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626 Squadron and RAF wickenby

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W/O  E.W Smith's crew


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The above photograph from Leslie Street's daughter Joyce Wynn,  shows W/O E.W Smith's crew at RAF Wickenby. This experienced and successful crew were one of the eight from 12 Squadron who formed 626's 'A' Flight in November 1943.  

Left to Right Top  1 Sgt Albert George Luke (Rear Gunner),  2  Sgt K (Tony) Van-Hal (Flight Engineer),  3 Sgt John Colles (Wireless Operator),  4  Sgt G  Parker (Upper Gunner)

Left to Right Bottom 5  F/O Bill Newman (Bomb Aimer)    6 W/O  E W Smith ( Pilot)   7  Leslie C J Street (Navigator)


Tragically after W/O Smith and  F/O Bill Newman had completed their tour of operations three of their crewmates in the photo lost their lives on the December 2nd 1943 raid to Berlin when  flying in JA864 with their 'A' Flight commander, New Zealand Squadron Leader Roden DFC. They were the Rear Gunner Albert Luke, 20 year old Flight Engineer Tony Van Hal, and 34 year old Navigator Leslie Street.


Lancaster JA864 was delivered to No.12 Sqdn 6 Jul 43, to No.626 Sqdn newly formed from 'C' Flight No.12 Sqdn 7 Nov 43.  No record of total hours. airborne 1657 2 Dec 43 from Wickenby. Believed crashed at Glienicke some 14 km NNW from the centre of Berlin, where six are buried in the 1939-45 War Cemetery. Sgt Whitmore has no known grave. S/L Roden was a New Zealander from Tauranga; he had joined the Regular RAF in 1937. S/L G.A. Roden DFC KIA, Sgt J.W.Stewart Inj, Sgt H.A.Van Hal KIA, Sgt L.C.J. Street KIA, Sgt T.R. Jackson KIA, Sgt G.H. Brittle KIA, Sgt H.W. Whitmore KIA, Sgt A.G. Luke KIA.  Sgt J.W.Stewart was confined in Hospital due injuries. (POW)    L

You're sure it's for us, John?' 
'Yes, captain, it's correctly prefixed with the Group call sign.' 
'And then?' "Immediate recall. Land at Exeter." And a date-time group.' 
It didn't make sense. I made a slow, careful search of the sky: some thin cirrus, patches of alto-cumulus, nothing in the least menacing. And how could we all possibly land at Exeter? 

'The weather looks all right to me. We'll press on and wait for a repeat.' 
'Very well, captain.' 
An hour later, when we were half-way across the North Sea,
Colles reported again. 
'Wireless-operator to captain. You were right; I've just had a cancellation of the recall. We're to continue as briefed.' 
It transpired that the original broadcast was intended for a small force of Wellingtons, who were being kept out of our way. But the damage had already been partially done; 113 of our aircraft aborted, and landed at Exeter. The Control Officer there must have wondered whether he were the victim of a practical joke on a very large scale.  'Lancaster Target'
by Jack Currie.


I came across your site of 626 squadron crew information and noted WO Smith's crew had two men named as

 probable identifications. They are in fact as you named them, G Parker - Right back row, and Leslie Street - right front row. Leslie Charles John Street was my father and I have the same photo as in your article autographed by the men. I enclose a copy of it as an attachment. I hope this will be of interest to you.    

I have no personal memories of my father at all so the information is second hand from his sister and my mother's sisters mainly Leslie Charles [for his father] John [for both his grandfathers] Street was born in Bournemouth in 1909. His family for many generations having lived in Christchurch and the villages of South Hampshire. His father decided to move north to Southport in Lancashire where Leslie grew up except for a few years during WW1 when his mother moved back to her family while his father was in France in the RFC. [He was a tailor and spent his war stitching fabric repairs on aircraft!]

When he left school Leslie became a joiner and worked in the building trade. He made some lovely oak furniture for his family and enjoyed playing cricket and badminton with his church teams and spent his holidays hiking and camping in the Lake District.

In 1937 he married Hannah Doreen Gibbons and they had two daughters, myself. Joyce, in 1937 and my sister Nadine just after war broke out in 1939. As war work he joined the National Fire Service in Southport and knew first hand the devastation and terror of heavy bombing as with his crew he battled the appalling destruction and fires of near- by Liverpool and the docks to the north.

