Tag Archives: MOTAT

John Simpson Young and crew – 1945.


F/S John Simpson Young at the controls of a Lancaster, 1945. – Photo copyright and courtesy of Emil Reale.

Many thanks to Chris for putting together the following post and thanks also to Emil and Jonathan for their valuable contributions.

NX665, the lovingly restored Avro Lancaster holding pride of place in Auckland’s Museum of Transport & Technology (MoTaT) Aviation Hall is not just the centrepiece of the museum’s Bomber Command display, it is a magnet for anyone with an interest in the Bomber Boys and that period of history. Many a conversation and connection has been made beneath the wings of this beautiful aircraft.

Inspired by reading some of the posts in this blog, Emil, the grandson of 75 (NZ) Sqdn Lancaster Pilot John Simpson Young, visited MoTaT and the Lancaster late last year, to seek out someone who he could share his grandfather’s photos with.

Fortunately for Emil, he met up with one of the aircraft’s dedicated guardians and caregivers, Squadron Leader Jonathan Pote. Jonathan has his own significant background in the RAF, including air time in the Lancaster’s descendant, the Avro Shackleton, and over the years has become something of an expert on the Lancaster.

After hearing about Emil’s grandfather’s service on Lancasters, Jonathan gave him a guided tour of the aircraft, which these days proudly wears 75 (NZ) Squadron RAF markings on both sides of the fuselage. With Jonathan’s help, Emil even managed his own version of the cockpit photo above, one that has always been very special to him.


Emil, himself a pilot, at the controls of the MoTaT Lancaster, 12 November 2014. – Photo copyright and courtesy of Emil Reale.

Emil generously offered copies of his grandfather’s photos to the NZ Bomber Command Assn., and Jonathan passed on his contact. After a series of emails, we have been able to provide some more detail around the photos, and of the Young crew’s time at Mepal, and later Spilsby, which he has kindly allowed us to reproduce here.

23.4.45: Administration
NZ4213650 F/Sgt J Young and crew arrived on posting from 75 Base.

No. 75 Base was RAF Swinderby, the home of 1660 Heavy Conversion Unit, a heavy bomber training establishment.

John Young and his crew arrived at 75 (NZ) Squadron on 23 April 1945, only weeks before the war ended, and missed out on taking part in any war operations.

In fact, although they didn’t realise it at the time, the Squadron took part in its last bombing Op’ of the war the very next day, on 24 April, when it sent 21 Lancasters to take part in a daylight attack on rail marshalling yards at Bad Oldesloe.

John  doesn’t appear to have flown a “second dickey” op’  – the practice of taking new Pilots on a familiarisation op’ as Second Pilot seems to have been dropped around this time. The Squadron was still involved in bombing practice however, and training for supply dropping.

At Prince Bernhard’s request, the British and US militaries had negotiated a truce with German forces in occupied Holland so that food supplies could be dropped to starving civilians. This humanitarian aid effort was code named “Operation Manna” by the RAF.

75 (NZ) Squadron carried out its first Manna drop on 29 April.

So the crew’s first op’ was a supply drop to the Dutch city of Delft, on 7 May 1945:

7.5.45: Supply Dropping at Delft
26 Aircraft were detailed for Supply Dropping at Delft. The mission was uneventful. Oil patches and yellow objects were seen in the sea near the Dutch coast.

Lancaster I HK562, AA-L “Lucy”.
Take Off: 12:20 – Landed: 14:48 1/2
Flight Time: 2:28 1/2

F/Sgt John Simpson Young, RNZAF, NZ4213650, Captain and Pilot
F/Sgt Lawrence Fitzgerald, RNZAF, NZ436144, Navigator
F/Off John Edward Gammon, RAF, Bomb Aimer
F/Sgt William Alfred Wagener, RNZAF, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
Sgt C. Over, RAF, Flight Engineer
LAC Smedley, Passenger
F/Sgt P. or T. or D. Wesborn, (Westborn?), RAF, Rear Gunner

Supplies carried 3 1/2 Packs.
Saw white cross and red T.I. Very successful mission. All packs were dropped.

