Sunday, 8 September 2013

6. Jim Haworth - navigator

Flight sergeant James Haworth, Navigator 
James Randel Haworth was born in Timaru on the 20th January, 1911. He attended school in Christchurch and gained an Accounting Degree and the major part of an LLB studying part-time at Canterbury University. He worked for Timaru Motors, a branch of the Colonial Motor Company which had the Ford Franchise, before setting up his own practice as a Chartered Accountant once he had been admitted to the Accountants Society in 1933. He had wide interests including rifle shooting, ice hockey and sailing out of  Lyttelton in his own B Class keeler yacht. In 1938 he married Thelma,known by everyone as Sally, and they went on to have three daughters, Ruth, born in 1940, Maryann, born in 1942 and Penny, born in 1948.

Jim, front left, aged 18.

In 1942 he volunteered for war service and eventually trained as a navigator in Canada under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, probably at No. 5 Air Observers School (5AOS) in Winnipeg. After further training in England and ‘crewing up’ with the Mallon crew he was posted along with Bob and the rest of the crew to No. 75 (NZ) Squadron at Mepal, at 34 the oldest and the only member of the crew with children. Jim had left behind not only his wife but also two little girls, Ruth, who was two, and Maryann who was only a few weeks old when Jim left. He would not see his family again for three years - he returned to New Zealand after the war having been promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer.

After the war Jim was a keen gardener, growing dahlias and chrysanthemums for national shows and florists. He was also active in athletics as a parent/coach/centre delegate and timekeeper /anemometer steward up to National and Commonwealth Games level, while also playing golf and bowls.
He had an amazing memory, especially for facts, and seldom worked hard at school but he achieved University Entrance a year earlier than most and had to wait a year until his 21st birthday to be admitted as an accountant. His ability to compute in his head was the skill which got him to high NZ levels in Athletics and probably led to the frequent mentions in his letters home of boredom and frustration whilst training as a navigator. Following the war he had a fairly short fuse at times and could be very morose within the family, though clients always found him charming.

Two of Jim’s descendants have represented NZ in the Olympics - daughter Penny in athletics in Munich and grandson Jamie in sailing in Athens, both sports Jim had taken a keen interest in. He was very supportive of any family who made extra effort in any sport and would appear at athletics meets all round the country to yell “Come on kid!”

Jim died in Masterton on the 30th January 2001, just after his 90th birthday.

