Category Archives: Background Information

488 (NZ) Squadron camera gun footage

The Imperial War Museum has added some web-accessible RAF Camera Gun footage to it’s online collection. The video, which can be found by following this link, has over 250 clips of 16mm cine “camera gun” film showing successful combats.

The collection includes 7 clips of 488(NZ) Squadron kills. The quality of the footage is understandably poor, and nothing like the shocking combat footage that we have been shown of more recent war zones. However, we must take into account the quality of the film itself; and the fact that all these combats were filmed in the dark. I believe that they do all add to the story of the Squadron.

For ease, I have listed the combats below, and referenced the time stamp on the video so that you can easily find the clip you are interested in. I should point out that the dates on the clips refer to the actual date of the combat which may differ to the dates quoted on this site. This is because my reference is the Squadron’s ORB which will record a victory on the day the pilot took off – therefore flights that span midnight may be a day out.

Timestamp Pilot Date
07:48 Sqn Ldr Bunting 14/iii/44
10:02 Fg Off Vlotman 22/iii/44
10:10 Flt Lt J Hall 22/iii/44
10:16 Sqn Ldr Bunting 22/iii/44
21:41 WO Bourke 19/iv/44
21:48 Flt Lt J Hall 19/iv/44
38:22 Flt Lt J Hall 15/v/44

 

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In memory of Sgt Jimmy Thornton

As we spend the day remembering and giving thanks to those who gave their lives in conflict, I thought it timely to share another poem that was included in my grandfather’s collection of war memorabilia.

As with the last poem I published, I am not sure of the author. It is unlikely that my grandfather was the author, as the poem makes reference to time spent in Canada and Harrogate. Broody was not stationed at either of these locations.

“Jimmy”

(In memory of Sgt Jimmy Thornton)

From forty one to forty three
We lived our lives as one.
We trained and talked, drank and walked.
Our lives were in the sun.

From Blackpool, Brid to Heaton Park
And Aston Down as well.
Each station brought us near our goal
‘Though some of it was hell.

Wintered in Canadian snows
Our brevets and tapes to earn.
Then back home to Harrogate
And still much more to learn.

Then the parting of the ways,
Our paths no more to cross.
From OTU to HCU
Then a crew for a squadron loss.

We flew, we fought by night and day
Our duty must be done
Without a thought for future years
Till the fight was won.

I tried to found out where you’d gone,
‘Gone missing ‘, so they said.
Then I found in later years
Your name among the dead.

Your name is now emblazoned
On Runnymede’s great wall
In letters clear of shinning gold
Your death reminds us all –

You lie in some forgotten field
Or in a watery grave.
Now I, who live, am humbled
By your young life you gave.

I’m sure you’ll agree this is a very moving piece of writing – a personal tribute from one airman to another who trained together and then went their separate ways to fight in the air war.

Some research of the CWGC database only lists one James Thornton as remembered on the Runnymede Memorial [Panel 277], a Sgt. James Dennis Thornton (1317255) of 36 Squadron.

For much of the war, 36 Squadron had been based in the Mediterranean and North African theatres, but in January 1945 the Squadron was flying Wellington Mk XIVs out of RAF Chivenor, on Anti-Submarine patrols with RAF Coastal Command.

The Squadron’s Operations Record Book for 24/i/45 reports that at 01:39, aircraft NB880 took off on patrol duty LV42. The crew for that flight were:

F/Lt Walter George Edward Becker (62695)
F/O Harry Edwin Hastings (189139)
F/Lt Stanley Walton (125847)
W/O Henry Thomas Large (1384700)
F/Sgt James Murray Smith Richie (656758)
Sgt James Dennis Thornton (1317255)

There is no “Down” time recorded in the ORB. The entry reads:

“This aircraft failed to return. F/Lt Becker and his crew are missing. Later reports state that a fire was seen at sea. P/407 sighted oil patches and wreckage (thought to be pieces of fabric) in position 5302N 0450W.”

(This is a position approximately 18 Nautical Miles SSW of RAF Valley on Anglesey)

Please spare some time today to remember, among the thousands of others, these 6 young men who have no grave except the Irish Sea and who gave their lives so we could have a better tomorrow.


New Biography Added – WRV Lewis (RAAF)

1 new Aircrew Biography is now available to see on this site. As a result of replying to a (very old) thread on the RAF Commands Forum, I discovered that the Australian National Archives had digitised – and made available for free – the service records of William Robert Vivian Lewis.

“Bob” was an Australian airman who spent 6 months with 488(NZ) squadron between September 1942 and March 1943. Bob had 2 further Operational Tours, both with 456 Squadron before returning to Australia in July 1945. He continued to fly after the war with various civil airlines.

You can read this latest biography here.

