Tag Archives: Roy William Raharuhi

Maori aircrew who served with 75(NZ) Squadron 39-45 – New update

ManaManawaiti[3]

A new picture for the collection – Mana Manawaiti
image from NZ Bomber Command Association, Harry Hamerton collection.

Many thanks to Chris for his continuing work on the list of Maori Aircrew that flew with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF.

This update adds a number of new profiles and also utilises the new Cew Op History pages, there now being links to the Op histories for the crews that these Airmen flew in.

Interestingly, there is also a removal form this list! – many thanks to Lorraine, Arnel’s Daughter for passing on the story behind Hoturoa Arnel Dean “Arnie” Meyer:

“Hoturoa Arnel Dean Meyer is not Maori.  No Maori blood anywhere in his heritage.! His mother’s best friend was Tainui and asked to honour the baby inutero with a royal Maori name. Princess Te Puea was approached and gave permission for Dad to be called Hoturoa, which was a huge honour and one we have passed down to one of our sons.  His heritage is Danish (his father’s side) and English/kiwi on his mother’s side).”

Arnie Meyer and his crew, which included Bomb Aimer Simon Snowden, (who was Maori) had formed up at No. 11 Operational Training Unit (11OTU), RAF Westcott on 11 December 1943 – they stayed together for the remainder of the war, completing 30 sorties (op’s) with 75 (NZ) Sqn and, without a break, a further tour of 25 op’s with No 7 (Path Finders Force) Sqdn. All crew members were decorated.

Another new picture this time of Roy William Raharuhi, has also been added.

Dad,%20Parata%20and%20unknown[3]

Roy Raharuhi, Marama Parata (centre), and unknown.
Image from Raharuhi family via Russell Murphy.


Read “Maori aircrew who served with 75(NZ) Squadron 39-45here.

 

Ake Ake Kia Kaha!

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

Thanks again to Chris for this post………

DSC_0372[3]

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.

12039411_450862885120804_5193800136261138643_n[3]

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).

DSC_0379[3]

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.

 

Maori aircrew who served with 75(NZ) Squadron 39-45. Picture update

TapuaHeperi cont and cropped

F/Sgt Tapua Heperi, Wireless Operator, 75 (NZ) Sqdn, Mepal. Taken on return from Essen daylight raid 11/3/45. The Clement crew had flown Lancaster I PB820, JN-V that day, landing back at Mepal at 5.14pm. Credit: Lancasters At War 3, Garbett & Goulding, Ian Allan Ltd, via Howard Keetch.

Cheers to Chris for finding this wonderful picture of Tapua ‘Tap’ Heperi, Wireless Operator with Doug St.Clair Clements crew. I’ve added the picture to Taps details  in the ‘Maori aircrew who served with 75(NZ) Squadron 39-45‘ page, which can be found in the ’75(NZ) RAF’ section of the blog, or alternatively go straight to it here.

Maori aircrew who served with 75(NZ) Squadron 39-45 – update

KenDalzell(25)

The Amohanga crew pose in front of Lancaster HK593, JN-X.
Left to right rear: Alf Woolcock, A/B; Ken Dalzell, Navigator; Kiwi Amohanga, Pilot; Jack Richardson, M/U/Gnr.
Front: Steven Fletcher, F/E;, Sandy Strachan, R/Gnr; Max Spooner, W/Op.
New Zealand Bomber Command Assn. archive / Ken Dalzell.

After the previous post, it was perhaps inevitable that I can to also announce an update to the Post Chris made originally towards the end of January about the Maori airmen that served with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF – as well as adding this wonderful picture of Kiwi Amohanga’s crew, a new airman can be added – F/S Edward Maxwell “Max” Spooner (NZ428162).

I have moved the original, but now updated post by Chris to its own page under ’75(NZ) RAF’ in the main menu – hopefully this way, information can be added and visitors will have a single reference page to visit. View this new page here.

Maori aircrew who served with 75 (NZ) Squadron, 1939-45 – Ta Tio Tuaine “Tai” Nicholas

DSC_0239 (2) - Copy

Tai Nicholas (front right) with the Layton crew.
Courtesy New Zealand Bomber Command Association/ © Clive Estcourt.

Many thanks to Chris for adding this new photograph and individual details, to the original post he wrote about Maori aircrew in 75(NZ) Squadron.

See the new information and the original article here.

