Tag Archives: Reginald Hill

Three cousins in 75(NZ) Squadron – another question answered!

AA-A

AA-A “Seven Sinners”
Photo from Forever strong: The story of 75 Squadron RNZAF, 1916-1990 (1991) by Norman Franks, Random Century.

Chris is like a dog with a bone with this story – his final thoughts and a very well argued conclusion……..

The question about the beer tankard nose art in the previous post led to an almost immediate reply from Ian, who has been helping build the 75 (NZ) Sqdn aircraft database, with a copy of a more detailed photo from Norman Franks’ book, Forever Strong.

AA-A was “Seven Sinners”, a name we had thought to be associated with another, later Lancaster.

Armed with this information I had another go with Google, which fortuitously turned up a wonderful set of photos of AA-A Seven Sinners and her original crew, the Bateman crew, who I think must have dreamed up the name and nose art:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/skew/4417816297/in/set-72157623582338770/

Johnny Bateman, his Navigator and Bomb Aimer were all Australian (hence the kangaroo), and the others were Brits (hence the Lion).

Seven Sinners was also the name of a 1940 movie starring Marlene Dietrich and John Wayne, so no doubt topical at the time.

The Forever Strong photo must have been taken just after she was named and decorated, as there are no op’s markings.

By the time the Elmslie crew’s photo was taken with her in October 44 (below), she had 27 op’s marked, so I figured there had to be a decent record of her in the ORB’s, going back to August 44 or thereabouts.

The Elmslie crew at Mepal, October 1944, in front of AA-A with its Foaming Beer Tankard nose art. Left to Right: Jim Elmslie (Pilot), Alan Wiltshire (Nav), Ken Futter (F/E), Jim McKenzie (B/A), Peter Dear (W/Op), John Vallender (RG), Gordon Burberry (M/UG) Photo from Alan Wiltshire, courtesy of NZ Bomber Command Association archives.

The Elmslie crew at Mepal, October 1944, in front of AA-A with its Foaming Beer Tankard nose art.
Left to Right: Jim Elmslie (Pilot), Alan Wiltshire (Nav), Ken Futter (F/E), Jim McKenzie (B/A), Peter Dear (W/Op), John Vallender (RG), Gordon Burberry (M/UG)
Photo from Alan Wiltshire, courtesy of NZ Bomber Command Association archives.

A quick scan of the ORB’s (Form 541’s) and there she was, LM266, the Bateman crew’s regular Lancaster from mid-August to early November, and the same a/c that the Elmslie crew flew on 7 October!

When we first looked at the Elmslie crew’s op’s, I had incorrectly assumed that LM266, as recorded in the ORB’s for 7 October, was AA-F (which she was re-coded to later in her life), but we have now confirmed that she was AA-A, from 28/29 July to 4 November 44.

Not only did the nose art help us solve the identity of the aircraft, it also allowed us to date the photos of Jim and crew in front of and underneath “Seven Sinners” – they would have been taken on the 7th of October 44, the day of their first op’ together, to Emmerich!

Good work Chris!!

Three cousins in 75(NZ) Squadron – a question answered.

The Elmslie crew showing off the size of the Lancaster's bomb bay, Mepal, October 1944. Left to Right: Alan Wiltshire (Nav), Gordon Burberry (M/UG), Peter Dear (W/Op), Ken Futter (F/E), Jim McKenzie (B/A), John Vallender (RG), Jim Elmslie (Pilot). Photo from Alan Wiltshire, courtesy of NZ Bomber Command Association archives.

The Elmslie crew showing off the size of the Lancaster’s bomb bay, Mepal, October 1944.
Left to Right: Alan Wiltshire (Nav), Gordon Burberry (M/UG), Peter Dear (W/Op), Ken Futter (F/E), Jim McKenzie (B/A), John Vallender (RG), Jim Elmslie (Pilot).
Photo from Alan Wiltshire, courtesy of NZ Bomber Command Association archives.

Chris has been doing some digging into the ‘unanswered question’ – here are his thoughts……

One of the questions Andrew wanted to answer from the previous post about first cousins Ewen Elmslie, Jim Elmslie, and Wally Sneddon, was why Jim Elmslie and his crew only completed 2 op’s before leaving the squadron. It turns out the answer was right under my nose.

