March 1945

1 March 1945. “Air Test”.

The boys are on a trip today so there’s not much for us to do. Did an air-test with “Freddie” during the afternoon.

Gerry’s logbook records a 20 minute “air test” in Lancaster JN-F (NG322), piloted by Sqd/Ldr Jack Bailey.

An air test was a test flight of a new or newly repaired aircraft, to ensure that it could participate in operations. Air tests were not always recorded in the logbook. The crew had just returned from leave, which was usually granted every six op’s or so. Perhaps, with the expectation that this would be their last leave before completing the final seven op’s of their tour, “Paddy” Bailey was giving them a boost before their run into the “home straight”.

S/L Jack Bailey DFC*
– NZBCA archives, Ron Baker collection.

Squadron Leader Jack Bailey DFC was the Commanding Officer of C Flight, on his second tour of operations with the squadron.

His usual Lancaster NE181, JN-M “The Captain’s Fancy” was the only Lancaster in 75(NZ) Squadron to make the “ton” – Bailey had taken her on her 100th op’ to Krefeld on 29th January.

More about S/L Bailey and “The Captain’s Fancy” here.

While the boys were now approaching the usual number of 30 non-aborted operational sorties (op’s) required to complete a tour of duty, some time in early 1945 the authorities raised the number to 35, or possibly even higher – Gerry notes in his diary in April that the “number has been put down to 35”. We don’t know the rationale for this, but it could have been due to the less-dangerous nature of op’s as Allied advances meant less time over enemy-held territory, or perhaps it was to reduce the chances of inexperienced “sprog” crews being lost unnecessarily in the closing weeks of the war.

Whatever the reason, it must have been quite dispiriting for the boys, thinking they only had a few op’s to go, to be told that actually they would have to do five more.

Top photo: Lancasters of 75 (NZ) Squadron ‘C’ Flight queue up for take-off, Mepal, March 1945. Nearest is PB820, JN-V.
– NZBCA archives, Ron Mayhill collection.


2 March 1945. Daylight attack against Cologne.

Bomber Command Diary: 858 aircraft – 531 Lancasters, 303 Halifaxes, 24 Mosquitos – raided Cologne in 2 waves. 6 Lancasters and 2 Halifaxes were lost and 1 Halifax crashed in Belgium. The first raid was carried out by 703 aircraft and the second by 155 Lancasters of No 3 Group. In the second raid, however, only 15 aircraft bombed, because the G-H station in England was not working correctly. The main raid was highly destructive, with the Pathfinders marking in clear weather conditions. This was the last RAF raid on Cologne, which was captured by American troops 4 days later.

75 Sq ORB: Twenty aircraft were detailed to attack Cologne. No aircraft bombed owing to special equipment failure. Three aircraft jettisioned due to flak damage to engines, the remainder bringing their bombs back. F/Off Woodcock was wounded in the neck and his engineer F/Sgt Gibb, in the legs but landed safely at Base.

Lancaster I HK601 JN-D “Snifter”
Up 13:17 Down 18:40

F/O Wood, J. NZ426235, Captain (25) 
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 8,000 lb H.C, 8 x 500 lb M.C.

Captain’s remarks: Abortive. G. H. Leaders did not bomb. No ground detail seen in the target area. Some aircraft ahead were seen to release.

Note: HK601 is recorded as having been damaged on this op’, receiving two flak strikes (Bomber Command ORS AIR14:3463, Summaries of Aircraft Lost and Damaged on Operations), however she flew again two days later.

Gerry’s diary: G-H went haywire so we couldn’t bomb. Flak was light but very accurate. ”K”, “Z” each lost an engine. One kite lost two. Engineer in “K” wounded. Jettisoned 4 – 500 lbs & brought 10,000 lb back, including 8,000 lb cookie.
Stayed in & wrote letters.

View over Cologne, earlier that day, 2 March 1945.

3 March 1945.

Up at 3AM. for another briefing. We had a stand down from noon to midnight.
Went in & saw Buzz in the afternoon & later went to the dance.
The Huns were over tonight to do a spot of strafing & bombing.

