Flying Officer Edwin Wiseman DFC
149 (East India Sqn) RAF
A short history of his wartime service
A young Ted Wiseman joined the Royal Rhodesian Air Force and started his Pilot training in 1942. As with a lot of the Rhodesian volunteers he travelled to the UK, seconded to the Royal Air Force. His flying training resumed at RAF Shawbury in 1943.From there he was posted to RAF Condover, ( No 11 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit), still part of No 21 Group, Flying Training Command. in Shropshire. It was a combined Training base, with both Bomber and Fighter training taking place along with its own Navigation School.
Whilst he was at Condover he undertook Beam Training at RAF Holme-on-Spalding- Moor, known as RAF Holme. Beam training taught the crews how to follow 2 transmissions originating from the same point and shaped by the aerials to be elongated lobes. By arranging that they overlapped, a beam was created that could be aligned along a single bearing, commonly a Runway centreline.In the lobe on one side was transmitted continuous "N"s in Morse i.e. _ . and in the other Morse "A"s . _ with the spaces in between being filled where they overlapped to produce a continuous tone. The pilot would hear this in his headphones and could fly to intercept the continuous signal. There were variations that substituted needle pointers in the cockpit to make a visual indication. This was the first ‘Blind Landing’ system used and as such was a vital bit of training.
Towards the end of August 1943, Ted was posted to No 29 OUT (Operational Training Unit) at RAF Bruntingthorpe, flying Wellington Bombers. Here he would have gone through the ritual known as ‘Crewing-up’. This was normally a very informal process where aircrew milled around in a hangar and approached each other based on looks or friendship to form a crew of five men - Pilot, Navigator, Bomb Aimer, Wireless Operator and a Gunner. This was their crew and it was very unusual for any member to leave after the initial ‘crew-up’. Here they learned to work as a crew and master the basics they would require when they converted to a ‘Heavy’ Bomber.
The five man crew were posted to RAF Chedburgh near Bury-St-Edmunds in Suffolk. They arrived at No 1653 HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit) to fly Stirling aircraft. For this the crew needed two extra members – a Flight Engineer, who looked after the fuel and engines, and a Mid-Upper Gunner. This brought the total crew numbers to seven.
Again, the HCU was used to let the crew work together, gain in confidence and master the ungainly Stirling aircraft. When they had completed the training schedule they were declared ‘Operational’ and posted to their first Squadron. It was to be No 149 (East India) Squadron RAF at RAF Lakenheath (20 Feb 1944) and later RAF Methwold.
Whilst at Lakenheath he met and married a WAAF girl called Aline Wakefield.
Aline Wakefield. (Courtesy of the Wiseman Family)
Aline and friends (Courtesy of the Wiseman Family)
"As war approached, No 149 (East India) Squadron, which had served briefly in World War I, was re-formed in 1937 at RAF Mildenhall as a night heavy bomber unit. It was initially equipped with the last RAF heavy bomber biplane, the Handley Page Heyford, but not for long.
After moving to Methwold the squadron finally started re-equipping with the Avro Lancaster Mk 1, although retaining many of the specialist Stirlings.
Ted’s first Operation was what was called a ‘Second Dickie’ Op. The rookie pilot would fly as the second pilot to an experienced crew. Ted was extremely lucky, in that he first flew into battle with a 149 Sqn legend, Sqn Ldr Reece. This first Op was on the 5th March 1944.
The crew subsequently flew 29 Operations with 149 Sqn before being transferred (3 Sept 1944) to a sister squadron, 199 Sqn, also at Lakenheath. They completed a further 16 Operations with 199 Squadron completing their final Operational Tour on 21 October 1944 with a total of 45 sorties. On the 30th Nov 1944 the crew went their separate ways, mainly to Training Schools as Instructors, where their experience would be so valuable. Ted was posted to the Lancaster Finishing School at RAF Feltwell to train on the iconic Lancaster bomber. He carried on in the Training world, completing stints at 1688 BDTU (Bomber Defence Training Unit) and 7 FTS which was involved in Airborne Radar training. His time flying operationally with 149 Sdn was mainly split between Mining and Special Operations interspersed with some bombing operations.
Air and Ground crew with OJ-R serial EF161 (Courtesy of the Wiseman Family)
Mine Laying Missions.
Although not as glamorous as attacks on the big industrial cities, these missions were a vital part of the Allies efforts to keep shipping and U-Boats penned up in the Brest area. Brest was the scene of much bombing and mine laying activity throughout the War, being in some of the first raids that were carried out by the RAF.
Special Operations were carried out at the behest of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and were used to drop Agents and supplies for the Marquis resistance fighters. It was a difficult and dangerous occupation, here given a flavour by a local newspaper after the war.
“The life of the special operations airmen was that of the lone wolf; they had no fighter escort and exploited low flying under the most difficult conditions, contending with “flak” and fighter defence. Moonlight nights were favoured for their sorties, but it was highly exacting work, requiring pin-point navigation (that is, purely by calculation), and when the tiny hand torch signal was seen at the appointed place and packages and containers dropped, they experienced a mighty sense of relief and exuberance. Once over the spot, the aircrew had to work hard in unloading their cargo quickly enough to prevent the packages being scattered. There were times when the partisans would delay flashing in order to establish the identity of the plane – a delay which caused the pilot to fly around in the vicinity and risk arousing the defences against him. Sometimes he had such a hot reception that he had no alternative but to “skate off”.
The Crew. (Stirling III Serial LK384 coded OJ-O)
Sgt E. Wiseman Pilot
With Pilots of 149 Sqn. Ted 2nd from right (Courtesy of the Wiseman Family)
Some of the crew relaxing (Courtesy of the Wiseman Family)
Unidentified Stirling at 149 Sqn Lakenheath. Source Unknown
Two unidentified Stirling ground crew. Source Unknown
During Ed’s war time service he would have been awarded :
The 1939-45 Star (Aircrew Europe)