An American friend of mine was passing through London yesterday so I took him to the Imperial War Museum (I don't need much of an excuse...). Had a great couple of hours going through the exhibits.
On the first floor is the forward fuselage of Lancaster Mk I DV732 'Old Fred' which flew with No. 467 Squadron RAAF as PO-F.
The rear of the fuselage gives a really good look at the wireless operator's position - where ED559's Australian W/Op Harry Riding would have been positioned. Just beyond this in the seat for the navigator (Errol Clifton). Unfortunately you can't get to look into the cockpit to see the skipper's (Richard Curle) and flight engineer's (David Hart) position clearly. From the front you get a good look at the bomb aimer's position (Charles Challoner).
I saw on a Facebook post today that the first stones for the Ribbon of Remembrance at the International Bomber Command Centre have been made. Remarkably, the stone I ordered was amongst the photos shared. Can't wait to see this in place at the centre one day.
More info on the Ribbon of Remembrance
I was incredibly fortunate to learn that the International Bomber Command Centre was having one of its infrequent open days today. I popped along and took some photos. The IBCC will not open fully until December 2017 with an official opening on April 12 2018 (the 100th anniversary of the RAF).
They have installed the main spire and the names of those service people that died flying from Lincoln airfields (including the crew of ED559); further walls including the names of service personel flying from other airfields both in Britain and elsewhere will follow.
Around the spire trees have been planted (spaced to follow the position of each airfield relative to one another) for the 28 airfields that were active within Lincolnshire. The Chadwick Centre is still being built.
I look forward to returning in the future when it has been completed.
Below are pictures of the names of ED559's crew.
I learned that similar names are separated by three digits (the last three numbers of the person's service number). I also met three veterans and obtained a signed print of a Lancaster. It was great chatting to them - I could have chatted all day but other people were waiting to meet them.
Located at Waltham Windmill is a small museum and exhibition dedicated to the men and women that served at RAF Grimsby (Waltham) both during and after the Second World War.
Though small it has lots of information, photos and items displayed. ED559 is commemorated on the loss board. There is also a diaorama of the airfield during the war.
I was visiting Lincolnshire and managed to drop in on the former airfield at RAF Grimsby (known as Waltham to all those who served there during the war). There's not a great deal left on the site, a few buildings, the former control tower and some weed-strewn sections of tarmac (both main runways and peritrack).
The main sign has been replaced at the entrance though.
Within a book I came across the actual battle order for ED559's operation. This gives additional detail on all the aircraft taking part in the operation.
I am once again indebted to Duncan Campbell who is related to Harry Riding (W/Op on ED559). He kindly shared a couple of photos he took when visiting the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
With a heavy heart I have to announce that my father and close friend of Richard Curle passed away on 19 December, 2016. He was a member of the generation that served when called. The freedoms and privileges we often take for granted were fought for and obtained by men and women like him. Some made the ultimate sacrifice, as the saying goes "All gave some, some gave all". Cheerio Pop
I came across this image of a crew outside their aircraft and saw what some comedian has written above the door... Few things make me laugh out loud but this did.
It's an amusing take on this WW2 poster that was posted at railway stations in an effort to prevent unnecessary travel.
During this year's Remembrance Sunday, the organisers of the IBCC Memorial site near Lincoln asked for submissions of the name and photo of aircrew lost from 1 Group. I sent them Richard Curle's photo and a short bio. Local schoolchildren then heard about each individual lost and placed a poppy by their name. The organisers were kind enough to send me the following photos.
When the memorial opens I'll pay a visit and place a poppy for each of ED559's crew.
"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them."
I was in Lincoln recently and I took this picture of the memorial spire on Canwick Hill. The spire (in the distance, dead centre) is part of the International Bomber Command Centre soon to open nearby. I also took a shot of Lincoln Cathedral at the same time (simply by turning around 90 degrees). The cathedral was a clear landmark for all bomber crews in the area.
In the Australian archives resides the diaries belonging to Errol Crapp, the navigator aboard ED559. Though I have not seen or read the actual diaries themselves they have been used in a long piece about about the experience of Australians in the UK during the war.
It's a detailed piece but definitely worth reading. There are some interesting insights into life on a bomber base. From rather poor ENSA shows, to bike tours around the local villages and church services. Most of the entries cover the period when Crapp was with No. 460 Squadron at Binbrook in the Autumn of 1942.
Read the article
Between 1942 and the end of the war in 1945, Bomber Command was tasked with the mining many areas around the coast of Europe - from Norway, to the Baltic Sea coast and all along the Atlantic coast.
ED559's target was the Bordeaux Estuary known as Deodars. Below is a list of the code names for other areas. The term ' Gardening Operation' was used for the 'sowing' of the sea mines but as can be seen below not every location has a theme based on trees and plants. A number were based on fish, there's one called 'Bottle' and the Channel Islands were 'Hostile Air' and 'Hostile Ozone'...
I recently came across clear photos of ED549 - a sister Lancaster to ED559 - and lost on the same first raid that 100 Squadron undertook on March 4/5 1943. You can make out the serial number but the aircraft has not yet had the JA-S painted on to the fuselage. ED549 crashed while attempting to land at Langar airfield due to poor weather at RAF Grimsby. Only the mid-upper gunner survived the crash.
