Tag Archives: Vernon John ‘Taffy’ Zinzan

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…………

At this time, 70 years ago, a long dark shadow is cast…….

At the exact time of the publishing of this post, 70 years ago, Pilot John Wood and his Flight Engineer Dougie Williamson were easing the  throttles forward on their Mk.I Lancaster HK601 JN-Dog.

19 more Lancasters of 75(NZ) Squadron RAF would follow John Wood’s Lancaster into the cold Cambridgeshire night, to join up with a second-wave force of another 509 aircraft from Bomber Command.

The destruction caused and the debate that has continued over their target that night has been encapsulated into a single word, which in itself, has cast a long dark shadow over the activities of RAF Bomber Command and the boys that flew in it.

 Dresden

An article in today’s Guardian, titled ‘’We thought Dresden was invincible’: 70 years after the destruction of a city” provides a fascinating eye witness account of the raid on Dresden.

Eberhard Renner, a dentist’s son who was 12 years old on the night RAF bombers arrived tells of the Second World War bombing – and the moment his father thought the unthinkable.

The boy had gone to bed, his head buzzing with his chemistry experiments, when at around 9.45pm the first air raid warning sounded. “Air raid warnings had been an almost daily occurrence since December so I thought little of it and at first I really couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed. I went downstairs anyway but there was nothing special to indicate what was about to occur.

He and his parents noted the drone of the bombers in the distance, but they thought they were flying on to bomb Chemnitz or Leipzig. Then they saw the “Christmas trees” – magnesium flares that floated down on parachutes to light up the city.

Even then we were so secure in the belief that Dresden was invincible, we didn’t believe it was anything more than a reconnaissance mission,” he recalled. His parents told him the enemy pilots were only taking photographs and would soon be gone.

Only when the bombs started falling did we realise it was Dresden’s turn,” Renner, now 82, said. “First they dropped the explosive bombs to expose the roofs. Then came the incendiary bombs to do the real damage – a well-worked-out English strategy. By that time we were sitting in our cellar and I felt increasingly scared by the minute. One bomb exploded in our garden and blew the door in towards me and my mum, but luckily we weren’t hurt.

Dresdeners have always had an inflated feeling of their own importance and that extended to thinking that the English were too cultivated to destroy a city like Dresden, the so-called Florence on the Elbe. How incredibly naive we were.

And then I heard my father, who was not a courageous man at the best of times, say something that would have been unthinkable days before,” Renner, a retired engineer and architect who still lives in the city, recalled. “‘Well, it’s those criminals we’ve got to thank for this’,” he said, meaning Adolf Hitler. Like many people, it had opened his eyes. “Up until then it had been ‘be careful what you say in front of the kids’, now he was openly expressing his opinion in front of the neighbours!

No one contradicted him.

Read the full Guardian article ‘We thought Dresden was invincible’: 70 years after the destruction of a city here

Bomber Command War Diary (Martin-Middlebrook & Chris Everitt)
13 February 1945
Operation Thunderclap
The Air Ministry had, for several months, been considering a series of particularly heavy area raids on German cities with a view to causing such confusion and consternation that the hard-stretched German war machine and civil administration would break down and the war would end. The general name given to this plan was Operation Thunderclap, but it had been decided not to implement it until the military situation in Germany was critical. That moment appeared to be at hand. Russian forces had made a rapid advance across Poland in the second half of January and crossed the eastern frontier of Germany. The Germans were thus fighting hard inside their own territory on two fronts, with the situation in the East being particularly critical. It was considered that Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig and Chemnitz – all just behind the German lines on the Eastern Front now – would be suitable targets. They were all vital communications and supply centres for the Eastern Front and were already packed with German refugees and wounded from the areas recently captured by the Russians. As well as the morale aspect of the attacks, there was the intention of preventing the Germans from moving reinforcements from the West to face the successful Russian advance. The Air Ministry issued a directive to Bomber Command , at the end of January. The Official History. describes how Winston Churchill took a direct hand in the final planning of Operation Thunderclap – although Churchill tried to distance himself from the Dresden raid afterwards. On 4 February, at the Yalta Conference, the Russians asked for attacks of this kind to take place, but their involvement in the process only came after the plans had been issued. So, Bomber Command was specifically requested by the Air Ministry, with Churchill’s encouragement to carry out heavy raids on Dresden, Chemnitz and Leipzig. The Americans were also asked to help and agreed to do so. The campaign should have begun with an American raid on Dresden on 13 February but bad weather over Europe prevented any American operations. It thus fell to Bomber Command to carry out the first raid.

