COLIN WITH 75 CONTINUED
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Having been contacted by Ian Carswell, Norman Edward's nephew, he generously sent me a copy of Norman Edward's letters home, together with two images. They depict 75 Squadron aircrew partying at 'The Ship Inn', now closed and renamed 'The Old Ship Inn', still situated on the Southery Road just outside Feltwell.

75 Squadron aircrew

75 Squadron aircrew

In the above image Norman Edwards under the upturned tankard, centre.

75 Squadron aircrew


1940 October 23rd

Five aircraft were sent out to search for P/O Sanderson and crew who had come down in the sea, but to no avail.

1940 October 23rd/24th

"Five 75 Squadron Wellingtons set out as part of a mission involving 23 Wellingtons. 12 attacked Berlin and 11 attacked Emden."
(* There was some confusion over dates. The War Cabinet Weekly Resume has the attack on Hamburg taking place on the night of 22/23rd October, the mission on the night of 21/22nd October being to bomb Berlin. This is now known to have been incorrect.)

1940 October 25/26th

Nine 75 Squadron Wellingtons on overnight operation to attack target ‘B.8’, which could have been either a German oil installation or harbour.

1940 October 28/29th

"Ten of the Squadron’s Wellingtons in the air overnight to attack target D.4, and others, in Germany." (O.R.B.)

1940 October 30th

Due to the difficulty of identifying and accurately targeting specific objectives the RAF issued a directive sanctioning ‘Area Bombing’.

1940 November 6th

"Two Squadron aircraft despatched in the small hours to bomb target G.30." (O.R.B.)

1940 November 8/9th

"Eight of the Squadron aircraft on an overnight raid to bomb target M.487 etc." (O.R.B.)

1940 November 10/11th

Eight Squadron Wellingtons on an overnight raid to attack Gelsenkirchen where there was German Oil processing.

1940 November 12/13th

Seven Squadron Wellingtons again on overnight attack, target almost certainly Gelsenkirchen.

1940 November 14/15th

Nine Squadron aircraft on an overnight mission to attack Berlin; Soesterburg Aerodrome or Schipol Aerodrome, both in Holland.
Pilot Officer Norman Edwards was back on operations and flew as second pilot to Pilot Officer Lockwood to attack Soesterburg Aerodrome. There they dropped 500 lb bombs and some delayed action bombs on buildings to the south east of the aerodrome. Incendiaries were dropped in the same area at a height of only 4,000 feet. Incendiaries were seen to eventually merge into two persistent fires which were observed until obscured by mist on their return journey.

R.A.F. Station,
Feltwell,
Thetford,
Norfolk.
November 15th, 1940

My dear folks,
It is now six months since I came to this poor dear country. Sometimes it seems quite impossible when I think of all the friends I've lost quite a lot of whom arrived here long after I did. I sure have a lot for which to be thankful. But before I go further thanks for your last cable, I'm glad that you're glad that I'm better. I am quite recovered and the night before last I was over Germany again. In an effort to stop the bombing of London we have been concentrating rather on enemy `dromes' lately and the other night we found one with Huns buzzing all round it. I guess they were rather shaken when they found that we weren't one of theirs. They've been playing havoc with our shipping lately. I've been afraid some of your mail may have gone as I haven't had any for sometime. Disappointing as you may imagine. I'm slowly collecting one or two photos over here in an album so if anything should happen do have my things sent out to N.Z. Not that I'm getting despondent, I still hope to see the 'estate' again! How is it all? I'm glad the war didn't come before the new place was built because I'll know always what home is like. Dad, it must be kept in the family, somehow I would love nothing better than to get married and have a home like that. Afraid I haven't any news, even our job can be-come monotonous except when we're actually flying. At present our biggest enemy is the weather. Ice and thun-der is often encountered - sometimes we are forced to fly just over the waves of the North Sea.
And now I must seek my virtuous couch. Don't worry we're still on the job, here, and I feel happy to know that I'm doing my share.
Lots of love to you all, Norm.

1940 November 16/17th

Nine Squadron Wellingtons on overnight mission to bomb Hamberg. One hundred and thirty bombers were sent as a response to the devastating destruction wrought on Coventry had commenced on the night of November 14th.

1940 November 18th

The Squadron Operations Record Book states Wellington 1C Serial T2820, presumably the wreckage of Colin's aircraft from October 21st, was despatched to Vickers Armstrong at Weybridge.

