F/O Kenneth Wilson 131566

Kenneth Wilson

F/O RAFVR in 78 Squadron, Group 4

On the night of July 29/30th 1943 a force of 757 aircraft left Bomber Command airfields in England to attack the port of Hamburg in Germany. The force was made up of 340 Lancasters – 224 Halifaxes – 119 Stirlings – 70 Wellingtons and 4 Mosquito Pathfinders. The mission was recorded as being successful. The losses suffered by the attacking force totalled 28 aircraft, 11 Lancasters – 11 Halifaxes – 4 Stirlings and 2 Wellingtons.

My late brother, 131566 Flying Officer K Wilson who was a Flying Officer RAFVR in 78 Squadron 4 Group Bomber Command, was flying as Navigator in Halifax JD 252 which was one of the Halifaxes that did not return from the raid. On the 30th of July 1943 a body was recovered from the sea near Bridlington by the Air Sea Rescue Services and was later identified as that of the W/O of Halifax JD 252 – 1111494 Sgt G.M Gibb who after identification was buried in Driffield Cemetery with full Military Honours on the 4th of August 1943 – Military Marker Grace 6227 – I have visited his grave and placed a floral tribute on it. The other six crew members of Halifax JD 252 were not found and it was assumed they lost their lives at sea and their names are commemorated on the panels at the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede.

When WWII ended in 1945 the MOD imposed a 30 year rule which prevented any research into missions flown by the RAF over enemy territory being undertaken which resulted in my Mother and Father going to their graves not knowing the fate of my brother ( the navigator of Halifax JD 252 ).

After the declassification of the missions flown by the RAF during WWII was activated in 1975 I decided to carry out research into the steps that my brother has taken from joining the RAF as a VR in 1939 until the loss of his aircraft Halifax JD 252 on the 29-30th of July 1943. I did not carry out my research with the intention of writing a book but it was to try and find out what happened to my brother 131566 Flying Officer Kenneth Wilson who was the navigator of Halifax JD 252. After the aircraft had been reported missing as both our parents had gone to their graves not knowing what had happened to the Official Secrets Act etc. It was ex RAF personnel who had read my research documents who persuaded me to try and turn my research and documents into a colour illustrated book (entitled No Known Grave) to record for future generations what it was like for a family to receive the so called “Dreaded telegram” during WWII and who have a loved one with no known grave as a result of the conflict.

At the time that I wrote the manuscript for the book people did not have computers and I did not have a typewriter or any experience in the field of writing so my manuscript was written with a pen on paper which I then sent to a professional firm to be printed as a manuscript before going to be published.

If I could have foreseen that when the book eventually published Her Majesty the Queen (the head of the three Armed Forces) – Dame Vera Lynn – David Jason etc would read it then I don’t think that I would have attempted to write it however some good has come out of it as I have received several letters from people in our country and countries abroad who have read the first issue of my book and who were asking if I could research the loss of their loved ones who sacrificed their lives whilst serving in the RAF to find out if their fallen loved ones have a Military Marker Grave as they have been unsuccessful in their efforts in doing so. I have been able to trace the final resting place of several of their loved ones and therefore I feel that I have been able to do for them that no one could do for my Mother and Father due to the war time restrictions etc. Although I have done these researches voluntarily they are very rewarding as I am in receipt of letters from them containing photographs of them standing by the Marker Grave that I have managed to trace for them also it has helped to keep my mind active in my old age.

Finally, I am in the process of writing an updated version of my book which contains many more photographs – documents – Her Majesty the Queens letter – Dame Vera Lynn’s two letter etc. If all goes well and the second edition is published I will forward a copy to you for the archives. The first edition, which sold out, raised much money for charity.

Yours Faithfully,

John Wilson (RAF Veteran)

78 Squadron Halifax II JD252 EY-W Sgt. Peter Snape Hamburg, July 1943

Operation: Hamburg, Germany.

Date: 29/30th July 1943 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: No. 78 Squadron

Type: Halifax II

Serial: JD252

Code: EY-W

Base: RAF Breighton, Yorkshire

Location: North Sea

REASON FOR LOSS:

Took off at 22.30 hrs from RAF Breighton, Yorkshire to bomb the port and city of Hamburg joining 776 other aircraft on the third raid on this target within the last five days. 340 Lancasters, 244 Halifaxes, 119 Stirlings, 70 Wellingtons and 4 Mosquitoes made up the force.

The idea was that the target be approached from the north to concentrate on the northern area of Hamburg which had not been bombed on previous occasions. The pathfinders dropped their markers too far east of the city. 707 aircraft got through to the target, dropping a total of 2,318 tons of bombs on residential areas – no figures are available as to the casualties on the ground for this raid although it is known that over 40,000 were killed during that week and over 16,000 residential buildings were destroyed.

The worst incident was when bombs hit a large department store in Wandsbek – the building collapsed and blocked exits from a shelter that was in the basement – 370 people died from poisoning by the fumes from a coke store nearby. An amazing 1,200,000 people fled the city after these raids.

The allies lost 31 aircraft on this operation with 176 aircrew losing their lives and a further 17 being made pow. Most of the aircraft were shot down by the Luftwaffe night fighters, although 14 were shot down by searchlight assisted flak over the target area.

No details or claims have been made for this loss. Another 78 Squadron was also lost on this operation:

Halifax II JB798 EY-P Flown by Fl/Sgt. Peter A. Fraser RAAF who along with his 6 other crew members were all killed and buried in Hamburg.

Some publications have the Bomb Aimer listed incorrectly as F/O. C.E. Burns.

All but one of the crew are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial (panel numbers below). Sgt. George Gibb‘s body was picked up by an air sea rescue launch and after identification was buried in Driffield Cemetery on Wednesday 4th August 1943.

Pilot Sgt. Peter Francis Snape. 1434323 RAFVR Age 22. Killed. Panel 165. Son of Frank and Harriett Evelyn Snape, of Rugby, Warwickshire, England.

Fl/Eng Sgt. Leonard James Dugard. 920070 RAFVR Age 27. Killed. Panel 148. From Brighton, Sussex, N.o.K details currently not available

Nav F/O. Kenneth Wilson. 131566 RAFVR Age 22. Killed. Panel 130. Son of Zachariah Wilson, and of Winifred Wilson, of Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England.

Air/Bmr F/O. Charles Eric Burras. 135685 RAFVR Age 20. Killed (1). Panel 123. Son of Charles and Elizabeth Ann Burras, of Liverpool, England.

WOp/AG Sgt. George Muir Gibb. 111494 RAFVR Age 21. Killed. Driffield Cemetery. Grave 6227. Son of John Purvis Gibb and Margaret Muir Gibb, of Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland.

Air/Gnr Sgt. Edward George Nickels. 1811748 RAFVR Age 19. Killed. Panel 160. Son of George Edward and Florence Caroline Nickels, of Wood Green, Middlesex, England.

Air/Gnr Sgt. Cecil Raymond Langley. 1603246 RAFVR Age 20. Killed. Panel 156. Son of Mrs F. Langley from Hays End, Middlesex, England.

Page of Remembrance created for John Wilson (ex RAF) Brother of F/O. Kenneth Wilson and dedicated to the crew of Halifax JD252. With thanks to the following, Bill Chorley – ‘Bomber Command Losses Vol’s. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions’, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie – ‘Nightfighter War Diaries Vol’s. 1 and 2’, Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt – ‘Bomber Command War Diaries’, Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

 

 

 

 

Nimrod Stone

The Nimrod Ribbon Of Remembrance stone has been placed at the IBCC to honour all those who served in the Nimrod Force, (Aircrew, Groundcrew & Support Staff), during the Nimrod’s time in Service, which spanned over forty years. It especially honours those friends and colleagues lost in three tragic accidents, which befell the Nimrod Force.

Nimrod was the RAF Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft (LRMPA) which served on No 42 Sqn based at RAF St Mawgan, No 120 Sqn, No 201 Sqn and No 206 Sqn, all based at RAF Kinloss, and finally No 203 Sqn based at RAF Luqa in Malta. The role of the aircraft was primarily surveillance of the Russian Navy and their Submarine Force, but it carried out many tasks including Long Range Search and Rescue, and Fishery Protection duties around the United Kingdom. In more recent conflicts the Nimrod Mk2 took on more surveillance roles flying over the battlefield.

Three Nimrods were built for the special task of Electronic Reconnaissance and were designated Nimrod R, they served on 51 Sqn based at our local airfield of RAF Waddington. 51 Sqn was a Bomber Command Unit during World War 2 and served in No 4 Group flying out of RAF Snaith in Yorkshire.

XV256

On the 17th November 1980 XV256 was taking off from RAF Kinloss with a crew of twenty on board from 206 Sqn. The crew were converting from the Nimrod Mk1 to the upgraded Nimrod Mk2, and had instructing staff flying, hence the large crew onboard. Immediately after take-off the aircraft had multiple birdstrikes with Canadian Geese which were transiting between their overnight roost and their daily feeding grounds. The birdstrike caused damaged to three engines, the pilots were unable to maintain height and the Nimrod crashed into Roseisle Forest approximately 1300 yards from the end of the runway, and was engulfed in flames. The two pilots were killed, but the rest of the crew managed to escape from the aircraft, although some were seriously injured.

XV239

The aircraft from 120 Sqn RAF Kinloss, was performing an Air Display at the Canadian International Airshow in Toronto on the 2nd September 1995. The display was performed above Lake Ontario and during one of the manoeuvres the aircraft appeared to stall and crashed into the lake. All seven crew members on board were killed.

XV230

Exactly eleven years to the day, since the tragic events at Toronto, another 120 Sqn aircraft crashed in Afghanistan killing all the crew and two specialist operators from the Royal Marines and the Parachute Regiment. The aircraft XV230, which incidentally was the first of thirty-eight Nimrods to enter operational service, was on a surveillance mission on the 2nd September 2006, supporting coalition forces engaging the Taliban. Shortly after refuelling from a RAF Tristar a catastrophic fire broke out, the aircraft tried to make an emergency landing at Kandahar airfield, but exploded in mid-air killing everybody on board. This event culminated in the single biggest loss of life of Service Personnel, since the Falklands War in 1982.

Roll of Honour

17th November 1980 XV256 No 206 Sqn, RAF Kinloss

  • Flight Lieutenant Noel Anthony (Royal Australian Air Force)
  • Flying Officer Stephen Belcher

2nd September 1995 XV239 No120 Sqn, Toronto, Canada

  • Lt. Dom Gilbert
  • Lt. Glenn Hooper
  • Flt Lt Nick Brookes
  • Flt Lt Bernie Worthington
  • Sergeant Gary Moxham
  • Sergeant Richie Williams
  • Sergeant Craig Barnett

2nd September 2006 XV230 No 120 Sqn, Afghanistan

  • Flight Lieutenant Steven Johnson
  • Flight Lieutenant Leigh Anthony Mitchelmore
  • Flight Lieutenant Gareth Rodney Nicholas
  • Flight Lieutenant Allan James Squires
  • Flight Lieutenant Steven Swarbrick
  • Flight Sergeant Gary Wayne Andrews
  • Flight Sergeant Stephen Beattie
  • Flight Sergeant Gerard Martin Bell
  • Flight Sergeant Adrian Davies
  • Sergeant Benjamin James Knight
  • Sergeant John Joseph Langton
  • Sergeant Gary Paul Quilliam
  • Corporal Oliver Simon Dicketts (Parachute Regiment)
  • Marine Joseph David Windal (Royal Marines)

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Wing Commander A L Christian

Wing Commander A L Christian MiD* RAF – 1906 – 1941

Arnold Louis Christian was born in Hove, grew up in Birkenhead where his family operated their business, and educated as a boarder at Ruthin Public School, (founded in 1284 almost 150 years before Eton College).

After gaining Higher School Certificate he began work in the family business and, in 1929, went to Newcastle Upon Tyne to open a new branch of the business.  There, two significant life events occurred. He met the girl who was to become his wife and he entered a newspaper competition winning first prize – a half hour flying lesson.  Smitten by both, he left the business – much to the annoyance of the family – and was commissioned into the RAF in October 1930.

