The Ground Crew

Ground crew, C Flight Lancaster HK601, JN-D “Dog”

Thanks to Glynis Bakker we have a photo of the four members of Dog’s dedicated ground crew, names for three of them, and a whole lot of information about one of them, Dennis Jones, her Dad.

1737234 L.A.C. John Dennis Jones, RAF, Flight Mechanic Engines (FME, later F2E)
Sgt. Alan Rowe, RAF
Cpl Ron Schoefield, RAF

(unknown)

The Sam Wilson crew after they were tour expired on 21 November 1944, with the four members of HK601, JN-Dog’s ground crew. Dog behind.
Cpl Ron Schoefield 3rd from right, back row (eyes closed);
Unknown ground crew left, front row;
LAC Dennis Jones (FME) crouching at the front, centre, with Dog’s wheelblock;
Sgt Alan Rowe, far right front row.
– Dennis Jones collection, thanks to Glynis Bakker.

If anyone has information about Alan Rowe, Ron Schoefield or the guy at front left, please let us know, we would love to add them and their stories.

Top photo: Mechanics working on the port-outer Merlin engine of 75 (NZ) Squadron C Flight Lancaster HK593 JN-X at Mepal, 9 February 1945. L.A.C. Cyril Stone is probably one of the engine mechanics shown.
– IWM.

Ground crew, “C” Flight, 75 (NZ) Squadron RAF, Mepal.

L.A.C. Dennis Jones, Flight Mechanic Engines, C Flight, kept a remarkable collection of photos and memorabilia from his time with the squadron, 1944 – 45.  His daughter Glynis has kindly shared some of this material, and it preserves a rare record of the hard-working ground crews who kept 75 (NZ) Squadron RAF in the air.

 
Back in February 2017, I was following a thread on the 75 Squadron Assn. Facebook page about a RAF Mepal Christmas Dinner Menu from 1944, autographed by several C Flight ground crew. It was originally posted on the Wings Over New Zealand forum by a nephew of Tom “Mac”  McGibbon RAFVR 997826,  Flight Mechanic (Engines) who served with C Flight.

I had posted a second autographed menu from the same dinner, originally the property of another C Flight ground crew, Colin Penfold, and posted by his son Trevor on the since defunct Lancaster Archive Forum. Colin’s signature was on the first menu, and “Mac” McGibbon’s was on the second.

Intriguingly both menus included a name that seemed to be linked with HK601, JN-D “Dog”:

J.D. Jones (Jonah) JN-D. ”Snifter”

RAF Mepal 1944 Christmas Dinner Menu, front cover left, and inside autograph page (1).
– Colin Penfold collection, via LAF and Trevor Penfold.
Autograph pages from two other 1944 Christmas Dinner Menus: left (2) from the Dennis Jones collection, and right (3) Tom McGibbon collection (via Ronnie S., WONZ).

Glynis Bakker happened to look in at the thread while I was on it and spotted her father’s signature on both (Penfold and McGibbon) menus:

“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 75 NZ Squadron and wore his squadron badge on his jacket lapel until he died.”

Glynis’s Dad was the Flight Mechanic looking after Dog’s Merlin engines 70 years ago! At the same time as Gerry and Doug Williamson were flying her!

It was very special to make this connection, and to think that Dennis (aka. ‘Jonah’ or ‘Basher’) would have spent a lot of time discussing Dog’s four engines with Doug.

More about Dennis here.

Dennis had also kept an autographed copy of the Menu – (2) above, lower left.

Dennis’s menu is different to the other two, in that as well as groundies’ autographs, it is signed by four aircrew – pilots Doug St.C. Clement (at that time flying Lancaster PB820, JN-V “Vera”), Ron Flamank (JN-Z “Zebra”), and (C Flight Commander) Jack ‘Paddy’ Bailey (JN-M “Mike”, aka “The Captain’s Fancy”). Great to see the Flight Commander and pilots socialising with the ground crew over Christmas Dinner!  

