When I first met Doug Williamson back in 2012, I had already searched and been unable to find a photo of HK601, JN-D, the crew’s regular “kite”. Contrary to my expectation, most of the 75(NZ) Sqdn Lancasters in the pics I’d found were without flamboyant nose art and only identifiable by their code letters.
Disappointingly, neither Gerry nor Doug had one of those typical ‘crew-in-front-of-Lancaster’ photos tucked away in their albums.
So when I eventually got around to asking, I was surprised when Doug said that “Dog” had a piece of nose art.
Doug remembered it as in the style of Disney’s Pluto, painted on by one of their ground crew.
A few years earlier, someone had posted a RAF Mepal 1944 Christmas Dinner menu on the Lancaster Archive forum, with what appeared to be C Flight ground crew autographs on it. At the time, I had been quite excited as among them was a J.D. Jones (“Jonah”) , who signed himself as belonging to JN-D “Snifter”. Could this be Gerry’s aircraft, and one of the guys who worked on it?
Snifter was an Australian wartime comic strip character drawn by Hartmut “Hottie” Lahm, with famously inconvenient toileting habits, and he featured on at least two other Lancasters, both Australian, in 460 and 463 Squadrons.
He does look a bit like Pluto. However Doug had no memory of his “kite” being called “Snifter”, knowing it only as “Dog”.
I struggled with the apparently conflicting information for a while, although since then I’ve learned that “Dog” was the radio call-sign for any RAF aircraft with a “D” code, so it was possible for JN-D to be known both as “D for Dog” and by the nickname “Snifter”.
Then in February 2017, another 1944 Christmas Dinner menu turned up on WONZ, posted by the nephew of LAC Tom McGibbon, Flight Mechanic Engines (FME) in C Flight. It was also autographed by “Jonah” Jones of JN-D “Snifter” and the posts generated a discussion on the 75 Sqdn Assn Facebook page.
Then someone called Glynis Bakker joined in the conversation and stated that “Jonah” was her father!
“Yes my Father was John Dennis Jones, Jonah. His aircraft was D for Dog. Gave me a shiver to see his name on the menu card in your photos. Sadly Dad passed away 3 years this week aged 88. He was so proud of his connection with 75NZ squadron and wore his squadron badge on his jacket lapel until he died.”
Glynis and I have since made contact, exchanged all kinds of information and become good (internet) friends.
Dennis was a Flight Mechanic Engines (FME), the man responsible for Dog’s Rolls Royce Merlin engines. He would have spent plenty of time discussing their performance and any problems with flight engineer Doug Williamson.
Dennis had kept an amazing collection of photos and memorabilia, including some crew photos, although none of the Johnny Wood crew. One photo even shows a little of HK601 “Dog” in the background and Dennis holding one of Dog’s wheelblocks, but it doesn’t show the nose art.
Doug also told me that a second copy of the “Dog” artwork was made:
The mechanic who painted it offered to paint a copy on the back of my flying overalls – he had them on my last op’. When I eventually got back to Mepal he said that he had them for me, but I let him keep them, as a thanks for keeping JN-D in such good shape while we were flying.
When she heard this, Glynis emailed :
I have sent over a photo of a very tatty page from a publication called “MAN”, Feb 1944, and it shows an advert for posting rates for the publication and it shows a boy scout and his dog. My dad has written underneath it ‘SNIFTER’ and it is the same dog that was painted on the nose of D Dog. Looking at the state of the much handled cutting and the fact it has survived since 1944, I am guessing that it could very well have been Dad that used it as a template for painting it onto the plane. He could draw quite well. So it may be Dad that had that connection with Doug, but no more evidence than that.
“MAN” was an Australian magazine, famous for its risqué “girlie” photos and cartoons, so the magazine and the “Snifter” nickname and nose art probably originated with the Sam Wilson crew, who flew “Dog” before the Johnny Wood crew. There were three Aussies in the Wilson crew, and Dennis had become good friends with them, in particular rear gunner ‘Shorty’ Pettit, who signed Dennis’s Christmas Dinner menu.
– More about Dennis, Dog and the Wilson crew here.
This means that the “Snifter” nose art would have been applied to HK601 JN-D in September or October 1944.
The evidence points to Dennis Jones being the artist, and to him being the mechanic who offered to paint a version on Doug’s overalls.
It’s most likely that he copied the cartoon from the one in the magazine that he kept, so we also had an idea what it might have looked like:
And then, when we eventually found the photo of HK601 D for Dog over Germany, there, just under the cockpit, is a shape that looks very much like Snifter!