Saturday, 4 June 2016


11th Sept -  Bergen op Zoom:  During a recent trip to Belgium and the Netherlands I took some time to visit Bergen op Zoom, a city with a population of about 66,000 in the south of the Netherlands.

Bergen op Zoom town hall in the Grote Markt
 On the outskirts of the city there are two Commonwealth War Cemeteries, side by side and surrounded by woodland. The one on the left is the Canadian War Cemetery, the last resting place of 968 Canadians, including 64 from the R.C.A.F. It is also where Sgt Trevor Hedley Gray and his crew, of No. 75(NZ) Squadron, are buried.

The graves of Trevor Gray and his crew, September 2016

Like the Mallon boys, Trevor was an old boy of New Plymouth Boys' High School and his crew's story is told in the book 'The Mallon Crew', to be published shortly. Tom Mallon and his navigator, P/O George Brock, are buried in the other War Cemetery.

The graves of Tom Mallon and George Brock, September 2016

31st May - Jim Haworth's grandson and great grandson:  Ruth sent me this picture of her grandson, Izaak, taking his dad, Andy, for a short flight after gaining his pilot's licence.

25th March - 'The Mallon Crew', the book based on the stories in this blog, should be published later this year. Two publishers have already requested manuscripts and I am exploring a number of alternative self-publishing routes. I will add more information as I receive it.

7th March - Jim Haworth, navigator: Jim's daughter Ruth found this poem amongst her dad's belongings recently. She doesn't know its origin but she believes it to be her dad's handiwork and, from what I have learned about Jim during the last couple of years, I would have to agree. It was definitely written by one of the squadron's navigators - there is a glossary below for those unfamiliar with R.A.F. slang and the range of techniques at the navigator's disposal before global positioning satellites were available.

Tune of the ..?..  of Home
At Mepal our briefing’s a wonderful sight
The Sprog navigators all shitting with fright
They don’t hold with loops or use astro at all
Their only way home is a bloody Gee crawl
At least from their logs it would so appear
That they just guess a course for the skipper to steer
With D.R.M. setting and blue end in red
It’s no wonder they’re always so late into bed.

When all’s said and done they must know their stuff
When the vis has clamped down & the Met is all duff
With H2S fixes and DR as well
And API winking like a bat out of hell
And revise ETA they just alter course
And hope to be still with the rest of the force
But when ‘H’ hour comes round & TI’s go down
You can bet Seventy-five will be raining bombs down.

When coming back home with the crew all asleep
The Nav working backward to fill in his gaps
Across the North Sea they erratically roam
Believing the Nav when he says “Soon be home”.
And when at long last the poor bastards arrive
A sweet voice from control says turn ‘25’.

Astronavigation – using celestial bodies to fix the aircraft’s position using a sextant
Air Position Indicator
Dead Reckoning - calculating one's current position by using a previously determined position and estimated speeds over an elapsed time.
Direct Reading Magnetic compass. Blue end in red probably refers to the N and S poles of the compass, coloured red and blue respectively.
Estimated time of arrival
An early form of ground control radar
Aircraft mounted radar
H Hour
The moment bombs are scheduled to start to fall
Loop antennae, part of the Radio Direction Finder system (R.D.I.)
The Meteorology Officer’s weather report
A newly qualified airman
Target Indicator flares dropped by Pathfinder Force

3rd March - Charles Frederick Green: after a fascinating and lengthy conversation with Charles I have been able to update his story in Chapter 16. What a privilege to be able to talk to someone who flew with my dad, even if it was on only three operations and he flew with so many different crews during his second tour that he remembers none of them.

1st March - Charles Frederick Green D.F.C: just like Cook, Green is not an unusual surname and I expected to have just as much difficulty tracing Charles as I did Don. Not only was I mistaken but I was delighted to discover not only the whereabouts of Charles but also that he was alive and well, the only one so far to have survived to read my story. I received an e-mail this afternoon from Mike, a friend of Charles, who was trying to find a way of obtaining a copy of his D.F.C. citation. He wrote: "He is a fabulous chap who wouldn't have done this himself but I think he deserves some recognition of his wartime experiences." I couldn't agree more!

