Tag Archives: Robert John Torbitt

Thomas Fredrick Duck display dedication service, MoTaT, Auckland, 2 February 2016

Thanks again to Chris for this post………

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The Thomas Fredrick Duck crew families and friends at the dedication service, MoTaT Aviation Hall, 2 February 2016 (NZ Bomber Command Association).

A wonderful gathering took place at Auckland’s Museum of Transport & Technology (MoTaT) on the 2nd of February, a meeting born out of friendships first made over 70 years ago.

A special dedication service was held for the “Thomas Fredrick Duck” display, put together by MoTaT and the NZ Bomber Command Association, and recently opened in MoTaT’s Aviation Hall. The display commemorates the crew of the famous 156 Path Finder Squadron Lancaster, JA909, GT-T, Thomas Fredrick Duck, as featured in Alan Mitchell’s book, “New Zealanders in the Air War”.

You can read the Thomas Fredrick Duck story here. https://75nzsquadron.wordpress.com/new-zealanders-in-the-air-war-john-leonard-wright-the-crew-of-thomas-frederick-duck/

There is a very strong 75 (NZ) Squadron connection. All six New Zealanders in Jack Wright’s crew at 156 PFF Squadron had crewed together or got to know each other on their previous tour of op’s with 75, along with a seventh individual, Jack’s original Rear Gunner, Bruce Neal.

Members of the families of five of the TFD crew were represented at the service, plus the family of Bruce Neal, who would also have been part of the legend if tragedy had not intervened.

At 75 (NZ) Squadron, Feltwell, Pilot Jack Wright, Navigator Charles Kelly, W/Op Nick Carter and gunners Podge Reynolds and Bruce Neal, had flown Wellington BJ772, AA-D “Donald”, which proudly carried  nose art depicting an aviator-attired Donald Duck sitting in a half-shell. Navigator Alf Drew had flown with Neville Hockaday’s crew in BJ837, AA-F “Freddie”.

“Donald” and “Freddie” were in adjacent dispersals, so the two crews had got to know each other well. At the same time, Rear Gunner Ken Crankshaw had been flying as a “spare part” gunner with a variety of crews, including Squadron Leaders Frank Denton, Ray Newton, and Artie Ashworth. He ended up his tour flying with Frankie Curr and his crew.

After completing their tour, most of the “Donald” crew were posted to 30 OTU as instructors for six months, before being posted to 156 Path Finders Squadron at Warboys.

Tragically, Bruce was killed while instructing at a Bombing & Gunnery School, and never got the chance to re-join his mates at 156 PFF Sqdn.

Path Finder Lancaster crews needed two Navigators, so their mate Alf Drew was recruited to join them. Crankshaw was already at 156 when they arrived, so he joined the crew as Rear Gunner, along with an English Flight Engineer, Harry Hammond.

Legend has it that the boys had brought the original Donald Duck nose art with them, on a piece of Wellington canvas, but in fact their old “Donald” had been burnt out when a Boston bomber crash landed at Mildenhall, just before they were posted out. Apparently copies of the nose art were made at 156, and after the “Donald” and “Freddy” veterans had been allocated Lancaster GT-T for “Tommy”, “Duck” was applied to their new aircraft, along with the compromise name, “Thomas Fredrick Duck”.

After the TFD crew had safely completed their tour at 156, the nose art was removed from their Lancaster and kept by Nick Carter, and a second copy was kept by Jack Wright.

Many years after the war, the original art was donated by Nick to the Air Force Museum at Wigram, and the second copy was donated by the Wright family to MoTaT. The latter has become the centre piece of the new display.

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Thomas Fredrick Duck copy artwork produced on canvas at 156 PFF Sqdn, 1943, signed on the back by a member of TFD’s ground crew, LAC Maund (NZ Bomber Command Assn).

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A representative of each Thomas Fredrick Duck crew member family, in front of the display – L-R: Alf Drew’s son, RNZAF Chaplain S/L Stuart Hight, Charles Kelly’s son Steve, Jack Wright’s daughter Lesley, Ron Mayhill (NZBCA President), Nick Carter’s widow, Ken Crankshaw’s grandson Clayton (NZ Bomber Command Assn).

There was an impressive turn-out of around 50 people. Sadly, none of the crew survives, the last, Nick Carter, passing away last year. However it was very special that his widow was able to attend.

RNZAF Chaplain S/L Stuart Hight led the service, and NZBCA President Ron Mayhill DFC, Legion of Honour, Peter Wheeler and Chris Newey each spoke about aspects of the crew and the significance of the display in helping us to remember the contributions of the airmen of Bomber Command.

It was an uplifting and at times very emotional occasion to have all six families together, 70 years later, to pay our respects to these brave men, for individuals to be able to speak to the gathering, read items from diaries, logbooks and memoirs, recount favourite anecdotes, and then meet and chat afterwards. The respect and affection felt towards their skipper and crewmates was a strong common theme in the stories that have been handed down, and it must have been deeply satisfying for descendants to hear these shared again after so many years.

One very exciting thing that emerged from the gathering was the realisation that the families collectively hold a large amount of previously unknown material, so the full story of the Thomas Fredrick Duck boys is yet to be told.

It was just a shame that no-one from the family of Raymond “Podge” Reynolds could be located in time for the occasion. Raymond passed away in 1991 and is buried at Otaki – the NZBCA would very much like to hear from anyone who can help put them in contact with relatives.

