Letters to the Editor

Dear Henry,

Looking through some of my father’s photographs and memorabilia today, I came across a few things which I thought may be of interest to you and 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron Association.

I found two photos, with notations on the reverse, made by my father (Jimmy Evans). I am sending you the two original photos in order that you may copy them properly and also the comments on the reverse. Could you kindly, at your convenience, return the originals to me. I am sure you will be familiar with the names of his friends. Interesting to see that Peter Ball had the nickname ‘Pranger’.

I trust all is well with you and that you are enjoying the summer months.

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Fg Off Peter Ball DFM (‘Pranger’), 44 (Rhodesia) Sqn, June 1942. A great friend and a marvellous fellow - the best Lancaster pilot yet flown with.

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Four Good Friends, 44 Sqn Waddington: Plt Off Dave ‘Toffee’ Appleton (killed), Fg Off Peter Ball DFM (killed), Flt Lt Halls DFC (‘Gunner’,missing June 1942), Fg Off ‘Daisy’ Garwell DFM DFC (Augsburg raid April 1942, POW). Signed: J M Evans

With Best Wishes, Carol C Marsh


Jack Ryan’s 75th Anniversary Newsletter

From Gary Mahon, 3 Highland Road, Canterbury, Victoria 3126, Australia

Our uncle, John Joseph Ryan, was a Lancaster bomber pilot in World War 2 and lost his life on 4 March 1945 while serving in the RAAF / RAF in No. 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron.

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His crew were based at Spilsby in Lincolnshire and were returning from a successful night time bombing raid on the Dortmund-Ems canal at Ladbergen, Germany. They were over England and nearing their home base when their aircraft was attacked and shot down by a German 'intruder' night fighter. The Lancaster crashed in the Brocklesby Estate and all of the crew were killed. Wednesday 4th March 2020 marks the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of his death.

A Cousins Committee consisting of Garry Mahon, John Canny, Pete Mahon, Ian McEachern and Michael Meere has for several months now been planning a series of events in the UK and here in Australia to mark the occasion which we believe will be a very significant event in the history of the Ryan Family. There are two reasons for us doing this. To better inform our cousins about who Jack Ryan was and the story of his achievements in his relatively short life and, secondly, to alert you to a series of events to celebrate his life that you may wish to attend.

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Jack Ryan (front row, second from the left) with other Bomber Command air and ground crew

This is the first edition of our Newsletter designed to provide you with early details of the event program which we hope all of our cousins will be interested in and are most cordially invited to attend.

The Scope and Objectives of the Project:

  • Comprehensive collation, inventory, and planning for secure long-term storage, access and possible display of all relevant documents and memorabilia
  • Review of relevant literature, including books, journal articles, and web sites
  • Inventory and planning for long-term curation of all sites of significance and war memorials to John Joseph Ryan and groups with which he was associated
  • Preparation of some form of commemorative publication, either as a "stand alone" book or as part of a history of our family or of some other broader association
  • A theme-based, group tour to the UK, including visits to relevant sites 
  • A commemorative event at the crash site or other suitable location in the UK
  • A commemorative event in Melbourne

We are planning a theme based group tour commencing in March next year to the UK to attend a commemorative ceremony on 4 March 2020 on the very spot where his plane was shot down. The site is located in a massive 27,000 acre estate known as Brocklesby Park in Lincolnshire, owned by the Earl of Yarborough.

The tour will also include visits to other relevant and significant sites in the UK including Jack’s burial site in Cambridge. In addition, we anticipate recognising the anniversary during the Anzac Day Mass at the Xavier College Chapel on 25 April 2020.

The project is involving significant family research to gather as much information about Jack which will be included in a Commemorative Booklet which is being authored by Garry Mahon. We are in the process of sourcing any memorabilia relating to Jack’s life. For example, John Canny has a collection of items passed onto him by Jack’s widow, Betty Ryan, better known to us as Auntie Tutt, who was his God Mother.

We also know that the oar Jack used to stroke the 1929 Xavier College Eight to victory is on display at the School in the Stephenson Centre, having been gifted by Ian McEachern. If you or your family have items of interest, please let us know so they can be included on a memorabilia register we are creating.

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The winning 1929 Head of the River Crew, stroked by Jack Ryan (second from right)

Jack was assigned to No 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron in Bomber Command. The Squadron Association remains active so we are touch with them to establish whether they will  join us and the descendants of Jack’s crew in planning the various events. A commemorative event was held at the crash site on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the crash. Of that event the Squadron Association wrote:

“... a group of about 50 people attended ... A very moving but simple ceremony was attended by the Earl of Yarborough and Lady Yarborough, and we were fortunate in having a representative of the RAAF there, along with representatives of various service organisations. Mr Birch, a brother of one of the crew, was also present.”

As our plans for the commemorative event at Brocklesby Estate and the tour of other sites are further developed we will let you know.

Jack was a pretty famous Old Xaverian. He stroked the winning 1929 Xavier College crew to victory in the Head of the River, following on from our Uncle Bill’s similar feat in 1928. As Xavier has only won the Head of the River on five occasions, their winning successes are significant. Jack also excelled at other sports at Xavier.

We have been in touch with Catherine Hall, the Xavier College Archivist, who has been very helpful. Sadly there is little reference to Jack in the archives but Catherine has sent us massive coverage of the sporting achievements of our uncles Bill and Jack, together we ran obituary for Jack that was published in The Xaverian. There is a possibility of a group of current students might participate in the ceremony.