4 March 1945. Daylight attack against Wanne-Eickel.

Bomber Command Diary: 128 Lancasters of No 3 Group carried out a G-H attack through cloud on Wanne-Eickel (the Krupp Treibstoffwerke oil refinery). No results were seen.

75 Sq ORB: Eighteen aircraft were detailed to attack Wanne Eickel. JN-P F/O D. Barr returned early through engine failure. Crews bombed with the aid of special equipment in 10/10ths cloud. No results were seen but crews were satisfied that it was a good attack. Slight to moderate heavy flak was experienced.

Lancaster I HK601 JN-D “Snifter”
Up 10:00 Down 14:33

F/O Wood, J. NZ426235, Captain (26) 
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 8,000 lb H.C, 8 x 500 lb M.C.

Captain’s remarks: Primary target Wanne Eickel. Very good tight formation.

Gerry’s diary: Five hr. trip with not much excitement although what little flak there was was pretty accurate.
Took Betty to the station dance & had a pretty fair time made bed by 1230. Hun planes over again.


5 March 1945. Daylight attack against Gelsenkirchen.

Bomber Command Diary: 170 Lancasters of No 3 Group carried out a G-H attack on the Consolidation benzol plant at Gelsenkirchen. No results were seen. 1 Lancaster lost.

75 Sq ORB: Twenty one aircraft were detailed to attack Gelsenkirchen. AA-? F/S Lukins was withdrawn. AA-W F/L Parker and JN-X F/O Cleminson returned early through engine trouble. The remainder found the target obscured by 10/10ths cloud, with tops 15,000 feet. Aircraft bombed on special equipment. Leaders had a good run in and there was a good concentration at this time. Aircraft were met by slight heavy flak on outward route. No fighters were seen.

Lancaster I HK601 JN-D “Snifter”
Up 10:51 Down 16:01

F/O Wood, J. NZ426235, Captain (27) 
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 8,000 lb H.C, 8 x 500 lb ANM.

Captain’s remarks: Primary target Gelsenkirchen. No results seen but formation not so tight as last raid owing to poor visibility.

Gerry’s diary: A 5 hr. trip with cloud up to 20,000 ft over the target. Not much flak, but hell those Huns are getting more accurate every day.
One chap wounded. Saw a kite spin out of control over France, the only one I saw go down today.
Stayed in at night.


6 March 1945.

Nothing doing all day except a D.I. in the morning.
Went to the station dance & took Betty.
Was standing by till midnight to put window in 7 kites that we are operating. The Radar boys did it so I went to bed at midnight after seeing Betty up to the site.

7/8 March 1945. Night attack against Dessau.

Did a good D.I. on Dog as there is a night trip on.
Briefed at 3PM & took off early for Dessau in Eastern Germany.

Bomber Command Diary: 526 Lancasters and 5 Mosquitos of Nos 1, 3, 6 and 8 Groups raided Dessau. 18 Lancasters lost, 3.4 per cent of the force. This was another devastating raid on a new target in Eastern Germany with the usual town centre, residential, industrial and railway areas all being hit.

75 Sq ORB: Thirteen aircraft attacked Dessau as ordered. Aircraft bombed in 10/10ths haze and thin cloud. Crews were given instructions by Master Bomber to bomb Skymarkers but some were able to make out T.I.’s and in two cases identify the street. Fires were burning over a wide area when aircraft left the target. Flak practically nil in the target area. Some enemy aircraft were seen and AA-S F/L Spilman had a short inconclusive encounter. A satisfactory operation.

Lancaster I HK601 JN-D “Snifter”
Up 17:23 Down 02:14

F/O Wood, J. NZ426235, Captain (28) 
F/S Evenden, W., 2nd Pilot
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 500 lb ANM, 4 x 750 lb clusters No.15, 7 x 500 lb cluster No.14

Primary Target Dessau.

Possible good attack.

Note: F/Sgt Bill “Tubby” Evenden, RAF, who had arrived at Mepal with his crew on 2 March, was on his “second dickey” pilot’s familiarisation trip. More about the Evenden crew here.

