February 1945

1 February 1945.

Gerry’s logbook records a 1:40 flight in Lancaster HK563 JN-W “Paper Doll” on “SPECIAL DUTIES”.

From his diary: Went up with an Air Commodore as Pilot to see how the boys formed up as a Squadron. Went out over the Channel & came back. Two Winco’s went with us & were very pleased with the boys’ flying.

Air Commodore Herbert James Kirkpatrick DFC

Squadron Leaders Bob Rodgers and Jack Wright had taken seventeen of the squadron’s crews to Mönchengladbach, leaving Mepal just after midday. Right behind them, A/C Herbert James Kirkpatrick DFC, Senior Air Staff Officer 3 Group HQ had taken off in HK563 JN-W “Paper Doll“ to observe the squadron forming up over the South of England.

With W/C Mac Baigent along for the ride, Kirkpatrick followed them out across the Channel before turning back for Mepal, satisfied with what he had seen. Presumably they took the rest of the Dog crew with them, excepting Johnny.

Kirkpatrick had previously been Commanding Officer of 218 Squadron.

Went to Sutton with Johnny during the evening.

Top photo: Still from film shot by the RAF Film Production Unit, showing incendiary fires burning in Dresden, Germany, during the second heavy attack on the night of 13/14 February 1945.
– IWM.


2/3 February 1945. Night attack against Wiesbaden.

Bomber Command Diary: 495 Lancasters and 12 Mosquitos of Nos 1, 3, 6 and 8 Groups to Wiesbaden. 3 Lancasters crashed in France. This was Bomber Command’s one and only large raid on Wiesbaden. There was complete cloud cover but most of the bombing hit the town. 5 important war industries along the banks of the Rhine were untouched but the railway station was damaged.

75 Sq ORB: Eighteen aircraft were detailed to attack the above target but two failed to take off. Crews bombed on navigational aids in ten tenths cloud with tops up to 21,000 feet. A scattered raid was the report of most crews generally. Slight heavy flak was the only opposition. JN-Y F/Lt W. Hannan landed at Woodbridge on returning owing to damage received over the target.

Lancaster I HK601 JN-D “Snifter”
Up 20:49 Down 02:38

F/O Wood, J. NZ426235, Captain (17) 
F/S Coulson, E. NZ422976, Nav* 
F/S Hooper, N., A/B 
F/S Newey, G. NZ425285, WO/Air 
Sgt Williamson, D., F/Eng 
F/S Cash, A. R147817, MU/Gnr 
F/S Sparrow, R. R263518, R/Gnr

Bomb Load 1 x 4000 lb H.C, 10 x 500 lb ANM, 2 x 250 lb G.P.

Captain’s remarks: Primary target Wiesbaden. Red flares seen appear to come up from the ground.

Gerry’s diary: Cloud up to 20,000 ft. Only light flak with plenty of vapour trails & Lancs in all directions over the target. Plenty of fire glow through clouds. Fighters about.

  * Jack Pauling was replaced as navigator on this trip, we don’t know why.


3 February 1945. Night attack against Dortmund.

Landed at 3AM. from last night’s trip. Got to bed at 5AM.
Piled out of bed at 12 to find we had to be briefed again at 1.30. Took off at 4.26 for Dortmund.

Bomber Command Diary: 149 Lancasters of No 3 Group attacked the Hansa benzol plant at Dortmund but the bombing fell north and north-west of the target. 4 Lancasters lost.

75 Sq ORB: Sixteen aircraft attacked Dortmund as detailed in clear weather. Bombing was very accurate and fires were going well when aircraft left the target. One large explosion was seen. Search lights were numerous in the target area but flak was negligible. Fighters were active. AA-M S/L J. L. Wright, had three combats and claims one Me110 destroyed. JN-X, F/O R. B. Crawford crashed on landing fortunately there were no fatal casualties among the crew. Four were taken to hospital.

Lancaster I HK601 JN-D “Snifter”
Up 16:25 Down 21:30

F/O Wood, J. NZ426235, Captain (18) 
F/S Pauling, J. NZ422976, Nav 
F/S Hooper, N., A/B 
F/S Newey, G. NZ425285, WO/Air 
F/L Cowan, S., F/Eng 
F/S Cash, A. R147817, MU/Gnr 
F/S Sparrow, R. R263518, R/Gnr

Bomb Load 1 x 4000 lb H.C, 2 x 500 lb M.C, 4 x 250 lb G.P, 1 x Monroe.