Maori aircrew serving with 75 (NZ) Squadron, 1939-45

Many thanks once again to Chris for his contribution of this post. Whilst the blog has presented information about the Maori airmen that flew with 75(NZ) Squadron, specifically to certain crews, I think it’s fitting tribute to them as a group that we should recognise these individuals and their contribution to the Squadron and Bomber Command – as Chris observes, It’s fascinating, and quite ironic that these young boys, often from isolated rural backgrounds, travelled to the other side of the world in Britain’s defence, when it’s quite feasible that their great-grandfathers could have fought against the British in defence of their own lands and political independence………

MUS050651-1600

Photo from The Weekly News,17 March 1943, with caption, “A Maori team at a British air station – R. W. Raharuhi (Takara), M. T. Parata (Waikanae), M. T. T. Manawaiti and E. H. Gray (Otaki).” Thought to have been taken at Mildenhall.
– Photo: The Weekly News, from Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

One of the surprises in my research into my uncle’s time at Mepal, was a number of Maori surnames amongst the crew lists. The WWII exploits of the 28th Maori Battalion (NZ Army) are legendary in New Zealand, but little or nothing has been written about Maori serving in the Air Force. The short film “Maximum Effort”, featured in a recent post here, includes reference to the (Witting) crew’s Wireless Operator, Glen, “a Maori from the North Island”, and Harry Yates’ wonderful book “Luck And A Lancaster” refers to the Yates crew’s Maori Bomb Aimer, ‘Mac’ Maaka. A recent thread on the Wings Over New Zealand forum made for a fascinating discussion on the subject, with several family members joining in to add further detail. The daughter of 75 (NZ) Sqdn Wellington Pilot Roy Raharuhi mentioned the wonderful photo above, and I decided to try and compile a list of names. In the process I have made contact with a couple of these airman’s families, which is a real privilege, and the alphabetical list below might hopefully help encourage others to share more information about these brave individuals. This list is probably incomplete, and any additions would be great to see.

KenDalzell(25)

The Amohanga crew pose in front of Lancaster HK593, JN-X.
Left to right rear: Alf Woolcock, A/B; Ken Dalzell, Navigator; Kiwi Amohanga, Pilot; Jack Richardson, M/U/Gnr.
Front: Steven Fletcher, F/E;, Sandy Strachan, R/Gnr; Max Spooner, W/Op.
New Zealand Bomber Command Assn. archive / Ken Dalzell.

P/O Kiwi Ernest  Amohanga(NZ425492)
Pilot (Lancasters)
c/w Wi Rangiuaia as 2nd Pilot, then captain of own crew.
C Flight.
10 Mar 45 to 5 Jun 45.

Sgt Raymond Cyril Going (NZ414278)
Pilot (Stirlings)
No record of a prior op’ as 2nd Pilot.
13 Feb 43 to KIA 3 Mar 43, age 21. Panel 199, Runnymede Memorial

Ngapuhi.
Appears to have been shot down with all crew lost on their very first Op – Stirling N6123, AA-Q, lost on Operations March 3rd, 1943, shot down by Ofw. Karl Haisch 33 miles North West of Heligoland on mine laying op at 22:26 hours, headed to Dutch Frisian Islands (Nectarines Region):

Sgt. R.C. Going, R.N.Z.A.F. (+)
Sgt E.H. Weaver R.A.F.V.R. (+)
P/O A.M. Bridgman, R.N.Z.A.F. (+)
F/S F.A.W. Willis R.A.F.V.R. (+)
Sgt K.C. Eyre R.A.F.V.R. (+)
Sgt F.B. Stewart, R.A.F.V.R. (+)
Sgt C.S. Burton R.N.Z.A.F. (+)

F/Sgt Edward Henry Gray (NZ412878)
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (Wellingtons, Stirlings),
c/w Ray Broady, Ray Bennett, Jim Way, and Jack Joll.
6 Oct 42 to 25 Oct 43

Gray’s original pilot, Sgt Raymond Herbert John Broady, was killed a month after the crew arrived on Squadron, but before they had flown any op’s, on 28 Nov 42 in a training flight accident at Oakington, during conversion to Stirlings. Short Stirling Mk 1, BF399 , c/s AA-O, of 75 (New Zealand) Squadron (piloted by Sgt RHJ Broady ) took off from RAF Newmarket and crashed at Trinity Hall Farm, Oakington. It is not known why Gray was missing from the crew that day, but his place may have been taken by an OTU staff member who is listed as killed in the crash.
More info on the crash here

Gray went on to fill in with other crews, and then joined up with Ray Bennett’s crew, up until late Feb 43.

In early March 43 he appears to have been posted off to 1651 OTU with Jim Way’s crew, who had arrived on Squadron on 17 Feb, but lost their original Pilot (Sgt Alex Scott) on his 2nd Pilot op’. Gray was promoted from Sgt to F/Sgt 1 March 43. His new Pilot, W/O2 Jim Way died 17 Apr 43, age 26, during a raid on Ludwigshafen, flying as 2nd Pilot with the Debenham crew. Buried Choloy War Cemetery France. The ‘headless’ crew, who by now had each twice experienced losing a Pilot before the crew had flown an op’ together, was “picked up” by S/L Jack Joll  DFC, DFM, the Flight Commander of “A” Flight. Gray went on to complete his tour, flying his last op’ with the Joll crew on 5 Sep 43. Gray was posted to 11 OTU, presumably to a training role, on 25 Oct 43.

