Tag Archives: Mepal

Leslie Edgerton, 1921 – 2020

by David Yates

My father-in-law Leslie Edgerton passed away in Conquest Hospital, Hastings in the early hours of Tuesday 14th January.  Another 75 man, and another of the dwindling band of Bomber Command veterans, has quit us.

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Leslie photographed on the occasion of his 98th birthday on 23rd April – St George’s Day – 2019.

 

 

 

 

Leslie volunteered for RAF service in the autumn of 1942 hoping, as they all did, to be a pilot.  It wasn’t until spring of 1943, as the Battle for Berlin was hitting the headlines, that things began to get going for him.  A reserved, unassuming, and thoughtful man, Leslie was not selected for pilot training but was sent to No2 Radio School, Yatesbury.  He gained his first air experience on 6th April 1943.  He was then sent on a gunnery course at RAF Manby, and on to AFU at Millom.

A transfer to No.11 OTU Westcott followed, and after an ab initio course in which he was subjected to the usual night vision and decompression tests, he had his first taste of crewing a medium bomber.  On 3rd September 1943 he flew for the first time with F/S C.E. Armstrong, with whom he had crewed up.  The fateful eight-month journey to Dortmund had begun.  The Armstrong crew was signed off on 24th October 1943 and despatched to Wratting Common for conversion to Stirlings.  After little more than 40 hours flying and then two-weeks’ leave the Amstrong crew mustered at Mepal for operational duty with 75 RNZAF Squadron, Mepal.  They had arrived on the front line.

They had a good initial run, starting on 14th January 1943 with laying six mines in the Fresians area.  The squadron was untroubled by losses until 24th February 1943.  But then on their seventh op, laying mines in Kiel Bay, Stirling EH984 captained by PO H.H. Bruhns crew went down.  They were all killed.  Leslie and the Armstrong boys came safe home.

The next day Leslie was asked to fill in for the absent w/op of the Willis crew, who were down for mine-laying in Copenhagen Bay.  Their Stirling was attacked head-on by a flight of six JU88s.  The aircraft was riddled with canon-fire, and Leslie later reported actually seeing the tracers scorching by him as he sat at his station.  Everyone survived and the aircraft landed safely back at Mepal.

No doubt gratefully, Leslie returned to his crew mates.  A couple of quiet mine-laying ops followed and then on 4th March they were sent on a special French op where another Stirling was lost, captained by the New Zealander PO S.L. Watson.  The Mid-Upper was taken prisoner.  Watson and the other crew members were killed.  But the ops, either mine-laying or targets in France, continued to tick quietly by for Leslie.  Then, suddenly, the great change finally came to 3 Group and Mepal, and the conversion from Stirlings to Lancasters was begun.  The Armstrong crew were among the first shipped off to Feltwell for conversion, followed back at Mepal by a series of preparation flights in the beautiful, shining new machines.  Then on the evening of 9th April their first 75 op was mounted.  The Armstrong crew were given ND768 F-Freddie.  In the words of my father Harry:

“Eleven of them were sent to attack the railway yards at Villeneuve St.Georges.  They had all bombed successfully in clear weather, though one had been damaged by friendly bombing and landed at Ford, a fighter station conveniently situated on the coast across from Selsey Bill.”

After the Villeneuve raid the crew flew three ops to Germany – first Karlsruhe, then Essen, then Friedrichshaven; and it was on the latter that another loss occurred.  FO R.W. Herron and his crew were all killed.

By this point Leslie had flown 22 ops and would not have been blamed for beginning to look forward to the end of his tour.  But in early May he began to feel unwell and was diagnosed with a contagious childhood disease most unwelcome at the advanced age of 22.  He was whisked off to the Princess of Wales Hospital in Ely and put in isolation.  It quite likely saved his life.  On 22nd May, Armstrong and his boys, with Sgt C.A. Warburton replacing Leslie, flew F-Freddie to Dortmund and never came back.

Again in my father’s words:
“Knowing nothing of this, a fully recovered F/Sgt Edgerton returned to Mepal resigned to the fact that his crew mates would have completed their tour, but nevertheless hopeful of hearing something of them.  In fact, nothing was offered.  He managed to discover that they were logged FTR, but that was all.  As a pool w/op he went dicing with scratch crews to the end of his tour,”

I have told the story, on this site, of how Harry was able to inform Leslie of the fate of his crew, and how that came to happen fifty years after the event itself, and anyone who would like to read about that can do so here:

Leslie went into the pool, and flew seven more ops with the Crawford, Adolph, and Lethbridge crews.  His last but one op was to Bremen on the night of 18th August 1944, when Harry’s crew were given such a fiery time; and his finale was to the Kamen refinery in daylight on 11th September 1944, when Harry’s R-Roger lost its nose and Harry himself was consigned to Littleport Eye Hospital for seven weeks.