Gerry’s diary: Hundreds of searchlights working in cones of 20-30’s. Mod. flak. Saw one kite go down. Good visibility & good results observed.
Fighters tearing all ways.
Landed at 9.30.


Doug’s place as Flight Engineer on this op’ was taken by the squadron’s Engineering Section Leader, F/L Cowan, whose role included filling in for sick crew at short notice and occasional trips to stay operationally fit.

Aircrew were not at all keen to be replaced on op’s, one reason being that it increased the likelihood that the crew would not all finish their “tour” together.

Doug recalls: ”There was one Op. when the Chief Flight Engineer flew with our crew and I was left behind, much to my disgust, but when they came back they consoled me saying “It was OK Doug, we gave him a really hard time” ‘.

* ND801 JN-X “Get Sum Inn” or “Astra” was the Lancaster that Johnny had flown in on his Second Dickey op’ – she had lost an engine on the way to Dortmund, continued on to bomb, but badly undershot the runway on return and ploughed into a chicken shed and baker’s van – more about her demise here, including photos: https://75nzsquadron.wordpress.com/tag/lancaster-mk-iii-nd801-jn-x/


The next four days were wet and uneventful – an op’ was briefed but then cancelled on the 5th.

Highlights for Gerry were a Sgt’s Mess dance, taking a WAAF called Betty out to a show and receipt of a parcel of underwear from his brother Doug and a tin of shortbread from his sister-in-law Fermie back home! The shortbread was duly shared around the crew …

Betty was his dance partner and features often in Gerry’s diary. An address for “Nurse Betty Armstrong” c/o Talbot Hospital, Timaru, NZ appears at the back of his diary, so is this her??

Thursday 8 February 1945.

Rose pretty early & did a D.I.
Stayed in the hut most of the day. May get off tonight. Went to bed at six, but didn’t sleep. Up at ten & had a meal at midnight.

9 February 1945. Night attack against Hohenbudberg.

Bomber Command Diary: Krefeld: 151 Lancasters of No 3 Group attacked the Hohenbudberg railway yards but photographic reconnaissance was unable to detect any new damage. 2 Lancasters lost.

75 Sq ORB: Twenty one aircraft were detailed to attack Lutskendorf, but the target was changed during the afternoon to Hohenbudberg. This operation was carried out in 8/10th cloud with tops about 10,000 feet. Flak was slight to moderate and searchlights effective. A scattered raid was reported.

Lancaster I LM276 AA-S “Sugar
Up 03:48 Down 08:31

F/O Wood, J. NZ426235, Captain (19) 
F/S Pauling, J. NZ422976, Nav 
F/S Hooper, N., A/B 
F/S Newey, G. NZ425285, WO/Air 
Sgt Williamson, D., F/Eng
F/S Cash, A. R147817, MU/Gnr 
F/S Sparrow, R. R263518, R/Gnr

Bomb Load 1 x 4000 lb H.C, 9 x 500 lb ANM, 4 x 250 lb G.P.

Gerry’s diary: Light flak & few searchlights. Good results observed through holes in clouds. Good fires.
Landed at 8.30 & went to bed. Slept until 5.30 then had tea. Took to Sutton. In bed again by 11.

Doug:

”The targets never looked dreadful, in fact they looked beautiful. They always had a wondrous look with the orange fires blazing below. Bright flashes from the photo flares recording a bombers aim. The Wanganui marker flares, red lights dripping green, suspended above the target. Little harmless-looking puffs of dirty brown smoke from the flak appeared in groups of five, which would certainly alarm the older and more aware aircrew.
 
There was a moment’s excitement as we approached our run in, the gush of air as the bomb doors opened, the bomb aimer’s commands over the intercom, then bombs away and off home to a hot cup of tea laced with navy rum, and breakfast of bacon and eggs.”

– The Nazi & The Luftgangster, by D. B. Williamson and Lutz Dille.
Mechanics working on the port-outer Merlin engine of 75 (NZ) Squadron C Flight Lancaster HK593 JN-X later that day, 9 February.
This was the replacement for ND801 “Get Sum Inn” which had crashed on return 6 days before this photo was taken.
Previously coded AA-H, HK593 was being prepared for its first op’ as JN-X on 13 February.
– IWM.

There were no op’s for the next three days, just more letters and parcels for Gerry, and taking Betty to two shows on camp.

