THE TILLER

May 2003

Newsletter of 115 Squadron Association

Secretary Ian Lucas

DRINKING BOOTS ON!

Everything is in hand for the May 31 reunion. For any newcomers we meet at thevillage playing fields hall in Bedwell Lane, Witchford I expect a few new faces, and one or two more who may be lined with just a few more wrinkles than when we last saw them!

One or two post-war people are in touch, and although I find this very exciting I am not sure how attached people may become to enable us keep the Association going, based on those who served up until disbandment. Think of the hundreds involved at Tangmere, Watton, Cottesmore, Brize Norton and Benson, who, at the moment have no contact with us. Perhaps it is a good sign that several enquiries have been coming through from the younger generation Fingers crossed.

There is one thing everyone could do, and that is drop a line to their local paper. In the letter explain that the Association exists, it embraces anybody and everybody, any trade, serving anywhere. Direct them to me. I reckon we could get 100 at least if you all have a go. Go on, itíil only take ten minutes (and the cost of a stamp).

See you on May 31 at 7pm at BedweIl Lane. (I drink G & T!)

REMEMBER GEORGE BROWN?

Craig Robertson writes from 7 Taylor Close, Bicester, Oxon OX26 3HS, asking for any memories anybody may have of his great uncle, George Brown. George was only involved with us at the end of his career and flew two missions as an RG before KIA over Germany on September 5.

Wellington BJ663 KO-N took off from Marham destined for Bremen, on one of the first missions using the new Pathfinder techniques. It was shot down by O.B.Lt Herbert Lutji of III/NJG1 and crashed at Altenheise, 1 km. North east of Rheine.

Of the crew two survived, the others being buried in the British Military Cemetery at Reichswald Forest.

Craig would be delighted with any information, but from the Associationís point of view I have had no contact with the families.

REMEMBER GEORGE BROWN?

No I have not dropped a clanger! But take this as a coincidence, because journalist Pat Currie, from Canada, wrote to me in February and in the closing paragraph of a very interesting letter explained that he had a friend, an RCAF veteran, one George Brown mid-upper gunner with 115 in 1944-45. Many of you must remember George. He came over from Canada year after year in the days when we could free trips from anywhere in the world. I particularly remember one or two hairy sessions with him in The Captain's Cabin, RAF Hendon Museum, USAAF Mildenhall, and one reunion at Brize. He was great company. Sadly George was RTB four years ago.

But back to Patrick's letter. He is researching and writing a book on RCAF pilot F/O Sydney P. Smith who flew 14 ops with us from September 10 - December 10. His Wellington X3393 KO-H was shot down near Dijon just before 11 pm on the night of December 9. All the crew bailed out successfully, three being captured and banged up (RCAF Sgt. L. J. McCosham, RCAF Sgt. J. R. Tolmie and RCAF Sgt. R. W. Devine, while Smith and his Scots navigator M. Reid evaded capture and actually made it back.

With help of the French resistance, and unbeknown to each other, they returned via different escape routes through Spain and Gibraltar, and reached Greenock in separate ships on the same day in January 13 1943. What a coincidence !

Smith is alive and well, living in Kitchener, Ontario, and returns to France in June to visit Catherine Janot, now Dame de Serbonnes, who was with the French resistance and helped put Smith through the Comet underground escape line set up by M 19. Patrick particularly wants information on East Wretham .

. . . . AND AGAIN EAST WRETHAM

A telephone call from Ireland put David Wilcock in touch. He served at East Wretham, flying as engineer with Woolfson. Digging deep in the grey matter Woolfson attended some of the early reunions, but, I think went off to live in the Channel Islands. I seem to remember he wasn't short of a bob or two! If all goes well we will see David at Witchford on May 31. He's taking a holiday with his son in Wiltshire, and though due to return home on May 28 is badgering the family to stay on to take in the reunion.

LETTER FROM ARTHUR COX

Arthur Cox was in touch in February. He had no idea we had been up and running since 1948. He joined the RAF in June 1942, re-mustered to aircrew in early 1943 and trained at Morpeth, Chipping Warden and Stamford before joining 115 at Witchford. His crew was FIt. Lt. J. Brown (pilot) (Liverpool), Al Jones (nav) (Nottingham) Bob Wood (BA) (London), Harry Stacey (eng.) (West Midlands), Pete Beswick (WOP) (Nottingham), and Arthur shared AG duties with Nobby Clark (Londen).

HAVE YOU GOT A ROLL OF HONOUR?

Jean Darley has written from Gillingham. Her dad is the one and only Don Bruce. As many of you will know Don was a prominent Association member both at reunions and as a scribe contributing numerous items for The Tiller.p> Most importantly he was the driving force behind the up-dated Roll of Honour. The first edition was very impressive, all manner of items about the crews who were lost during the war. However, our Don, a stickier for statistical correctness put in many, many painstaking hours correcting and'addinq to the information, producing the Roll of Honour Mk II.

This is why Jean wrote to us. The booklet is 135 pages of fascinating reading and you can get a copy from Jean ('Baudot', 29 Barncroft Drive, Hempstead, Gillingham ME7 3TJ) for £10, including postage, and profits go the RAF Benevolent Fund.