Gerry’s diary: An 8 hr.50 min trip with plenty of fighters around. Went within 40 miles of Berlin. Landed at a little after 2 am.


9 March 1945.

Slept all day & got up for tea.
Saw Bob Bawden to arrange his wedding which is coming off tomorrow. Retired early.

Note: F/Sgt Robert Samuel Bawden, RNZAF, NZ4212629, Mid Upper Gunner with the Sadgrove crew. Bob came from Dairy Flat, not far from Greenhithe, so it’s probable that Gerry knew him from back home.

10 March 1945. Daylight attack against Gelsenkirchen Buer.

The crew is on the Battle Order for today but a spare W/Op is flying in my place as I’m going to Ely to be a witness at Bob’s wedding.

Bomber Command Diary: 155 Lancasters of No 3 Group carried out a G-H attack on the oil refinery at Scholven/Buer. Photographs taken later showed this to have been a very accurate and effective raid. No aircraft lost.

75 Sq ORB: Twenty one aircraft attacked Gelsenkirchen as detailed. Aircraft bombed in tight formation and all bombs were dropped together. Cloud was ten tenths. Slight heavy flak was encountered.

Lancaster I HK601 JN-D “Snifter”
Up 12:40 Down 17:22

F/O Wood, J. NZ426235, Captain (29) 
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

* A spare W/Op took Gerry’s place, but the ORB does not give us his name.

Bomb Load 1 x 4,000 lb H.C, 14 x 500 lb ANM.

Captain’s remarks: Target Gelsenkirchen Buer. Good close formation.

Gerry’s diary: Bob married at 12.30 then we had a dinner at the Lamb hotel. Betty & I went to a show after having our photos taken with Bob & Jenny. Caught the 10 bus home & spent a little time in the mess. In bed at 12.30.


Delayed take-off, Mepal. For security reasons briefed aircrew must remain with their aircraft, but are allowed to relax on the grass.
– From Dying For Democracy, F/L G. A. Russell, DFC.

11 March 1945. Daylight attack against Essen.

Bomber Command Diary: Seeking to cut off the vital German supply lines 1,079 aircraft – 750 Lancasters, 293 Halifaxes, 36 Mosquitos – of all bomber groups attacked Essen. This mission is recorded historically as the second largest bombing attack of the Second World War, the largest number of aircraft sent to a target at that point in the war, and surpassed only by the following nights 1,108 plane attack on Dortmund. The enormous numbers of allied aircraft that were involved formed a bomber stream that was reported by Air Force veterans who took part to be some eight miles long and some five miles wide. 3 Lancasters lost.

4,661 tons of bombs were dropped on Oboe-directed skymarkers through complete cloud cover. The attack was accurate and this great blow virtually paralysed Essen until the American troops entered the city on April 10th. This was the last RAF raid on Essen, which had been attacked so many times, though often in the early years of the war with such disappointing and costly results. Most of the city was now in ruins. 7,000 people had died in air raids. The pre-war population of 648,000 had fallen to 310,000 by the end of April 1945; the rest had left for quieter places in Germany.

75 Sq ORB: Twenty one aircraft were again detailed for operations, this time against Essen. Very slight heavy flak was the only opposition. Cloud was 10/10ths. A gradual blackening of the cloud tops was all that could be seen.

Lancaster I NG322 JN-F, “F-Fox
Up 11:56 Down 17:14

F/O Wood, J. NZ426235, Captain (30) 
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, 14 x 500 lb ANM.

Gerry’s diary: The biggest daylight effort I’ve seen on one target. The sky was filled with kites from horizon to horizon & they all passed over Essen in 25 mins. The flak had been beaten down by the time we arrived. About 5000 tons dropped. A good trip without any excitement apart from the gigantic armada.
Stayed in & washed some gear.


12 March 1945.

Not on the Battle Order for today & there isn’t much to do.
Stayed in during the evening.

13 March 1945.

The boys are out again today but we’re not on the list so as yesterday we had nothing to do.
The W/Ops had a fair beat up in Sutton at the Royal Arms. Old Flip (?) swallowed his false teeth & finished up in Ely hospital.

