Wednesday, 21 August 2013

23. No. 75 (NZ) Squadron losses, March - April 1945

The Runnymede RAF Memorial in Surrey

During the two months that Bob was operational four aircraft from 75(NZ) Squadron were shot down, three flight engineers were lost (two 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 destroyed and well over 1000 aircrew killed.

The Mallon crew arrived at Mepal on the 6th March 1945 and after their first two operations (on the 9th and 10th March), during which the squadron suffered no losses, they undertook training in the use of Gee-H navigation at RAF Feltwell, followed by six days leave. By the time they were in action again on the 27th March four of the squadron's aircraft had been lost.

14th March 1945 - target: the Heinrich Hutte oil facility in Hattingen
The only aircraft lost out of the 169 involved in this raid was AA-E (PB741) piloted by F/L Eric Parsons of 75 (NZ) Squadron. According to the squadron's O.R.B. the aircraft "was seen to be hit in port inner engine at 16.35 on run in to target and dropped track with port outer also feathered. Port wing caught fire and broke off when just above cloud and was seen spiralling into cloud". All seven of the crew were killed. Five of them were laid to rest in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery in Kleve, close to the Dutch border in Germany, and two have no known grave and are commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey.
  • F/L Eric Parsons (RAF 185301), pilot (aged 23) - Reichswald
  • F/S William Phinn (RAFVR 1684789), navigator (aged 22) - Reichswald
  • F/S Francis Ebbage (RAFVR 1615600), bomb aimer (aged 21) - Runnymede
  • F/S Eric Ramsay (RAFVR 2205987), wireless operator (aged 20)- Reichswald
  • Sgt Charles Longstaff (RAFVR 1595982), flight engineer (aged 31) - Runnymede
  • Sgt John Beard (RAFVR 3006185), mid-upper gunner (aged 19) - Reichswald
  • F/S John Nichol (RAFVR 1670779), rear gunner (aged 28) - Reichswald

Reichswald Forest War Cemetery

21st March 1945 - target: the railway yards and nearby viaduct at M√ľnster
Three Lancasters were lost during this raid with the loss of twelve lives - all were from 75 (NZ) Squadron. The full details of what happened on this ill-fated operation and what errors were made will never be known but the circumstances have been explored by several researchers, including Simon Sommerville in his excellent blog '75nzsquadron'. What is clear is that the squadron suffered the terrifying experience of having to avoid bombs falling from aircraft above and that "Considerable H/F was encountered". The following aircraft were lost:

JN-P (RA564) - "Aircraft failed to return, believed shot down by flak in target area". It was subsequently confirmed that RA564 was bombing the target when it was struck by a bomb falling from another aircraft flying above, which exploded. There were no survivors. The body of W/O Amos was found and buried by advancing U.S. forces and he now lies in the Venray War Cemetery in the Netherlands. The other crew members have no known graves.
  • F/O Derek Barr (RAFVR 190947), pilot (aged 29) - Runnymede
  • F/S Arthur Oakey (RNZAF 4213810), navigator (aged 33) - Runnymede
  • Sgt Dryden Stewart (RAFVR 1673061), bomb aimer (aged 22) - Runnymede
  • P/O Robert West (RAFVR 195545), wireless operator (aged 22)- Runnymede
  • F/S Clifford Stocker (RAFVR 1587275), flight engineer (aged 30) - Runnymede
  • Sgt Bruce Nicholl  (RAFVR 746205), mid-upper gunner (aged 26) - Runnymede
  • W/O Alwyn Amos (RAFVR 1578224), rear gunner (aged 24) -Venray War cemetery.

Venray War Cemetery

A heart breaking postscript to this story can be found at

AA-R (LM733) - "Aircraft failed to return and was seen to break in two over target, possibly due to bombing from above but may have been flak."LM733 was bombing the target when it was seen to break into two sections and enter a downward spiral before crashing in flames among trees near Coesfeld at 13.30hrs. The cause of the catastrophic damage was thought to be a combination of flak damage and being struck by a bomb from another 3 Group aircraft flying above. Two of the crew, the pilot and the bomb aimer, were killed, the others all survived and were captured.
  • P/O Alfred Brown (RNZAF 429139), pilot (aged 25) - Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
  • F/S Arthur Baker (RNZAF 4214043), navigator - baled out & survived. PoW camp not known
  • F/S James Wood (RNZAF 425811), bomb aimer (aged 29) - Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
  • F/S Arthur Robson (RNZAF 4210853), wireless operator - baled out & survived. Held at Stalag XI-B near Fallingbostel in N.W. Germany
  • F/S R. H. Lawrence (RAFVR 1607264 ), flight engineer - baled out & survived. PoW camp not known
  • Sgt J Grierson (RAFVR 1593931), mid-upper gunner - baled out & survived. PoW camp not known
  • Sgt H. Barraclough (RAFVR 1590144), rear gunner - baled out & survived. PoW camp not known