Tour-expired and with other things on his mind, Leslie married Joan Underwood, a Red Cross nurse, on 21st September 1944 at St Mary’s Church, Sanderstead.  The church had been damaged at some point by a stray bomb, and workmen on ladders stopped their repairs and took off their caps to peer benignly down, the most earthly of angels, while the ceremony proceeded.  The couple would have four children over the ensuing ten or so years, the third of them my wife Geraldine.  Leslie worked as an accountant in the post-war years, and did pretty well for himself, living a life of respectable, quiet prosperity in Purley, Surrey and, in retirement, on the south coast near Eastbourne.   But I don’t think he was ever free from the sense of guilt and loss which consumed him that day he returned to Mepal to find his crew mates missing.

Leslie and Joan’s elder daughter Helen and her husband Andrew McGillivray have kindly forwarded me photographs of the crew’s graves, including that of Sgt Warburton, which we hope will serve as an on-line memoir of those brave boys as long as this website is active.

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Andrew writes:
“In 2012, on one of Helen’s visits to Seaford, Leslie had mentioned that the name of the wireless operator who stood in for him on the Dortmund trip was Warburton.  Out of interest I visited the Commonwealth Graves Commission website and found that he and the other members of the crew were buried in a large military cemetery in Germany, close to the Dutch border.  As it happened, we had been invited to a 60th birthday party in a town close by and we decided whilst we were there to visit Arnhem and the cemetery on the same trip. As with all of the Commonwealth Grave cemeteries that I have visited it is beautifully maintained and very moving when you see the perfectly aligned white headstones stretching out in all directions. What makes it all the more saddening is the ages of these young men most of which were in their early twenties. The entire crew are buried beside one another including Leslie’s replacement.”

In old age Leslie, who kept his wits about him till the end, thought more and more about those times at Mepal.  He was the lucky one.  Now he is gone one wonders how many others are still with us.

George Augustus Shotun Williams – Navigator, Wright crew

George Augustus Shotun Williams – the portrait clearly has been taken at some point during his training. Flying first with 296, 297 and then 196 Squadron, being awarded a DFC on the 12th of December 1943. Image supplied by the family of George Williams.

Many thanks to Mike for contacting me recently about George Augustus Shotun Williams, with a query regarding his presence in the Squadron. Mike had visited the site and came back to me with a question about the recorded Navigator for Jack Wright’s crew – listed at this point as a F/Lt C. Williams. Mike, thanks to impeccable prior research, noted that on the day of the Wright’s crew arrival at Mepal, on the 28th of November 1944, 2 other crews also arrived, all from No.31 Base.

On all the operations that Jack Wright took part in from the 5th December 1944 to the 2nd of January 1945, his navigator was shown as Ft/Lt C. Williams. At this point, the only Navigators of a rank of F/Lt. was C. Williams of the Wright crew, Ron Payne, Jack Brewster and Arthur Creagh.

As Mike noted: “As ‘A’ Flight leader Jack Wright seems to have assembled an experienced crew, many with a DFC and mainly composed of officers, and George Williams fits into this perfectly. He was a navigation instructor at RAF Stradishall before he transferred to 75(NZ) Sqdn”.

The additional fact that George’s service record clearly shows his arrival at Mepal on the 28th of November clearly identifies him as ‘C’ Williams. Anyone who has spent any time in Squadron documentation knows the number of errors present when one, as it were, knows the truth and it would seem that up until Mike’s contact, George was lost in these errors – to this end it’s always a wonderful personal feeling when we are able to add another name and thus another actual person to the Squadron’s history.

George flew 6 Ops with Jack Wrights crew, the last being on the 2nd of January 1945, to Nuremberg. On the 20th of February he was posted to 218 Squadron. Ironically Mike reports that here at 218 he is recorded as ‘H’ Williams

If anybody is able to shed any further light on Georges wartime career, i am sure his family would love to find out.

It’s a pleasure to meet you George……

Another milestone – 600,000 views!

Just to let everybody that we have just passed the latest big viewing milestone – 600,000 views!

Almost 13 months to the day since we passed the half a million mark, you, the blog audience have added another 100,000 views to our tally and with it we get another small step closer to the magic figure of 1 million views. I think the passing of this new milestone, in the time it has happened is all the more remarkable given my silence regarding posts for essentially 1/4 of the year owing to the self inflicted loss of my laptop!

