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1659 HCU Topcliffe , Halifax RV-Y

April 23 2005 at 12:33 AM
Dave Kerr  (Login DaveKerr)
from IP address

I am researching the Old Mans service in the RCAF. He was an Observer in the above HCU and I have so far the names and hometowns of his aircrew, as well as all the stations he served at. His S/N was R-177317 and is Gerald J. Kerr from East Angus, Quebec.

I also have his his flight log and his complete service records, and these have been quite helpful. Incidently, he is now 84 and is in excellent health...he even went down to Trenton last summer to see the Halifax being restored there. Very impressed!!

Well, to make a long story short, I am at a dead end concerning a sortie he flew in a Halifax III on 24 April 1945.

In his log it is listed as "X-Country: Liseux-Cherbourg" it was a Day mission flown by P/O McBride and lasted 5 hrs 45 mins. The aircraft was coded RV-Y and my father was the Navigator.

I would like to know if these flights would be recorded in some type of official archive someplace...perhaps in Jolly Old England somewhere, but I wouldn't know where to start.

I would like to know the HP build number for RV-Y and this might help me document this little trip over France.

At any rate, I would greatly appreciate any information you might have and have to take this opportunity to say BRAVO ZULU on a great website!

Dave Kerr

PS: I also have one of his old photo albums, and although he has quite a few shots of the Wellingtons at 27 OTU, he only has 2 of the Halifax at 1659 is a typical oblique of a Mark III with the word "Topcliffe" pencilled on the back, the other is a shot out the port window showing an engine cowling and another Halifax quite a ways distant, what seens to be flak (?) in the clouds below and written on the back is " Emden, daylight" although I didn't think an HCU would have flown there. Anyways, when I get a scanner I'll post the pictures here.
Thanks again!

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(no login)

Interesting request ...

April 23 2005, 2:10 AM 

I am attempting to ascertain much the same information re: a spoof windowing mission my Dad's (now deceased) aircrew flew over the Lowlands whilst at 1663 HCU Rufforth on Halifaxes in or about the same time but have a little less info to go on other than approximate dates.

I have been trying to find a way to access the operational records books (ORBs) on-line which Squadrons and HCUs maintained as some of these are now apparently available but haven't had much luck. Many seem inaccessible or perhaps were not preserved in archives and are not available electronically.

Linzee,Ian and Jill have been tremendous resources in this field and there are several other regular contributors who seem to have access to a wealth of information sources and references so I expect you may have some luck.

I found it interesting that HCUs of Training Command seemed to often provide support for main BC Squadrons. To the best of my knowledge this was the one and only time Dad's crew flew over Europe prior to VE day (they were late arrivals through the OTU - HCU line and the war came to an end before they were posted to a Squadron)

If I can find a matching log entry of their so-called "Cross Country" I will share it with you as it seems to be right around the same date.

Perhaps there was a Main Force Operation occuring for which they flew diversionary support.

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Dave Kerr
(Login DaveKerr)

Some pictures...

April 25 2005, 1:41 AM 

Here is a picture of his a/c, on the back is written:

" Halifax Mk 3 Topcliffe HCU Bristol radial's "

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Ian Duncan
(Login Dudois)

1659HCU Topcliffe, Yorks.

April 25 2005, 11:30 PM 

Dave, you have a bit of a puzzle. Middlebrook's " the Bomber Command War diares" , show no operational flight to Emden after 6 Sep ,44. , also no operational flight to the destination you mention. This makes me wonder if the HCU was making cross-country trips across the Channel to Continental Europe just before and after the end of the conflict in Europe. It would be interesting to find out if that was the case. the Mk 3 hallie that you mention was indeed on strength of 1659 as of 5 Jan '45 when we as a second tour trainee crew flew night circuits and bumps in RV-Y MZ498, not completed because of lack of brake pressure. Hope that this helps your puzzle rather than confusing it. Regards to your Father, I also am 84, regards Ian Duncan.

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R .Fulford
(no login)

HCU Flights

April 26 2005, 2:22 AM 

I suspect it may have been the case that just prior to VE Day HCU crews were flying Navigational X-Country flights over the Channel.

A copy of Dad's Skipper's log shows something similar on April 27 in Halifax SV-G of 1663 HCU Rufforth & then again on May 3. The former listed as a "GEE" X Country and the latter as a H2S X-Country but I believe that the Wangerooge Op of April 25(?) was among the last of the Main Force "Big Ones".

