Robert Farquharson was a pilot (RCAF) in the Burma Theatre and is
presently writing a book about the Burma war sequentially from the beginning,
but all through the eyes of Canadians who were there. Bob wants input
and can be reached at:
1003-55 Prince Arthur Ave., Toronto, Ont. M5R 1B3
I sent Bob a copy of the Commemorative Issue Short Bursts 1983 -
1993 and his comments are in part: ". . . it speaks of the particular pride
and camaraderie that holds AG's together. I think AG's are like goalies
in a hockey game - all alone at the end of the rink and, when the final
shot comes, the whole win-or-lose of the game depends on them. They are
a race apart." If you can help Bob, drop him a line.
Gregory Kopchuk firstname.lastname@example.org has developed a web
site on 429 Squadron
Greg has dedicated this site, in particular, to his uncle, F/Sgt.
John Kopchuk R1322169 Nav., from Melville, Sask. who was KIA 22 June 1943
while returning from Krefeld, Germany. Greg would like input from those
who flew with 429 Squadron to add to his site.
The crew of John Kopchuk's Wellington were:
F/Sgt EA Star (Pilot) who has no known grave
Major Kurt Holler reported downing a Wellington bomber at 0118 hrs on
the 22nd of June 1943. The bodies of John Kopchuk and two others washed
ashore. Major Holler was also killed at 01.41 hrs the same night.
F/Sgt J. Kopchuk (Navigator)
F/Sgt WG Parkinson (Air gunner Who has no known grave
F/Sgt JP o'Reilly (Bomb Aimer)
F/Sgt CF Orlinski (Wireless operator/Air Gunner)
Bomber Command's Summary of the raid on
Krefeld Germany 21/22 June 1943
705 aircraft participated - 262 Lancasters, 209 Halifaxes,
117 Sterlings, 105 Wellingtons, 12 Mosquitos. 44 aircraft were
lost - 9 Lancasters, 17 Halifaxes, 9 Sterlings, 9 Wellingtons - 6.2% of
The raid was carried out before the moon period was over and the
heavy casualties were mostly caused by night fighters. 12 of the aircraft
lost were from the Pathfinders: 35 Squadron lost 6 of its 19 Halifaxes
taking part in the raid.
The raid took place in good visibility and the Pathfinders produced
an almost perfect marking effort, ground markers dropped by the Oboe Mosquitos
being well backed up by the Pathfinder heavies. 619 aircraft bombed these
markers more than three quarters of them achieving bombing photographs
within 3 miles of the center of Krefeld. 2,306 tons of bombs were dropped.
A large area of fire became established and this raged, out of control,
for several hours. The whole center of the city - approximately 47% of
the built-up area, was burnt out. The total of 5,517
houses were destroyed, according to the Krefeld records, was the largest
figure so far in the war. 1,056 people were killed and 4,550 injured. 72,000
people lost their homes; 20,000 of these were billeted upon families in
the suburbs, 30,000 moved in with relatives or friends and 20,000 were
evacuated to other towns.
Ron Bramley, Editor of THE TURRET
In the February Page we featured an article where Ron obtained the
Air Crew Europe Medal, posthumously) for the late Roy Murfin RAAF. Well,
"Bram" has donned his armor, mounted his white steed, and again sallied
forth. He writes:
"..my next Crusade is for Brass Bullet Air Gunners who continued
on Ops without getting their Stripes after May 1940. In fact, the person
who started it off was Robert J. G. Cooper, Box 182 Barons, AB TOL OGO
who you may know. He was one of those when in the ME and the OC was AVM
Longmore, who said they must carry on with their ground duties when they
weren't flying, but if they were shot down they would be buried as Sergeants,
and that didn't happen either! Quite incredible reading. Bob Cooper, when
he went to Canada and joined the RCAF he still was not promoted, and when
he finished his time, he applied to joint the Canadian Air Crew Association,
but was first refused because he never had a brevet! He later got in, because
a friend showed Bob's Log Book to them! He hopes we will both live long
enough to see it put right, and so far I have the AGA behind me, and a
retired Air Commodore who knew Longmore. So wish me luck (and time). Hope
to come to Canada this year (October) for the Burma Bombers Association
Reunion in Comox...."
