January 2007

Newsletter of 115 Squadron Association

Secretary Ian Lucas


Thank you for your cards and good wishes for Christmas and the New Year. Let us hope 2007 proves to be enjoyable for all.

We received a delightful letter from Mac Maclean in South Africa, accompanied by an amusing 'Survivor's Diary.' I liked the reminder for Wednesday February 28: 'You are the best in the world as being you, so don't try to be someone else', and August 10: 'Common sense is wisdom in working clothes.'

Mac says to mark his 85th birthday he had planned to walk half-way up his local mountain, despite still getting over his new hip. Then he had a heart-attack. He's taking it easy but is as cheerful as ever - always aware somebody is far worse off!


President Frank Leatherdale has had a letter from Frank Rutter itemising various bits and pieces of news from around Melbourne. At a recent dinner near Camberwell, Melbourne, Frank was in the company of former 115-ers Charlie Wyatt, Max Durham and Boyce Catch love.

President also mentions Group Capt. Bill Randle's new book - 'Promise & Fulfill', a follows the story of flying (RFC and RAF) in Italy, North Russia and Iraq. Price is 14.95 (3.50 p & p) from W.S.O.Randle, 60 Shelvers Way, Tadworth, Surrey KT20 5QF.


575831 Master Engineer Bill Phillips died on Sunday November 26,2006, aged 83, in Cardiff hospital from cancer of the lung.

Bill Phillips joined the RAF in January 1939 as a boy entrant Halton apprentice. I first met him when he joined our bomber crew as Flight Engineer Sergeant Phillips at 1657 Heavy Conversion Unit at Shepherds Grove, Suffolk, in July 1944. (He retired in 1962 with Master rank).

'We joined A flight 115 Squadron on August 15 1944 at Witchford,' writes Harry Rossiter. 'Our skipper was Flt. Lt. David Jenkins, who later became a medical consultant in Kansas City USA, where he still lives. Harry keeps in touch with him regularly.

'Bill was always a cheerful soul and like many Welshmen he liked singing. We survived a tour of ops. finally leaving Witchford in January 1945 when we were disbanded, and I never saw any of them again except David Jenkins who travelled to Exeter last year to meet up with me after 60 years.

'I contacted Bill regularly by 'phone and letter. He suffered a stroke about four years ago from which he made an almost complete recovery, but was diagnosed with lung canceer about a month ago.

'I shall miss his cheery greeting whenever I telephoned him. So another wartime member carries on - over there.'

Harry Rossiter, ex-W/Op AG, Exeter.


Stalwart supporter of The Tiller Jack Emery has e.mailed from France asking for help with information on crews he his researching, al! of whom perished in The Sarthe department of France, near Le Mans, about 200 km west of Pairs.

A 115 aircraft (Lancaster Mk I HK547 A4-F) crashed on May 20 1944 at Le Mans. The crew was:

P/O. Samuel Stephen Atkin, pilot, RAFVR aged 22, from Dronfield, Derbyshire.
F/Sgt. Reginald Frederick Arthur Giles WOP, RAFVR, aged 23 from Brixham, Devon.
F/O. John Victor Hayward, 2nd pilot. RAFVR.
P/O. Rhys Webb Jones, BA, RAAF of Edinburgh.
Kenneth Richard Mather, Nav, RAFVR, aged 20 of Mannamead, Plymouth.
P/O. Leonard Eugene Mehden, RG, RAAF, of New South Wales.
Sgt. Ivor Collins Plumb, FE, RAFVR, aged 20 of Bromley, Kent,
and Sgt. Joseph Rafferty (955666), MUG. RAFVR aged 34.

Take-off was at 22.28hrs and target was Le Mans.

Based at little Snoring DS684 KO-M was shot down by a night fighter on a raid to Turin on August 15/16 1943 at lignieres la Carelle. Jack would like to know more about:

Sgt Charles Edward Brook, BA, RAFVR, aged 20 from Boldon Colliery, Co. Durham.
Sgt Richard Clifford (1272678) MUG, RAFVR, aged 27.
F/Sgt Robert Ashworth Crawshaw, Nav, RNZAF, aged 29 of Dunedin, Otago NZ.
Sgt.Stanley Eastwood, (1301034) RG, RAFVR.
Sgt. Adrian Bernard Heyes, F/E, aged 19 of Stechford, Birmingham. (577141).
Sgt. Water Bell Pettet. WOP RAFVR, aged 31 (1083351) of Edinburgh,
and S/LJohn RusselI Watson (pilot) (29029).

