Name of Captain: F/O R.C. Penning
Aircraft: Liberator Mk.V - Mk.VIII
Crew Details:

 

(standing L-R) Sgt A.F. Keetly (British), Sgt J.E. Berry (Canadian), Sgt J.H. Walton (Canadian), W/O H.G. Willows (Aust.) (seated L-R) F/O G.H. Bonelle (Canadian), F/O P.A. Richardson (Nav-Canadian), F/O R.C. Penning (Skipper - British), F/O A. Johnston (2nd pilot - British), F/O R. Webb (Canadian). (submitted by Alan Johnston - member of the crew). Photo most likely taken at RAF Ballykelly in Northern Ireland.

F/O R.C. Penning (pilot) was posted in with his crew (F/O D.W.B Taylor - Skipper) on the 28.4.1943 from No. 120 Squadron, flying their first sortie on the 10th of June, in FL985 - M/59 - an A/S Escort to TA47 - M/V not met. He flew a further 6 Escort patrols with this crew up until early August 1943, when Penning appears to have filled in a vacancy within another crew (F/O T.D. Wright & crew), whilst Taylor and the others left on leave. Upon their return, a replacement 2nd pilot, Sgt John Erskine was allocated to them. Unfortunately on the 20th of August 1943., Taylor & crew failed to return from their first sortie since returning.

Penning remained with Wright & crew until early Sept. (flying a further 7 sorties) when Wright was posted to No.1 (C) OTU on the 4th. It appears that the entire crew (except Penning) either left with him, or were posted else where as none of them appear operational after this date. It also appears that Penning was taken off operational flying at this time, only undertaking one sortie (with W/C P.A. Gilchrist DFC & crew) before being posted out on the 11th of Nov, to No.111 OTU. This was a unit that many 59 Sqn aircrew were posted to, as former C/O of 59 Sqn W/C Geoffrey Bartlett AFC, had been posted there as Chief Instructor, In July 1943. Andy Shaw, the grandson of Geoffrey Bartlett, wrote the following in regards to Geoffrey's posting to No.111.

"Bartlett was posted to No.111 OTU in the Bahamas (for his operational rest as Chief Instructor) in late 1943, after which he requested that many squadron members be stationed there to finish off thier tour as trainers. I see this as a credit to the quality of skill 59 airmen possessed and it appears that Bartlett recognised this too..."

The ORB does not note the reason for Penning being sent to No.111 but Alan Johnston, his co-pilot recalls the following...

"Ron was flying with 59 in a crew and was sent to 111OTU on a Captains course, where I had been posted after training in Canada. I selected a crew and converted to Mitchells and then onto Liberators after which Ron joined us to become a crew and then posted to Bally Kelly on VLR (very long range ) work in the Battle of the Atlantic..."

On the 18th March 1944, Penning is posted back to the Squadron from No.111 OTU, as captain of a new crew. The ORB notes that he arrived 'with his crew' on this date. Also arriving from No.111 was W/O N.R. Langton & crew. This crew crashed shortly after take off with all lost on the 19th of June 1944, on only their third operational sortie. For Penning & crew, although arriving in mid March, it wasn't until May 29th that they flew their first sortie in BZ743 - T/59, during which a Ju.88 was sighted but neither aircraft attacked. Two of those pictured above, were not flight crew on May 29th, P/O Bonelle and F/O Webb. The original crew was Penning, Johnston (pilots), Richardson, F/O J. Cruikshank (Nav), Sgt A.J. Waterfield (possibly flight engineer), Keetly, Willows, Walton & Berry (WAG). It appears that F/O Cruickshank flew with both Langton and Penning initially as a navigator, until F/L C.J. Tudor DFM joined Penning and Cruickshank stayed with Langton. Sgt. Waterfield appears to have flown with a number of different crews and which gives the impression that he was a flight enigineer and thus flew with alternating crews, where needed. In June, F/Sgt V.A. Lenaghan joins the crew (albeit temporarily) and in July, F/O R. Webb (who is pictured above) becomes a regular member of the crew on the 3rd. Webb was posted in on the 16th Of June. After Webb joins the crew, they continue to have a few airmen coming and going in replacement of Waterfield. A regular member for a couple of months between August and September was F/Sgt Stoneman.

Attack on Arctic U-boat: On the 19th of July 1944, Penning & crew attacked and seriously damaged U-716 (read more)

Alan Johnston (pictured left) was 2nd pilot during this attack and submitted the following...