Jim Haworth's memorial, Riverside Cemetery, Masterton, N.Z.
Jim had written numerous letters to Sally while he was overseas and Ruth agreed to share them with me. They contain a wealth of information that fills in some of the gaps in Bob's story and gives an insight into life with the air force during and shortly after the war and the importance of humour in difficult times! Jim's absence from his young family for three years helps to explain the home sickness that is evident in almost everything he wrote.Here are some extracts from the letters Jim wrote between December 1944 and April 1945:
  • December 28th 1944 - Jim writes from RAF Langar (No. 1669 H.C.U.) that Christmas has been the coldest for 50 years. "I'm writing this hunched up over the stove in the hut, a good hard frost outside. The country was white with hoar frost. I have never seen it so thick before, not even in
    (a reference to Invercargill, where Jim and Sally were living when Jim started his training) "I've got my good old NZ army undergear on for the first time and feel like putting on long flying underpants to keep warm. We only hope it doesn't get any colder as it must be fifty below up top these days. Thank goodness the Lancs are well heated in the cabin - I'll need it."
  • It wasn't only the cold that was causing Jim discomfort: "It's been too cold to sample the shower house here so I haven't had a shower since a bath nine days ago at Westerham." (Near Sevenoakes, Kent) "We are all thinking of going into Nottingham to stay the night on our day off next Tuesday to get a good hot bath at a hotel. Quite likely we will get there to find no baths. Some country."
  • He also mentions that "we have got our engineer now, a married chap from near Grimsby. Haven't met him yet myself but hear he is O.K. We now have a complete crew of seven."
  • January 3rd 1945 - "Did I mention we have a flight engineer now, so have completed our crew. He is a married chap, the only other one in our lot. Think he's about 25 and comes from Grimsby up on the Humber and seems quite a good chap. I'm quite convinced this war is a single chap's one. Perhaps the Pommie ones who are married are not so badly off as they do get home leave. If I had known what I know now I would have plonked for NZ training and the Pacific. They do get back now and then."
  • February 7th 1945 - "Bill soloed today after 4 attempts to do the exercise so we will be 'pressing on regardless' to finish the course."
  • February 17th 1945 - "We have now finished our day exercises and have only the night ones to do before being posted to a squadron, which we understand will be the at end of this month. Bill has put in for the NZ one."
Bob's log book showing their last day exercises, Feb 17th  1945
  •  In this letter Jim also describes his first experience of air sickness during a fighter affiliation exercise a few days earlier in which Bill "chucked the kite around". "Too much for my stomach" he admits, "so when it came to the bombing exercise at the end I was fit for 'nowt'..... I had to give a course for home while seated on the Elsan." I think what made Jim feel better about this, despite the fact that Johnny the rear gunner found it so amusing, was that he wasn't the only one - "the engineer was just as bad as me." I don't remember my dad telling me about that!
  • March 5th 1945 - Probably reflecting Jim's longing for home he describes for at least the third time the distance they flew on one exercise (on the 27th Feb - 6 hours 35 minutes) by comparing it to the width of the Tasman Sea. "...we had covered a distance only about a hundred miles short of the smallest distance across the Tasman. If someone had told me a few years ago that I would be doing that distance at night I wouldn't have believed it."
  • The crew had been granted three days leave after completing their training on the 28th February and Jim and the rest of the crew were expecting another six when they arrived at the squadron on the 6th March - "Hope so anyway" he wrote. They were to be disappointed.
  • March 7th 1945 - the day after arriving at Mepal and "Bill our skipper is on a second dicky trip tonight so you can see that they do not waste any time here before starting you to work. The rest of us will probably have our first trip tomorrow night."
  • The presence of so many familiar faces was clearly a comfort. "The old gang is re-gathering again. String Staples is here, Slim Sommerville....arrived today....and Ken Dalzell is due to arrive in a few days. The Squadron C.O. is a cousin of Hec Baigent.... from Nelson." He also mentions one of the brothers from Rogers' Cycle Shop in Timaru who had "just finished. He has a good memory for faces as he remembered me. Have also come across another chap who was at Christchurch Boys' High with me."
  • March 9th 1945 - the crew's first operation to Datteln is described later the same day: "In the meantime we have started productive work. First trip today - a daylight one and a very quiet one - may they all be like that! Couldn't see the ground .... as it was fully covered with cloud. Only a short way into Germany to deliver our cargo." Reference to the future and the progress of the war is a recurring theme: "The news today is very good. My own opinion is that it will not be very long now. I hope so .... if the war finishes quickly over here they have had me for the East as far as I am concerned." "We may get our leave next week."