Upon completion of flying training at No 3 FTS, (Flying Training School), RAF Grantham, he was posted to No 54 Squadron, RAF Hornchurch.  As a member of 54 Sqn he participated in the famous Hendon Air Displays, hugely popular in the 1930’s, was married, and two of his three children were born, (both boys, they too were to join the RAF, followed by two of his grandsons).

Now a Flight Lieutenant, he was posted, unaccompanied, for eight months over 1935-36 to Ed Damer and Atbara in the British Protectorate of Sudan.  On return it was to 218 (Bomber) Squadron, RAF Upper Heyford, and selection for instructor training at CFS, (Central Flying School), RAF Upavon.  On the evening of 28th June 1937, whilst in the station cinema, a message was flashed onto the screen – ‘F/L Christian you have a baby daughter’ – home at Upper Heyford, his third child had been born.  From CFS it was briefly to No 6 FTS, RAF Netheravon, and then on to No 5 FTS, RAF Sealand, as a flying instructor.

Promoted Squadron Leader on 21 November 1938, there then followed 10 months at RAF Debden before a posting to RAF Bicester. Briefly to No 108 Sqn and then No 104 Sqn as Commander of ‘B’ Flight.  Both squadrons operated the Bristol Blenheim light bomber.

On 25th October 1939, as second pilot/navigator to Major Jim Cordes, chief test pilot for Handley Page, he flew on the maiden flight from Bicester of their new heavy bomber the ‘Halifax’.  In April 1940, 104 & 108 merged to form No 13 OTU, (Operational Training Unit), where he served as a Flying Instructor.

On 24th November 1940 it was to 105 Sqn, ( No 2 Group, Bomber Command), RAF Swanton Morley. Stuart R Scott, in his book Battle-Axe Blenheims No 105 Squadron at war 1940-1, records ‘Well known to many of the crews as an instructor, S/L Arnold Christian had arrived to become Flight Commander of ‘B’ Flight, and was ultimately to prove a very popular CO’.

One month later, on Christmas Eve, he was promoted Wing Commander and became the squadron’s commanding officer.

At this time the squadron was engaged largely on night operations against various industrial targets, and specific oil refineries, and these continued into 1941.  On 4th February, he led the squadron to attack docks at Ostend, Dunkirk and Dieppe and also on several airfields in Northern France.  All targets were successfully attacked without loss.

On 30th March, lifting off at 20.18 hours as part of a much larger mixed force, he led 5 Blenheims, from RAF St. Eval, Cornwall, to attack the port of Brest where the German battlecruisers, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, responsible for inflicting huge losses on British shipping, were docked.  All bombs were delivered in the target area and all crews survived the attack.  So too did the enemy ships!

On the 9th April the squadron received orders to convert to daytime operations and on the 13th the daylight anti-shipping role began.  The task for No 2 Group and its Blenheim squadrons was to seal the North Sea to enemy shipping.

The crews now had to learn a new skill and Arnold Christian was hugely instrumental in this, as  remembered by S/L David Bennett, who paid tribute in 2 Group RAF by Michael J.F. Bowyer:

Arnold Christian, an A1 Category CFS (Central Flying School) instructor, could fly a Blenheim better than most and inspired us all with his skill and leadership. He had been responsible for our rapid conversion from night bombing to daylight low-level operations in April 1941. Training was intense as Christian encouraged us to fly accurately over the sea at 50ft and lower. ‘The lower the better’, were his words, and ‘effective jinking manoeuvres near the deck (sea level) can get you out of trouble in the target area’. He was right. A Blenheim could be thrown around, and his example inspired us all. Our squadron commander was a stubborn never-say-die character with inborn leadership of a somewhat rebellious nature, traits possessed by so many 2 Group squadron commanders’.

‘Beat’ areas were established along coasts from southern Norway to the Low Countries and these were the Blenheim’s new hunting grounds.  Blenheim squadrons of 2 Group were detached, in around two weeks rotation, to RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland, to operate Norwegian coastal beats.  On 5th May, 1941, it was the turn of 105 Sqn. 17 Blenheims moved from Swanton Morley to Lossiemouth for their rotational stint.

At 05.10 hours on Thursday, 8th May 1941, in Blenheim V5828:R, Wg Cdr Arnold Christian and his crew, F/Sgt Harold Frederick ‘Andy’ Hancock (Observer) and Sgt G. Wade (Wireless Op/Air Gunner), lifted off leading 5 other aircraft and headed for the beat 2 area off the Norwegian coast at Stavanger.

As recorded in Battle-Axe Blenheims by Stuart R. Scott, four of the aircraft saw no shipping and returned to base. Aircraft T2118:E (P/O Buckley) was at No 2 position (on the right) of the CO’s aircraft when, as further recorded,  a convoy of twenty vessels appeared at the entrance to Hafrsfjord, west of Stavanger. Two merchant ships were singled out one a merchantman, the other identified as an 800-ton flak ship.  When the first merchant vessel was last seen, it was down by the stern, billowing smoke high into the air. During his run-in for a beam attack on the flak ship, P/O Buckley realised that W/C Arnold Christian and his crew, had not re-appeared on his port side. Their Blenheim was last seen with the port engine on fire.

Herr Leidland, a fisherman, saw the aircraft crash into the water, and he later retrieved a flying boot from the sea; it contained a leather tag with F/Sgt Hancock’s name on it.  They had crashed south of the entrance to Hardangerfjorden, north of Stavanger.

The loss of the CO hit squadron morale very badly, and was well remembered by the then S/L David Bennett who paid the following tribute also in Bowyer’s 2 Group RAF, Arnold’s sense of fun and his good, dry humour, added to his superb airmanship, made 105 a good squadron!

 Photograph: Battle-Axe Blenheims – Stuart R Scott

From  Battle-Axe Blenheims, Sgt Geoffrey Rowland (WOp/AG) commented W/C Arnold Christian was one of the finest COs one could wish to serve under, and Sgt Wood (Pilot), we all remembered Arnold Christian joining in with the boys, playing rugger with the adjutant’s hat.

The above is the briefest story of a husband, a father, a regular officer in the RAF.  More than that, it is also the story of so many Bomber Command aircrew – 55,000 – who lost their lives in WW2.  Stuart Scott sums it up well in the introduction to his book, Battle-Axe Blenheims.  ‘The Blenheim crews suffered grievous losses throughout the war, but their resolve, their firm belief in the right of their tasks, and their absolute belief in their leadership, remained unswayed’.

105 Squadron’s motto Fortis in Proeliis  translates as Valiant in Battles’

 

There can be no more fitting epitaph for a Blenheim crew.

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Bernard ‘Pop’ Green.

Bernard ‘Pop’ Green.

There was the start of the forest, but in between was open ground covered in snow.  Thirty-two pairs of feet had left the exit to ‘Tunnel Harry’ and made the dash to the woods, when it was Bernard’s turn.

A miscalculation meant the tunnel exit had come up short by about ten feet, and was just beyond the perimeter fence.  Bernard was the thirty- third person to leave the tunnel, and at the age of fifty-six, the oldest of the seventy-six that would escape that night, in what became known as ‘The Great Escape’. 

Bernard was born in Bourne End Bucks in December 1887, and between 1903 and the start of the First World War, he served as a sapper in the 2nd Gloucestershire Royal Engineer Volunteers, the London Electrical Engineers and finally in the TA with the Royal East Kent Yeomanry.

This all took place whilst studying at Clifton College Bristol and reading Theology at Trinity College Cambridge. 

On the 24th June 1914 he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in Buckinghamshire Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.  By 1915 he was serving in France and Belgium, when he was wounded by a German rifle grenade fragment at Ploogsteert and was sent back to England to recuperate.  On his return to France, he was promoted and seconded to different Machine Group Corps.

In 1916 he attended various Lewis and Vickers Gun courses both in France and England, where he met Johnny Dodge, who many years later, would also become a POW at Stalag Luft 3, and a fellow escaper.  On the first day of the Battle for the Somme, he was promoted to Captain, but again had to return to England to attended a course, and whilst home on his 29th birthday, he married Kathleen Dorothea Connell. 

At the beginning of 1917 he was Mentioned in Dispatches for action at the Somme and then fought at Passchendaele.  By 1918 he had further promotion to Major and the award of a Military Cross in the King’s Birthday Honours List.  In October, just one month before the Armistice, he was severely wounded in his heel, from either a bullet or shrapnel.

He returned to England for recovery and was given £120 compensation for his injuries. 

After the war, Bernard and his wife started a family, his son was born in 1919, followed by a daughter in 1921.  He worked at the family Paper Mill which he ran with his Brother-in-Law.  He fulfilled many roles including Managing Director and Senior Sales Representative, which gave him the chance to travel through Europe sourcing raw materials. 

With the Second World War looming, in December 1939 Bernard joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve, he was 52 years old.  He attended the Air Gunnery Course at RAF Aldergrove and was awarded his brevet.  Following this he was posted to No 44 Sqn flying the Hampden out of RAF Waddington, with the rank of Pilot Officer on Probation.

On the 20th July 1940, Bernard was on his first mission, which was a ‘Gardening’ sortie to Frederikshavn, basically laying sea mines which had the codeword ‘Vegetables’, in the busy shipping lanes.  The four-man crew consisted of the pilot Sgt Edward Farrands, Sgt Percy Nixon the observer, Sgt Reg Miller the second air gunner, plus Bernard in the rear turret.  Their Hampden L4087 took a direct hit from flax, which was protecting the port of Frederikshavn.  Edward announced he would have to ditch in Tannis Bay, as a fire was spreading across one of the wings, and sections of it were falling from the aircraft.

The belly of the plane hit the sea and part of the starboard fuselage was torn away.  Bernard threw himself through the hole and surfaced next to the sinking plane.  Floating next to him was the dead body of Sgt Nixon, whose neck appeared broken by the force of the impact.  Bernard was a strong swimmer and swam towards the roaring surf that was breaking against the shoreline and dragged himself onto the beach.  Within a few hours he would find himself in a Police Station at Skagen in Denmark, where he was handed over to the Germans and would spend the rest of the war as a prisoner.

Bernard was taken by train to Dulag Luft near Frankfurt am Main.  This was a reception camp before prisoners were transferred elsewhere.   It was here he heard the news that Sgt Farrands had survived the crash, but like Bernard, he was caught by the Danish Police, having broken into a summer villa.  The bodies of Nixon and Miller were washed up on the beach and they were buried in the cemetery at Skagen.

Between 1941-1942 Bernard found himself promoted twice, eventually obtaining the rank of Flight Lieutenant.  He was subject to various transfers between POW camps, including Stalag Luft II in Littmannstadt Poland, Stalag Luft I Barth Germany, a short visit to Stalag Luft III near Sagan and then Offlag XXI B, Schubin Poland.

By 1943 Bernard was back at Stalag Luft III to fulfil his destiny of becoming one of the ‘Great Escapers’.  Bernard was known as ‘Pop’ this probably referred to his age, being one of the older prisoners, or it could have derived from when he was Pilot Officer on Probation.  At Stalag Luft III, his role in the building of ‘Tunnel Harry’ was to be a ‘Penguin’.

He carried special pouches down his trouser legs, and walked around the compound dispersing earth that had been removed from the tunnel.

His escape on that cold winter’s night in March 1944 was short lived, he gathered with twelve other prisoners, all dressed as Czech workmen. They made their way to a railway station south of Sagan, boarded a train for about fifty miles, before alighting near Hirschberg.  As he approached a village he was forced to walk straight through the centre, because the surrounding fields were covered in deep snow, so he couldn’t bypass the village. He was captured by a German soldier and returned to Stalag Luft III, where he spent 14 days in the cooler.

 Of the original seventy-six to escape, three managed to make ‘home runs’, one landed in England, two managed to seek refuge in Sweden.  On Hitler’s orders fifty of the escapees were executed, they were chosen from different nationalities to send a chilling message back to the camps.

By 1945 the Germans started to evacuate the POW camps in the East, as the Soviet Army advanced.  Bernard and the fellow inmates were forced marched, half starving and inadequately dressed in atrocious winter conditions, with heavy snowfalls and sub-zero temperatures, back into Germany.  Many suffered from exhaustion and exposure to the weather, and were shot by their captors where they fell.