Bob Middlemass received the following via Mike Garbett, Author of
In early 1943, the principle offensive actions which the Luftwaffe
were producing against Britain were the 'hit-and-run' boys. A pair of 190's
or 109's each with a pair of bombs underneath would attack anywhere along
the South Cost with reasonable chance of striking a built up area.
To cope with these we had to keep up a standing patrol anywhere between
The Isle of Wight and Beachy Head. Other squadrons covered other stretches
of the coast. It was in pursuit of this policy that a section of two Typhoons
took off from Tangmere one morning. Flying lead was Ron Fitzgibbon with
Norman Preston his No.2. It could easily have been the other way around.
These two had joined up together, trained together, flown together as often
as they could talk the flight commander into it. Several months later they
were to die within ten days of each other.
We had made habit of these sections of two taking off in tight formation.
It was spectacular and did a lot of good to the moral of the ground staff.
This time it was a mistake.
Just before they reached the un-stick speed, Fitz's starboard tire
burst and he slewed across the runway towards Norm's take-off line. There
was only one thing to do and Norm did it. He hauled back hard on the stick,
managed to get off the ground and hold it up there while Fritz swept past
below him. But, having done that, he paid the price of having insufficient
flying speed to stay up. His aircraft cart-wheeled two or three times before
ending up in a crumpled heap many yards further on. Norm was unhurt.
Fitz, meantime, was having his problems too. He was on the grass,
which was quite serviceable, proceeding on a line about 30 degrees away
from the runway. He was trying desperately to coax his aircraft into the
air, retract the undercarriage, and come in for a belly-flop with minimal
damage. But the shredded tire, dragging against the ground, resisted all
attempts to accelerate. Perforce, he closed everything down and prepared
for an almighty smash. It was obvious to him that he wasn't going to stop
within the perimeter.
On the far side of the perimeter track was a patch of fairly rough
ground - which would at least be softish. However, just slightly to the
right of his path, just inside the perimeter, stood a Lancaster. It had
landed badly shot up some weeks ago. The maintenance team who had been
working on it had rung the Lanc. Squadron the night before to come and
pick up their baby.
Fitz, who had no control of the direction he was heading, swept past
the visitor on its port side and his starboard wing-tip neatly removed
the Lanc's port tail unit. Meantime, the Typhoon proceeded, still at fairly
high speed, under the big fella's port wing. Which was far enough off the
ground for it to go through. Not the prop thought, it was still rotating,
though slowly. And it was, of course, going forward at the same time. It
therefore, during its under-wing passage cut a quadrant shaped hole in
the Lanc wing, starting just forward of the trailing edge and ending just
aft of the edge. In the process, it severed the main spar.
Fitz carried on into the rough ground, bumped his way through it,
though it at least helped to decelerate him. He finally came to rest in
the corner of a blister hangar which contained a Spitfire. It had, but
a few seconds previous, contained the ground crew who'd been working on
the Spit. They made a hurried exit when they saw Fitz approaching.
One of the ground crew had, on arrival at work, propped his bike
against the corner of the hangar where Fitz ended up. That bicycle was
yet another casualty. Also the hangar itself, not having been designed
to withstand charging Typhoons. After all, it was only a blister hangar,
so it promptly collapsed over both aircraft and Fitz. Doing both aircraft
considerable damage, but doing Fitz no damage at all.
So, in about 45 seconds of improbable action, the total score was:-
Two Typhoons, one Lancaster, one Spitfire, one Blister hangar, and one
"S" Squadron - Halifax 1V's at Marston Moor, Yorkshire. Never
heard of them? Read on....
THE TOP SECRET TRUTH OF THE HALIFAX 1V BOMBER
Based upon the writing and memoirs of Mr. Harry Thomas Esq. (RAF
~ Edited by Chief Technician David Curry RAF ~
During October 1995, I researched the loss of a 102 Squadron Halifax
111 heavy bomber, based at Pocklington. My investigations revealed that
the particular aircraft and its crew were shot down by flax while attacking
Koblenz, the seven man crew were lost. While obtaining information from
the Public Archives Office relating to this bomber, I came across a previous
top secret classified document detailing the formation of a specialist
and highly unusual Halifax bomber squadron in Yorkshire. The document revealed
that from mid 1943 a special high altitude day bomber force of 20
Halifax 1V's were operating from Marston Moor airfield. The unit was not
assigned a squadron number, but was merely identifies as S (Special) Squadron,
and was administratively controlled by 4 Group HQ of RAF Bomber Command.