– Thanks to Peter Wheeler and the NZ Bomber Command Assn for these photos.

 

Is that it? – the Mayfield and Zinzan crew?

'B' Flight, 1651 Conversion Unit, Waterbeach, July 1943

‘B’ Flight, 1651 Conversion Unit, Waterbeach, July 1943

Having spent the majority of the weekend replying to contacts to the blog, and reading through Vic’s blog about his Dad Bob Jay, it suddenly has just struck me quite hard, how little I have moved on regarding finding more about Bob and the majority of the boys he flew with while at 75(NZ) Squadron RAF.

Now, this is certainly not a ‘rattle out the cot’ moment and neither am I ignoring the amazing contacts that I HAVE made with relatives of some of the boys that flew with Bob – but it just feels that all the others have gone cold – so here is a reminder of who I am looking for and its a chance to repost some tags of their names.

So please if you are a Twitter – please push this out there!

First Tour 21st July 1943 to 14th December 1943.
Sgt. Walter James Gee RNZAF NZ417207, Wireless Operator – 11 O.T.U and 1651 H.C.U.
The discovery that Walter Gee was part of the original Mayfield crew came a little in the day and was actually a stupid oversight on my part at the time. Subsequent research suggests we have identified him in 2 pictures, one in initial training in New Zealand (with John Hulena) and a second taken at 1651 Conversion Unit. Jack Jarmy, the crew’s Navigator remembered him and that he was ‘older than the rest of the boys’. I am aware of the possible reason for Walters departure prior to Operations and his eventual arrival in the New Zealand Army, but I would like to talk to a relative to clarify his story.

Sgt. F. W. Weaver RAFVR 1214092, Wireless Operator – 1 A.G.S.
1214092. SGT.WO/AG. Weavers, F. Attached from No.1 A.G.S. w.e.f. 20/7/43. (Authy. 25G/2502/63/P2/(78).

Sgt. Weavers arrival at the Squadron a day before the rest of the crew has provided a significant amount of frustration to me. Technically as a wireless operator he should have been with the crew since their initial formation at 11 OTU. A relatively recent discovery regarding Walter Gee (see above) begins, I believe, to partially explain this discrepancy with the arrival date.

I think that the sudden departure of Walter Gee (before an operational raid) allowed Sgt. Weaver into the crew to replace him. Unfortunately, Sgt. Weavers stay with the crew was short lived – on the third op to the Gironde Estuary on a Gardening raid, Sgt. Weaver apparently ‘cracked’.

It is impossible to postulate why this happened – it might have been a slow build up or possibly related to the boy’s decision to attack a train on the return flight from the target. In discussion with Jack, he recalls the wireless operator losing the ability to speak – shaking at his station.

The crew decided not to mention it on their return, deciding to see how Weavers was the following morning. It would appear that Weavers went to the Medical Officer and was deemed to be LMF (Lacking Moral Fibre) – such a diagnosis, as crudely simplistic as it was, meant only one thing, Sgt. Weavers was immediately removed from the base and was never seen or heard from again.

F/Sgt. James William Scarll RNZAF NZ417237, Wireless Operator – ?
Flew 2 ops with the Mayfield crew – August 10th , Nurenburg and August 12th to Turin, both as W/OP. Arrived 75(NZ) Squadron 19th June 1943. Completed tour 29th January 1944. Crewed with George Duncan’s crew as W/Op.

Sgt. William John Lake RNZAF NZ416421, Wireless Operator
NZ416421 F/S WO/AG Lake, W Posted from 1665 CU w.e.f. 29 July 43. Authority P/N 3G/965/43 dated 26/7/43

William  arrived to become the Wireless Operator with the crew on their second op to Turin on the 16th August . William and Tom Derbyshire were in fact part of another ‘still born’ crew whose pilot, Sgt. Jack Thomson RNZAF NZ421145 was killed on his second ‘2nd dickie’ operation with the Bailie crew on the 3rd August to Hamburg. In sad truth, this in itself was not a rare occurrence, the remaining crew usually just being dispersed amongst the squadron or sometimes transferred to others. William completed all remaining ops with the crew.

After the Mayfield crew’s departure Bill continued for a further 5 ops;

26th March 1944. Colin Megson crew – Attack against targets at Courtai. Wireless Operator.
18th April 1944. Derek Warren crew – Mining in Kiel Bay. Wireless Operator.
22nd April 1944. Tom Buckley crew – Attack against targets at Dusseldorf. Wireless Operator.
24th April 1944. Tom Buckley crew – Attack against targets at Karlsruhe. Wireless Operator.
11th May 1944. Cecil Armstrong crew – Attack against targets ay Louvain. Wireless Operator.

There is no subsequent record of William’s departure from the Squadron, or indeed where he subsequently was posted to.

Sgt. A. Warburton RAFVR 1624186, Flight Engineer11 O.T.U and 1651 H.C.U.
I litterally know nothing about Sgt. Warburton – he joined the crew at 11.O.T.U., he flew all Ops with the crew and vanishes…….

Sgt. R. Bullen RAFVR 1356658, Mid Upper Gunner –
1356658 Sgt. A/G Bullen, R  Posted from No.1651 C.U. w.e.f. 21 July 43. Authority P/N. 3G/855/49 dated 19/7/43.