Photo from IWM archive
I wonder if either of the two Lancasters in the background happen to be ED559... we'll probably never know.
73 years ago at precisely 18.38 hours the seven men that formed the crew of Lancaster ED559 took off from RAF Grimsby. They were never to return. We will remember.
During the evening of 19 May, 1942, a BBC sound recording team were in a Surrey garden to transmit live the song of nightingales. Part way through the recording 197 bombers started to drone over on a mission to Mannheim. Thinking that the aircraft could potentially alert the Germans to an impending raid, the live recording was stopped, but the live recording continued to capture the passing of the bombers. It's a haunting combination.
The raid involved 197 aircraft; 105 Wellingtons, 31 Stirlings, 29 Halifaxes, 15 Hampdens, 13 Lancasters and four Manchesters. 11 aircraft were lost; four Halifaxes, four Stirlings and three Wellingtons.
The aircraft recognition code for ED559 was JA-D. JA was the code for RAF Grimsby (Waltham) and 'D' was the individual letter ascribed to the Lancaster. Being 'D' the aircraft was therefore given the call sign 'Dog'.
The list of other phonetic call signs in circa 1943 was:
A : Apple
B : Baker
C : Charlie
D : Dog
E : Easy
F : Freddy
G : George
H : Harry
I : Item
J : Jig/Jug/Johnny
K : King
L : Love
M : Mother
N : Nuts
O : Oboe
P : Peter
Q : Queen
R : Roger/Robert
S : Sugar
T : Tommy
U : Uncle
V : Victor
W : William
X : X-Ray
Y : York/Yorker/Yoke
Z : Zebra
There appears to be individual changes to this list depending on the RAF station or commander. The Dambusters used a much changed list for the raid on the dams.
It's often the case that when something is right on your doorstep you never find (or make) time to visit it. Well, for me it was the Bomber Command Memorial at Hyde Park Corner. I'd been past on a bike once but couldn't stop, but today, as work was in a pre-Christmas dip I popped out at lunchtime and caught the Tube over. Possibly not the best day to visit as the weather was turning with drizzle in the air and the mild (almost tropical for London...) weather was abating as a westerly wind blew in.
I've seen it many times in pictures but it was a pleasure to see it up close. It's rather understated on the outside but I quite like that. It's a simple building but with an impressive centre piece of an aircrew about to go on ops. Each statue is well conceived and very poignant.
The statue sits on marble plinth inscribed with a quote from Pericles - "Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it."
I have recently been contacted by the grand-daughter of Richard Curle. Janine and her sister, Leslee, have sent me a number of photos and documents that have provided more information about Richard. There is the original telegram sent to Richard's wife, letters from the casualty branch regarding Richard's burial and family photos. I will be adding these to the website in due course. I wish to thank Janine for taking the time to contact me and send through these remarkable items.
There's not too much to be found regarding the experiences of crews whose target was the Gironde estuary, but I have come across the following in the book "Lancaster: The Second World War's Greatest Bomber" by Leo McKinstry. Norman Ashton, a flight engineer with 103 Squadron recalled the following after his Lancaster dropped from 16,000 feet to a little under 2,000 to drop sea mines and the German defences opened up:
"The whole aircraft seemed to be wrapped in the flashes, like an ungainly Guy Fawkes perched awkwardly on a flickering bonfire. It was fantastic. I could hear, feel and smell the filthy stuff belting against the aircraft but nothing untoward happened."
As soon as the sea mines had been released, he opened the Lancaster's engines to gain altitude and head home. McKinstry's recollections clearly show the danger a Lancaster faced when gardening the Gironde.
As mentioned on the Caterpillar Club page, several of the crew on ED559 had bailed out of a crippled Wellington the previous September. The bomb aimer on that op was Robert Herbert Chapman RAAF (412481). Chapman, aged 20, was later killed on Sunday, October 25, 1942 whilst a patient at the RAF Officers' Hotel in the requisitioned Park Hotel in Torquay, Devon.
I received today a copy of the magazine After The Battle, issue 118, which has a great article about the bombing of the hospital. The magazine and also the Commonwealth War Graves Commission both have Chapman as a member of 460 Squadron. I'll need to do some further digging to know why Chapman was at this squadron and not with the rest of the Wellington crew that had bailed out.
Possibly, Chapman was not the crews' regular bomb aimer (if not, who was, and why did he not stay with the crew when they went to convert to the heavies?) and it would be interesting to know why Chapman was at the hospital.
A small piece of info came to light today whilst reading a Bomber Command forum. All RAF stations were given a call sign. According to Code Book CD0270(3) (which came out in the Spring of 1944), Waltham's was "NAMETAB" (the majority of the call signs I have seen are all rather peculiar, but I assume this was to make them stand out more when heard). However, it does appear that the call sign for stations was periodically changed.
100 Squadron would also have had various call signs which were updated even more often it appears.
Crew memorialsI visited the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede to pay my respects to all airmen commemorated on the panels there. The six crew on ED559 who have no known grave are listed there.
As and when information is found I'll post to this blog.
|The last flight of Lancaster ED559|