Friday, 6 June 2014

2. The crew


    On the 25th November 1944, Bob took the final step in his training to become a flight engineer on a Lancaster bomber when he was posted to 1669 Heavy Conversion Unit (H.C.U.) at RAF Langar on the Nottinghamshire Leicestershire border. A month later he was 'adopted' by an already established crew of four Kiwis and two RAFVR gunners in a process known as 'crewing up'. They had been together at No. 11 Operational Training Unit (O.T.U.) at RAF Oakley where they had learned to fly twin engine Wellington bombers but they didn't all fly together in a Lancaster until the end of January.

    F/S Bill Mallon
    Here are the crew's details:
    • Pilot/Captain: Flight Sergeant (later Pilot Officer) William (Bill) Mallon (R.N.Z.A.F.) - age 24 (see chapter 4 and chapter 5). Bill had two brothers, both pilots and both would be killed in action before the war was over.
    • Navigator: Flight Sergeant James (Jim) Randel Haworth (R.N.Z.A.F.) - age 34 (see chapters 6, 7, 8 and 9). Jim was the only crew member with a young family at home.
    • Air bomber (bomb aimer): Flying Officer Kenneth Ralph Philp (R.N.Z.A.F.) (the only one at this time with a commission) - age 31/32. Ken also had a brother who was a pilot and had been killed in action earlier in the year (see chapter 12).
    • Wireless operator: Flight Sergeant Frank Symes (R.N.Z.A.F.) - turned 21 on the 3rd March 1945.  Frank came from a large family - he was the fifth of eight children (see chapter 10).
    • Rear gunner: Sergeant Denis William Eynstone (RAFVR) (from Oxford) - at 19 the youngster of the crew (see chapters 11 and 11a).
    • Flight engineer: Sergeant Robert Jay (RAFVR) - age 25, the original subject of this blog.
    • Mid-upper gunner: Sergeant Don Cook (RAFVR) (from London) - age 20 (see chapter 13)

    The other six members of Bob's crew, probably taken in December, 1944
      I believe that a copy of this photograph was given to each member of the crew. My dad had a copy but it wasn't until Bill's son Barrie sent me his dad's copy that I was able to identify the men. Bob was the photographer. From left to right:
      • Jim Haworth
      • Don Cook
      • Bill Mallon
      • Frank Symes
      • Denis Eynstone
      • Ken Philp
        The back of Bill's photograph
         

        On their first three operations they had an eighth crew member:
        • Mid-under gunner: Pilot Officer Charles Frederick Green (RAFVR 178730) (see chapter 20) who had also flown a number of operations with the Zinzan crew.
        After Bob's last 'war op' on the 24th April the crew had a new pilot:
        • Flight Lieutenant Eric Frank Butler (NZ425558), who had completed his first tour with 75(NZ) Squadron in 1941 (see chapter 14)
        and a new bomb aimer after the end of May
        • Flying Officer Lancelot Osgood Waugh (NZ429021) (see chapter 15)
        Flying Officer Owen Charles Willetts (NZ425964) replaced Ken Philp as bomb aimer on the 14th April operation because of Ken's ankle injury. Owen had completed 21 operations with F/S Murray Smith's (RNZAF NZ425948) crew between July and October 1944 (see link) but was re-posted to the squadron from No. 291 Squadron on the 28th March.
          Owen Willetts in 1944. 
          On April 4th Bob flew as stand-in flight engineer with the following crew, made up of a mixture of British, Australian and Canadian airmen:
          • F/Lt. Ian Taylor (RAFVR-1550767/135709) - pilot
          • P/O David Dickson Hope (RAAF-AUS401954) - navigator
          • W/O John Alfred Tarran (RAAF-AUS419395) - bomb aimer
          • W/O Mervyn John King (RAAF-AUS430036) - wireless operator
          • F/S William (Bill) Henry Grout (RCAF*-R109214) - mid-upper gunner
          • Sgt. E. Franklin (RAFVR.) - rear gunner
          It is not known why their usual Flight Engineer, Sgt. L Deeprose (RAFVR), was unavailable for this operation having flown on all previous and subsequent operations.

          *During WW2 aircrew enlisted into the RCAF Special Reserve were allocated a service number prefixed with the letter 'R', which they kept unless commissioned when they would receive a 'J' number.

          The first names of the two gunners were a mystery for a while but these have now been established - Don Cook and Denis Eynstone. Although referred to as John or Johnny Eynstone by both Bill and Jim, the crew's rear gunner, whose initial appears almost exclusively as 'D' in the squadron's O.R.B., was actually Denis William Eynstone. The O.R.B.s were frequently incorrect (see below**) but in November 2014 Denis's daughter confirmed her father's name.

          **Here is the entry for the Mallon crew for the Bad Oldesloe operation on the 24th April, 1945.

          Note the incorrect initials for Sgts. Jay, Cooke and Eynstone.
          As four of the seven in Bob's crew were from New Zealand it was no surprise when, on the 6th March 1945, they were posted to RAF Mepal in Cambridgeshire, the home of No. 75(NZ) Squadron,  part of No. 3 Group, Bomber Command.