January - Don Cook: just before Christmas 2015 I decided that all my efforts to trace Don or his family were getting me nowhere. I decided I needed the help of the professionals and who better than 'FinderMonkey', one of the organisations featured in the BBC documentary series 'Family Finders.'

Unfortunately they were unable to help.

Monday, 10 November 2014

1. Introduction.

Sgt. Bob Jay, November 1944
This blog is the extraordinary result of four years of research. My dad was a flight engineer with No.75(NZ) Squadron and as a child growing up in the 1950s I never tired of asking him about his experiences, wanting to know where in the aircraft he sat, what his role was, what flak was like and even how aircraft were able to fly. By the time I left primary school my interest had started to wane and when he died in 1974 at the age of just 55 I thought that any chance of finding out more was lost. I was left with a handful of photographs, his log book and the name of his pilot.

In the spring of 2012 I acquired Bob's service record and decided to document as much as I could of his war-time experiences so that his grandchildren, who never met him and for whom the Second World War was ancient history, could learn something about this momentous part of his life. This decision took me on an incredible voyage of discovery which is summarised in the recently published article 'Peter Jackson's next project?' (25th April 2015). What was intended to be a single-entry blog for the benefit of close family now has 30 chapters, 17 appendices and more than 30,000 words and has unearthed incredible stories of courage, sacrifice and disappointment. I even discovered a photograph of the Lancaster carrying Bob and his crew on the last of their operations over Germany. 

No. 75(NZ) Squadron flew more sorties than any other Allied heavy bomber squadron and suffered the second most casualties - one of its airmen was even awarded the Victoria Cross. But this story is not about the squadron, nor is it about individual heroism, it is about a small number of unremarkable men thrown together briefly during the last few months of the war and the amazing way in which their tales are unfolding seventy years later. I defy anyone not to be moved by their tragedies or to marvel at the power of the internet.

All of the crew survived the war but their lives would never be the same again.

    An appeal
    Originally planned as my dad's story this blog has now become the story of his crew - or at least his pilot, navigator, wireless operator, bomb aimer and rear gunner. To complete the story I need to find out more about their mid-upper gunner:
    • Sgt Don Cook (RAFVR), aged 20 in 1944/5 (born 1924 or 1925) from London (?)
    Can anyone help? (my contact details are in 'View my complete profile' below)

    A huge thank you to all of the following:
    I am particularly grateful to Pete and Simon for their help during the writing of this blog and to all the other people who have helped, but most of all I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the families of my dad's crew.
    • 'Luck and a Lancaster' by Harry Yates, DFC
    • 'No Moon Tonight' by Don Charlwood
    • 'Bombs on Target' by Ron Mayhill, DFC
    • 'The Nazi & the Luftgangster' by D. B. Williamson and Lutz Dille
    • 'Kiwis do fly' by Peter J. Wheeler
    • 'Lancaster' by Christopher Chant
    • 'Lancaster' by M. Garbett & B. Goulding
    • 'Avro Lancaster (1941 onwards): owners' workshop manual' - Haynes Publishing.

    Friday, 10 October 2014

    What happened in 2015

    22nd Dec - Michel Beckers, who carries out research on behalf of the website '', has produced memorials for both Jack Mallon ( and his brother Tom ( He also provided me with this picture of Jack's Blenheim shortly after it was shot down (see chapter 24):

    Jack's Blenheim, 9th Oct 1940

    15th Dec - "Reunion of Giants"**: I have just watched this DVD, the story of the visit to the UK of The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's Lancaster, 'VeRA', earlier this year. It gives a fascinating insight into the challenges they faced, including crossing the Atlantic, the weather and engine failure, not to mention the challenge of working alongside the military. Disappointing that the flights from Kirmington weren't featured but well worth watching for the interviews with veterans, including Ron Brown, a flight engineer with B flight, 75(NZ) Squadron, who died this year.

    The video also introduced me to a classic quote from one of the pilots addressing a disappointed crowd as the ground crew struggled to overcome mechanical problems that were delaying VeRA's departure from Hamilton. "It's better to be down here wishing you were up there than to be up there wishing you were down here" - I bet there were thousands of aircrew during the war who would concur.

