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600 Squadron Annual Memorial Visit to Holland 3-6 May 2017

by Warrant Officer Shobha Earl.

I was very privileged to represent the City of London Squadron Association members and join 600 squadron personnel during the Sqn’s annual memorial visit to Rotterdam.

This visit commemorates the six aircraft of 600 Squadron who on 10 May 1940 were sent to support Dutch forces during the German invasion of Holland. German fighter aircraft to the south of Rotterdam intercepted the mission and five of the six aircraft were shot down resulting in the death of seven 600 squadron aircrew members including the commanding officer.

I met up with 600 squadron personnel at the Harwich ferry port on Tuesday 2 May 2017, we travelled on the overnight ferry and thankfully had a smooth crossing, so slept soundly. It was great to see the familiar faces of the project officer – Flt Lt Alisa Rebbeck, ICT – WO Don Meechan, Adjutant – FS Vicky Bannister, Trg Co-ord – Sgt Derek Jelley and Ops Flt – Sgt Angie Luddington.

The ‘old and bold’ who I know so well from my 10 years serving on 600 Sqn were accompanied by 4 more recent joiners to the squadron. I was delighted to meet with and get to know personnel from Int Flt – SAC Robin T’ung and SAC Steve Wignall, Logs Flt – LAC Eddie Armstrong and Admin Flt – LAC Millie Popova. Media support was provided by photographer SAC Rob Bourne of 7644 Sqn.  The sqn folks were great company, a wonderful mix of characters from different backgrounds and employment in civilian life, their contribution to the visit made this a memorable occasion for me.

3 May 2017 – Day 1

 We arrived early morning at the Hook of Holland ferry port on Wednesday 3 May 2017 and were fortunate to have a smooth traffic free drive to the Marine barracks in Rotterdam.  We unloaded our heavily laden minibuses of kit, No 1 uniforms, shoes, hats, ceremonial gloves & webbing, the boxed wreaths and much more… phew!  Vicky Bannister had brought a kettle and I supplied brew making kit, so, the girls were comfortable knowing we could start the day with a cuppa in the accommodation, which was to be our home for the next 3 days.

Once unpacked, we were quickly organised by Alisa Rebbeck and Don Meechan, they commenced rehearsals for each wreath laying ceremony and the vignette readers had the opportunity to practice the words to be recited over the next few days.

By 1200 on Day 1 we were dressed in ceremonial best blues and departed for our first ceremony at Waalhaven. We visited the site whereby on the morning of 10 May 1940 six Blenheim 1F fighter-cruisers from 600 Sqn had been directed from Manston.  Sadly, they did not reach Waalhaven, German Messerschmitt Bf-110s of 3/ZG1 intercepted the planes over Pernis.  Five of the six aircraft were shot down; the crew killed in the four Blenheims that day were:

Commanding Officer Sqn Ldr Wells and Cpl Kidd
Fg Off Moore and Cpl Isaacs
Plt Off Anderson and LAC Hawkins
Plt Off Echlin.

Surviving to fight another day were:

Sgt John Davis, the navigator on board the Commanding Officer’s aircraft.  He managed to evade capture and escaped on board HMS Hereward.
Flt Lt Hugh Rowe, the pilot on board Plt Off Echlin’s aircraft.  He was badly burned on impact and treated for severe burns before being taken PoW by the Germans.

The 5th Blenheim flown by Plt Off Haine and Plt Off Kramer crashed at Herkingen.

The sixth plane flown by Fg Off Hayes and Cpl Holmes escaped with heavy damage but made it home to Manston.

Our wonderful friend of 600 Sqn and the City of London Squadron Association – Kees Stoutjesdijk will be well known to many of you, he was once again our Dutch host this year and without him working behind the scenes these visits would be a logistical nightmare to organise. Kees was waiting at Waalhaven for our arrival and as per previous visits, he kindly translated and made introductions between us, the local mayor and other dignitaries of Waalhaven district.

Following the wreath laying by Steve Wignall at the Waalhaven plaque. We concluded this ceremony and all the other ceremonies over the next 2 days with an extract from Laurence Binyon’s poem ‘For the Fallen’

They shall grow not old, As we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, Nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

Unfortunately, the UK wet weather had followed us to the Netherlands, so once the memorial ceremony was concluded we were invited to shelter from the rain over a coffee reception with our hosts from Charlois municipality. Don Meechan read a vignette explaining what happened on that fateful day of 10 May 1940 at Waalhaven.