14 March 1945.

The boys went out again today & lost one a/c over the target & another crash landed at Woodbridge. Parsons & crew lost over the target which must have been pretty hot as all the kites were holed.
Stayed in at night.

15 March 1945.

We were on the Battle Order but it was scrubbed but for why I don’t know.
Went to the camp show & took Betty. Not a bad show. In bed by 11.30.

75 (NZ) Squadron RAF, Mepal, near Ely, Cambridgeshire, 15 March 1945. Wing Commander “Mac” Baigent, O/C, centre front, seated.
Gerry and Ralph are directly below the two circles in the nose of the Lancaster, with Johnny, Jim, Doug and Jack Pauling alongside.
– IWM
Close-up of the photo above – Jack Cash not identifiable?
75 (NZ) Squadron, “C” Flight aircrew. Thought to be taken the same day as the photo above, 15 March 1945.
C Flight Commanding Officer S/L Jack Bailey, centre front, hands together.
Gerry is on the left end of the second row (standing), Doug is second from the right end of the same row (hat-less),
with Jack Pauling 3rd from the end, and Jim Hooper behind Doug, 2nd from the end, back row. Johnny Wood is 6th from the right end, front row.
_ Doug Williamson collection.

16 March 1945.

We were supposed to fly but the weather over the continent is bad so it was scrubbed.
Stayed in & wrote a couple of air letters. There’s a trip on in the morning.

17 March 1945. Daylight attack against Auguste Viktoria, Hüls.

Bomber Command Diary: 167 Lancasters of No 3 Group carried out G-H attacks through cloud on benzol plants at Dortmund and Hüls. Both raids appeared to be accurate. No aircraft lost.

75 Sq ORB: Nineteen aircraft took off to attack the Auguste Viktoria Benzol Oil Plant. Cloud and vapour trails limited visibility to 50 yards over the target, but the aircraft remained in tight formation and bombs were released together. No results were seen. Opposition was slight heavy flak.

Lancaster I HK601 JN-D “Snifter”
Up 12:03 Down 17:03

F/O Wood, J. NZ426235, Captain (31) 
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, 13 x 500 lb ANM, 1 x Monroe.

Captain’s remarks: Primary Target – Augusta Viktoria. Formation good until we hit cloud about 1/2 hour before target, which continued on right up to target.

Gerry’s diary: Met light flak but bombed through 10/10 cloud.
Landed at 1700 hrs & were told that we had to take the transport at 7.30 for Feltwell where we are to do a five day course on G.H. bombing.
Stopped at Littleport for about half an hour & finally reached Feltwell at 10.
Found our quarters quite easily as we spent 2 weeks there once bef
ore*.

* During Lancaster conversion training, Lancaster Finishing School (3LFS), Feltwell, the previous November. The School had been closed down due to improved Lancaster availability and the imminent end of the war in Europe. It had been replaced by a G-H Training Flight, schooling aircrews in the use of this advanced radar technology with a view to the longer-range navigational requirements of Tiger Force and the expected bombing offensive against Japan.

G-H equipment was to be standard on 3 Group’s Lancasters, but 75 (NZ) Squadron was still in the installation process; not all aircraft were fitted with it yet. The Flight operated eight Lancasters, with “MU” codes, to provide air G-H training to 3 Group crews, to complement classroom and ground simulator training.


18 March 1945. G-H training, Feltwell

Started lectures this morning. Mostly revision on radio theory & safety procedure. Did more theory in the afternoon.
Went down to the the “Oak”* & the “West End”** with the boys. In bed by
11.

* The Oak Hotel, junction of Oak Street, Wilton Road and Bell Street, Feltwell.
*
* The West End (pub), 43 Long Ln, Feltwell (still operating)

19 March 1945.

At lectures by 9.15. Have an instructor with 7 op’s in telling us how hard op’s were when he was operating. He’s definitely whacky.
More lectures during the afternoon & down to the village in the evening & retired at 12.