Peter Wheeler’s excellent book, Kiwis Do Fly, is a collection of personal accounts of New Zealanders in Bomber Command. On the hunt for photos of 75 Lancasters, I was recently thumbing back through it, when one of the crew photos jumped out at me (the photo above). I’d read the book a year ago, but had forgotten about this story, and now I recognised a face – Jim Elmslie.

In The Wrong was written by Alan Wiltshire, and it tells the story of his frustrations with a series of incidents that delayed he and his crews’ efforts to get into frontline operations. One of those incidents was a take-off accident on a bad night at Mepal, which caught the ire of Wing Commander Jack Leslie, a notoriously tough taskmaster.

Alan was Jim Elmslie’s Navigator. Alan and Jim and the crew would have first met up and trained at 11 Operational Training Unit (OTU), RAF Westcott, folowed by 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit, RAF Wratting Common, a week or two at No.3 Lancaster Finishing School (LFS), RAF Feltwell, then finally being posted to 75 (NZ) Squadron based at Mepal in Cambridgeshire, arriving on 30th September 1944.

The Elmslie crew at Mepal, October 1944, in front of AA-A with its Foaming Beer Tankard nose art. Left to Right: Jim Elmslie (Pilot), Alan Wiltshire (Nav), Ken Futter (F/E), Jim McKenzie (B/A), Peter Dear (W/Op), John Vallender (RG), Gordon Burberry (M/UG) Photo from Alan Wiltshire, courtesy of NZ Bomber Command Association archives.

The Elmslie crew at Mepal, October 1944, in front of AA-A with its Foaming Beer Tankard nose art.
Left to Right: Jim Elmslie (Pilot), Alan Wiltshire (Nav), Ken Futter (F/E), Jim McKenzie (B/A), Peter Dear (W/Op), John Vallender (RG), Gordon Burberry (M/UG)
Photo from Alan Wiltshire, courtesy of NZ Bomber Command Association archives.

In Alan’s words:
“It was a gungho group full of press-on types, and they consequently suffered great casualties. I had to fit into this pressure cooker Squadron and our first Op was to Emmerich on the Rhine on October 7, followed by Duisberg on the 14th.

On the night of 15th October our Lancaster was in the take-off queue. There was a pranged Liberator just off the perimeter track and in swinging round it, one Lanc’ ahead of us hit another. There were delays while the wrecks were cleared away but our third Op’ wasn’t destined to be finished.

After further delays and much shouting by the Station Commander at last we hurtled down the runway. Our pilot put one wheel into the grass and started a classic ground loop. 400 yards from the boundary he retracted the undercarriage and pancaked us into the dirt.

We all got out safely but the pilot copped the Commanding Officer’s frustration and he went back to LFS.”

The pilotless crew was then sent on to RAF Ganston to pick up a new skipper, where “as I’d run foul of 75’s Wingco a day or two earlier, they had to look for a new navigator as well!”

– From “In The Wrong”, p.42, Kiwis Do Fly: New Zealanders in RAF Bomber Command, by Peter Wheeler. 2010, New Zealand Bomber Command Association. Reproduced with permission of the author.

Interestingly, the Pilot is only identified in the story as “Jim ‘E'”, indicating that sensitivities remain after all these years.

Interesting also that both Pilot and Navigator separately fell foul of Leslie, and that in another account from Kiwis Do Fly, Pilot F/L Stan Davies mentions W/C Jack Leslie, saying “By all accounts the previous Commanding Officer had been a bastard and had to be replaced“.

So this explains why the whole crew left at the same time, although not together – Jim would have had to find a new crew at another Squadron, and perhaps went on to complete more op’s.

In an intriguing twist, the photos shown were taken in front of, and underneath, Lancaster AA-A (NN745?), whereas the two op’s the crew completed were flown in AA-F and AA-H.

So were these photos taken on 15 October, the day of the accident, with the kite they were due to fly that night? The op was Mining in the Kettegat area, but there is no mention of an accident in the ORB’s, and the crew is not listed for that night so it would be difficult to confirm, unless perhaps damage records are available.