1356658 Sgt. A/G Bullen, R. Posted to Combined Reselection centre w.e.f. 18/10/43 (Authy.P/N.3G/2380/43/ dd 16/10/43)

Sgt. Bullen’s rapid departure from the crew is currently a mystery. Reading around the subject, it would appear that being sent to the Combined Re-selection Board was not, on paper a good thing at all and was usually a sign of an airman failing to perform or fit in within a crew or the squadron. Whilst only guessing, I think the nature of Bullen’s departure must be different to that of Walter Gee and Sgt. Weavers – Bullen’s departure is recorded, whereas the other 2 have no record of their leaving the squadron – one must assume because of the perceived ‘disgrace’ of their departure.

Sgt. John Sebastian Hulena RNZAF NZ416427, Rear Gunner 11 O.T.U and 1651 H.C.U.
NZ416427 Sgt. A/G Hulena, J  Posted from No.1651 C.U. w.e.f. 21 July 43. Authority P/N. 3G/855/43 dated 19/7/43 to 75(NZ) Squadron RAF.
John was born on the 8th  June  1913 in Oxford, North Canterbury, New Zealand. He is listed on the passenger rosta of the ‘Bloemfontein’, which sailed from Wellington and arrived in San Francisco in March 1942, by way of travelling to his final destination in Canada for aircrew training.

The earliest I can specify a training point is No.11 O.T.U at Wescott on the  6th April 1943 – this is based on the assumption that John was the single rear gunner that the initial OTU crew was based on (a second gunner would join at the Conversion Unit, simply because the Wellington bombers used at OTU only had a single gunnery position).

  • 9th June is the last logged flight at 11 O.T.U.
  • On the 14th June, John married Beatrice Jane Madams in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. Beatrice was an RAF nurse, who originaly came from Manchester.
  • 26th June posted 1651 Conversion Unit, Waterbeach.

John flew all of the 21 ops the crew flew before competing his tour with the squadron

  • Posted to No.17 Operational Training Unit (17 O.T.U) with effect from 15th December 1943.

I currently do not know what John did between his arrival at 17 OTU and his arrival at 12PDRC in June of 1945. Based on Allan, Bob and Jack, I must assume that he flew another tour with another squadron. The only additional information regarding John I have within this period is that he was appointed to commission with rank of Pilot Officer with effect from 21st January 1944 and then to flying Officer by 21st 7th 1944.

  • To No.12 Personnel Depot & Receiving Centre (PD&RC), Padgate Warrington, 7th June 1945.
  • Disembarked in  New Zealand 4th August 1945.
  • Transferred  to Reserve 9th November 1945.

It is believed that John came from a farming family – his father is listed as a member of a World Record sheep shearing team – After returning from the war, John returned to being a farmer in the Manawatu area then came up to Corrmandel, farmed for a while and retired.

John passed away 31st August 1979 in Thames, Coromodel.
Beatrice passed away 4th March 1998.

Based on what I have discovered of the movements of Allan Mayfield, Jack Jarmy , John Hulena and Tom Darbyshire  – it would seem fairly certain that the other airmen in the Mayfield crew (perhaps Walter Gee and Sgt. Weavers aside), possibly, after instructing went back to complete another tour. All I know about them at this point is that none of the were killed on Operations.

 

Vernon John Zinzan stood on the left. Navigator James Coote, Mid Upper Gunner H. Hutchinson, Flight Engineer A. Ackroyd and Wireless Operator Miles Parr (the photo is missing the Air Bomber and Rear Gunner). Date unknown

2nd Tour 25th January 1945 – 4th of May 1945
Bob returned to Mepal and as it would prove out, finally solving the rotating number of Air Bombers that the Zinzan crew had gone through since their original Air Bomber, Ken Mesure broke his leg on landing after the crew’s first Op to Witten on the 12th of December 1944. I have observed elsewhere that even factoring in the turnover of Air Bombers, the crew was large by constituent participation – Herbert Steele, the crew’s original Rear Gunner seems to leave – for no clear reason – only to be replaced by a succession of other airmen.

P/O Vernon John ‘Taffy” Zinzan RNZAF NZ425314, Pilot51 Base, 1668 H.C.U
Vernon was born 18th May 1912. He enlisted in the RNZAF 30th May 1942 and was transferred to reserve 25th September 1942. Vernon was one of the older pilots in the Squadron –  ironic that when Bob joined the crew as a 1st tour veteran, he was 10 years Vernon’s junior……

  • Reported to Rotorua Intial Training Wing (ITW) 26th November 1942 as Leading Air Cadet A/P Gp V.
  • To Harewood No.3 Elementary Flying Training School (3 EFTS) 9th January 1943.
  • Embarked for Canada for pilot training 5th May 1943.
  • Disembarked & attached to Royal Canadian Airforce (RCAF) with effect from 19th May 1943.
  • To No. 4 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) (date unknown), Saskatoon.
  • To No.15 SFTS 14th June 1943, Claresholm.
  • Awarded flying badge & promoted to Sgt. Pilot 15th October 1943 (to F/Sgt 15th April 1944).
  • To 1 “Y” Depot (date unknown), Halifax, Nova Scotia (or possibly Lachine, Quebec).
  • Embarked for UK (date unknown).
  • Disembarked UK and to No.12 Personnel Reception Center (12PRC), Padgate Warrington, 10th November 1944.
  • To 18 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit (18(P)AFU) 25th April 1944.
  • To No.16 Operational training Unit (16OTU) 17th July 1944.
  • To 51 Base 29th September 1944, to 1668 Conversion Unit 13th October 1944.
  • 3rd December 1944 arrived on posting from 1668 Conversion Unit to 75(NZ) Squadron.

