March 2005

Newsletter of 115 Squadron Association

Secretary Ian Lucas


We are all set for the May reunion: Delicious English fare is on the menu (leek & potato soup, stuffed chicken breast with mushroom sauce, mincemeat tart with custard, and a cheeseboard) and for those of you yet to make up your minds remember the Travelodge telephone number is 0870 085 0950. Tickets are £18.50, broken down to £15.50 for the meal and the extra £3 contributing to the £50 charge for using the Hall.

Three of our friends from Belgium have rung to say they are coming over again, their first visit being in 2004. There is also news that Chalky White (Victor the photographer) is coming up from Dartmouth. I think he's about 163, and will be accompanied by Herbert Walker, who's getting on too. Herbie sounds as cheerful as ever on the telephone, despite problems with hips, knees and goodness knows what else.


President Frank Leatherdale has been doing his bit on the promotional front and entry he achieved in the Saga Magazine interested a lot of people. I heard from John Terry (14 Waylett House, Loughborough Street, Kennington SE11 5PZ) who rang to say that he served with No 115 M. U. in RAF Habanya after the war.
Obviously not us, but John (no relation to that Chelsea footballer by the way!) thoroughly enjoyed himself out there. Many of you may have served at Habanya at some stage, and John told me there is an excellent website for RAF Habanya, so you may find that interesting.

There was another call from a gentleman who claimed he had served in 1939 and through the war as a fitter. His voice was indistinct and difficult to understand. His wife did her best to interpret, and I gave them my address so they could keep in touch through The Tiller, but I haven't heard anything since.

The Saga item also produced Tony Snook, who was with the squadron in February 1945. John Rymer was his pilot, and he also remembers Len Swettenham. If my notes are correct he later flew with a Flt. Lt. John Cantrell, working Italy in repatriations, then went on to Gunnery School at Leconfield. Here my notes are a little adrift, as I believe Cantrell was killed elsewhere on a cross-country when the aircraft blew up. I am sure Tony will put me right for the next edition.

Tony Johnston was in touch. Tony was a Varsity man in the late sixties and early seventies. He lives fairly locally at March. He did pass on the sad news that former reunion stalwart Len Sandbach had RTB. Len lived in Derby, and died last year.

Then I had contact with Dennis Sawden from Carsegowan Cottage, Newton Stewart, seeking information on F.O. D.M. Drew. Douglas Macmillan Drew served as a navigator on 115 at Witchford for several months before he and his crew were lost flying Lanc Mk III ND753 KO-K. They took off at 23.02 for Dusseldorf but were shot down by flak and crashed at Unterbach, 7 km. South east of Dusseldorf.
The others in the crew were pilot P/O Robert Chantler, bomb aimer, W/O Robert L. Francis, WOP Sgt. Donald Nash, engineer P/O John Tweedie, MUG Sgt. Kenneth Farmer, and rear gunner Australian W/O William N. W. Brown.

Dennis Sawden is researching Drew because at Newton Stewart they are trying to establish everything they can about the people listed on the village war memorial.
There are two RAF lads, Drew being one of them, and Dennis has taken on the RAF research as he served in the service. Funny enough he asked me about Harry Hudson, a B.29 man, who was his neighbour in Leeds many years ago, a B.29 man and my neighbour at Albrighton.

So, if anybody can add anything to the current facts Dennis has on Douglas Drew, he, and the people of Newton Stewart, will be very grateful. Write to Dennis as Carsegowan Cottage, Newton Stewart, DG8 6BQ, or ring 01 988 402 039.


Peacefully going about his business in an Essex supermarket the other Sunday Jim McGillivray and wife Hilda saw a couple behind them only had a couple of items, so asked them if they'd like to go through before them as they were dealing with the weekly shop.

The couple gratefully moved through, and as they did so the lady spotted Jim's squadron badge. "My husband was in the RAF", she said. "Name was Alkemade."
It is rumoured that Jim fell in to his trolley.

"Unfortunately they moved away, and we still had a trolley of goodies to pay for, so I didn’t see them again," recalls Jim.


Simon Gifford writes from 31 Portree Avenue, Kilmarnock KA3 2GA, telling us he is researching a possible book on RAF operations in the immediate post-war period (mid-1945 - 47) and is keen to learn more of life on 115 during the time. He asks if any Association members have any memories or photographs of life at the time.


Kit Harvey, North Cottage, 11 Ivy Lane, Tewkley, Bucks. LU7 OEN, seeks information on her uncle, 'Toby'. Allen Lyster Bird F/t. Lt. RAFVR, of 195 Squadron, awarded DFC December 195(?).

