THE TILLER

April 2012

Newsletter of 115 Squadron Association

Secretary Ian Lucas

EXCITING NEWS FROM ABROAD

The kindness and devotion of many people throughout the near continent is reflected yet again in texts recently received from-Iong established friend Filip Doms in Belgium. In 2004 a group of his friends dug up remains of our Lancaster Mk II DS734 KO-Y (P/O Robert Cagienard) shot down on April 25 1944 whilst on an operation to Karlsruhe. The aircraft was 'found' when property developers were preparing a site for housing at Mechelen. A monument to the crew stands proudly marking the site and it was unveiled by family members in 2004.

Filip now breaks the news that one of the Lancaster's engines has been found on a new building site at Manewater and there are plans to excavate further during the summer and from the mechanical remains it is intended to create a 'pièce of art' as a symbol in memory of the crew, which will be displayed in a prominent place close to the crash site. And as an incredible gesture some of the new buildings and streets will be named after crew members - Charles Kelly, Frederick Foster, William Shorten, Joseph McLeod, Frank King and Albert Letcher. There will be a 2014 remembrance ceremony, and Filip will keep us up-to-date with date and arrangements, Filip listed seven newspapers who carried the story, adding a comment we will all appreciate: 'Some info is not 100%'.

And then came a text from Kees Stoutjesdijk seeking information on Wellington Mk III shot down on the night of October 25 1942. Kees is secretary to a local Dutch heritage Foundation retelling the story of allied airmen who died on their island. The Wellington, captained by by Sgt. Donald Oldridge was on a raid to Milan and the crew's bodies were washed ashore on varying dates.

Saturday, 24 October 1942, (a part of) the aircraft of the 115 squadron (RNZAF), took off for a mission to Milan, Italy.

The crew members were:
Sgt. Donald Stuart Oldridge, Pilot - 21 years - RNZAF - 413988
Rotterdam (Crooswijk) General Cemetery

Sergeant Robert Louis Andrew McFarland, Nav./Bomber - 20 years - RNZAF - 411422
Bergen-op-Zoom War Cemetery

Sgt Kenneth Harry Yeoman - 25 years - RNZAF - 41389
Bergen-op-Zoom War Cemetery

Sgt. Alan Francis Gardner, W.Op./Air Gnr - 21 years - RAFVR - 1377610
Hoek van Holland General Cemetery

MIA - Sgt George Alfred Frederick Couzens - 24 years - RAFVR - 1383580
Runnymede Memorial

The Foundation has dedicated special information and memorial boards to the aircrew who lost their lives, and have written articles and books about them, as well as contacting many relatives from the US, Canada and the UK who have visited the island. If any reader can remember anything about our crew please let me know and I'll pass the information on.

WHAT IS THE FUTURE FOR OUR PAST?

President Frank Leatherdale has been working hard on our behalf on a simple mission - Who will be looking after our Witchford Memorial when we have all Returned To Base?

He's been spraying letters all over the place - War Memorials Trust. Royal British legion. Ely District - Council, Witchford Parish Council, John Bedford who so kindly let us site our memorial on his land nearby to his bungalow, and Barry and Sue Aldridge who are caretakers of the site.

We still have some money in our original fund, but looking long-term we must make some provision to cater for all possible contingencies. This is not anything new born from national legislation, but just a logical step to ensure the continuing existence of a memorial to those who gave their lives in WW2 serving with our Squadron flying 7,753 sorties and suffering more losses than any other squadron in Bomber Command.

This is not an isolated problem we are facing as there are around 100,000 memorials in the UK, the majority looked after by local groups. lots of 'ifs' and 'buts' for our President, but we will keep you up-to-date on his progress.

RTB

Our President also wrote in with the sad news that Joe Hayes had RTB in hospitaI in February aged 87. "I am quite sure I owed my life to Joe," says the letter. "He joined our crew when we were about a third of the way through our first tour on 115, and stayed with us when we went on to the next tour, this time with 7 Squadron PFF at Oakington.

'On October 29 1944 we were Master Bomber on a daylight raid on German coastal guns at Westkapelle on Walcheren Island- guns which were stopping our supply ships getting up the river Scheldt to Antwerp. We had come down to about 2,000 ft to be sure of seeing the camouflaged gun emplacements more clearly despite concentrated flak. On our second circuit Joe saw a 4-barrelled 20 mm gun firing at us and immediately shot at it with his four guns in his rear turret, and had the pleasure of seeing the Germans run from their guns to their air raid shelter, where they stayed.

'Joe was humble. A quiet man. Small in stature, but with a big heart. Never has a DFM been better earned.'

AIRBORNE AllTERATIONS

"I'm not sure when this event occurred," writes Harry Rossiter. "I believe it was in October or November 1944 and concerns F/O Fuller, a Lancaster pilot in 'C' flight. His crew was a merry gang, given to making up songs of a doubtful but quite amusing nature and were sometimes referred to a Fuller's Follies.

The story goes that Fuller and crew were returning from their last op. They were 'C' Flight, F for Fox, call sign 'Fairchance'. Fuller's final transmission is said to have been:" Hello Blackmass, this is Fairchance, F for Fox and this is Fuller's Follies Flying it." Great stuff. And as you say Harry, it was heart-warming that such a positive bunch successfully completed a tour.'