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 Vredenhof Cemetery at Schiermonnikoog

 


Sergeant Malcolm Latham and the crew of ME589 on the disastrous Leipzig raid.
  
Airborne 11.33pm on 19 Feb  1944 from RAF Wickenby. Presumed crashed in the sea off the Dutch Frisian Islands chain. The grave of Sgt Mitton is on Ameland in Nes general Cemetery, while Sgt Bodycot is buried on Schiermonnikoog in Vredenhof Cemetery. The rest are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. F/S A. McG Matheson RCAF, Sgt Henry Dunn, Sgt H. Cook, Sgt A.W Mitton, Sgt M. Latham, Sgt G.H. Bodycot, and Sgt T.J. Pullman.    
Three aircraft from Wickenby did not return from this raid. 12 Squadron's  JB609, piloted by F/Sgt Bowker, and ND410 by Pilot Officer Wright also were brought down over Holland with no survivors.

 

 

Target Leipzig: 823 aircraft - 561 Lancasters, 255 Halifaxes, 7 Mosquitos. 78 aircraft - 44 Lancasters and 34 Halifaxes - lost, 9.5 per cent of the force. The Halifax loss rate was 13.3 per cent of those dispatched and 14.9 per cent of those Halifaxes which reached the enemy coast after 'early returns' had turned back. The Halifax IIs and Vs were permanently withdrawn from operations to Germany after this raid.

This was an unhappy raid for Bomber Command. The German controllers only sent part of their force of fighters to the Kiel minelaying diversion. When the main bomber force crossed the Dutch coast, they were met by a further part of the German fighter force and those German fighters which had been sent north to Kiel hurriedly returned. The bomber stream was thus under attack all the way to the target. There were further difficulties at the target because winds were not as forecast and many aircraft reached the Leipzig area too early and had to orbit and await the Pathfinders. 4 aircraft were lost by collision and approximately 20 were shot down by flak. Leipzig was cloud-covered and the Pathfinders had to use skymarking. The raid appeared to be concentrated in its early stages but scattered later.

45 Stirlings and 4 Pathfinder Halifaxes minelaying in Kiel Bay, 16 Oboe Mosquitos bombing night-fighter airfields in Holland, 15 Mosquitos on a diversion raid to Berlin, 12 Serrate patrols. 1 Mosquito lost from the Berlin raid. 3 Mosquitos attacked Aachen and 3 more bombed flying-bomb sites in France without loss.

Total effort for the night: 921 sorties, 79 aircraft (8.6 per cent) lost.

This was the heaviest Bomber Command loss of the war so far, easily exceeding the 58 aircraft lost on 21/22 January 1943 when Magdeburg was the main target.

 Bomber Command Diaries  19/20 February 1944

 

From Dutch historian Willem de Jong - October 2011        Weather report Sunday February the 20th , 1944.       Night-temp. =  - 3.7 gr. Celsius   Day-temp. =  +1.6 gr.  Celsius clouds =   0 ? 5 % ,    ¼  moon ( long time ),  Min. windspeed  =  5.1 mtr./sec. ( 3 Beaufort ).    inland max. windspeed =  7.2 mtr./sec. ( 4.5 Beaufort ) on coast humidity  =  78%     (and later on that day - 4.3 hrs. sunshine.. Many of the airmen would never see that again)

In the days before, temperatures were sinking over Great Britain etc.; a winter storm from the Atlantic brought snow and freezing rain. Air warfare was in disorder, while the Allied forces were planning a “Big Week”.  On the 20th all over Europe the weather was severely cold (windchill factor), with snow covering the ground on both sides, at the targets and on the bases, but not on the northern coast of Holland and Germany. Although the temperature over- here was dropping too, the Frisian Chain and the edge of the mainland was clear of snow (and ice rain) as far as Wangerooge and the seaway to Bremen. Thus, almost perfect weather conditions for the alert 1st line of the German air defence during that night (19/20 - 02) : clear runways, clear skies, enough moonshine (1/4 moon) and a stiff frosty breeze - therefore no fog - straight into the west, just in front of the heavily loaded RAF bombers on their way to Leipzig (!). The ideal scenario of a nightly disaster again…… (the statistics should demonstrate that the day after).  