Kit understands that 195 was formed from C Wing of 115, under Sqdn Ldr. Bob Franklin. Kit has an old photograph and in the background is a very old car, known as "Dizzy the Cow". Unlock any memories? I'll bring two photographs to the reunion to see if they stir up the old grey matter.


As we all know it has always been our hope the Association will continue through the strength of membership from the post-war years. At one time we had a nucleus of 30 B.29ers, but it didn't blossom. And despite the odd contact with people from a variety of vintages the 'old brigade' continue to hold sway.

Perhaps it is about to change. One reader of the Saga magazine item was Neville O'Carroll, 15 years in the RAF and from 1971-79 an airframe fitter. He came on the line from his Bristol home and we found mutual contact as he knew Ken Lucas and his family, Ken being a regular at reunions in the Brize and Benson days.

Neville promises to start stirring the pond by chasing up on old names and addresses, and who knows how far the ripples wilt extend.


Robert Kirkpatrick writes from 8 Harbinson Close, Manor Park, Fishburn, Sedgefield TS21 4HD seeking information on his grandfather who was stationed at Witchford with us between 3/5/1944 and 22/10/44 before being transferred to 7 Squadron.

Robert has information on the sorties his grandfather flew, naming the crews he flew with, and has details of his transfer. Any other information would be a delight.


Bob Franklin writes from 23 Green Road, Southsea P05 4DU asking for information on his father who went down on October 16 (two more enquiries on October 18 and 25 later) that year. According to our records Lancaster Mk I ME692 A4-G went down without trace on a raid to Wilhelmshaven. They had taken off from Witchford at 17.45 hrs.

Sqdn. Ldr Robert Harcourt Franklin was second pilot to F/O James Perry, with Sgt. Harold Clarke FE, F/Sgt Edmund Bennett nav., Sgt. John Lynch WOP (only 20), F/Sgt. Edwin Wood, bomb aimer, Sgt. Norman Elvish, MUG, and Sgt. Norman Atkins, RG (only 20).

Robert says the letter his mother received from the Squadron mentioned that his father was due to move over to 195. He was an experienced pilot, joining the RAF in 1938. Apart from advising him to take a look at the ORBs at RAF Marham, where all his dad's flights and crews are recorded, there's not much I can do but Robert would like to hear from anybody who may remember.


Another Saga enquiry came from Chris Newman of 15 Park Lane, Bishops' Stortford CM23 3NH, who is trying to find information or pictures of William Templeman, 27-year-old rear gunner of Stuart's crew which set out at 13.23 hrs on October 25 1944 for Essen.
F/O Paul Stuart was the 20 year old Australian pilot, and there was another Aussie F/O Edwin Langton (28) and 20 year-old WOP F/Sgt Eric Birch. There was also a Canadian F/O Victor Wilson who was the bomb aimer, and the rest of the crew was Sgt David Spiden, flight engineer, and MUG Sgt. John Mason. Any memories, any photographs would be most welcome.

A FEW DAYS BEFORE . . . . . . .

A few days before Templeman and his crew disappeared (above), October 18 1944, Sgt George Rutson went down with Ken Smith 's crew, lost without trace on an assignment to Bonn. George Rutson 's daughter, Janet Palmer, has written to see what she can find out about her father.

She doesn't know much about his war service. Janet's mother is still alive, but has not shed any light on the subject, "suffering a stoic silence, " according to Janet: "I don 't think she ever forgave him for leaving her (pregnant and with a small child to bring up) to go to war", she adds.

Any information would be welcome, and you can contact Janet at 19 Bainton Close, Bradford on Avon, Wilts. BA15 1SE.


Larry Wood rang from Maidenhead, very excited about the re-union, and so surprised to learn that we had been in existence since 1948. Harry was posted to 115, his first Squadron, at Witchford in 1943 as a radio operator, but it wasn’t long before he was despatched to India. Nonetheless he is sad to miss the reunion because on the same day he is on a celebratory trip down the Thames marking his 40 years service to Freemasonry.

Perhaps somebody remembers him? He's looking forward to 2006, but in the meantime has sent his s. a. e to get a regular supply of The Tiller.


On the day of going to press I received a letter from F. C. Drury (956383 VR), from North Thoresby, Grimsby. He served in 1940 to 1946. He tells us that two 115-ers who lived in his village have died recently. Flt Ltd. Bill Kane (believed to be B flight, and associated with Lancaster M). The other RTB was fitter Cpl. John Henson, Mr. Drury's next door neighbour for 60 years. Mr. Drury has sent his s.a.e. quota.