THE TILLER

March 2010

Newsletter of 115 Squadron Association

Secretary Ian Lucas

It's been a few months since our last edition, due to a sparsity of interesting information. But then the Johnson brothers wrote to me from Ontario with the following thought-provoking research.

Three years ago the Johnsons provided us with an update on the website they had developed based on the diary of their father – P/O Bruce Johnson, kept while he was in training and then posted to 115 in the summer of 1944.

The brothers have always been looking for additional information on personnel and missions mentioned in the diary, so if you have any photographs or specific memories which can add to their 'catalogue' they would like to hear from you via the Guestbook on their website www.lancasterbomber.net

In the meantime they have been digging into history to learn more about their uncle Charles Stanley Rutherford Edwards who was the rear gunner in Wellington R1063 KO-D of 115, shot down July 6/7 1941 returning from a raid to Munster. You can find more about this on page 12 of the Roll of Honour and in The Tiller Vol 9 No 3 June 1944, page 2.

There were six crew, all Sgts., in KO-D:
Oswald Matthews (aged 20), pilot, RNZAF, James Bent (aged 23) WOP, RAFVR, Kenneth Macleay, (aged 22), WOP/AG, RAFVR, William Strachan, (aged 25), nav., RCAF, and Albert Webster, (aged 21), WOP/AG RAFVR.

The aircraft crash landed on a sandbank. All the crew were killed and three bodies later washed ashore on August 5, 6 and 7 identified respectively as Strachan, Matthews and 'unknown', and subsequently buried in Schiermonnikoog (Vredenhof) Cemetery. Webster was found later and interred in Kiel War cemetery. The remaining two - Bent and Macleay were never accounted for.

But the Johnsons are pretty sure the 'unknown' was their uncle. They base their hopes on a number of things. First, the website www.lostbombers.co.uk registers only two Allied bombers lost that night - the Wimpy and a Hampden. All four crew of the Hampden have been accounted for, the one survivor taken POW.

Apparently a doctor at the time noted that based on the condition of three bodies recovered on August 4-7, and the time they were washed up on the shore, the unknown man was probably a member of the Wellington crew. Although not identified at the time the 'unknown' was 'medium’ size, and dressed in a blue-grey airman' s uniform with Sgt. stripes and an AG identification on the breast.

So the logic is when you combine the doctor's observations and the fact the Wellington was the only Allied bomber shot down in the area it is likely the man buried at Vredenhof is one of three unaccounted crew members of KO-D.

Operational Records identify Bent as a wireless operator and Macleay as second pilot, so Edwards is the only unaccounted for air gunner of the crew. Photographs of Edwards at the time show him wearing an airman's uniform with sergeant's stripes and AG markings on his breast. He was of medium height which also matches the description.

The brothers have been in touch with the Commonwealth Graves Commission, and they are looking in to it. In the meantime they continue their search for evidence. You can get in touch through ww2diary@qmail.com.

Thank you boys, and we look forward to being kept up-to-date with your efforts.

CRASH AT GREAT DUNMOW

I am not sure if any of you remember the crash of Lancaster MkII DS827 KO-B way back on the night of February 5 1944 which went in at Great Dunmow whilst on a night bombing exercise. Julian Stinton of Bristol is the cousin Graham Magness, the 21 - year-old nav. Who RTB with the rest of the crew - William Bishop (pilot), Ronald Green (engineer), John Carless (WOF), John Speechly (BA), Philip Palmer (MUG) and Henry Denton (RG). Also on board was an American Lt. C.A. Webber.

On page 59 of the Roll of Honour you will see all the details of where they are buried, but there is no mention of where Lt. Webber was interred.

There were reports of a collision with a Mosquito flown by a Canadian pilot, and Julian is doing his best to unravel what happened that night, He has contact with the RCAF and has obtained Accident Records from our national archives.

If anybody can offer any information please contact Julian on 01454 613109. He is making contact with Barry at the museum, and no doubt will be sifting through The Tiller as I think we had some extra information at one time.

ANY HELP ANYBODY?