Dresden: 796 Lancasters and 9 Mosquitos were dispatched in two separate raids and dropped 1,478 tons of high explosive and 1,182 tons of incendiary bombs. The first attack was carried out entirely by No 5 Group, using their own low-level marking methods. A band of cloud still remained in the area and this raid, in which 244 Lancasters dropped more than 800 tons of bombs, was only moderately successful.

The second raid, 3 hours later, was an all-Lancaster attack by aircraft of Nos 1, 3, 6 and 8 Groups, with No 8 Group providing standard Pathfinder marking. The weather was now clear and 529 Lancasters dropped more than 1,800 tons of bombs with great accuracy. Much has been written about the fearful effects of this raid. Suffice it to say here that a firestorm, similar to the one experienced in Hamburg in July 1943, was created and large areas of the city were burnt out. No one has ever been able to discover how many people died but it is accepted that the number was greater than the 40,000 who died in the Hamburg firestorm and the Dresden figure may have exceeded 50,000.

Bomber Command casualties were 6 Lancasters lost, with 2 more crashed in France and 1 in England.

311 American B-17s dropped 771 tons of bombs on Dresden the next day, with the railway yards as their aiming point. Part of the American Mustang-fighter escort was ordered to strafe traffic on the roads around Dresden to increase the chaos. The Americans bombed Dresden again on the 15th and on 2nd March but it is generally accepted that it was the RAF night raid which caused the most serious damage.

13/02/1945 – Attack Against Dresden (Form 541 75(NZ) Squadron RAF)
Twenty aircraft attacked Dresden as detailed. Very slight H/F was only opposition. The first aircraft over the target reported thin cloud which had cleared for later aircraft. Some aircraft were able to bomb visually. Crews reported the whole town was well alight and could see the glow of fires 100 miles away on return A highly successful raid.

Lancaster Mk.III LM740 AA-B

Reginald Arthur Smith

Extract from the logbook of Reg Smith, Rear Gunner with the Adamson crew

F/O Maurice James Adamson, RNZAF NZ426904 – Pilot.
F/S Arthur Edwin Noel Unwin, RNZAF NZ427347 – Navigator.
F/O Kenneth William Rathbride Mitchell, RNZAF NZ425700 – Air Bomber.
F/S John William Fisher, RNZAF NZ4211617 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt John Palmer, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Frank Rhodes, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Reginald Arthur Smith, RAFVR 1606544 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:17 – Landed 07:04
Flight Time 08:47

Lancaster Mk.I NG113 AA-D
F/O Ronald Wynn Russell, RNZAF NZ37220 – Pilot.
F/O Francis Neville Selwood , RNZAF NZ4215756 – Navigator.
F/O Victor Digger Hendry , RNZAF NZ425570 – Air Bomber.
F/S F. Jillians, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. J. Hunt , RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S William Henry Grout, RCAF R.109213 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. E. Bates , RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:17 – Landed 07:25
Flight Time 09:08

Lancaster Mk.I NF935 AA-P
F/O Valentine Richard Egglestone, RNZAF NZC429998 – Pilot.
F/S Gordon McDonald Mitchell, RNZAF NZ4211764 – Navigator.
F/S James Frederick Freestone, RNZAF NZ4213370 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. R. Akehurst, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. P. Hill, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. Jack Truman, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. P. Goldie, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:09 – Landed 06:57
Flight Time 08:48

Lancaster Mk.I LM266 AA-F “The Seven Sinners”
F/O John O’Malley, RNZAF NZ428276 – Pilot.
F/S F. Cousar, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Septimus Robinson, RAFVR 1432941/ 190538 – Air Bomber.
F/S Frank Henry Gimblett, RNZAF NZ427520 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt W. Ireland, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. W. Ramsay, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. B. Stacey, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:11 – Landed 06:49
Flight Time 08:38

