September 2004

Newsletter of 115 Squadron Association

Secretary Ian Lucas


Hello to you all. Apologies for the long gap between Tillers but there has not been much coming through the letterbox, and I don't think you'd appreciate it if I printed in very large type just to get something in the post.

Just to update you on the sick list. Ron Stewart (a Wise Owl) has had his heart by- pass operation and is slowly recovering in his Norwich home. The editor sits comfortably on a waiting list hoping to get 'done' before Christmas. It might be sooner, as I sit with my pyjamas packed in readiness at the office should a sudden vacancy occur.

John Heffer writes from Dry Draytan that he hopes to be on duty in November, but reunions are now 'out' as he does not drive at nigh time. He send good wishes to all.

Group Captain Joc du Bulay (now 91) can't get down to reunions (poor bus service), but living in Lake District is contactable to chat on line at any time on

Peter Green writes from Glossop that he has been in touch with Bill Kilmurray. Bill was the third gunner to join Sqdn Ldr Rash's crew. Rash was known as Ali Rashi - (some connection with having been hit on the head by an Arab.) Thanks for the wine Peter.

Widower Doug Humphery writes from Norwich that his wife Margaret was Sister Margaret Fender, Sister in Charge of the Burns Centre at Ely hospital, and many may remember her if they were 'unlucky enough' to come under her care. She accompanied Sir Alexander McIndoe, the plastic surgery legend, on his tour of the wards.

Doug recalls that treatment for burns included some hours in a hot bath of brine, under Margaret's supervision. This treatment was prescribed because it had been noted that airmen who ditched in the sea had a lower risk of infection than those who crashed on land.


Don't forget Remembrance Sunday. The service will be at noon - give or take a few minutes, while the full church service in Witchford starts at 10.30am.


We're booked in at the Playing Fields Association on Saturday May 15, with the bar open at 7.00pm and dinner arranged for 8.00pm. Travelodge telephone number is 0870 085 0950.


Books are at the forefront for you in this edition. Of major interest will be "Flying, farming and politics" from George Mackie. Any of you who have shared the company of erstwhile George will know they are in for a treat as he pens pictures without frills or flourish of pre-war rural Scotland, his RAF war service, politics and the general mish-mash of life. A great read in George's inimitable style and only £20.50, including P & P, from The Memoir Club, Stanhope Old Hall, Stanhope, Weardale, Co.Durham DL13 2PF.

The there are two from publishers Pen & Sword which I think you'lI be interested in. First is "Bomber Commander", the story of Aussie born Wing Commander Donald Saville who joined the RAAF in 1927, who already had thousands of flying hours under his belt when volunteering to join the RAF in 1939, at the age of 36, whilst on holiday in England.
He joined Bomber Command flying Wellingtons, was made CO of 104 in Egypt before returning to Downham Market to look after 218 who were flying elderly Stirlings.
He went missing in July 1943 in the first mass raid on Hamburg, staying at the controls of his burning aircraft while four of his crew parachuted to safety.
Know as "The Mad Aussie", with a reputed 10,000 hours under his wing, and was probably the oldest pilot in Bomber Command.

Then you might like a copy of "Bomber aircrew of World War II" by Bruce Barrymore Halpenny, not a story of a specific airfield but a composite picture from many airfields of Bomber Command, embracing the feelings of the ground crews who saw their charges heave themselves in to the air and how their imagination filled the silent hours until they counted in the returning warriors. Pen & Sword Books are at 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS - tel 01226 734222.

Historic Military Press turn out some nice items and they'll send you a list/catalogue if you write to Green Arbor, Rectory Road, Storrington, West Sussex RH20 4EF, or on-line at


There are enough things in the world today to make us continually aware of the imminence of the Royal telegram, and adding to this I've noticed requests for information on former 115ers frequently emanates from grandchildren! So it came as no surprise when I was contacted by Channel 4 recently with reference to Nicholas Alkemade and his grandson.

Since the conversation I have received a letter from James Taylor of RDF Media who is the researcher for "Bomber Crew".

"I wanted to drop you a line to thank you for your help with the query on Nicholas Alkemade. We've been filming with Nicholas' grandson, Luke, for the new "Bomber Crew" series. Our filming with grandchildren of aircrew has gone very well, and along with our interview with veterans, I think will really help viewers understand the role of Bomber Command, and the contribution of the bomber crews.