    ** Available from The Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre.

    13th Dec - Doug Williamson: there is now a full chapter that tells Doug's remarkable story (chapter 19)

    27th Nov - Ken Philp (bomb aimer): Ken's chapter is now complete, pending any additional information from the family (chapter12). I was shocked to learn that Ken also had a brother who was a pilot and was killed in action.

    7th/8th Nov  I attended the annual reunion of the UK branch of the Friends of 75(NZ) Squadron last Saturday and the Remembrance Day service at the squadron's memorial gardens in Mepal on Sunday. They were both very moving occasions and the opportunity to meet people with links to my dad, however indirect, made both very special.

    1st Nov It wasn't just the quality of the rugby that made New Zealand such thoroughly deserving winners of the Rugby Union World Cup, it was also the philosophy behind their success. Their mantra "Better people make better All Blacks" sums up this philosophy and is an example to us all.
    The performance of the England team was more than disappointing but at least I had the pleasure this evening of watching the Rugby League side make amends by beating New Zealand 26-12 at the KC Stadium in Hull!

    Sean O'Loughlin scores England's fourth try

    3rd Oct Some of the stories Bob told us when we were children are reproduced (as accurately as possible second hand and after sixty years) in chapter 3c.

    14th Sept - The International Bomber Command Centre. Thanks to Peter Jones, whose father was also a flight engineer with Bomber Command, Chris Johnson and others at the Centre Bob's story is now featured in the 'Your memories' section of the website. There is also a link on the website of The Flight Engineer & Air Engineer Association and the 75(NZ) Squadron website.

    July 2015 - 'The man who invented stereo'. I have only just discovered that a special ceremony at EMI's Abbey Road Studios in London was held on the 1st of April, 2015 to honour Alan Dower Blumlein (1903 – 1942), a British electronics engineer, for his pioneering work on the recording and playback of stereo sound. What is probably more significant and less well known about Alan is the role he played in shortening the Second World War (see Appendix XVI: Navigation).

    16th June - Hereworth School, an independent Anglican school for boys in Havelock North, Hawke's Bay. Like many schools in New Zealand Hereworth has tragic links to No.75(NZ) Squadron. (see Appendix XV)
      30th April A sad postscript to the 25th February up-date below was the recent death of John McFarland, one of the three survivors of Jim Murray's crew.

      28th April The International Bomber Command Centre: as a 'Yellowbelly' I have been closely following the progress of the International Bomber Command Centre project and came across this account written by Sgt John Sargeant DFM. John was a flight engineer with No. 106 Squadron based at RAF Syerston in Nottinghamshire.

      25th April - I received an e-mail this morning from Reg Phillips in New Zealand, who had read the article on the New Zealand Herald website and wondered if I could shed any light on his dad's time with No. 75(NZ) Squadron. Unfortunately, his dad arrived at Mepal on the 16th July, 1945, two weeks after Bob had been declared 'surplus to requirements' and left prior to his posting to RAF Burn on the 24th July, so I was unable to help.  

      25th April - After numerous unsuccessful attempts to persuade UK newspapers to publish an article about the growth of this blog I finally had some success when I submitted it to the New Zealand Herald who published it in their digital edition on ANZAC Day. Here's the link -
      One of the replies to the article recommends the video 'Maximum Effort', a short film about a day in the life of a 75 Squadron crew - it is well worth a look! The crew completed their tour but the aircraft in the film, AA-O (ND752), was one of seven from the squadron lost on the notorious Homburg operation of the 20th/21st July, 1944. The pilot, Henry Burtt, and four of his crew were killed.

      3rd April - In 1940 Bob was given a Rotary watch for his 21st birthday - it is 75 years old today and still going strong!

      75 years old today!

      20th March - Denis Eynstone (rear gunner): Chapter 11 is now complete, with details of all his post-war service, and Chapter 11a has some of Denis's art work from earlier in the war.

      28th February - Bill Mallon's dad Alexander (Alec) emigrated from Australia to New Zealand in about 1910, leaving behind family and friends. One of these was his sister, May Elizabeth Mallon, whose granddaughter Pat still lives in Australia. Pat lost contact with Alec's family many years ago and has only a sketchy recollection of Alec and some of his family visiting her grandmother in Sydney before the war. On the 28th January 2015 I received an e-mail from Pat's son-in-law Michael who had been researching his wife's family history and came across this blog. Pat had known Alec's sons were pilots but had no idea what had happened to them - Michael said she read their chapters with pride and they are planning a reunion with the Mallons when they travel to New Zealand later this year.

