Tag Archives: The Captains Fancy

Before she was famous – another picture of ‘Mike’

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The Wood crew in front of NE181 JN-Mike ‘The Captains Fancy’
Back row L to R: Arthur Taylor (W/Op), R. Johnson (Nav), Francis Wood (Pilot), Les Hurcombe (A/B)
Front row L to R: Sgt Woolley (MU/Gnr) & Sgt. Mahoney (R/Gnr) – who is who, not known, Les Gibbs (F/E)
Courtesy Kevin King/Alf Gibbs.

Many thanks to Kevin, who after the post from Chris last night, passed on this fantastic early photograph of NE181 JN-Mike, ‘The Captains Fancy’. Based on the Op count and referring to the history of the aircraft that Chris has been working on, the images dates between the 15th and 16th August 1944.

The photograph is very interesting as it shows a relatively clear version of Capt. Reilly Ffoul – interestingly it also shows a tonal difference around the character and also a box around the Op bombs. My understanding is that the original matt black paint on the side of production Lancasters tended to be repainted once on Squadron (when a new lick of paint was required) with a less matte, but practically more durable black paint. The flatness of the paint around the Op tally and Reilly makes me wonder whether ‘Mike’ had had a second coat of this very matte paint and the painter had perhaps framed the existing artwork, rather than trying to paint to the edges of the artwork? Conversely, perhaps a coat of less matte paint had been used to clean up the edges of Reilly after he had been added to the aircraft and or it had been applied initially to provide a better ‘key’ for the paint work of the mascot and Op tally.

If you count the bomb tally, it appears that on the penultimate row, one bomb on the left hand side of the row seems to have been blacked out, discounting this, the Ops are 38, including this omission as it were, gives us 39 Ops. This in itself provided another conundrum – Kevin said that the photograph had come from Alf Gibbs, Flight Engineer with the Wood crew, but again referring back to the history produced by Chris,  John Scott’s crew flew number 38  and John Lethbridge’s  crew flew number 39 – checking the ORB showed that Alf had not been a fill-in on either of these Ops – so I mailed Kevin back with this query.

Kevin’s answer back was I suppose obvious ‘it makes a good photo for the folks back home…..‘ – doubly so if the boys had any idea how many Ops ‘Mike’ would end up flying with the Squadron and that we would all still be talking about it now!

That famous first ton

NE181 100th Jan 1945 tu low file

The Bailey crew in front of NE181 JN-Mike “The Captains Fancy”, just after ‘bombing up’ for the Krefeld op’ on the 29th January 1945 (99 op’s marked).
L to R (back row), Jack Brewster (Navigator), Norman Bartlett (Flight Engineer), Jack Bailey (Pilot), Jack Wall (Bomb Aimer), Dick Pickup (Wireless Operator). (Front row) Sgt. Phillips and LAC Thompson (ground cre, Roy Corfield (Rear Gunner), Tony Gregory (Mid-Upper Gunner), Fred Woolterton (ground crew).
– picture supplied by Tony Pickup ©

Many thanks as always to Chris for a new post about NE181 JN-Mike, ‘The Captains Fancy’….

Excitement is building amongst us Kiwi 75’ers as we look forward to the re-paint of (one side of) Auckland’s MoTaT Lancaster to represent 75(NZ) Squadron RAF’s famous ‘ton-up’ Lanc’, NE181 JN-M Mike “The Captains Fancy”. A formal hand over ceremony will be conducted at MoTaT in April, with veterans and the families of JN-M’s crews invited to attend.

Amongst the NZBCA’s photo archive are two photos that appear to be part of the documentation of that famous event, the day NE181 achieved the 100 op’s milestone. They have been published elsewhere, but for the record, it would be great to have them together displayed together with the other priceless record of the occasion.

This is the historic picture (top of post) of the Bailey crew, published previously on this site alongside Bomb Aimer Jack Wall’s memoirs. The seven crew are shown with three of Mike’s ground crew, about to leave on that famous 100th operational sortie to Krefeld. It looks to have been a freezing cold day, complete with snow and fog, in the middle of what was one of Europe’s coldest winters for many years.