Sunday 11 February 1945.

Not much doing during the day as the weather is poor. Foggy & misty with a drizzle.
Went into Ely with Johnny & saw Buzz.
Stayed in the Lamb until ten & took a taxi home.

The calm before the storm …

13/14 February 1945. Night attack against Dresden.

Did a D.I. on Dog & waited in the mess all morning. Had briefing & took off at 2150 for Dresden.

The squadron’s briefing that night included one by its Bombing Leader, F/L Grant Russell DFC, RNZAF, who describes it in his memoirs:

Six hours before our briefing, an unarmed, lively, Mosquito twin engined reconnaissance aircraft flew over the target area and obtained many photographs which, during the briefing, were projected onto a large screen for the bomber crews to see. The wide expanse of the city included extensive railway marshalling yards, with many railway wagons already connected into long trains.

One particularly clear shot was of a very long line of flat-topped railway wagons with each wagon supporting a military tank. Many of the long lines were of closed freight wagons. We could see no railway coaches suitable for troop movement. Intelligence however, stated that there were masses of armed troops billeted both within and near the city. 

The railway marshalling yards at Dresden were laid out like a huge letter’ Y ‘ and the junction of the members of the letter Y was given as our aiming point.

“Dying For Democracy”, by G. A. Russell DFC.

History has questioned the morality of Operation Thunderclap and the infamous Dresden raid, but clearly the crews were focused on the military aspects of their target. Their bomb loads did include incendiaries however, so fires were part of the plan to create chaos on the ground.

The Wood crew, flying Dog, led the squadron off that night.

75(NZ) Squadron’s aircraft were in the second wave to attack the city; 8 Group Pathfinders marking the target and 529 Lancasters from 1, 3, 6 and 8 Groups dropping more than 1,800 tons of bombs with great accuracy.

75 Sq ORB: Twenty aircraft attacked Dresden as detailed. Very slight heavy flak was the only opposition. The first aircraft over the target reported thin cloud which had cleared for later aircraft. Some aircraft were able to bomb visually. Crews reported the whole town well alight and could see the glow of fires when 100 miles away on return. A highly successful raid.

Lancaster I HK601 JN-D “Snifter”
Up 21:52 Down 06:44

F/O Wood, J. NZ426235, Captain (20) 
F/S Pauling, J. NZ422976, Nav 
F/S Hooper, N., A/B 
F/S Newey, G. NZ425285, WO/Air 
Sgt Williamson, D., F/Eng
F/S Cash, A. R147817, MU/Gnr 
F/S Sparrow, R. R263518, R/Gnr

Bomb Load 1 x 4000 lb H.C, 3 x 750 No. 15 cluster, 1 x 500 No. 17 cluster.

Captain’s remarks: Primary target Dresden. Master Bomber not heard but attacks seemed good. Glow in sky seen from 140 miles on return.

Gerry’s logbook entry: Good trip & we made a real mess of the city. Plenty of big fires. A nine hour trip.

Gerry’s logbook entry for the Dresden op’.
– Gerry Newey collection, thanks to Phil & Bruce Newey.

Three days later, Gerry mentions that they were shown photos of the damage: “Saw photos of Dresden. It’s a real mess, just a heap of rubble.


The boys were back on the Battle Order the very next day.

Battle Order Chemnitz, 14/15 February 1945
– Stan Davies collection.

14/15 February 1945. Night attack against Chemnitz.

Bomber Command Diary: 499 Lancasters and 218 Halifaxes of Nos 1, 3,4,6 and 8 Groups to continue Operation Thunderclap. 8 Lancasters and 5 Halifaxes lost. This raid took place in two phases, 3 hours apart. A very elaborate diversion plan succeeded in keeping bomber casualties down but Chemnitz – now called Karl-Marx-Stadt – was also spared from the worst effects of its first major RAF raid. Both parts of the bomber force found the target area covered by cloud and only skymarking could be employed. Post-raid reconnaissance showed that many parts of the city were hit but that most of the bombing was in open country.

75 Sq ORB: Twenty one aircraft were detailed to attack Chemnitz. Nineteen attacked primary. AA-J P/O R. J. Pearson, returned early through engine failure. Cloud was ten tenths with tops 16-17000 feet over the target. Aircraft bombed with the aid of special equipment. No results were observed, very slight heavy flak was met over the target. AA-D, captained by F/L G. S. Davies failed to return*.