      25th February - F/O Henry James Murray: I have written at length about the sacrifices made by the people of New Zealand and by the Mallon and Philp families in particular. The 75(NZ) Squadronblog recently told the story of another family that suffered the heartbreak of losing more than one son.

      On the 26th May 1941 David Magnus Murray (27) was killed serving with the New Zealand Infantry in Crete. Just over a year later, on the 22nd July 1942 David's brother Gavin Allan Murray (32), a New Zealand Engineer, was killed at El Alamein in Egypt.

      The third of the four Murray brothers, Henry James ('Jim') (26), became a pilot and was posted to No 75(NZ) Squadron in February 1944. In the early hours of the 19th April 1944 Jim died along with three of his crew when their aircraft was brought down over Denmark on a mine-laying operation in Kiel Bay.

      The three brothers are now hundreds of miles apart and  thousands of miles from home. David has no known grave in Crete but his name is remembered on the Athens memorial, Gavin is buried in the El Alamein cemetery and Jim is buried in Gram churchyard in Denmark. Their surviving brother, the youngest, was not permitted to serve overseas, although both he and their sister did serve with the N.Z. armed forces.

      Jim's grave, second from left, in Gram churchyard
      The El Alamein war cemetery
      The Athens war memorial.

      Friday, 6 June 2014

      2. The crew

      On the 25th November 1944, Bob took the final step in his training to become a flight engineer on a Lancaster bomber when he was posted to 1669 Heavy Conversion Unit (H.C.U.) at RAF Langar on the Nottinghamshire Leicestershire border. A month later he was 'adopted' by an already established crew of four Kiwis and two RAFVR gunners in a process known as 'crewing up'. They had been together at No. 11 Operational Training Unit (O.T.U.) at RAF Oakley where they had learned to fly twin engine Wellington bombers but they didn't all fly together in a Lancaster until the end of January.

      F/S Bill Mallon
      Here are the crew's details:
      • Pilot/Captain: Flight Sergeant (later Pilot Officer) William (Bill) Mallon (R.N.Z.A.F.) - age 24 (see chapter 4 and chapter 5). Bill had two brothers, both pilots and both would be killed in action before the war was over.
      • Navigator: Flight Sergeant James (Jim) Randel Haworth (R.N.Z.A.F.) - age 34 (see chapters 6, 7, 8 and 9). Jim was the only crew member with a young family at home.
      • Air bomber (bomb aimer): Flying Officer Kenneth Ralph Philp (R.N.Z.A.F.) (the only one at this time with a commission) - age 31/32. Ken also had a brother who was a pilot and had been killed in action earlier in the year (see chapter 12).
      • Wireless operator: Flight Sergeant Frank Symes (R.N.Z.A.F.) - turned 21 on the 3rd March 1945.  Frank came from a large family - he was the fifth of eight children (see chapter 10).
      • Rear gunner: Sergeant Denis William Eynstone (RAFVR) (from Oxford) - at 19 the youngster of the crew (see chapters 11 and 11a).
      • Flight engineer: Sergeant Robert Jay (RAFVR) - age 25, the original subject of this blog.
      • Mid-upper gunner: Sergeant Don Cook (RAFVR) (from London) - age 20 (see chapter 13)

      The other six members of Bob's crew, probably taken in December, 1944
      I believe that a copy of this photograph was given to each member of the crew. My dad had a copy but it wasn't until Bill's son Barrie sent me his dad's copy that I was able to identify the men. Bob was the photographer. From left to right:
      • Jim Haworth
      • Don Cook
      • Bill Mallon
      • Frank Symes
      • Denis Eynstone
      • Ken Philp
      The back of Bill's photograph