Note: Lancaster HK562, L for Lucy (also known by some crews as “Love”) was a Squadron veteran, having arrived in June 1944. She is mentioned in both “Luck and a Lancaster” by Harry Yates DFC, and “Bombs On Target” by Ron Mayhill, DFC. A member of the Mallon crew records that she was “retired” on 99 bombing op’s, however she re-appears in these Operation Manna supply drops, so technically could be one of only a handful of 75 (NZ) Sqdn Lancasters to reach the “ton”.

8.5.45: V.E. DAY
A Station Parade was held at 14.30 hours to mark the event, and the Prime Ministers speech was heard. The Parade was dismissed by the Station Commander, who stated that all personnel not on essential duties were free for the rest of the day.

Operation Exodus
The next job for the bombers was to help bring liberated Allied Prisoners Of War home to England from Europe – Operation Exodus. 75 (NZ) Sqdn made trips to France on the 9th and 10th of May, bringing back 24 POW’s in each Lancaster.

The Young crew flew to Juvincourt, France, to collect POW’s for repatriation on 11 May.

11.5.45: Repatriation of Prisoners Of War at Juvincourt
Two missions were made today. 15 Aircraft were detailed for the first mission, and 6 Aircraft for the second mission. F/O H. Trewheela and crew were on both missions. Repatriation of Prisoners of War at Juvincourt was the objective. F/O H. Trewheela (JN.F) starboard outer failed as he approached the landing field. He returned to Base without landing, and he reached Juvincourt on the second mission, but was refused permission to land and told to return to Base. F/O R. Wilson (AA.F) had engine trouble at Tangmere and his return was delayed. A total of 336 men returned for the first mission. Weather deteriorated during the day and only 48 men were brought back by the second mission. F/L S. Peryer (JN.N) returned from Juvincourt on three engines. F/O T. Good (AA.S) was forced to land at Upwood on return due to weather conditions.

Lancaster I NF935, AA-P
Take Off: 17:34 1/2 – Landed: 21:54 1/2
Flight Time: 2:20

F/Sgt John Simpson Young, RNZAF, Captain and Pilot
F/Sgt Lawrence Fitzgerald, RNZAF, Navigator
F/Off John Edward Gammon, RAF, Bomb Aimer
F/Sgt William Alfred Wagener, RNZAF, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
Sgt C. Over, RAF, Flight Engineer
F/Sgt P. or T. or D. Wesborn, (Westborn?), RAF, Mid Upper Gunner
F/Sgt T. Goddard, Rear Gunner

Number of men carried – NIL.
Landed at Juvincourt and was told to return to Base direct without Prisoners Of War.

Part of the second group of aircraft sent from Mepal that day, they had to return empty, due to deteriorating weather. Only two Lancasters from the second group were able to fly with passengers, ie., they could only bring 48 men back. That must have been extremely disappointing for the crews, no doubt looking forward to the highly emotional prospect of bringing their boys home.

They flew to Juvincourt again on 13 May:

13.5.45: Repatriation of Prisoners Of War at Juvincourt
20 Aircraft were detailed to evacuate Prisoners of War from Juvincourt. This was a bad day, for only 24 men were brought back, and these men were brought back by F/S R. Hamilton (AA.F).

Lancaster III PB427, AA-U
Take Off: 12:31 1/2 – Landed: 16:27
Flight Time: 3:56

F/Sgt John Simpson Young, RNZAF, Captain and Pilot
F/Sgt Lawrence Fitzgerald, RNZAF, Navigator
F/Off John Edward Gammon, RAF, Bomb Aimer
F/Sgt William Alfred Wagener, RNZAF, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
Sgt C. Over, RAF, Flight Engineer
F/Sgt P. or T. Wesborn, (Westborn?), RAF, Mid Upper Gunner
F/Sgt T. Goddard, Rear Gunner

Number of men carried – NIL.


The Young crew, with Lancaster PB427, AA-U, probably at Juvincourt, 13 May 1945. – Photo copyright and courtesy of Emil Reale.