 They were finally liberated from a camp, on the 2nd May 1945 near Lübeck, by the 11th Armoured Division British Army.  On the 7th January 1947 Bernard was Mentioned in Despatches for his part in the Great Escape.

After the war Bernard remarried following the death of his first wife and ran a taxi business in Chichester.  In 1963 he attended the Premiere of ‘The Great Escape’ at the Odeon Leicester Square, to benefit the Royal Air Force Association and the RAF Escaping Society.

Bernard died on the 2nd November 1971 aged 83 years old.

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Australian Ribbon Of Remembrance.

At the very end of the path that leads to the Memorial Walls, on the left hand side, there is a large Stone dedicated to all the Australian Air Force members who served in Bomber Command during WW2. Australian aircrew were trained in Australia, Canada and Rhodesia under the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS), before they arrived in the UK to serve in Bomber Command. The first ground instruction and flying schools opened in Australia in 1940 and by March 1941 the graduates were joining the UK based Squadrons.

Approximately 10,000 Royal Australian Air Force personnel served with Bomber Command and 3,486 were killed, 650 died in training accidents and 1500 became Prisoners of War. Many served on the eight RAAF Bomber Command Squadrons, namely 455, 458, 460, 462, 463, 464, 466 and 467 Squadron.

The first two Australian Squadrons formed were No 455 Sqn in June and No 458 Sqn in September 1941. By the end of 1941 both were flying regular missions against Germany. Although the Australian Government wanted to consolidate their airmen into RAAF units, there was never an Australian Bomber Command Group, compared to the likes of No 6 (Canadian) Group. Even the Australian Squadrons often had a small number of Australians on them, as the men tended to form into crews at the Operational Training Units, without regard for nationality, and didn’t wish to be broken up when they eventually arrived on the Squadrons. Some Commanders favored mixed nationality crews, so we find many Australians serving in various Squadrons throughout Bomber Command.

The arrival of No 460 Sqn RAAF to RAF Binbrook in spring 1943, caused quite a stir. The Squadron was transferring from RAF Breighton and the groundcrew were given the options of traveling by train or being transported in Horsa gilders, over 800 of them chose to travel by Horsa. Their different uniforms and accents also caused problems, with one local schoolboy running home to his parents and declaring the Germans had arrived! During the next two years of the war, 460 Sqn suffered some of the highest casualty rates in Bomber Command.

Depicted on the Stone is the badge of the Royal Australian Air Force and the Australian War Memorial which is in Campbell, a suburb in the  capital Canberra. This Memorial was unveiled on the 11th November 1941 and holds the Rolls of Honour which commemorates over 102,000 members of the Australian Armed Forces who have died during War Service, and since 1945, those killed in Wars and certain Peacetime Operations. The Tomb of the Australian Unknown Soldier is located here, along with an extensive National Military Museum.

Towards the bottom of the Stone, we have an inscription from a letter written by Fg Off Colin Kelvin Flockhart who served on No 619 Sqn. Colin was born on the 1st February 1924 in Ashfield NSW. He attended school in Sydney, completed his accountancy studies before gaining employment with the Commonwealth Bank. When old enough he joined the RAAF and qualified as a pilot in 1942. After completing his flying course, he was sent to Canada for further training before arriving in England.  He converted onto the Lancaster and was posted to No 619 Sqn based at RAF Strubby here in Lincolnshire. On the 1st December 1944 Colin wrote a three page letter to his parents to be delivered in the event of his death. He described how he was happy in the RAAF, his belief in what he was doing, his faith in God and his appreciation of his family.

I have been very proud to wear my uniform, keep smiling although your hearts are breaking.

These words were extracts from his letter home, a letter that would soon be delivered to his parents in Earlwood NSW. On the 7th January 1945 Flockhart and his crew were detailed to take part on a raid on München. Flying in Lancaster ND957 PG-M, they were returning from the target in bad weather and reduced visibility, when their aircraft disintegrated over St Pierre in France. It is thought a possibly collision occurred with a 49 Sqn Lancaster PB586, also returning from München. That accident caused the death of three Australians, FS Eric Smith from Sydney was Colin’s Wireless Op on ND957, and WO Frederick Miller from Canberra was the Wireless Op on the 49 Sqn aircraft. Those on board both aircraft were laid to rest in Villeneuve St Georges Old Communal Cemetery 18 Km South East of Paris. Fg Off Colin Flockhart was just 20 years old at the time of his death.

It wasn’t just the aircrew who made the ultimate sacrifice, Sgt Laurence Parker was born in Bundaberg, Queensland. He served as groundcrew on No 467 Sqn based at RAF Waddington. Most aircraft had nose art which depicted how many raids an aircraft and crew had completed. The nose art was normally a bomb, but Sgt Parker suggested using beer mugs to record the event, and painted these onto the aircraft he serviced. On the 4th December 1943 Laurence was killed when a Lancaster JB140 crashed on takeoff after two engines failed.  The aircraft swung violently, leaving the runway before the pilot managed to get it under semi control. Unfortunately, it hit a parked No 61 Sqn Lancaster before crashing into Sgt Parker and a Sgt Hobba. Ironically Laurence was killed by an aircraft he serviced himself, whilst Sgt Hobba survived with slight injuries. The following day FS Cecil Frizzell the Air Gunner on JB140, who hailed from Queensland, succumbed to his injuries.

The bravery, gallantry and sacrifices of all those who served in the RAAF in Bomber Command during the war is reflected in the medals awarded to Australian personnel. 2 Victoria Crosses, 62 Distinguished Service Orders, 1 Military Cross, 1609 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 3 Air Force Crosses, 1 Distinguished Conduct Medal, 6 Conspicuous Gallantry Medals, 1 Military Medal, 297 Distinguished Flying Medals and 3 Air Forces Medals.

Sgt E A Hall

Sgt E A Hall (462) –  10 Squadron

One of the pleasures of being a Volunteer Tour Guide at the IBCC is the chance to meet and chat with veterans or their relatives. One day whilst guiding I got chatting with David Hall and his twin sister Carol who were visiting the Centre. As we walked up the Ribbons Of Remembrance they stopped to show me a Stone they had laid in memory of their father, a father they hardly got to know, they were just 15 months old when he was killed in Norway.

Tirpitz was the second of the Bismarck Class Battleships built for the German Navy. Named after Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz it was armed with a battery of eight (15 inch) guns, housed in four twin turrets. In early 1942, the Tirpitz sailed to Norway acting as a deterrent against an Allied invasion. Whilst stationed in Norway, the ship was intended to be used to intercept the Arctic Convoys heading to Russia. Tirpitz was Churchill’s nemesis, it was a formidable ship and it would take a formidable effort to destroy it.

In between October 1940 and November 1944, 26 Operations were mounted to destroy Tirpitz.  During ‘Operation Title’ they used two Chariot Manned Torpedoes, but mechanical failure stopped the attempt, whilst in ‘Operation Source’ four Midget Submarines were deployed, which did manage to cause extensive damage. Finally on the 12th November 1944, Operation Catechism saw 32 Lancasters attack the ship at Tromsø,  eventually causing it to capsize after three direct hits.

On the 30th March 1942 No 4 Group mounted an attack on Tirpitz using Halifax aircraft picked from 10 Sqn, 35 Sqn and 76 Sqn, operating at forward bases at Lossiemouth, Kinloss and Tain in Scotland. The raid consisted of 12 aircraft each from 76 Sqn and 35 Sqn, with 10 aircraft getting airborne from 10 Sqn. The total distance to the target and return to base would be 1300 miles with a flight time of 8 hrs 30 mins, the raid was planned in two phases with 76 Sqn dropping 4000 lb HC bombs. Phase 2 would see 10 Sqn and 35 Sqn flying into Faettenfjord at 600 feet carrying Mines and Incendiaries. On reaching the Norwegian coast the weather was clear with bright moonlight, but on arriving in the Trondheim area sea fog and 10/10 cloud were obscuring the target.  Tirpitz was moored next to a cliff making an air attack more difficult, cut down trees were laid over the deck as camouflage, and if need be, Tirpitz could create clouds of artificial fog by mixing water with chlorosulfuric acid. Many of the aircraft had to jettison their bombs on searchlight and flax batteries, and because of the sea fog and haze, it was difficult to make any damage assessments.

In nearby Hemnefjord the local people could hear aircraft en route to and from Faettenfjord. A young man witnessed an aircraft flying erratically and descending, as it passed over a small island called Sørfuglan there was an explosion onboard and the aircraft crashed. It is possible the aircraft was hit by German Anti Aircraft guns at nearby Hemnskjel.

The following morning people found debris and dead fish around the fjord carried by the currents, this could be from W1043 ZA-F, although nearby another Halifax from 10 Sqn had also crashed, that was W1044 ZA-D.

Four days after the crash of W1043, the body of the Sqn Ldr Frederick Webster was washed up near the Lighthouse at Terningen. No remains of the other six crew were ever found. On the 8th April 1942 Sqn Ldr Webster was buried at Trondheim Stavne Cemetery along with four airmen from 35 Sqn, who had perished when their two Halifax aircraft were shot down. Three bodies were recovered from the crash of W1044 and initially buried in a local cemetery at Heim before being moved to Trondheim Stavne Cemetery after the war.

In 2005 David Hall travelled to Norway to visit the crash site where his father perished. He was accompanied by Wynne Hines the sister of the Air Gunner Plt Off Sam Leney, who was 22 years old at the time of his death. During the visit they went out by boat to the spot between Sørfuglan and Jamtøya where it is believed Halifax W1043 came down. David placed a wreath in the water as they paid their respects to the airmen who lost their lives that day. A dram of whisky was also poured into the fjord. At last David and Wynne had the chance to say goodbye to their loved ones.  Whilst in Norway they also went to Stavne Cemetery to visit the grave of Sqn Ldr Webster, the only crew member recovered from the crash. The remaining crew are honoured on the Runnymede Memorial for all those airmen who have no known grave.

Six of the thirty-four aircraft that took off failed to return.

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From 10 Squadron:
W1043 flown by Sqn Ldr Webster and W1044 flown by Plt Off Blunden.

Crew Of W1043 ZA-F

Sqn Ldr Frederick David Webster DFC Age 29 Pilot

Sgt Eric Archibald Hall Age 30 Pilot

Flt Lt Audrey Charles Stevens-Fox Observer

Plt Off Samuel Robert Leney Age 22 Air Gunner

FS Harold Sydney Wheatley Age 24 Flight Engineer

Sgt Walter Hall Age 27 Air Gunner

Sgt Arnold Hague WOp/AG 

 

From 35 Squadron:

R9438 flown by FS Bushby, this aircraft had made it back over the North Sea almost to Shetland from the Tirpitz, but crashed in to cliffs at Fitful Head on Shetland killing all the crew.

R9496 flown by FS Archibald and W1015 flown by FS Steinhauer both crashed in Norway.

76 Squadron:

R9453 flown by Sqn Ldr Burnett was last heard from en route back to base passing over Sumburgh and are believed to have ditched in the sea somewhere off Sumburgh Head.

Despite the best efforts of the Halifax force, little or no effective damage had been inflicted on Tirpitz during the 30th March 1942 attack.

 

Sgt Eric Archibald Hall

 

 

The ABC Lancaster

Lancaster PD268 SR-O

 On the 7th March 1945 at 1708hrs, Lancaster PD268 of 101 Squadron lifted off from RAF Ludford Magna in the Lincolnshire Wolds. A total of 23 Lancasters would depart Ludford Magna that evening to support the raid. The target was the Junker’s Aircraft Factory at Dessau and they were part of a large bomber stream consisting of 526 Lancasters and 5 Mosquitoes. 18 Lancasters, which was 3.4 Percent of the force failed to return, including the crew of PD268. They were the only crew not to return safely to Ludford Magna in the early hours of the following morning, nothing was heard from them after taking off.

At the controls that evening was Sqn Ldr Montgomery Gibbon AFC and next to him, was WO Ivor Bond the Flight Engineer.  He would be assisting the pilot with fuel calculations, monitoring the engines and hydraulic pressures, and ready to carry out immediate action drills in the case of engine failure or fires. Down in the nose of the aircraft, Sgt William Canning the Bomb Aimer, would be busying himself checking his switch selections and bomb-sight, ready to direct the pilot onto the target as they approached Dessau.