Lancaster Mk.I HK576 AA-G
F/O John Rees Layton, RNZAF NZ425914 – Pilot.
Sgt. Lloyd Edward Anger, RCAF R.200903 – Navigator.
W/O Clive Woodward Estcourt, RNZAF NZ391045 – Air Bomber.
F/S Ta Tio Tuaine Nicholas, RNZAF NZ425658 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt F. Samuel , RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S David Onslow Light, RNZAF NZ4212848 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Leslie Dixon Moore , RNZAF NZ421327 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:19 – Landed 06:21
Flight Time 08:02

Lancaster Mk.I HK573 AA-H
F/L George Stanley Davies, RNZAF NZ427262 – Pilot.
F/S Claude Cuthbert Greenough , RNZAF NZ429069 – Navigator.
F/S Henry Edward Chalmers, RAFVR 1565986 – Air Bomber.
F/S T.M. White , RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt I.R.H. Evans, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. J.J. Maher, RAFVR 1434090 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S R. Muir, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:13 – Landed 07:22
Flight Time 09:09

Lancaster Mk.I RA510 AA-J
F/O Robert Jaspar Pearson, RNZAF NZ39575 – Pilot.
W/O Alick Segnit, RAAF AUS.28834 – Navigator.
F/S B. Farmer, RAFVR – Air Bomber.
F/S William Arthur Johnston, RAAF AUS.432239 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt S. Miller, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. A. Smithson, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. E. Hadigate, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:20 – Landed 06:37
Flight Time 08:17

Lancaster Mk.III PB421 AA-K

Stan Heald

Extract from the logbook of Stan Heald, Air Bomber with the Ware crew

W/O Esmond Edgar Delwyn Ware, RNZAF NZ42486 – Pilot.
F/O Colin Campbell Emslie, RNZAF NZ431170 – Navigator.
F/S Stanley John Heald, RNZAF NZ415319 – Air Bomber.
F/S Wilfred Darling Cairns, RNZAF NZ427794 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. David Carter, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S G.B. White, RCAF R.209852 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Richard H. Wright, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:16 – Landed 07:23
Flight Time 09:07

Lancaster Mk.I HK597 JN-N

jimmy-wood-001-40

Extract from the logbook of Jimmy Wood, Air Bomber with the Banks crew

W/C Cyril Henry ‘Mac’ Baigent, RNZAF NZ411973/ 70038 – Pilot.
F/L Russell Ashley Banks RNZAF NZ416437 2nd Pilot.
F/O Maurice Wiggins , RAFVR – Navigator.
F/O James ‘Jimmy’ Earnest Wood , RAFVR 1801019/154906 – Air Bomber.
F/L Alexander Reid Hirst, RNZAF NZ41588 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. H. “jock’ Fraser, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
W/O John Edward Britnell, RAFVR 1579917 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt Norman ‘Paddy’ Allen, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:11 – Landed 07:15
Flight Time 09:04

Lancaster Mk.III NG448 JN-P
F/L Ernest Joseph Abraham, RNZAF NZ428061 – Pilot.
F/S Louis Eldon Bernhardt Klitscher RNZAF NZ415262 2nd Pilot.
F/O Donald John Glengarry, RNZAF NZ422059 – Navigator.
F/O David George William Hubert Jones, RAFVR 186301 – Air Bomber.
F/S Stanley Graham Watson, RAFVR 1124508/ 195948 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Samuel Joseph Hughes, RAFVR 2218612 – Flight Engineer.
F/S Ronald William Makin, RNZAF NZ4212812 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. R. Evans, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 21:53 – Landed 06:40
Flight Time 08:47

Lancaster Mk.I LM276 AA-S
F/L Sidney Lewis ‘Buzz’ Spillman, RNZAF NZ413138 – Pilot.
Sgt. N. Holbrook, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S Thomas Ernest Corlett, RNZAF NZ425692 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. G. Abrahams, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt H. Thorne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Vernon Alfred Clouston, RNZAF NZ428285 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S William Patrick Burke, RNZAF NZ4210017 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:14 – Landed 07:11
Flight Time 08:57