Just below them, is the signature of Laurence “Shorty” Pettet, Australian Rear Gunner with the Sam Wilson crew. Shorty’s crew had regularly flown “Dog” (“Snifter”), Dennis’s kite, so Dennis knew him well.  Shorty had been tour-expired a month earlier, but must have come back to Mepal to enjoy the day with the boys.  

Another signature is LAC Fred Woolterton (ground crew for JN-M “Mike”, aka “The Captain’s Fancy”) , another FME and a good mate of Dennis’s – they signed up together.

– A little more about Fred Woolterton here: https://75nzsquadron.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/the-memoirs-of-jack-wall-part-13-ne181-the-captains-fancy/ 

– and here: https://75nzsquadron.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/leading-aircraftsman-fred-woolerton-jn-mike-groundcrew/

From this we have the names of three others in “Mike”‘s ground crew team:

Sgt Philips F2E
Cpl Kingjorn (?) F2A
LAC Taylor FME
LAC Pascoe FME

Dennis also had a captioned copy of another photo in Tom McGibbon’s collection – an informal group of some of the C Flight groundies whose autographs appear on the menus:

“May 1945” Back, L-R: Peter Rainbow, Cyril Stone, Colin Penfold, Gerry Tiller, Victor Smith. Sitting: Tom McGibbon, Bob Pirie. Front: Ron Stroud.
– Dennis Jones collection, via Glynis Bakker.

The arrival of the first new Lancasters on the 6th of March 1944 was a big occasion, and these next two photos were probably taken around that time – C Flight Commander S/L Ken Climie centre in both:

‘C’ Flight Ground Crew group photograph, taken between March and May 1945. L.A.C. Tom McGibbon far left, middle row. Possibly L.A.C. Colin Penfold, FME, 4th from right, middle row.
– Dennis Jones collection, via Glynis Bakker.
C Flight ground crew with one of the new Lancasters, LL888, JN-X, March-May 1944. Dennis seated fourth from left, front. – Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

Another wonderful photo shows ground crew with S/L Ken Climie’s successor as C Flight Commander, S/L “Nick” Williamson DFC, in a Lancaster bomb bay, thought to be HK563, JN-S (later re-coded JN-W), aka. “Paper Doll”, taken late June or July 44:

“1,000lb bombs loaded. Sqdn Ldr Williamson (“Nick”) and some of the boys in a Lancaster bomb bay.
L-R: “Brummie” Brown, Colin Pascall (Penfold), S/L Nick Williamson. In front Cpl Pilkinton, at rear, Sgt Reg Gay, Arthur Dean, & “Blondie”? Nick’s dog at his feet.”
– Dennis Jones collection, via Glynis Bakker.
Colin Penfold’s copy of this photo has this caption:
” Taken underneath the bomb bay of a Lancaster (S for Sugar) June 1944.
Left to Right. Brown, Colin Penfold, Sqd Ld Williamson, Sgt Gay, Dean, Jones, Cpl Daly.
P.S. Sqd Ld Williamson piloted the first Lancaster to land in France”


Another group photo, with some more names:

C Flight ground crew, Mepal in front of JN-coded Lancaster.  L-R, back: F/S Michell, Sgt Alan Rowe, unknown, unknown, Cpl. Nev Craig, unknown Sgt..
Front: Unknown Cpl, Cpl Pilkington, Cpl Ron Schoefield, unknown, unknown, Mike Masters.
– Dennis Jones collection, via Glynis Bakker.