Jack's address is 16 rue des Lilas, 72650 La Chapelle, St Aubin, France.


From all accounts it was dry and bright when our group gathered at the Squadron memorial on Armistice Sunday There was a strong, cold wind which did its best to blow our wreaths away - but Barry Alldridge was there, as ever, with padlock and chain to secure them.

The Revd. Teresa Dixon took the service for the first time, and had done all her homework on the Squadron, visiting the museum and enjoying a briefing by Barry and Sue, and in the words of President Frank Leatherdale 'she understood quite a lot of what Witchford means to us old codgers . . . and had prepared a well written service sheet for our short service at the memorial. Revd Dixon led a packed church through a rather different form of service which reached out to the younger generation in a very sensible way;'

There were members of Aubrey Howell's and Jim McGilivrays crews present, and there was also a surprise visit from Bunty Heffer (John's widow). Bunty had recently taken a nasty fall and now has several metal plates and screws in her left leg, but she managed to drive herself to Witchford,. She also stood with the group at our memorial.

Ely Air Cadets were in attendance and laid a wreath.

The President spoke to John Bedford, on whose land the memorial stands, and he confided that as our annual ceremony means so much to the people of Witchford, when Association members are too old to attend the villagers will carry on the annual tradition. We really couldn't ask for more. Could we?

Additional indication of the warmth and respect for the Association was the reception laid on for everybody after the service at Witchford Sports & Social Club. Our thanks to treasurer Sylvia Bromley-Allen and her colleagues for this kind gesture, which we have enjoyed ever since the memorial was erected.


Thumbing through the files of The Tiller (this edition starts off the 22nd year of its publication) I realized how many kind people and communities in Europe commemorate crews who crashed and died in their areas. And, of course, there are lots of other Squadrons whose men are remembered in the same way, and it just shows what tremendous respect the people of our allies have for the role the bombers and crews played in the conclusion of the war.

From The Tiller I have recorded the following:

1918 Roville France Bombs blew up our a/c  
Dec 16 1943 Heemskerk DS835 P/O N. Newton
July 14 1943 Belgium DS690 F/L R.A.G. Baird
April 29 1942 Maison la Fitte X3593 Sgt W.F. Reynolds
July 6 1941 Schiermonikoog
Wadden Island
R1063 Sgt O.A. Matthews
July 21 1944 Papendrecht ND913 F/O C.M. Clarey
June 7/8 1944 Giverny* LL864 P/O R. Maude
June 7 1944 Chevreuse* HK552 P/O J.E.Todd
April 25 1944 Mechelen DS734 P/O Cagienard
March 31 1944 Evere - Brussels LL622 F/Sgt R. Thomas
* Lost that night: P/O S.F. Francis ND790  
  P/O P.W. Norbury ND761  
  P/O C.H. Quinton ND760  
  P/O E.A. Lowe HK548  
  F/O J.M. Wesley LM533  


John Reed came on the 'phone to say he had received a query from a lady in Australia. Jane Mills who apparently either visits/keeps an eye on a number of older folk, among them Leslie Vernon James who was a F/Sgt AG with us at Witchford. He was injured in a crash or something similar, but it was a non-operational sortie. Leslie joined us at some time in 1943 and was discharged in March 1945. He was born in Richmond, Australia in 1913. His RAF number was 430932. John, by the way, is a Stirling fan having archive material sufficient to fill a large hangar. His is 01706 874797 if you have any information on Leslie Vernon or the crash.


Jim McGillivray attended, on our behalf, a service of thanksgiving at St. Clement Danes Church in the Strand, for the life of Grp. Capt. Howard Delve. Howard Delve served with the Squadron as a navigator in the sixties and later was associated with the diplomatic corps.


What will probably be our last reunion is to be held at Witchford Playing Fields hall, Ely on Saturday May 5. Some of you may have noticed anno domini flying by rather rapidly, so we are making this our last get-together, although not ruling out an annual meeting somewhere if post-war 115-ers begin to appear in numbers and show an interest in an annual reunion. The Tiller will continue. Ring Travelodge on 0870 850950 as soon as possible to get a double room at 26, there's an offer on! Otherwise Dinner only is 20. Cheques for tickets made out to Ian Lucas please, and sent to 28 Mill Farm Drive, Randlay TF3 2NA.