Thursday, 28 June 2012

Opening of the Bomber Command memorial

My Father in Italy with the RAAF (Centre)
Picture from Australian war memorial site
Today we see the official opening of the memorial to the crews of bomber command. The fact that the nation waited until most of the survivors were dead is a national scandal. How many memorial have we seen since 1945 for people who did nothing, achieved nothing and gave nothing for the country? I have a special interest. My dad was a bomber pilot. He flew Wellington bombers for 40 squadron, mostly in North Africa and Italy. He was shot down on his 40th mission, which was the end of his tour of duty, in 1944 over Ploesti in Romania.  His rear gunner F/O A (Spud) Murphy was killed, the rest of the crew survived, were taken prisoner and then successfully escaped and were repatriated.

Here is my little memorial for my Father and all of the other brave men. This is what he wrote in his diary in 1944, up until he was shot down. If anyone doubts the bravery of these men, then read this and imagine yourself living in tent and doing these things. By 1944, the Wellington aircraft was largely obsolete. 40 Squadron was later equipped with Liberator bombers, but was the last squadron to fly bombing  missions using the Wellington. There is a great book on the subject by Maurice Lihou OBE called "It's dicey flying Wimpeys over Italian Skies" on the subject. Sadly my father died in 1987, so never even knew that a memorial was planned. He was a member of the "caterpillar club" for those who had bailed out of a plane. Some of us question the morality of some of the missions performed by the RAF. We forget that we were fighting a ruthless and evil enemy, who were engaging in genocide and had attacked and subjugated many of its neighbours. I have no doubt that if Adolf Hitler had the resources, he would have unleashed far worse on Great Britain. I also believe that bomber command made a huge contribution to destroying the ability of the Nazi's to fight a war. I don't agree with the moral or logistical justifcation for carpet bombing cities, but I've never been in the position to have to even consider that decision. I do know that there is no doubt that the crews of the RAF were honest, decent and very brave. I know that they took no pleasure in bombing cities.

Here is what what he wrote and  a little bit of commentary from me.  On the 1st January, he was on leave in London, but all of this soon changed.

Sun 9th Jan 1944. Came to Rabat/Sale 10.30 hours. Starboard engine conked out 100 miles out from Portugal but came on again when in sight of Land and operated OK for rest of Journey.

Tues 11th Jan. Rabat - Enjoyed Sunshine, reminds me of Aussie

Fri 14th Jan - Maison Blanche, Algiers. Just a Dump

Sun 16th Jan - Came to Foggia (airbase in Southern Italy) gave up DF542 entered 40 Squadron (he drew a little picture of the badge & the Moto Nostem a Coelo Expellere in his diary).
Note : Foggia was a major Airbase for the RAF and US army airforce. My father's squadron were billeted in Tents and received a hard living allowance). 

Mon 17th - Enjoying the liberty of squadron life

Tues 18th - First Op on No 40 Squadron. Transport Senegalia Railway (italy).
Thurs 20th - 2nd Op Plombino Railway - West Coast Italy
Fri 21st - Briefed and scrambled - hada party instead. Vino - Oh -h-huh

Sun 23rd - 3rd Op Marilian P/C works Yugoslavia. 1000 mile round trip. Weather very poor. being very heavy

Mon 24th - Breifed and scrambled. Had a quiet night. How I'd love to be back in England.
Weds 26th - air Tested "DF689" Wellington IV

Thurs 27th - Briefed and scrambled. Given V as my permanent aircraft. 'V is an aircraft' Low level it is OK but above 8000 ft it just won't

Fri 28th - Bombed Verona. Al (Bomb aimer)collapsed after delivering flashes.
Sat 29th - Had a party at 104 Squadron. Merry - Not Arf. Had a door thrown at me

Sun 30th - Snowed today. very cold

Tues 1st Feb. Bombed Maribou Yugoslavia. Aircraft hit by 6 bursts. Limped happily home with part of windscreen blown away, petrol tanks holed 2n'd airplane nearly lost

Sat 5th. Played cards today. Poker leaders choice. Won 1250 lira

Mon 7th Bombed Padria Italy 9X500HE. Bombs fell right on Marshalling yards full of trucks (target). Jimmy Keily and crew missing. Arrived back at 06.00 slept all day

Wed 9th - Went to Barletta. enjoyning wine tasting almost as much as we bought. Blagged our way through the door. Soaked on the way back

Thurs 10th - Innoculations for Typhus today. testing aircraft

Sun 13th - did two trips to Anzio - dropped 36 X 250lb HE bombs. Had bad weather freezing -29C Spud (rear gunner) had almost to be chiselled out of his box. Hope 36 X 250lb bombs did good work on the Jerries.