So for C Flight ground crew we can list the following names:  

L.A.C. “Brummie” Brown
Cpl. Nev Craig
Cpl. Daly
L.A.C. Arthur Dean
Sgt Reg Gay
L.A.C. “Blondie” Jones
L.A.C. J.D. Dennis ‘Jonah’ Jones 1737234 (HK601, JN-D “Dog” aka “Snifter”)
Cpl Kingjorn (?) F2A (NE181, JN-M, “Mike” aka “The Captain’s Fancy”)
L.A.C. Mike Masters
L.A.C. Tom ‘Mac’ McGibbon 997826 (HK563, JN-W “Willie” aka “Paper Doll”),
F/S Michell
LAC Pascoe FME (NE181, JN-M, “Mike” aka “The Captain’s Fancy”)
L.A.C. Colin Penfold (NF981, JN-Y “Yorker”)
Sgt Phillips F2E (NE181, JN-M, “Mike” aka “The Captain’s Fancy”)
Cpl. Pilkington
L.A.C. Bob Pirie (HK554, JN-Z “Zebra”)
L.A.C. P.C. Peter Rainbow (HK597, JN-P, aka “Bad Penny IV”)
Sgt. Alan Rowe (HK601, JN-D “Dog” aka “Snifter”)
Cpl Ron Schoefield (HK601, JN-D “Dog” aka “Snifter”)
LAC Taylor FME (NE181, JN-M, “Mike” aka “The Captain’s Fancy”)
LAC Thompson ? (NE181, JN-M, “Mike” aka “The Captain’s Fancy”)
L.A.C. Victor Smith (PB820, JN-V “Vera”)
L.A.C. Cyril Stone (PB820, JN-V “Vera” and ND801, JN-X aka “Get Sum Inn”)
L.A.C. Roland ‘Ron’ Stroud (NG322, JN-F “Fox”)
L.A.C. Gerry Tiller (NN747, JN-O aka “Dogsbody Again”)
L.A.C. Fred Woolterton 1814705 (NE181, JN-M, “Mike” aka “The Captain’s Fancy”)  

And from Tom McGibbon’s photos and captions:  

Jack Bradford
George
Joe  

And three more ground crew signatures (not C Flight):  

L.? Patheyjohns? (NG113, AA-D)
Jack Shimmin (HK593, AA-H)
J. Welch (NG113, AA-D)

This next photo has a caption but sadly no names:

“Danger! Erks at Work. (Note “Joe’s” on trestles). ‘C’ Flight Armourers with 4,000lb ‘Cookie’.”
This photo appears to have been taken the same day as a Megson crew photo in Dennis’s collection, ie., between April and July 1944.
– Dennis Jones collection, via Glynis Bakker.

Dennis wrote, in “Aiming Point Walcheren; The Bombardment of Gun Emplacements and Strong Points, Walcheren Island, October 1944” :  

As one of the “Erks” whose only aim in life was to ensure ‘the elastic was tight on those four props’, we did not know , we didn’t ask, and we certainly were not told any details of a raid. It was a time when it was an all-out effort to keep the kites serviceable – you had great difficulty sorting out what day of the week it was. Some days they managed two op’s, and depending on the Flak damage, 36 hour shifts were nothing but ordinary. We just took it in our stride – that kite had to be serviceable – as a matter of pride.    

They worked to keep their kites in the air – day after day, night after night: 

Gerry Tiller’s JN-O, “Dogsbody Again”, on a daylight op’ with the River Rhine visible below, early 1945. Photo credited to F/S Stuart H. Richmond, NZ425433, A/B in the Robertson crew.
– NZBCA archives, Alan Scott collection.

And one last photo, the moment that the ground crews would look forward to after every op’, the safe return of their boys and their kites:

“75 NZ Sqdn. Just breaking formation on returning from a Daylight Op. Mepal 1945.”
– Dennis Jones collection, via Glynis Bakker.

Ake ake kia kaha.

Acknowledgements: Special thanks to Glynis Bakker, for permission to reproduce photos and material from the Dennis Jones collection.  Christmas Dinner menu pages (1) Colin Penfold collection via Trevor Penfold (Lancaster Archive Forum), (3) Tom McGibbon collection, via Ronnie S. (nordicul, WONZ). Extract from “Aiming Point Walcheren; The Bombardment of Gun Emplacements and Strong Points, Walcheren Island, October 1944”, by Paul M. Crucq (Vlissingen : ADZ, 2000). Air Force Museum of New Zealand. NZ Bomber Command Association archives, Alan Scott collection.