Saturday, 7 September 2013

7. Jim Haworth - more letters home

After the squadron's war operations came to an end the crews continued with 'Operation Manna', 'Baedeker' trips and various flying exercises.
  • May 4th 1945 - "The next day" (the 1st May) "we were again on a supply dropping near the Hague. Six hundred kites on that day. The day after we were up early to help load up for the next lot. We get a trip one day and a turn in loading the next. By tonight’s news the boys are now on the job of bringing prisoners of war back from Germany. The idea is to pack in about twenty-six into a Lanc. What a
    scrum it will be."
  • "By the time we get back to camp (from leave) it looks as if the scrapping will be over altogether unless the Germans continue to hold out in Norway. Yesterday they gave in Italy – today in Holland & Denmark- tomorrow perhaps the rest of them. So I think I can say we have done our last op from England. What they do with us afterwards I can’t guess. But the fact remains that even if we are sent back home it may be six months before there is transport. Even the repat. P.O.W’s may be held up over here for a while & they will have first preference. Still home for Christmas is what I am hoping for."
  • May 12th 1945 - "The squadron is at present on the job of bringing back P.O.W.’s from France. We are not on the order tomorrow either so have not had a turn yet. Lancs are flying back ten thousand a day at present"
  •  May 15th 1945 - "Yesterday we went up with Eric & did a couple of circuits and landings, so we could do our turn at bringing back some POW’s. We had not flown for about eleven days hence the need for C&L’s. About half the crews here, including us, have been picked to the job of passenger carrying until the POW’s are all back. The others are starting a training programme of training flights and whatnot." The crew did not actually take part in any of the repatriation flights - see ** below
  • "Beyond that concrete news there are all sorts of rumours of what is going to happen to us or where we are going but nothing official yet. It is rather early to hear something definite anyway."
  • May 17th 1945 - "Incidently on the bus coming back from Cambridge I met a repatriated Newsie POW. He had been in Germany for three years & had arrived over here a few days ago. Turned out he was only six miles from the spot we pranged in our last op near Lubeck. So he was able to tell me what it was like on the ground that day. …"
  • **"We were taken off the select list (carrying POW’s) owing to the fact that Eric has done so little flying in the last six months through being in hospital. So we are on training trips instead. You may be wondering what all the training is for now things have finished over here."
  • Jim and the other airmen were still in the dark over what the future held: "Here’s a knock my dear, it looks as if we have another job to finish off first in the Far East, so as I haven’t done a tour over this side or been away more than two years, it appears that the chances of my coming back for some leave first are slim. I have learnt that there is an age limit of 35 for aircrew, so I’m going to enquire all about it. Anyway I still have a few months to go before I reach that. Still keep your fingers crossed for me and it might come out the right way in the finish. As things are we have no idea who, when & how we will go, but it will probably take some time for bases to be completed out there. You may hear things over there earlier than we do, so keep the old waggers open & let me have any news you here, particularly about chaps like me in the Army. I’d hate you to exist on Army pay though."
  • May 20th 1945 - Twelve days after V.E. Day and after months of intense action boredom is already setting in: "We are still sitting on our backsides, doing very little although there is a lot of bolony doing here, because of a visit in a few days by the C in C. So we have been filling in time doing various jobs, cleaning weeds & whatnot. Up to now we have only 5 hours flying this month." Looking at Bob's log book, this involved one supply drop, 45 minutes circuits & landings and two and a half hours cross country flying. "It’s very boring when there is nothing to do except Maori PT."
  • What the men did to ease their boredom is also recorded: "I’ve been to the pictures three times & an Ensa" (the Entertainments National Service Association) "show last night. That was simply pure unadulterated filth, nothing less, & not worth seeing. Tonight I saw ‘the Prisoner of Zenda’ on the station." 
This was a 1937 film based on the 1894 novel by Anthony Hope and starring Ronald Coleman, Madeleine Carroll and featuring Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and David Niven.
  • What lay in store for the New Zealanders was still very uncertain, particularly as the war continued unabated in the Far East: "From all we hear it appears that some of the crews here will be kept here as part of the Police Force. If it is a choice between that & the East you can guess which I would prefer, if there is no chance of returning in the meantime. Incidentally the Aussie in the lot moving out tells me he believes all Aussies will be going back before going elsewhere. Seems we Newzies are just the mugs. The Canucks" (Canadians) "are doing the same as the Aussies."