As ever, I would ask anyone with information relating to airmen of 488(NZ) Squadron to get in touch so  that further biographies can be added to serve both as useful historical research tools and of course lasting tributes to these brave men. It does not matter how much or how little information you have – I am more than happy to dig deeper if I get an interesting lead.


Squadron Aircrew List updated

I have just published an update to the Squadron Aircrew list. A few new Christian Names and Service Numbers have been added.

The page can be found here or by navigating through the 488(NZ) Squadron Research tab at the top of the page.

As always, if anyone has any corrections or additions to this list, I would be delighted to hear from you via the contacts page.


A Rear Gunner’s poem

I’m wandering slightly off topic now, but one of the items I found in my grandfather’s collection of wartime material was the following poem.

I know he didn’t write it, as it is the story of a Rear Gunner in heavies with Bomber Command. At any rate, rather than languishing in a box in Somerset, I felt it should be shared.

Please do feel free to reproduce the text or share this post (but please credit as appropriate). Maybe someone out there will recognise it as a poem their ancestor wrote.

A word of warning – this poem will transfer you back to a cramped rear-gunner’s turret in a heavy bomber some 70 years ago!

Another Op

Bumping down the runway
With the turret on the beam,
Flashing past well-wishers
Lit by the drem’s dull gleam.

The pulling of the stomach
As we slowly climb on track
Setting course to eastward –
How many will come back?

The clipped command to alter course
As we cross the Anglian shore,
Then extinguish navigation lights
As the engines increase their roar.

The throbbing of the engines
Disturbs the fading light
As onward, ever onward
We fly into the night.

Routine settles to a rhythm,
And those ‘up front’ dictate
The course, the speed, the height
And the passage of our fate.

Searching ever searching,
The turret turns to and fro,
Looking, always looking
For our enemy and foe.

The sound of throbbing engines
Envelopes our immediate night,
And the clammy taste of oxygen
As I adjust the dull ring sight.

A quiet statement from the Nav –
‘Enemy coast a head’,
The blood flows quicker thro’ the veins –
Our training stifles the dread.

Searching ever searching,
For that darker smudge of black.
Looking for the fighter
That could stop us getting back

The Nav again is heard to say
‘Target. Dead ahead’.
The tightening of the stomach
Is the only sign of dread

As a lonely, cold rear gunner
I always face the rear
And never see the target.
Till the aircraft’s there.

Flying ever closer, closer
To that awful scene.
Every nerve is strung so tight
You stifle the need to scream

The observer now takes full control
And by his directed call
Keeps the tingling nerves on edge
Till he lets the bomb load fall

With the sudden upward lift
We all expect the worst,
But heave a sigh of intense ‘relief
As the aircraft changes course.

Nose well down and increased speed
To escape from that dreadful sight.
We race across the crimson sky
To the safety of the night

As those up front now search the sky
For the fighter that lurks in the dark
While I at last see the target fires
Where we have left our mark.

 


RAF Zeals – 1944 Aerial Photograph found

On 04/v/44, 488(NZ) Squadron moved from RAF Bradwell Bay to RAF Zeals.

This move was covered in earlier posts, but I have just found an aerial photo of RAF Zeals dating from March 1944, only weeks before 488(NZ) Squadron arrived.

As a reminder, RAF Zeals is at Grid Reference ST 78018 32945, between the villages of Stourton and Mere, just off the A303. The photograph below shows how the airfield looked on 24/iv/44.

You can see the issues that 488(NZ) Squadron faced with the airfield – no proper runway, just a grass track. In his account of his D Day Patrol, Broody described the state of the airfield at Zeals:

“Zeals was a not too satisfactory grass airfield, close to Mere. One of its less attractive features was a roadway running across the main “runway” (i.e. the path outlined in the grass by runway lighting) which was showing a tendency to break up and throw pieces of debris at the tails of the aircraft. On taking off in a westerly direction, it was necessary to climb fairly hard to clear a ridge, which was succeeded by a valley, notorious for down-draughts, before another and higher ridge”

Aerial photograph of Zeals airfield looking south east, the control tower, technical site and blister hangars are at the top, 24 March 1944. Photograph taken by No. 544 Squadron, sortie number RAF/NLA/80. English Heritage (RAF Photography).

Aerial photograph of Zeals airfield looking south east, the control tower, technical site and blister hangars are at the top, 24 March 1944. Photograph taken by No. 544 Squadron, sortie number RAF/NLA/80. (Image Source – IWM / English Heritage – Original image at – http://www.americanairmuseum.com/media/6185)

Not much remains of the airfield today – it has returned to agricultural use – apart from the old control tower which has been converted into a private residence.

The site of RAF Zeals as it looks today. (Image from Google Earth)

The site of RAF Zeals as it looks today. (Image from Google Earth)

Please note that as the 1944 image was taken from an almost southerly aspect, I have also rotated the Google Earth image for better comparison.