"Unfortunately, Geoff Burwell, one of Nicholas Alkemade's crew member colleagues, passed away around four years ago. I had some interesting conversations with his widow, who was very interested to hear of our series, and recalled some fascinating details about her husband and the crew.
Through her we also discovered that 'Ginger' Cleary, another crew member, is still alive. I did speak to him briefly as well, but he's not in the best of health, and is quite deaf, so it was difficult to get a lot of detail from him over the phone."

The series goes out on Channel 4 either towards the end of this year or early 2005.


There is always something interesting in missives received from Fred Daley. He's a recipient of The Tiller - and has just written to give me his new address. He's moved again. He's a real European. Itís his 33rd address since the war, which in so far as 115 goes means he has just completed his first 'tour' of houses. Is this just 'wander lust' or has he been charting the property hotspots of Europe since the war? Has he been climbing that property ladder? Let's suppose he set out to make a few bob from property after de-rnob - and say he chalked up an average £10000on each after starting with a one-up-one-down in the Mile End Road - that takes him out of the means-testing belt by a few squid! (I wonder if he's still got his demob suit?)

If you'd like to send him a Christmas card write to 99 rue de Sevres 75006, Paris - but hurry up!


Peter Sheppard writes from 19 The Waterloo, Cirencester GL7 2PZ marking the 50th anniversary of the DeHavilland Hornet on May 16, 2005. He would like contact with anybody associated with this famous marque.


Rosemary Presdee writes again following her earlier request for any information on the May 21/22 1944 raid (Tiller October 2002) in which she lost a relative, and she's trying to find something about F/S H. C. Noon who was taken POW and was bagged in Stalag Luft 7.

Mac Maclean (South Africa) replied to Rosemary and told her his crew (Campbell) and Andersen's were great mates and at the time they went missing was one of the senior crews on the Squadron. Unfortunately Rosemary has not been able to find anything more, and Noon did not make contact with the Association. She may have to hit the Census trail to track him down. The slightest tittle or tattle may help, so rack your brains.

Rosemary's address is 89 Mayfield Drive, Hucclecote, Gloucester GL3 3DT.


There have been two special overseas commemoration days this year, both recording the loss of 115 crews on operations.

On the night of May 24/25 1944 Lancaster DS734 KO-Y returning from Karlsruhe was shot down and crashed at Sint-Katelijne-Waver in Belgium. Sixty years to the day people living near the crash site unveiled a memorial to the seven crew members who died. President Frank Leatherdale and his wife attended.

"It was a very moving occasion," writes Frank. "Filip Doms and his colleagues had organised everything. Along with relatives of the crew we were met from our hotels on Saturday morning and taken to the Schoonselhof cemetery where Robert Cagienard and his crew are buried. A piper played "The flowers of the forest", the Last Post sounded and the citation made.

"There was time for deep thought. I noticed names of some men I remembered as I walked along the rows of 250 airmen.

"At Sint-Katelijne-Waver we were joined by Air Attaches from Canada and Australia, representatives of the Belgian Air Force and a parade led by 20 Standards from Royal British Legion branches in Belgium.

"As I spoke the words of the customary citation "They shall grow not old . . . . " I was aware of the 300 people who had gathered with thanks and gratitude for the sacrifice made that night."

The Squadron was presented with a commemorative plate, now with Barry in the museum, and our thanks go to Fred Vines who donated the brass plaque which is now part of the memorial.

(Filip Doms, Erwin Sollie and Geert Bourguignon, members of the committee who looked after the event above were our guests at the May reunion in Witchford)

The second event took place on July 21 at Alblasserdam, and readers of The Tiller will remember how Jan Terlouw has kept us up-to-date with events since the parts of Clarey's Lancaster were first unearthed.

The commemoration was a grand occasion, attended by the UK Ambassador Sir C. R. Budd, the Australian Ambassador Mr. S. C. Brady and the Mayor of Papendrecht Mr. C. J. M. Bruin.

Disappointingly we did not have a representative present, Frank Leatherdale being on holiday and Ian unable to travel. However, thanks to Jan we have plenty of photographs and memorabilia for the archives which will be displayed at Witchford.

To sum up' - isn't it wonderful that sixty years on there are people in foreign countries who have remembered those who died, have looked after make-shift memorials, have erected imposing commemorative edifices in towns and villages throughout the continent emphatically to underline the deep feeling of gratitude they feel for complete strangers who gave them the freedom they now enjoy.