Zinzan crew 1945

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

I would like to thank particularly David Duxbury, but also everybody who has contributed information on the individuals listed below.

The Zinzan crew arrived at Mepal on 3rd December 1944 from 1665 Conversion Unit. On the 11th of the month Vernon undertook a ‘second dickie’ flight with the Wakelin crew to Osterfeld. The following night the crew undertook their first operational raid to Witten – it was not without event. Over the target, it would appear they collided with the aircraft of F/Lt Hannan (also of 75(NZ). It is believed that the damage sustained in this collision forced Vernon to land heavily on their return to base. The resulting impact caused the Air Bomber, Ken Mesure to break his leg. This incident seems to have started a chain of replacement aircrew that resulted in Bob joining the crew on his return to the squadron, after the crew had completed 9 ops up to the end of January 1945.

Based on my research of other crews, this crew seems to have gone through an amazing number of initially Air Bombers and latterly Rear Gunners – I currently have no explanation for this.
The Zinzan crew were as follows; – (I have ordered the crew based on their crew list order and number of ops flown, rather than chronologically)

P/O Vernon John ‘Taffy” Zinzan RNZAF NZ425314. Pilot – 30 ops
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 – I think its quite 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 (NAV) – 29 ops

P/O Robert Douglas ‘Jock’ Sommerville RAFVR 161049. Air Bomber (A/B) – 21 ops
Jock returned to Mepal a little over a year since he had left it. I don’t suppose I will ever know whether his return to the squadron was utter chance or a specific request on his part. I know Allan desired and eventually got into PFF, I don’t know about Jack – I should ask, this might shed some light on Dad’s route back to 75(NZ)

Sgt. Miles ‘Joe’ Parr RAFVR xxxxxxxxx. Wireless Operator  (WOP) – 29 ops

Sgt. A. Ackroyd RAFVR xxxxxxx. Flight Engineer (F/E) – 29 ops

Sgt. H. Hutchinson RAFVR xxxxxxxxx. Mid Upper Gunner (MUG) – 29 ops

Sgt. Herbert Steele RAFVR xxxxxxx. Rear Gunner (R/GNR) – 19 ops
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 (A/B) – 1 op
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. F. Watts RAFVR Air Gunner. (R/GNR) – 2 ops
With 75(NZ) from 20th Oct 1944 to ?Apr 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 (MU/ GNR) – 2 ops
22 Jan to x 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  (MU/GNR) – 1 op
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 RAFVR Rear Gunner (R/GNR) – 1 op
21 Dec 1944 to x Jun 1945. c/w R B Crawford as R/Gnr.
Interestingly it would appear that Sgt. Tutty was part of the same crew as Sgt. Bullock and one of only 2 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 (A/B) – 1 op
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 Mid/U/Gnr)
16 Jan to x May 1945 as Mid-Under Gunner.
Citation DFC (25 Sep 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 (A/B) – 5 ops
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 RAFVR  Air Bomber (A/B)
21 Dec 1944 to (inj) 3 Feb 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 (A/B)
9 Mar 1944 to 5 Feb 1945. c/w D M Stevenson.

F/Sgt James Henry Murphy, DFM, RAFVR 1393306  (AG)
7 Aug 1943 to ? Jun 1944 & 30 Dec 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. (AG)
28 Aug 1944 to ? 1945 Posted in as Gunnery Leader – no crew affiliation. Citation DFC (7 Dec 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.”

3 thoughts on “Zinzan crew 1945

  1. David Fell

    Bert Winn flew his first tour with 576 Sqdn as rear gunner with Ken Murray’s crew. That would be Jan 44 to June 44. I met him and he told me he later flew with 75 NZ Sqdn. He was a Yorkshireman and lived most of his life in Saltaire. He died about 10 years ago. Went to his funeral.

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    1. 75nzsquadron Post author

      Hi David
      Many thanks indeed for getting in touch about Herbert – and adding that extra information about him.I suspected he was probably 2nd Tour when he arrived at Mepal – he came as a Mid Under Gunner – some of the Lancasters were fitted with ventral (underbelly) gun turrets – though not a particularly successful experiment by all accounts – So his duties included standard gunner positions as well, which I suppose is why he ended up twice in the rear gunnery position of my fathers aircraft.

      I wonder, do you know of any surviving relatives ??

      many thanks again

      Simon

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    2. Mike Holmes

      My grandfather flew in 576 Sqdn with Ken Murray’s crew. Do you know what happened to Ken Murray? I seem to remember being told he moved to Australia after the war?

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