Episode 80 – Ake Ake Kia Kaha – The No. 75 Squadron Story

Part One – The Wellingtons

Guests: Jack Wakefield and the late Nick Carter

Co-Hosts: Dave Homewood and Glen Turner

Duration: 1 hour, 57 minutes, 38 seconds

Topic: This is the first episode in a planned series detailing the long and proud history of No. 75 Squadron – both with the Royal Air Force and then with the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Regular WONZ Show host Dave Homewood is joined by co-host Glen Turner, the secretary of the No. 75 Squadron Assocition here in New Zealand, who lends his expert knowledge to the series.

This first episode focuses on three main areas:
– the pre-WWII history of No. 75 Squadron RAF, before the squadron became associated with the New Zealanders
– the background of the purchase by New Zealand of 30 Vickers Wellingtons for the RNZAF and how the New Zealand Squadron formed in britain for this purpose, only to be morphed from a peactime ferrying squadron into a wartime operational bomber unit
– and the period in which the New Zealand Squadron became No. 75 (NZ) Squadron RAF

We discuss the period of the New Zealanders (in both the New Zealand Squadron and No. 75 (NZ) Squadron) flying their Wellington bombers in action between 1939 and 1942; and Dave talks with two members of the No. 75 (NZ) Squadron aircrew who flew operations in those Wellingtons.

John Wakefield, known as Jack and also Wakey. joined No. 75 (NZ) Squadron in November 1940, and flew thirty ops as a rear gunner. He was crewed with Charlie Pownall DFC originally, but when Charlie was posted to North Africa, Jack then flew a few more ops with Oliver Mathieson DFC, RAF. But many of his later ops were flown with Bob Fortheringham as his skipper.

Nick Carter joined the squadron later on in May 1942 and flew in Jack Wright’s crew. He was a Wireless Operator-Air Gunner in the crew. Both Jack and Nick tell the story of the squadron and of their own personal experiences very well indeed.

It is planned to bring the episode in this sub-series to you in the non-immediate future focussing on the Stirling era – so keep an eye out for it. Apologies for a few sound glitches in a small portion of Jack’s interview.

Quick Links:

The No. 75 Squadron Association New Zealand

Below are photos from Jack Wakefield’s collection from his time on No. 75 (NZ) Squadron

Sergeant Jack Wakefield with No. 75 (NZ) Squadron at RAF Feltwell, late 1940

No. 75 (NZ) Squadron Debriefing Room, RAF Feltwell 1940-1941

An official propaganda photo showing members of the squadron – this was captioned in newspapers that they were the New Zealand Bomber squadron going to Berlin, but it was the genuine No. 75 (NZ) Squadron staging the photo in daytime.

Jack’s caption identifies these men as P/O Oliver Matheson DFC, RAF (Captain), Sgt Bob Fotheringham RNZAF (2nd Pilot), Sgt Crossley RAF (front gunner), F/O George Fowler RAF (Navigator), Sgt Jack Wakefield (Rear Gunner), Sgt Robert Newton DFM, RAF (Wireless Operator)

Jack Wakefield’s office, the Vickers Wellington’s rear turret.

“The Berlin Boys” – being farewelled by Wing Commander Cyril Kay, who’s on the left. Next to him is Squadron Leader Reuben Widdowson DFC , RAF, famous as the captain in Jimmy Ward VC’s famous flight on the wing. Third from left is George Fowler (Jack’s Navigator), with Jack Wakefield next to him, and Bob Fotheringham DFC is seventh from left. Flight Lieutenant William Davenport Brown DFC is also in the photo

Prior to joining the squadron but a great photo of Sgt Jack Wakefield (left) and Sergeant Blake in
Trafalgar Square, London, July 1940

Jack’s crew’s personal aircraft, Vickers Wellington AA-Y for Yorker R1162

Sgt Jack Wakefield (left) and Pilot Officer Edgar Lockwood RAF, under the nose of Y for Yorker (R1162)

By the way the small music clip comes from Danosongs and is called Magic Ghost

10 comments to Episode 80 – Ake Ake Kia Kaha – The No. 75 Squadron Story

  • […] who was a Vickers Wellington Air Gunner. His memories of his days on the squadron can be heard by clicking here (Photo: Dave […]

  • Mrs Valerie Jones

    Enjoyed reading ,and hope 2 keep up with future publications ,

  • I have enjoyed reading about 75 sqaudron ,my husband was in the 75 approx 1954 ,keeping his memory going i show him anything related to the sqaudron ,and ,wish you all well

    • Dave Homewood

      Thanks for the feedback. Did you have a listen to the episode? What did you both think? What was your husband’s role on the squadron?

  • Alex Wallin

    Hi, ‘The old Firm’ pic shows my Grandad George Eric Fowler RAF 86427. He’s 3rd from the right and in the Berlin boys pic 3rd from the left. Do you have any more pictures of the squadron? It’s not F/O Barnes, can this be renamed at all please? My Grandad got his DFC with Matheson on a sortie over Kiel and his daughter (my mum) is positive it’s her dad.
    Huge thanks to those who’ve put this together, amazing work and huge respect.

    • Dave Homewood

      Thanks Alex, I have altered the captions. Go to the 75 Squadron Blog for loads of photos of the squadron. Cheers.

    • Derek Hathaway

      Alex. I am a member of Spondon Archive, which has published a number of books about the village’s history. Obviously, your great-grandfather, Henry Fowler is one of our noted residents.
      Because of that, I have got interested in his youngest son, your grandfather. His early lief, up to WW2 is quite well documented but I am struggling to find much online about his life (particularly family) after that.
      If you are able to help with this, I’d appreciate you getting in touch (archive@spondonca.org.uk). Thanks in anticipation.
      If you have not found it yet, our Historical Society has a photo of your grandfather with his parents here: http://www.spondonhistory.org.uk/archive-image/fowler/sir-henry-fowler-0#.XFA5t1ygJEY

  • Michael Wilcox

    My late father, Edward Thomas Wilcox RAF flew as a rear gunner in 75 (NZ) Sqn RAF. Before the war he attended the Birmingham School of Art and whilst at RAF FELTWELL he painted the soda siphon nose art on to aircraft fabric on the kitchen table and it was subsequently fixed to Wellington R1162 using aircraft dope. Both my parents told me and my three sisters the story many times and we still have the original Air Ministry photograph and the newspaper article cutting.
    I would be very interested in hearing from anyone who might have any further information concerning my father who was then a Pilot Officer or any more photographs.

    Michael Wilcox
    25 April 2018

  • Any information off – Owen Geoffrey O’Dwyer, who was on his fathers farm on highway 50 -hawkes bay province- new zealand. ???

  • Shaun o'Dwyer

    Dear Sean O’Dwyer, this is Shaun O’Dwyer, Owen O’Dwyer’s grandson by his son David. Owen married a Londoner, Shirley Simmonds before his return to New Zealand, and they raised 3 children in the North Island town of Hastings, where Owen ran a building company. Owen passed away in 1988 at the age of 69.

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