  • March 11th 1945 - their leave, following a second operation to Gelsenkirchen on the 10th March, was not quite what Jim had in mind - they were posted to RAF Feltwell for G.H. training. "....No sooner had we landed than the C.C. told us we were going ..... for a six day course, with the remark that it would be our six day leave. But I think he was pulling our leg..." With a surprising amount of detail Jim then describes their second operation: "Yesterday's trip was about as quiet as the previous day's with some flak near the target but not amongst our lot. Another oil plant but not very far into the Ruhr past the front line, so hope ours landed on it, particularly the 'blockbuster'. Thick cloud so could not see anything." "Please don't worry over me", he adds, "I've a good steady skipper."
  • Another recurring theme in Jim's letters is food - he clearly hadn't had to suffer the hardship of rationing for the previous four years. "When we go on these day trips or night trips too we seem to lose a meal. The egg (one) we get before and after is a poor makeweight. I really felt like the little pup being rewarded when we got back from our first trip. When we went in to the usual interrogations we were given a cup of tea plus one chocolate biscuit. I felt like wagging my tail and couldn't resist some sarcasm." 
  • March 18th 1945 -After returning from Feltwell Jim and the rest of the crew got their six day leave. Jim travelled to Kent again and wrote to Sally to brief her on the crew: "Bill Mallon is our skipper - single age 24 and hails from New Plymouth. Ken Philp is the bomb aimer, single age 32. Frank Symes the WOp, single, age 21. The two gunners Johnny Eynstone and Don Cook are English, both youngsters 19 & 20 & the engineer is also an English chap named Bob Jay but married aged 24. So now you should know the names of the crew except the extra gunner we carry who is not a regular member of the crew." (This was the mid-under gunner Charles Green who flew with the crew on their first three operations) "I'll be sending you a copy of a photo taken of six of us when we can get enough copies printed." The picture to which he referred was probably the one taken by Bob and posted earlier.
L to R: Jim Haworth, Don Cook, Bill Mallon, Frank Symes, Denis (not John) Eynstone, Ken Philip
  • In 'Bill Mallon's Epic Journey' I wrote "It is not clear when Bill learnt of his second brother's death", but thanks to this letter I now know. Tom was killed on the 12th March 1945 and "Bill had the bad luck of finding a telegram waiting when we got back" (from Feltwell, on about the 16th March) "with the news of his elder brother's death. He was flying mossies and is the second brother Bill has lost." The wheels of bureaucracy turned slowly in the armed forces and it was another four and a half weeks and six operations over Germany before Bill was granted a compassionate posting and relieved of flying duties. In the meantime, life went on : "The rest of the chaps have gone up to Grimsby to Bob's place to celebrate his first wedding anniversary." (More than four weeks early, but why not?!) "I'll bet they have sunk some beer today - not for me."
  • March 28th 1945 -the day after the crew's third operation and once again Jim gives Sally details of the raid, hardly disguised by his word play: "Another benzol plant in the Ruhr. We cooked some Hamm that day. And had the egg when we got back." Jim also gives his version of their encounter with flak, already described by Bob and Bill in earlier posts: "..... we managed to collect some flak in the port inner engine, so came back on three, tailing well behind the rest of the squadron. Think we were about a quarter of an hour behind them so made quite good time considering." (The O.R.B. shows they were only last by 5 minutes)
  •  There is also some interesting information on the actual aircraft the crew had flown on each of their ops, and about some of the other airmen, probably navigators, on the squadron: "The old kite we have been flying in 'L' for Love" (AA-L, HK562) "has now done ninety nine ops and is due to be pensioned off after the next one. Neville the Devil flies in it when we don't."
    I found three other crews that flew in AA-L during March so it was difficult to work out the identity of this Neville, but it appears that it is F/S Albert Neville Staples (NZ427338), also known as 'String' Staples, navigator with F/O William Evenden's crew.**See Chris Newey's contribution below. "Another of our Canadian course came here two days ago, Dave Knight, so that makes five of us here now." (F/S, later F/O, D. Knight NZ433310)
  • "Bill Mallon ...... was asked today if he wanted a compassionate posting back to NZ. owing to the death of his second brother. After talking it over, he has cabled to his people and is leaving the decision to them. Looks to me we may lose him, worse luck, as he is a good steady type. Still, my own opinion was that he should accept for his people's sake. Got any doctor's certificate for me, eh?"
  • March 31st 1945 -"On Thursday" (29th March) "we were in a show which was the deepest penetration in daylight the RAF heavies have made so far, to a place near Brunswick." ( it was a raid on the Hermann Goering benzol plant at Hallendorf in Salzgitter, about 25 km from Brunswick - or Braunschweig) "There was a whistle when the target went up but during the whole trip we did not have very much trouble with flak and none with fighters. Over the target was pretty dicey, in thin cloud & quite a bit of flak but nothing hit us. Full cloud over the target, thank goodness. These days with the ‘special instruments’ as the papers call them, everyone hopes it won’t be clear over the target on daylights. Coming back we had some more stuff chucked up at us near the Ruhr but they should be out of business nearly by now."