The next two photos are from the NZBCA archive, from the collection of Alan Scott, Wireless Operator with the Anderson crew (April-July 45). They appear to have been taken the same day, going by the weather, light and backgrounds, and form a nice sequence as the crew apparently pause for a photo, board the aircraft, and then taxy out into the snow.

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The Bailey crew boarding NE181 “The Captain’s Fancy” at dispersal, to begin pre-flight checks before flying to Krefeld, 29th of January, 99 op’s marked.
New Zealand Bomber Command Assn. archive / Alan Scott

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NE181 “The Captain’s Fancy” apparently taxiing out from her dispersal, preparing to fly to Krefeld, 29th of January, 99 op’s marked.
New Zealand Bomber Command Assn. archive / Alan Scott

Once again, if anyone has more information about these photos – or in fact, ANY other photos of NE181, we would love to hear from you – and thanks again to Peter Wheeler and the NZBCA for permission to share photos from their archives.

Stanley John Heald RNZAF NZ415319 – Air Bomber. 1945 – logbook

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Many thanks to Dave for passing on his Father’s logbook. Stan Heald was Air Bomber with Esmond Ware’s crew. Stan and the boys arrived at Mepal on the 31st January 1945 and flew their first Op with Mac Baigent to Weisbaden on the 2nd of February (my own Fathers 2nd Op after his return to the Squadron). After 16 Ops and a Post Mortem flight, the crew flew for the last time on a ‘Baedeker’ flight on the 3rd July 1945.

Of extra note regarding the logbook, is that it records 3 Ops in NE181 JN-M ‘The Captains Fancy’. Mystery surrounds the exact numbering of the final Op the crew flew in ‘Mike’ to Bad Odsloe on the 24th April (further compounded by what is now accepted as the incorrect recording on Form 541 of RF129).

The Ware crew believed that this Bad Oldesloe Op was No. 104, and that they flew 3 op’s in NE181 (14.3.45 Heinrich Hutte, 20.4.45 Regensburg and 24.4.45 Bad Oldesloe). In other words, that they had flown 102, 103 and 104.

Jack Bailey’s A/B, Jack Wall, is equally convinced that his crew flew her on No. 102 on 16 Feb to Wessel, and Richard Pickup’s logbook records the Bailey crew flying “JN-M” to Osterfeld on 20 March, a possible candidate for No. 103 or 104?

I wonder if we will ever know?

See Stan’s logbook here

Esmond Edgar Delwyn Ware, David Carter, Stanley John Heald, Wilfred Darling Cairns, G. B. White, Richard Wright, Colin Campbell Emslie

The final mystery of Mike……..

It seems only fitting to pose the following questions from Ian after the Jack Wall memoirs. There are clearly a number of question marks hanging over NE181 around and after her 100th Op and we are all keen to find the answers that might complete another one of the pieces of this historical jigsaw.

Ian and Chris have spent a lot of time over the last few months trying to build an accurate history of this aircraft and now Mikes latter period with the Squadron is under scrutiny.

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The aircraft movement card for NE181, JN-M, The Captains Fancy.
© Royal Airforce Museum, Hendon/ Crown

NE181 (JN-M)
20 May 1944: NE181 joins 75 Sqn – ref. NE181 Aircaft Movement Record

29 Jan 1945: Completes her 100th operation, to Krefeld under S/L Bailey – ref. 75 Sqn ORBs

2/3 Feb 1945: Completes her 101st operation, to Wiesbaden under S/L Bailey – ref. 75 Sqn ORBs
Photos are extant showing 101 operations for her.

16 Feb 1945: Completes her 102nd operation, to Wesel under S/L Bailey – ref is Bomb Aimer Jack Wall’s notes, which state “M” (it was our 102nd operation for “M”) but ORBs list this aircraft as RF129, JN-M, a Lancaster I (the first reference made to RF129 in the ORBs)

17 Feb 1945: Alex Simpson flies her to Waterbeach – ref my letters from Alex and ‘Forever Strong’. Rather than being ‘struck off’, it seems highly likely that NE181 just spent several weeks here being refitted.

20 Mar 1945: We believe this was her 103rd op, to Hamm under S/L Bailey – no ref, just a hunch as S/L Bailey is flying this operation (all other listings in ORBs for RF129 have a different captain, except 16 Feb, 20 Mar and 24 Apr). ORBs list as RF129.

