Tuesday, 1 November 2016

1. Introduction.



Sgt. Bob Jay, November 1944
This blog, and the book that evolved from it, is the extraordinary result of four years' research. My dad, Bob Jay, 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 couldn't have been more wrong.

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.

What was intended to be a single-entry blog for the benefit of close family is now a book with eighteen chapters and over 60,000 words, containing incredible stories of courage, sacrifice and disappointment. I even discovered a photograph of the Lancaster carrying Bob and his crew on their final operation over Germany, and met an amazing man of ninety five who had flown with the Mallon crew on three operations. 

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.

Contents.
  • What happened in 2016
  • What happened in 2015
  • Don Cook - mid-upper gunner 
  • Appendix I: 'You are going to be a Flight Engineer' (pamphlet)
  • Appendix II: Pages from the Squadron's O.R.B. showing Bob's 'War ops'
  • Appendix III: Bob's RAF 'Record of Service'
  • Appendix IV: Bob's Flying Log book
  • Appendix V: RAF identity card (Form 1250)
  • Appendix VI: RAF Service Book (Form 64 Part I)
  • Appendix VII: RAF Airman's Pay Book
  • Appendix VIII: Pages from Bob's I.T.W. exercise book (Feb-Mar 1944)
    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.

    Sunday, 9 October 2016

    International Bomber Command Centre.

    The International Bomber Command Centre, on Canwick Hill, Lincoln, due to open some time next year, will be the finest tribute possible to the young men who died serving with Bomber Command. It is on target but still needs your financial support.
    The Chadwick Centre, named in honour of Roy Chadwick, the designer of the Lancaster, will house exhibition spaces and artworks, as well as a reference library and multimedia suite providing opportunities for people to carry out their own research.

    At the moment, the memorial walls carry the names of the 25,611 aircrew who died flying from Lincolnshire air bases. By next year, they will include more than 30,000 more.



    The view of Lincoln from Canwick Hill.

    Saturday, 4 June 2016

    2016

    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


    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.

    To the tune of "The Mountains of Mourne"
    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. I was mistaken -  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.