Meanwhile the Navigator Fg Off Roy Gawthorp would be updating their track towards the target with the latest winds which he received from the Wireless Operator Sgt Leslie Tyrrell. All the time the Air Gunners Sgt Alfred Matthews and Sgt Charles Preston would be scanning the horizon for German Nightfighters trying to infiltrate the Bomber Stream. Seven would be the normal complement of a Lancaster, but this was an ABC Lancaster, also known by the codeword ‘Airborne Cigar’, so this carried an extra crew member.

Huddled over the glow coming from a Cathode Ray Tube was Plt Off Rudolph Mahr a Canadian from Winnipeg. Rudolph or ‘Rudy’, was a Russian Jew born in 1926, his Russian father was John and Anna his mother was from Germany. They left Russia and travelled to Canada arriving by ship in 1936 and took Canadian Citizenship. As the war progressed Rudolph wanted to prove what honourable Canadians they had become, so signed up with Royal Canadian Air Force and trained as an Air Gunner.

When 101 Squadron was earmarked as the ABC Squadron in 1943 a call went out for volunteers who spoke or understood German, Rudolph volunteered for the as of yet undisclosed role, that he would play on the Squadron.  His job on the Lancaster was the Special Duty Operator, the eighth man. The SD Operators came from all walks of life, some were German Jews like Hans Heinz Schwarz or George Kesten, who were born in Berlin, but fled their homeland and served in the RAF. Others were aircrew who had learnt some German at school, and volunteered for this new role. They all had to learn the codewords that the ground controllers would use with the Nightfighter pilots, as an example ‘Kapelle’ which meant Target Altitude.

So as Rudolph stared at his Cathode Ray Tube he was looking for a blip that would indicate a transmission. He would stop his receiver on the signal and listen to confirm it was a Luftwaffe ground to air frequency. Once confirmed he would activate one of three 50 Watt transmitters, bring it over the frequency and block the signal, thereby preventing the Luftwaffe ground controllers from communicating with their Nightfighters.  Often engine noise picked up by a microphone in one of the engines, would be played out as the jamming signal. The outside of the ABC Lancaster was dominated by three large aerials, two on the top of the fuselage, and one under the nose, these highlighted the specialist role of the aircraft. But the crew of PD268 were not alone, other Lancasters from 101 Squadron would also be dispersed in the Bomber Stream at 10 mile intervals, all using their jammers to mask the Luftwaffe air comms. So as the Bomber stream progressed the jamming umbrella would move along trying to protect the raid.

The ABC Lancaster not only provided a jamming capability, they were part of the raid plan, carrying a bomb load themselves. The load would be reduced because of the extra weight of the specialised equipment and the extra operator carried in the fuselage. In the case of PD268 the bombs would never reach the target, the importance of the activities of 101 Sqn was not lost on the Luftwaffe, which made every effort to locate and destroy the modified Lancasters.  A Nightfighter, the very thing they were trying to protect the stream from, managed to intercept them and attack the aircraft with cannon.  No wreckage or crew were found and it was assumed the aircraft had come down in the sea. The only place relatives could pay their respects was the Runnymede Memorial, which commemorates over 20,000 air force men and women, who lost their lives and have no known grave.

Horst Klötzer was a local historian and archaeologist who documented the crash sites of warplanes in the Westphalia district of Germany. In 2013 he followed up on reports of a crash site in a forest near the city of Hagen, and a survey of the site found widely scattered remains of an aircraft, some of these parts were very tiny, often less than two centimetres wide. Further excavation revealed some British coins, a compass pendant, part of a landing gear strut and various metal pieces with identification marks on them. There was also reports from local people who remembered the crash took place on the 7th March 1945 and that a body from the crash had been buried in an unmarked grave in the local cemetery. After painstaking investigation the final resting place of PD268 had been discovered. The cemetery had no records to support the burial of the airman and no further action by the authorities has taken place.

Horst Klötzer and his team used social media to try and find surviving relatives of the crew. In 2015 Ernest Mahr, the brother of Rudy, flew to Paris with his wife, hired a car and drove the 560 kilometres to the crash site at Hagen.  Ernest could finally pay his respects to his elder brother, who was just nineteen years old at the time of his death.

Plt Officer Rudolf “Rudy” Mahr RCAF Special Duties Operator

101 Sqn part of No1 Group had some of the largest losses in Bomber Command during WW2. Because of their specialist role not only did they fly missions with No1 Group, they also had to fly in support of other Groups.  Hence there was very little respite for the men of 101 Sqn. In total 1094 men were Killed In Action and 178 were taken Prisoners Of War.

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Lancaster PB812 AR-Y

Lancaster PB812 AR-Y 460 Sqn RAAF 10th February 1945.

On the IBCC Ribbons Of Remembrance are a series of Stones which are dedicated to the memory of a crew from 460 Sqn RAAF who were based at RAF Binbrook. Very close to the Chadwick Centre in Block 1, we have a Ribbon for a Bomb Aimer Arnold Kloeden, then in Block 2 are six Ribbons for the crew of a Lancaster PB812 which crashed at Caythorpe near Grantham on the 10th February 1945.

This was a very close knit crew, as many of them had travelled across to England on the same troopship from Australia. They first crewed up in August 1944, whilst undergoing their Operational Training at RAF Hixon, flying the Wellington Bomber. Then in December 1944 they were posted to No 1656 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Lindholme, to convert onto the Lancaster. Here they were joined by an Englishman, called Freddie Nesbit-Bell who hailed from Bristol and was the flight engineer.  Why was he flying with an all Australian crew?

With the introduction of the heavy bombers and the decision to go to one pilot operation, the new trade of flight engineer was introduced. He would assist the pilot with throttles, monitor fuel and hydraulics, and carry out any immediate action drills in the case of engine fires or failures. Freddie was a pilot in his own right, having trained in Canada, but he retrained as a flight engineer, because of shortages. Many RAF personnel were transferred to this new trade, which is why you often found them flying with other nationalities. But Freddie did not need to join the war effort, as he had a reserved occupation, he was a Police Constable in Bristol. Eight Police Constables from Bristol volunteered for the Services, Freddie was the only one not to return home when the war finished.

Having completed the HCU the crew were posted to No 460 Sqn. The crew, five of them even owned a car together, so they could explore the Lincolnshire Wolds. The crew were rarely apart in their leisure hours and Arnold Kloeden said they worked in a greater harmony than any other crew he had seen.

On the morning of Saturday 10th February 1945, Pilot Officer Dick Miller took off from Binbrook on a crew training sortie (Navex) with five members of his crew. The Bomb Aimer’s position was empty because Arnold Kloeden had been ill and was just being released from hospital, so didn’t have time to prepare for the flight. The crew were flying a Navigation Exercise and whilst on the leg from Luton to Scunthorpe, a catastrophic accident occurred. At 15:50 hrs the Lancaster was witnessed by some local schoolboys in a vertical dive over the village of Caythorpe and crashed near Love Lane close to the railway station. None of the crew survived the crash, there was speculation that problems with the autopilot may have contributed to the accident, as this had caused problems on a previous flight.

The deceased crew’s remains were placed in one coffin and they were buried at Cambridge City Cemetery. The parents and sister of Tony Robinson, the air gunner attended, along with family members belonging to Freddie Nisbet-Bell. The Chief Constable of Bristol also came and paid his respects. Arnold Kloeden represented all those Australian families who were unable to attend.

After the war, Arnold Kloeden returned to Australia and eventually died in 2003. On the 10th September 2016 a memorial service was organised by Linda Pope, the niece of Rhod Pope, which was held at St Vincent’s Church in Caythorpe. This was attended by family members of the deceased crew and two plaques were laid. One is located at the church, the other is on Love Lane close to the crash site.

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Porokoru Patapu Pohe – 51 Squadron

51 Squadron is one of our local units here in Lincolnshire, and currently operates out of RAF Waddington, just a few miles south of the International Bomber Command Centre, flying the ‘Rivet Joint RC135W’ aircraft.

During the war it was a Bomber Command Unit assigned to No 4 Group and operating out of various airfields in Yorkshire, including RAF Linton-on-Ouse, RAF Dishforth and RAF Snaith, flying the Whitley and then the Halifax Bomber.

Born on the 10th December 1914, Porokoru Patapu Pohe, (known as John or Johnny) grew up on his parents farm in Taihape, New Zealand.  After finishing school he worked on the family farm and served two years in the Territorial Army with the Manawatu Mounted Rifles. In 1939 he volunteered to join the RNZAF, and was eventually accepted for pilot training. On the 18th January 1941 Porokoru was awarded his flying brevet, and thus became the first Maori pilot in the New Zealand Air Force. Like many of his compatriots he travelled to Canada to undergo advanced training under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, before finally arriving at No 10 OTU at RAF Abingdon in May 1941, to convert onto the Whitley.

It was whilst flying a Whitley on the 21st July 1941, on a bombing raid near Paris, that he earned the distinction of being the first Maori to bomb a target in occupied Europe. On the 24th August 1941 Porokoru was posted to 51 Squadron and was promoted to Flight Sergeant in October that year. The following February he piloted a Whitley which dropped paratroopers on a radar station near Le Havre. This daring raid called Operation Biting or perhaps better know as the Bruneval Raid, was mounted to try and capture and dismantle a German radar called  ‘Würzburg’. This radar controlled anti aircraft and searchlight batteries, whilst also directing nightfighters into the bomber streams, so any countermeasures that could neutralise it, would be very useful. So the aim of the raid was to return sections of the radar, including some of the electronics back to the scientists in Britain, so they could get a better understanding of the inner workings of the system, and advances in German Radar technology. To help with this, they also brought back a German Radar Technician, all the equipment was taken down to the local beach where a Royal Navy landing craft collected the assault teams, transferred them to motor gunboats for the journey back across the Channel.

On completion of his operational tour Porokoru was posted as an instructor to No 24 OTU at RAF Honeybourne flying the Wellington. In March 1943 he survived a crash when the wing of his Wellington caught fire. Requesting a transfer back to operational flying, he converted to the Halifax bomber at No 1663 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Rufforth, before he and his crew rejoined No 51 Sqn, which was now based at RAF Snaith. Within two days of joining his old squadron, he was tasked to fly against Hannover. On the night of 22nd September 1943, in aircraft JN901, they were hit twice by anti aircraft fire over the target area and had to limp for home. Such was the damage to the aircraft that they were forced to ditch in the English Channel, but at least all the crew survived. For two days they huddled in the dinghies before a German spotter plane sighted them and directed a German vessel to pick them up, thus Porokoru and his crew became Prisoners Of War.

Porokoru eventually arrived at Stalag Luft III near Sagan in October, but by 1944 he was actively helping to construct tunnel ‘Harry’,  that would shortly see prisoners try to make a bid for freedom, in what is famously called ‘The Great Escape’.

On the night of 24/25th March 1944 in the depths of a real bad winter, seventy six POWs managed to escape through tunnel ‘Harry’ before a guard patrolling outside the perimeter fence noticed the next man attempting to emerge from the tunnel. When the Germans discovered the escape, they put into action a well rehearsed manhunt. Porokoru and his companion Al Hake, an Australian Spitfire pilot, who were both suffering with frostbite in their feet, were captured by a local patrol and handed over to the Gestapo at Görlitz prison. On the 30th March, Gestapo officers collected six prisoners including Al Hake and Porokoru, they were driven away and never seen again. On Hitler’s orders fifty of the escapees were executed, they were chosen from different nationalities to send a chilling message back to the camps. Of the original seventy six to escape, fifty were executed, twenty three were returned to POW camps and just three managed to escape, one landed in England, two managed to seek refuge in Sweden.

Originally cremated and buried at Sagan, Porokoru is now buried in Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery. At Sagan close to the where Stalag Luft III was located, there is a memorial to ‘The Fifty’. Post war investigations saw a number of those guilty for the murders, tracked down arrested and tried for their crimes.

