THE TILLER

January 2004

Newsletter of 115 Squadron Association

Secretary Ian Lucas

Worldwide Good Wishes

Thank you for the Christmas and New Year good wishes which tumbled in to Mill Farm Drive. I always view these cards and their traditional messages as coming from the family for the family - they're not just for Cheryl & I, we are the focal point for friends and former colleagues in Australia, Canada, USA, South Africa, Italy, Belgium, France, Holland, Germany, Billericay, Brundall, Rhosllanerchrugog, and come to think of it - Matlock and Wigan.

59 years ago

When the planners first thought of the M25 little did they know they would be building the longest car park in the world . . . and laying the foundations for a fabulous day for our Jim McGillivray to meet HM The Queen! Without them it could not have happened.

Let's unravel the story. Jim noticed that there was to be a special event held on October 13 to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of Runnymede, and applied for tickets for himself and Hilda and a few other friends. He was successful. One of the organisers rang Jim to ask if he would read part of the ceremony. Hilda and Jim were out shopping when the call came, and didn't know about the request until a colleague confirmed that his friend Harry Irons (W.O. DFC) had taken on the job, as Jim could not be found, and it was essential that the organisers had somebody in place for the big day.

But nothing goes smoothly on the 13th day of the month. Jim and Hilda were up at the crack of dawn and left plenty of time to get across from Essex, via the M25. “We suffered a snarl up due to a broken down lorry, but made the ceremony with 20 minutes to spare, " Jim told us.

But, as 10.15am approached there was no sign of Harry Irons. In the end the organisers beseeched Jim to take on the reading. Jim looked at Hilda and mouthed those immortal words: “Shall I volunteer?" "Do it." Came the stern reply. So Jim did his bit . . . and was then invited to meet HM The Queen! "There was just five NCOs presented," explained Jim, “and I can tell you there was top brass from all over the world there, you needed sunglasses to protect you from glare off the gold braid . . . Chief of Air Staff, ACMs - Group Captains were small fry."

And then it came to meeting HM The Queen bit. Having been introduced and explained what he had done during the war Jim then commented to HM that she had come to Witchford with her mother and father on July 18, 1944, and that he had a photograph of the occasion. "The Queen laughed and wished me well."

Then the party was whisked up to the main reception at the Runnymede Hotel where there were more Air Marshals than sausage rolls “and we were treated like Lords, it was wonderful", says Jim.

Poor Harry Irons, he'd been held up in traffic. He'd bought a new suit especially for the occasion.

Sequel to the story is that Jim sent a copy of the Witchford picture to Buckingham Palace, and received a delightful letter back from The Queen.

. . . . . 58 YEARS AGO

It took only 58 years for Charlie Flint to get his Palestine medal, proudly displayed at the Witchford gathering on Armistice Sunday.

Charlie explains how he received a telephone call from his former mid-upper Geoff Osborne saying that one of his pals had been granted a Palestine medal based on the fact that he had landed out there in late '45. Their skipper, Harry Hooper, had already been given his so Charlie and Geoff started to pull the right strings and talk to the right people - starting with Gloucester records.

The advice was send in log books and be patient for two or three months. The medals arrived, with their special clasps marked 'Palestine'. “We only went to Palestine about four times," says Charlie. "end I remember the Stern gang were prominent at the time. "The crew had traced a tortuous route after leaving Witchford. Arriving in Gravely on September 9, they moved on to join 16-Ferry unit at Dunkswell, before moving 10 St Mawgan and arriving at Al Fayed in Egypt a week before Christmas, December 18 to be exact.

"There may be other Association members who did overseas service at this time, who will find they are also entitled to relative medals, " says Charlie.

AND ANOTHER FROM VRAUX

Pierre Roger of 13 Allee des Framboises, 08440 Lumes, France. Writes explaining that he is part of a group preparing a historical record of wartime air activity over the French Ardennes sector and North Marne department.