Lancaster Mk.I NG449 AA-T
F/L Jack Plummer, RNZAF NZ42451 – Pilot.
F/S Arthur Leonard Humphries, RNZAF NZ428244 – Navigator.
W/O Edgar John Holloway, RNZAF NZ429923 – Air Bomber.
W/O Robert William ‘Bobby’ West, RAFVR 1077746 /195545 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Maurice Fell, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/O Russell James Scott, RNZAF NZ428984 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Alexander Malcolm McDonald, RNZAF NZ426070 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:10 – Landed 07:06
Flight Time 08:56

Lancaster Mk.III PB132 AA-X
F/L Douglas Ross Sadgrove, RNZAF NZ425292 – Pilot.
F/S Robert Trevor Dixon, RNZAF NZ4212652 – Navigator.
Sgt. D. Stimpson, RAFVR – Air Bomber.
F/S Frederick Fleming, RNZAF NZ425241 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Bernard John Mahoney, RAFVR 1628335/ 190539 – Flight Engineer.
F/S Robert Samuel Bawden, RNZAF NZ4212629 – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. D. Dalimore, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 21:52 – Landed 07:07
Flight Time 09:15

Lancaster Mk.I ME450 AA-W

SONY DSC

Extract from the logbook of Robert ‘Jock’ Sommerville, Air Bomber with the Zinzan crew

F/O Vernon John ‘Taffy’ Zinzan, RNZAF NZ425314 – Pilot.
W/O James Sydney George Coote, RAFVR 517881/ 56715 – Navigator.
F/O Robert Douglas ‘Jock’ Sommerville, RAFVR 1562617/ 161049 – Air Bomber.
Sgt. Miles ‘Joe’ Parr, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. A. Ackroyd, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. H. Hutchinson, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. Frank Watts, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:13 – Landed 06:32
Flight Time 08:19

Lancaster Mk.I HK561 AA-Y

Gordon Ford

Extract from the logbook of Gordon Ford, Wireless Operator with the Watson crew (the clipped reference to ‘1 A/C lost’ refers to the Chemnitz Op, the following night

F/O Matthew Watson, RAFVR 1495959/ 176130 – Pilot.
F/S Kenneth Raffill Wood, RNZAF NZ4212783 – Navigator.
F/S Richard Godfrey Dawson, RNZAF NZ421686 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gordon Ford, RAFVR 1523080 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. R. Pare, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. W. Mentiply, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. A. Bolland, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:15 – Landed 07:13
Flight Time 08:58

Lancaster Mk.I HK601 JN-D

Gerry Newey

Extract from the logbook of Gerald Newey, Wireless Operator with the Wood crew

F/O John Henry Thomas Wood, RNZAF NZ426235 – Pilot.
F/S John Austin White Pauling, RNZAF NZ422976 – Navigator.
F/S Noel Ridley Hooper, RAFVR 1336483/ 196925 – Air Bomber.
F/S Gerald Newey, RNZAF NZ425285 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt Douglas Williamson, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Albert John Tipping Cash, RCAF R.147817 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S Ralph Charles Sparrow, RCAF R.263518 – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 21:52* – Landed 06:44
Flight Time 08:52
*While listed as 21:52, Gerry Newey’s logbook lists the crew’s take-off time as 21:50

Lancaster Mk.I NG322 JN-F
F/O Wi Rangiuaia, RNZAF NZ427319 – Pilot.
Sgt. A. Matthew, RAFVR – Navigator.
Sgt. D. Morrison, RAFVR – Air Bomber.
F/S John Edward Barry Mossman, RNZAF NZ42112587 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt L. Player, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. T. Mynott, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. T. Morgan, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:07 – Landed 07:20
Flight Time 09:13