The document said that the Halifax 1V had been designed to fly at high
speed, extreme altitudes, and was fitted with very special engines. Similarly,
they contained the latest in blind bombing aids, namely H2X, and were fitted
with the high altitude tachometer bombsight.
Upon checking I found that the only entry I could find describing
the Halifax 1V was, and I quote, "Halifax 1V - Experimental aircraft built
for the purpose of testing new engine mountings". This seemed rather odd
as I had read archives saying that they were conducting operations to Germany
from 1943 to the end of the war. I next approached the Air Research Branch
in London and gained access to previously classified government papers
relating to a meeting, held in 1942, of a committee
set up to discuss the design of a new type of bomber. Shortly
afterwards I was introduced, through the 4566 Sqn. association, to a Mr.
Harry Thomas, who, as a young man, had served with 466 Sqn., 35 Sqn., and
then S Sqdn. The story he told me regarding the introduction to service
of the Halifax 1V must surely be one of the strangest to be uncovered from
World War Two.
Prior to joining the RAF in 1940, Harry Thomas was a trainee Fireman/Stoker
working on the foot plate of the LNER. At the outbreak of the war he joined
up hoping to become a pilot, but after selection ended up as a flight engineer
destined for Bomber Command. After completion of his training in Canada,
Harry Thomas commenced his flying career on Hampdens and then on Wellington
bombers. His Squadron then re-equipped with the new four-engined "heavy"
Halifax 1, and the entire Squadron underwent HCU (heavy conversion unit).
He did not realize at the time but his pre-war and wartime training would
introduce him to one of the best kept secrets of the war. The advent of
the four-engined heavy bombers meant that more and more 100 octane fuel
was needed, and this while our convoys were still suffering terrible losses
carrying fuel from the USA. Invetiably, something had to give. Just as
petroleum and oil would prove to be the Achilles heel of Germany towards
the end of the war, it was also causing concern within Bomber Command..
A solution was sought at the highest level of government and many scientist
and learned bodies were approached. Eventually, a Junior Minister of Fuel
and Production, named Stephenson, suggested we utilize our most abundnt
fuel supply, namely, coal. The Germans were producing thousands of tons
of aviation spirit every month from coal, but it ws a very inefficient
method and only viable because of the vast European stocks on hand. Unfortunately,
the German fuel was low octane, and while the enemy's engines were designed
to run on low grade petrol, our engines were not and would suffer irrepairable
damage. Similarly, the conversion of so many of our refineries to the method
would cause too much disruption to our already hard pressed fuel output.
Experts from the Air Ministry and Industry joined forces and came
up with the surprising solution by re-designing the already proven and
tested Sentinal Super-heated steam engine. After much experimenting it
was found that two Sentinal engines could, via the use of drive shafts
and adapted gear boxes drive four propellers. One engine would be located
within the inner ort and starboard nacelle of the heavy bomber and, drive
shafts running through the central wing spar, would drive the two outer
gear boxes and propellers. The vertical boiler driving the two engines
was located behind the main spar inside the fuselage and, although heavy,
was surprisingly compact and able to be fed coal from the top by a single
stoker. The water required to produce the steam could be stored in the
redundant petrol tanks to the capacity of 2000 gallons, and coal could
be positioned within the fuselage and wing roots. A novel feature of the
aircraft was that pipes of super heated steam were routed through the leading
wing edges to prevent icing. The auxiliary equipment, turrets, bomb doors,
undercarriage, etc. all previously powered by hydraulics, would now operate
under steam pressure. Electrical circuits were fed from a generator located
along side the port engine. While the Avro Lancaster was ultimately to
become the most famous of the heavies, the Halifax was by far the stronger
aeroplane and more flexible. It became the obvious test bed for the hybrid
bomber. So was born the Halifax 1V with its revolutionary engines, strengthened
fuselage, and increased wing span to assist in its high altitude role.
