Tag Archives: ND911

Another piece falls into place – Homberg 20th November 1944

8A.  HOMBERG RAID 20.11.44 SUPER-IMPOSED BY HLR cropped

Many thank to Hubert for ‘recreating’ this approximate Op route for the Homberg Op, 20th November 1944. What is perhaps more remarkable, given the current activity on the blog, is that Hubert is the son of Hubert Rees, the captain of PB520 AA-G, the third aircraft to be lost from 75(NZ) Squadron on this Op. Hubert and the rest of his crew managed to bale out from the aircraft – all surviving and spending the rest of the war as PoW’s. The Rees crew that night were;

F/O Hubert Rees RAFVR 152402 – Pilot. Stalag Luft I
F/O Raymond Charles Preston RAFVR 1494143/ 153457 – Navigator. Stalag Luft I
F/O Douglas Cooper Westwood RNZAF NZ427483 – Air Bomber. Stalag Luft I
F/L William French Morison Naismith RAFVR 47714 – Wireless Operator. Stalag Luft I
Sgt. J. E. Mulhall RAFVR 2202223 – Flight Engineer. Stalag Luft III
Sgt. R. Alderson RAFVR 2221636 – Mid Upper Gunner. Stalag Luft VI
Sgt. C. Allen RAFVR  1898556 – Rear Gunner. Stalag Luft VII*
*Same prison camp as Sgt. John Gray, Rear Gunner and sole survivor of the McCartin crew ND911 JN-V

Hubert’s plot is based on a copy of an original route map of his Father’s and the original plotted course to/ from Sint Truden in Belgium can be seen in black on the map.

Hubert has slightly revised the plotted route (based on the coordinates I received from Department of Research and Information Services, Royal Air Force Museum, London, last week –  he has moved the actual target from Homberg to the Meerbeck Synthetic Oil Plant of Rheinpreussen, located at the western edge of the village of Meerbeck about three miles northwest of Homberg. Hubert adds to his map the following observations;

‘I would hope that my web-derived lat/long approximations for Diss, Orfordness and Mepal would be viewed as credible but ‘non-critical’.  However, I now realise that my approximation for the Target location might be viewed otherwise.  Historical references to the district of Homberg (the centre of which I earlier used to derive an approximate location) appear to represent a short way of describing the actual target, namely the synthetic oil plant at Meerbeck, some 3 miles NW of Homberg.  I still don’t have a lat/long fix for the plant itself, but my approximation is now centred on the district of Meerbeck.
 
As long as it’s understood that my lat/long approximations for named locations are just that, and not actual fixes used by aircrew at the time, then all will be well with the post, I think.’

Many thanks also to Adrian who proposed a set of converted coordinates that he got to work with Google Maps – much to my frustration I still can’t seem to get the coordinates to show a sensible route over the target – which clearly suggests my second successful attempt at my Cub Scouts Map Reading badge apparently, was an utter fluke…….

Missing. McCartin crew – the chain of loss.

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The telegram that no family wanted to receive. The McCartin family did on the 22nd of November 1944.
Donated by Pauline McCartin to the Australian War Memorial
AWM: PR03129 – Papers of Lt Leo McCartin & FO Patrick McCartin

The following collections of letters, is perhaps the most touching set of documents I have so far come across in the creation of this blog. These letters were given to me by Paul Hickey, whose wife is the niece of Leo McCartin. They were one of the first collections I set out in one of many initial designs for the ‘proper’ website that some day will happen. Because of their length I initially decided not to place it here on the blog, but now as more information comes to me, I think it should be shown – to wait for the website to be built might mean a massive delay before these letters can be seen.

It is moving enough to read a crew history that ends with their loss. However, what follows is a series of letters between ‘Official’ sources and the families of ‘Leo’ McCartin’s crew after their tragic loss on the Homberg raid of 20th November 1945. All the crew were lost, apart from the rear gunner Flight Sergeant John Gray, who survived and spent the remainder of the war as POW.

Remember, compounding the awful notification of the loss of their aircraft and the crew’s initial status of ‘missing’, 2 of the families were some 10,000 miles away in Australia when that first fateful telegram arrived.

Read the Chain of Loss here.

Contact with Colin Gray, son of John, rear gunner

Phil passes me a contact for Colin Gray, the son of John, the sole survivor of the McCartin crew. I’m keen to make contact and flesh out any personal information on John, as well as make contact with another relative.

Colins reply is quick, friendly and supportive – it transpires we were actually both at Mepal last November and that actually the ashes scattered the previous day were those of John.

I am slightly surprised when in his email, he asks whether I have seen the information about the Mccartin crew on AircrewRemeberenceSociety – as the story that was told is nothing like the story he knows to be correct.

This throws me a bit – I know that the information has come from Jim and Paul and I know, having seen the letters and accompanying documentation, that the evidence exists for the story as it stands. I feel in a bit of a dilemma – I am sure Colin believes he knows his story to be correct, but I know that the story from Jim and Phil is as well. It dawns on me that the missing link is the ‘Report of Loss’ letter John had to write on his return to the UK. I um and ah for a few minutes and then send it to him………

It dawns on me that I have possibly just done what I hope the website to do – connected people with information, allowing a clearer or more detailed story to be told or understood – I hope Colin feels the same way……..
Colin mails back and thanks me for the information – it transpires he has never seen it – so I am glad he now has.

The McCartin crew

The crew of ND911 JN-V. Back row L to R; P/O John Miles (Nav), F/O Patrick ‘Leo’ McCartin (Pilot), F/O Leonard Martin (A/B), F/Sgt. Phillip Smith (WOP). Front row L to R; Sgt. John Gray (R/Gnr), Sgt. Dennis Bryer (Mug), Sgt. John Warlow (FE)

Just received the promised material from Paul and Jim about their relatives. Leo and Phil were Pilot and Wireless Operator respectively on Lancaster ND911 when the aircraft and all but one of its crew were lost on a raid to the infamous target of Homberg on the night of the 20th November 1944. The plane exploded in mid-air, killing all the crew probably instantaneously, apart from the rear gunner, John Gray, who came round from momentary unconsciousness, still in the tail of the aircraft. He baled out and survived, to spend the rest of the war as a PoW. This is the first time I have actually dealt with information relating to a loss – I think I find the experience all the more profound because of the incredible and heart wrenching set of letters Paul has passed to me relating to the official notification of Leo’s initial status of ‘missing’ from the Australian Air Force and the handwritten correspondence from Leo’s father trying to find out his sons fate and ultimately his final resting place – I don’t feel embarrassed to say I had tears in my eyes as I read them….