Information Panel Waalhaven

At 1530, we departed for Herkingen Harbour the site where the 5th Blenheim had crashed but the crew members survived and escaped from Holland on HMS Hereward.
At the plaque, Eddie Armstrong laid the 2nd wreath and a vignette was read by Robin T’ung.

4 May 2017 – Day 2

Dutch National Remembrance Day.

This is always the busiest day during these annual visits, so we started early at 0800 and headed for our first wreath laying at Piershil Cemetery, Korendijk District, where PO Robert Echlin is buried. We were generously hosted by the Mayor at the town hall before and after the wreath laying with coffee, cake and some delicious local specialty biscuits. A vignette was read by Steve Wignall and Robin T’ung laid the wreath.

600 Sqn members at Piershil Cemetery

At Piershil we also met the family of Fg Off Moore, his nephew Peter, niece Penelope and great nephew Sam travelled to Holland to participate in all the memorial ceremonies but in particular at Crooswijk Cemetery where Fg Off Moore is now buried. Fg Off Moore and LAC Hawkins were not identified at the time of the crash in 1940 and were buried as ‘unknown British pilots’ near the airfield. The Germans later moved the graves to Crooswijk cemetery due to concern over the reverence being paid to them by the local population. 

Family of Fg Off Moore, Peter, Penelope & Sam

Another long-standing friend of 600 Sqn and local Dutch historian – Hans Onderwater painstakingly researched British archives for many years to establish the identity of the unknown airmen. Once identification was confirmed in 1981 Fg Off Moore and Cpl Isaacs were given new headstones and moved to the Allied War Casualties plot at Crooswijk.

Crooswijk Wreath Laying Party

600 Sqn were invited to participate in another local remembrance ceremony at the Crooswijk Cemetery. The Sqn contingent marched to the Allied War Casualties Memorial and Don Meechan laid a wreath. The cemetery is serene and beautifully maintained for which we are thankful.

On arrival at Crooswijk Cemetery we conducted wreath laying for Sqn Ldr Wells, Fg Off Moore, Cpl Kidd and Cpl Isaacs. Fg off Moore’s family laid flowers by his gravestone. Vicky Bannister read a vignette retelling the events of 10 May 1940.

Wreath laying Crooswijk

We moved onto our final destination for the Remembrance Day, a Church service at Dorpskerk Spijkenisse followed by a slow march through the town to participate in the Act of Remembrance at 2000 hours. A white floral tribute and the Association wreath were laid at The War Memorial, Vredehofstraat Spijkenisse.

March to PO Anderson & LAC Hawkins graves

Following the Mayor’s speech, we sang the Dutch and British National Anthems and hymn ‘Abide with me’ The last post and a 2-minute silence was concluded with the final wreath laying at the graves of Plt Off Anderson, LAC Hawkins and an unknown Dutch soldier. This was a wonderful poignant occasion and I felt privileged to participate in this ceremony and very honoured to lay the City of London Squadron Association wreath.

Wreath Laying at Spijkenisse Cemetery

 

5 May 2017 – Day 3 Dutch Liberation Day

Allied Forces at the 5 May 2017 Concert

Each year the Dutch hold a concert to celebrate their freedom and this year they wanted to say thanks to the Allied Forces who came to help them during WWII. 600 Sqn were selected to participate in the event and parade alongside representatives from all the other allied nations. It was a proud moment for Robin T’ung to be selected to carry the Union Jack on behalf of all British Military Forces.

King Willem-Alexander & Queen Maxima

This will be an unforgettable visit for all involved,
but the final day especially so for Alisa Rebbeck. As the senior officer, responsible for the 600 Sqn contingent in Holland this year, Alisa was selected to meet King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, an honour few Dutch will have experienced let alone a Brit! So, congratulations to Alisa she deserved to be selected to meet Dutch Royalty in recognition of all the effort she has contributed not only organising the 2017 trip but also many previous visits too.

This visit is a timely reminder as to why it is so important for the City of London Squadron Association to maintain close links with 600 (City of London) Sqn and for squadron personnel to get to know Association members as we have so many shared interests and goals for the future.

600 Squadron maRAFAthon team

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The Formation of No: 600 (City of London) Squadron, RAF Reserves (600 SQN) took place on the 14th October 1925 at RAF Northolt.

2015 is the 90th Anniversary of 600 SQN.