  • "This morning we had a visit from Sid Holland who is over here  - only took him four days by air to get here from NZ." Sidney Holland had become member of Parliament for Christchurch North in 1935 and leader of the National Party in 1940. He was Deputy Chairman of the War Cabinet for three months during 1942 and Leader of the Opposition for nearly ten years, until the National Party won the 1949 general election. There is no mention of this visit in the squadron's O.R.B.
  • "Bill is still waiting to hear from his people but from little bits I hear, it looks as if he will have no say in the matter."
  • "......the way things are moving, .... it simply cannot last much longer. If the bombline goes much further in, we will be going to Berlin in daylight shortly, as the Yanks have done before……Don’t worry over me, we’ll get through."
  • April 4th 1945 -"Bill, our skipper, is still waiting a reply from his people in NZ, but just from what he has been saying I think he has made up his mind that he will apply to go back home. The way things are in Germany, the war may be practically finished before the H.Q. make up their mind, if he does want to go."
  • "There are so many here now the place is packed out & a huge queue each meal time in the mess."
  • "I think the English papers (as usual) were too damned optimistic & if you believed all they said it was all over bar the shouting..... quite a few here have been betting whether they will have to do any more trips. Myself, I think at the shortest, it will last another six weeks." (It was to be just under 7 weeks) "I’m keeping my fingers crossed."
  • April 6th 1945 - two days earlier Bob had joined the crew of F/L I. Taylor (RAFVR) on an eventful night raid on Merseburg, an 8 hour flight: "Our Engineer Bob was sent on one on Wednesday night to take a chap’s place, so he is up one on us now. The way the bombline is moving forward in Germany, it looks as if all our trips until it’s over will be quite long ones."
  • Jim then had more to say about AA-L (HK562): "Did I mention that our kite had only one more trip, its 100th, to do before being pensioned off? Well, they made up the hours with local flying, so we had the last trip in her, the one where we lost an engine over the target. Our new kite – or one we share with another crew is named ‘Liefy’" (I'm not sure what aircraft this is - they didn't fly in another AA-L until the 13th May)......"It’s done quite a few trips too but is much faster than old ‘Love’ which Bill had to thrash to keep up speed with the load up."
  • April 10th 1945 - "...we got another trip last night, this time to the docks at Kiel - our first night trip so I had to work like a one-armed paper hanger. A case of P.Y.F.O. all the way in and back. Too much sea for Bill's liking." (P.Y.F.O. = pull your finger out!)
  • "Quite a bit of flak going in and coming out but less in the target area than we expected. Even so, Frankie the wireless op & myself both had our ‘shutes' on while we made our run – just in case. I’m still patting myself on the back today as I got us on the target bang on the required time & when I mean ‘bang on’ I mean not to the nearest minute but nearest six seconds. Not bad after doing about four hundred and fifty miles there. Between you & me, I think it was mostly by ‘Guess and by God’ than good management but Bill had to belt old Liefy along to do it."
  • "Funny to think of it, but I haven’t seen a bit of flak yet myself ..... I believe in what the eye doesn’t see, the less pants are dirtied, so just keep the old head behind the curtain in my part of the dog-box. Ken, our bomb aimer, had the bad luck to twist his ankle last night & is now having a rest in the station hospital, so we may not be on again for a few days."
This was wishful thinking on Jim's part. On the 14th April the crew took part on the longest operation of their tour, an eight and a half hour trip to Potsdam - without Ken, still nursing his injured ankle. His replacement for just one operation was F/S O.C. Willetts (NZ425964), newly arrived from No. 291 Squadron.
    A Lancaster navigator at work (F/O P. Ingleby, 619 Squadron) - "what the eye doesn't see, the less pants are dirtied". Picture courtesy of the I.W.M.
    • "Bill is still waiting for news though I believe the matter is right out of his hands & to hear the Wing Co. has cabled NZ about him, we will probably lose him soon. If that happens we have no idea what they will do with us."
    • "Did you see in the papers that we may have the job of carting food over the other side when things collapse." (reference to 'Operation Manna')
    • April 13th 1945 - Jim starts this letter with a reference to the results of the 9th April raid on Kiel and the part played by his crew and the crews of a couple of his friends: "I have been out watching the boys set off tonight on the ‘freight’ service" (The squadron sent five aircraft on a mine laying operation in Kiel Harbour and another 21 on a raid on Kiel) "Nev. is on again but Dazzy and I are not. Suppose you have seen by the papers that the ‘Sheer’ copped it on Monday night at Kiel. Seeing the three of us were on that do Nev. reckons we can claim equal credit for it. Such modesty!!"
    • "He" (Nev) "will be one trip up on me after this one. The number required has been reduced by five
      so I have now done one seventh! Can’t see us finishing them all unless we do a lot of food carrying. In another six months I’ll be done for my warrant but that is a long way off yet. By the way, I forgot to mention that after a night trip, we get a tot of rum before being interrogated. Makes me feel like a good little dog again."