Vernon flew 30 ops with 75(NZ) Squadron, including a ‘second dickie’ flight to Osterfeld on the 11th December 1944 with the crew of F/Lt. Wylie Wakelin.

After the crew’s final op to Potsdam on the 14th April 1945:

  • Vernon was once again posted to No.12 Personnel Depot and Receiving Center (12PD&RC).
  • Disembarked  New Zealand No. 2 Pre-Deployment Training (2 PDT) 25th July 1945.
  • Ceased to be attached to RAF with effect from 13th August 1945.
  • To Northern Non-Effective Pool (N/NEP) [Cat 17] 17th July 1945.
  • Transferred to Reserve A1 November 1st 1945.
  • Commission terminated June 1st 1956.

Vernon passed away on the 21st  March 2007 at  Middlemore Hospital,  Auckland, New Zealand. His funeral service was held at Mauku.

F/O James George Sydney Coote RAFVR 517881/ 56715, Navigator 51 Base, 1668 H.C.U
An original member of the Zinzan crew – nothing else known.

Sgt. A. Ackroyd RAFVR xxxxxxx, Flight Engineer 51 Base, 1668 H.C.U
An original member of the Zinzan crew – nothing else known.

Sgt. H. Hutchinson RAFVR xxxxxxxxx. Mid Upper Gunner
51 Base, 1668 H.C.U
An original member of the Zinzan crew – nothing else known.

Sgt. Herbert Steele RAFVR xxxxxxx. Rear Gunner
51 Base, 1668 H.C.U

I am assuming that Herbert Steele was part of the original crew when they joined the crew from 1668 CU. I currently have no explanation for his absence for 3 ops and then his essential disappearance from the crew rosta for the rest of the tour.
His 19 raids with the crew were: Witten 12/12/44, Trier 21/12/44, Vohwinkle 31/12/44, Dortmund 3/1/45, Ludwigshaven 5/1/44, Saarbrucken 13/1/44, Langendreer 15/1/45, Wanne Eickel 16/1/45, Munchen Gladbach 1/2/45, Weisbaden 2/2/45, Hohenbudberg 9/12/45, Wesel 19/2/45, Dortmund 20/2/45, Koln 2/3/45 (aborted), Wanne Eickel 4/3/45, Salzbergen 6/3/45, Dessau 7/3/45, Auguste Vicktoria 17/3/45.

F/O Kenneth Cyril Mesure RAFVR 1802416/ 164824, Air Bomber 51 Base, 1668 H.C.U
Part of the original crew that arrived from 1668 CU, Ken was unfortunate enough to badly break his leg during a very heavy landing after the crew’s first raid to Witten – he never flew with the crew again. Strangely, Ken is listed on the 26th of June as returning to the Squadron from No. 33 Base (N.E.S) – I am guessing and would be grateful of clarification, but I think N.E.S must stand for non/ not effective strength.
His single raid with the Zinzan crew was: Witten 12/12/44.

Sgt J. McManus RAFVR Rear Gunner (R/GNR) – 4 ops
His 4 raids with the crew were: Wesel 23/3/45, Hallon Dorf 26/3/45, Meresberg 4/4/45, Potsdam 14/4/45.

Sgt. Frank Watts RAFVR Air Gunner. (R/GNR) – 2 ops
Sgt. Watts is a bit of a puzzle. A while back I was contacted by the son of Frank Watts and we discussed his time with the Squadron and the reasons for his movement from the Wakelin crew to finish his tour with the Clement crew. Records suggest 2 individuals on Squadron by the name of Watts at the time. Looking at a list of Ops by ‘Sgt’ Watt(s)’ I think this is the case – there are duplicative overlaps between the Clement and Wakelin crews where a Sgt. Watts is Mid Upper Gunner and Rear Gunner simultaneously.
With 75(NZ) from 20th October 1944 to April 1945. Initially crewed with Wylie James Wakelin as MU/Gnr then to crew of David St.Clair Clement as R/Gnr.
His 2 raids with the Zinzan crew were: Dresden 13/2/45, Gelsenkirchen 10/3/45.

W/O Herbert Winn DFC, RAFVR 1626025, Mid Under Gunner
22nd January to  May 1945. Trained as mid-under-guner but c/w John Mathers Bailey as R/Gnr. He is noted as being posted to the Squadron with another A/G from Feltwell on the 22nd of January.
His 2 raids with the crew were: Chemnitz 14/2/45 and Wesel 10/3/45.