Lancaster I HK601 JN-D “Snifter”
Up 20:30 Down 04:15

F/O Wood, J. NZ426235, Captain (21) 
F/S Pauling, J. NZ422976, Nav 
F/S Hooper, N., A/B 
F/S Newey, G. NZ425285, WO/Air 
Sgt Williamson, D., F/Eng
F/S Cash, A. R147817, MU/Gnr 
F/S Sparrow, R. R263518, R/Gnr

Bomb Load 1 x 4000 lb H.C, 3 x No. 15 cluster, 2 x ANM No.17 cluster.

Captain’s remarks: Primary target Chemnitz. On broadcast winds received navigation was believed accurate, but there were no markers seen on ETA, overshot target by 2 minutes then did an orbit and saw incendiaries burning, and a green T.I. Master Bomber not heard. Very poor effort.

Gerry’s diary:  Not a very good attack I’m afraid. Too much cloud. 8 hrs 50 mins.

F/L Stan Davies DFC, RNZAF
* Stan Davies and his crew had arrived at Mepal on the same day as Johnny and the boys. Stan was a cousin of the squadron’s previous CO, W/C Ray Newton who had been killed on the Vohwinkel op’ on the 1st of January.

For the Chemnitz op’ he and his crew had been nominated as an H2S (navigational radar) leader so had to ‘borrow’ NG113 AA-D, not their regular kite.

North of Karlsruhe a fire had developed in the starboard wing, possibly from a broken oil line, and unable to feather the prop or put out the fire, the crew all baled out successfully.

Three weeks later, three of the crew were on their way to a PoW camp when their train was strafed by an Allied fighter. A flak carriage attached to the train fired back, and a second fighter attacked, it’s cone of fire hitting one of the PoW carriages and killing 25 RAF and USAAF prisoners, including Stan’s bomb aimer F/Sgt Henry Edward Chalmers RAFVR. Stan and his navigator, F/Sgt Claude Greenhough RNZAF, in the adjacent carriage, were unharmed.

Stan was liberated on 29 April, survived the war, returned to New Zealand on the “Andes”, married, raised a family and went on to play a key role in South Auckland / Manukau City local government. He passed away on 12 July 2016 aged 93.

– Ake Ake Kia Kaha.

Thursday 15 February 1945.

Landed at 5.30 from last night’s trip & went straight to bed. Slept all day.
Went to a show with Betty.


16 February 1945. Daylight attack against Wesel.

Bomber Command Diary: 100 Lancasters of No 3 Group and 1 Mosquito of No 8 Group attacked the town of Wesel on the Rhine, near the fighting area. No aircraft lost. The raid took place in clear conditions and the town and the railway were seen to be smothered in bomb bursts.

75 Sq ORB: Twenty one aircraft attacked Wesel as detailed. Slight accurate heavy flak was encountered over the target but no night fighters were seen. A concentrated raid was reported.

Lancaster I HK600 JN-K “Kiwi”
Up 12:36 Down 17:56

F/O Wood, J. NZ426235, Captain (22) 
F/S Pauling, J. NZ422976, Nav 
F/S Hooper, N., A/B 
F/S Newey, G. NZ425285, WO/Air 
Sgt Williamson, D., F/Eng
F/S Cash, A. R147817, MU/Gnr 
F/S Sparrow, R. R263518, R/Gnr

Bomb Load, 1 x 4,000 lb H.C, 7 x 500 lb ANM, 2 x 500 lb M.C, 4 x 250 lb G.P.

Captain’s remarks: Primary target Wesel. Very satisfactory. A balloon was seen to rise from the target area.

Gerry’s diary: Clear skies & excellent results observed. Light flak today but a nice short trip.
Took Betty to the camp show.


Saturday 17 February 1945.

Poor weather  keeps the outfit on the ground. A number of Halifax’s landed here today as they couldn’t make their own base. Hugh Young was among them.
Went into Ely with Skip & saw Buzz. Met Johnny at 9 in the Lamb. Went to a dance but left at 11 as it was crowded & steaming hot.
Took a taxi home.

Sunday 18 February 1945.

We weren’t on the Battle Order today so we had a pretty easy time. The Sqdn took another crack at Wesel.
Went down to Sutton with Betty during the evening.
On the Battle Order for tomorrow.

75(NZ) Squadron aircraft on their way to Wesel, early 1945.
– NZ Bomber Command Assn archives, Ed Ware collection.