Flying Officer Porokoru Patapu Pohe RNZAF was Mentioned in Dispatches with the citation “In recognition of distinguished service and devotion to duty”. He is remembered on Panel 227 of the Memorial Walls here at the International Bomber Command Centre. Below is an entry from Fg Off JSB Tyrie’s Stalag Luft III diary, which remembers those executed during ‘The Great Escape’

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Flt. Lt. Gareth R Nicholas

Nimrod XV230

Gareth Rodney Nicholas was the second son born 4th January 1966, the 5th child for his parents, Rodney, and Jean Nicholas. He was born in Redruth, Cornwall and brought up in the nearby town of Newquay. Gareth had three surviving elder sisters Ginny, Kath, and Angela.

Gareth was a talented artist and had the chance to study art at university but chose to join the R.A.F. as direct entrant aircrew, possibly influenced by all three sisters being married to aircrew at that time and having been in the Air Cadets gaining flight experience flying in Nimrod aircraft. He qualified as Sergeant Aircrew AEOp (Air Electronics Operator (Wet (sonics)) in 1985. He served with 42 Sqn at R.A.F. St. Mawgan which was located close to his home town of Newquay and also served on 206 Sqn at R.A.F. Kinloss, Morayshire, Scotland.

Gareth was commissioned in 2000 as an Air Electronics Officer (AEO) and attained the rank of Flight Lieutenant. He was serving with 120 Sqn crew 3 at R.A.F. Kinloss in Morayshire when the crew were deployed to Afghanistan in the summer of 2006. Whilst the aircraft was being refuelled mid-air on 2nd September, a fire broke out indicating it was in the bomb bay. The crew carried out the drill as per the book to fight the fire. As AEO Gareth co-ordinated the drill and his voice was the last to be heard on the recording of the intercom. The fire was close to the bomb bay but in a position where there was no fire suppressant. This location was next to a fuel tank which then got so hot that it exploded and blew up the aircraft. There were 14 crew on board and all were killed instantly; the biggest single incident of loss of life in Afghanistan.

Gareth left behind his wife Helen and 10 year old daughter Athena. His name is on a wall at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. Plaques are on the Newquay War Memorial and on a foot bridge from the mainland to Porth Island; he played there with his family as a child and visited often as a husband and father. The station of R.A.F. St. Mawgan honoured Flt. Lt. Nicholas by naming a street after him.

Gareth’s stone is Block 5 Column 14 Row 3 and his niece Zoe’s is located Block 5 Column 7 Row 4.

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Words and photographs courtesy of Helen Nicholas, widow and Jeff Bayne, brother in law.

Lancaster R5489 KM-G Branston 1942

At 19:15hrs on Sunday 16th August 1942 a No 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron Lancaster R5489 KM-G was returning to RAF Waddington after a four hour training flight. This was a familiarisation trip for the newly qualified Flight Engineer Sgt John ‘Jack’ Fletcher. The aircraft flown by Sgt Ron Easom was over Branston on the downwind leg of the circuit, when the inner starboard engine caught fire. He ordered Jack to feather the engine and operate the fire extinguisher. Unfortunately the Flight Engineer feathered the outer engine by mistake, causing the aircraft to yaw and stall, and it crashed into a pig sty, a shed and trees before finally coming to rest on the south side of the village behind a row of cottages called Mill Row on the Sleaford Road.

The aircraft broke in two, just behind the main spar and was instantly engulfed in flames. Frank Walshaw, the Wireless Operator had braced himself for the impact, but the radio transmitter broke from it’s mounting and hit him in the chest. He remembers being dragged from the wreckage and laid on the ground near the cottages, meanwhile the fuel tanks had ruptured and blazing fuel was all around the aircraft.

Some pigs were trapped under the wreckage and their squeals were horrifying to hear, as they were roasted alive. Ammunition was also exploding all around, when suddenly an elderly lady emerged from one of the cottages with a tray of teas, and said to Frank “You’ll be ready for a cup of tea Luv”.  Even with the inferno all around she wasn’t fazed and continued to dispense refreshments.

The rescuers were able to save all the crew apart from Sgt David Pullinger the New Zealand Bomb Aimer, who was dead in the nose of the aircraft. Sgt Jack Fletcher was also pulled from the aircraft, having first been catapulted against the instrument panel in the cockpit, then down into the nose, such was the force of the impact. Jack Fletcher died of his injuries during the night in Bracebridge Heath hospital. Two of the rescuers who pulled the crew from the wreckage were Fred Kirk, the local butcher, and Dick Taylor who farmed in Branston. With complete disregard for their own safety they pulled the crew out of the plane, that was likely to have exploded at any second.

In 2015 the land behind Mill Row had been earmarked for a housing development by Taylor Wimpey. Firstly, an archaeological survey using a metal detector was performed, this found various aluminium airframe fragments, internal copper alloy components, and various pieces of .303 ammunition. They also discovered pieces of clothing and buttons, but these were later identified as civilian clothes not associated with the crash, these were probably ‘shoddy’, which were old clothes ploughed into heavy soils to improve the texture.

Frank Walshaw presented a memorial plaque to the Branston Home Guard Social Club in 2002.  The plaque states that Frank was a survivor of the crash and a former resident of Branston. In the main bar there is a display case belonging to the Lincolnshire Aircraft Recovery Group, which displays a model of the Lancaster along with remnants recovered from the crash site.

The new housing estate is now nearing completion and at the Memorial Gardens in the centre of the estate, there is a Commemorative Stone which lists the crew and their rescuers. There is also a Memorial Bench dedicated to Sgt D Pullinger and Sgt J Fletcher, the two fatalities from the crash. The roads around the development have also be named in honour of the crew and rescuers, so Easom Way, Jack Fletcher Close, Fox Close, Pullinger Way, Walshaw Close, Berrigan Way, Black Court, Taylor Close and Kirk Road can all be found within the estate.

Sgt David Pullinger, aged 30 from Gisborne New Zealand is buried at Lincoln Newport Cemetery.

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Sgt John Fletcher, aged 21 is buried at Stourbridge Roman Catholic Cemetery.

Lindum Colonia Memorial Stone

I am a Harley Davidson motorcycle owner and member of Lindum Colonia UK Chapter. This a Harley Owners Group club. As with all UK chapters and many other motorcycle clubs we raise money for charity. The club is always looking for worthy causes.

I volunteer as a tour guide at the IBCC and having a memorial stone on the Ribbon of Remembrance for our eldest daughter it suddenly came to me, why not have a stone from the chapter. I suggested at a club night, as we are a Lincoln club with many ex-military (predominantly RAF) members and that the IBCC is a charitable organisation why don’t we raise money for them by buying a memorial stone. In this way not only would the IBCC benefit but our club name could be incorporated and last forever. The club members loved the idea and agreed to raise the necessary funds.

One member works in graphic design for a living so Kirk was tasked to design the stone. He ran his first idea past me using the club logo as a picture for engraving but I suggested that although it would be appropriate I thought we needed an out and out picture of a motorbike to emphasise we are a motorcycle club. Kirk asked me to confirm our bike was a Softail Custom which I did and thought nothing more of it. Kirk duly unveiled his design at a club night and to my amazement the picture was changed to our bike. The membership approved the picture and wording immediately. £1500 was raised by the club for the stone and presented to the IBCC.

Pilot Officer Ernest Tansley

Seventy-seven years ago today, the 2nd of December 1943, the loss of just one Lancaster from 57 Squadron, East Kirkby, left behind eight broken families when their loved ones failed to return home.

There were mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, a new young wife and a fiancée with her wedding dress hanging in her wardrobe and a mother with a young son and daughter and a baby yet to arrive in this war torn world. But the eight young men involved had a war to fight and had set off on yet another operation to Berlin.

The weather was against them on this particular Thursday afternoon and over 200 aircraft had already been grounded, but 57 Squadron despatched 14 crews from East Kirkby. Two didn’t return.

In one of the crews on this occasion, were two new faces. There was a young flight engineer who had only recently joined 57 Squadron and another who was on his very first trip as a second pilot to gain experience before flying with a crew of his own.

The crew of JB 529 DX-P (Peter), captained by Ernie Tansley, ran into extremely bad weather with unexpected strong winds and, like many other aircraft, was blown off target and found themselves to the south of Berlin.

They were spotted by eyewitnesses, flying low over the small town of Trebbin, possibly having already suffered from earlier damage. They were quickly attacked by a Junker 88 from nearby Juterbog airfield and there was an exchange of fire between the two aircraft. P-Peter exploded, bursting into flames with parts of the fuselage falling away along with the starboard wing and engines.

Six of the crew had either fallen or jumped from the blazing aircraft but sadly they were too low to use their parachutes. Eyewitnesses watched as Ernie, remaining in the cockpit, despite the flames emanating from the front, attempted to steer the badly damaged and burning Lancaster away from a row of houses below him. This, he just managed to achieve before it crashed into an adjacent rye field.

Although parts of the ‘plane fell into gardens and caused various amounts of damage to the houses, he had avoided any loss of life to the residents. One found twin machine guns hanging through the ceiling of her kitchen, another had the corner of their home knocked away.

Sadly, none of this brave crew survived. The rear gunner had been shot and killed earlier so was still in his turret and Ernie of course had remained in the cockpit of his beloved Lancaster. He was unable to be officially identified until after the war so was buried as ‘unknown’.

I can’t imagine what his thoughts must have been in those last moments.

These young airmen were taken to the nearby ‘Old Cemetery’ in Trebbin where they were initially buried in a communal grave after being carefully wrapped in a tarpaulin. A cross was erected to mark the spot. They were behind a tiny chapel at the far end of the churchyard and the grave was well tended by the cemetery gardener until the end of the war when they were exhumed. They were then re-buried in the Berlin War Cemetery, Charlottenburg where they now lie side by side once more.

These were the eight young men…

Sergeant Ivor Groves was the wireless operator and only 20 years old and he left behind his parents and three brothers. Two of whom were in the army, the third, like Ivor, also in the RAF. This happy, likeable young man was well thought of amongst the crew and came from a kind and loving family. They lived just outside Birmingham.

Flight Sgt, Harold Moad, rear gunner aged 23. He came from Clanwilliam in Manitoba, Canada and besides his parents, there were eight siblings, one of whom was a POW. Because this young man was unable to go home when on leave, the family of Ivor Groves welcomed him into theirs.

Pilot Officer Ernest Patrick was the bomb aimer, aged 25, from London. Besides his parents he had a young brother Alan aged fifteen who never really came to terms with the loss of his big brother.

Pilot Officer Roy Lewis, the mid-upper gunner was aged 21 and lived in the Manchester area with his parents. He was an only and much loved son. He had only recently married a lovely young girl named Moya. Sadly, they were to have only four months together. The best man at their wedding had been Douglas, the navigator.

Pilot Officer Douglas Park was the navigator, only 20 years old. He was one of six children and lived in Hull, Yorkshire. This was another very kind family and when Douglas became engaged to a young lady named Mary, they took her to their hearts. When Douglas was lost it was just days away from their marriage and Mary was left with her wedding dress hanging in her wardrobe, awaiting the big day that never arrived.

We don’t know very much about the two new faces in the crew….

Sergeant Leonard Brown was the new Flight Engineer, another young man aged only 20 years. He lived in Bermondsey, London with his parents and a younger brother, Victor. It couldn’t have been easy for him flying with a new crew for the first time.

Pilot Officer Jack Dalton was flying as a ‘second dickie’ to gain experience before taking charge of his own crew. He was 22 years old, had a sister Jean and lived with his parents in Burnley, Lancashire. Sadly, he didn’t get the chance to fly again.

The last crew member was the pilot. Pilot Officer Ernest Tansley was the eldest of the crew, aged 29. He had been sent to America to undertake his pilot training, leaving behind his wife and young family. A son Peter aged five and an eighteen-month-old daughter, Anne. They lived in Thundersley, Essex. Sadly, he didn’t live to see his other baby son who was born three months after his death.

On this day, we would also like to remember the second crew who were lost from 57 Squadron that night. They were never discovered as it is believed that they ditched over Holland in the IJsselmeer on their return journey:

F/O John Alfred Williams was the Pilot of JB372 DX-R. He was the son of David Mason and Ada Ethel Withers from Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire. Age 22

Sgt. Eric Hibbert was the Flight Engineer, and his parents were John and Frances Hibbert of Hasland, Derbyshire. He was only 20 years old.