      On their first three operations they had an eighth crew member:
      • Mid-under gunner: Pilot Officer Charles Frederick Green (RAFVR 178730) (see chapter 20) who had also flown a number of operations with the Zinzan crew.
      After Bob's last 'war op' on the 24th April the crew had a new pilot:
      • Flight Lieutenant Eric Frank Butler (NZ425558), who had completed his first tour with 75(NZ) Squadron in 1941 (see chapter 14)
      and a new bomb aimer after the end of May
      • Flying Officer Lancelot Osgood Waugh (NZ429021) (see chapter 15)
      Flying Officer Owen Charles Willetts (NZ425964) replaced Ken Philp as bomb aimer on the 14th April operation because of Ken's ankle injury. Owen had completed 21 operations with F/S Murray Smith's (RNZAF NZ425948) crew between July and October 1944 (see link) but was re-posted to the squadron from No. 291 Squadron on the 28th March.
      Owen Willetts in 1944. 
      On April 4th Bob flew as stand-in flight engineer with the following crew, made up of a mixture of British, Australian and Canadian airmen:
      • F/Lt. Ian Taylor (RAFVR-1550767/135709) - pilot
      • P/O David Dickson Hope (RAAF-AUS401954) - navigator
      • W/O John Alfred Tarran (RAAF-AUS419395) - bomb aimer
      • W/O Mervyn John King (RAAF-AUS430036) - wireless operator
      • F/S William (Bill) Henry Grout (RCAF*-R109214) - mid-upper gunner
      • Sgt. E. Franklin (RAFVR.) - rear gunner
      It is not known why their usual Flight Engineer, Sgt. L Deeprose (RAFVR), was unavailable for this operation having flown on all previous and subsequent operations.

      *During WW2 aircrew enlisted into the RCAF Special Reserve were allocated a service number prefixed with the letter 'R', which they kept unless commissioned when they would receive a 'J' number.

      The first names of the two gunners were a mystery for a while but these have now been established - Don Cook and Denis Eynstone. Although referred to as John or Johnny Eynstone by both Bill and Jim, the crew's rear gunner, whose initial appears almost exclusively as 'D' in the squadron's O.R.B., was actually Denis William Eynstone. The O.R.B.s were frequently incorrect (see below**) but in November 2014 Denis's daughter confirmed her father's name.

      **Here is the entry for the Mallon crew for the Bad Oldesloe operation on the 24th April, 1945.

      Note the incorrect initials for Sgts. Jay, Cooke and Eynstone.
      As four of the seven in Bob's crew were from New Zealand it was no surprise when, on the 6th March 1945, they were posted to RAF Mepal in Cambridgeshire, the home of No. 75(NZ) Squadron,  part of No. 3 Group, Bomber Command.

      Wednesday, 28 May 2014

      3. Bob Jay - flight engineer

      Robert Alfred Jay, the youngest of three children, was born on the 3rd April, 1919, in Spencer Street in the New Clee area of Grimsby. His sister Phyllis was five when he was born and his brother Fred was three. It was 12 weeks before the Treaty of Versailles finally sealed the peace in Europe and six months before his dad was demobbed after 4 years in the army. It was also just 2 months before Alcock and Brown's historic transatlantic flight.

      Bob's parents, Fred and Sarah, had moved to Grimsby via Leicester from their home town of Great Yarmouth in Norfolk in search of employment opportunities and the thriving fishing industry in Grimsby provided these. Fred was a cobbler and he had soon established his own business with a small workshop on the corner of Rutland Street.

      L to R: Bob, Phyllis & Fred outside 35 Tyrolean SquareGreat
      Yarmouth, home of their grandparents Robert & Mary Jay
      Bob attended St. John's School, linked with St. John The Evangelist Church on Cleethorpes Road, from the age of five until he was fourteen.

      Bob (middle, front row) at St. John's School, Grimsby, in about 1929

       He was an active boy and when he was fourteen he and a friend cycled from Grimsby to Great Yarmouth, sleeping in the open air on the way.  He also joined a boxing club and was even asked at short notice to take part in a fight one evening. He found the atmosphere of beer and smoke overwhelming and after three rounds of what he later described as 'Hell on Earth' he decided it wasn't the career for him.

      Trying out his bike, about 1931

      A short boxing career! Bob is on the right in the middle row.

      He left school shortly after his 14th birthday and on the 23rd April, 1933, still wearing short trousers under his overalls, he started a seven year apprenticeship with Grimsby Motors.

      Bob's apprenticeship indenture - signed 6 months after commencement
      He was released a year early, nine days after his 20th birthday, on the 12th April 1939 as a fully qualified motor mechanic and joined the local fire brigade.

