Becky’s Father

Flight Sergeant Herbert Monument (courtesy Becky Monument)


Becky Monument is searching for a picture of the Handley Page Halifax III her father flew on as a Flight Engineer.

That’s a shame I’m always hoping to find a picture of a Halifax coded PT-K. My dad was a flight engineer with a Canadian crew during 1944. He was injured when his Halifax crash landed in July 44 and spent the remainder of the war in and out of hospital.

Flight Sergeant Herbert Monument was stationed at Tholthorpe from April  to July 1944, and was part of Pilot Officer Caine’s crew whom we see here.

Source Richard Koval’s Website

Neither Richard Koval, Bert Parker, nor Clarence Simonsen have a picture of Halifax III PT-K which crashed on July 1st, 1944. 

Pilot Officer Caine continued on with his tour of operations as I found out while searching Richard Koval’s website.

But there is much more that I found on the Internet. Killer Caine’s navigator wartime memoirs…

Source Voxair, 17 Wing Winnipeg, 27 June 2007 6 Voxair, 17 Wing Winnipeg, 27 June 2007

A Navigator’s Nightmare
Reprinted from Aircrew Memories

Bob Goatcher — Bob was born, raised, and educated in Winnipeg. In June 1942 he joined the RCAF, graduated as a navigator in August 1943, completed his operational training, and joined 420 Squadron RCAF in Britain at the beginning of 1944. Bob was awarded the DFC during his operational tour, and stayed with his squadron post-operations as the Navigation Training Officer. He came home in August 1945, achieved a degree in Commerce, and ultimately served on the faculty at Red River Community College, Winnipeg. Bob retired in 1988 and lives in Nanaimo, BC.

Our crew was stationed at Tholthorpe, Yorkshire, with 420 Squadron, one of the 14 such units in 6 Group (RCAF) Bomber Command. We had been together for four months and had done 21 bombing trips to targets in Germany, France, Belgium, and Holland. Many were daylights; some were night raids. We had seen plenty of enemy fighters, flak, and searchlights, and had also had our share of diversions on the return journey because of weather, shortage of fuel due to pierced petrol tanks, or other semi-emergencies.

Our crew had also survived a serious crash in which we lost our flight engineer and which put the rest of us out of action for a month. Our engineer’s name ironically was Monument and we had nicknamed him “Tombstone.” The aircraft was a complete write-off, having blown up within a few seconds of our having got out and over to a ditch about 100 feet away. Because we had landed on top of seven cows, our Pilot’s nickname was chanced from Allan “Tubal” Cain to “Killer” Cain.

The rest of the crew consisted of F/Sgt John “Johnny” King, bomb-aimer; Sgt Jim Danberger (Danny), wireless operator; Sgt Ted Frayne, mid-upper gunner; and Sgt Earl Cruikshank, rear gunner. Earl was the only member who had been with me on a previous crew. We were ready to go on op 22 and had just that day acquired a new flight engineer, our third, P/O Erick Herrod.

The briefing was over and we were headed for dispersal to board our Halifax III, A-Able. It was the night of 15/16 September 1944 and we had been assigned to attack the German naval base at Kiel. We took off at 2205 hours just as darkness was about to set in (double daylight-saving time) and climbed eastward after setting course over base. It was a short run to the coast of England and Johnny got me a pinpoint. We were nearly 10 miles off track! I gave Killer a new course to steer and wondered how we could be that far out in such a short time. Surely the Met wind forecasts could not be that far out. Earl got me a gunsight bearing on Whitby that put us even more off track. Something was wrong.

I checked the CR compass; it was not operating properly. I checked the repeaters: they were going around in lazy circles and not all reading alike. I tried resetting the master compass twice — but to no avail. Danny tried to reset it but with the same negative result. By this time we were well over the North Sea, position not known exactly. I quickly estimated where we were, gave Killer a new course to steer on the P4 compass, and asked him to reset his gyro. At this time, Gee was being jammed so badly we couldn’t use it and even if it had been okay we were nearly out of range anyway.

It was a partly cloudy night, but some stars were visible. I hauled out the astro compass and set it up as quickly as I could. We were at about 55° north, so I set the correct angle and began looking for Polaris, the North Star. Fortunately there was a good break in the clouds and only one star anywhere near my line of sight. After some adjustments I confirmed the true course we were on. I reckoned we were now headed for the right place on the Danish coast. We would have to recheck our course against the North Star and reset the gyro every 10 minutes or so for the rest of the trip.