F/O Alan Thomas Hook was an Air Gunner. He was the son of Thomas and Mabel Hook of Toronto, Ontario, Canada and had two sisters named Mabel born 1912 and Evelyn born 1915.  He was 22 years old.

F/O Bernard Paul Duval the Navigator was born in Hastings, Sussex the son of Henry Fernand and Lucienne of Upper Tooting, London.  He was 32 years old and married to Joyce.

F/S Balder Thomasberg was 21 years old and was the Bomb aimer. He was the son of George and Hilda of Norwood, Manitoba.

Sgt. Edward William Graves was the Mid-upper Gunner and the son of Norman and Esther (nee Gilbert). He was married to Brenda Townsend and a son Edward Robert was born a few months after his death. They lived in Eastbourne

Sgt. Jack Harvey Chambers was a 21-year-old Wop/AG. He was the son of Edward and Edith Chambers from Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire.

……….nor the years condemn…

Your bravery and sacrifice will never be forgotten

Love and miss you Dad and God Bless you all – Anne Doward

For more information on these crews please use our Losses Database

Ernest Ronald Abbott

ABBOTT, Ernest Ronald. 563034 Sergeant, No. 50 Sqn. L.G.22/10/1940. Sorties 33, Flying Hours 207.35 Pilot Air2/9467

Born May 1st 1913 in Devonport where his father was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, he was brought up over the Tamar in Saltash and always regarded himself as a Cornishman.

At the age of 16 he joined the Royal Air Force as an apprentice and served in Aden in the mid 1930s. By the outbreak of war he was flying Hampdens with 50 Squadron based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.

From February 1st 1940 to October 13th 1941 he flew a total of 58 missions, these included bombing raids over Germany and “Gardening”. He had several lucky escapes. August 16th 1940 he records his first forced landing on a return from Leuna (sic); this was his 30th trip and was followed shortly on the 33rd trip on August 23rd by his first crash. In his Flying Log he notes that whilst returning from a raid over Leipzig, the starboard engine was shot up over Emden and the port engine stopped 2 miles east of Hemswell. It must be noted that there were only two engines on a Hampden.

On August 31st he was mentioned in despatches and on November 1st 1940, he was awarded the DFM and gazetted Pilot Officer.

(Extract from “The Distinguished Flying Medal Register for the Second World War with Official Recommendation Details,” by Ian Tavender.)

“ABBOTT, Ernest Ronald. 563034 Sergeant, No. 50 Sqn.

L.G.22/10/1940. Sorties 33, Flying Hours 207.35 Pilot Air2/9467

Sergeant Abbott has completed 33 successful operational flights over enemy territory since the beginning of the war, a total flying time of 207.35 hours. In spite of the severest weather and against the fiercest opposition, this pilot is consistently showing exceptional courage and determination in seeking and successfully bombing his objective. On the night of 26/27th August, 1940, Sergeant Abbott carried out a most successful attack from an altitude of 2,000 feet, his aircraft sustaining considerable damage from anti-aircraft fire. He brought his crew safely home, the latter part of the trip on one engine.

Remarks by Station Commander 27th August 1941

Strongly recommended. This pilot has a habit of going in low, thereby making sure of himself and lighting up the target for others.”

Flying Log Entry

August 26th, Aircraft, Hampden: No. P1317. Pilot; Self+ 3 Crew.

Ops LEIPZIG 6x250lbs: 60x4lb: (33) (Crash No.1)

Stbd engine shot up over Emden-2hrs on one engine-port engine stopped 2 miles E of Hemswell.

Sometimes all went very well: the 40th mission to Kiel, April 7th 1941 is down as a “wizard trip”. One ME 109 is noted on trip 42, to Emden, April 17th but whether this was shot down or they merely had a lucky escape is not recorded. This is followed by another part of their duties, a search for missing aircrew, “Dinghy located and apparatus dropped OK,” on April 20th. Several other searches are mentioned between operations, along with test flights, bombing formations and local flights.

September 12th 1941, during the return from Frankfurt on his 57th trip he mentions coming safely through barrage balloons but had to land near Harwich.

October 13th was the 58th mission, a bombing raid over Cologne. After his return from Germany at the end of the war he records in the Log that they were attacked by an ME 110 at 0400 hours, hit in the port wing and tanks and rear gunner wounded. At 0420 hours with the port wing on fire they abandoned the aircraft somewhere near Brussels. As far as is known all the crew baled out safely although Flt/Lt Abbott, as he was by then, landed in a tree, breaking both his legs. After a stay in hospital he was transferred to Prison Camp, eventually reaching Stalag Luft 111, where he remained until the entire camp was forcibly relocated during the bitter winter weather of January1945 in what became known as the Long March.

October 24th 1941, awarded the DSO.

Acting Flight Lieutenant Ernest Ronald ABBOTT, D.F.M. (44877) No. 50 Squadron. (Operational Flying Hours – 326. No. of sorties – 54) This officer joined the unit for his second tour of operational flying in February, 1941, and since then has completed 21 sorties, involving 126 hours flying. On ten of these missions Flight Lieutenant Abbott acted as navigator and, on the remainder, as captain of aircraft. His value to the unit has been inestimable. His qualities of leadership and his morale are of the highest order and he sets a magnificent example to all.”

Whilst in Stalag Luft 111 he became involved in the highly successful Theatre, making scenery and equipment for the productions in which some of the actors were such later well known figures as Peter Butterworth and Rupert Davies. We also seem to remember him saying that he was involved in making wire cutters and forging German papers. The Camp was to become famous for its escape stories, “The Wooden Horse” and “The Great Escape” which resulted in 50 officers being executed.

In his Flying Log he records that on April 28th they were liberated by the 11th Armoured Division and on May 3rd 1945 he was repatriated by Lancaster Bomber to be reunited with his wife and family, which included his son born in 1942, whom he had never seen. After the war he was promoted to Squadron Leader and continued his career in the RAF until he retired through ill-health in 1956.

He died peacefully in his sleep on May 3rd 1992, on the 47th anniversary of his return from prison camp. At his request, his ashes were scattered form an RAF helicopter over the North Sea which had so nearly claimed him as he returned home from those many flights.

My father rarely spoke of his wartime experiences, it was only after his death that his log books and citations were found, so this account is based on the few memories he shared and entries in his Flying Log.

What I do remember vividly is his long struggle with crippling headaches and repeated bouts of illness which placed him in hospital and at times made our home a battleground. He had to have surgery for TB on his return, my sister remembers him shouting as he was “baling out” night after night and for the remainder of his life he was left scarred by his wartime experiences.

Think what you were doing at the age of 27, the age at which he was shot down having survived those 57 missions and lost so many of his friends.

The Bomber Command Memorial is something long overdue to all who flew during these years.

We owe it to all of those incredibly brave young men who flew out night after night, dying in huge numbers. We owe it to their families who grew up without the fathers, sons and brothers. But how much do we also owe it to those who came through it all, having survived but never really leaving the terror behind them and being left to rebuild their lives as best they could.

Until recently they were abandoned, with no official memorial or campaign medal in recognition of their immense sacrifice. These wonderful brave young men who having survived, found that they had given more than any one could ever know.

Aubrey William Read

Flying Officer Aubrey William Read 50611

Stone 0012

 Aubrey was born in Lincoln on 9th September 1920. His first job was as a sales clerk at the Clayton Dewandre Titanic Works in Lincoln. On June 7th, 1937, aged 16, he enlisted in the Territorial Army as a Bandsman with the Lincolnshire Regiment, playing the clarinet and saxophone.

Cranwell College Band 1938

In November 1938 (having just turned 18) he enlisted in the RAF, joining the Cranwell College Band.  One of his references was from the Bandmaster of the Lincolnshire Regiment, who wrote: “I am pleased to say that he is the most promising pupil I have ever had”.

When war was declared Aubrey volunteered for aircrew and in February 1941 he was passed as medically fit for service by Air Support Command in Blackpool. From September to November 1942 he trained as a wireless operator at No. 2 Signals School at RAF Yatesbury, and from November 1942 to January 1943 he trained as an Air Gunner at No. 10 Air Gunnery School, RAF Walney, Barrow in Furness.

Now a qualified Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (WOp/AG) Aubrey joined 106 Squadron in June 1943 at RAF Syerston, and completed a total of 23 night operations, including raids on Cologne (June 16: a logbook note says “M/U Gunner U/S (frostbite)”), Hamburg (four times, on August 2nd  he noted:  “heavy electrical storm over target area – returned on 3 engines”), Milan (twice, each trip taking over eight hours) and the Peenemunde V-weapons base (August 17th).

Aubrey’s sister Bunty (my mother) remembered how he reassured his anxious parents by describing his pilot Flying Officer Jacques Hoboken: “Don’t worry, Hobo can get us out of anything”.

During a raid on Kassel on October 22nd Aubrey’s Lancaster was attacked twice by night fighters, several members of the crew were wounded and the aircraft “badly crippled”. With one fin and rudder shot away, no hydraulics or intercom, two punctured tyres, two turrets inoperable and only three engines working, they made their way back home, only to find they were unable to land at Syerston because of bad weather. The squadron record book records that eventually F/O Hoboken “executed a masterly landing” at an alternative airfield. It took more than an hour for the rear gunner to be cut free from his turret. For the “courage, resolution and devotion to duty of the highest order” displayed in “circumstances fraught with great danger” Hobo was awarded the DFC, and Flight Engineer Sergeant George Lucas the DFM.

In spite of that experience, the crew joined Bomber Command’s efforts targeting Berlin the following month, flying from the squadron’s new base at RAF Metheringham. They undertook three operations in quick succession on the 22nd, 23rd and 26th and it seems that Aubrey did not have time to record them in his logbook. The final entry on 26th November simply states “Bombing – Berlin. Failed to return”. It was eventually confirmed that their Lancaster had crashed at Gross-Karben, 11 miles north of Frankfurt.

Wing Commander Baxter, 106 Squadron Commanding Officer, wrote to Aubrey’s parents expressing his deep sympathy, and commented: “He was a Wireless Operator of considerable ability and I know his Captain placed the greatest reliance in his work”.

Aubrey is buried with his crew in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Durnbach. He was 23 years old.

We will remember them.

 David Leitch 23/9/20

Sources

Family collection – will also be available in the IBCC Digital Archive

Service records: Forms 1406 and 543

London Gazette 16/11/43

IBCC Losses Database: https://losses.internationalbcc.co.uk/loss/119409/

The National Archive:

AIR 50-208-374 106 squadron Combat report 22/10/43

AIR 27-833-20 106 squadron ORB Oct 1943

 

 

Cecil Lionel Rhodes

Cecil Lionel Rhodes RAFVR 1100648 was born on 23rd April, St. George’s Day, 1922 and was brought up alongside his brother and sister, Wilfred, and Lilian, by his parents Sarah and Harry Rhodes at their home in Lincoln Street, Newark, Nottinghamshire.

He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as soon as he was old enough and was called up to full military service on 14th June 1940, with the service number 1100648. He began his military service at No.3 Recruitment Centre, Padgate.

After periods of training he qualified as a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

He served with 25 Operational Training Unit on the Hampden Mk 1 Bomber from April 1941, joining 106 Squadron at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, in July 1941.

After completing a successful wireless transmission test flight in Hampden Mk 1 AD919 on 30th July, he served on one successful operational mission against the Deutchse Werke in Kiel on 2nd August 1941 flying in Hampden Mk 1 AD760. It was the first operational flight undertaken by the pilot. The bomber report showed a burst was observed in the Southern part of the town after their attack.

At 22.25 on Tuesday 5th August his crew took off from RAF Coningsby in Hampden Mk 1, AE120, on a fatal mission to Ludwigshafen. Their aircraft was shot down by a German night fighter on the return flight at around 01.00 on Wednesday 6th August 1941 over the Dutch village of Gendringen. The burning aircraft crashed into a house and attached furniture factory at Groot Breedenbroek in the municipality of Gendringen about 20 miles from Arnhem, near the German/Dutch border, killing all members of the crew and two children in the house.

Sergeant Cecil Rhodes, 1100648, 106 Sqn RAFVR, is remembered with honour by his family and his military grave is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and by local Dutch families in the Roman Catholic cemetery in Gendringen, Netherlands. The following photograph is of the parachute silk commemoration from the Dutch villagers.