Thur 17th - Flying Kit stolen. 1 Blue Kit bag. 1 Leather helmet, 1 pr Gauntlets, 1 Suit, 1 pr shoes, 1 pr Sunglasses, 1 pr sick gloves. Bombed San Stefano. Had trouble all the way with 'B' but made grade OK. Brought back a perfect photo of Target.

Fri 18th - Went to flight and told 1-B had been repaired. Ken Lyon was blown up on take off in 'B' - the kite I had the previous night.

Sat 19th - My sweethearts birthday. I wish I was with her tonight and every night. 

Sun 20th - Attended the court of enquiry on crash of 'B'. I gave evidence as pilot the previous night and the trouble I had.

Thurs 24th - Longest Trip to date. Bombed Steya, Austria 1200 miles. Flew over Berchdescarden (Hitlers mountain retreat). If I had only remembered I might have been tempted to give it one for the road!

Mon 29th - Mum's Birthday

March 3rd - 13th trip tonight. Zara Yugoslavia - really pranged it - had bad weather all the way, heavy using base base conditions. 10/10 closed from 900ft to 13000 ft. nuff said

March 4th - Took s/c Avent and Naples today. Flew around Vesuvius, good trip but bags of clouds. Air testing 'T' for Tommy. Hass cookie Disappear

March 7th - Air testing 'X' for X-Ray. Aircraft OK. To get away from some Fortresses (US air Foce), I opened up full throttle and did 265 mph slow and level.

March 17th - St Patricks day. Couldn't find anything green to wear , but many of the boys faces were that colour from the effects of vino drunk at our party last night

March 18th - Al's (bomb aimer) birthday today. he winged a bit about flying on it but weather was in his favour and he didn't have to go so had a party instead.

March 19th - Ops in 'Q' for Queen. Bombed Philipopolis (plodiv) 1250 miles round trip. Had a farly easy time apart from the usual clapped out weather.

Weds 22nd - Vesuvius has made itself felt. Clouds of Ash and Cinders fell all day. One couldn't go outside without getting eyefulls and cloths immediately soiled.

Thurs 23rd - Had a party with the boys of SAAF, NZ, Yanks RAF, RAAF, Newf, Polish, French airforce and infantry units about. Rather Noisy but very merry.

Sat 25th - Went to Positano this evening. Had dinner then did a pub crawl round the village. The town is built on the side of a cliff.

Sun 6th - Had tonight at 5th Army camp - drinking Sarti Cognac and Vesuvius special -champagne and cherry brandy in equal proportions. Really good

Mon 27th - Went to Pompeii. Saw the Cathedral which is most amazing and grand sight I have seen. Then visited the ancient city which has been excavated out of the pumice and dust of 600bc.

Tues 28th. Returned (from leave) to Foggia Today. Bumped in the back of a 3 ton Lorry for 120 miles. Shakes you. Had 6 letteres from Cecilia waiting. Worth the shaking.

Fri 31st - Briefed for ops and scrambled ditto last night. It's getting me down. If this keeps up I'll never get finished.

Sat 1st April. "Q" for Queen. Ops to Varese North Italy A/C factory. 1050 miles. Good trip for my Birthday. Got back to our mess by 5.30 am and to bed by 6am. Brought back a good target photo.

Mon 3rd April - Ops in 'Q' for Queen. Ops to Budapest - 1100 miles. Really pranged the Hun. The best show of Tracer hosepiping one could wish for. the whole target area seemed to be glowing red until we were shut off by the haze. F/sgt Redder Ditched on way home after being hit by a/a fire.

Weds 5th - Listening to Tommy Trinder on BBC. Describing here he said that there was hardly a building standing - and some more lines.

Sun 9th - Went to mass. The Bishop of Foggia celebrated it - Sermon given by American Padre. Tony, Max Hendry and I went.

Mon 10th - Ops in 'Q' Queen. San Stefans - Italy. Boy did we get hell kicked out of us with ack-ack. Spud (rear gunner) said he almost had kittens. Aircraft hit by several bursts but was brought home Ok.

Weds 12th - Ops in 'Q' Queen. Budapest Hungary. Fairly Hot. Coned in searchlights twice but dropped bombs on target. Encountered ME109 on way home but we got away OK.
Fri 14t - San Stefano Ack-ack not as hot as previously but backed up with 3 searchlights.

Sun 16th - San Stefano San Stefano - Italy, ack-ack not very accurate. I think their best gunner must have gone on leave. Trip done in 'R' for Roger.

Mon 17th - My poor old aircraft 'Q' for Queen was destroyed by fire tonight. Managed to get a few instruments and dials for momento.