Officers Mess,
R.A.F. Station,
Feltwell,
Thetford,
Norfolk.
November 22nd, 1940

My Dear Mother & Father & Family,
If all had been well I should, by now, be over Berlin but tonight our aircraft was unserviceable so here I am free to write you and answer your very welcome letters dated 16th and 23rd Sept. received this morning. How are my letters arriving out there? I seem to write fairly often but if you look for mine so I look for yours then I couldn't write too frequently. It's great to hear news from home and to know that all is well with you. Hope by now all the 'flu' has gone, I am very well and tonight would have been our first trip with the entire crew again. Much nicer than flying with strange crews as we know each other well by now and danger makes for friendship. Christmas will soon be here, if I send this Air-mail it should be there in time to convey all I feel for you. I believe this is my first Christmas away for 26 years but I know your thoughts will be as much as mine will be with you. I am not sending anything partly because I can't really afford to and partly because it would possibly go astray. But I do thank you for all you've promised to send. Actually, socks are my greatest need apart from which I need nothing. I don't smoke much but Craven `A' are very hard to get here although that isn't really a hint. Got a letter from Gytha, one from Peggie and one from Fairley recently. Very nice of them but they didn't have to tell me Kath had been down. I don't suppose she saw you? She's now Mrs Black. Thanks for the "under-standing", Dad. As a matter of fact, if I do have another crash I intend asking for a ground job. I'm not too old but I really think I've passed the mad stage of life and that is what this Air Force needs. However, as I've no more news, I think I'll pop off to bed. Lots of love to you all and remember me over your turkey.
Your loving son & brother, Norm.

1940 November 23/24th

Colin and crew carried out a 45 minute night flying test, taking off at 1130, in Wellington T2547.

Eleven Squadron Wellingtons on an overnight bombing mission to attack Berlin, Cologne, Potsdam Station or the Aerodrome at Koln. One aircraft is listed with neither a take-off or landing time and no explanation given, perhaps it didn’t return; or it may have been declared unserviceable.

1940 November 26/27th

Colin and crew carried out a 45 minute night flying test, taking off at 11.00, in Wellington T2547.

Colin and crew were back on operations. Ten Squadron Wellingtons, among them Colin and crew in Wellington T2547, set out at 18.00 on an overnight mission, Colin to attack Berlin. They had to abort the mission after one hour due to engine trouble. While logged in Malcolm Harris's Flying Log Book the crew's participation in this operation is not recorded in the Squadron's Operations Record Book.

1940 November 28th

An entry in the 75 Squadron Operations Record Book dated 28th January 1941 records Colin was posted to R.A.F. Station Feltwell with effect from 28th November 1940 (therefore back-dated).

1940 November 29/30th

Taking off at 11.00, Norman Edwards piloted Wellington R1177 from Methwold to Feltwell.

Colin and crew carried out a 30 minute night flying test in Wellington R1177 which had been flown in from Methwold by 2nd Pilot P.O. Edwards. They took off at 11.20. It seems likely this was to deliver and clear the aircraft for operations, the first of which R1177 embarked on, captained by Pilot Officer Newman, on December 6th.

Six Squadron aircraft on a late evening mission to bomb attack Bremen or Cologne.

1940 December 2nd

Taking off at 10.45, Norman Edwards flew Wellington R3231 to Methwold with Malcolm Harris. They returned from Methwold at 11.10 bringing Wellington T2547 which was to be Colin and crew's plane for the next few days.

Colin and crew took off at 11.30 to carry out a 45 minute night flying test in Wellington T2547. Malcom Harris’s (navigator) Flying Log Book.

1940 December 5th

Norman Edwards and crew carried out a 20 minute Night Flying Test on Wellington T2547, taking off at 11.00.

1940 December 6/7th

Norman Edwards and crew carried out a 30 minute Night Flying Test on Wellington T2547, taking off at 10.50.