His name is commemorated on IBCC Panel 89 and Ribbon Stone 0258.

Words and photographs courtesy of Nicola Berry, niece of Cecil Rhodes.

Lancaster LL639

Lancaster LL639 of 514 Squadron was lost on an operation to Aachen on the 11th April 1944.  All the crew, with the exception of the Navigator, Eddie Humes, were lost.

The crew who lost their lives:

 P/O Noel William Faulkner Thackray RAAF, Pilot (Thack)

Sgt Clive Walter Banfield, RAFVR, Flight Engineer

Flt Sgt Reginald Ernest Bromley, RAAF, Rear Gunner

Flt Sgt Clement Herbert Henn, RAAF, Mid Upper Gunner

Sgt Patrick Hughes, RAFVR, Wireless Operator (Jock)

Flt Sgt John Russell Moulsdale, RAAF, Air Bomber (Jack)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sgt Edward Leo Humes, RAFVR, Navigator commissioned this stone.

 

On the 11th April 1944, the crews target was Aachen, the westernmost city in Germany, located close to the Belgian and Dutch borders.  After carrying out their mission, the Lancaster was heading home to R.A.F. Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire when it was attacked, probably at around 23.15 hours, by a Messerschmitt BF 110 flown by Unteroffizier Hans Fischer of 12/NJG1.  The attack took place near Roermond, around 60km north of Aachen.

Eddie recalls what happened:

“The port outer engine caught fire and this soon spread along the port wing. Noel gave the order to prepare to abandon. This meant that all secret equipment had to be destroyed so as not to get into enemy hands and the gunners had to leave their turrets. Everyone except the pilot had to head to the escape hatches. We flew for a few more minutes as Clive tried to extinguish the blaze in the belief we would be able to continue on route home. The next thing that happened was that the port wing tip fell away followed by the port outer engine and the pilot could no longer keep control of the aircraft. The instruction ‘ABANDON AIRCRAFT’ was given. Reg, the rear gunner, reported his turret would not operate and Jock set off to try to help him accompanied by Clem. Jack had responded to the instruction and I headed towards the front escape hatch passing Clive, the flight engineer and Thack, the pilot who was still at the controls.  As I got to the escape hatch I was surprised to find it already open.  Jack’s parachute pack was still in its container but there was no sign of Jack.  It looked like Jack had exited the aircraft via the bomb bay escape hatch but had not had time to retrieve his parachute from his stowage in the aircraft.  His body was later found in a tree near to the crash site.  As I was about to abandon the aircraft I found my legs were trapped.  Not sure what to do I pulled the rip cord of the parachute, I felt an intense pain in my legs but to my relief the chute opened and pulled me clear of the aircraft.  I drifted towards the ground landing heavily with my uniform in tatters and bleeding profusely. My femur had been broken as I was pulled free from the plane. The remainder of the crew were unable to escape from the stricken aircraft. The crew who lost their lives are buried together in Heverlee War Cemetery, Brussels, Belgium.”

Eddie was taken to hospital in occupied Belgium, and then to a German military hospital where he underwent surgery and a long period of recuperation.  During his recuperation, the Germans informed Eddie and his fellow patients that if they signed a paper saying that they had been well treated, the guards and German military personnel would leave them in the hospital to await rescue by the now-advancing Allied Forces. The prisoners agreed to sign, but shortly afterwards the SS arrived at the hospital, tore up the papers and Eddie found himself being moved Eastwards through Germany and Poland until he arrived as a POW at Stalag Luft VII at Bankau near Kreuzberg in Silesia, now central Poland.  Eddie was evacuated from the prison camp on 2nd January 1945 and following ‘the long march’ he arrived in the American zone 6th May 1945.  He was repatriated 6th May 1945.

The earlier years

Operational training unit Chipping Warden

Conversion Unit 1678 Little Snoring

514 Squadron Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire

The 1st operational tour for the crew in late 1943 was to drop mines in the harbour of Biarritz.  They were due to complete this operation along with 10 other aircraft from 3 Group.  The crew found it unusual that they did not see any other planes either on their way or at the drop zone but completed their operation and started on the journey home.  As they crossed the English coast they were immediately picked up by searchlights and directed to the West finally landing at Exeter, many miles from their airfield at Waterbeach!  They finished their 1st op accompanied by an armed guard and a tongue lashing not knowing what they had done.  The resultant enquiry found 2 things.  1st they did not receive the ‘operation cancelled’ signal before crossing the coast on their outward leg and secondly the plane had been mistaken by the Observer Corps as a Wellington Bomber who had got lost on a training mission and broadcast a ‘May Day’ signal.  Apologies coming when the true story became clear.

23rd November 1943 was the second operation for the crew and their 1st to Germany – Berlin.  The outward journey went well, the bombs were dropped and the crew turned on course for home.  At this moment Thack, the Pilot, let out an horrendous cry.  An aircraft was turning immediately ahead of them and he had to manoeuvre to avoid crashing into friendly aircraft.  The aircraft shook and rolled due to being in the stream of the other planes whilst Eddie, the Navigator had to quickly make some adjustments to their course. Soon they saw the enemy coast and a short time afterwards the marvellous sight of the English coastline.  Their 1st operation to Germany completed.

Operations continued throughout December 1943 and January, February, and March 1944.

On 30th March, the crew operation was to Nuremberg. A terrifying night where large numbers of planes were shot out of the sky. Over 100 being victims of anti-aircraft fire and the relentless attacks by enemy fighters.

Words and photographs courtesy of Eddie Humes, in memory of his crew, Lancaster LL639 514 Squadron RAF Waterbeach.

If you would like to commemorate a friend or loved one with a stone, please click here

Michael John Cook

Michael John Cook, was my great uncle, who sadly lost his life on a raid to Munich on the 17th December 1944.

Together with my father, Richard, my mother, Vanda, my uncle, Ernest, auntie, Kay and my wife, Rebecca, we put money together to have a Ribbon of Remembrance stone laid.

I have done some research into Michael and here is what I have found and what family have told me.

Michael was born in Purton, Wiltshire on the 24 January 1925 to Richard Owen Cook and Emily Cook, née Woolford. He was one of 6 Children: his brothers were Arthur, Anthony, Richard. His sisters were Mary and Dorothy . He was brought up in a little village called Meysey Hampton, just outside of Fairford.

He worked as a centre lathe turner operator in his civilian role. I believe like all young men of the time he wanted to be a Pilot, however he ended up being an Air Gunner, in the mid-upper turret on a Lancaster.

He joined up in Oxford on the 13th May 1943.

He got posted to 50 Squadron on the 8th August 1944.

It wasn’t long before his 1st sortie, which was on the 14th August 1944. It was a daylight raid on Brest, up at 17:37, down at 22:18, carried out on a Mk 1 Lancaster. The crew was noted as the following. F/O Ronald Ernest Amey, Sergeant F Livesey, Sergeant J B Wilson, F/O F W Jack, F/S George William Lane, Sergeant C G Hutchinson. The details of the sortie follows, primary target attacked at 20:20hrs from 15,750. No cloud, good visibility. Target identified visually. Bombed with tanker in sights. Tanker squarely hit. Two sheets of flames. Bombing extremely accurate. Crew behaved very well for 1st trip. Monica Mk 3 and API carried. Un/g unmanned. Sortie complete.

The next sorties went in this order :

-Gilze-Rijen

-Stettin

-Foret de l’isle Adam

-La Pallice

-Brest

-Le-Havre

-Le-Havre

-Darmstadt

-Stuttgart

-Boulogne

-Bremerhaven

-Rheydt

-Munster Dortmund Ems Canal

-Calais

-Karlsruhe

-Kaiserlautern

-Wilhelmshaven

-Bremen

-Homberg

-Gravenhorst

-Harburg

-Duren

-Heilbronn

-Giessen

-Urft dam-Heimbach

– Munich (last sortie)

A notable sortie is the sortie on Bremen on the 6/7th October 1944. The crew was the same as mentioned above, with an extra crew member of P/O R R Wonders. Up at 17:21 and down 21:50 – primary target attacked at 20:30hrs from 15,750ft. No cloud, visibility good. Target identified by T.I.G bombed on and overshot T.I.G by 26 seconds. Fires concentrated. Aircraft badly damaged by friendly incendiary bombs, four of which fell in the cockpit. API carried sortie complete.

I have been told by Michael’s only surviving sibling that he can remember Michael being home, with burnt hands and bad nerves. He also mentioned that the pilot called for bailout however the comms were not working for all members. Some of the crew did bailout. The pilot managed to get the aircraft back to England. The aircraft in mention is VN-W lm676. This aircraft was a Mk 3 and was the main aircraft that Michael and his crew flew in.

After this incident a few crew members changed. The crew appeared like this until the last faithful sortie:

F/O Ronald Ernest Amey

Sergeant F. Livesey

F/S David William McCray.

F/S David Robert Kennedy

F/S George William Lane

Sergeant Roy Shackleton.

The fateful sorties happened on the 17th of December, a sortie to Munich. Up 16:12 – aircraft missing. Loran.

All crew bar two were killed in the blast, believed to be cause by anti-aircraft fire.

Sergeant F Livesey and F/O Ronald Ernest Amey were ejected by the blast, Ronald sadly died of pneumonia on the 31st December 1944. I believe that Sgt. Livesey was made a prisoner of war.

Michael married Iris Edith Bryant on the 28th August 1944. In wick, near Bristol. Where his wife was from.

After the war Iris remarried. She had two children, a boy and a girl. Iris kept the death of Michael, a secret from the family. Notably her two children. They only found out their mother had been previously married, when they were clearing her home after she passed away. They found a wedding photo of their mother, torn in half, and wearing a different dress to the one she wore in her wedding to their father. They were told by a neighbour that their mother was a widow from the war. Not only this, but Iris named her son after Michael. Her son Michael didn’t know what his name meant to his mother until her passing.

My family and I love coming to Lincolnshire, we live to visit East Kirkby, Skellingthorpe and the IBCC. Most of the Cook family are still in the local area to which Michael and his siblings all grew up.

Roy Pape Findlay RAF 1493856

My father, Roy Pape Findlay served in the RAF from 6th April 1942 to 8th August 1946. His service number was 1493856 and he was born 28th September 1923 in Newburn, near Newcastle upon Tyne.

He joined 630 squadron at East Kirkby, Lincolnshire on 22nd October 1944 as a navigator and completed 31 missions, one of which we believe he volunteered for due to another navigator being unable to fly.

His first mission was on 28th October 1944 to Bergen and his final mission was on 25th April 1945 to Berchtesgaden.

His log book shows he flew in 13 different planes during this time but most missions were completed in NN774  LE-L. All missions were completed with F/O Hoare, who we believe to be Australian, with the exception of one mission to Nordhausen on 4th April 1945 with F/O Barnes, so this is the mission we think he volunteered for.

He never mentioned the war or the missions he took part in but he never liked to fly as he said he had done enough of that!

He sadly passed away on 17th August 1994 at the age of 70 and we only found out about his RAF life by finding his log book and pictures of him and his crew at the Lincolnshire Aviation Museum, which is at his old base at East Kirkby.

We placed the stone at the IBCC Ribbon of Remembrance in 2019 to commemorate his service and the inscription is one of his favourite sayings and has special meaning to our family.

Words and photographs courtesy of Roy’s son, Andrew Findlay.

 

 

WO Charles Eade Lutwyche RAF 561197

Charles Eade Lutwyche was the son of Harry and Florence Maud Lutwyche; husband of Winifred Mary Lutwyche, of Sutton-on-sea, Lincolnshire.

He was a Navigator in 25 O.T.U. based at R.A.F. Finningley, Yorkshire.

In the words of his son, David – “I never knew him really since I was just 1 year old when he was ‘killed on active service’ in 1942, one of the 8000+ who were killed in flying or training accidents during WW2. My mother died of cancer in 1949 and I was sent away to boarding school/orphanage funded by the RAF Benevolent Fund. It has taken me some time to track down and draw up Dad’s service record.

