem, very elusive ‘A’ Flight group photograph – the set is now complete. Keith’s Father was Wireless Operator with Bob Milsoms crew and interestingly, his notes from the period suggest perhaps another identity for the aircraft in the picture……..

Randal suggests that the aircraft in the picture might be PB132 AA-X – his notes about the sortie to Potsdam on 14th April 1945 (he flew in RF190 ‘F’), mentions that one of the aircraft had the flight engineer killed by cannon fire from a night fighter that night (Sgt. Alan Sliman in PB132 ‘X’), and goes on to note that ‘this was the same aircraft in front of which the squadron photo was taken only a couple of days later’.

This is a fascinating extra piece of information that has been thrown ‘into the mix’ as it were – granted, it seems to contradict the information we have so far suggesting that the aircraft in the photograph was PB820 JN-V, but if nothing else, I am sure it will spark a further discussion that may let us get to the bottom of the aircraft in the pictures………..