Lancaster Mk.I PB820 JN-V
F/L Donald Winter Thomson, RNZAF NZ41613 – Pilot.
F/S Herbert Ronald Holliday, RAAF AUS.434602 – Navigator.
F/L Grant Alan ‘Russ’ Russell, RNZAF NZ411729 – Air Bomber*.
F/S D. Brazier, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. C. Payne, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
F/S Jack Heaton, RAFVR 982650/ 196880 – Mid Upper Gunner.
F/S J. Messer, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.
*Hilray Hubert Stratford, the crew’s regular A/B is listed in the Form 541, however, the position of A/B was in fact taken by the Squadron Bombing leader Grant Alan Russell, Hilary Stratford being ill for this Op – from A.G. Russell’s book ‘Dying for Democracy’

Take Off 22:08 – Landed 07:08
Flight Time 09:00

Lancaster Mk.I HK593 JN-X
F/O Ronald Christie Flamank, RNZAF NZ427270 – Pilot.
F/S A. Westbury, RAFVR – Navigator.
F/S E. Carver, RAFVR – Air Bomber.
F/S Douglas Haig Rapson, RNZAF NZ428323 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. V. Saunders, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. K. Moore, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. D. Hills, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 22:08 – Landed 06:34
Flight Time 08:26

Lancaster Mk.I HK554 JN-Z
F/O Herbert Wilfred Hooper, RNZAF NZ40111 – Pilot.
Sgt. Royston Edgar Lane, RAFVR 195332 – Navigator.
Sgt. E. Holt, RAFVR – Air Bomber.
W/O A. Gordon, RAFVR – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. J. Petrie, RAFVR – Flight Engineer.
Sgt. R. Sturrock, RAFVR – Mid Upper Gunner.
Sgt. J. Spiby, RAFVR – Rear Gunner.

Take Off 21:54 – Landed 06:59
Flight Time 09:05

 

Lest we forget………

A new group photograph from ‘Dying for Democracy’ by Grant Russell – Air Bomber, Stevenson crew

BombAimers45

‘Some of the Bomb Aimers of 75(NZ) Squadron, yours truely in the front row, 5th from left as you look at the photograph. A Lancaster bomber in the background’.
Front row: 2nd from left Stan Heald (Ware crew), 5th from Left :F/Lt. Grant Alan Russell
Middle row: 2nd from right Jim Saunders (Stevens crew), 6th from Right: F/O Jimmy Wood (A/B Banks crew)
Photograph from ‘DYING FOR DEMOCRACY’, Flt Lt G A Russell DFC, 1997, self-published (Russell), Wanganui, NZ

Many thanks to Chris for this photograph from ‘Dying for Democracy’, written and self published by Grant Russell, who was the 75(NZ) Squadron Bombing Leader from March 44 to May 45. 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 OTU and 218 Squadron, who ended up at 75(NZ) on his second tour.

I must confess, I was quite taken a back and excited when I saw the photograph, titled as it is ‘Some of the Bomb Aimers from 75(NZ) Squadron – especially as I instantly saw the grinning face of Jimmy Wood (Russell Bank’s A/B)………But no, sadly my Father is not in it.

As a self published book, this is a very scarce publication. Chris is currently reading through it, but he passed on the following extract that has a direct relevance to me;

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’.

Grant was one of a number of Air Bombers that flew with Vernon and the boys, before my Father returned to Mepal to become their new, regular Air Bomber. I can’t help but smile at Grant’s description of Vernon’s landing – Ken Mesure was lost from the crew after their first Op owing to a heavy landing and Dougie Williamson has also recounted to me a particularly ‘acrobatic’ landing by Vernon on another occasion. Despite these recorded mishaps, Vernon and his original crew completed their 1st tour before the end of the war, including 21 with Dad as Air Bomber, so perhaps, it suggests that style didn’t count for much after being in the air for over 5 hours.

Now of course, this photograph, which until yesterday I didn’t even know the existence of, means that there could potentially be more equivalent group photographs of this kind, collecting together the different aircrew trades of the Squadron. Individuals present in the picture would suggest March 1945 and possibly/ perhaps the same time when the full Squadron and Flight group photographs were taken – though, in the absence of a concrete date for ANY of these photographs this is conjecture.

Please please, please, if anybody has an original copy of this group photograph, or indeed one of possibly the equivalent for another trade group taken at the same time, I would love to have a copy to add to the ‘Group Photographs’ section of the blog.