See photo at top of post

W/O Tapua ‘Tap’  Heperi(NZ426199)
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (Lancasters)
c/w Doug St.Claire Clement.
27 Nov 44 to 4 Jun 45

Photo and more about Tapua and the Clement crew here

F/O William Laurence Kereama (NZ425585)
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (Lancasters)
c/w Alan Baxter
1 Sep 44 to 24 Jan 45.

rotated and cropped

F/O William Laurence Kereama (NZ425585). Picture supplied by Jacqui Barwell

P/O Inia Whangataua ‘Mac’ Maaka (NZ421741)
Air Bomber (Lancasters)
c/w Harry Yates.
31 Jul 44 to 16 Feb 45.

Ngati Kahungunu and Ngai Tahu
Mac featured in Harry Yates’ book, “Luck And A Lancaster”:

“As he talked, my impressions of him became ever more favourable. No Englishman I’d met was so sincere and guileless about himself. Mac was simply a stranger to the inner tensions and vanities that make liars of the rest of us. He was mightily proud of his people who, I thought, must be formidable opponents in war if they were all like this chap. I began to see in him a military paragon. He had the heart of a lion. I don’t think he was afraid of anything or any man. He had no need to be because he was built like a bunker. I felt that his loyalty would be a rich prize, if one deserved it. He was just the sort of chap one imagines walking steadfastly into the enemy’s fire for the sake of his comrades. Well, the skies over Germany were fiery enough. Mac would be an example to us all.”

Yates-crew-StTrond-op

Photo: Yates crew, Mac Maaka top right. From “Luck And A Lancaster”.

P/O Mikaere Tutahunga Tomika Manawaiti, DFM, (NZ412895)
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (Wellingtons, Stirlings)
c/w Leo Trott
12 Aug 42 to 6 May 43.

Citation DFM (13 May 1943): ‘Sergeant Manawaiti is a keen and reliable wireless operator air gunner who has taken part in many daring operational missions. His skill as a wireless operator has assisted in securing the success on many sorties, while his cheerfulness and courage have done much to maintain the high standard of morale and efficiency which prevails in the squadron.’

See photo at top of post

P/O Glen Osmond Marshall (NZ416011)
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (Stirlings, Lancasters)
c/w Eric Witting.
8 Sep 43 to 10 Jul 44.

Glen was the Wireless Operator in the Eric Witting crew, the crew featured in the May 1944 short film about 75 (NZ) Sqdn, “Maximum Effort”:

GlenMarshall

More here:

W/O Te Rahu Calvin Mataira (NZ43492)
Rear Gunner (Lancasters)
c/w Charlie Wagstaff.
20 Mar 45 to 28 Sep 45.

F/O, Hoturoa Arnel Dean Meyer, DFC, (NZ416968)
Pilot (Lancasters)
12 Jun 44 to 20 Sep 44.

DSC_0239 (2) - Copy

Tai Nicholas (front right) with the Layton crew.
Courtesy New Zealand Bomber Command Association/ © Clive Estcourt.

P/O Ta Tio Tuaine “Tai” NICHOLAS (NZ425658)
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (Lancasters)
Did two tours with the Layton crew.
27 Jul 44 to 15 Sep 44, & 10 Feb 45 to 16 Apr 45, c/w J R Layton

F/Sgt Hoani Paraone (NZ422204)
Air Bomber (Stirlings, Lancasters)
c/w Francis Lundon & Tom Buckley.
7 Aug 43 to 19 Sep 43 & 9 Oct 43 to 10 Jun 44

Paraone’s original Pilot, F/Sgt Francis Patrick Lundon, was lost before the crew even got to fly an op’ together – he was listed ‘Missing’ on his second op’ as 2nd Pilot with the Sedunary crew on 24 Aug 43. Paraone was posted back to 1651 Conversion Unit on 19 September, presumably to re-crew. He was posted back in to 75 (NZ) Sqdn on 9 Oct 43 and flew a tour of op’s as A/B with the Buckley crew.

Sgt Marama Tahu O’Tangi Potiki Te Whaiti Parata (NZ391069)
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (Wellingtons)
c/w Roy Raharuhi.
18 Aug 42 to 10 Nov 42.

