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.

Contents.
    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)

    Sources
    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.
     Books
    • '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 'aircrewremembered.com', has produced memorials for both Jack Mallon (http://www.aircrewremembered.com/mallon-john-charles.html) and his brother Tom (http://www.aircrewremembered.com/mallon-thomas-alexander.html). 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 - http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff-nation/assignments/what-anzac-day-means-to-me/11606672/Peter-Jacksons-next-project
      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.
      http://youtu.be/ncBuA37Rgyg
      http://youtu.be/ncBuA37Rgyg

      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 Kenneth Ralph 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

      Background
      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.

      1939-42
      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, April 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 (not Bob)
      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.








        Tuesday, 29 April 2014

        3a. Bob's operational sorties


        Pilot Bill Mallon flew a '2nd dickie'** operation the day after the crew arrived at Mepal, with F/L Sid (Buzz) Spilman and his crew. This was a bombing raid on the German town of Dessau that virtually destroyed the town just six weeks before it was taken by American troops.

        All new pilots flew their first operation with an experienced pilot and his crew, generally referred to as flying '2nd dickie', so that when they took their own crew on their first operation the pilot at least would have some idea of what to expect. It was not unknown for pilots to be killed on this '2nd dickey' operation.

        **Bill made it back safely despite what the O.R.B. described as a "short inconclusive encounter" with a night fighter and the loss of 18 Lancasters from other squadrons from Nos. 1, 3, 6 and 8 Group. The following day he was to take Bob and the rest of the crew on their first operation, a daylight raid on Datteln in the heavily defended industrial Ruhr Valley.

        Here are the details of Bob's operational sorties, all bar one with the Mallon crew, and the aircraft in which he flew:
        • Friday, March 9th, in AA-L (HK562) - daylight raid on the Emscher-Lippe benzol plant near Datteln, part of the 'Oil Campaign' to deprive the Germans of fuel. 159 Lancasters took part, 19 from 75 Squadron, and one was lost (not from 75 Sq). In the air 5 hours 26 minutes.
        • Saturday, March 10th, in AA-L (HK562) - daylight raid on the Scholven-Buer synthetic oil plant in Gelsenkirchen, also in the Ruhr Valley and part of the 'Oil Campaign'. 155 Lancasters took part, 21 from 75 Squadron, and none was lost. In the air 4 hours 57 minutes.
        10th March 1945
        Immediately after the Gelsenkirchen operation Bob and the rest of Bill Mallon's crew were posted to RAF Feltwell, 20 miles to the east in Norfolk. Here they undertook training in the use of GH (or Gee-H), a radio navigation system that had been developed in late 1943 and was used to direct aircraft to the target.  They returned to Mepal on the 17th March and carried out one more GH exercise before returning to operations.While they were away, on the 14th March, Flight Lieutenant Eric Parsons and his crew were lost when AA-E was shot down attacking the Heinrich Hutte oil plants in Hattingen.
        On the 21st March, three days before their next operation, 75 Squadron lost three more crews in a raid on the railway and viaduct at Munster when AA-T, AA-R and JN-P were brought down. The pilots were F/L Jack Plummer (NZ), P/O Alfred Brown (NZ) and F/O Derek Barr (RAFVR) respectively.
        • Tuesday, March 27th, in AA-L (HK562) - daylight raid on the Sachsen benzol plant near Hamm in the Ruhr Valley. 150 Lancasters took part, 21 from 75 Squadron. None was lost but Bob's was hit by flak and he had to feather the port inner engine and return on just three engines. In the air 5 hours 40 minutes.

        HK562, in which Bob flew his first 3 operations. AA was one identifier used by 75(NZ) Squadron, the other was JN.