This wonderful crew photo looks to have been taken on this trip, and photos of the Exodus op’s are quite rare. The aircraft appears to be parked on Marsden matting or some similar surface, so its quite likely that the photo was taken that day, 13th May 1945, at Juvincourt airfield in France.

The hand-written signage on the fuselage – “The Young Express. All points west, England & Wales, Scotland & London” and “Young’s Circus. Please remove your hat when we land. We would hate to spoil a (perfectly good?) hat …” – looks to have been applied by by the crew, for the benefit of the POW’s returning home.

This trip was another anti-climax however; most of the 75 (NZ) Sqdn Lancasters were not allowed to take off with passengers due to the strong cross-winds that day, and had to fly home empty.

Lancaster PB427, AA-U – the ‘G’ suffix…..
PB427 is the only Lancaster to appear in 75 (NZ) Squadron’s Operational Record Book (ORB) with the designation “/G”. The “G” apparently signified the installation of highly secret special equipment on the aircraft, and meaning that when on the ground, an armed guard was to be posted alongside her at all times.

PB427 first appears in the ORB with the “/G” suffix on 17 March 1945 – prior to that entry she was always recorded as plain PB427.

The last time she appears in the ORB’s as “/G” is on 29 March 1945.

In her next entry (9/10 April) she reverts to plain PB427, presumably meaning that by then the “special equipment” (whatever it was) had been removed, although as we can see, the /G marking survived.

We can only speculate as to what the equipment was; possibly improved versions of the “Oboe” or “Gee” radar systems that the RAF was working on. By this time, most of the aircraft on the Squadron were equipped with “G-H” blind bombing equipment, but the G-H system had several limitations.

The Young crew’s op’ on 13 May is the last mention of PB427 in the ORB’s. She was transferred out to 1653 Heavy Conversion Unit, RAF North Luffenham some time later in May.

Operation Baedecker
The crew appears in the ORB again on 18 June:

18.6.45: Viewing the effects of the bombing offensive
5 Aircraft were detailed for viewing the effects of the Bombing Offensive.

Lancaster I HK576, AA-L.
Take Off: 14:36 – Landed: 19:05
Flight Time: 4:29

F/Sgt John Simpson Young, RNZAF, Captain and Pilot
F/Sgt Lawrence Fitzgerald, RNZAF, Navigator
F/Off John Edward Gammon, RAF, Bomb Aimer
F/Sgt William Alfred Wagener, RNZAF, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
Sgt C. Over, RAF, Flight Engineer
F/Sgt P. or T. or D. Wesborn, (Westborn?), RAF, Mid Upper Gunner
F/Sgt T. Goddard, Rear Gunner

As a gesture of goodwill and appreciation to those serving in non-flying supporting roles, a series of 4-6 hour observation flights were undertaken almost daily in 3 Group aircraft till the end of June 1945, observing German cities, towns, and other strategic targets engaged by the squadrons of Bomber Command almost nightly during the bombing offensive. This was known as Operation Baedecker (named after the popular German travel guide).

75 (NZ) Squadron’s contribution was 95 reconnaissance flights over the 36 day period, amounting to over 437 hrs flight time. These observation flights in Lancasters were to be the last flown by the Squadron from RAF Mepal.

Pilot Officer John S. Young was promoted to the rank of Flying Officer (acting) on 2 July 1945.

After the end of the war in Europe, 75 (NZ) Squadron 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) Squadron 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.

Young, Fitzgerald and Wagener stayed on for Tiger Force training.

75 (NZ) Sqdn moved from Mepal to RAF Station Spilsby, No. 5 Group, on 21 July.

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

VJ Day on 16 August meant Tiger Force was no longer required, and effectively meant the end of the Squadron.

The boys were eventually posted to No. 28 A.C.H.U. (Aircrew Holding Unit), RAF Wigsley on 28 September (Young and Fitzgerald) and 4 October (Wagener), pending repatriation, just before the Squadron was wound down.

It was finally decided that 75 (New Zealand) Squadron, RAF, would be disbanded on 15 October 1945.