W/O Robert John Torbitt RAFVR 1033159, Mid Under Gunner 
His single raid with the Zinzan crew was: Dortmund 12/3/45.
Additionally, he flew with:
Thorpe crew, Hohenbudberg 9/2/45.
Hamilton crew, Dessau 7/3/45.
(Squadron Leader) Wright crew, Munster Viaduct 21/3/45

Sgt. J. Tutty xxxxxx RAFVR, Rear Gunner
December 1944 to June 1945. c/w R B Crawford as R/Gnr.
Subsequent information has come to light, including photographs of the Crawford crew, which allows a reasoned guess at least to who in the pictures is Sgt. Tutty.
Sgt. Tutty was one of only two of the crew that escaped from the return crash on the 3rd of February from Dortmund without the need for hospitalisation. It would appear as a result of this that he was simply available to crew up in the absence of his own. Sgt. Tutty flew 1 Op with the Zinzan crew  on 8/3/45 Datteln

F/O Graham Coull RNZAF NZ131806/ 425883, Air Bomber
25th May 1944 to 7th February 1945.  Posted in from 31 Base, crewed with Squadron Leader Neilson Arnold Williamson (OC “C” Flight), on ops 30/6 – 14-15/10/44, also flew four ops with F/O John Keillor Aitken 11 – 14/9/44, with F/O Vernon Zinzan 3/1/45 (and probably flew with other crews).
He was then posted to 30 OTU (presume as instructor) then to  to 12 PD&RC 6/6, disemb NZ (2 PDT) 25/7/45, to C/NEP 27/7, tfd to Reserve A1 8/11/45, to General Reserve.

Emb for Canada 24/12/42, qualified as AB and appointed to temp comm. in rank of P/O w.e.f. 11/6/43, to F/O 11/12/43, to F/L 11/6/45.  Postwar an Engineer with Air New Zealand.

Graham passed away in Christchurch, New Zealand Monday 12th January 1998, aged 76, buried 14th January, Ruru Lawn Cemetery, Block 11, Plot 178.

F/O Charles Frederick Green DFC RAFVR 178730, Mid Under Gunner
16th January to  May 1945 as Mid-Under Gunner.
Citation for D.F.C. (25th September 1945):
“This air gunner has completed numerous operations against the enemy, in the course of which he has invariably displayed the utmost fortitude, courage and devotion to duty”.

P/O John Kennedy Clements RAAF AUS.418070, Air Bomber
John arrived at Mepal on the 18th of July 1944, originally crewing with the Jeffery Baines crew.
His 5 raids with the Zinzan crew were: Trier 21/12/44, Vohwinkle 31/12/44, Vohwinkle 1/1/45, Ludwigshaven 5/1/45, Langedreer 15/1/45.

Sgt C. Bullock xxxxxx RAFVR,  Air Bomber
21st December 1944 to  3rd February (when he was injured during a crash landing) 1945. c/w Roderick Bruce Crawford. On the 3rd February, Sgt Bullock was one of 5 crew who were injured on landing after a raid to Dortmund. Sgt. Bullocks single Op with the Zinzan crew was actually before this date and one must assume therefore was fill in for the then rotating A/B position in the Zinzan crew prior to Bob’s arrival in February 1945. His single Op with the Zinzan crew was 13/1/45 Saarbrucken.

F/Lt. Grant Alan Russell, DFC, RNZAF NZ411729, Air Bomber
Grant Russell, who was the 75(NZ) Squadron Bombing Leader from 9th March 1944 to 5th May 1945. In this role, which seems more of a training and admin role, he would occasionally fly op’s as fill-in for ill or absent A/B’s. During his stay with the Squadron he flew with amongst others, the Stevenson and Zinzan crew. He also flew a number of times with the Thomson crew – Don Thomson was his old Pilot from O.T.U. and 218 Squadron, who also ended up at 75(NZ) on his second tour.

From his book ‘Dying for Democracy’:
Flight No 35. Wanne-Einkle, Germany. Date 16/1/1945.
Mk III Lancaster NoPB427.
Pilot: F/O Zinzan.
Load carried:  1 x 4,0001b H.C. bomb, plus 12 x 500 M64 bombs, plus 4 x 2501b G.P. bombs1. Total weight = 11,466 lbs or 5.12 tons.
Distance flown: 1,055 miles.
Time airborne:       5hrs l0min.
 
This was a night flight and once again against Germany. Over the target, things became exciting and exasperating as I unhappily watched a Lancaster at our level, and only a few yards in front, explode into many small pieces. Very unnerving. The Germans had assessed our level of flying and great masses of enemy shells were exploding all around us. But it was always like that at every target. Pilots had to have wonderful nerve control to be able to fly their aircraft straight and level under such conditions, yet they all did. It was absolutely necessary, otherwise bomb aimers would never be able to take aim at the target. At each pre-flight briefing, a certain point of a broad target was invariably indicated as the aiming point and that aiming point was usually a very industrious war producing business.
 
We were coned by search lights just as we cleared the target but my very experi­enced pilot quickly whisked us out of that by dropping the nose of our kite, diving downwards while banking steeply to port and cleared the cone of search lights. We then swooped smartly up to 20,000ft again from which height I had just dropped our load. Our considerably reduced all up weight rendered our kite readily manoeuvrable.
 
Jerry must have been as thick as two planks not to have got the British message by now. But we would keep on and on until he really and fully understood.
 
This night was my pilot’s second consecutive almost all-night flight, all of which was of course under high tension. Coming in to land, he made a slight miscalculation. He levelled out while the aircraft was still some 15 or so feet above the runway, causing the kite to drop with a considerable thump. Our heavy landing was at 15 minutes after four in the morning. No one was actually hurt. An inspection in daylight revealed no damage to the aircraft. The strong construction only served to heighten my admiration of Lancasters. Further proof that it was still in good shape was illustrated by the fact that it did another all-night trip the very next night with another crew and returned safely to Base’.