        • Thursday, March 29th, in AA-X (RF157) - daylight raid on the Hermann Goering benzol plant at Hallendorf in Salzgitter, in central Germany. 130 Lancasters took part, 21 from 75 Squadron, and there were no losses. In the air 6 hours 46 minutes.
        • Wednesday, April 4th, in AA-M (ME751)  - the day after Bob's 26th birthday he took part in a night raid on the Leuna synthetic oil plant and chemical works near Merseburg in eastern Germany, known as the 'most heavily defended industrial target in Europe'. Bob was a 'stand-in' flight engineer with a crew captained by F/L I. Taylor (RAFVR) whose crew included 3 Australians, a Canadian and a gunner from the RAFVR. 327 Lancasters took part, 21 from 75 Squadron, and two were lost, none from 75 Squadron, although JN-D were extremely lucky to make it after being hit by flak and losing their flight engineer, Sgt. Doug Williamson (see chapter 19). Flying time was 8 hours 23 minutes.
        • Monday, April 9th - in AA-Y (HK561) - night raid on the naval port of Kiel. The heavy cruiser 'Admiral Scheer' was sunk/capsized and the 'Admiral Hipper' and 'Emden' damaged beyond repair. The Deutsche Werke U-boat yard was also badly damaged. 591 Lancasters took part, 19 from 75 Squadron, and three were lost (not from 75 Sq). Flying time was 5 hours 43 minutes. Bomb aimer Ken Philp twisted his ankle and had to spend a short time in the station hospital.
        The 'Admiral Scheer', capsized in Kiel harbour after the raid of April 9th, 1945

        • Saturday, April 14th, in AA-Y (HK561) - night raid on the marshalling yards and military barracks at Potsdam, 15 miles S.W. of Berlin. Because of the injury to Ken Philp there was a 'stand-in' bomb aimer on Bob's aircraft, F/S O. Willetts (NZ425964). He had been posted to Mepal from No. 291 Squadron a couple of weeks earlier on the 28th March. This was the first time since March 1944 that Bomber Command 4-engined aircraft had entered the Berlin 'defence zone' and was the last raid by a major Bomber Command force on a German city, just 3 weeks before V.E. Day. 500 Lancasters took part, 21 from 75 Squadron, and one was lost (not from 75 Sq). Flying time was 8 hours 29 minutes.
        The flight engineer on AA-T, Sgt Allan Sliman, was fatally wounded by a cannon shell when his aircraft was attacked by two JU88s at 15000 feet on the return flight. Allan Sliman was 39 and had been a professional footballer with Bristol City, Chesterfield and Chelmsford City before commencing training a few weeks after Bob in 1944. He arrived at Mepal on the 1st April 1945 and suffered his fatal injuries on his crew's first and only operational sortie.


        O.R.B. entry reporting the death of the flight engineer on AA-T (PB132)
        • Friday, April 20th, in NF981 (his log book has AA-D crossed out and replaced with JN-D)  - daylight raid on the oil storage depot and docks in Regensburg, in Bavaria, S.E. Germany. 100 Lancasters took part, 20 from 75 Squadron, and one was lost (not from 75 Sq). Flying time was 7 hours 21 minutes.
        The 20 aircraft of 75(NZ) Squadron en route for Regensburg, 20th April 1945 (© Mary Morris, daughter of F/O Maurice Thorogood, navigator with F/L Laurence McKenna's crew). Which is Bob's aircraft?
        On Sunday, April 22nd the squadron lost yet another Flight Engineer when AA-T (NF935), piloted by S/L J. Parker, was struck by flak at 17500 feet over Wilhemshaven returning from a daylight raid on Bremen. The aircraft returned safely but Sgt. Roy Clark of the RAFVR lost his life.
        • Tuesday, April 24th, in AA-W (RF127) - Bob's final 'war op', and 75 Squadron's final operational mission, was a daylight raid on the marshalling yards at Bad Oldesloe, between Hamburg and Kiel in northern Germany. 110 Lancasters took part, 21 from 75 Squadron, and none was lost. Flying time was 5 hours 34 minutes. Although Bob did not mention it this final 'op' nearly ended badly. In one of Jim's letters home he described the landing: "He left his last trip in a blaze of glory by nearly doing a ground hop on landing. A tyre burst just as we touched down & he could not correct it enough to keep it straight so it turned off the runway & finished up facing the way we had come. Quite exciting – the fire section jeep was there by the time we had stopped – or nearly so – followed by the fire wagon and two meat wagons. Horrible disappointment to all concerned there wasn’t even a bleeding nose."
        • Tuesday, May 1st, in AA-W (RF127) - a week before V. E. Day Bob's crew was one of 21 from 75 Squadron that dropped food supplies on Delft, near The Hague in the Netherlands - probably on Ypenburg airfield. 'Operation Manna' and the U.S. 'Operation Chowhound' were organised to relieve the famine (Hongerwinter) that had developed over the winter of 1944-45 in the German occupied areas of the Netherlands. A ceasefire had been arranged with the local German commander to facilitate this and more than 3000 Lancasters from Groups 1, 3 and 8 took part in late April and early May. Bob described grateful Dutch people waving below the aircraft as they made their low-level drops (120-150 metres), an experience recorded by several aircrews in 75 Squadron's Operation Record Book (O.R.B.). (see below)