We were just beginning to settle down and I was contemplating my next move when Killer reported that his Air Speed Indicator was now reading zero. There must have been moisture in the pitot tube and it had frozen as we climbed. I wondered what would happen next. The API (Air Position Indicator) had not been working because of the duff compass. Killer had said that he could estimate the air speed within about 10 knots by the throttle settings. There was little else we could do now unless we returned to base but we quickly discarded that idea. I told the crew that if we could just get a pinpoint on the Danish coast, we would be okay.

We droned on for what seemed like hours. Some of the crew members had become very apprehensive because of our lack of navigation aids and my resulting inability to determine our exact location. You could hear the tension in all their voices over the intercom. I had lots of time to think and the words of my navigation instructor, F/O McBroom, at Portage AOS (Manitoba) came to mind: “A navigator is never lost, he is merely sometimes a little less sure of his exact position.”

These thoughts fitted me to a tee at that particular moment. With nothing much else to do except re-check the course whenever Polaris decided to show itself, I reluctantly opened the case containing the sextant. I couldn’t remember when I had last taken a star shot. I lined up Polaris first and took a shot noting the time. I picked out two other stars at different angles and repeated the procedure. I carefully plotted the three position lines making sure to advance the first and second lines to the time of the third. The result was a large cocked hat (triangle). I carefully bisected the three angles and plotted a position about 10 miles from where I thought we were. So much for astro navigation.

Tension mounted as we approached the coast of Denmark. Visibility was not the best and I had alerted Johnny to keep his eyes skinned about 10 minutes before we were due to cross as I needed a pinpoint badly. “I see the coast,” Johnny yelled excitedly over the intercom. “We are crossing it now.” He couldn’t get me a pinpoint but at least I had a roughly north-south position line and was able to calculate a fairly accurate ground speed.

It was now time to watch for the east coast of Denmark. Again no pinpoint but at least a time of crossing. I took the elapsed time and put that distance in nautical miles on my dividers. I then took the dividers and ran them up and down Denmark on my chart. I did it twice to make sure; there was only one place that fit, so I decided that this had to be where we crossed. I dead-reckoned ahead to the last turning point before the target, and gave Killer a new course to steer. I felt confident now. I had also found that we were three minutes early so as soon as we reached the turning point and headed south to Kiel, I asked Killer for a three-minute dogleg, in order to waste time. We did the standard 60° port, 120° starboard, then back on course. I was now sure we were headed directly for the target. The weather had cleared considerably and we could see lots of stars. Off to starboard perhaps 30 or 40 miles away, we could see fires and searchlights. Someone asked if that could be the target, but I reckoned it must be Flensburg. I remembered that at the briefing we had been told of a spoof or small diversionary raid there. “No. We still have five minutes to go; the target should be dead ahead.” Our assigned bombing altitude was 21,000 feet, but we were still at 20,000 and unable to climb higher. I had begun to count down… three minutes… two minutes… and … one minute… It we don’t see markers in the next 15 seconds we’ll have to orbit. Just then white flares went down in front of us followed almost immediately by a string of red TIs (Target Indicators). Immediately over the radio came the voice of the Master Bomber. “Bomb on the red TIs.” “Steady. Steady. Steady. Bombs gone.” We’d done it. I was emotionally exhausted and elated at the same time. As soon as our load had gone, the aircraft jumped up to 21,000 feet. We had made our altitude at last.

The mood of the crew had noticeably changed for the better. The flak and searchlights came on but somehow it did not seem to bother us now. The most important thing on our minds was that we had got to the target and dropped our bombs and now we were getting out. We followed our flightplan courses through the target area and on to the next leg and finally headed for home. It had been a navigator’s nightmare. We returned to base without further incident, landed and went to debriefing, or interrogation as we sometimes called it. We told our story. The CO heard it and said, “I would have turned back.”

To be continued next week.


5 thoughts on “Becky’s Father

  1. Pingback: Becky’s Father – Lest We Forget II

    • Very interesting account of an operation with many unserviceable parts in the Halifax. This happened so many times when you research Bomber Group 6.

  2. Is Becky that is looking for the picture of the Halifax III on here ? I would like to talk to you my grandfather was navigator Robert Edward Goatcher from a navigator’s nightmare and a member of Killer Caine’s crew . My email is…

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