Colin and crew were one of 13 Squadron crews detailed to carry out individual attacks. Colin was flying Wellington T2549, Colin wasn’t assigned a Raid Ref. No. They took off at 21.00, bombed Calais and then patrolled the Paris airfields at 3,000 feet for 2 hours, landing back at Feltwell at 02.00. Colin’s crew was again:

Second pilot: P/O N.J.Edwards
Navigator: Sgt. M.G.Harris
Wireless Operator: Sgt. F.Haigh
Front Gunner: Sgt. Broad
Rear Gunner: Sgt F.J.Read

"Results were not observed owing to searchlight and light flak activity, but one fire was seen on the N.W. corner of inner basin at Calais. Many dummy flare paths were seen. The blackout in Paris and suburbs was very poor.
Intense A.A. fire was experienced in parts of target areas. Intense and accurate searchlight activity encountered in parts of the route. A number of enemy aircraft were seen but no attacks made. Heavy cloud with icing conditions was experienced in some parts of target areas." (O.R.B.)

1940 December 8th

Norman Edwards and crew carried out a 30 minute Night Flying Test on Wellington T2547, taking off at 11.00.

1940 December 9/10th

Eight Squadron crews were detailed to carry out individual bombing attacks. Colin and his crew set off at 16.45 in Wellington T2547, Raid Ref. No. MSW155, to bomb Lorient, landing back at Feltwell at 23.05.
All Feltwell based aircraft were each to be loaded with 6 containers of incenduries, and the rest general purpose 500 lb bombs. Colin’s crew were as usual:

Second pilot: P/O N.J.Edwards
Navigator: Sgt. M.G.Harris
Wireless Operator: Sgt. F.Haigh
Front Gunner: Sgt. Broad
Rear Gunner: Sgt F.J.Read

Colin reported bombs burst on the S.W. of dock areas. Fires from incendiaries followed by explosions in same area.
“A moderate amount of inaccurate light, medium, and heavy flak was experienced at parts of target areas. Searchlights were fairly active and accurate. The weather was clear over target areas, but cloud was experienced on return.” (O.R.B.)

1940 December 11/12th

Norman Edwards and crew took off at 11.50 on a 20 minute Night Flying Test.

Five Wellingtons from the Squadron set out to attack Boulogne and Mannheim. "Some heavy A.A. Fire was experienced en route but there was very little over the target areas. Slight searchlight activity was experienced over Bologne and Calais, but they were ineffective over Mannheim due to cloud. Ten-tenths cloud with icing conditions were experienced over Mannheim." (O.R.B.)

1940 December 13/14th
Norman Edwards and crew took off at 12.15 on a 45 minute Night Flying Test.

Eight 75 Squadron Wellingtons were detailed to carry out individual attacks on target N.62 (Bremen or Keil)
Colin and crew attacked Bremen in Wellington T2547, Raid Ref. No. MSC868, taking off at 16.45 and landing back at Feltwell at 21.45, 5 hours later.
Colin and crew reported there was fairly heavy and accurate A.A. fire over target areas, but there was very little activity elsewhere. Searchlights were ineffective over target area due to cloud, but many, which were very effective, were experienced over Amsterdam. Heavy cloud was experienced over almost whole of route and in target areas.
Colin’s crew were again:

Second pilot: P/O N.J.Edwards
Navigator: Sgt. M.G.Harris
Wireless Operator: Sgt. F.Haigh
Front Gunner: Sgt. Broad
Rear Gunner: Sgt. F.J.Read

Colin was unable to report results of his attack due to cloud cover.

1940 December 15th

"Eight Squadron Wellingtons carried out individual attacks on Berlin, Frankfurt and/or Bremen." (O.R.B.)

1940 December 16th

"Ten Squadron Wellingtons made individual attacks on ‘Target D.55’." (O.R.B.)

1940 December 17th

Norman Edwards, together with Malcolm Harris took off at 15.00 on a 15 minute flight to deliver Wellington R3211 to Methwold.

