Posted in:

Crew The story of the men who flew RAAF Lancaster J for Jig

Many went to war and many, many never came home. Who were they, who were their families and what made them take on sometimes unimaginable tasks in a war so far, from their homeland.

In Crew, Mike Coleman tells the story of the men who made up the RAAF Lancaster bomber J for JIG crew, based in Lincolnshire. On the night of 11 November 1943, two Scots, and five Australians, all young men, set off on a mission to bomb factories in Schweinfurt, Germany but never made it, being shot down in the night skies over France.

The words of Laurie Woods, Bomb aimer, RAAF 460 Squadron, when he said ‘You didn’t make friends because you didn’t know how long you, or they would be alive, but your crewmates were different. Your crew was everything, they were your life’, sums up succinctly the situation faced and lived by these men on a daily basis

Your crew, pulled together from various places, were the men you grew to know intimately, as your very life often depended on their skill levels and reaction in crisis. All young, some with young families of their own, some on their first sortie, the good, the bad and the naïve came together, none expecting their life would be long, as they flying often daily, over dangerous enemy territory.

Living on the edge bought with it a special mateship; getting the job done and returning safely to base bought with it a skill set second to none. Mike Coleman has carefully researched the history of this crew; John Dunlop, Ron Ferguson, Peter Mallon, Tony D’Arcey, Cliff Hopgood, Dave Baxter and Bill Martin bringing all seven men into focus once again.

J for JIG was shot down over France, with four of men killed, Bill Martin severely injured and Baxter and D’Arcey finding themselves on the run, hidden by villagers, with all three men eventually ending up in POW camps, along with many others.

Baxter and D’Arcey were repatriated after the war, eventually returning to Australia to make what they could out of their lives and experiences.

In as much as this is the story of all the men who made up the crew of J for JIG, is it more their personal story of joining a war for what was a just and fair cause, evading capture, escape, chance and mateship which makes it poignant. A memorial tree proudly stands in the suburb of St Johns Woods in Brisbane dedicated to the memory of Cliff Hopwood and in many ways by default, all the men who went from that area to fight in World War 2.

Fascinating, immensely readable and well written, Crew is far more than a history lesson, it is a work that travels from the heady and dangerous days of Lancaster Bombers and their crews based at Lancashire, England, to the bravery and compassion of the many who tried to help the survivors, to the modern days of Australia where the memories and letters from these men and their families creates another chapter in the archives of Australia and history.

Lest we forget!

AuthorMike Coleman
PublisherAllen and Unwin
DistributorAllen and Unwin - Military
ReleasedMarch 2018