Three of our aircraft crashed in their area and they seek information on Wellington X3641 which crashed at Attingy on 28/29 August.
Skipper Sgt W. Allen took off at 202.26 hrs from Marham destined for Saarbrucken.
A few days later, September 1, P/O R. A. Shires went down at Flize in a similar attack on Saarbrucken, having taken off at 23.29hrs.
The final aircraft was a Lanc Mk II, DS604 KO-B, which set off from East Wretham on April 11 1943 under the command of Sgt A. Thomas at 00.50hrs attack Frankfurt with his all NCO crew of V. Wilson (nav), T. Andrew (BA), C. Smith W/Op), L. Fitt (RG). E. Hudson (M/U) and M. Lambert (F/E), and crashed at Le Thour.

Any additional information you can add will be welcome Pierre 's email is Pchercheur@aol.com

RTB

Our much-Ioved colleague George Russell passed away peacefully last August. We remember him as a wonderful story-teller with a penchant for detail. Those of you who have taken the TilIer since we launched it at Mildenhall in 1985 will remember some of the wonderful published stories he recalled. I had so many of his tales on file I just couldn't use them all. Fond memories of a great bloke.

DS134 Y

Since the last Tiller (July 2003) Filip Doms (Belgium) has been in touch with the Wise Owls, and correspondence has popped up with Peter Cagienard, nephew of P/O Robert Cagienard, who was at the controls when DS734 KO-Y came down on April 25 1944.

Peter says that Robert was more like a cousin than an uncle, as he was only eight years older. According to information to hand Robert's first operation was on March 3 to Stuttgart, and further ops. Included March 22 to Frankfurt (attacked by JU88 over the target), and March 30 when they shot down an Me110 on the outward run to Nurnberg. The last entry in Robert's log book was an air test with Sgt. Wroot on April 24.

ARMISTICE SUNDAY

Numbers were noticeably down at our annual gathering at the memorial on Armistice Sunday. But the occasion marked a 'first', as we were greeted by a young lady priest from Sweden, the Revd. Anna Hult, who is doing a tour of duty in the UK.

Among those laying wreaths was the son and family of Sqdn. Ldr. H. W. CastIe, (Lancaster Mk I HK595 KO-A) killed in a collision with another 115 Lanc (Mk I NN706 KO-B)over Leverkusen on November 15 1944. On previous occasions a wreath had been laid on behalf of the family, but this year they were able to make it and we were all delighted to see them.

BOAT RACE IS ON

Barry Aldridge writes that the re-run of the 1944 boat race will being going ahead at Ely but the greater plan of a re-union dinner with a big band and what-have-you has failed to take off because there is no hall large enough to hold the event.

Barry also records that there have been more visitors to the museum than ever before and many have travelled a long way. They opened up in October to a group from Leeds, and in late October they opened up for Ted Hallam.

REUNION IS ON

May 15 is the date for your diary - the annual reunion. The cost will be £18.50 per head. On the basis of 50 attending the ticket cost breakdown is: hire of hall £150, caterers £I5.50ph, three course meal with coffee. As soon as you have booked your overnight accommodation let me have your ticket money as I have to find a £150 deposit.

Most important - tell me who you would like to sit with, and I promise I will do my best to accommodate you.

HISTORY REQUEST FROM HEREFORD

Mr. P. J. Jones writes from 5 Vineyard Road, Hampton Park, Hereford HR1 1TT seeking information on P/O John Henry Purser RCAF on behalf of His cousin Margaret, Purser's wife.
John was observer in Wellington Mk II W5459 KO-L (Skipper FIt. Lt. J. A. Bailey DFC), which took off from Marham at 23. 14hrs on June 30 1941 to attack Hamburg and Bremen.

Mr. Jones says there was talk that Bailey's crew had taken part in attacks on German battleships, confirmation of which can only be obtained from ORBs held at Marham, but we do know that the Squadron attacked a "Hipper" class cruiser on February 23 and another in Brest on March 3.