For further information contact:

Gary Mahon: +61 409 148 206 or

Peter Mahon: +61 418 351 754 or

John Canny: +61 412 176 506 or


A New WWII Memoir

My grandfather Richard M. Wicker was a member of 44 Squadron in the Second World War. His Handley-Page Hampden was shot down over Cologne on 29th August 1940, and he was detained as a POW until May 1945.

Richard died in 1980, but we recently discovered a manuscript he had written about his wartime experiences — and we have published as a book, We Happy Few, available online at

I would be delighted if you could circulate this information among your members and all potentially interested parties.

Many thanks,
David Bradford


SUEZ 1956 - A Request for Help

I am an ex-NavRad; a few months on Dick Haven’s crew on 44, then a tour with Ernie Bishop on 27 and one with Tony Burton on 101. I came out in 1976 and went off into mainframe computers until I took early retirement in 2005 to go to Reading University to study history; BA, MA and PhD. Since then I have had two books published on WW1, another on the American war of Independence is currently with the publisher. That’s the background.

My current project is a short book on the RAF bombing campaign in Suez, 1956. I am currently in the research stage and going through a number of files in the National Archive at Kew. These give essential detail, but lack any personal perspective. I would love to hear from anyone who was involved on Canberras or Valiants, especially regarding navigation and bombing. I have no familiarity with the T4 bombsight or Blue Shadow and would particularly appreciate any input on these pieces of kit. Also, comments on visual bombing from height. Any help would be appreciated and acknowledged.

If anyone is interested in my WW1 books they are:
‘Allies are a tiresome lot. The British Army in Italy in the First World War’.
‘Battalions at War. The York & Lancaster Regiment in the First World War’.

John Dillon



Vulcans in Rhodesia

As you can gather from my email address I am now a resident in Australia. I am however a one time member of the RAFVR, having been in Durham University Air Squadron during my University days (way back in the early 1960s).

Prior to that I had lived in the then Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and had attended high school at what had, during WW2, been one of the Commonwealth Pilot Training bases.

During the latter part of the 1950s, a RAF Vulcan made a visit to the then Federation, and did a flight around all (I believe) major cities in each of the three countries making up the Federation. I was at school during the Vulcan visit, and our school was "beaten up" by a (very) low pass. I have always suspected the flight crew must have included at least some people who had trained at Guinea Fowl during WW2.

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A visiting Vulcan and a Comet on the ramp at Salisbury

After meaning to for a long time, I have recently tried to find out more details of the visit of the Vulcan to Africa. I have drawn a blank in Africa itself as the newspaper in Harare (Salisbury at the time of the visit) seem to have no archives and cannot help me.

I have also tried the UK National Archives, but I find 44 Squadron ORBs held there on file run up until 31 July 1957, and restart at 01 August 1960. As I am pretty certain the visit was in the period between these dates, I have drawn a blank there too.

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Familiar badge?

It is an assumption on my part that the Vulcan which visited actually came from 44 Squadron, but in view of the name of the Squadron, I believe it is a reasonable assumption. My reason for writing this email is to see if there might be anyone involved with your association who can shed any light on the actual timing of the visit, and, if possible, identify the aircraft which made the visit. If it is possible to identify any crew member who might have trained at Guinea Fowl during WW2, I am sure a note to the school "old boys" website on Facebook would be of interest to the few of us left from those days.

Many thanks and Kind Regards,

John Waldram

Ed. 44 Sqn did send a lone Vulcan to Rhodesia in 1965, with yours truly onboard. However, the Vulcan to which John Waldram refers must have come from some other unit, as 44 Sqn didn’t receive its first Vulcan until the summer of 1960. If anyone knows of this earlier Vulcan visit to Rhodesia, John would be delighted to hear from you at


Vulcan AR Mission in the Falklands

Congratulation for the article about Black Buck operation against Argentinian air force AN/TPS-43 operated by Grupo 2 vyca.

I am very glad and surprised to find an artwork of me! If you look carefully in the fin of the shrike missile, you can find my name: Pablo Burgos

Paul Burgos

Ed. Unfortunately, the resolution of the picture to which Pablo refers is inadequate for us to be able to pick out his name.


Memorial to Aircrew of Lancaster LM 592 of 44 Squadron, 22 June 2019

My wife and I recently attended a memorial dedication at Walik, The Netherlands. This was to recognise the gallant actions of the aircrew of LM 592 who died when their aircraft crashed on 22 June 1944 near Riethoven in The Netherlands. The local community erected a fine memorial at the crash site on the 75th anniversary of the event.

My wife’s uncle, Louis Joseph Patrick McCoy, was the rear gunner on that craft and so we attended at the invitation of the organisers. There were 10 representatives of crew members at the event from Australia and the UK. 44 Squadron Association sent a wreath to the dedication ceremony.

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My wife and the other family members would like to thank the Association for their recognition of the brave airmen. I have photos of the event and can supply some if the Association so wishes.

Regards, Russell Smith


The Lost Traveller

A man in a hot air balloon realised he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

The woman below replied, “You’re in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You’re between 59 and 60 degrees north latitude and between 107 and 108 degrees west longitude.”

“You must be an engineer,” said the balloonist.

“I am,” replied the woman, “How did you know?”

“Well,” answered the balloonist, “everything you told me is technically correct, but I’ve no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I’m still lost. Frankly, you’ve not been much help at all. If anything,
you’ve delayed my trip.”

The woman below responded, “You must be a politician.”

“I am,” replied the balloonist, “but how did you know?”

“Well,” said the woman, “you don’t know where you are or where you’re going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise, which you’ve no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it’s my fault.”

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44 Squadron ground crew 1942

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