      Early release, 12th April, 1939

      3rd June 1939
      Along with all young men of 20 and 21 Bob had to register at the local Ministry of Labour office under the terms of the Military Training Act (1939). This act, passed an the 26th May 1939 in the face of imminent conflict in Europe, required all men born between 4th June 1918 and 3rd June 1919 to register, after which they were to be called up for 6 month's full-time military training, and then transferred to the Reserve. It is not hard to imagine how his parents would have felt having lived through the horrors of the 'Great War'.
      To ensure that the call up did not take men away from vital industries and services the Government introduced a "Schedule of Reserved Occupations" - men meeting the age criteria laid out in the schedule were "reserved in their present occupation". As a full-time fireman Bob met the criteria in the schedule and remained in civil life.

      Being politically aware Bob had understood the threat posed by fascism since before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and had followed closely the rise of Hitler in Germany during the 1930s. It was inevitable that he would join the armed forces and play his part at some stage.

      1936 Nuremberg Rally

      By 1942 German troops had advanced as far as Stalingrad, the mass murder of Jews was well under way and the Japanese were overwhelming large areas in the Far East. There was wide-spread feeling in Britain that the fight should be taken to the enemy in Europe, rather than appearing to await the outcome of the struggle between Germany and the Soviet Union, and Bob probably saw joining Bomber Command as the way to do this - and maybe he found the prospect of flying quite appealing too. I am sure it had nothing to do with the destruction of his dad's workshop in a German bombing raid early in the war!

      Just before going to war
      30th September 1942
      As the war progressed there was an increasing need for men and women to join the armed forces and Bob volunteered to join the RAFVR (Volunteer Reserve). He was instructed to attend RAF Padgate, near Warrington, where he was assessed and interviewed by No. 10 A.C.S.B. (Aviation Candidate Selection Board). His service record shows that at the end of the process he was "Not recommended for aircrew duties", a decision generally made for 'aptitude, educational or medical' reasons. He therefore remained in civil life.

      The reason for this recommendation does not appear on his record of service but the family story is that it was because of an elevated temperature, something he had always had, but we will never know for sure. Bob did talk about his lack of mathematical skill preventing him from becoming a pilot, something he was keen to do, and this must have been part of the reason he was so desperate for his children to do well at school. Although the majority of pilots (and navigators and bomb aimers) were drawn from ex-grammar school and university volunteers, I recently met the son of a pilot whose father had a similar background to Bob, having left school at 14 and completed a trade apprenticeship.

      28th July 1943
      Undeterred, Bob reapplied ten months later and was instructed to attend RAF Doncaster where he was assessed and interviewed again, this time by No. 1 A.C.S.B. He was successful and was "recommended for training as a Flight Engineer". He was instructed to continue in civil life until further notice.

      2nd/3rd September 1943
      A few weeks later he was instructed to return to RAF Doncaster for two day's assessment, which included a medical which he passed with 'medical category grade 1'. He was enlisted 'D.P.E.' (for the 'Duration of Present Emergency') and 'mustered' as ACH/F.Eng (Aircrafthand/Flight Engineer) with the rank of Aircraftsman Second Class (AC2) grade A (the lowest grade).
      Having sworn his allegiance to King and Country he was issued with service number 1596172, placed on reserve and once again instructed to return to civil life until further notice.

      With fellow members of the Grimsby Fire Brigade, some time before Jan 1944
      All work and no play .......

      He later received a letter from the Air Ministry to welcome him into the R.A.F. and advise him on preparation for his 'Air Force career':

      A 'welcome to the R.A.F.' letter from the Air Ministry

      17th January 1944
      The call-up came in the New Year and on the 17th of January 1944 he reported for five weeks basic training at No.3 A.C.R.C. (Aircrew Receiving Centre) at RAF Regent's Park in London. In the first few days he would have:
      • a regulation hair cut
      • a thorough dental check, at which time he lost most of his top teeth
      • received inoculations against diphtheria and typhoid - it seems he missed out on the smallpox inoculation normally given at this stage
      • received basic RAF kit and 'Service Dress' uniform, commonly referred to as "Best Blues", including the white cap insert, clearly visible later on his wedding pictures, that identified him as trainee aircrew.
      He would have been instructed to mark every item of kit with his service number and be expected to keep every item spotlessly clean in readiness for regular inspection.