F/Sgt James Henry Murphy, DFM, RAFVR 1393306,  Rear Gunner
7th August 1943 to  June 1944 & 30th December 1944 to  May 1945. c/w F P Lundon as MU/Gnr then with T G Buckley. The Squadron commander’s recommendation was :
“Flight Sergeant Murphy has carried out 31 operational sorties, targets including many of the most heavily defended industrial areas of Germany. He is an excellent Air Gunner and is always willing to engage the enemy. His coolness and efficiency under stress has played no small part in his crew’s brilliant record. His constant cheerfulness and untiring devotion to duty are deserving of the highest praise and I therefore have no hesitation in recommending that he be awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.”

F/Lt. Kenneth William John Tugwell, DFC, DFM, RAFVR 162524, Rear Gunner
28th August 1944 to  1945 Posted in as Gunnery Leader – no crew affiliation. Citation for D.F.C. (7th December 1945):
“Flying Officer Tugwell has completed many operational sorties against heavily defended targets. In February 1945, he was detailed for an attack against Dortmund. Shortly after leaving the target his aircraft was illuminated by searchlights and then engaged by two enemy fighters. After evading the searchlights the aircraft was again attacked by an enemy fighter. Flying Officer Tugwell opened fire and forced the enemy fighter to break off the engagement. At all times this officer has displayed a fine fighting spirit and great devotion to duty.”

So Please  -any of you that read this and have alternate or wider digital networks than me – PLEASE share and or spread this however you can – I so want to no more about some of these boys…………

New Zealanders in the Air War – John ‘Jack’ Leonard Wright & the crew of ‘Thomas Frederick Duck’

Lesley Family021

Squadron Leader John ‘Jack’ Leonard Wright, DSO, DFC.
© Leslie Hill

I really must apologise for the very belated posting of this chapter from ‘New Zealanders in the Air War’ by Alan W. Mitchell. The contents of the chapter was actually bought to my attention by Jack’s daughter, Leslie and her sister.

So, as I say, very belatedly;

NEW  ZEALANDERS IN THE AIR WAR
CHAPTER 20 – Squadron Leader J. L. Wright
(and the crew of “ Thomas Frederick Duck ”)
On a wintry night in October 1943 the staff in the control-room of a Bomber Station watched solemnly as the word ‘ missing ’ was chalked on a large blackboard opposite the flight record of T Tommy, which was then nearly two hours overdue, and from which no signals had been received for several hours. All the other aircraft in that particular Lancaster squadron had been accounted for, but hope for this remaining one had been abandoned. The main lights in the control-room were switched-off, and tired men and women left for a well-eamed rest. More than one went rather glumly, knowing that the crew of T Tommy was on the final operation of its second tour. It was indeed wretched luck that it should now be posted missing.

Actually, however, although T Tommy was posted as missing on the blackboard, it was still airborne and each of its crew of seven was firmly determined they would make base again that night. There were six New Zealanders and one Cockney in T Tommy, which bore as its mascot a painting on the fuselage of an irate Donald Duck with the caption “ Thomas Frederick Duck.” All the New Zealanders were on their sixtieth operation, and the Londoner was on his thirtieth; and, while the chalk was yet scratching the fateful word on the board, two of the four engines of the Lancaster were still rumbling several thousand feet above the English Channel.

It had been an unpleasant flight. They had been to Leipzig. On the way out, over the Channel, one of the Lancaster’s four motors had spluttered, but the captain had flown on without hesitation. It was the starboard inner motor, and after helping to lift the aircraft over a high, cold front, it finally cut-out when Hanover lay below. The aircraft began to lose height, the needle on the oil temperature gauge flickered towards the higher figures, the altitude ‘ blower ’ stopped working, and the two outer motors also beat unevenly. Yet the Lancaster maintained course.

Instead of flying at 20,000 feet it was now at 11,000 feet, which made it a much easier mark for the German defences; but eventually the target was reached, and the bomb-aimer automatically called his directions to the captain and pressed the bomb switch. The bombs, however, remained in their racks, and stuck there until one of the navigators and the wireless operator removed a part of the flooring and hacked at the bomb releases with an axe and set them free. Its mission accomplished, the Lancaster then headed for England.

The captain consulted his navigators, for he knew that the aircraft could not climb above the cold front, which reached to 23,000 feet, on three motors. There were three alternatives open: one, to fly below the front and risk the deadly flak and fighters; the second, to fly at almost tree-top height and still risk the defences; the third, to veer southwards and fly on a semicircular course to England. The navigators advised the third alternative. They were confident they could keep a good course, and every one in T Tommy agreed that it was the safest method.

When the crew stumped into the control-room nearly two and a half hours overdue they smiled at the chalked word ‘ Missing ’ still standing against T Tommy, and agreed it was an excellent joke. They were weary but elated at the normal ending to an abnormal flight.

Lesley Family027

The crew of ‘Thomas Frederick Duck’ at 156 PFF Squadron May – November 1943.
Standing, L to R: Nick Carter, Jack Wright, Podge Reynolds, Charlie Kelly
Front, L to R: Alf Drew, Ken Cranshaw, Wally Hamond
© Leslie Hill

Read the rest of this chapter in the ‘Collections’ section of the blog here.