After the war, John Young moved to Wellington with his wife, who he met in Europe. He started a family and set up two successful import/manufacturing businesses, John Young Flooring & John Young Furniture. John Young Furniture flourished in Auckland, where he later moved with his family, and the business still exists – Harvey Norman stores still sell the furniture. The family had a house in Remuera, and later Clevedon.

Bill Wagener returned to his family land at Houhora in the Far North of New Zealand, involved in operating a camping ground, the Wagener Holiday Park, which is still in business, and the Wagener Museum, which closed in 2003. John and Bill kept in touch after the war, and John used to enjoy visiting his old mate up North.


John Simpson Young: 18 June 1922 – 7 September 2001. – Photo copyright and courtesy of Emil Reale

Emil says:
I wish I had taken more interest in this subject while my grandfather was still alive. I think it was mainly down to his stubborn silence on the topic. He only opened up to me about it shortly before he died. My mother and uncle’s told me he never spoke to them about the war. Even though JS Young arrived late in the war and never saw direct combat, he made comments to me about the devastation he witnessed from above (perhaps the recon flights?). I don’t think he was ever at peace with what he had seen.


Emil and his daughter with the MoTaT Lancaster, November 2014. – Photo copyright and courtesy of Emil Reale. – Special thanks to Emil Reale for permission to reproduce these photographs.



MOTAT Lancaster to be repainted as NE181 JN-‘Mike’, ‘The Captains Fancy’

JNM cropped comp

NE181 JN-‘Mike’ – The Captains Fancy’ – the new paint scheme for the Lancaster on display at the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland, New Zealand.
Image via NZBCA Facebook page – © Peter West

I woke up this morning to see the exciting news on the New Zealand Bomber Command Facebook page, that the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland has announced their Lancaster will be repainted in the markings and nose art of 75(NZ) Squadron RAF NE181 JN-Mike – ‘The Captains Fancy’.

The Lancaster on display at MOTAT was built in June 1945. NX665 was destined for service in the Pacific as part of the proposed Allied invasion of Japan. However, Japanese surrender in September 1945 made the deployment unnecessary. The aircraft instead went into storage at Llandow until sold to the French navy in 1951.

Following acquisition by the French, NX665 was given the military registration WU13, and deployed first in France, then Morocco and Algeria on anti-submarine patrol, maritime reconnaissance, and air-sea rescue operations. After service in North Africa, WU13 returned to France in preparation for deployment in the Pacific with Escardrille 9S based in Noumea, New Caledonia. This was the aircraft’s last period of active service before being gifted to MOTAT as a good will gesture to New Zealand by the French Government.

‘The Captains Fancy’ holds a special fascination with 75(NZ) Squadron as it was the only aircraft in the Squadron to pass its ‘century’ of completed Operations. Perhaps inevitably because of this ‘fame’ there is a degree of ‘fogginess’ that exists around the aircraft, regarding the exact number of Ops credited to it and even in some quarters, what crew and what date the magic figure of 100 Ops final was recorded. The mystery is compounded by the fact that ‘Mike’ never carried more that 101 bombs (indicating Ops completed), even though research strongly suggests this figure is possibly 104 – after leaving Mepal for maintenance, it returned, but the ORB’s seem to contain inaccuracies regarding ‘Mike’s’ further flights and in some cases it is a matter of vigorous conjecture as to whether the  aircraft listed are others or in fact NE181. What we do know of course is that ‘Mike’ DID complete at least 101 Ops whilst with the Squadron – so I am very interested to see how MOTAT will present and try to communicate the disparity between the ‘official’, painted total and the higher figure that many, including myself, think she reached.

The bittersweet irony of this aircraft’s presence in the Museum is that the officers in 75(NZ) Squadron lobbied hard to have NE181 bought home (some believe the maintenance break towards the end of the war was as much to prepare ‘Mike’ for the flight back home as it was to simply overhaul her for further Ops). Despite the desire of the Squadron to bring the old girl back home with them, it would appear that the New Zealand government baulked at the fuel bill for the homeward flight……..

See a past post by Ian and Chris regarding the mystery of the final Ops and in fact whereabouts of NE181 here.

See the announcement on the NZBCA Facebook page here.
Visit the MOTAT Lancaster webpage here.