Tues 18th - Big party tonight - rowdy.

Weds 19th - Got a leter from Cecilia asking if I was in Budapest on 12th - Was I !!!

Sun 23rd. Find our entertainment officer is so tired of planning updates of parties - has placed up a notice "party each evening".

Sat 29th - Ops to Leghorn. I dropped a 4,000lb HE bomb on the power station at Leghorn, Italy. Boy there was a flash and an explosion that shook the kite at 8,000 ft.

Mon 1st May. Ops to Spezia. 4,000lb Bomb dropped on power Croatia,. Good Photo taken of it.

Fri 5th May. Ops to Campina Rumania, Oil refinery hit. Fuel Oil exploded to Height of 4,000ft with clouds of flames. This place was really wrecked. Later intelligence reports as above.

Sat 6th. Moved under canvas. Tony (wireless operator), Spud and I share a tent. We have some wooden blinds for mats and a chiffonaise for furniture.

Mon 8th - Willy Wilham and w/o Bradshaw didn't return tonight. Bradshaw was on his last op to finish his tour (an op was 40 missions).

Mon 9th - Johnny Huggler lost on ops on his last trip of second tour.

Weds 10th - Swimming at Manfredonia beach. Enjoyable evening

Thurs 11th - Ops to Budapest, Hungary. Terrific electric storms all the way. Sparks on west wind. Screen looked just like a fireplace. f/s Goodlet NZ is our navigator henceforth.

Fri 12th - Air testing Wellingtons for Ops.

Sat 13th Ops to Orieto, Italy. Really good op. Target properly pranged. Crew cooperation and spirit improved 100% since Goodlet is our navigator. Waether very heavy. Had my helmet, gauntlets returned. recovered when station thief was shot and his house searched.

Tues 16th. Ops to Elba Island. Very happy landed at San Giovanni on return and was given a meal of doughnuts and maple syrup by yanks.

May 22. Ops to Valmontone, Italy. Bad weather with electrical storm that lit up the kite and flashed all around teh windscreen.

May 25 - Returned with Kite from Aindendola. Ops to Niterbo, Italy. Good bombing on transport of Jerries.

Tues 30 - Ops to Subiaco, Italy. Sgt McSweeney came along as an extra gunner as he wanted to see what the town looked like as he came from Subiaco, Western Australia.

Sun 4 June - Sgt McSweeney was lost on ops this week, together with Rod Hughes and crew.

Thur - 8th June- Ops to Nis Marshelling Yards, Yugoslavia. On bombing run we dropped bombs in formation. Really good prang

Sat 10th - Ops to Brad Oil refinery in Yugoslavia. Target really pranged and set on fire.

Mon 12th - Ops to Almasfuzito oil refinery. These oil plants certainly go sky high when they get hit as this was. Intercom trouble made us 30 mins late on take off but made target on time.

Weds 14th - Was stopped on runway by engineering officer when one tyre was damaged taxiying out due to inner walls going out.

Thurs 15th - Bathing at Mandfredonia - 236imig cove ! Beautiful day spoiled by the absence of Cecelia. Had a party at group's new mess on way home.

Fri 16th. Ops to Elba Island. Porto Longone. Bombing as a prelude to invasion. On way home flew over Rome Vatican. Ingris Battle area, Casino, Subiaco and Liria Valley in Broad Daylight. Landed at 7.30am.

Sat 17th. Bathing at Manfredonia. Had a real holiday. 40 Squadron ****** tonight. Must have been the invasion of Elba Island.

30th June 1944 - Shufti

On the 30th June 1944 My dad was shot down by an ME109 whilst bombing Ploesti. His good friend, Spud Murphy died. Tony Duff and and f/o Goodlet were all taken prisoner of war, to a camp near Bucharest. My father was taken by the Romanian airforce to identify his rear gunners body and his funeral. On seeing the large graveyard, he commented to the Romanian Airforce liaison officer that it was a shame to see so many fine airmen in the graveyard. The Romanian officer asked if he'd like to pay his respects to the fallen Romanian pilots. He was shocked to see that the Romanian cemetary was four times the size of the Allied cemetary. He was then given dinner and a drink and was returned to the POW camp. 


baarnett said...

His bravery was directly connected to Germany's defeat, because all the oil plants were very well protected indeed, since they were crucial to the Nazi war effort.

The German's 'Battle of the Bulge' in 1944, for instance, relied on grabbing Allied oil supplies in Belgium, since they had so little of their own - partly thanks to earlier efforts from your dad.

jonathan hoffman said...

They were heroes and must never be forgotten. To them we owe our freedom.