Jean has a website: http://www.darleys.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/dad/ and has joined the Association. She apologises for non-attendance at the reunion but it clashes with her daughter's wedding. (Just where are your priorities Jean?)

DID YOU BOMB THE FISCHER-TROPSCH PLANT?

Dr. Ulrich Knopp writes from Westerbruchstr. 88g, 0-47443 Moers, Germany on the subject of bombing strategic synthetic fuel plant targets in Germany. He is working on documentation of the raids on hydrogenation plants and Fischer- Tropsch plants located in the Ruhr. His work is focussed on the Fischer- Tropsch plant at Moers-Meerbec/Homberg (sometimes called Homburg)

Because he has found little information in the press and local archives he is now chasing up squadrons who carried out raids on Homburg to see if he can find target photos, even pictures of the crews and their aircraft. If you think you can help, drop him a line.

WASHINGTON MAN

From Bickley (Bromley) came a letter from air-radar mechanic Alan "Ted" Heath, who served at Marham in 1950, who says he has "vivid memories of some of the characters, and a few photos, and lots of happy memories." He is added to the mailing list for The Tiller, and who knows we might see him at Witchford.

He jotted down lots of memories', but the bit I liked best was a frequent reference to appalling weather (rain, snow and frost). "We never complained about night flying because we had a motto "Rain, hail or . .ite, 115 will work tonight." (Marham tower. Marham tower. Black two-five. Out.)

AND THAT CHRISTMAS TREE

Line-chief Bill Butt spotted the item on the B29 Christmas Tree (The Tiller Jan. 2003) and says that he remembers it well. It belonged to the WCU, later 35 Sqdn. "As long as I was there it was robbed for spares, and never flew," says Bill.

But, he continues" a few years ago I went to a Hatton reunion and met up from the crew chief of this aircraft. He told me he stayed on and eventually all the spares turned up and he got the aircraft serviceable." Bill goes on to say: "I think they made him fly on the air test! It eventually departed and returned to the USA.

"AIMING POINT WALCHEREN"

Dutchman Paul Crucq has completed volume two of his historical write-up of the attacks on Walcheren in 1944. The first volume was "We never blamed the crews." Our squadron gets considerable mention in a descriptive which covers the last two weeks of October 1944 when Lancasters, Halifaxes and Mosquitoes carried out attacks on heavy gun emplacements.

Copies of the book can be obtained by writing to Paul at Veerseweg 110, 4332 Middelburg, The Netherlands. Cost is 32 Euros, P & P 7.75 Euros.

LATEST NEWS FROM JAN TERLOUW

Jan Terlouw writes from Alblasserdam that the people of Papendrecht have made plans to display parts of Lancaster ND913 A4-M in their local museum, which is an old police station. The Dutch Royal Air Force cleaned up a lot of parts, including a Merlin engine and propeller blades.

Among the other items are a leather cap and a parachute buckle from Jan's collection, plus his 1:48 model of a Lancaster Mk lIl. He will be sending us photographs In due course. Thank you Jan, you have been doing wonderful work and we all appreciate your efforts.

GEOFF PAYNE AND THE BOAT RACE

Barry Aldridge sent me an Ely newspaper cutting relating a fascinating story about the Boat Race. On the 60th anniversary next year there are plans to re-run the race of 1944 which was held on the River Ouse at Ely.

Part of the story is the memories of Association stalwart Geoff Payne who had newly arrived at Witchford and reached the river just after the race had finished.

MORE PUBLICITY

Jim McGillivray asks if you saw handsome Harry Hooper on Channel 5's 'Battle Stations'. Handsome Harry sat in front of the Hendon Lancaster and recounted his version of what it was like to fly one.

BADGES

Jim also gave me the new address of Premium Badges (Unit 8 Little Hyde Farm, Little Hyde Lane, Ingatestone CM4 ODU Tel 01277 355078) which gave him superb service - his badge arriving by return post, cash paid after delivery.

INFORMATION REQUIRED ON LANCASTER DS 734

It really is wonderful they way people who suffered the Nazi yolk in the second world war, still keep memories burning of these dark days and how much they appreciated what we did for them. Yet another instance of appreciation arrived in a letter from Filip Doms of Sint-Katelijne-Waver in Belgium asking for information about the aircraft, crew and so on of DS734 KO-Y.

This how his letter starts:" I am searching for relatives and next of kin of the gallant airmen who sacrificed their lives for the freedom we today find normal." He goes on to explain that he is a member of several organisations who are 'trying to keep alive these memories so that never will be forgotten what happened in the dark years of Nazi occupation."

Filip and friends are planning an exhibition in the city of Mechelen when the celebration of the 60th anniversary of their freedom falls due. Thus he is looking for photographs, documents, anything to honour these men and give them a place in the exhibition. P/O Robert Cagienard and his crew were flying DS734 KO-Y. They had taken off from Witchford at 21.51 as part of a bomber fleet of 637 for an attack on Karlsruhe.

Filip has a lot of the technical detail about the flight, who shot them down etc., and some fascinating eye-witness reports, but is looking for items about the crew. They are buried in the Schoonselhof cemetery in Antwerp.

Filip may be contacted at Mechelsesteenweg 315, 2860 Sint-Katelijne-Waver, Belgium.

Keep the material coming in. See you at Witchford