Thanks to Chris for this fantastic post about Oliver Hodgson’s crew and their participation in ‘Operation Dodge’ – the repatriation of British 8th Army personnel from Bari in Italy in September 1945.
As well as being a remarkable collection of images, this post sheds some light on 75(NZ) Squadron’s activities post Mepal, once the Squadron had arrived at Spilsby in preparation for the formation of the still born ‘Tiger Force’ – and for the database, provides a tantalising glimpse into the inherited Lancasters at Spilsby………
After VE Day and the end of the war in Europe, 75 (NZ) Squadron RAF underwent a major transformation, readying itself for a move to the Pacific, and long-range bombing efforts in support of the war against Japan.
It was to be part of Tiger Force, also known as the Very Long Range Bomber Force, made up of Commonwealth squadrons from RAF Bomber Command. The plan was for Tiger Force to be based on Okinawa, flying Lancasters, Lincolns and Liberators, launching long range, in-flight-refuelled bombing operations on mainland Japan.
75 (NZ) Sqdn was now to be solely staffed by New Zealanders (a condition of participation in Tiger Force requested by the NZ government). All Aussies left the Sqdn on 3 July 1945, plus 23 associated RAF personnel, leaving 90 Kiwis.
The Squadron was re-formed on 17 July 1945 into 2 Flights, “A” and “B”, each made up of 15 crews, plus one crew for the Wingco.
Several intakes of NZ aircrew from other bomber squadrons were required to make up the numbers. 30 Pilot/ FE’s were posted in on the 18th July.
75 (NZ) Sqdn moved to RAF Station Spilsby, No. 5 Group, on 21 July, with a further 84 NZ flying crew posted in the same day.
The Squadron was allocated 20 tired Lancasters (they left their own a/c behind at Mepal), with a view to immediately upgrading these to Avro Lincolns. However production delays meant that only 3 Lincolns were ever delivered, and then not until mid-September, after Japan had surrendered.
The crew complement for Tiger Force aircraft was to be reduced from the previous Lancaster’s seven, to six: Pilot in command, Second Pilot/Flight Engineer, Navigator, Navigator/Bomb Aimer, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner and Rear Gunner.
The Second Pilot/FE positions were to be filled by cross-training of NZ Pilots, of which there was a surplus at the time. Several F/E’s were posted in as Engineering Instructors.
The Navigator/Bomb Aimer (Nav 2) role was due to the increasing reliance on radar and other electronic devices (H2S, SS LORAN, Gee, etc.), especially on long range bombing operations.
Oliver Hodgson and his crew had already flown a tour with 514 Squadron, Waterbeach, and they were one of several experienced Kiwi crews posted in to 75 (NZ) Sqdn for Tiger Force duties.
With the large numbers posting in and out, the Squadron’s Operational Record Book (ORB) does not list all individual crew movements, but it appears that the Hodgson crew was signed out of 514 Sqdn and posted in to 75 (NZ) Sqdn on the same day, 17 July, their new 2 Pilot/FE, W/O Edward Hart, having arrived separately the day before.
The Hodgson crew was:
F/O Oliver Joseph Tate Hodgson, RNZAF (NZ4213260) Pilot.
W/O Edward Kenneth Hart, RNZAF (NZ4215738) Pilot/FE.
F/Sgt John Gower Hughes, RNZAF (NZ438691) Navigator.
F/Sgt Vivian Francis Dufty, RNZAF (NZ4212790) Nav/AB.
W/O Barry Gordon Ballingall, RNZAF. (NZ4215138), W/Op.
F/Sgt Roy Newling Spence, RNZAF. (NZ427107) R/Gnr.
With Squadron activities involving mainly training, the Squadron Operational Record Book appears to have been reduced to Forms 540 only, so crew and a/c listings were no longer recorded. However, Oliver Hodgson’s logbook gives a good insight into daily activities during this period, and entries for Operation “Dodge”.
Operation Dodge was an RAF effort to help speed up the repatriation of soldiers of the British 8th Army from their holding units in Italy. Post-war overland conditions were not conducive to road transport, and shipping was being prioritised to the war in the Pacific.
Each Lancaster could carry 20 soldiers and their kitbags back on the 6-8 hour flight, a much more attractive option for the homesick troops than the land or sea alternatives. Aircrews stayed over for a day’s rest before flying back.
28/8 – 1/9/1945 Operation “Dodge”
7 Lancasters flew from Spilsby to Italy for “the conveying of British Service Personnel to the United Kingdom on leave”.
5 – 7/9/1945, Operation “Dodge”
6 Lancasters from 75 (NZ) Sqdn flew from Spilsby to Italy to bring back more British Service personnel .
19 – 21/9/1945 Operation “Dodge”
15 Lancasters from 75 (NZ) Sqdn flew from Spilsby to Bari, Italy for more British Service personnel repatriations. Two a/c went u/s and the Sutherland and Warner crews were unable to return with the others on 21 September. These two crews returned to Base on 27/9/1945.
The photos below are from this last trip to Bari, all courtesy of the NZBCA archives, from the collection of Pilot Oliver Hodgson, who these days lives in Whangamata, New Zealand.
As always, thanks to Peter Wheeler and the NZ Bomber Command Assn., for permission to reproduce the photos above.