20 March 1945.

Our last day of lectures today. Had an exam first thing in the afternoon but didn’t get finished until 4.30.
Went to Southery* to a real barn dance. Bike tyre blew out & I made the trip home in a U.S. truck. Finally retired at 1 am.

* Southery village, 6.5 miles NW of Feltwell

21 March 1945.

Nothing doing all morning but we flew on G.H. photography at 2.15 for 2 ½ hrs.
Down to the Oak with the crew in the evening.
The weather for the past three days has been perfect.

22 March 1945. &

Had the morning off & flew for 2 ½ hrs in the afternoon on more photography.
There is a station dance on tonight. Went to the dance & had a pretty fair time.

The a/c codes recorded in Gerry’s logbook for these two “G.H. Photography” flights are MU-B and MU-C, G-H Training Flight Lancasters.

23 March 1945.

We’ve finished the course so have nothing to do today.
There’s a mess dance on & we all turned up looking pretty scruffy as we had packed our gear as we expected to leave for camp during the afternoon. Had a good time until the truck arrived at 9.30.
Arrived home with Raps (Ralph’s?) bike pretty badly beaten up.

The next four days were taken up with Daily Inspections and G-H Bombing training flights; the evenings at the pub with Jack and dancing with Betty. They were on the battle Order for the 28th:

28 March 1945.

After a very drawn out briefing the trip was cancelled.
Did some parachute drill in the afternoon & told not to leave camp during the night. Went to the camp cinema with Jack & Cash. ”Passage to Marseille”. Pretty fair show.

29 March 1945. Daylight attack against Salzgitter.

30TH TRIP Called at 6.15 & took off at 2.45 after the briefing had been put back 2 hrs. Went to Hallendorf. 11° E. Longest RAF daylight yet attempted.

Bomber Command Diary: 130 Lancasters of No 3 Group carried out a G-H raid on the Hermann Goering benzol plant at Salzgitter. No results were seen through the cloud. No aircraft were lost.

75 Sq ORB: Twenty one aircraft attacked Salzgitter as detailed. Cloud was ten tenths, tops up to 19,000 feet and thin cloud and contrails persisting above, reducing visibility to 500 yards. No results were observed and a scattered raid is reported. Flak moderate.

Lancaster I HK601 JN-D “Snifter”
Up 12:43 Down 19:10

F/O Wood, J. NZ426235, Captain (32) 
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, 1 Monroe.

Captain’s remarks: Primary target – Salzgitter. Formation lost owing to cloud. Bombed on first G.H. leader seen.

Gerry’s diary: 10/10 cloud up to 20,000 ft over the target. We bombed at 20 thou in cloud. Very poor attack I’m afraid. Flak moderate but very accurate. 56 Huns tried to intercept but the Mustangs kept them pretty well at bay.


30 March 1945.

All Kiwis collected in the briefing room @ 9.15 to hear a short talk by Hon Mr Holland*. He spoke on rehabilitation etc.
Nothing much doing for the rest of the day except that the crew were given the usual D.I.
Went to the show on the camp during the evening.


* Sydney George Holland, leader of the opposition National Party, and later Prime Minister of New Zealand.

“At the No. 75 Squadron, the airmen chatted with the visitors for three hours, plying Mr. Holland with questions until midnight. All their questions were about home, and Mr. Holland was surprised to find that their first 20 questions all had to with the licensing laws in New Zealand.

“What is going to be done about them?” was the main query, and it was emphasised that the New Zealanders do not want to return to conditions of “vertical drinking” in the Dominion, after having experienced “the more civilised” laws existing in England, where public houses are open on an average from 11.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m., and again from 5.50 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. The New Zealanders declared they wanted to see something of the same system introduced into New Zealand. ”

– Auckland Star, 5 April 1945.

31 March 1945.

We had another talk in the briefing room. This time it was the Winco’s turn & he gave us a general outline on what was to be done when peace is declared. He pleaded with us not to burn the camp down or wreck any kites.
Went to the station dance with Betty & had a pretty fair time. There is a pretty strong wind blowing today & the weather in general is cutting up.

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