And I would love to see a better shot of that nose art!

Thanks to Andrew, and to Peter Wheeler for his help.

Three cousins in 75(NZ) Squadron

EwenElmslie-JimElmslie-WallySneddon

Photo: Kiwi first cousins Ewen Elmslie, Jim Elmslie, and Wally Sneddon, all served on 75 (NZ) Squadron.

Andrew has been trying to find out more about three of his relatives who served with Bomber Command, and has had some success via responses on Bombercrew forum and email correspondence with Chris. But many questions still remain.

It turns out that all three served on 75 (NZ) Squadron, and that two of them were based at Mepal at the same time, in late 1944.

P/O Ewen McGregor Elmslie, RNZAF NZ417200, Bomb Aimer
First of the cousins to serve with 75 was Ewen (left in photo above), who we know from this photo below, did his Initial Training at ITW Wereroa in New Zealand, graduating in January 1942:

EwenElmslie-ITWLevin-30Course-210142

Photo: Wireless Operator – Air Gunner’s course, Flight 3A, Course 30, 21 January 1942, Initial Training Wing Wereroa, RNZAF Levin, Levin, NZ. Ewen Elmslie is fifth from right, second row from the front.

The reverse of this wonderful photo has a great collection of very clear autographs – does anyone know any of these individuals?

EwenElmslie-ITWLevin-30Course-210142- rear-signatures

Photo: Reverse of photo, with signatures, Wireless Operator – Air Gunner’s course, Flight 3A, Course 30, 21 January 1942, Initial Training Wing Wereroa, RNZAF Levin, Levin, NZ.

Andrew believes that Ewen then trained in Canada, before shipping off to the UK.

10 May 1943: Sgt Burley and crew arrived at 75 (NZ) Squadron, Newmarket. (Ewen and the Navigator may have arrived separately the day before?)

Ewen’s crew (the Burley crew) was:
Pilot: BURLEY Plt Off Arthur William DFC RAF (1315375, 147201). 10 May to 27 Nov 1943
Navigator: HILL F/Sgt Reginald RNZAF (NZ413216)  9 May to 27 Nov 1943.
Bomb Aimer: ELMSLIE P/O Ewen McGregor RNZAF (NZ417200) AB 9 May to 27 Nov 1943.
Wireless Operator: WILSON F/Sgt R W, RAF. (1035365) WOAG 10 May to 27 Nov 1943.
Flight Engineer: RISBRIDGER F/Sgt R RAF. (577918)  10 May to 27 Nov 1943.
Mid Upper Gunner: HUBBOCK Sgt J RAF (1601799) AG 10 May to 20 Sep 1943.
Rear Gunner: PETERS Sgt A F RAF. (1154968) AG 10 May to 27 Nov 1943.

Burley the skipper flew his second dickie (familiarisation) op’ with P/O French and crew, on 12/13 May to Duisburg in Stirling BK777, AA-U

Burley crew Operational History:
13/14 May 43 Mining – Frisians, Stirling BK434 (BF434, AA-X?)
16/17 May 43 Mining – Frisians, Stirling BK434 (BF434, AA-X?)
21/22 May 43 Mining – Biscay, Stirling BF434, AA-X
23/24 May 43 Dortmund, Stirling BF561, AA-O (returned early with engine trouble)
25/26 May 43 Düsseldorf, Stirling BF434, AA-X
29/30 May 43 Wuppertal – The Ruhr, Stirling BF434, AA-X
11/12 June 43 Düsseldorf, Stirling BF434, AA-X (returned early with engine trouble)
19/20 June 43 Le Creusot, Stirling BF434, AA-X (Ewen missed this op’ – A/B listed as F/S Himal)
21/22 Jun 43 Krefeld, Stirling BF434, AA-X
22/23 June 43 Mülheim, Stirling BF434, AA-X
24/25 Jun 43 Wuppertal, Stirling BF434, AA-X
25/26 Jun 43 Gelsenkirchen, Stirling BF434, AA-X

(Squadron relocated from Newmarket to Mepal)

03/04 Jul 43 Cologne, Stirling BK777, AA-U
29/30 Jul 43 Hamburg, Stirling EH905, AA-R