I have received questions over the years regarding what has been claimed to be my unnecessary emphasis on statistics and particularly the total viewing figures. In the past, I have tried to explain, but now I simply refute these queries. Put simply, this website has become, the largest single resource for 75(NZ) Squadron RAF in the world. It has achieved this by having the most comprehensive collection of records, information and images on the Squadron, which is freely accessible to all. This complete open door policy regarding information is vindicated by the volume of visitors and views that are recorded.

Frustratingly I am picking my way through the busiest part of my professional year – assessment, the awarding of Degrees, the preparation for our annual London show and planning for next academic year means that I am waiting for a clear gap in the next few months to present new material that has come to me over the last 6 months or so – all of you have have contacted me, please be patient – it will all be presented as soon as I can!.

Without sounding like a broken record – please can everybody share the site – so many relatives of the boys who flew with the Squadron have made contact over the years, that it makes me think that there are still many more that have yet to find the site. Please, share the site address, on social media, through the facebook groups you are members of – we need to find these people and we need to encourage them to share what they have or might know.

Also, please, please, please apply for your relatives service records! I cannot overstate the value and importance of the contents of these records to me and the site. Many dates and locations, because of the points of formation of a crew and their subsequent training means that details supplied for one person means that the same details of movement and training can be added to up 6 other individuals. As soon as I can, I will make a downloadable template available to hopefully streamline the transfer of personal details etc that I need for the database.

Here’s to the next 100,000 views!

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!

D-Day

75(NZ) Squadron RAF Operations log for the 5th/6th of June 1944.
The Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

Thanks to Chris for this piece, on the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Allied liberation of Europe.

The Air Force Museum of New Zealand in Christchurch holds a copy of the 75(NZ) Sqn Operations Log, a document which we were not previously aware of, and which gives us a much more detailed insight into 75 (NZ) Squadron’s contribution to D-Day. On the night of 5th of June 1944, 75(NZ) Squadron had prepared twenty-six Lancasters (a record at that point), and they took off either side of 0330hrs in the morning of the 6th to attack the coastal battery at Ouistreham. They were timed to reach the target at first light, and, on arrival, found a layer of cloud at 7,000 feet, with occasional gaps, through which some crews were able to see the markers. The bombing appeared to be fairly concentrated, no opposition was met, and all aircraft returned safely to Mepal after a round-trip of less than four hours. 

Ouistreham was at the eastern end of the invasion area, where Sword and Juno Beaches would be the scene of the Anglo-Canadian landings. However Mepal crews had not been told of the invasion, but they knew something was up as they were told that more than a thousand aircraft would be operating throughout the night, and that they must adhere to assigned flight routes, heights and times, and not jettison bombs over the Channel.  

From the 75(NZ) Sqn Operations Log: 
At 0730hrs,15 minutes after the last aircraft had landed back at Mepal, one of several ‘top secret’ messages came through from Waterbeach:

 ”D-Day is 6-6-44,  H Hour 0600” 

There were also messages about the distinctive markings of aircraft, and tight restrictions on the use of I.F.F. 

At 0810hrs Waterbeach advised the Colours of the Day: 
1400 – 2000 RY – Q – O
2000 – 0200 RG – J – I   Chaffinch OX
0200 – 0800 GG – C – D
0800 – 1400 GY – H – W 

Duty Beacon 62 – 285

 At 1105hrs Group requested 24 Lancasters be made available for an attack that night, Bomb Loads 18 x 500, petrol 1250 (gallons). 

W/T call signs were advised:  A & B Flt  M.K.H. and C Flt  P.O.K. 

At 1130hrs Target and Aiming Point coordinates were advised and an amendment to the Bomb Load, specifying 90% .025 fusing and 10% long delay (spread evenly over a period of 6 to 36hrs). H Hour 0235hrs. 

At 1610hrs W/C Leslie put the petrol up to 1366 (gallons). 

At 1620hrs Waterbeach advised the route coordinates (there and back). They also advised a bomb jettison location and repeated the instructions not to jettison in the Channel, mentioning “a very considerable volume of shipping”. 

At  1935hrs the target was altered to one of two possible targets (Lisieux one of them) and new route coordinates were advised.  

“Note: The alteration in route is to avoid low flying airborne forces, which are again operating tonight”. 

“A/C in two waves … 75 Sqdn 12 A/C in 1st wave, 12 2nd wave”. 

I.F.F. not to be used except in real emergency – sets were to be sealed in the “Off” position. “Window” and photography instructions given.  