24 Apr 1945: Completes her 104th operation, to Bad Oldesloe under F/O Ware – ref is F/O Ware pilot’s logbook, Colin Emslie navigator’s log (Kiwis Do Fly) and a photo of the Ware crew beneath the nose of NE181; however, the bomb tally shows only 101 operations.

After this date, there is anecdotal evidence that she flew several PoW repatriation operations – ref??

19 Jul 1945: – goes to 514 Sqn – ref. NE181 Aircraft Movement Record

4 Sep 1945: goes to 5 MU – ref. NE181 Aircraft Movement Record

30 Sep 1947: Struck off charge – ref. NE181 Aircraft Movement Record

So the questions are:

  1. Why does the ORB list RF129 as having flown operations on the 16.2.45 and 24.4.45 (and probably the 20.3.45), when the crews, who seem well-aware of her fame,  state they were flying in NE181?
  2. If the above is correct, then there seem to have been two JN-Mikes kept on squadron after 16.2.45 – was NE181 returned to 75 Sqn from Waterbeach in anticipation of her being ‘repatriated’ to NZ?
  3. If NE181 was going to be returned to NZ, why was she flown on further operations? Two were flown by S/L Bailey – did he use her because she was ’his’ aircraft? (Did he fly any other operations between 16 Feb and 24 Apr in other aircraft?*) For the final operation, NE181 was the lead aircraft on a G-H raid – was she used this day because of her G-H ability? (Note- no one was aware of the significance of this ‘final’ operation for 75 Sqn.)
  4. Why, if she indeed did fly another 3 missions after the 2/3.2.45 as seems very likely, were NE181’s operational bomb tally on her nose not updated beyond 101? (Ref the photo of the Ware crew, taken after final operation 24.4.45)
  5. What references do we have for NE181 flying POW repatriations after operations ceased?

*Dick Pickups’s logbook lists; 22 Feb Osterfeldt, JN-Z, 26 Feb Dortmund, JN-P, 5 Mar, Gelsenkirchen, JN-P, 9 Apr Kiel, JN-K

So, as always if anybody has any thoughts, ideas or better still, factual information on this subject and these questions – please dive into the conversation!……..

(personally, I’d LOVE to see any correspondence between the Squadron and the New Zealand Government regarding the failed attempt to bring her home – Simon)

Leading Aircraftsman Fred Woolerton JN-Mike groundcrew.

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Fred Woolerton, one of the ground crew that was responsible for maintaining NE181, JN-M – ‘The Captains Fancy’ – the only Lancaster in 75(NZ) Squadron to exceed 100 Ops.

In January, as part of the remarkable collection of information that Tony had sent me regarding his Father, Dick Pickup, Wireless Operator with the Bailey crew and JN-M, ‘The Captains Fancy’ there was an Air Ministry Bulletin, congratulating JN-M on her 100th sortie.

The bulletin had been passed on by a member of ‘Mikes’ ground crew, Fred Woolerton, to the crew’s A/B Jack Wall, who in turn passed a copy to Dick……….

It gives me great pleasure and I am sure also, to Zoe, Fred’s grand daughter, to present a picture of Fred. According to Zoe, the RAF was Fred’s life and he spent many hours writing down his memories – sadly the location of these notes is unknown………

NE181 100th Jan 1945 tu low file

As way of an update, looking back on a post from January regarding the Bailey crew and ‘The Captains Fancy’ – I wonder if the chap, crouching on the right of the front row, might be Fred ??

More info on NE181 and the Bailey crew from Tony

Late last night I received some more information from Tony regarding NW181’s 100th op. The information was originally received from Jack Wall, the A/B in the Bailey crew. What follows is transcribed portions of documents that quite rightly, Tony feels cannot be made public without the permission of Jack’s surviving son-in-law. Hopefully Tony will be successful in contacting him and we might be able to learn more about the crews exploits. Until then, the following still represents some wonderful information from the time.

Below is the text of part of an Air Ministry Bulletin that was sent by Lac Fred Woolerton, C. Flight mechanic, to F/O John Wall DFC, bomb aimer on Jack Bailey’s JN-M crew. John later sent a copy to Tony Pickup, (son of P/O Dick Pickup, W/Op of same crew) and it is printed here with acknowledgements to Fred and John.

