THE TILLER

September 2011

Newsletter of 115 Squadron Association

Secretary Ian Lucas

BITS & PIECES

I have been in Essex for twelve months now, and still finding all sorts of bits and pieces to be sorted in several yet-to-be-opened boxes. Michael Mclntyre would be proud of my 'man draw' collection. I am sorting out everything '115' and passing all items on to Barry just in case there are some he would like to retain for the museum.

I came across that wonderful spoof Ministry of Defence 'Notice of Compulsory Enlistment', advising the recipient of his impending departure to the Gulf War where he will serve in the Third Battalion of The Queen's Own (Colchester) or a unit of the Third Foot & Mouth Battalion. For those who served in the RAF instructions were slightly different as to minimise expenditure it is proposed that Lancaster S (presently dispersed at Hendon Museum) be restored to active service. As with previous aircraft of this letter, it is most unlikely to leave the ground. You have, therefore, been specifically chosen to be NCO i/c. Please bring your own pen for marking the F.700 'U/S' in the usual manner.

And there's more. Who sent me this treasure?

NEW RECRUIT

President Frank Leatherdale and Association stalwart Jim McGillivray have been signing autographs at Duxford recently, and Frank was particularly in demand as a PFF navigator. (They even laid on a car for him!). But the bonus was he met up with another 115-er, Mervin Ingmire DFC who was a rear-gunner with us just before the war. He crashed on his last trip, and all his crew-mates died when they tried to land at a Fido airfield.

Mr. President is booked in to the PFF anniversary party on October 2. The PFF is celebrating its 70th at the de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre.

BOMBER COMMAND MEMORIAL

Work on the site of the Bomber Command Memorial has begun, despite a fairly tough journey through the labyrinth of planning regulations involving such megalithic (sic) organisations as Westminster City Council, The Royal Parks and Transport for London. But the brightest star in the firmament has been the RAF Benevolent Fund which will take on both the ownership and maintenance of the Memorial in perpetuity.

RTB - JOHN CANNING.

John Canning passed away in June, and The Times ran a special piece on him covering his two tours as a navigator with us in 1943 (Wellingtons) and 1944 (Lancasters). He went on to 7 Squadron in the Pathfinder Force, and as the war drew to a close took part in Manna and the vast repatriation schemes of the time. He was awarded the DFC in 1945.

John stayed in the RAF after the war and continued flying as the jet age was bom. He retired from the RAF in 1970 and became a partner in a firm of Essex solicitors.

ALLIED AIR FORCES AIR CREW MEMORlAL SERVICE.

Harry Rossiter attended the above in June in the company of serving officers from many allied air forces including the USA, Russia, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy and India. Harry laid a wreath for us.

TREDEGAR

Tredegar Branch of the Royal British Legion kindly sent Freddie Vines some literature associated with the memorial service in 2010 (see The Tiller March 2011) including an impressive DVD of the service and everything entailed. It was Top Notch with the brilliantly chosen "Bring him home" from Les Miserables as background music. I understand the literature and DVD will be passed on to our Witchford archive.

MAC IN TOUCH

It's not every day you get a picture through your letterbox showing a colleague kissing an elephant! But one such dropped on my doormat a few weeks ago. It was the much welcomed regular letter from Mac Maclean in RSA. There he is standing in his shorts, a blanket draped over his shoulders with this giant pachyderm looking distinctly dubious at the approaching eighty-year-old lips. I got over it. However there was one sad note in the letter as Mac explained that he is a member of an organisation of South African ex-military personnel. He dressed up for D-Day, putting on his blazer, and walked to the Town Hall to the site of their memorial. Much to his astonishment somebody had nicked the brass cross. ''Nevertheless,'' he said "I pressed on with my medals rattling and cast my mind back to 4 am on that historical day over the Channel, steeped in a murky blur, the ships buffeting white waves.

"We solemnly prayed for them, then turned for home. We danced on the tarmac with the ground crew, a bottle of whisky appeared as if by magic and then it was on to de-briefing and coercion of the duty WAAF officer to double u pour rum!

RETURN

On that note let's recall Philip Nicholson's "Return".

We have come home, dropping gratefully through friendly skies.
And though in tired brains the engines thunder on and images of death remain in reddened eyes.
Though nostrils sniff the legacy of oil and sweat and legs must learn to cope with solid ground,
We have come home and are at least alive, to mourn our friends, indifferent now to sight or smelIs or sound.