Initially only two Halifax 1V's were built to specification but, after
testing, the Air Ministry realized they had a heavy bomber capable of hitting
German targets almost with impunity. The climb rate was relatively slow
due to the weight, but it could cruise comfortably at 40,000 feet and had
an absolute ceiling of 42,000 feet, loaded. Its speed was even more remarkable
at 450 mph cruising and just over 500 mph flat out. 20 aircraft were ordered
from Handley Page. Recruitment/training of crews began by late 1942. Flight
Engineer Sgt. Thomas was posted to Marston Moor airfield, near York in
November 1942. The Engineering Officer, Sqn. Ldr. "Steamer" Gargill, welcomed
Harry and others to Marston Moor and briefed them on their new and highly
aircraft. It proved to be an eye-opener as the Haliflax1V looked
so normal, except it had "large wings, the inboard engine nacelles were
bigger than the outboard ones, there appeared to be only two exhaust ports,
and in place of the upper turret, there was a small circular funnel. As
the Flight Engineer/Stoker, Harry was now issued a new brevet inscribed
Flying training began almost at once in order to familiarize the
crews with their new aircraft. For most, the conversion to the Halifax
1V was straight forward and not that difficult; however, they all marveled
at the aircraft's performance when carrying its 8000 lbs. bomb load. The
crews were taught to replenish water stocks by flying through clouds where,
with their steam cooling radiators fully open, thus killing
two birds with one stone so to say, the radiator, acting as a condenser,
with the cold thick cloud taking the heat out of the steam and the cloud
then turning into distilled water, they could top up their tanks.
The only draw back of the aircraft was that it left a vapor trail
at all altitudes and was clearly visible to all. For training sorties they
burned normal coal which left a dark smoke trail, but for operations they
loaded up with 5 tons of smoke-less coal which was produced from the nearby
Coalite works at Wetherby. Fully loaded, the Halifax 1V had endurance,
at cruising speed/altitude, of almost 6 hours. This was more than enough
to attack the most distant German targets.
(to be continued)
When the Ex-Air Gunner's web page is updated April 1, 2001, we will
inform our readers of the many occasions S Sqn. Carried out raids
into western Europe. Imagine, cruising at 40,000 feet wearing shorts and
shirt sleeves! Stay tuned.
RODGER HOLTON email@example.com
Rodger has his late father's WW11 memorabilia and he is looking
for a collector who might be interested. Rodger advises that his Dad
obtained his AG Brevet June 1940, Observer Radio July 1941, Navigator
Radio Nov. 1942. He joined 141 Sqn. August 1940 and went on to fly with
89 Sqn., 1943, then 176 Sqn. And finished operations on 552 Sqn.
The items consist of:
1. Two log books starting in European theatre and
Rodger will be making a donation to the CATP Museum in Brandon Man.
2. ...operations in India and the far Eastern theatre.
3. Pictures from a scrap book of other aircrew and photos of aircraft
taken on the ground and from the air. One picture signed by Jock Laurence
DFM who was KIA in North Africa 1942. Jock was Rodgers father's pilot.
4. Menu, Sgt's Mess 176 Sqn. Christmas 1943, India, with 16 signatures
5. Navigator's "Douglas" combined protractor & Parallel
Rule - Stores Ref No. 6/B47.
Sidney Butler - 53 Poplar Ave., St. John's NF. A1B 1C7 - Ph.
Sid is very active with 150 RCAF (North Atlantic) Wing having been Past
President, Sec. Treas., and is now on Planning and Policy Committee. Sid
is the first new member recruited through the web.
From Your Editor
To make this Web Page a success we need material from Members
so the Page can be up-dated each month. Lets give the chaps something to
look forward to. Send pictures and copy to John Moyles - address and Email
is on this page.
Member Ray Stoy from Florida is sending some photos of his WW11 a/c
paintings. It is hoped that we can get more pictures on the Page as we
become expert in this new medium.
Until April, keep well. Cheers, John Moyles