Tuesday, 27 September 2016

'The Mallon Crew'

'The Mallon Crew', the book based on the stories in this blog, is now complete. This is how the front cover will look. I am waiting for delivery of a 'proof copy' so that I can make any last minute edits and it should then be available for distribution. As I have said in the 'Acknowledgements', I should like to express my gratitude to all of those people who assisted in any way to help me write these stories, especially Barrie and Kevin Mallon, Ruth Ryan, Warren Wairau, Wendy Edson, Allan Philp, Simon Sommerville, Chris Newey and Pete Tresadern. Thanks, also, to Glen Turner, Peter Wheeler and Dave Homewood and contributors to the ‘Wings over New Zealand’ forum.
The book contains a lot more information that has been uncovered since I started writing the book, most of which has not made it into the blog.





Monday, 12 September 2016

Bergen op Zoom

11th Sept -  Bergen op Zoom:  During a recent trip to Belgium and the Netherlands I took some time to visit Bergen op Zoom, a city with a population of about 66,000 in the south of the Netherlands.

Bergen op Zoom town hall in the Grote Markt
On the outskirts of the city there are two Commonwealth War Cemeteries, side by side and surrounded by woodland. The one on the left is the Canadian War Cemetery, the last resting place of 968 Canadians, including 64 from the R.C.A.F. It is also where Sgt Trevor Hedley Gray and his crew, of No. 75(NZ) Squadron, are buried.

The graves of Trevor Gray and his crew, September 2016

Like the Mallon boys, Trevor was an old boy of New Plymouth Boys' High School and his crew's story is told in the book 'The Mallon Crew', to be published shortly. Tom Mallon and his navigator, P/O George Brock, are buried in the adjacent War Cemetery.

The graves of Tom Mallon and George Brock, September 2016

Saturday, 4 June 2016

2016

31st May - Jim Haworth's grandson and great grandson:  Ruth sent me this picture of her grandson, Izaak, taking his dad, Andy, for a short flight after gaining his pilot's licence.


25th March - 'The Mallon Crew', the book based on the stories in this blog, should be published later this year, either through one of the publishers that have expressed an interest or by 'self-publishing.

7th March - Jim Haworth, navigator: Jim's daughter Ruth found this poem amongst her dad's belongings recently. She doesn't know its origin but she believes it to be her dad's handiwork and, from what I have learned about Jim during the last couple of years, I would have to agree. It was definitely written by one of the squadron's navigators - there is a glossary below for those unfamiliar with R.A.F. slang and the range of techniques at the navigator's disposal before global positioning satellites were available.

Tune of the ..?..  of Home
At Mepal our briefing’s a wonderful sight
The Sprog navigators all shitting with fright
They don’t hold with loops or use astro at all
Their only way home is a bloody Gee crawl
At least from their logs it would so appear
That they just guess a course for the skipper to steer
With D.R.M. setting and blue end in red
It’s no wonder they’re always so late into bed.

When all’s said and done they must know their stuff
When the vis has clamped down & the Met is all duff
With H2S fixes and DR as well
And API winking like a bat out of hell
And revise ETA they just alter course
And hope to be still with the rest of the force
But when ‘H’ hour comes round & TI’s go down
You can bet Seventy-five will be raining bombs down.

When coming back home with the crew all asleep
The Nav working backward to fill in his gaps
Across the North Sea they erratically roam
Believing the Nav when he says “Soon be home”.
And when at long last the poor bastards arrive
A sweet voice from control says turn ‘25’.

Glossary
Astro
Astronavigation – using celestial bodies to fix the aircraft’s position using a sextant
A.P.I.
Air Position Indicator
D.R.
Dead Reckoning - calculating one's current position by using a previously determined position and estimated speeds over an elapsed time.
D.R.M.
Direct Reading Magnetic compass. Blue end in red probably refers to the N and S poles of the compass, coloured red and blue respectively.
E.T.A.
Estimated time of arrival
Gee
An early form of ground control radar
H2S
Aircraft mounted radar
H Hour
The moment bombs are scheduled to start to fall
Loops
Loop antennae, part of the Radio Direction Finder system (R.D.I.)
Met
The Meteorology Officer’s weather report
Sprog
A newly qualified airman
T.I.s
Target Indicator flares dropped by Pathfinder Force
Vis
Visibility

3rd March - Charles Frederick Green: after a fascinating and lengthy conversation with Charles I have been able to update his story in Chapter 16. What a privilege to be able to talk to someone who flew with my dad, even if it was on only three operations and he flew with so many different crews during his second tour that he remembers none of them.

1st March - Charles Frederick Green D.F.C: just like Cook, Green is not an unusual surname and I expected to have just as much difficulty tracing Charles as I did Don. Not only was I mistaken but I was delighted to discover not only the whereabouts of Charles but also that he was alive and well, the only one so far to have survived to read my story. I received an e-mail this afternoon from Mike, a friend of Charles, who was trying to find a way of obtaining a copy of his D.F.C. citation. He wrote: "He is a fabulous chap who wouldn't have done this himself but I think he deserves some recognition of his wartime experiences." I couldn't agree more!

January - Don Cook: just before Christmas 2015 I decided that all my efforts to trace Don or his family were getting me nowhere. I decided I needed the help of the professionals and who better than 'FinderMonkey', one of the organisations featured in the BBC documentary series 'Family Finders.'

Unfortunately they were unable to help.

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.