THE TILLER

March 2011

Newsletter of 115 Squadron Association

Secretary Ian Lucas

Hello again. A slightly longer gap than usual between editions, but there has not been much news for you.

The Armistice Sunday attendance was excellent, with three of our friends from Belgium (Filip Doms, Erwin Sollie and Geert Bourguignon) in attendance. They had stayed the night at The Lamb in Ely and brought with them a beautiful flower arrangement for the Memorial. There were eight other wreaths laid during the ceremony. The Belgian contingent had also brought across the Channel a case of Belgian beer (registering around 12% on the Richter scale) which they donated to Witchford Village Halt, although a couple (?) of bottles did get used for 'toasts', beer was certainly 'one of the strongest I have tasted - but none the worse for that!'

Bunty Heffer was there with her son Richard, so was the CO Sqdn Ldr Nick Goodwyn with his daughter and three other officers from the Squadron. Canon Fiona Brampton took the service in the village church and lead the ceremony at the Memorial. It was good to see the Revd. Teresa Dixon there too, and both ladies joined us at the Village Hall.

Following such a good turnout Frank Leatherdale wrote to Sylvia Bromley-Allen who has looked after us every year with the provision of food and sustenance. In part of the letter he wrote: 'I feel humbled by the close ties which exist between our members and the residents of Witchford. These are just as strong as if the war had ended only yesterday. Be it in St. Andrew's Church, out on the airfield, or in your Village Hall we have all felt the warmth of your friendship.' A delightful acknowledgement with which we all concur.

TREDEGAR

In our last edition a report on the special 70th anniversary of the loss of Wellington T2520 KO-A which crashed in the Welsh mountains on December 9 1940, outlined the programme prepared by Tredegar Town Council.

All went to plan -but it was bitterly cold. There are pictures of the snow- decked cairn which marks the site, with Flt. Lt. Peter Batson, representing the Squadron and the Association, laying a wreath.

The church service in the evening must have been extra special. Following a welcome by the Mayor, Councillor H. Trollope, the Royal Air Force Collect was read, followed by Bible readings from the Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians and Ch.14 of the Gospel of St. Luke. There were plenty of hymns, led by the Tredegar Orpheus Choir, including the RAF hymn, Lord of the universe and space, Creator of the Human race . . . and God is our strength and refuge . . . but the blockbuster must have been the choir's rendering of 'Bring him home.' The service closed with the Last Post, Reveille and the Kohima epitaph.

On the programme (hymn-sheet) were colour pictures of Wellingtons and as a delightful touch a full squadron picture from the very early days.

Our President wrote to the Mayor thanking the council for arranging the day's proceedings, adding that 'the passing of the years does not minimise the sorrow we feel on such occasions, but we draw comfort the fact that there are people such as you and your colleagues who care for the memorial and keep the memory of the crew who perished there that night in 1940. Flying at night, especially in 1940, was always a hazardous operation as there were so few aids to navigation at that time.'

TESTING YOUR MEMORY BANK

Simon Courtauld writes asking if anybody can remember his uncle 740487 Flt. Sgt. Neil Caldwell Cook, shot down piloting his crew on the night of 15/16 July 1941. This is an interesting one as those of you who have the Roll of Honour can find out. Cook's crew took off at 2301, target Duisburg. They were shot down by Hptm Verner Streib of I/NJGI and crashed at 0145 near Nederweert (Limburg), four miles NE of Veert. The crew of Wellington Mk IC R1222 KO-H was Sgt. Richard Palmer, second pilot, Canadian observer Sgt. William Hartry , WOP / AG Sgt. Kenneth Campbell, front gunner Sgt. Walter McDonald and rear gunner Sgt. Frank Fullard. They are buried in Nijmegen (Jonkerbos) war cemetery.

Now comes the interesting bit, and the first time I have come met up with this. Turn to Page 4 of the Roll and there you will see, the last entry, August 22/23 1940 recording Sgt. N. C. Cook as pilot of Wellington KO-B which took off at 2308 for a raid on Mannheim, successfully completed, but at 0515 crashed alongside the Saxthorpe-Heydon road near Corpusty, 15 miles NNW of Norwich. There was one fatality - 20-year - old air gunner Sgt. Henry Watts who died later in Norfolk hospital and is buried at Ryecroft cemetery Walsall, a wonderful resting place I have visited many times on research. So I wonder what further research can reveal? How long before Neil was back in action? Has anybody any clues?