Stalag XI-B near Fallingbostel

AA-T (NG449) - "Aircraft failed to return, seen to be shot down by flak over the target".  NG449 came under heavy AA fire over the target area and received hits in two engines. It then began breaking up and four of the crew were virtually thrown from the disintegrating aircraft and parachuted to safety. The pilot, bomb aimer and mid-upper gunner all died.
  • F/L Jack Plummer (RNZAF 42451), pilot (aged 29) - killed and buried at Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
  • P/O Arthur "Tiny" Humphreys D.F.M. (RNZAF 428244), navigator - baled out & survived. Probably held at Stalags VI-F and XI-B. It has been reported that he implored the Germans to arrange medical treatment for his badly injured comrades.
  • F/O Edgar Holloway (RNZAF 429923), bomb aimer (aged 29) - killed and buried at Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
  • F/O Joseph Wakerley (RAFVR 169159), wireless operator - baled out & survived. Possibly held at Oflag 79 near Braunschweig, Germany
  • Sgt Maurice Fell (RAFVR), flight engineer -  baled out & survived but was badly injured. Possibly held at Stalag XIB and upon repatriation was treated at the RAF General Hospital at Wroughton in Wiltshire
  • F/O Russell Scott (RNZAF 428984), mid-upper gunner (aged 23) - killed and buried at Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
  • F/S Alexander MacDonald (RNZAF 426070), rear gunner - baled out & survived. There are discrepancies in the records of what happened to F/S MacDonald (McDonald?)(McDowell?) One story has it that he successfully evaded capture and returned to the UK before the end of the war but the more likely story is that he was also badly injured and captured.
It was the Plummer crew's 30th operation. Had they returned safely it would have been the end of their war.
    Post war picture of the RAF General Hospital, Wroughton where Sgt Maurice Fell was treated
      Bob took part in seven more operations after returning to Mepal towards the end of March 1945 and although the squadron lost no more aircraft the loss of airmen continued.

      4th April 1945 - target: the Leuna Synthetic Oil Plant, Merseburg (about 25 km west of Leipzig). According to the O.R.B. JN-D (piloted by F/O J. Wood) "was hit by flak before reaching the target, the bomb aimer (F/S Hooper) was burnt about the face and the pilot's hands was (sic) slightly burnt, the flight engineer (Sgt Williamson) apparently fell through the M.U.G. turret" (the mid-under gun turret in the floor of the fuselage). The flak "pierced the de-icing tank causing fire which destroyed several leads including heating to A.S.I." (air speed indicator).
      The fate of Sgt Doug Williamson was not known for some time but was eventually recounted in fascinating detail by Doug himself (see chapter 19).

      14th-15th April 1945 - target: Potsdam. . "AA-T (F/L Baynes) was attacked by two enemy aircraft, believed JU88s, 20 miles S.W. of Potsdam on the homeward journey. The Flight Engineer (Sgt. A. Sliman) was killed by canon shell". Allan Sliman was fatally wounded when his aircraft, piloted by F/O A. Baynes, was attacked at 15000 feet on the return flight. Allan 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 had only arrived at Mepal on the 1st April and suffered his fatal injuries on his crew's first and only operational sortie.

      Sgt Sliman (© Andrew J. Begent, Chelmsford War Memorial website)

      Allan Sliman's grave in Writtle Rd Cemetery, Chelmsford

      22nd April 1945 - target: Bremen. 
      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. He is buried in Chingford Mount cemetery in the London borough of Waltham Forest.
      The cemetery in which Roy Clark is buried

      In all, 1139 members of 75 (NZ) Squadron lost there lives between 1940 and 1945. The Roll of Honour may be found in Simon Sommerville's blog.

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