Squadron Leader John ‘Jack’ Leonard Wright DSO, DFC

Lesley Family021

Squadron Leader John ‘Jack’ Leonard Wright, DSO, DFC.
© Leslie Hill

Some time ago, I was contacted by Leslie, daughter of S/L John Leonard Wright, who flew with 75(NZ) Squadron twice, as well with 156 Pathfinder Squadron.

Leslie wishes to try to understand details of her father’s wartime career and this includes the difficult matter of what she believes to be his deteriorating mental state, clearly through the accumulated stress of 3 tours of Ops. The following is an open letter from Leslie to anyone who might know anything about her father and his time during the war;

“During the past year I have been researching my father’s war service and have come up against a brick wall.  Now that I’ve found your lively and interesting blog I’m sure some people will have information that will be of interest to me.  

My father, Squadron Leader John (Jack) Leonard Wright DSO, DFC did his first Tour on 75 Squadron from 29 May to 20 October 1942.  

He and his crew were later on 156 Pathfinder Squadron from 21 May 1943 to mid November 1943.   

After they finished on 156, things get a bit puzzling as the crew was disbanded. His record from Trentham, Wellington, NZ says he was seconded to Liaison duties at Uxbridge, No 31 Base from 1/11/44 (and the same date RAF Staff College – the same place, I presume).

THEN he is back on 75 from 28 November 1944 as ‘A’ Flight Commander, until around the end of March.

There are two things I’d like to shed light on:
1.  I believe my father was in a bit of a bad way by the time he and his crew finished on 156, and I have heard that he may not have been in a fit state to be flying on 75 again (I guess we’d call it Post Traumatic Stress these days) and that some were reluctant to fly with him as pilot.  (I have 12 hours of tapes of one of his original crew members talking in the 1990’s and he mentions Jack’s nervous tics briefly.)

I realise that out of respect for my father, people may be reluctant to say much about my father’s condition, but I really want to know about it, and would appreciate anyone with information being open and frank with me.   I do have the names of some of the people who crewed with him during this second tour on 75, but they may prefer to get in touch with me privately – through Simon.

2.  Later, he is with PWX Liaison Sectn, SCHAEF Rear from 5 April 1945 – I’d like to know what this was, and what were they doing?  I know that my father was in Germany for some months – were they repatriating British POW’s? or what????

I do hope you may be able to point me in the right direction with some of this, or even provide me with some information.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Lesley

 (Lesley Hill (nee Wright))”

Jack’s career with the Squadron is as follows;
1.6.42 Attack Against Targets at Essen
Wellington Mk.III X3760
Sgt. Wright 2p with Fraser crew

2.6.42 Attack Against Targets at Essen
Wellington Mk.III X3760
Sgt. Wright 2p with Fraser crew

5.6.42 Attack Against Targets at Essen
Wellington Mk.III Z1570
Sgt. Wright 2p with Ball crew

6.6.42 Attack Against Targets at Emden
Wellington Mk.III X3538
Sgt. Wright 2p with Leggett crew

8.6.42 Attack Against Targets at Essen
Wellington Mk.III X3538
Sgt. Wright 2p with Leggett crew

20.6.42 Attack Against targets at Emden
Wellington Mk.III X3646
Sgt. Leonard John Wright RNZAF NZ405781- Captain
Sgt. Charles Wynne Brunsdon Kelly RNZAF NZ403562 – Navigator
Sgt. Maurice Allington Carter RNZAF NZ391694 – Wireless Operator
Sgt. Raymond Clifford Reynolds RNZAF NZ403030 – Front Gunner
Sgt Bruce Neal RNZAF NZ411771 – Rear Gunner

22.6.42 Attack Against targets at Emden
Wellington ‘F’

29.6.42 Attack against targets at Bremen
Wellington Mk.III X3646

7.7.42.  Attack against targets at Bremen
Wellington Mk.III X3541

8.7.42.  Attack against targets at Wilhemshaven
Wellington Mk.III X3541

13.7.42.  Attack against targets at Duisburg
Wellington Mk.III X3468

21.7.42.  Attack against targets at Duisburg
Wellington Mk.III BJ625
F/Sgt Victor Kenneth Westerman RNZAF NZ41970 as 2nd Pilot – Died Wednesday 29th July 1942, age 24, during a raid on Hamburg. Buried Becklingen War Cemetery Germany.

23.7.42.  Attack against targets at Duisburg
Wellington Mk.III BJ625
Sgt. J.E. Ford replaces Bruce Neal as Rear Gunner

25.7.42.  Attack against targets at Duisburg
Wellington Mk.III BJ625
Bruce Neal returns as Rear Gunner.

26.7.42.  Attack against targets at Hamburg
Wellington Mk.III Z1570

28.7.42.  Attack against targets at Hamburg
Wellington Mk.III BJ625

29.7.42.  Attack against targets at Saarbrucken
Wellington Mk.III X3468

31.7.42.  Attack against targets at Dusseldorf
Wellington Mk.III X3586

4.8.42. Attack against targets at Essen
Wellington Mk.III J3586

6.8.42. Attack against targets at Duisburg
Wellington Mk.III J3586

9.8.42. Attack against targets at Osnabruck
Wellington Mk.III X3389

11.8.42. Attack against targets at Mainz
Wellington Mk.III X3389

12.8.42. Attack against targets at Mainz
Wellington Mk.III X3389

24.8.42. Attack against targets at Frankfurt
Wellington Mk.III BJ772

28.8.42. Attack against targets at Nurenburg
Wellington Mk.III BJ772
Sgt Roy William Raharuhi RNZAF NZ412737 as 2nd Pilot

1.9.42. Attack against targets at Saarbrucken
Wellington Mk.III BJ772
F/L Gerald Howard Jacobson RNZAF NZ41333 as 2nd Pilot – Died Thursday 17 December 1942, age 27, during a raid on Fallersleben. Buried Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany.