"I was Co-Pilot to Ron Penning at that time and remember the occasion. We were patrolling off the Norwegian Coast close to the Artic Circle To prevent the U-Boats escaping to the open seas, the English Channel was blocked to them by the Navy etc. and all the invasion traffic. The U-Boat was spotted by us on the surface ( at that time the U-Boats had armed themselves with 40 & 20 mm. cannon on their decks to fight off air attack ). I think we were about 1,000ft and dived to attack the sub, he opened fire as we approached

and we had to fly through a hail of cannon shells which were exploding at about 2000yds. We attacked at 50ft. dropping a stick of 4 depth charges. The rear gunner in his turret of 4 .303 Browning machine guns ( they each fired 1250 rounds per minute) fully depressed his guns and opened fire on a signal from the front as we were passing over, strafing the deck and conning tower with bullets. We turned to make another attack but the U-Boat had disappeared. One or two cannon shells hit the aircraft but non of the crew were physically injured , we returned to our temporary base ( Tain ) in Scotland."

The last remaining pictured crew member still to join is P/O Bonelle. He was already with 59 Sqn before March 1944, as a member of S/L Arden's crew and noted as a Sgt. He flew his last sortie with S/L Arden on the 17th of Sept. He was promoted to Pilot Officer, effective from 18.3.1943, and joined the crew for the first time in late September after promotion to the rank of Flying Officer on the 18th.

Sept. 27th 1944: The entire crew pictured above fly their first sortie together in Liberator FL988 - R/59, an A/U patrol then Escort to AFD.17.

By late December, P/O Bonelle has been replaced, although returning in late January 1945. F/O Alan Johnston has also been replaced (after 29 sorties) by F/L McKay as co-pilot. Johnston was posted once again to No.111 to undertake a captains course... The ORB notes that he was posted to 2 PDC on the 16/12/1944.

"After 29 ops I was sent to 111 OTU on a Captains course where I collected a new crew, and was posted to 160 Squadron in S.E.A.C. ( South East Asia Command )..."

On Feb. 11th 1945, Penning & crew fly their last sortie until the 1st of April. On return, Penning has been promoted to the rank of F/Lt, they have a new 2nd pilot, F/O E. Choy, F/Sgt Waterfield has rejoined the crew and W/O Willows appears to have been replaced by P/O W.G. Ball.

Last Sortie of The War: F/L Ron Penning & crew flew one of the last operational sorties of the war on the 7th to 8th of May 1945, in Liberator Mk.VIII - KK322 - N/59. Time Up: 1100hrs (Ballykelly - 7th) - Time Down: 0038hrs (Ballykelly - 8th). Mission report: At 1827 met C/V in posn. 6045N 1146W and carried out cobra 7. Composition 4M/V's, 3E/V's Co. 303, speed unknown. At 2301 hrs CIT on the 8th, the official surrender of Germany came into effect... VE day and the war in Europe had ended...

Build Up to Operation Deadlight: After the official surrender of Germany on May 8th, preparations were made for Operation Deadlight, the sinking of the remaining Germany U-Boat fleet (November 1945 to July 1946). 59 Squadron was involved in the 'rounding up' of the U-Boats still at sea. Although Germany had surrendered, it remained a nervous time for crews, as there was always the chance that a U-Boat crew had not received the signals of surrender, or had chosen to ignore them... Two U-Boats that ignored the signals to surrender were U-977 and U-530, that headed for Argentina (where they surrendered) on the 17th of August and 10th of July respectively... Fortunately there were no incidents along the way and it appears that the captains had wished only to surrender outside of Europe and escape the POW camps.

U-293 sighted! On the 10th, the crew flew their first post-war sortie, which was a Photo Strike in Liberator Mk.VII - KK416 - A/59, during which they sighted U-293 and took photographs at 1308hrs in position 5811N 1018W. U-293 had already surrendered to H/59 that morning, flown by F/L March & crew.

On the 15th, in Liberator Mk.VIII - KK321 - F/59, they flew an A/U Patrol Blue - Route North - Time Up: 0419hrs (Ballykelly -15th) - Time Down: 1746hrs (Ballykelly - 15th) - Mission report: Patrolled route 9 times at an average height of 1200'. Nothing to report.

On the 22nd, in Liberator Mk.VIII - KK289 - D/59, they flew another A/U Patrol - Time Up: 0204hrs (Ballykelly - 22nd) - Time Down: 1437hrs (Ballykelly - 22nd) - Nothing to report.

F/L Ron Penning & crew fly 59's last operation for Coastal Command... On the 31st of May, F/L Penning (capt), F/O Choy (co-pilot), F/O Richardson (Nav), F/O Webb (Nav), F/Sgt Waterfield (Flight Engineer), F/Sgt Keetley (WAG), W/O Walton (WAG), W/O Barry (WAG), W/O McLeod (WAG) and Sgt Nellist (WAG) flew (what appears to be) the Squadrons last sortie under Coastal Command, an A/U Patrol in Liberator Mk.VIII - KK297 - C/59 - Time Up: 0222hrs (Ballykelly - 31st) - Time Down: 1446hrs (Ballykelly - 31st) - No contacts or sightings - Sea moderate.

59 Squadron relocated to RAF Waterbeach in Sept. 1945 (from Ballykelly). May 31st is the last flight recorded in the ORB, and there are no entries from then until Spetember.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further Information - Images sourced from www2images.com unless stated otherwise

 

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