      'Air diagram 1385' with instructions for inspections and the wearing of equipment.
      Over the next few weeks he faced a rigorous daily routine of fatigues, inspections, training drills, lectures and assessments. I can't imagine Bob taking to this very well! As an AC2 (grade A), Trade Group V (Aircrafthand/Flight Engineer) his pay was 3 shillings per day plus sixpence per day war pay - considerably less than his pay as a fireman but he did not, of course, have to pay for his upkeep. He would collect his pay at the fortnightly pay parade.
      The piece of kit that would have been the starkest reminder of the perilous nature of the task ahead was the pair of identity discs. Manufactured from fire-resistant material and with the airman's religion clearly punched between his service number and name, none of the recruits could have been in any doubt why they had to wear these once they were flying.

      One of Bob's identity discs
      Id. card, discs and service & pay books (see Appendices VI, VII & VIII)

      26th February 1944
      Having completed the first stage of his training Bob was then posted to No. 7 I.T.W. (Initial Training Wing) at RAF Newquay, in Cornwall. The purpose of this training was to 'lay a foundation of discipline, physical fitness and mental alertness' and provide a 'sound basic knowledge of the RAF', all explained in the pamphlet "You are going to be a Flight Engineer".

      See Appendix I

      The I.T.W. syllabus included such things as:
      • aircraft recognition
      • air reconnaissance
      • armaments - “To introduce cadets to the use of firearms and the precautions necessary for their safe handling”
      • engines
      • instruments
      • meteorology
      • navigation
      • principles of flight
      • signals
      One of Bob's exercise book, dated Feb - March 1944
      This exercise book contained only 38 pages but on the cover Bob has written "Signals, Aircraft Rec, Armaments, Mathematics" - there was clearly no time for much depth, but there are 9 pages of closely written notes on the Browning .303 Machine Gun. The mathematics is quite basic, though probably not for someone who had left school 11 years earlier aged 14, but there has obviously been some effort to make the problem-solving 'relevant'. For example:
      • percentages - '.....add 1.75% to airspeed for every 1000 feet of added altitude......'
      • moments - problems related to bomb weights and movement of crew fore and aft (I'm not sure how many navigators weighed 120 lb though!)
      • distance travelled, bomb load, fuel consumption, time, etc 
      See Appendix IX for some pages from this exercise book

      Along with other trainees Bob would have been issued with his 'War Service uniform' ("Battledress") and, later in the course, with flying clothing, which was needed for training purposes. This included:
      • helmet, with oxygen and communication mask
      • goggles
      • flying suit
      • Mae West (life jacket)
      • parachute harness

      With fellow trainees. Bob is 3rd from left, middle row.

      Trainees were assessed throughout the course and examinations had to be passed prior to further posting. Bob successfully completed the course and his next posting was an attachment  to RAF Wrexham (from the 8th to the 15th April 1944) but it is not clear why, especially as RAF Wrexham was used for night fighter training.

      Service record: note the entries dated 8th & 15th April
      Bob married Vera Stephenson in St James Church, now Grimsby Minster, on the 19th April 1944, about a year after it had been badly damaged by a German bomb and 4 days after returning to Newquay from Wrexham.

      Marriage notice in Grimsby Evening Telegraph, 1944

      Bob and Vera were married at St James Church, Grimsby on 19th April 1944 - note the white cap insert

      St James Church after an air raid, July 1943

      May 1944 (exact date not known)
      Having completed his I.T.W. training and attachment to RAF Wrexham Bob was posted to No. 5 S.o.T.T. (School of Technical Training) at RAF Locking near Weston-super-Mare where he carried out the first phase of his 'trade' training as a Flight Engineer. This phase consisted of ten weeks of 'preliminary' training on airframes, engines, carburettors, electrics, instruments, hydraulics and propellers. This was followed by one week's leave.

      12th July 1944
      He was posted to No. 4 S.of T.T. at RAF St Athan in Glamorgan, S. Wales to complete the second and third phases of his flight engineer training. Phase 2 consisted of 7 weeks of 'intermediate' training in engines, airframes, hydraulics, propellers, instruments and electrics, followed by one week's leave. Having completed this phase of the course Bob was reclassified on the 1st of September as Aircraftsman Second Class (AC2) grade B. His pay would have increased from 3 shillings a day to 5 shillings a day (from 15p to 25p).