2130hrs – target confirmed as Lisieux.
Strict adherence to routes and times required. Crews to fly below any bad weather over England, up to Thames Estuary, then climb through clouds to 7 or 8000 ft. Keep that height over enemy coast if weather fine, but if 5/10 cloud or more, drop below cloud and bomb below. Be prepared to come down below cloud over the target if markers are not visible. Balloon locations advised. PFF Aiming Point marking colours advised (Red & Green at H-3 to H-2, followed by Yellow & White) 

Master Bomber call sign “Wastepipe 1
Deputy M/B call sign       “Wastepipe 2
Cease Bombing call sign  “Sugar-plum
B/C Frequency 5105 Kc (B); 6440 Kc (D) 

At 2250hrs new instructions came through from BC HQ: 

– no Window- if crews can’t visually identify the target must not bomb any other target
– if any light flak received do not fire back (could be ours)
– route coordinates confirmed, H Hour brought forward to 0135hrs. 

At 2344hrs the first of 24 Lancasters took off from Mepal to attack the railway junction in the town of Lisieux, some twenty miles to the east of Caen.. They reached the target to find a thin layer of cloud at 5,000 feet, which obscured the aiming-point, but the Oboe markers could be seen clearly, and the bombing was considered accurate and concentrated. All returned home safely, the last landing at 0359hrs early on the morning of the 7th.

Squadron Nominal Roll – ‘1st occurrence list’

I am pleased to announce the addition to the top menu of a ‘Nominal Roll’ section.

I realise that I have already been working on this project for about a year and a half, gathering information, researching and creating a database. Based on what I have so far done and what therefore seems to remain to do, I now know that is impossible to even, at this point, estimate a completion date.

To this end, I have decided, in the first instance, to put up the original ‘1st occurrence’ list that the database is based on. This list, as the name suggests represents the first occurrence of every individual name that appears in the original crew database. My focus has also further refined – initially I took the reluctant decision to only focus on aircrew, based on the almost complete absence of a verifiable list of groundcrew. I have now taken the decision to focus on aircrew who flew at least 1 recorded Op or post War (Europe) sortie with the Squadron. The Form 540 records, particularly from the very well administered period of 1943, shows the very high number of movements in and out of the Squadron by aircrew who never actually flew operationally. The only exception to this new focus will be those individuals that were killed whilst with the Squadron, but whose death did not occur whilst on Ops.

On inspection, you will see that in its first iteration, the list is very basic, presenting an individual as follows:

ABBOT
D.A. Abbot. RNZAF NZ401219 – Air Gunner

Whilst overall, I have more information for most individuals than this, it is not constant or complete. To this end, I think it is better to provide this first complete list and then add/ edit it, regarding extra information than delay publishing for a mythical point of completion that might never be achieved. This current entry should be considered, relative, to what I believe is entirely achievable for the Squadron based on gathered information on my own Father, below:

SOMMERVILLE 
Robert Douglas ‘Jock’ Sommerville RAF 1562617/ 161049
Arrived at RAF Mepal on Wednesday, 21 July 1943, from 1651 H.C.U., Waterbeach aged 20
Trained as Air Bomber
Op total with Squadron, 21 

Undertook 21 Ops with AJ Mayfield’s crew as A/B

Tour History
30/07/1943 – Mining off the Frisian Islands, 02/08/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Hamburg, 06/08/1943 – Mining in the Gironde Estuary, 10/08/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Nurenburg, 12/08/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Turin, 16/08/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Turin, 17/08/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Peenemunde, 27/08/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Nuremburg, 30/08/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Munchen-Gladbach, 31/08/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Berlin, 05/09/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Mannheim, 08/09/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Boulogne, 15/09/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Montlucon, 16/09/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Modene, 22/09/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Hanover, 23/09/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Mannheim, 03/10/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Kassel, 04/10/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Frankfurt, 08/10/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Bremen, 18/11/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Mannheim, 19/11/1943 – Attack Against Targets at Leverkusen.

The Mayfield crew were screened on direct orders from 3 Group Headquarters, prior to the regulation 1st Tour total of 30 Ops being completed. The news was delivered to the crew on the morning of the 20th of November, along with one other crew, as yet to be identified. It would appear, the decision to screen the crew at this point in their tour, was to show the remaining crews that there was in fact a chance to survive the ‘chop’ Squadron, as 75(NZ) Squadron was beginning to be described, at a point in time where crew losses were beginning to mount.

Time with Squadron, 4 months 24 days (arrival to departure date)

Posted to No.3 Lancaster Finishing School, Feltwell, for instructional duties Wednesday, 15 December 1943.