    • "Bill has heard from his people, they want him to go back. So now he is waiting for NZ to OK the recommendation. His commission is due any day now so he will be OK for a good comfortable trip back home. He gets that as captain of a heavy bomber." Bill received his commission later that month, to take effect from the 25th March.
    Bill Mallon's commission, awarded April 1945 but the warrant is dated 23rd June 1948!
    •  April 16th 1945 - the crew's next operation was to Potsdam, just outside Berlin and the first raid inside the 'Berlin Defence Zone' for over a year: "We have done one more trip, on Saturday night. A really long one, in fact the longest we could do at present. Just fifteen miles from the centre of Berlin to a place called Potsdam, practically a suburb of the big city. We were lucky to get away at all as ‘Liefy’ was having some work done on her & we took off ten minutes after the others had set course. Still we soon caught the stream up before very long. It was quite daylight for a long way in" (they took off at 18.45) "and finally went in to the target with the previous lot – six minutes early. So my nav. was not so hot in timing. Still I think most were early. Plenty of searchlights and flak but both missed us. Coming back I could easily have gone to sleep two hours before reaching base."
    • Once again Jim uses familiar territory to illustrate the distance flown: "Altogether eight and a half hours up. We could have crossed the Tasman & gone back for a third of the way again in the time."
    • And Jim speculates once more about how much longer the war will last: "Unless things slow up over here I can’t see us doing many more trips now. The papers are very optimistic again but I still give it a few more weeks- perhaps a month." V.E. Day was just 32 days away and there were only 8 days to go before their last war operation.
    • "Another one of the chaps who went to Canada the same time as me as a bomb aimer arrived on the squadron today." According to the O.R.B. F/S E. Munt (NZ4211840) and his crew arrived on the 16th from 73 Base and their bomb aimer was F/S G. Jones (NZ431183).
    • April 22nd 1945 - another long distance covered on their penultimate raid and some interesting observations by crew members: "On Friday last, the 20th, we did another trip – a daylight one, our seventh all told."  "This was a long one ......" (The distance was very similar to Potsdam but they were airborne over an hour less on this raid, 7h 20m compared to 8h 30m to Potsdam) "to a place called Regensburg in Southern Germany on the upper reaches of the Danube. I didn’t have time to look out but Johnny our rear gunner says it definitely isn’t blue but a dirty brown. Beautifully clear weather the whole way. On the way had quite a good view of some of the broken bridges on the Rhine. Couldn’t make out the front line but we saw quite a lot of fires so that is where it must have been........When we were near it we could see the Swiss Alps in the distance standing out quite distinctly."
    • "‘Fraid though that after going all that way our load was nowhere near where it should have been. Not our fault though but I knew we were damn well overshooting before Ken pressed the tit. Can’t tell you how I knew." The O.R.B. describes the operation thus: 'Bombing appears to have been fairly well concentrated round the target starting with slight undershoot but some bombs also spread to the M/yards beyond.'
    • "The boys were out again today" (a huge raid on Bremen) "but not our turn this time. Even so our last three have all been long trips, so we seem to have missed the short ones. Just our luck……"
    • "Suppose you are following the news as closely as me these days. Tomorrow should read most of Berlin occupied. Why they continue to fight on beats me. But it can’t be very long now." Hitler killed himself 8 days later.
    • April 25th 1945 (Anzac Day) - Bill's wait for compassionate leave was nearly over but not before the squadron's last war operation and another near miss for the crew: "Bill has been told that he is being repatriated so the C.O. has pulled him off ops. He let him go on our last one yesterday, our eighth – before telling him. 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. Anyway Bill’s namesake ‘Willie’" (AA-W - RF137 according to the O.R.B. but probably RF127) "has to have a new undercart now. The trip was a daylight one to a place called Bad Oldesloe above Hamburg. The tamest trip so far – not a bit of flak anywhere except for an odd burst crossing the coast. We were deputy-leader of the squadron but that’s all."
    • Jim also introduces the crew's new pilot: "Our new skipper is the oldest (in time) skipper on the station. He has not done any ops since last NW" (?) "until one on Bremen a few days ago. We didn’t do that one. He had been in hospital for a while. Comes from Wellington- Eric Butler by name – F/O by rank" (later F/Lt) "– and seems to be a good type."
    F/Lt Eric Butler
    • "Bill be just mucking about for a while until he goes down to the dispatch centre to catch a boat. He’ll be like a lost sheep. We are sorry to lose Bill as we have been together nearly eight months now. I’ll be giving him your address before he goes."
    • "Did I mention we have a new kite W for ‘Willie ? Quite a newish job with all the latest bits and pieces in it…" This aircraft was also flown on a number of operations by F/Lt Vernon Zinzan whose crew included Bob Sommerville. Bob's son Simon is the creator of the 75 (NZ) Squadron blog: where there is a picture of this aircraft in flight - See

    Extracts from Jim's letters written after Eric replaced Bill will appear in the next post.

    A navigator with No.103 Squadron recently published some memories on the International Bomber Command Centre website. 

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