July 2009

Newsletter of 115 Squadron Association

Secretary Ian Lucas


Following our item in the last Tiller about the special 65th anniversary of the loss of Lancaster HK559 A4-H which crashed at St. Just-en-Chausee on June 18 1994, pilot P/O John Traill, Sqdn Ldr. Nick Goodwyn, the Squadron CO, attended the ceremony with two colleagues. Ernest Stapley's (MUG) old cycling club were represented by eight cyclists who went over from Witchford. Ernie's daughter Anne was there, along with Douglas Dawson's (FE) niece Chris, and WOP W/O Peter Duff's great nephew Mike, along with his dad lan who has kept us up-to-date with the event.

Formal ceremonies were held in the Gannes Communal Cemetery and at the crash site in the presence of French officials, war veterans and people from the area. Dominic Lecomte emailed cuttings from French newspapers with such headlines: "Commemoration Une stele aux 7 disparus du crash', 'De l'emotion pour tous', 'Graves dans le mabre.'

Our President, Frank Leatherdale, wrote to Sqdn. Ldr Goodwyn thanking the Squadron for attending the ceremony, commenting that such memorial events can be emotional 'but also pleasant when you see how the custodians of our departed comrades' graves have cared for them.'


Another delightful letter has arrived from South Africa. From Mac Maclean, naturally. He recalls all sorts of fond memories of his crew and incidents of his Witchford years. It was the mention of Lord Mackie and our visit to The House of Lords which prompted his recall of the incident when Mackie's aircraft pranged half-way down the runway. Mac and his gang were waiting on the runway ready for take-off on their first operation which of course was 'scrubbed'. They waited nearly five weeks before they broke their duck.

There were several other items of interest but I thought a piece about D- Day was worth a mention. Mac writes: "A couple of weeks ago it was the 65th anniversary of D-Day and one of my RAF colleagues reminded me of it and asked if I remembered it. How can I forget it! The easiest trip we did, T.O. at 03.35hrs on June 6. Possible cloud cover. The GC did not tell us much but this was the most important operation ever. Around the briefing room - 'this is it'. We were very excited but also a little scared at the same time, flying into the unknown!

"On consensus we agreed to bomb below the cloud. We came out at 4,000ft,which was a little on the low side of 'normal' but our B.A. got a visual on the guns and we bombed, a few seconds later being thrown all over the sky, or so it seemed, with cries of 'flak', while in fact we were getting a reverberation from 25 bomb loads. But we were lucky and survived and in that murky June morning turned back to cross the Channel. We were motoring as we didn't have to worry about conserving fuel. Suddenly a Canadian voice shouted " 'J .... C .... ' the bloody sea is full of ships." And there they were, heading for the beaches. The poor bloody squad dies!"

"Skipper Jock Campbell called out a prayer for them, and then it was like schooldays all over again - all yelling - and Jerry could have knocked us out of the sky with impunity and it never crossed our minds as we flashed our torches downwards in the hope they would be seen by the boys in the ships.

"We belted back to base - first to land - and Groupie was right behind us to pick up the skipper and nav. for debriefing, while we were bouncing around with the ground crew who had rushed over to see what was up. Other aircraft were landing, and somehow a bottle of Scotch was already doing the rounds. Tom 'Granddad' Tweed our FE who was virtually a teetotaller nearly choked.

"Debriefing was very noisy, but we were not told the invasion had started, but we knew. After breakfast we were all hunched around the radio but the news was cagey. I understand the reluctance was due to the worry that things had not gone to plan. We were told to 'go to bed' as we could be called out at any time.
We were briefed again at 10am and took off for Liseux to bomb the marshalling yards which were full of German equipment. We had special lanes and speeds to adhere to. Ground to sea heavy gunfire looked awesome. No trouble for us though as we bombed visually, returning over the Channel at prescribed height and speed etc. Suddenly another aircraft weaved in tight to us with our WOP telling him to 'bugger off'. I banked away to port and the navy promptly shot it down. That really shook us. We didn't lose any 115 aircraft on that trip."

Lovely piece of history Mac. Thank you. I love the way you sign yourself off as Mac Maclean, ex-U Uncle. Aged 87 3/12ths.


Those of you scanning your newspapers daily will have noticed the publicity (June 18/19) for our Princes William and Harry both undergoing helicopter training at RAF Shawbury. But did you notice Prince William sporting the 115 Squadron badge as he is currently under training with the EFTS?


Colonel Gabriel Bauters has sent a request for any information on Lancaster Mk I LL943 KO-C, shot down on July 18/19 1944. He has been researching the crash at Laplaigne (Belgium). He has written a book (170 pages) and seeks more information and possibly pictures. The aircraft was flown by F/O Robert Pellew (aged 21), FE was Sgt. Albert Morton, Nav P/O Eric Tibbits, WOP Sgt Edward Wakeman, BA P/O Fraser Hollenback, G Sgt Henry Simmonds, RG Sgt. Frederick Allen.

The Colonel has been in touch with Wakeman's sister and has a rather poor photograph of the crew, without individual identification. So he has written to ask if anybody can help.

As a result of the research the French authorities intend to erect a memorial at the crash site. Alt the crew are buried at Valenciennes (St. Roch) communal cemetery (Department Nord), except Sgt. Simmonds who lies in the communal cemetery in Laplaigne.

Please contact the Colonel at Rue de Tournai 6A, B7620 Hollain (Brunehaut), Belgium or e.mail:


Pen & Sword Books (47 Church Street, Barnsley, S. Yorks S70 2AS) are due to publish a new title - Legend of the Lancasters. Martin Bowman is the author and covers the 1942-45 period.

If you'd like to know more contact Emma Howe on 01226 734679 or e.mail


Had a letter from Claire Blouin (wife of Orville) in Ottawa. Now that Sam Wood has RTB Orville is the last of Bill Burnet's crew, Harry Lindhorst having died earlier this year. Orville wilt be 90 in August. He is doing well, but is in a wheelchair. They are in a retirement home at the moment, but on the waiting list for a place in a special veterans home.
Thanks for your letter Claire.


A letter from Indus Travel informs me the Big Lottery Fund is providing funding for World War II veterans from the UK to visit sites on which they served. The scheme runs until January 31 2011 and sums up to 5,500 could be available for parties depending on the number of people travelling and the destination. It might be worth finding out if any funds might be available to visit crash sites and memorials to our crews who gave their lives in the war. Contact for Indus is KBC Exchange, 2 Gayton Road, Harrow, Mddx. HA1 2XU. Tel. 020 8901 7379


The BBC is making a new TV series looking at the way fatherhood has changed during the course of the last century. They want to talk to veterans of the three forces who were, or were about to become, dads when they fought in the second WW.

Whatever your story please write to Pete Vance or Hazel Fearnley, Testimony Films, 12 Great George Street, Bristol BS1 5RSW. Tel 0117 9258589. Testimony have won awards for their history documentaries such as 'What did you do in the Great War daddy?', 'The Last Voices of the Great War' and nearly 100 others.


Tony Snook has written in to say after reading the last Tiller with regard to Frank Rutter and his 'operations' he wrote to Frank and just five days later received a telephone call from John Rymes his old skipper - only 54 years since they last spoke. Such stories make production of The Tiller worthwhile.


Ken Gregory writes from Matlock - 'it must be spring' he says, 'as I am up and about again.' He enclosed a copy of pages from spring edition of Memorial Flight re the Bomber Command Medal.

Says Ken 'aircrew before D-Day received the Aircrew Europe Star, after that it must have been 'a piece of cake' so no campaign medal awarded.'