The Broodbank Collection – Catalogue now available!

At long last, I have catalogued the various items in my grandfather’s collection. You can see a complete list of all archive material by following this link.

This is still a bit of a work in progress, as there are currently no links to images etc, but in time this page should allow researchers to view the material in my collection.

As ever, if you want to get in contact about this or any other page on the site, please use the Contact page.


New Biographies Added

2 new Aircrew Biographies are now available to see on this site. Both were made possible by individuals who stumbled across the site and made contact. The first contact was from the nephew of George Carcasson, a Navigator with the Squadron between September 1944 and March 1945. The original email contact said:

“Hello, I have just discovered your blog. George Carcasson was my uncle. I have his log book and it has been fun matching up the dates with the ones you have posted here.”

George’s nephew was in possession of lots of resources including his logbook and many photographs. The logbook was of particular interest, as George had recorded the aircraft he flew in by the Tail Code, and not the Serial Number.

I have seen a few pages of the logbook, and hope to see more when my contact has some spare time on his hands, but already I have been able to identify some new Tail Codes which have been added to the Squadron Aircraft page. This is of huge benefit to everyone with an interest in the history of the Squadron.

George was obviously a very intelligent man, and came to the Squadron with a number of patents relating to aircraft navigation to his name. He served as Navigation Officer for the squadron during his time with 488(NZ) Squadron. You can read George’s biography here.

The second contact was from a nephew of Jim Affleck, one of the early casualties of Broody’s tour. The initial contact was via a comment on the post recording the loss of Affleck and his pilot James Gunn. My contact and his brother were kind enough to provide a wealth of information relating to Jim, including some fantastic photos and his Service History.

They were also able to provide a copy of the Combat Report relating to the Heinkel III that Gunn and Affleck destroyed shortly before they crashed. This was interesting and sobering as, rather than having been completed and signed by the pilot and his navigator, it was written and signed by the Squadron’s Intelligence Officer, Leslie Hunt.

Jim was another interesting character who had already flown with 29 and 409 Squadrons before he arrived at 488(NZ) in July 1942. Throughout his RAFVR career, he flew many flights with S/Ldr Richard Macklow Trousdale. These included Operations that resulted in the destruction of 2 enemy aircraft and 1 locomotive, and one further enemy aircraft claimed as damaged. You can read Jim’s biography here.

I am delighted that relatives of these airmen have got in touch and have been able and willing to provide information that has allowed me to publish biographies of these men.

I would urge anyone else with information relating to airmen of 488(NZ) Squadron to get in touch so  that further biographies can be added to serve both as useful historical research tools and of course lasting tributes to these brave men. It does not matter how much or how little information you have – I am more than happy to dig deeper if I get an interesting lead.


Aircrew Biographies

I have made a start on adding some Aircrew biographies to the site. They include service histories and photographs not previously seen. This has only been possible with the help of relatives of these airmen, and I am grateful to them for their help.

You can see the biographies added to date here or by navigating through the 488(NZ) Squadron Research link at the top of the page.

If you have any information about an Airman of this Squadron, and would like to see a biography included, please get in touch using the Contact page.


The End

Although Broody remained with 488(NZ) Squadron until a posting out to No.1 Radio School at RAF Cranwell on 05/x/44, no more operational or readiness flights were flown, and so this story has come to an end.

It would be near on impossible to summarise in this post what has been quite a year in the life of a young man who joined the RAF straight from Cambridge University in 1942. Fortunately, the ever meticulous Broody can provide a summary of the tour himself as recorded in his journal.

Summary of First Operational Tour 4-ix-43 to 11-X-44

Summary of First Operational Tour
4-ix-43 to 11-X-44

Recorded in Broody’s Flying Log is his end of tour “Proficiency Assessment” from the Squadron’s CO, W/Cdr Haine. The assessment was “above Average”, with the CO commenting:

“Very keen and intelligent”

Broody's End of Tour Proficiency Assessment

Broody’s End of Tour Proficiency Assessment

Broody remained in the RAF until 1946, gaining a regular commission in 1945 and eventually reaching the rank of Flight Lieutenant. I do not have as much information on his later roles as I do for this tour, but maybe one day I will tell the next part of the story.

I am the proud custodian of Broody’s wartime medals. By the time hostilities ceased, Broody had been awarded 3 medals and one clasp.