          One page of 75 Squadron's O.R.B. for 1st May 1945
           
        The details of Bob's training and operations were gleaned from his Record of Service (see Appendix IV), his Flying Log Book (see Appendix V), the squadron's Operations Record Books (see Appendix II) and several websites containing a wealth of information (see Appendix IX)
        Bob's 'war ops' March & April 1945 and 'Operation Manna' May 1945

        Tuesday, 8th May 1945 - V.E. Day, the end of the war in Europe! It was to be almost a year before Bob would be able to return to his life in Grimsby. 
        25th April - 6th July 1945 - Bob continued with cross country and army co-operation exercises, circuits and landings, fighter affiliation and bombing and air-sea firing practice in and around Britain. He also took part in a 'Bullseye' exercise to southern France, an exercise designed to simulate a night time operation, and three so-called 'Baedeker' operations over the Ruhr Valley and northern Germany. These operations were simply to 'view the effects of the bombing offensive' and on at least one occasion a passenger was carried. He was involved in one 'Post-mortem' operation which involved a flight over Germany to test captured radar equipment. These peace-time flights over Germany were in AA-W (RF127), AA-P (NF935) and AA-L (HK576) and after his last flight on 6th July his flying days were over. He had completed approximately 175 hours of flying, 84 of them operational.


        75 Squadron Pilots and Flight Engineers, May 1945. Bob is 2nd from right, back row. This picture is on display at Witchford.

        Bob completed nine operational sorties and survived the war. There is no doubt the risks to aircrew at this late stage were much reduced, with the Luftwaffe starved of fuel and supplies severely disrupted. However, the dangers from flak (see Appendix III), fighters and accidents were ever-present and it has been estimated that the risk of being shot down during your first five operations was about ten times greater than in later operations. During the two months that Bob was operational 4 aircraft from 75(NZ) Squadron were shot down, 3 flight engineers were lost (2 killed and one captured) and a total of over 500 aircraft from Bomber Command as a whole were lost. Over the whole conflict 75(NZ) Squadron suffered amongst the highest losses with 193 aircraft and well over 1000 aircrew killed.

        A Lancaster crew returns from an operation over Germany

        Had Bob been successful in his attempts to enlist in September 1942 he would have started his operational duty around May 1944. The worst year for Bomber Command casualties was 1944 and, according to the Rob Davis website, the two months with the highest number of aircraft lost were June and July 1944. Bob would have been expected to complete a tour of 30 operational sorties yet the chance of surviving such a tour at this stage of the war has been estimated as worse than 1 in 3. We should be grateful to whoever decided not to recommend him for Air Crew duties first time round.
        Although Bob had been keen to take the fight to Nazi Germany he had serious reservations after the war about the 'Area Bombing' strategy introduced early in 1942. The purpose of Area Bombing had been laid out in a British Air Staff paper dated 23rd September 1941


        "The ultimate aim of an attack on a town area is to break the morale of the population which occupies it. To ensure this, we must achieve two things: first, we must make the town physically uninhabitable and, secondly, we must make the people conscious of constant personal danger. The immediate aim, is therefore, twofold, namely, to produce (i) destruction and (ii) fear of death."



        I suspect Bob would have taken some consolation from the fact that all of his operational sorties involved military targets, although he was well aware of the devastating effect of any bombing on the civilian population.

        Log book entries:
        In his log book Bob entered all his 'war ops' in red ink. I had assumed that this was the norm until I had the opportunity to view other log books - some used no red ink at all and some used red ink for night time ops and black ink for those carried out in daylight.

        Bob's Flying Log Book for March 1945