To celebrate this occasion, 600 SQN is organising a number of events to raise money for our chosen charities. The formation of the maRAFAthon team for 2015 is one of those events.

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Our original plan was to have a 600 SQN Marathon Team taking part in the 2015 London Marathon but unfortunatley not all team members were successful in the ballot process. All unsuccessful ballot applicants were offered a guaranteed place in the Edinburgh Marathon, and that is how the team became involved in the Edinburgh event as well as London. RAFA will be represented at both events.

600 SQN maRAFAthon team have 5 team members, 4 taking part in the London Marathon (Sunday 26 April) and 1 taking part in the Edinburgh marathon (Sunday 31 May 2015).

All team members are in Full-Time employment. In addition to their Full-Time work, RAF Reserve commitments, they will have to find the time to train and prepare themselves for the gruelling 26 miles of the Marathon and the weather conditions at the time of the event. This means the team is likely to be covering 60 miles per week training.

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Donations can be made in two ways: –

  1. Click on the Donate button on this page and provide your donation (don’t forget Gift Aid) or
  2. Use JustTextGiving by sending your text to 70070 and the following message RAFA60 £5 (don’t forget Gift Aid).

Please note: The JustGivingText donation can be any of the following amounts: £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 and £10.

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Meet the 600SQN maRAFAthon team: –

Layla Davidson (London) – (03:59:15)

Allan Dillon (London) – (04:46:25)

Fern Gwinnett (London) – (03:59:15)

Richard Needham (London) – (04:12:36)

and

Gary ‘Edge’ Edgerton (Edinburgh)

 

No.1 Maritime Headquarters Unit Old Comrades Association

I write as the Chairman of the above association.

When 600 (City of London) Squadron was reformed in 1999,  serving members of Nos 1 and 3 Maritime Headquarters Units were automatically part of that reformation but No 1

MHU Old Comrades Association was not included.

In 2006 personnel who had served on No 1 MHU were offered individual membership of 600 (City of London) Association and several people took up that offer.  We, however, continued as a separate association holding reunions periodically.

At the 600 (City of London) Association Annual General Meeting on 29th March 2015 our request to a merger was agreed unopposed with immediate effect. My committee and I would like to thank all those who were involved with this decision and hope that we may enjoy a long and happy relationship. No 1 MHU OCA was formed in 1976 and a link will be maintained as I shall become a member of the 600 Association Committee. Thank you to everyone who remembers ʻThe Houseʼ and the good times we had along the way.

J Jarvis ex Flt Sgt No 1 MHU

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NO 1 MARITIME HEADQUARTERS UNIT

Current members of 600 (City of London) Squadron may be interested to learn a little of the history of No 1 MHU.

In November 1959 the intention of forming three new units of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force was announced in Parliament. They were to provide backing for the Operations Rooms and Communication Centres that controlled RAF Coastal Command and the Royal Navy.

The new units would be No 1 Northwood, No 2 Edinburgh and No 3 Plymouth and many of the first volunteers were members of disbanded RAF Fighter Squadrons.

Volunteers, men or women, between the ages of 17 1/2 and 45 need have no previous service experience, as full training facilities existed in whatever trade they wished to enrol.

Training periods, apart from the 15 day annual exercise, were one evening a week and one weekend a month, all of which merited full pay and allowances.  Travelling allowances were also paid and there was an annual tax-free bounty between £10 – £15.

The Headquarters of No 1 MHU were in Valency House, Northwood – the old Chateau de Madrid Hotel once famed for country-club recreation. The site is now occupied by luxury housing but, driving by, I believe the House itself remains at the centre of the gated estate.

To answer a question raised at the recent AGM. The Worshipful Company of Butchers adopted 2600 (City of London) Squadron, then No 1 MHU and subsequently 600 (City of London ) Squadron. Thus the tradition is being maintained.

 

Mystery Stained Glass Window Panel

Mystery Stained Glass Panel – Wheatsheaf Pub, Hever Road , Bough Beech , Kent

600 (2)

On a recent trip to Kent, one of our members called into the Wheatsheaf, and spotted Mounted in the wall behind the bar, a 20” square panel of leaded glass. It is the 600 Squadron AAF Crest. It is illuminated from behind.

The owner of the pub said;

“We found the panel last year when we were renovating the pub, it was such an interesting piece that we decided to have it professionally repaired and to use it as an illuminated centre piece for the bar. I am afraid that I don’t have any more information about the window but would be very interested to know more about its history.