2nd Tour 
Arrived at RAF Mepal on Thursday, 25 January 1945 from No.3 Lancaster Finishing School, Feltwell, age 22
Op total with Squadron, 21 – plus 1 dnc, (02/03/45 Attack Against Cologne) 

Undertook 22 Ops with VJ Zinzan’s crew as A/B

Tour History
01/02/1945 – Attack Against Munchen Gladbach, 02/02/1945 – Attack Against Wiesbaden, 09/02/1945 – Attack Against Hohenbudburg, 13/02/1945 – Attack Against Dresden, 14/02/1945 – Attack Against Chemnitz, 16/02/1945 – Attack Against Wesel, 19/02/1945 – Attack Against Wesel, 20/02/1945 – Attack Against Dortmund, 02/03/1945 – Attack Against Cologne (DNC), 04/03/1945 – Attack Against Wanne Eickel, 06/03/1945 – Attack Against Salzbergen, 07/03/1945 – Attack Against Dessau, 09/03/1945 – Attack Against Datteln, 10/03/1945 – Attack Against Gelsenkirchen Buer, 12/03/1945 – Attack Against Dortmund, 14/03/1945 – Attack Against Heinrich Hutte, 20/03/1945 – Attack Against Hamm, 23/03/1945 – Attack Against Wesel, 29/03/1945 – Attack Against Salzgitter, 04/04/1945 – Attack on Meresburg, 13/04/1945 – Attack on Kiel, 14/04/1945 – Attack on Potsdam.

Time with Squadron, 3 months 9 days (arrival to departure)

It also strikes me that by making this basic list available, there is far greater opportunity for new information to be provided by visitors to the site. I have activated comments on all pages of the list with the hope that this provides the easiest way for people to add information that can then be added to the database.

One sobering fact that has already come to light, based on a total count in the list is that almost 1/3 of individuals that flew with the Squadron, died in it.

I am currently keen to get the following information on individuals:
Date of Birth
Dates and location of training bases prior to 75(NZ) Squadron
Post 75(NZ) Squadron postings
Post War career/ achievements
Date of death

Please have a look at the list and if you feel you have any useful information, please leave a comment or email me.

Either go up to the top menu or go to the list here.

New crew pictures

The Curr crew:
L-R: Sgt Leslie Kennedy (front gunner), F/Sgt Ken Crankshaw (rear gunner), Sgt Frankie Curr (skipper), P/O Ronald Hull (wireless operator) and Sgt Ivan “Sully” Sullivan (navigator).
With their regular Wellington BJ721 AA-A “Achtung ANZAC”.
NZ Bomber Command Assn. archives, Ken Crankshaw collection. 

Chris has come up trumps – massively, with a huge collection of crew photographs that have been added to the respective crew pages on the site. The majority come from the New Zealand Bomber Command Association Archive and as always I must give sincere thanks to the Association and Peter Wheeler. Also massive thanks to everyone else who has passed on photographs to Chris and to those that have given images that have been previously presented in posts, that have now also been added to the crew pages.

Perhaps as I am yet to find a crew picture containing Bob, I find myself always drawn to these photographs. To see a group of the boys together, usually smiling at the camera, despite the situation they found themselves in makes me think that what we see shining out of these pictures is true spirit and camaraderie – caught in a split second of time, but now persisting forever.

This is a significant addition not only to the crew pages but to the site as a whole and I am sure that some visitors are going to find, perhaps for the first time, a picture of a loved one. Please take the time to have a look via the links below – there are some remarkable examples – and if you can identify anybody in them – as always, please contact us!

New photographs have been added to the following crew pages:

V.A. Adolph
J.K. Aitken
K.E. Amohanga
B.L.D. Anderson
A. Ashworth
J.M. Bailey (1st Tour)
R.B. Berney
E.V. Best
I.E. Blance
A.A.N. Breckon
E.F. Butler
I.S. Carroll
F.L. Curr
A.G. Daly
F.H. Denton
J.A. Emslie
J.F. Fisher
R.C. Flamank
R.E.E. Fotheringham
A.A. Fraser
C. Glossop
D.V. Hamer
W.L. Hardy
N.J.N. Hockaday
D.G.G. Horgan
J.Joll (2nd Tour)
C.E. Kay
J.R. Layton
R. Leggett
F.J. Lucas
F.J. Lucas (2nd Tour)
R.D. Max
C.A.G. McKenzie
I.G.E. McPhail
C.A. Megson
E.L.K. Meharry
H.A.D. Meyer
A.G. Osborne
G.N. Parker
W.G. Reay
R.W. Russell
D.L. Thompson
H.J.D. Treewheela
L.G. Trott
F.H. Turner
R.J. Urlich
E.E.D. Ware
White
N. Williams
S. Wilson
E.F. Witting
J.H.T. Wood
J.L. Wright
J.L. Wright (2nd Tour)
J.S. Young