In a letter from Dad's Skipper he once wrote:
"We did a diversionary raid which took us over the northern part of the Lowlands the southern tip of which was Rotterdam when we swung back west and dropped window which I assume was for hiding outgoing planes. That was a 13 leg flight and was a very unusual trip as the experts didn't get the chute extended far enough and there was window everywhere!"

Incidentally the Skipper's second cousin was Sir Robert Cockburn. Apparently he was the guy who invented window as a radar specialist during WWII. He was a physicist. Ol' Bill (the Skipper) recalled he was CO of the RAF experimental base at Farnsborough.

Reluctantly my Dad never retained his flying logs but used to recount that later after coverting to Lancasters at 1668 HCU he returned to Rufforth and flew some food drops into Holland in the summer of '45 (well after the Manna drops of late April, early May). Apparently this was still a time of need in restoration of Continental Europe.

Later he had some stories of flights to Egypt and India but these were relayed by my Mom and I'd never heard mention of them from him personally as to the why,what or where. I do know he did not return home to Canada until late January of '46 and demobbed on Valentine's day.

Several years ago his former Navigator told me that they converted to Lancs at Bottesford (after being on Hallies at Rufforth) for the express purpose of doing a 100+ bomber flypast over Ottawa (the Capital)but when the numbers were halved so were they - disbanded to go their seperate ways. The Nav ended up on a ship in the middle of the Pacific enroute to the Far East Theatre as part of Tiger Force when the Yanks dropped the big ones on Hiroshima & Nagasaki and they turned about and set steam for home ...

Now of Dad's crew from Lossiemouth's No. 20 OTU (comprised of five Ontario boys)only three remain and all are in their early to mid-eighties but fortunately still healthy and able. The Tail Gunner marked the occasion of his 60th Wedding Anniversary marrying a Redditch lass who served as an MT driver in the WAAF.

Slowly but surely I've managed to compile a piece meal smattering of stories and accounts and some of the details of the crew's "history" but will probably always be missing many details - still it hopefully may interest the grandkids and great-grandkids someday when I get it formatted and presentable. Seems that the demands of work and life always interfers with this "hobby" project ...

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Dave Kerr
(Login DaveKerr)

Many thanks...

May 4 2005, 8:03 AM 

and a belated sorry from myself for being absent from this forum for a while ( I'm typing this from Hawaii I'm here with my wife...25th anniversary!).

To be sure, the sorties he flew were not "Ops" as defined by the DVA, but they certainly were over Occupied Europe. Dad says all the "missions" they flew, in Wellingtons or Halifax, were diversionary flights meant to lure enemy fighters up into their sectors, thus taking them away from the main er streams heading into Germany itself. They would chase out over the North Sea and fly right up to the coast of wherever...Belgium, Holland, France...then immediately turn around and get the hell out of there.

If you check another website about 27 OTU Church Broughton an Aussie crew flying Wellington BB-H were shot up by a German night-fighter while flying a "Cross-Country" over the North Sea...the Old Man remembers the incident and he and his own aircrew actually flew the same a/c ... H-Harry about 3 weeks before the Australians got hit. So, yes, the OTU-HCU stream actually did do "their bit" as it were.

Ian, it is cool to meet someone the same age as Dad and one who served in the same HCU at the same time he did. We'll have to compare flight logs to see if you might know each other. His crew was ( I think...remember I have no notes with me here..)
Pilot was Bill McBride, tail gunner was Gerry Crees, Bill Raynor, Bill Deeks, and another Gerry fellow. Apparently the whole crew were Bills and Gerrys so on the R/T they had to refer to themselves as Pilot, Navigator, MUG etc... a real pain.

Anyways, I was just checking my e-mails from her and decided to look at 57Rescue...and yeah, it really is a fascinating hobby researching my Old Boys wartime service.

More to come later...keep up the good work!

PS...All I know is that the "Emden" photo shows Halifax III a/c and the only thing written on the back is "Daylight-Emden" but who knows what date, or, if it was a diversionary run, maybe it doesn't even show up on an official journal. He also flew over Brest a few days later.


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R. Fulford
(no login)

Explanation which

May 7 2005, 9:58 PM 

perhaps as you state Dave, the sorties from HCUs didn't count as "operations" as such even though Occupied Europe was crossed over.

While no expert on Service Medals, I always wondered why these wouldn't have counted towards qualification for the France & Germany Star. My own Dad didn't have sufficent time to qualify for the 1939-45 Star (2 months on active operations) and as his service overseas was post D-Day so didn't qualify him for the Aircrew Europe Star - still I wondered why these flights wouldn't have qualified him for the France & Germany Star as he did these prior to V-E Day.