His younger brother Eric, in the regular RAF 45 squadron, was killed on his 25th birthday in April 1941 and buried now at Halfaya Sollum Egypt

 At that time 45 Squadron was based at Fuka, Egypt, flying Blenheim Mk IV bombers in defence of Tobruk and against the advancing Afrika Corps. Sgt Eric Street flew as an Observer and he is recorded as 'mentioned in despatches' At some point after that Leslie volunteered for the RAF.        Joyce Wynn nee Street



Leslie Street's 'passing out ' photograph after completing his initial training.

top row - Brooks, Mills, Marshall, Knight, Ellis, Houghton, Abbott, Street, Bull

second row - Polland, Huckfield, Smith, Vere Hodge, Neate, Cpl Bishop, Cpl Sparks, Yelland, Brook, Pygram, Williamson, Eggleston, Boyes

Third row - Baxter, Platt, Singer, Burrows, Shaw, Corram, Daines, O'Toole, Varley, Evans, Waite, Shaw, Beattie

Bottom row - Webb, Hall, Stancer, Steward, Poulter, Cpl Chambers, P/O Ross, F/L Hooman, F/Sgt Mitchelson, Cpl Cannon, Brown, Brown, Wild, Thompson, Mowan



New Zealander Frank Welford and his crew


Frank Welford began his flying career with the New Zealand Air Force at the Kimberley Training Camp in Levin.He was part of the Flight 1B Squadron 1 at Levin, New Zealand in August 1941. 

Following this initial training he went to Harewood, Christchurch to learn to fly Tiger Moths. As soon as he graduated Frank sailed to Britain on a meat ship carrying frozen lamb.

After two months advanced training at Ossington he was posted to No.26 Operation training unit (OTU) at RAF Wing. By September 13th 1942 the Bomber command planned to send a mammoth raid of 1000 bombers to Bremen, Germany and to make up the numbers novice crews still under training were included. Frank's war had begun with a vengeance. There were three mass bomber raids in which the OTU were involved.

Of the eight New Zealand captains involved only two survived. Frank altogether flew 29 operations before being granted leave to spend time with his wife Polly who had joined him in Britain.

On 26/27th April 1944 his aircraft was damaged, and one of his crew was killed on a bombing run to Essen.

The message from Air Chief Marshal Sir A. T Harris reads:-

The Commander-in-chief wishes to bring to the notice of all ranks in the Command the commendable conduct of the under mentioned members of a crew of No. 626 Squadron.

NZ 414366 P/O F.L. Welford Pilot and Captain, 1131395 F/Sgt. B.J.G. Marlow W/Op, 1527435 F/Sgt. B. Kent B/A, Can/R.186372 Sgt. J. C. Tyler R/G.


On the night of 26/27th April 1944 the above named officer and N.C.O.s were members of a crew detailed to bomb Essen. The aircraft reached the target on the ordered route and the bombing run was carried out and bombs dropped without incident, despite considerable searchlight and flak activity.

Immediately after the release of the bomb load the aircraft was struck by falling incendiaries, the Perspex canopy over the cockpit being pierced by one of these.

P/O Welford the Pilot received extensive injuries on the head and the Flight Engineer was fatally injured and collapsed. Another incendiary bomb landed forward of the rear turret door and exploded. Sgt Tyler opened his door and successfully put out the flames with the fire extinguisher, being severely wounded in the process when the bomb exploded. When the Pilot was hit the aircraft went into a dive and lost 3,000 feet, but P/O Welford managed to regain control after he had been attended to by F/Sgt Kent the Air Bomber ( the latter having assumed the duties of the Flight Engineer)







Despite the intense pain he was suffering and the possibility of his losing consciousness, P/O Welford carried on and completed the flight,successfully landing at Woodbridge.

F/Sgt Marlow, the Wireless Operator, attended to the Mid Upper Gunner, whose right arm had been severely torn, and supplied a tourniquet. He then proceeded to give first aid to the Rear Gunner, who was lying on the rear fuselage duckboard, before returning to his seat and later informing M/F of their predicament.

The coolness and initiative displayed by the above-mentioned members of the crew is a magnificent example of captaincy and crew co-operation in the most trying circumstances and their exemplary conduct and discipline are worthy of high praise.






Frank had sustained a depressed fracture of the skull, but he still managed to get his boys home. John Tyler had been hit in the legs by the exploding incendiary. He was taken off to hospital and the two lost touch.

In 1992 , long after his retirement, Frank made a trip to Calgary, Canada for a reunion with John Tyler.  Frank had last seen John being driven away in an ambulance after their crippled Lancaster made its emergency landing at Woodbridge airfield in Suffolk. The Newspaper clipping of the report of the visit is inscribed by Tyler  "To Frank, the greatest skipper in the RAF, Johnny".   



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We are always pleased to hear from anyone who can add to our knowledge about 626 Squadron. If you have memories, corrections, photographs or just plain observations, your input will be gratefully accepted.