                                                                                                                                                         1939 RAF Wyton

The Ginger Baron 114 Sqd

He left school at the age of 16 and was accepted for an apprenticeship at RAF Halton. I have several photos of him during his time there, copies of which I have sent to the archivists at the Trenchard Museum. Given the chance to switch to flying duties he joined Bomber Command when it was formed in 1936 and was eventually assigned to 114 Squadron after training as an Air Observer.

114 Squadron 1941

By 1939 he had been promoted to Sergeant and trained as a Bombing Leader

 

After the war started he went out to France as a member of the Advance Air Strike Force (AASF, BEF) but ended up stationed in Perpignan, France before returning to the UK.

Just where he was stationed on his return is uncertain but after promotion to Warrant Officer in 1941 he attended two O.T.U. assignments the last of which (25 O.T.U. 30/05/1942) led to his death at the age of 31, along with 10 others, in a tragic training accident.”

Charles is buried at Finningley (Holy Trinity & St Oswald) Churchyard Extension. Row B. Grave 5. The inscription reads “My beloved is mine and I am his”.

His name is commemorated on IBCC Panel 65 and Ribbon 0261.

Words and photographs courtesy of Charles’ son, David Lutwyche.

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PO Russell Hamilton Ewens DFC RAFVR 156688

Russ Ewens DFC was born in 1920 in Plymouth, where he also grew up.  Much to the surprise of his naval family, he chose the RAF when he joined up in the early part of the Second World War.  Russ completed his pilot training in North America and in the summer of 1943 he formed his air crew, joining 49 Squadron based at Fiskerton, in Lincolnshire.  He and his crew completed a full operational tour with 49 Squadron, including eight trips to Berlin.  In the summer of 1944, he was awarded the D.F.C., London Gazette, 15th August 1944.

Whilst based in Nottinghamshire, he met his first wife – gaining some notoriety for buzzing the teacher training college in Sheffield where she was sitting her final teaching exams!

After the war, Russ continued flying with what became BOAC, eventually becoming the Training Captain of their VC10 fleet.  He was honoured to captain the aircraft which returned HM Queen from Australia to the UK for one of the 1974 general elections.

Russ was married twice and had six children.  He died in 2004.

As with so many of that generation, Russ rarely spoke about his wartime service.  However, an insight can be gained from the contribution of his Flight Engineer, Doug Tritton, in “Beware the Dog of War” by John Ward – a history of 49 Squadron (see page 285 – “Not Even Damp”).

March 1944

The photograph, from left to right, shows…

Flight Engineer Sgt Doug Tritton

Air Gunner Sgt Maurice Laws

Pilot Officer Russ Ewens

Navigator Sgt Joe Pitcher

Wireless Operator Sgt Phil Griffiths

Bomb Aimer F/O Bob Grainger

Extracts and photographs courtesy of his daughter, Susan Kitchen and granddaughter, Alison, also  of 49 Squadron Association.

Flt Sgt James Wrigley DFM RAFVR 1029740

Flt Sgt Wrigley served in No. 97 (Straits Settlements) and No. 635 Squadron. He completed two tours and had signed up for a third, however on the night of Wednesday 5th July 1944 he was withdrawn as he had covered for a Wireless Operator for another crew. Lancaster ND895 FZ-W was shot down over northern France that night and all killed apart from PO Ted Pack who was rescued by the French.

He was awarded the D.F.M., London Gazette 2/6/44, having flown 33 sorties, totalling over 209 flying hours.

First recommendation: Flight Sergeant Wrigley has taken part in 33 operations against German and French targets. His pronounced ability may be measured by the fact that all his operations in the Pathfinder Force have been as a marker and total 32. He is a member of a highly successful crew which frequently has battled with night fighters. His aircraft has on many occasions sustained severe damage.

Station Commander comments of 20/2/44: This N.C.O. has taken part in a great number of sorties against targets in France and occupied territory, all of which have been marker sorties. He is a successful operator and has frequently been the means of warning his crew, thus enabling them to be on alert from attacks by enemy night fighters. He is strongly recommended for the award of Distinguished Flying Medal.

Second recommendation – Approved: Flight Sergeant Wrigley has been the Wireless Operator of his crew throughout two operational tours. His aircraft on many occasions sustained heavy damage by enemy action, but his coolness and skill have materially assisted in the completion of their task.

Station Commander comments of 20/5/44: This N.C.O’s operational career has been consistent and he has at all times shown reliability. Almost all his sorties have been against heavily defended German targets.

Jim, who spoke little of the war, told his family the D.F.M. stood for ‘don’t fly Mondays’. He died in 2010 but never forgot that night or his crew.

Poignantly, in his logbook, he kept a list of his crew, noting the large number of operations each had completed and how the war had ended for each of them.

Extracts and photographs courtesy of Jim’s daughter, Sue Higgins and Bomber Command Crews and Aircraft Pictures.

Flt Lt Harold ‘Homer’ Lawson DFC

Harold Lawson DFC was born 24th August 1921, in Salford, Manchester. His parents were Arthur, a piano teacher, and Amelia Lawson. He had two brothers Arthur and Stanley. He attended Gresham Street School, Salford and was an Altar Boy at the Church of Ascension. After school he worked for ACME welder, an engineering company before he signed up in 1941, aged 20. He signed up at the recruitment centre, Padgate.

Harold Lawson DFC

In March 1942 he was called up and travelled to St. John’s Wood, London (Lord’s Cricket Ground). Here he had all the required inoculations, was issued with his aircrew clothing, and practiced marching and keeping fit. The recruits stayed in hotels around London and their food was taken at a canteen in London Zoo.

In April he travelled to Scarborough to complete his navigational training as part of No. 10 ITU (Initial Training Unit). Many recruits were based in hotels around Scarborough including the Grand Hotel which still exists.

In July he attended the elementary flying school before moving to the Empire Air Navigation School at Sywell, in November.

In January 1943 he moved to No. 9 AFU (Advanced Flying Unit) based in Llandrog, North Wales (now Caernarfon airport). Here he started his training on Ansons. He did well to survive his training at Llandrog as there were exceptionally high losses due to the close proximity to the Snowdonia mountains. From here he moved to 19 OTU (Operational Training Unit) in Forres and Kinloss, Scotland. It was here he met up with his Canadian pilot and lifelong friend, Johnny Hewitt. Here the crew practiced cross country flying, fighter affiliation, high and low level bombing and formation flying on both Anson and Whitley aircraft.

In September 1943, the crew moved to Conversion Unit 1663 at R.A.F. Rufforth in Yorkshire. Here they transferred from Whitleys to the magnificent Halifax bomber, the plane they would complete their 38 operations on. The crew would now be joined by a flight engineer.

Finally, in October 1943 ‘Homer’ and the crew were posted to 10 Squadron at R.A.F. Melbourne in Yorkshire. 10 Squadron was also known as ‘Shiny 10’ and is still an operational squadron today.

The crew were:

Pilot – Johnny Hewitt (Johnny). Canadian

Navigator – Harold Lawson (Homer)

Bomb Aimer – R E Pain (Paddy)

Flight Engineer – S Leonard (Blondie)

Wireless Operator – H McNeice

Mid Upper Gunner – Sam Smith (Titch)

Rear Gunner – M Gray (Mac). Canadian                                                                                     

Ol’ Ram crew and ground crew 1944

It was a baptism of fire on the crews’ 1st op. How did they feel when it was revealed that it would be ‘Berlin’? At 5.10pm on 29th December 1943 they set off to complete their 1st operation as part pf the ‘Battle for Berlin’. During this operation they encountered and shot down a JU88, returning to the airbase at Melbourne some 7 hours and 20 minutes after setting off with the plane now full of flak holes. This set the scene for their tour of operations which would be a very eventful one with several more encounters with enemy aircraft, resulting in them shooting down a further 2 German aircraft.

It was a quiet January and February before activity built up again in March with several night operations over France. The crew also started completing ‘mine laying operations’. A very difficult task as they needed to complete low level flying over the sea as they dropped the mines. And for ‘Homer’ there was the added challenge of no landmarks for the Navigator to ensure the mines were laid in the correct position. It was a task reserved for only the best crews.

April 1944 remained busy with operations over both Germany and France including Essen and Dusseldorf where the crew were caught in searchlights on both of these trips. April also saw the crew needing to make an emergency landing at one of the three emergency airfields, Manston in Kent. They had been caught in an electrical storm on their operation to Karlesruhre which caused the engine to cut out over the East coast.

May 1944 continued as an eventful month with the crew being attacked by a German fighter over Mantes-Gassicourt.

June 1944 was the busiest month for the crew with the build up to D Day, D Day itself and then the support of the ground troops as they progressed inland. On D Day they took off at 2.55am to bomb the German gun battery at Mont Fleury which overlooked Gold Beach where many troops would be landing later that day. Homer’s logbook says, “2nd Front started”. Speaking to veteran Ken Beard of 10 Squadron who had set off from Melbourne airbase only 3 minutes before the ‘Ol’ Ram’ crew said the crews were not given any details other than to ensure they didn’t drop their bombs early. When they got over the channel he could see why, as hundreds of ships were sailing across. Later that very same day the crew would be flying again. They took off at 22.30 to St. Lo to support the troops inland route, bombing at the exceptionally low level of 2000ft.

The high activity continued in June and on the 15th, on a return trip from Rennes the crew were once again in combat with the enemy. A JU88 had attacked and in the return fire the crew saw his port engine set on fire. However, the ‘Ol’ Ram’ had been damaged and the cylinder head broke making the starboard outer engine ‘US’. The events continue for the crew and on a daylight operation to Noyelle en Chausee. Homer’s logbook stating, “the starboard inner engine U/S on the way down England – carried on with the engine running to complete the op, feathered on return over Channel”. June ended with even more eventful operations and on 28th June on the trip to Blaineville the crew were in 3 combats resulting in the shooting down of a Messerschmitt 210. The logbook states the Messerschmitt ‘hit the deck 3 minutes after the starboard wing set on fire’.

July 1944 moved to the next phase with the bombing of the new threat of the V bomb bases. The crew carried out 2 night and 1 day operation to the V bomb site at Martin L’Hortier. The flak encountered was very heavy and the Ol’ Ram returned with flak holes in the tail. It is known that during these operations 1 crew was lost having been shot down and another was accidentally hit by bombs that had been dropped by a bomber flying at a higher level. Another emergency landing away from the base happened on 12th July as the weather changed on the way back from a mining trip to Heligoland meaning the crew could not make it back to Melbourne. More heavy flak was encountered on the operation to Vaires railyards. The 20th July was the last of the crews’ operations and one not to forget. The operation was to Blottrop. The plane had a petrol leak on the port inner, then the port outer went ‘US’ followed by the ammo tracks catching fire – a very eventful last trip.

Harold ‘Homer’ Lawson was awarded the D.F.C. in November 1944. The press article reads “Gallantry and devotion to duty in air operations. Throughout an exacting tour of duty this officer has displayed exceptional ability as a Navigator and cool courage in the face of the enemy. On four occasions his aircraft has been engaged by enemy fighters and in the ensuing air combat three hostile aircraft have been destroyed”.

After the tour he went back to Forres where he trained new navigators on Wellington bombers and Ansons before moving to R.A.F. Rufforth conversion unit.

In May 1945 he transferred to 77 Squadron at Full Sutton with a new pilot (Pickin) and crew. They were flying Halifax Mk6’s and then Dakotas. The crew were preparing to fly to the Far East to support the Burma campaign. During their time here they were also heavily involved in jettisoning bombs into the North Sea as the war in Europe ended.

In September 1945, the crew moved to R.A.F. Broadwell to practice supply dropping and glider towing before setting off on 22nd September en route to India.

The route took the crew via Elmas (Sardinia), El Adam (Libya), Lydda (Israel), Wadi Hafa (Sudan), Sheil Othman (Yemen), Masirah (Oman), Jiwani (Pakistan), Karachi (India) until their final destination Kargi Road (India). This took until 1st October.

October 1945 the crew completed supply dropping and troop repatriation around India and the Khyber Pass. Homer was demobbed in 1946.

After the war he returned to his old employers and worked in engineering most of his life. He met his wife Maureen Chilton at a dance at Belle Vue, Manchester and they eloped to get married New Year’s Eve, 1955. Unfortunately, Homer died 12th September 1975 of a heart attack.

Completed from the logbook and service history by his daughter, Susanne Pescott.

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