12/13 Aug 43 Turin – Italy, Stirling EF434
Some enemy aircraft were seen. EF434, P/O Burley & crew on their way to the target sighted an unidentified single-engined aircraft over the Chartres region of France making a pass at them from astern. Evasive action was taken and the rear gunner, Sgt Peters, engaged the enemy aircraft with a short burst, before it broke off the engagement. The port outer engine of the Stirling had received considerable damage and was shut down. The crew stubbornly continued to the target on three engines, still 380 miles away; completed their bombing attack then returned to base where a safe engine-out landing was made at 05.35hrs. Burley was awarded the DFC (Immediate).

17/18 Aug 43 Peenemünde (V2 rocket research establishment) EH949, AA-P
23/24 Aug 43 Berlin,  Stirling EH877, JN-C (returned early with equipment failure)
27/28 Aug 43 Nuremberg, Stirling EF878
30/31 Aug 43 Mönchengladbach/Rheydt, Stirling EF434 (BF434?)
31/01 Aug/Sep 43 Berlin, Stirling EF434 (BF434, AA-X?)
08/09 Sep 43 Boulogne, Stirling EF462
16/17 Sep 43 Modane, Stirling EF137, AA-E
22/23 Sep 43 Hannover, Stirling EF462
23/24 Sep 43 Mannheim, Stirling EF137, AA-E

EF137, P/O Burley and crew, found themselves involved in three separate combat actions; one with a single-engined fighter, which the M/U gunner, F/O S Strong, succeeded in shooting down and claiming as destroyed. And then against two unidentified twin-engined fighters, which he claimed as breaking off, damaged, from his gunfire.

27/28 Sep 43 Hannover, Stirling EF137, AA-E
04/05 Oct 43 Frankfurt, Stirling EF137, AA-E
– total 26 op’s.

Ewen left the Squadron on 27 Nov 1943, posted to No. 1665 Heavy Conversion Unit, RAF Woolfox Lodge..

He survived the war, and on returning to New Zealand he married and settled down on the family sheep and beef farm at Waverley, South Taranaki, not far from his cousin Jim.

Ewen McGregor Elmslie, b.1 Jan 1918-d 2 Oct 1989.

F/Sgt James Alexander Elmslie, RNZAF NZ422048 PilotJim-Elmslie1944

Photo: Jim with Airspeed Oxford, probably taken during training in the UK – he already has his wings.

Jim was named after his uncle Major James McGregor Elmslie (1877-1915) of the Wellington Mounted Rifles (QAMR) who was recommended three times for the Victoria Cross at Gallipoli and died  on the top of Chunuk Bair on 9th August 1915.

Jim-and-Ewen-Elmslie-with-DorothyMcDonald

Photo: Cousins Jim and Ewen Elmslie with Dorothy McDonald, the wife of another of their cousins, Jack McDonald who was based in London in his capacity as a war correspondent.

30 September 1944: NZ422048 F/S Elmslie, J., and crew arrived at 75 (NZ) Sqdn on posting from No. 31 Base.

The Elmslie crew were:
Pilot : ELMSLIE F/Sgt James Alexander RNZAF (NZ422048) 30 Sep to 23 Nov 1944
Navigator: WILTSHIRE F/Sgt Alan Saville, RNZAF. (NZ4213813) 30 Sep to 27 Nov 1944.
Wireless Operator: DEAR Sgt J RAF … WO/AG 30 Sep to ? Nov 1944.
Bomb Aimer: McKENZIE W/O John Roderick RNZAF. (NZ4213903) 30 Sep to 27 Nov 1944, c/w J A Elmslie, & 19 Jul to 24 Sep 1945. Tiger Force. c/w N V Spanhake.
Flight Engineer: FUTTER F/Sgt K RAF … 30 Sep to ? Nov 1944
Mid Upper Gunner: BURBURY, F/Sgt Gordon Owen, RNZAF.(NZ427951) A/G 30 Sep to 15 Dec 1944.
Rear Gunner: MALLENDER Sgt J RAF. …. A/G 30 Sep to ? Nov 1944.