We will be delighted to offer a warm welcome to any members of your Association who would like to come and see it, the Wheatsheaf is a beautiful old pub which dates back to the 14th century and is reputed to be the former hunting lodge for Heaver Castle”.

Given it is an AAF (Auxiliary Air Force) window, referring to 600 as a Bomber Squadron (600 Squadron formed 14 October 1925 as a unit of the AAF and designated a Day Bomber Squadron, and remained so right through until we moved to a Fighter Squadron designation in July 1934), this puts the panel somewhere in between.

So, does anyone have any idea as to its origin?

Please let us know……….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leonard Richard Moore died 09/01/15 aged 92

Leonard Richard Moore died 09/01/15 aged 92

Len1

Born in Fishbourne, West Sussex in 1922 into a family of merchant seaman, it was whilst he was at Leeds University, where he was studying for the Priesthood, that Leonard was called up to join the RAF in 1942, aged 20.

He trained at Portage Le Prairie In Manitoba, Canada as an Air Navigator in Bomber Command. On his return to England along with a group containing a lot of newly trained pilots, they were asked to volunteer but not told what for. Leonard volunteered, passed more aptitude tests and was told to pair off with a pilot as they were going to be retrained as Night Fighters crews. He and his pilot, Gordon Hammond, passed the training and were sent to 600 City of London Squadron. He saw active service in North Africa and Italy.

One of their exploits can be read about in the January 2004 edition of the 600sq Association Newsletter under the storyline ‘The Last Kill’, where Leonard describes he and his pilot’s part in the downing of the last German aircraft by tsecond FW when they were on their own after their escort’s plane commanded by F/O Les Martin ran into engine trouble at take off on 13th April 1945.

At the end of the war he became acting Intelligence Officer of the Squadron.

After the war, Leonard returned to Leeds and the College of the Resurrection to complete his studies, where he met his wife Barbara to whom he was married for 62 1/2 years and who died last year. He was ordained and became curate of St Mary’s Hendon followed by a move to Stevenage until 1960, when he then went on to be vicar of All Saints in Queen’s Park, Bedford where he and his family settled. Since 1968 to his retirement in 1987 Leonard taught in Secondary Schools in Hendon and Kempston, Bedfordshire whilst also continuing with his ministry up until shortly before his death. He leaves behind two sons and a daughter.

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My father is at the end on the left.

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He is on the right with the cap at a very jaunty angle.

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The formal shot he is front row kneeling on the end at the right. He had red hair!

Fundraising for RAFA

90th Anniversary (1925-2015)

600 SQN has a MARATHON TEAM who will be taking part in the London Marathon (Sunday 26 April) and the Edinburgh Marathon (Sunday 31 May) in aid of the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA).

It is hoped more like-minded volunteers will come forward to join the team in Edinburgh. In the meantime, please provide some motivation for the team to go training on todays cold mornings by donating to the team fundraising page.

Sgt Bernard Wheeley

Sergeant Bernard William “Ginger” Wheeley – Service no. 00485  

09 July 1919 – 15 December 2013

 Bernard Wheeley

 Bernard in Italy – June 1945

Bernard was born on 9th July 1919 in Carlton Vale, Paddington, London, where he was to spend his formative years, prior to moving with his family to Dagenham. He was the eldest of four children – one brother and two sisters. He became a choirboy at the local church and singing was something he came back to in much later life.

After leaving school at 14, Bernard found employment as an office boy in Lawrence Lane in the City of London and then got into engineering as a machinist, working at Woolwich Arsenal. After initially planning on joining the Army, with his school friend Len Holt, they had a change of heart so after Len signed up at Hendon for the RAF Auxiliary Service in December 1936, Bernard followed in January 1937.

Bernard never regretted his decision to join the RAF, instead of the army, and he and Len were to stay friends until Len passed away in the 1990’s. Another close friend of Bernard’s during his time with 600 Squadron was Bob Hills and they also kept in touch with each other for many years. Bernard attended Bob and Joan’s wedding in 1942, shortly before being posted overseas.

Bernard always remembered with fondness the Hawker Harts and Hawker Demons, on which he learnt and honed his aircraft maintenance skills at Hendon. He was later to work as one of the ground crew Airframe Riggers on Blenheims, Beaufighters and Mosquitos, supporting the Squadron’s role in their night fighter activities.

