550 Squadron Photos

F/O R A Tapsell and Crew

F/O R A Tapsell and crew were posted to 550 Sqdn from No. 1 L.F.S. w.e.f. 11.08.44:

On 4 October 1944 the gunners, Sheridan and McVey, were both killed in a training accident with another crew (F/O Hayter crew). They were flying in Lancaster NF963 which broke up and crashed with only the pilot, F/O Hayter, surviving. See the memorial pages at: Lancaster NF963 near Ellingstring, Masham.

Both P/O White (Nav) and F/O Black (A/B) were also killed on operations when flying with another crew. Lancaster PD319 was flown by F/O Dodds and crew when it when it was lost on the 14/15 October 1944 taking part in Operation Hurricane against Duisburg.

Click image P/O Bob Tapsell, original crew that transferred in 11/08/44 (photo dated Sept 1944),
L-to-R: H/O Black, P/O White, No. 3, P/O Tapsell, Sgt Collinson, No. 6, P/O Adley (then a Sgt)
Nos. 3 and 6 are the two gunners, Sheridan and McVey (both Scottish) but, until now, it was not clear which was which
But new information has identified the man at No. 6 as Sgt J P Sheridan
Click image "Tap" and the boys
Back row (air crew): L-to-R: H/O Black, P/O White, No. 3, P/O Tapsell, Sgt Collinson, No. 6, P/O Adley (then a Sgt)
3 and 6 are the two gunners, Sheridan and McVey (both Scottish) but it is not clear which is which
(But see note with photo above about identification of the gunners)
Front row (assumed ground crew), L-to-R: not known
Click image P/O Tapsell crew (March 1945) - not the transferring-in crew listed above
L-to-R: P/O Tapsell, F/Sgt McVey, F/O Browning, P/O Adley, F/Sgt Collinson, F/Sgt Watkins, F/Sgt Piper

F/O Browning (B/A) is from the F/O Dodds crew (who would have been a spare bod after Oct 44)
F/Sgt Piper looks like the MU/AG from the S/Ldr Newitt crew
The man named F/Sgt McVey in the photo was a puzzle as the original Sgt J McVey (R/AG) in the Tapsell crew was killed in a training accident with the F/O Hayter crew (as detailed above) and would not have been alive at the time of the photo. In fact both gunners had been lost in that crash which is why the two gunners in this photo (Watkins and Piper) are new.
Thus it would seem that this is F/Sgt McVey (Nav) who joined the crew in March 1945 replacing P/O White the original crew navigator.

Background on some of the Crew

The following information has been provided by Norval Black (son of F/O Black (B/A)) who has extensively researched this and the F/O Dodds crew crews as his father flew with both.

P/O Adley was subsequently commissioned and also awarded DFC, one of only two which it is believed went to engineers on the squadron. It seems he was called "Pop", because he was, as you can see, quite elderly for aircrew, well over 40 years old and possibly among the oldest men in the Command. Clearly also very tall, Henry Black and Ken White were both ex-police officers and 6 feet tall and "Pop" Adley is inches taller than them.

Following the losses of some of his crew while flying operations with other crews, F/O Tapsell was down to himself, Adley and Collison. However, in December he resumed operations, but now with Moran and Browning, and a pair of gunners named Sgt Watkins and Sgt Self (who were themselves survivers from the F/O Hayter crew which was lost on the training exercise described above), but sometimes also Sgt J Piper. Flying with the crew as the navigator on a number of occasions was F/Sgt McVey. This accounts for the differing crew members in the third photo above.

Sgt John Patrick "Jack" Sheridan

Many thanks for Sylvain Archambeault for providing the following photographs and information about Sgt Sheridan.

Sgt John Patrick Sheridan, commonly known as Jack, and his brother Frank were orphaned at a very young age. From the entry in the "Old Aloysians" book (below) it's clear that Jack Sheridan joined the RAF at a young age, and after a year in the service was killed in the NF963 crash.

Click image Left-hand photo: John and his mother

Right-hand photo: John (Jackie) when he was young (others unknown)
Click image Left-hand photo: Letter from the Ministry of Defence to Frank Sheridan

Right-hand photo: John Sheridan in flying gear
Click image This photo is from an old book called the "Old Aloysians in the World War 1939-1945" written by Father Dukes to pay tribute to the boys of the Jesuit Schools who served

John Sheridan War Service medal
Click image Frank Sheridan (brother of Jack Sheridan)

The section about J P Sheridan from "OLD ALOYSIANS IN THE WORLD WAR 1939-1945 (page 178), reads:

John Patrick Sheridan(1933) was at St. Aloysius' for one year only, and much less is known about his subsequent career than is usually the case, since both his parents are dead and his younger brother, who was never at the College, is in Canada. He intended to make farming his career and studied at the Agricultural College, Blythswood Square, Glasgow. He broke off these studies to join the R.A.F. in the first half of 1943 when aged eighteen. He was in the Air Force but little over a year in which he completed his flying and operational training and had made several trips over Germany. On October 4th 1944 his plane was seen to come down in flames over Harrogate; the cause was never discovered."

Click image J P Sheridan grave
Glasgow (St. Kentigerns's) Roman Catholic Cemetery

Stichting Adoptiegraven CWGC Venray War Cemetery

A scheme known as the "Stichting Adoptiegraven CWGC Venray War Cemetery" allows local families to adopt the grave of a WWII combatent and provide it with special attention in addition to the CWGC care normally given. This is a means of "giving these fighters a face" as well as helping younger generations, who did not experience the effects of the war, to understand better the sacrifices made in the liberation of Europe.

The are seventeen 550 Sqdn aircrew buried at Venray including F/O Henry Black.

Thanks to Norval Black for sending in the information and photos and to the Gommans family to taking a 550 Sqdn airman to their hearts.

Click image The grave of F/O Henry Black held in remembrance by the Gommans family
Click image CWGC Venray War Cemetery at Christmas