THE TILLER

October 2005

Newsletter of 115 Squadron Association

Secretary Ian Lucas

WHAT DOES 115 MEAN?

Now there’s a difficult question. A few Sundays ago our President, Frank Leatherdale, was listening to his local radio when he heard the presenter ask: "What does 115 mean to you?". Apparently it is a regular feature of the programme to pose a question for listeners to try to answer. Naturally, Frank was soon on the telephone, following on behind two failed 'answers’, Frank suggested 115 Squadron, closely associated with Norfolk as it was based at Marham before the second world war, moved to East Wretham and then to Little Snoring. It returned to Marham after the war and was based at Watton - all in Norfolk. Boing! Not the right answer, but the presenter was delighted with Frank's potted history of the Squadron.

RTB

R. E. Harrison, Lowestoft - J. Heffer, Dry Drayton

AN UNEXPECTED FOE

Bomber Command's losses of both aircraft and aircrew during WW2 are well known. They were large. So large the number of aircrew lost represented nearly 25% of all British Commonwealth casualties.

But what is not so well known, documented or acknowledged, is 20% of these losses occurred within the United Kingdom! Included in this statistic are a significant number of aircraft whose final operation ended on a hillside. Order 'An Unexpected Foe' and read all about it. Write to author P. D. Clark at Roddam Home Farm, Roddam, Alnwick., Northumberland NE66 4XY. £19.99 with £2 p & p.

IN TOUCH WITH ‘RED’

During a holiday in Canada last year Len Ing spent some time with ‘Red Sherwood, his former pilot, and his wife Jean at their Britisch Columbia home, before going on to another crew colleague Alen Lennox (mid-upper) and his wife, Margaret. ‘Red’ is now in his early 90’s, still drives and travel extensively to visit scattered family.

Alan is still young, around 80, and leads an active life. Somewhat ‘out of the blue' 'Red' had met Jim Mason who was flying with 115 at about the same time, 1944-45, and has written a book, 'Word War II (1939-45) Messages', which, indirectly brought about contact between the two of them. Jim's book names 'Red' in connection with an incident over Vohwinkel on December 31, 1944 when both pilots had to take violent evasive action caused by another Lancaster releasing its bomb-load immediately above them. Jim’s aircraft managed to avoid contact with the falling bombs, but 'Red' was not so lucky, one hitting the starboard tail fin, leaving a gaping hole, but it did not explode. “Len comments: 'if it hadn't missed I wouldn't be writing this now!'

RUBKA

I don't know whether any of you have had any contact with RUBKA an organisation dedicated to helping elderly people to stay independent and where possible to alleviate hardship by providing financial and practical assistance.

So here goes. RUBKA acknowledges it can't help everyone so they give priority to those who have gone out of their way to help others. In to this category come nurses, members of the clergy, teachers anti ex-service people who at some time have helped in a voluntary capacity to care or provide for others. They also help spouses, widows and widowers, anti divorcees who have been denied access to a former spouse's pension.

RUBKA owns and operates two care homes in Surrey and a nursing home in Hove. In addition they have some flats in London and Hove and bungalows in Hawley designed for disabled elderly.

They’ve got 1.100 volunteers who raise funds for them. They spend about £5 million supporting over 5.000 beneficiaries. If you want to know more contact thrm at 6 Avonmore Road, London W14 8RL. Tel. 020 7605 4200, and if you can make a donation . . . . . . .

WHAT A BIRTTHDAY PRESENT!

When Julie Hawksworth gave husband Paul (reunion regulars) a surprise birthday present – a visit to East Kirby and a taxi-run in Lancaster ‘Just Jane’ – it became ‘surprise surprise’. Little did she know they would fill in information on the 1944 demise of Lancaster MK I HK599 KO-K shot down on a raid to Duisburg on October 14, 1944.Forty people turned up at East Kirby, 17 of them to experience a taxi-run in the Lancaster. they split in two groups and whilst waiting their turn Julie and Paul chatted to another couple. The lady explained her husband had been a Lancaster pilot during the war. Quick as a flash Paul asked: "What Squadron were you with? “You can guess the answer: '115'. AII was then revealed - it was Flying Officer Rhodes Lister, pilot of KO-K.

His crew all died: Sgt. P. H. F. Hughes, F/O Ronald Brown, P/O J. F. Loughnan, F/O H. T. Ford, Sgt R. Hamilton and Sgt R. Eayres, all buried in Reichswald Military Cemetery.

Rhodes only recalls being thrown out of his cockpit, ending up in the bag'. Paul tells me he found Rhodes' story so similar to Richard Starkey's book 'A Lancaster pilot’s impression on Germany', including the long forced March from Stalag Luft III Sagan to Berlin, to keep out of the clutches of the advancing Russian army.

During a meal they enjoyed during the evening the pilot of 'Just Jane' was spinning a few yarns, and at one stage he explained there were two escape routes from a Lancaster. Rhodes chuckled to himself and pointed out he knew of a third: "straight through the cockpit window'. And then of course his story came out.

Paul noted he was a little embarrassed by the attention he received from then on.

So it turned out to be a notable birthday present. Paul didn’t gat a chance to talk Rhodes before the party broke up but has found his Dewsbury address.

SUCCESSFULL FRENCH DIG PROVIDES THE ANSA

Another wonderful example has come to light of the kindness and camaraderie of people on the Continent when it comes to remembering the sacrifice of those who gave their lives in World War II. This time it’s our Lancaster Mk l LL864 A4-H2 which was shot down on June 7/8 1944 while on an attack against bridge and viaducts in the Vallee de Chevreuse. The crew are buried in the village churchyard at Giverny. The Squadron lost six aircraft on that operation.

Crew lost was P/O Ronald Maude / engineer Sgt. Alan Henderson, nav. F/O Ronald Tovey, WOP Sgt. Jack Fyfe, BA P/O Harold Foster, MUG Sgt. Kenneth Penton anti RG Sgt. Robert Sutherland .

The Association Normade du Souvenir Aerien 39/45 (ANSA) is a dedicated group intent on discovering sites of aircraft crashes during the war. They explain there were over 900 aircraft lost over Europe and in 1977 started to look for the remains of LL864, which went down in fields between Giverny and Seine. It had been hounded by a night fighter.

ANSA soon dug up two engines, one having a propeller blade still attached to its mountings.

In 2004 they were digging again, this time discovering another engine and two propeller blades - still with their yellow paint - and a 500lb bomb, and then another close by. AII sorts of excitement followed, but neither bomb was primed so in came bomb disposal and carted them off to somewhere safe. Then they found more bombs - 14 in all, lying there for 60 years. According to the bomb disposal experts this number of reclaimed bombs on one site is a French national record (115 at me forefront again?). There is still the 4th engine buried at the site.

Al! this information has come from Maude’s brother, Philip, who Has supplied reports and pages from an ANSA magazine which contains pictures of the crew and some of the excavation work, all of which I am passing on to Barry Aldridge and the museum.