In the 1930’s Bernard developed an interest in photography and over the next 60+ years took thousands of pictures, including many during his years with 600 Squadron. Fortunately he was both very organised and a hoarder. As a result he has left us a wonderful collection of photos of his life. In addition to photography he maintained various diaries, one of which has given us a fascinating account of his time with 600-squadron from November 1942 until December 1943. From his early days as a choirboy, music was very important to him and, whilst his attempts at playing the violin didn’t bear much fruit, listening to classical music gave him great comfort over the war years. He also sang with the 600-choir whilst stationed overseas.

Bernard served at various airfields, including Hendon, Manston, Predannack, Warmwell eventually ending up at Church Fenton prior to being posted overseas. His time at Manston was during the summer of 1940, when the airfield was subjected to the worst period of bombing.

On 28 November 1942 at the age of 23, Bernard marched out of Church Fenton, with the rest of the groundcrew stationed there, and boarded a train for Gourock.   There, they boarded the Duchess of Argyll ferry at 13.30 and then, after transferring onto the SS Orbita, sailed down to Algiers. Bernard did not have good sea-legs, suffering greatly on the voyage, and was very relieved to disembark at Bone about midday on 7th December.

Wheeley2

From left – Stan White, Bernard ‘Ginger’ Wheeley, Jack Wain and Cyril Haresign.

600-Squadron at Setif, Algeria 1943

Bernard was away almost three years, being stationed at various airfields in North Africa, Malta, Sicily and Italy before arriving home, via Austria, in 1945.

Wheeley3

The last of Luqa (Malta) in July 1943. From left – ‘Mac’ Maclean, Ben Opie, E/O Clennett, Bernard ‘Ginger’ Wheeley

Bernard left the RAF in 1946, to try his hand at farming at Newton Farm, Mullion, Cornwall with one of his close RAF colleagues, Jack Wain. Unfortunately this didn’t work out so he returned to London, where he obtained employment with the Ministry of Transport at Berkley Square.   It was here that he met Jo Lawrence, who was also working for the Ministry, and they married on 21 May 1947 in Epsom.

In 1948 Bernard joined Airwork Services and moved out of London, to Yateley in Hampshire. He spent the next 15 years working at Blackbushe Airport as an Aircraft Inspector, having spells at both Airwork and Pegasus where he worked on their small fleet of three Vickers Vikings. When Pegasus moved to Blackpool, Bernard managed to find employment at London Heathrow in 1963 with BEA. Here he worked on various aircraft including Viscounts, Vanguards and Argosy’s during the period when BEA and BOAC merged to form BA, until he took early retirement in 1975. After a short spell of full-time retirement the lure of being involved with aircraft again, led him to a part-time position as a storeman for ATS, a small light aircraft maintenance company back at Blackbushe Airfield for about four years. A bonus of this job meant he had first-hand access to Douglas Arnold’s collection of old aircraft and gained a lot of satisfaction in seeing and photographing the various historical aircraft based there.

Between October 1948 and January 1962 Bernard and Jo had four children, John, Martin, Marian and Kate. In 1955 they managed to buy a new bungalow on Longdown Lodge Estate in Sandhurst, Berkshire and they were both to live there for the rest of their lives.

Bernard was always keen to learn and was an avid reader, compiling a large collection of books on a wide range of subjects and becoming very knowledgeable about the City of London and Scotland. He combined his love of the City with photography by spending a few Sundays each year wandering the streets of the City. Afterwards he’d spend hours in his darkroom, undertaking his own photographic processing and, as a result, acquired a large and impressive collection of photographs of the City of London.

Some 60 years after singing in his local church choir, Bernard joined a local choir in Crowthorne and renewed his love of singing, thoroughly enjoying the performances they gave.

In 1975 he expanded his love of Scotland by buying a small remote cottage backing on to the River Oykel in the North of Scotland. He and Jo regularly visited the cottage and spent many hours there tending the garden and enjoying the countryside of Scotland.

In May 1977 the first of his nine grandchildren was born and he and Jo enjoyed their company and watching them grow-up.

After Jo became ill in the late 1990’s, Bernard devoted himself to caring for her until she passed away in 2006. This left a big hole in Bernard’s life. After Jo’s passing, Bernard spent the last seven years of his life at home in his bungalow, then, after a short spell in hospital he moved to Donnington Care Home in Newbury where he passed away six weeks later on December 15th 2013.