See photo at top of post
More about the Raharuhi crew here: http://cambridgeairforce.org.nz/Robert%20Carter.htm

Sgt Roy William Raharuhi (NZ412737)
Pilot (Wellingtons)
c/w Jack Wright as 2nd Pilot, then captain of own crew.
19 Aug 42 to 10 Nov 42

See photo at top of post
More about the Raharuhi crew here: http://cambridgeairforce.org.nz/Robert%20Carter.htm

F/O Wi Rangiuaia (NZ427319)
Pilot (Lancasters).
c/w Ernest Abraham, Mac Baigent as 2nd Pilot, then captain of own crew.
C Flight
15 Jan 45 to 15 Jun 45.
More about the Rangiuaia crew here.

F/O Edward Simon (Haimoana) Snowden  (NZ427817)
Air Bomber (Lancasters)
c/w Hoturoa Meyer.
12 Jun 44 to 20 Sep 44.

Later DFC (27 Mar 45) with 7(PFF) Sqn, Polish Cross, CBE, QSM.

F/S Edward Maxwell “Max” Spooner (NZ428162)
Wireless operator (Lancasters)
c/w Kiwi Amohanga, then later with EF Butler, E L K Meharry, then A G Daly for Tiger Force.
C Flight
10 Mar 45 to 30 Sep 45.

P/O Iwikau Te Matauira Te Aika, DFC (NZ425860)
Rear Gunner (Stirlings, Lancasters)
c/w Des Horgan
18 Sep 43 to 17 Jun 44.

Citation DFC (18 Sep 1944): ‘This officer has completed numerous operations against the enemy, in the course of which he has invariably displayed the utmost fortitude, courage and devotion to duty.’

F/O Richard John Urlich (NZ426229)
Pilot (Lancasters)
c/w Charlie Stevens as 2nd Pilot then captain of own crew.
20 Mar 45 to 15 Jun 45.

P/O Tame Hawaikirangi ‘Tom’ Waerea (NZ421300)
Rear Gunner (Stirlings)
c/w Richard Whitmore
C Flight
20 Aug 43 to KIA 27 Sep 43, age 29, during the crew’s eighth op’, a raid on Hanover. Buried Hanover War Cemetery, Germany.

From the ORB’s, 05/06 September 43:
‘The aircraft (EH877) captained by F/S Whitmore sighted an enemy aircraft 100 yards astern. Both Mid-Upper and Rear air gunners, Sgt’s Chesson and Waerea, opened fire and the enemy aircraft was seen to roll on its back and spin into the ground afire. It was claimed as destroyed. This was followed by another enemy aircraft approaching in an arc from starboard to port astern. Both M/U and Rear gunners again fired and the enemy aircraft broke away. A minute later, a burning Lancaster was seen under attack from an unidentified enemy aircraft. F/S Whitmore’s two gunners opened fire on the German fighter, which then disappeared. The Lancaster was then seen to break up.’

Promoted from F/Sgt to P/O 24 Sep 43.
27/29 September 1943: Stirling Mk III EH877, JN-C, failed to return, all crew except one were killed:

P/O Richard Charles Whitmore, RNZAF. (NZ421123) Pilot (+)
Sgt. John Bosworth Beresford, RAF (1583723), Flight Engineer (+)
F/O David Maurice Adamson, RNZAF. (NZ415052), Navigator (+).
Sgt. Hugh Munn, RAF (1349759), Air Bomber (+).
Sgt. F.C. Cowan, RAF (1387682), Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (PoW No. 250701. PoW camps Dulag Luft, Stalags IVB, Luft III. Promoted to F/Sgt while a PoW. Safe UK.)
Sgt. Frederick John Charles Chesson, RAF (1336122), Mid Upper Gunner (+)
P/O Tame Hawaikirangi, Waerea, RNZAF. (NZ421300), Rear Gunner (+)

Photos and more information:  http://75nzsquadronremembered.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/waerea-tame-hawaikirangi-thomas.jpg

F/Sgt Tamaterangi Wehi (NZ4213962)
Pilot/Flight Engineer (Lancasters)
c/w Laurence McKenna.
16 Jul 45 to 23 Sep 45. Tiger Force.

F/O Vernon John Zinzan (NZ425314)
Pilot (Lancasters).
c/w Wylie Wakelin as 2nd Pilot then captain of own crew.
3 Dec 44 to 10 May 45.

Thought to be All Black Zinzan Brooke’s namesake.
More here and here
Photo (standing at left) here

AKE AKE KIA KAHA

Sources:
Wings Over New Zealand forum (http://rnzaf.proboards.com/thread/17780/maori-aircrew-ww2), Auckland War Memorial Museum – Cenotaph, 75 (NZ) Squadron nominal roll and ORB’s, 28 Maori Battalion (http://www.28maoribattalion.org.nz/photo/messerschmitt-109-shot-maori-rnzaf-pilots), Luck and a Lancaster: Chance and Survival in World War II, by Harry Yates, DFC, 2005, Airlife Classics / The Crowood Press, private correspondence with the Rangiuaia and Waerea families.

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.