10.9.42. Attack against targets at Dusseldorf
Wellington Mk.III BJ772

14.9.42. Attack against targets at Wilhelmshaven
Wellington Mk.III BJ772
Sgt Benjamin Allan Franklin RNZAF NZ414277 as 2nd Pilot – Died Wednesday 16th December 1942, age 21, when his aircraft crashed on take-off for a mine-laying sortie to the Gironde Estuary – the mine load exploding. Buried Newmarket Cemetery, England.

16.9.42. Attack against targets at Essen
Wellington Mk.III BJ772

18.9.42. Attack against targets at St.Nazaire
Wellington Mk.III BJ772
Sgt George William Rhodes RAFVR 1331658 as 2nd Pilot

19.9.42. Attack against targets at Saarbrucken
Wellington Mk.III BJ772
Sgt George William Rhodes RAFVR 1331658 as 2nd Pilot – Died Tuesday 6th October 1942, age 20, during a raid on Osnabruck. Buried Hardenberg Protestant Cemetery Netherlands.

24.9.42. Operations – Gardening off Texel
Wellington Mk.III BJ772

26.9.42. Operations – Gardening in Baltic
Wellington Mk.III BJ772

P/O Wright J.L. NZ405781 G.D Posted to No.30 O.T.U w.e.f. 20.10.42 authority 3 Group postagram 3G/6601/7A/P4

Lesley Family027

I suspect Jack and his crew at 156 PFF Squadron May – November 1943.
Standing, L to R: Nick Carter, Jack Wright, Podge Reynolds, Charlie Kelly
Front, L to R: Alf Drew, Ken Cranshaw, Wally Hamond
© Leslie Hill

By the 21st May 1943 John and it would appear Charles Kelly, Maurice ‘Nick’ Carter and Ray ‘Podge’ Reynolds have joined 156 Squadron PFF. He will stay with the Squadron until mid November of that year.

John returns to 75(NZ) Squadron RAF at the end of November 1944 as ‘A’ Flight Commander.

5.12.44. Attack Against Hamm Marshalling Yard
Lancaster Mk.III LM544 AA-J
F/L John Leonard Wright RNZAF NZ405781- Pilot
F/L C. Williams RAFVR – Navigator
P/O Maurice Edward Parker DFC, RNZAF NZ414332 – Air Bomber
P/O William Lachlan Wilson DFC, RNZAF NZ41117 – Wireless Operator
P/O John Henry Morgan DFC RAF 1131866/ 157630 – Flight Engineer
W/O T.R. Kemp RAFVR 1412409 – Mid Upper Gunner
P/O Roy deWilmot Tully DFC, RAFVR 175537 – Rear Gunner

11.12.45. Attack Against Osterfeld
Lancaster Mk.I PB763 AA-A

27.12.44. Attack Against Rheydt
Lancaster Mk.III LM544 AA-J

29.12.44 Attack Against Koblenz
Lancaster Mk.III LM544 AA-J

1.1.45 Attack Against Vohwinkle
Lancaster MK.III PB427 AA-U

2.1.45. Attack against Nurenburg
Lancaster Mk.I ME751 AA-P

22.1.45. Attack Against Duisburg
Lancaster Mk.I HK573 AA-H
F/O Wallace Bassett Martin as 2nd Pilot.
F/Sgt Eric Thomas Coulson replaces F/L Williams as Navigator

1.2.45. Attack Against Munchen-Gladbach
Lancaster Mk.I LM266 AA-F
F/O Percival McDowell Johnstone replaces Eric Coulson as Navigator

3.2.45 Attack Against Dortmund
Lancaster Mk.III ME751 AA-M

2.3.45. Atack Against Cologne (Aborted)
Lancater Mk.III LM544 AA-D?

6.3.45. Attack Against  Salzbergen
Lancaster Mk.I LM266 AA-F
W/O Roderick Adrian Powell replaces Roy Tully as Rear Gunner.

7/8.3.45. Attack against Dessau
Lancaster Mk.I PB763 AA-A
F/O Robin James Hamilton as 2nd Pilot
W/O Robert John Torbitt replaces Adrian Powell as Rear Gunner.

12.3.45. Attack Against Dortmund
Lancaster Mk.III LM544 AA-D
Roy Tully returns as Rear Gunner.

21.3.45. Attack Against Munster Viaduct
Lancaster Mk.I RF190 AA-F
Bob Torbitt replaces Roy Tully as Rear Gunner.

This brings Jacks Op’s with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF to a total of 47 – with a tour with 156 PFF to be added to this figure.

I hope that someone is able to help Leslie regarding in formation on her Father. If you have information about Jack, but would prefer not to publicly post it then please contact me directly at  info@75nzsquadron.com and I will pass it on to Leslie.

Additionally, if you come across this post based on a search for 156 PFF Squadron and you are able to help, we would love to have Jack’s Op history and possibly crew from that Squadron.