Officers Mess,
Feltwell,
Norfolk.
18-12-1940

Dear Mother, Dad & Family,
A little while ago I wrote to you by surface mail but I think I'll send this airmail as life is pretty short and hectic and I always feel as though I want you to know that I am alive and well from day to day. Christmas will be well past before this arrives. I hope you enjoyed it and didn't miss me too much because really I think our Christmas will be quite a jolly one. We are working all the time but will make the most of the hours off. I have never felt so popular before, parcels from the 'People of Hastings' also the 'People of Christchurch', from Aunt Ada. She sent many handy things (handks), gloves, shav-ing soap etc. Also a lovely big cake from the Office Staff at Napier. They sent a nice note signed by them all so would you ring Freddie Browne and thank them for me, Dad and tell them how much it was appreciated. Mother can perhaps Let Helen Ford know my parcel arrived safely. Being a New Zealand Squadron, tons of mail arrives here daily. I wish you could see all the fellows hunting through it. We have heaps of fun. On or about Christmas we are to have a large dinner with Sir Cyril Newell and heads of the Bomber Command here. Our Squadron has purchased a painting of a Wellington Aircraft called "Return at Dawn". It cost us 100 guineas and is being taken to N.Z. by Sir Cyril Newell and exhibited there together with a list of the contribu-tors so if you can go and see it. A small copy of the painting appears on a Christmas card and I've sent you one. Sir Cyril Newell is a great friend of ours here and I'm sure you people will all like him as your new Governor General.............
Rest of letter lost.

1940 December 19th

Norman Edwards, with Malcolm Harris, flew Wellington T2835 in from Methwold, taking off for the 15 minute flight at 1045. Colin and crew took of in Wellington T2835 at 11.15 for a 20 minute Night Flying test.

Eight Squadron Wellingtons made individual attacks against ‘Target A.71’.

1940 December 20th

Norman Edwards and crew, took off at 15.30 on a 20 minute Instrument Test in Wellington T2736.

1940 December 22nd /23rd

Norman Edwards and crew took off from Methwold at 11.30 in Wellington R3211 on a Night Flying Test. This was the aircraft they had flown over to Methwold on the 17th.

Colin and crew took off at 12.35 to carry out a night flying test in Wellington T2835.

Twelve Squadron Wellingtons were detailed to carry out individual attacks on Targets D.55 and Flushing. Colin and crew in Wellington T2835, Raid Ref. No.DMU936, took off at 16.45 to attack Mannheim, but returned at 21.40 having failed to locate the target, with bomb load still on board. Sergeant Chuter and crew failed to return.
Colin's crew were:
Second pilot: P/O F.A.Andrews*
Navigator: Sgt. M.G.Harris
Wireless Operator: Sgt. F.Haigh
Front Gunner: Sgt. Broad
Rear Gunner: F/L McGrath (standing in for Sgt. F.J. Read)

The photograph's the family possess from Colin's flying activities date from his time with 75 Squadron. Two are posed alongside the battle scarred Wellington AA-C. The serial number beginning with 'T28' and ending with '5', together with its Squadron code, confirms it is Wellington MK1.C serial T2835, the aircraft Colin had captained on this operation to Mannheim.The photographs would seem to have been taken to mark his last sortie with 75 Squadron, and with ‘his’ crew.

Colin with T2835

Colin's crew

Left to right: Sgt.Malcolm Harris (navigator/observer), Sgt.F.Haigh (radio operator), Flt.Lt.Colin Gilbert (captain),
P/O Norman Edwards (2nd pilot), Sgt. F.J.Read (rear gunner), Sgt.Broad (front gunner).

David Duxbury, quoting 75 Squadron’s Operations Record Book says Wellington T.2835 seems to have led a charmed life with 75, not being sent away till 1/11/41 when it was sent to the BAT Flight at Mildenhall.

1940 28th December

On 5th February 1941 an entry was made in the Squadrons Operations Record Book stating: “F/Lt. C.L.Gilbert posted to R.A.F. Station, Feltwell, w.e.f, 28.11.40 Auth’y: 3 Group 3G/6601/3 dated 20.1.41.”
In effect he was posted to the Station he was already on with 75 Squadron. Colin's Service Record reveals he was posted "sick", so presumably relieved of flying duties he joined the ground personnel at Feltwell.
Another entry made on the same date records “Flt/Lt Gilbert promoted to the War Substantive rank of Flight Lieutenant w.e.f. 21.9.40, Auth’y: Extract from London Gazette Serial No.35057 dated 28.1.41”

1941 January 21st

Colin's Service Record states he was promoted. On the 5th February, and an entry in the 75 Squadron Operations Record Book, records “Flt/Lt Gilbert promoted to the War Substantive rank of Flight Lieutenant w.e.f. 21.9.40, Auth’y: Extract from London Gazette Serial No.35057 dated 28.1.41”
1941 February 14th

Colin's Service Record records from this date he was again posted to No.15 OTU for "Flying Duties."

Colin with 15 O.T.U