The war medals of Andrew John Broodbank - RAAF

The war medals of Andrew John Broodbank – RAF

From left to right, the medals are:

1) 1939-45 Star (Awarded for 2 months operational service as aircrew between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945)

2) Air Crew Europe Star (Awarded for 2 months operational flying over Europe, from UK bases between 3 September 1939 and 5 June 1944 – The qualifying period started after receipt of the 1939-45 Star)

3) France & Germany clasp on Air Crew Europe Star (Awarded for a minimum of 1 day’s operational service in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Germany from 6 June 1944 to 8 May 1945 – Rules dictated that the France and Germany Star would not be awarded to those already in receipt of the Air Crew Europe Star, only a clasp was to be worn)

4) War Medal 1939–1945 (Awarded to those who had served in the Armed Forces or Merchant Navy full-time for at least 28 days between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945)

There is just one more part of this story to tell – and for me, perhaps the most important as it is the reason I am here today. While at RAF Cranwell, Broody met a young WAAF officer, S/O Margaret Jean Weeks who was a Meteorological Officer.

SO Margaret Jean Weeks (WAAF)

S/O Margaret Jean Weeks (WAAF)

In her latter years, my grandmother took time to record some of her wartime experiences. Amongst these was the story of how she first met the man who was to become her future husband.

“One evening I went with several others from our Mess to a party at another Mess (Signals). This became somewhat drunken. I remember one game where you held a poker on the floor and ran round and round it. One soon became very giddy and could fall into the nearest lap available.

I still drank hardly at all, so I was sober and beginning to think how stupid everyone else appeared, when someone suggested a dance and someone else said, ‘Broody can play the piano’. Broody was dragged out of his room (having just returned from the cinema in a nearby town) and he played the piano.

Not long afterwards, we WAAF Officers left to return to our own Mess. Next day, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. Cycling to the met Office, I saw someone outside the Parachute Section who seemed to be looking at me. Not wearing my glasses, of course, I couldn’t see who it was, but called out ‘Good morning,’ as I passed.

This bod turned out to be John (‘Broody’) and he followed me to see where I went. Well, air crew were always coming into the Met Office to ask for forecasts etc, and they knew they might also get a cup of tea there as well (or rather, a mug). So that, really, is how we met.”

On 17th March 1945 (her 22nd birthday), my grandmother recorded in her diary:

“Birthday. Glorious, every one so kind. Cycle to wood in pm & John proposes. Dinner in mess afterwards and have a drink with it. Phone home.”

Just over a week later on 25th, she wrote:

“Home. John & I fly home in 42 mins. Tell Mother, Dad & Geoff of our engagement. They are so sweet & kind. Awful journey back.”

Of course, Broody can add to this part of the story with his record of the flight in his journal.

25th March 1945 10:05
AIRSPEED OXFORD II LB425
Pilot: F/O Swaby
2nd Pilot: Lt. Edmundson
Navigator: Self
Passenger: S/O Weeks
BASE ~ RINGWAY
To arrange an engagement! Flying at 2-3,000ft above & through cloud & a cold front which had shown every promise of stopping the trip – cloud being at 200ft at Ringway at time of take off from Cranwell. Excellent Pilot.
0:42

He has even included the weather forecast for the trip, prepared by my grandmother!

Weather forecast by S/O Weeks for the "Engagement Flight" from Cranwell to Ridgeway.

Weather forecast by S/O Weeks for the “Engagement Flight” from Cranwell to Ridgeway.

Broody & Jean were married in at St. Mary’s church in Cheadle on 6th April 1946 and went on to live a long and happy life together. They had 2 daughters, 4 grandchildren, and 8 great-grandchildren.

Just Married - 6th April 1946

The newly married Mr & Mrs Broodbank on the steps of St Mary’s Church, Cheadle
6th April 1946

Jean & John Broodbank

In the garden of their home in Surbiton in the 1990s

I hope that you have enjoyed following Broody’s tour in “real time” as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing about his experiences. I have learned a lot, not only about my Grandfather’s role in the war, but about 488(NZ) Squadron, his aircrew colleagues – many of whom I now feel that I know personally, and the role of Night Fighters during the war.

But above all, as each part of the story has unfolded, I have felt hugely proud of the part Broody played in the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Of course, we must not forget the 21 men of 488(NZ) Squadron who were killed during Broody’s tour. Broody never spoke to me of these losses. These names, and links to Commonwealth War Graves Commission pages for them are all recorded on the Roll of Honour Page of this blog, but the final page in the journal, and therefore the best place for this story to end lists all these men in Broody’s meticulous hand.

I wonder how he felt as he wrote down the names of colleagues and friends who made the ultimate sacrifice? I ask you to think about that as you once again read the names of these few men, who amongst thousands of others, gave up their lives for our futures.

The casualties of 488(NZ) Squadron between September 1943 and October 1944. ~Their Name Liveth For Evermore~

The casualties of 488(NZ) Squadron between September 1943 and October 1944.
~Their Name Liveth For Evermore~

And there we are – the rest, as they say, is history.