Dad never bothered applying for his medals (the ribbon was issued during the war) but the vet had to apply for the actual medal.

I did this for him in '84 or so and the DVA issued him his service medals which he receieved in time for Father's Day (much to his surprise). For some reason forty years of time passage actually made them of much more value to him. It wasn't that he never wanted them - it's just that at the time he couldn't understand why the serviceman had to apply for the medals.

Even though the war in Europe ended before he & his crew were assigned to an operational group or squadron (they were encompassed within No. 7 Group) and the war in the Pacific disbanded Tiger Force - his crew had a few dicey moments wherein they, too could easily have become casualties. While not entirely true, it has been said that Con Units were sometimes more dangerous than Ops for a variety of reasons.

At OTU they lost a member of their crew when they loaned him out to another trainee crew for a Fighter Affiliation exercise and the fighter crashed into the Wimpey. Again I have had no luck tracing down particulars however there but for the grace of God ...

Dad was at 1663 HCU Rufforth from roughly March 15 to May 15 '45 when they did their Cross Country window dropping "diversionary raids" over the Lowlands but I don't have any more specifics. Would definitely love to hear from you if you find a means or way to track down HCU details.

One would think that No. 7 Training Group and the OTUs & HCUs encompassed would have kept records of flights, "missions", duties, etc.

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Paul (MZ924)
(no login)

At OTU they lost a member of their crew..........

July 3 2006, 1:56 PM 

R Fulford

10 Jan 1945 20 OTU Hurricane IIC PG529 Training

W/O J Butterworth + T/o 2107 Lossiemouth for fighter affiliation practice, at night.
Crashed 2122, following a midair collision with Wellington X HE490,
at Crowford's Farm, nearly 3 miles east of Lhanbryde, a village on the main Elgin to Keith road.
W/O Butterworth, who is buried in Heywood Cemetery, is believed to have closed on the bomber in
order to make a positive identification and misjudged his speed.
Of his 560 hours of solo flying experience, 107 had been logged on Hurricanes.

10 Jan 1945 20 OTU Wellington X HE490 Training

F/O B A Read DFC +
F/O R Moyes +
F/S E E Thurston +
Sgt K C Campin +
Sgt N C Swingler +
Sgt J Downie +
F/S R J Vincent +

T/o Lossiemouth similarly tasked and destroyed in the manner outlined above.
F/O Read, one of the unit's screened pilots, rests in Lossiemouth Burial Ground, his crew being taken to churchyards across the United Kingdom.

All eight volumes of Chorley's "Bomber Command Losses" can be found at:-

My appologies if I am too late with this info, but better late than never.


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(Login lanky1155)

Sumner crew

June 13 2016, 10:28 PM 

Hello Robert, long shot and not sure if your still active on here as old posts now. I'm looking for info on Bill Sumner who I understand was a F/O with your dad. I won't go into detail on here but if you pick up this post please email me direct :
Kind Regards

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(no login)

Ira William Sumner

September 21 2016, 9:21 PM 

I have read with interest your posts on your dads exploits with 1663 HCU and wondered if you could contact me direct on my email regarding his skipper Bill.
Kind Regards

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R. Fulford
(no login)

Reply to your request.

October 1 2016, 3:57 AM 

Sent you a couple of emails to the address cited, Gary. Let me know if you received them. They may be parked in your junk folder. I stayed in touch with Bill & their crew's WAG Ken long after Dad passed. Bill & Ken were great guys. I collected a fair bit of correspondence from both over the years. They are very much missed.

My e-mail is roful at sympatico dot ca. Replace the at/dot with the usual.

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R. Fulford
(no login)


May 7 2005, 9:59 PM 

Never been there myself but have friends who have been ... they tell me it's quite something to check out the Pearl Harbour memorial.

Enjoy the Anniversary Honeymoon!

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(Login DaveKerr)


May 16 2005, 3:14 PM 

Yes, RF, the Arizona memorial really is something to see if you ever get to Hawaii.

The medals issue is what actually got me interested in the whole Halifax/Wellington/Bomber Command hobby...DVA is presently assessing Dad's service WRT his sorties over Occupied Europe (flown before V-E Day).

I have applied for the 39-45 Star, for flying sorties at 27 OTU. These were sorties over the North Sea and Occupied Europe and were certainly "involving definate risk of enemy action" ( right off the DVA website). The RAF Litchfield website has a graphic illustration of a "routine" Cross Country gone bad.

DVA also states that one sortie over Occupied Europe prior to V-E Day will entitle the aircrew to the France and Germany Star. The Old Man has two definate sorties, one to Cherbourg and one to Liseux in that time period. Another sortie to Brest, but on 13 May...a few days late.