      Actual notes and diagrams from a trainee Flight Engineer (Courtesy of the late Clifford Leach)
      The final phase consisted of 7 weeks 'advanced' training on a specific service type aircraft and included a week at the factory of an aircraft manufacturer ('Makers Course') but there is no record of this in Bob's service record. This was followed by a week of written and oral exams.

      Trainees at St Athan

      13th November 1944
      Having successfully completed the course and passed his exams Bob attended a 'passing out' parade where he was presented with his Flight Engineer's brevet and promoted to the rank of Sergeant, the minimum rank for aircrew. His pay was increased to 12 shillings (60p) a day. If Bob had achieved a mark of 70% or more in the exams then he would have been considered for a commission - his mark was 66.1%.

      Sergeant Robert Jay, November 1944. Note the new F/E brevet and Sergeant's stripes
      Confirmation stamp in Bob's Flying Log Book

      25th November 1944

      Log book entries showing Bob's flights with S/L Chipling

      The final step in Bob's training involved a posting to 1669 Heavy Conversion Unit (H.C.U.) at RAF Langar where he became part of the crew of a Lancaster bomber (chapter 2). He arrived a few weeks before the rest of his crew so that he could get some flight training in and his log book records his first three flights in a Lancaster bomber on the 17th, 18th and 21st of December 1944. His pilot on these flights was S/L Alban Chipling* and they carried out a number of circuits and landings, or 'circuits and bumps' as they were affectionately known, and some three engine landings - practice that was to prove crucial to the crew's survival on one of their operations three months later (see chapter 3a).

      (*Shortly afterwards S/L Chipling was transferred to RAF Hullavington, near Chippenham, where, after a distinguished flying career and only a couple of weeks before the end of the war in Europe, he lost his life in what appears to have been a tragic accident - see chapter 22)

      Bob had a total of just 59 hours flying time, 36 hours daylight and 23 hours night flying, between mid-December and the end of February and only 35 hours of this were 'solo' flights with his crew. Pilots obviously had more flying hours in training, though nowhere near the number required in peacetime.

      The training schedule involved:
      • Familiarisation with the aircraft
      • Circuits and landings
      • Bombing practice
      • Fighter affiliation
      • Cross country flying
      all entered in the log book as a series of numbered exercises. These were often carried out with experienced instructors (normally crew who had completed an operational tour) and then repeated 'solo'.
      Bob's role as Flight Engineer is summarised here:

      Whenever Bob climbed into the aircraft he would have with him his parachute and his emergency repair tool bag and before, during and after every flight he would have to complete a four page Flight Engineer Log.

      Two of the four pages of the Flight Engineer's Log

      The Lancaster Mk VII cockpit
      This clip on YouTube features Ken Duddell, a flight engineer with No.103 Squadron at RAF Elsham, giving a fascinating insight into his role.

      Having successfully completed their H.C.U. training the crew were considered ready for operational duty. Bob was officially declared qualified as a Flight Engineer for the Lancaster Marks I and III with effect from 1st March 1945 and was immediately assigned to No. 72 Base which, as well as Langar, included the airfields RAF Bottesford and RAF Saltby.
      Confirmation of qualification in Log Book

      On the 6th March 1945 Bob and the rest of the crew were posted to RAF Mepal in Cambridgeshire, the home of No. 75(NZ) Squadron,  part of No. 3 Group, Bomber Command. This was an RAF squadron formed from the 'New Zealand Squadron' in 1940 when the N.Z. government made their airmen and aircraft available to the RAF to help with the war effort. It was one of the larger, 3-flight squadrons which, between 1943 and 1944 had about 35 crews. By 1945 it seems that the squadron was practically 'double-manned', with two crews per aircraft, which would explain why Bob and his crew, who were assigned to 'B' Flight, flew in several different aircraft during their tour.

      'B' Flight 75(NZ) Squadron, March 1945

      75(NZ) Squadron, March 1945

      R.A.F. Mepal, photographed by Dick Broadbent D.F.C. in 1943. Mepal is to the north and Sutton to the south.