“32. APPRECIATION
Congratulations to JN-M on completing her century with the squadron.

During the time this aircraft has been with No.75 (NZ) Squadron, only once has she failed to get airborne, and never has she returned early.

All personnel who have carried out maintenance on this aircraft are to be congratulated on their efforts and in particular the following who have been the maintenance crew throughout its life.
611010 Sgt. Phillips – F/2/E.

1061645 Cpl. Kingjorn – F/8/A
1703088 Lac. Tayler – F/E/E.
1814705 Lac. Woolerton. – F/M/E. (Fred)
1864182 Lac. Pascoe. – F/S/E. “

(Italicised parts of the crew list above may be incorrect and are where original copy is indistinct. TP)
Below is part of the letter that Fred sent to John Wall to accompany the above Air Ministry Bulletin.

“Item 32 was published after the 100th Op. It mentions the fact that it only failed to get airborne once. The reason for this was as follows.

I was standing in front of the aircraft indicating which engine to start, my mate, Pete, was up in the undercart priming the engines. We had just completed this and as Pete dropped down from the undercart, the rear gunner of the kite in front of ours (X-ray) shot off a burst of rounds. These went over my head, nearly taking it off and went straight into the rad of the S/Bd inner, some coming out of the rear into the undercart space that Pete had just vacated. Result, a leaking rad, two, very shaken airmen, and aircrew transferred to a reserve kite. I forgot what we called the A/G. I know we had more work that night putting in a new rad.”

Text retyped from a photocopy of the bulletin provided to the son of P/O Dick Pickup by F/O J.C.Wall, DFC.; both members of Jack Bailey’s crew.

16.4.45
Air Ministry Bulletin No. 18334.

SQUADRON LEADER JACK MATHERS BAILEY, DFC
Squadron Leader John Mathers Bailey, DFC, pilot of “M-Mike‟, the first aircraft of a New Zealand heavy bomber squadron of the RAF to reach a century of operations, has been awarded a Bar to his DFC.

S/L Bailey, who was formerly a farmer at Ohingaiti, New Zealand, is now a Flight Commander of the No.75 (N.Z.) heavy bomber squadron. He enlisted in the R.N.Z.A.F. in 1941, was trained in New Zealand and England, and completed a tour of operations with No. 75 Squadron. He showed outstanding airmanship and devotion to duty, and, in June, 1943 was awarded the DFC.

After a period of instructional duty, S/L Bailey returned to the New Zealand squadron last year and began his second tour of operations.

His aircraft was „M-Mike‟ and he had the distinction of piloting the Lancaster on its 100th war flight. Soon after that flight, which was to Krefeld on January 28th, „M-Mike‟ with the impressive record of 101 operations and 476 hours flying time, was taken off operations for a major overhaul.

In February, while flying another aircraft, he led his squadron in an attack on an oil refinery at Osterfeld. Over the target the aircraft was hit by flak and extensively damaged. The starboard inner engine was put out of action, but S/L Bailey made a successful attack and flew safely back from Germany on three engines.

“He has participated in many sorties against some of the most heavily defended targets in enemy territory, and has consistently displayed a high standard of courage and skill, qualities which were well evident in the attack on Osterfeld” says the citation of his latest award.

Thirty-one years of age, S/L Bailey was born in Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland, but went to New Zealand seven years ago, to become a farmer at Ohingaiti.

Richard Pickup RAFVR 188816 logbook

RP log 01 sf

I’m really pleased and very grateful to Tony, son of Richard ‘Dick’ Pickup for the donation of his father’s complete logbook. What may be of particular interest to 75(NZ) aficionados is that it lists a number of operational flights in the famous ‘Captain’s Fancy’ NE181 JN-‘Mike’, including the much debated 100th Op on the 29th of January 1945 to Krefeld. I know there has been quite a discussion on the ‘Wings Over New Zealand’ forum regarding NE181 – I’ll leave it to those more knowledgeable on this subject to decide whether the pages of this logbook hold any further revelations……

See Richard’s logbook here

Tony, once again, many thanks

Simon