Had a request from Glenda Odell for information on her uncle Donald Odell who RTB with us on September 9 1944. According to our records Lancaster Mk I HK579 A4-B went on a raid to Le Havre but was shot down by flack.

Pilot was F/S Albert Kilsby, FE was Sgt E. Backhouse, Nav. F/S G. Hawkins, WOP Sgt K. Feary, BA Sgt. A. Walls, MUG P/O Donald Carr Odell (aged 19) RCAF, and RG F/S R. Ovender RCAF.

Of all the crews mentioned in the Roil of Honour there is very little personal information on the guys involved. So, anybody who may have the slightest bit of information please make contact with: glenda odell jenodeil@hotmail.com

ALKEMADE'S WHISTI.E ENSHRINED AT WITCHFORD

The whistle which Nicholas Alkemade blew to muster up help as he lay in the snow after falling 18,000 ft from his Lancaster DS664 A4-K without a parachute on March 24 1944 can now be seen at our Witchford museum.

It' s been their for some time, since last June in facto The story to date is that Alkemade's whistle was taken as a souvenir by one of the Germans who came to his aid. Gottfried Voss popped it into a draw when he came home after helping Alkemade to hospital.
The whistle remained in the draw for over 50 years until an ex-RAF man and his German wife, Margot, became interested in the story of the night of March 24, and were shown the whistle by Gottfried Voss' son who they later persuaded to lend the whistle to our museum.

What a story. But let me quote Barry Aldridge our museum founder and creator: "Why the press have to change things I do not know. It took eight weeks before the story was published. The first newspaper we approached did not think it was interesting enough so we gave it to the Ely Standard who still took another eight weeks to get their act together. Eventually, after Sue gave the editor a rocket (Poor man - editor), it appeared quite promptly.

"The only problem was that the photographer they sent took a photo of a mannequin wearing a whistle on the lapel. That was great, but it wasn't Alkemade’s' whistle at all, in fact his whistle is in a glass case at the side of the display which is about him, in an adjoining passage way."

(I hope I've got the facts right or Sue will on to me like a ton of bricks.)

REMEMBER THIS

Amongst many thousands of treasured items stored at the Essex home of Jim McGillivray is this letter from Archibald Sinclair, secretary of State for Air. Perhaps some of you will remember it.

Air Ministry, Whitehall SW1 – 21st July 1943. You are now an airman and I am glad to welcome you into the Royal Air Force.

To have been selected for air crew training is a great distinction The Royal Air Force demands a high standard of physical fitness and alertness from its flying crews. Relatively few attain that standard and I congratulate you on passing the stringent tests.

You are, of course, impatient to begin and you naturally ask, "When do I start?" Your order on the waiting list is determined by your age, date of attestation, and so on, and you may be sure that you will not be overlooked when your turn Comes.

While waiting go on with your present job, or if you are not in employment, get a job - if possible one which helps with the war effort.

You will want to know why you, who are so eager, should have to wait at all. I will tell you.

The Royal Air Force is a highly organised service. In the first line are trained and experienced crews whose stirring deeds and dauntless courage daily arouse the admiration of the world. Behind these men and ready to give them immediate support are the newly-trained crews fresh from the schools.
In your turn, you and other accepted candidates stand ready to fill-the schools. Unless we had a good reserve of young men, like you, on which to draw, time might be lost at a critical moment and the vital flow of reinforcements would be broken.

I hope this explanation will help you to understand. The waiting period should not be a waste of time. There is much that you can do. You are very fit now or' you would not have been chosen, See that you keep fit. Work hard and live temperately. learn all you can in your spare time about the things you must know if you are to be efficient later on in the air. The more knowledge you gain now the easier it will be when you come to do your training.

In wishing you success in the service of your choice, I would add this. The honour of the Royal Air Force is in your hands. Our country's safety and the final overthrow of the powers of evil depend upon you and your comrades. You will be given the best aircraft and armament that the factories of Britain and America can produce. Learn to use them well.

Good luck to you!

Signed: Archibald Sinclair.

(I wonder what they get now?)