At any rate, I think your Dad would also qualify for the two need to apply for them in his name and to provide some kind of documentation for them to have something to work with.

An interesting website for 460 RAAF Sqn. had some very interesting information on how the RAF grants these medals, and it seems that OTU/HCU aircrew were, and still are, eligible for medals that were never issued way back when.

Well, got got to get back to work...see you all later.


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R. Fulford
(no login)

Issued Service Medals

May 17 2005, 3:29 AM 

Back in '84 when I applied to the DVA for Dad's service medals he received the Defense Medal, the CVSM with overseas clasp and the War Medal as V-E Day occurred while he was still at HCU on Hallies.

It seems to me he said the runways and grounds of Rufforth were littered with numerous airmen passed out due to overexerting themselves in strenuous celebration of V-E day. I can only presume he himself was present at morning Church services but from what I have gathered from his former aircrew these must have been held at the "Tankard Inn".

The crew then converted onto Lancs at Bottesford before the end of June and then was disbanded. Apparently Dad returned to Rufforth and flew some food drops into Holland just outside of Rotterdam. This would have been in late June or July of '45 Iby best guesstimate. He used to recount that his fear was dropping the groceries right on top of the recipients who were clamouring in crowds below. He mentioned the actual airfield drop site of these food flights but I never managed to retain the location in my own fallable memory.

I don't know if "Diversionary Windowing Ops" from HCUs would count towards qualifying for the Stars but will be interested in how you make out there.

I would dearly love to access the Rufforth ORBs for 1663 HCU and look for mention of F/O Sumner's crew but alas England is almost as far out of reach for me currently as Hawaii. (If I'm really lucky I may visit London and Paris this year but they will be the ones in Ontario). Hope to get down to Trenton with a former Hally pilot in the next month or so to see NA337. The chap was a freind and coworker of the Navigator in Dad's crew. Dad was the B/A but he passed away three years ago this July.

I guess that leaves me the keeper of the mementos to pass on to the grandchildren ...

Thanks to many of the very knowledgeable contributors to this site I have managed to collect a great deal of pertinent and useful information. It has been very helpful corresponding with several very passionate Halifax "historians" and former aircrew vets aboard and through 57 Rescue.

Dad tended to recount things in the rare and occasional snippet or story and never in a chronological order. Slowly I have assembled a fair bit of the entire crew's history from their induction through Manning Depots, ITS, various airtrade schools (EFTS, SFTS, B & G, AOS, Wireless, etc.) AFUs, OTU and HCU which I hope to preserve in a presentable format both electronically and in print and distribute to the families of the few who remain. Trouble is like almost everything in life, I'm working against a running clock and demands of family and career so it's a work in progress!

Hope to hear what DVA gives you as a response.

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R. Fulford
(no login)

Diversionary Windowing Ops

May 19 2005, 3:57 PM 

I couuld be wrong but I think the "Diversionary Ops" flown by OTU and HCU crews were known as "Sweepstake Missions". Exactly to where and what aircraft flew these from what Bases I don't have a clue how to ascertain other than through the ORBs of the various HCUs, OTUs that may have been involved but I believe the term is correct.

Typically I believe the diversions were carried out to draw focus from the Main Force similar to the missions flown by 100 S.D. Group.

I believe the difference is that for the most part the HCU crews turned about on their track before entering enemy airspace though in the cases cited there was some overflight of continental Europe.

I wish I could access a Chorley's (OTU & HCU losses) conveniently here but have had difficulty in even locating a single copy through the libraries or bookstores.

Perhaps the Forum contributors can clarify or confirm if these flights were referrred to as "Sweepstakes" and from there at least is a starting point to gleaning more details.

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(Login DaveKerr)

Chorley ?

May 21 2005, 5:27 PM 

Gooday Lads!

Could somebody who has this book by Chorley please post it's title and ISBN number? I live in Ottawa, and I'm sure I can get it from the National Library here. It would make interesting reading, for sure.

I just received the following from a decorated 6 Group veteran, and will post it here...

"My last flight from no. 1664 CU at Dishforth, Yorks. was on the night of August 12, 1944 and my log book shows: " x-cty Bullseye 17,000 ft. Diversion off the coast of France nr. Dieppe". I joined 415 Squadron, RCAF 6 Group at East Moor on August 15, 1944. R. Fulford's msge, dated May 19th, suggests that such missions might have been called "Sweepstakes". Perhaps each Conversion Unit had its own terminology for such missions. Hope this information is of use to you."