5/10/44 Jim Elmslie flew on a night op’ to Saarbrücken as 2nd Pilot (his “second dickie trip”) with F/O J.C. Bateman and crew, in Lancaster LM266, AA-F.

Elmslie crew Operational History:
7/10/44 Daylight op’ to Emmerich, Lancaster 1 LM266 (AA-F)
14/10/44 Daylight op’ to Duisburg, Lancaster 1 HK953 (HK593, JN-X?)

Jim and his whole crew all left the Squadron between 23 November and 15 December 1944, after only two op’s

Jim’s cousin Wally Sneddon, left the Squadron at the same time.

Andrew says “After the war Jim returned to the family farm at Waverley and became known as a bit of a “character” who did slightly crazy things in his Tiger Moth.

F/Sgt Walter Dalziel Sneddon, RNZAF NZ425436, Rear Gunner

WalterSneddon1943

Photo: Wally Sneddon, taken some time during his training.

Photo: "Air Bombers Course No. 83, Class B, ..... School" - Wally Sneddon circled at back.

Photo: “Air Bombers Course No. 83, Class B, ….. School” – Wally Sneddon circled at back.

1 October 1944: NZ427543 P/O R. Cumberpatch and crew arrived on 75 (NZ) Sqdn on posting from 31 Base (the day after cousin Jim arrived!).

Walter’s crew (the Cumberpatch crew) was:
Captain: CUMBERPATCH Fg Off Raymond Arthur RNZAF (NZ427543) Pilot 1 Oct 1944 to 7 Feb 1945
Navigator: WILSON P/O Norman Frederick DFC, RAF. (1584666, 190665).
Flight Engineer: SINCLAIR Sgt J RAF.
Bomb Aimer: WILLIAMS P/O Clayton Dickson, RNZAF. (NZ4214070).
Wireless Operator: SWITZER P/O Lindsay Roy, RNZAF. (NZ422008).
Mid Upper Gunner: GRADY F/Sgt Tom RNZAF (NZ416829)
Rear Gunner: SNEDDON F/Sgt Walter Dalziel RNZAF (NZ425436)

14 Oct 44 – F/O Cumberpatch first went on his second dickie (2nd pilot familiarisation op’) with F/O Martyn and his crew on a daylight op’ to Duisburg – the same op’ that Wally’s cousin Jim Elmslie and crew flew on. The Martyn crew flew in Lancaster NG113, coded AA-D.

18 Oct 44 – 75 (NZ) Squadron Commmander W/C Jack Leslie took the crew minus Cumberpatch on an op’ to Bonn in Lancaster PB418, AA-C.

Cumberpatch crew Operational History:
19/20 October 44, Stuttgart, Lancaster LM740, AA-B.
23/24 Oct 44 Essen, Lancaster HK573, AA-H
25 Oct 44 Essen, Lancaster ND917, JN-O
26 Oct 44 Leverkusen, Lancaster HK573, AA-H
29 Oct 44 West Kappelle, Lancaster PB421, AA-K
30 Oct 44 Wesseling, Lancaster NG113, AA-D
31Oct / 01 Nov 44 Cologne, Lancaster LM544, AA-J
02 Nov 44 Homberg (Meerbeck Oil Plant), Lancaster HK576, AA-G
04 Nov 44 Solingen, Lancaster HK576, AA-G
05 Nov 44 Solingen, Lancaster HK576, AA-G
06/07 Nov 44 Koblenz, Lancaster HK576, AA-G
16 Nov 44 Army/air support, Heinsberg, Lancaster PB520
20 November 44, Homberg, Lancaster PB418, AA-C.

After the 20 November op’, Walter disappears from the Cumberpatch crew list, replaced initially by 75’s Gunnery Leader F/L K. Tugwell on another op’ to Homberg the following day (21 Nov.), and then permanently by Sgt R. Muir (ex-Davies crew).

Walter then leaves the Squadron, on 26 November, 3 days after his cousin Jim.

Wally also survived the war, and back in NZ, farmed at Putaruru in South Waikato.

Walter Dalziel Sneddon, b. 24/2/1914, d. 26/7/1985.

If anyone has more information on any of the above, or can help ID the training group that Wally is pictured in, or any of the individuals in either group photo, Andrew would love to hear from you.