Bill also made some candid observations on his first operation, a bombing raid on Dessau, in which 18 aircraft were lost and the Lancaster in which he was flying '2nd dickie' with F/L Spilman "had a short, inconclusive encounter" with a night fighter. In a letter to the author Mike Garbett in 1998 he had said it "frightened the hell out of me" and in the interview for the Military Oral History Project he recalled that he "didn't think there was much future in this game!"
Bill was also able to provide more information about the incident that occurred during the raid on the Sachsen benzol plant near Hamm on the 27th March 1945. The crew were in the aircraft AA-L (HK562) carrying 11,000 lbs (nearly 5 tons) of bombs and Bob wrote in his log book "Port inner feathered - hit by flak". Bill's log book contains even less - "3 engines - flak". In his interview Bill described it as being "very close" to their last operation as they had "copped a bit of flak on the run-in to the target". "The flak went through the oil cooler and it started to lose pressure" so he told Bob to shut down the engine. They completed the bomb run and returned home safely - "It's no trouble for a Lanc to fly on 3 engines" he added.
One piece of information I had not come across before was Bill's description of an additional identity tag that he says was issued when they were flying to targets in the east of Germany, with a risk of coming down behind the Russian front line. He described it as "a great big plaque" with "a Union Jack on one side and Russian on the other side saying 'Don't shoot ... he is friendly'".
The interview also provides valuable information about the effect of supply and demand on the training of aircrew as the war progressed. It must have been a source of great frustration that it was almost 3 years after his induction to the R.N.Z.A.F. that Bill Mallon commenced operational flying.
By May 1942 a large surplus of trained aircrew had built up in the U.K. and measures were taken to extend the training period, particularly for pilots. Whether or not it was an intended consequence is unclear but this extension improved the quality of flying and the rate of training casualties was halved between 1940-41 and the end of the war, from 1 in every 11,156 flying hours to 1 in 22,388.
By the end of 1943 there were adequate reserves of aircrew, both fully trained and under training, and in February 1944 the Supervisory Board of the British Commonwealth Air Training Scheme decided that the output should be gradually reduced by 40%. By June 1944 a serious bottleneck had developed and a large backlog of pilots had accumulated in the U.K., New Zealand and Canada. By this time though Bill was already at No.3 (P)A.F.U. and well on the way to a posting to an operational squadron.
Here is a summary of his story, as told in the interview.
|Bill and May at Bell Block (and big brother in the background?)|
|Bill, aged 11, with champion calf on|
'Bell Block School Calf Day'
|New Plymouth High School cricket team, about 1934.|
Bill is second from the left on the middle row.
|The U.S.S. Matsonia in San Francisco harbour 1943|
- He arrived in San Francisco in June to be met by what Bill described as "paranoia". They were all finger printed, a guard was posted on the ship and no-one was allowed ashore - apart from Bill, who managed to accompany the baggage truck. After a short ferry trip to Oakland they were on a train for a 2 day journey to Vancouver where they made a quick transfer from the American Railroad to the Canadian National Railways before continuing their journey to Edmonton.
|The Grand Hotel, Brighton, in March 1943|
|An Airspeed Oxford II in 1942|
he joined his new crew for their first flight together on September 7th.
There was now just one vacancy to fill, a flight engineer, before they could fly a Lancaster bomber but they would have to wait another 3 months before they recruited Bob, who would not complete his training until November.
|The Vickers Wellington bomber|
|Ground crew working on the port outer engine of 75(NZ) Squadron Lancaster JN-X at Mepal (1945) (I.W.M)|
|The RMS Arundel Castle after the 1937 refit reduced the number of funnels from 4 to 2|
|Arundel Castle, arrivals and departures 1945|
|Bill's epic journey|
|Bill in New Plymouth after the war|
The picture on the right was taken by Swainson's Studios in New Plymouth and must have been quite a while after the war as he has his medal ribbons sewn onto his uniform. The Puke Ariki museum/library currently has an exhibition of the Swainson/Woods Collection (13th April - 28th July 2013) and a search of the on-line catalogue suggests it was taken as late as the 12th November 1946. Is it my imagination or is there a serenity on Bill's face that wasn't there in the photograph taken during the war? (see below)