It helps to illustrate that HCU units not only flew diversionary missions for the main BC squadrons, they did so over the "Operational Areas" that the DVA makes reference to vis-a-vis medal entitlements. In my Dad's case, 1659 HCU, they called them "Cross-Country" missions,so it seems did 1664 HCU as well. Surely, not all x-cty sorties were over contested areas, but quite a few of them certainly were, with some actually over Occupied Europe.

It seems a few years ago the Australian government cleared everything up for Australian aircrew by simply stating that flying AFU-OTU-HCU sorties over these "Operational Areas" would count as service towards the 39-45 Star. From there, other sorties might then count towards either the Aircrew Europe Star or France&Germany Star, depending of course on the 5 June 44 criteria.

Nice and simple, but I don't know if this was adopted by all Commonwealth nations, or is specific to Aussie crews only. This would certainly be an anomaly...and would raise many questions of who got to wear what medals, and why. At any rate, an issue for our own DVA to sort out, I say...and quickly too, since our WW2 vets aren't getting any younger.

Well, I hope to get some answers from DVA soon, although they have told me it will be 6-8 months, since they have to wait for British MoD to send over Dads personal service record for the OTU-HCU time. Apparently, we don't keep that sort of thing here in Canada.

At any rate, RF, I will certainly be posting any and all information I get on this subject, and I hope that it helps out the other vets too.


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Eddie Fell
(no login)


May 21 2005, 7:01 PM 

The Chorley Books you are looking for are

Volume 7 (OTU's) ISBN 1-85780-132-6

Volume 8 (HCU's etc) ISBN 1-85780-156 - 3

Cross Country Mission were, in the main, to my knowledge just that - trips across the country as part of the training programme both at the Training Units and with the Operational Squadrons. What I suppose today may be called a NavEx (Navigational Exercise)



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(Login DaveKerr)


May 23 2005, 8:16 PM 

Thanks Eddie...I will hit the library and get a hold of those books. They should have tons of usefull info!

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Ron Metcalfe
(Login Tascott)


August 9 2005, 7:08 AM 

Dear Dave, have been reading your comments on Sweepstakes, did they count
for medals.
This is of interest to me as I flew
out of Rufforth with 1663 HCU.
I did two Sweepstakes or Nickel raids
as they were known to The Fresian Islands and Strasbourg, overflying Holland and Northern France, fired on
crossing Dutch coast.
On return from Strasborg we ran out of fuel and baled out, being injured on landing.
We were going to 10 Sqdn the next day
but I never made it.
I live in Australia now,since 1947,
and Aussie aircrew I meet tell me that
HCU ops do count and that being injured
on one counts.
Since your message on the internet
have you found out more?
If you have any information I would be
most grateful to receive it.
Your original message may be old now
but I have just come across it.
Looking forward to your reply
Best regards
Ron Metcalfe

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Dave Kerr
(Login DaveKerr)

France & Germany Star ...

December 15 2005, 9:15 PM 

This message will be of interest to HCU and OTU aircrew who believe they are entitled to the above campaign star.

It has taken me a full year of research and a lot of correspondence with DVA, but just yesterday my father received a small package from Veterans Affairs Canada with a France and Germany Star and a letter stating that he was, indeed, eligible for this decoration.

I won't bore you with all the details, but the BIG news is that they will now actually consider the HCU/OTU sorties when applying for the F&G Star. Not all sorties would qualify, of course. Routine training flights over England would certainly not, but if you can prove that one of your sorties was flown over Occupied Europe or any other such "Area of Operations", and within the prescribed timeframes, then they will accept that as a qualifying sortie.

I believe the details for my fathers qualifying sortie are contained somewhere within this thread, and indeed, this development will now allow other airmen who might have been overlooked for this award simply because they 'only' served in the HCU or OTU squadrons, will now have an opportunity to present their case to the DVA.

I am still working on the "1939-45 Star", and this will take some doing it seems. It is regrettable that Canada hasn't gone the way of Australia and actually clarified the eligibility criteria when considering OTU and HCU missions. The current Canadian guidelines are almost impossible to interpret, and only seem to recognize service in a "fully operational squadron" thus leaving it in limbo as to exactly what an Operational Training Unit was or actually did.

Or so it assured that I will be delving into THAT mess in the very near future.

At any rate, I hope this information will help some of the veterans out there who might have been wondering if they would be eligible for the medal, but never bothered applying for it.

Should you wish to inquire further, just write to...

Honours and Awards Section
Veterans Affairs Canada
66 Slater Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0P4

Best regards to all, and Merry Christmas!

Dave Kerr

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