  • "We are shifting over tomorrow with Shorty Baxter & co as the other lot who were with them are going on indefinite leave after nearly finishing a tour." This probably refers to F/S Rex Baxter (NZ432738) of the Milsom crew who had been posted on the same day as the Mallon crew (see post 'Coincidences'). Was the Mallon/Butler crew moved from 'B' to 'A' flight? "We’ll have more congenial company then."
  • "The training programme does not appear to be as strenuous as it was made out to be. I think the section leaders are just as browned off as we are. Believe the usual six day leave we have been getting every six weeks in the squadron will be cut down soon and we go back to peace timetable just when they could afford to make the leave more often. Perhaps the idea is to make everyone so cheesed off, they will volunteer for the East. There was an item in the Newzie paper printed for us over here, that things had not been finalised yet, so not to bother Halifax House, so the best policy will be to sit tight & not stick one’s neck out in the meantime."
  • May 24th 1945 - yet more signs of Jim's frustration with the New Zealand government: "All  the Aussies have been withdrawn from crews on the squadron and are going home very soon before being posted to the East. The Wing Co. seems hopeful that they will do the same with us too, but knowing what our government is like, I am not too sure. Seems that we will be eligible for for a couple of ribbons – the 1939-45 Spam ribbon and the France & Germany one. Perhaps the Defence one too. Can you imagine me?"
  • "Received a photo from Bill Mallon today, taken just after he got his pansy suit on the way to Brighton. Believe he has not left yet so he will be getting plenty cheesed off down there waiting for a boat. Still we are not doing much here." Bill finally left Liverpool for New Zealand on the 30th May on the Arundel Castle (See the post 'Bill Mallon's Epic Journey') 
  • "Did I mention that our new skipper Eric Butler is now a Flight- Lieutenant? He was like Bill, only a Flight- Sergeant when he arrived here last Sept, only acting rank though. Eric was actually 'Flying Officer Butler' when he was posted to Mepal and it was on the 6th October 1944. He had completed one tour already, back in 1941 (see post 'Eric Butler').
  • "We were on battle (?) order for an exodus trip today – that’s POW’s from France - but it was scrubbed. We are back on the list again and as a result had to have a jab today, the first of a series three over three weeks against infection."
  • "We get an egg once or twice a week plus the one when we do a trip. I’m missing the chocolate flying rations we used to get & don’t now."
  • May 29th 1945 - "Today, Tuesday, we were down for some air firing out to sea, but after waiting about for three quarters of an hour and nearly lunchtime & no sign of our kite returning from another trip, Eric had it scrubbed. We are down tomorrow for some practice bombing in the afternoon so we may get off if we are lucky. It is the start of a group competition. Our squadron holds the cup at present. Shorty Baxter & co are now on leave prior to being posted to another squadron for the Far East…. " 'Shorty' Baxter was F/S Rex Baxter, the navigator with the Milsom crew, mentioned in the earlier post 'Coincidences'. Their posting, minus Lancelot Waugh, will be described later.
  • "There was a note in Sunday’s papers , I think it was, that Nash has declared NZ is bringing back twenty thousand Army chaps from overseas." That would be Walter Nash, the finance minister and deputy prime minister. "That will make a big hole in the division. The chappie today was asked why the Aussies and the Canucks" (Canadians) "could withdraw all their chaps & the reply was  - they pay their Air Force chaps themselves whereas the RAF pay us & not NZ !! What the hell did NZ do?"
Walter Nash making a 'Victory Loan' appeal in 1945 (picture from Archives New Zealand Galleries)
  • "Tomorrow we are down again in the detail for an exodus trip – POW’s from France – but so far we have been on about four times but have not done one of them – all scrubbed. Had a second jab yesterday so have got a sore wing today, in case we bring any lice back with us." A typhus jab?
  • June 5th 1945"We have done very little since my last note four days ago. Saturday simply nil. Sunday we did another spot of fighter affil. again. We had a spot of bother with the door continually coming open so it took us about twice as long as usual and got over an hour in."
  •  June 10th - "Did I mention that that they have started to make this a fully Newzie squadron. There are plenty of guesses as to why but your guess is probably as good as mine…………..That reminds metoo my warrant will be due in October – thats when I can wear a flat top. If I’d been in the squadron somewhat over a month earlier, I would probably have had enough ops in to be recommended for something else. No chance here now but I’d rather return as I am, than go East just for that."

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