A major disappointment during the past nine years of learning more and more about the Dog Boys has been the lack of a photo of their “kite”, Avro Lancaster HK601, JN-D for Dog, aka, “Snifter”.
Through my involvement in the NZ Bomber Command Assn, I have had the privilege of seeing hundreds of photos of the men and the machines of 75(NZ) Squadron RAF taken between 1939 and 1945. But never one of Dog, at least not that we could identify.
The best we have is Dennis Jones’ photo of the Wilson crew, happily tour-expired, taken in front of Dog. But all we can see is a tiny bit of her bomb door and undercarriage behind them.
Just last week, however, Matthew O’Sullivan, the Keeper of Photographs at the Air Force Museum of NZ in Wigram, Christchurch, posted a newly-scanned album of photos that had been kept by 75(NZ) Squadron pilot, Wynn Russell.
It is a huge collection, many of which I had seen before, but many “new” ones as well – a real goldmine for the historians.
One immediately caught my eye.
It was a familiar photo, a beautiful aerial daytime shot of a Lancaster over Germany that has appeared in a couple of books about the squadron. In fact I’ve used it on this website. Captions have previously identified it as a C Flight Lancaster, JN-O, on the way to a daylight target with the River Rhine visible below through a break in the clouds.
However Wynn Russell’s copy was sharper, slightly zoomed-in and not as dark as the previous copies I have seen and Matthew had made a high-resolution scan of it, revealing more detail. You could now read the code letters on the fuselage and Matthew had determined that it was JN-D, not JN-O! This got me all excited, as HK601 was the only JN-D on the squadron between August 44 and April 1945 – was this our Dog??
Then I saw the faint shape visible just under the cockpit – Snifter!
Some time ago I had mocked up a Lancaster with Snifter nose art, based on the cartoon that Dennis Jones had kept, and the assumption that he had drawn it on Dog for the Sam Wilson crew, some time around September-October 1944. The real photo looks very similar:
So this is definitely “our” Dog, and once you realise that this is her, you can’t help but look at the photo in a different way.
Those two heads visible at the front of the cockpit – are they pilot Johnny Wood (left) and Flight Engineer Doug Williamson?? That’s where they would usually be.
And is that Jack Cash’s head visible in the Mid-Upper turret??
Unfortunately we don’t have a date for the photo, so can’t confirm which crew it is. But the Wood crew flew Dog on 13 of the 29 operations that she flew over the time that the Russell crew was at Mepal, so there is a good chance that it is them.
Until proven otherwise, we are happy to believe that it is Johnny, Doug and Jack who we can see, flying their favourite ‘kite’ over the Rhine, on the way to the target.
How incredible to be able to picture that, 75 years later …!