19 February 1945. Daylight attack against Wesel.

Up at the section at 9.15 & did a D.I. on Mike. Took off at 1330 for Wesel.

Bomber Command Diary: 168 Lancasters of No 3 Group carried out a good attack with the best concentration of bombs being in the railway area. 1 Lancaster lost.

75 Sq ORB: Twenty one aircraft were again detailed to attack Wesel. AA-J, captained by F/S Lukins, B. L. returned early through engine trouble. Cloud was 7 – 10/10ths with some haze. A few crews were able to identify the river bend. Bombing appeared to be accurate. Very slight heavy flak was the only opposition.

Lancaster I RF129 JN-M
Up 13:26 Down 18:45

F/O Wood, J. NZ426235, Captain (23) 
F/S Pauling, J. NZ422976, Nav 
F/S Hooper, N., A/B 
F/S Newey, G. NZ425285, WO/Air 
Sgt Williamson, D., F/Eng
F/S Cash, A. R147817, MU/Gnr 
F/S Sparrow, R. R263518, R/Gnr

Bomb Load 1 x 4,000 lb H.C, 10 x 500 lb ANM, 3 x 250 lb G.P

Captain’s remarks: Primary target Wesel. Perhaps a bit strung out.

Gerry’s diary: 8/10 cloud over the target so we didn’t observe any results except for a little smoke coming up through the clouds.
Landed at 1845 & stayed in the hut during the evening. Went to bed early.


20/21 February 1945. Night attack against Dortmund.

Bomber Command Diary: 514 Lancasters and 14 Mosquitos of Nos 1, 3, 6 and 8 Groups attacked Dortmund in Bomber Command’s last large-scale raid on this target. 14 Lancasters lost. The intention of this raid was to destroy the southern half of Dortmund and Bomber Command claimed that this was achieved.

75 Sq ORB: Ten aircraft attacked Dortmund as detailed. AA-E captained by F/L Abrahams returned early through engine failure. Cloud was 9 – 10/10ths, tops 5 – 6,000 feet. Some moderate heavy flak was met over the target. No fighters were seen. Crews reported seeing many small fires. A successful raid was reported.

Lancaster I NG448 JN-P
Up 21:57 Down 03:27

F/O Wood, J. NZ426235, Captain (24) 
F/S Pauling, J. NZ422976, Nav 
F/S Hooper, N., A/B 
F/S Newey, G. NZ425285, WO/Air 
Sgt Williamson, D., F/Eng
F/S Cash, A. R147817, MU/Gnr 
F/S Sparrow, R. R263518, R/Gnr

Bomb load, 1 x 2,000 lb H.C, 11 x 750 lb clusters, 5 x 500 lb cluster, 1 x Monroe.
(So what was the logic of mixing incendiaries and propaganda pamphlets in the same bomb load??!)

Primary target Dortmund. Glow seen for 15 minutes from target.

Gerry’s diary: Flak was only moderate when we got there & 10/10 cloud helped a bit. Plenty of fighters about. Saw a couple but they didn’t see us. Saw a few combats. Not very eventful but rather an easy trip on the nerves.


Wednesday 21 February 1945.

The crew had worked another month and now had six days leave.

This time Gerry headed off on his own, to stay with his ‘adopted’ family, the Buckleys in Wellingborough.

Off the Battle Order for today. So when I could get time off I collected my gear for a good getaway tomorrow for six days leave.
Stayed in during the evening.

Thursday 22 February 1945.

Put on my best blue this morning & went to pay parade at 11.30.
After lunch I left for Cambridge. Got a lift in a car half way there & in a truck the rest of the way. Took the 2 train to Wellingborough. Arrived at Buckleys at 6. Went out with Mr & Mrs Buckley to see some of the folks down town.

Gerry, England, 1944/45
– Gerry Newey collection, thanks to Phil & Bruce Newey.

From there he trained to Warrington (Mabel), Widnes (the Weats) and Birmingham. catching up with Jack at a dance at the Casino Ballroom, then on to The Stork pub. He met a (female) Canadian Lieutenant called Marly (“Not bad”) who was an ENSA show performer and took her out, having “a pretty fair time”.

Wednesday 28 February 1945

On the Wednesday he headed down to London, met up with Johnny and Jack and had a walk around the town. Then they caught the train back to Ely and Base.  “Feeling very tired & glad to make camp.”

PREVIOUS: January 1945

NEXT: March 1945