My connection with this history is through 37 Squadron, RAF Feltwell, where my father’s brother, John Henry Waterfall, also called Jack, enlisted into the RAF in January 1939. Unlike many who joined the RAF at that time, J. H. Waterfall was stationed only six miles from the fenland smallholding where he was born in 1918.
For me this has been an emotional quest, linked to a family loss over Lower Saxony on 7th July 1940, three days before the beginning of The Battle of Britain. My uncle enlisted in the RAF in January 1939, embarking on his first active mission 30 days after The Battle of Heligoland Bight, surviving for 172 days which was probably typical. 37 Squadron, having lost five out of the six Wellington bombers it sent on the Heligoland raid, was left inoperable and RAF Feltwell had to suspend operations for a while. My uncle and his contemporaries would have obviously been aware of that carnage and must have had to be extra brave to begin missions shortly afterwards.
The switch from daylight raids to night operations rendered all the 1939 training irrelevant. The entire crew of Wellington R3236 perished on Sgt J.H. Waterfall DFM’s 20th mission.” (Jack Waterfall)
Some years ago my cousin Caroline began a quest to find out all the details about the loss of our uncle’s Wellington. She located the crash-site in Lower Saxony and eventually traced all the families of the other members of Wellington R3236’s crew that all perished on the 7th July 1940.
Since then firm friendships have been forged and Doug Aylward, who is related to the pilot of R3236, has become a valued member of our little team.
Together we are delivered the Heligoland39 Project which will conclude at the end of 2021 with the publication of a book, ‘Daylight into Darkness’.
My intention is to support the Loch Ness Wellington 2020 Project through this year and next, working in collaboration with Rachel Kellett and Tim Harris to make a success of it, while Caroline and Doug concentrate on finishing our book.
Talk about one thing leading to another…
Above: Jack Waterfall / Doug Aylwood / Caroline Kesseler