Of course, these weather conditions were not similar to the circumstances in which the pilots and other crewmembers had to operate, flying high in the sky; on that altitudes the situation was even more extreme / more dangerous, like as for mountaineers. But they show us clear which “second enemy” these airmen had to face that night, all the way to Leipzig and returning to the U.K., and also downwards to sea level: the temperature, the cold ! And even when they were surviving a sudden and horrible attack of the Luftwaffe nightfighters - most already offshore - when they were “lucky”, bailing out by parachute and not wounded, death was still waiting: the cold waters of the North Sea, the Wadden and the Ijsselmeer. They didn’t drown in the water; the water was simply “cooling away” their lives, in about 15 - 20 minutes.

Such brave men they were…..     

How successful some "Nachtjagd Experte" of the Luftwaffe realy were, in that particular night too, is showing us next "Abschussliste" of Oberfeldwebel Heinz Vinke (11/NJG.1)

He and his companion, flying a radar-equipped Messerschmitt Bf 110 G-4 nightfighter, shot down 5 RAF bombers in a couple of hours, most over Holland (as far as I know, Lancaster ME589 was not among them):  

1.Lancaster - location BM-77 5900 m. - 01.46 hrs. 20-02-1944

2.Lancaster - location BM-78 6100 m. - 01.57 hrs. 20-02-1944

3.Halifax - location CK-62 5000 m. - 02.13 hrs. 20-02-1944

4.Lancaster - location HK 3-1 6000 m. - 05.08 hrs. 20-02-1944

5.Lancaster - 15 km. NW of 4800 m. - 05.34 hrs. 20-02-1944

Apeldoorn (Nl.)

Only one important question about this list: who can tell me something more about these locations, as there are BM-77, BM-78, CK-62 etc. ? (Is it the same system as usual on the "Kwadrat-Karte" of the Kriegsmarine ?  Their pilots, of the "Küstenfliegergruppen", let’s say of the German Coastal Command, used that system too).  At least 12 RAF Bombers were shot down over the Netherlands in that night; 5 of them by Heinz Vinke 

1.) Noordzee - Halifax LL184,  2.) Kallenkote - Halifax LW367,  3.) IJsselmeer - Halifax JD271,  4.) Waddenzee / Harlingen - Halifax LV781

5.) Elspeet - Lancaster JB609,  6.)Grevelingenmeer / Drieschor - Lancaster ND410,  7.) Kats / Zeedijk - Lancaster ND505,  8.) Tolbert - Lancaster DV267,   9.) Eemnes / Zuidpolder - Lancaster JA921,  10.) Krops-wolde - Lancaster DS788,  11.) Valkenswaard - Lancaster DS776 and, of course  12.) Noordzee / S’-oog - Lancaster ME589 (and thus, we are talking about 12 x 7 = 84 airmen, MIA or KIA or POW or…..! )

Addendum  October 15th 2011. 

Two important things now:  1.) his claims 4 + 5 (Harlingen + Apeldoorn), that's for sure, cannot be in connection with Lancaster ME589. 

2.) Heinz Vinke and his flying companion were indeed operating over Friesland  that night (location HK 3-1 is similar to "Raum Harlingen", so we are learning now). 

Maybe he was flying also in "Raum Schlei" / sector "Schiermonnikoog" ? His second claim, location BM-78  -01.57 hrs., was only 11 minutes before the crash of Lancaster ME589.....(?).

 

 

Heinz Vinke (22 May 1920 – 26 February 1944) was a German Luftwaffe night fighter ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves during World War II. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Vinke claimed 54 aerial victories, all of the them at night. 

That night, he and his companion, flying a radar-equipped Messerschmitt Bf 110 G - 4 nightfighter, shot down 5 RAF bombers in a couple of hours, most over Holland (as far as I know, Lancaster ME589 was not among them). 

 

Heinz Vinke and his crew went missing during a day-time recon mission flying the same aircraft  6 days later on the 26th February 1944, some 15 km north west of Dunkirk, after being shot down by two Typhoon's of 198 Squadron (Fl/Lt. Cheval L'Allemand and F/O. George Hardy)

 

Sgt Malcolm Latham (22).  Son of Sidney Harold and Sarah Ellen Latham, of Forsbrook, Staffordshire. Killed in action on Leipzig raid 20th of February 1944

Hereby the only photo we have of my namesake and uncle Sgt. Malcolm Latham, who was lost on during a 626 squadron mission, target Leipzig, at 02.08 on the 20th of February 1944. The Lancaster ME589 is presumed lost in the North Sea near the Dutch island of Schiermonnikoog.

Two crew members were washed up several weeks later and buried on adjacent islands, Schiermonnikoog & Ameland. They were Sgt. Bodycot (Schiermonnikoog) and Sgt. Mitton (Ameland). The remaining 5 crew members including my uncle, have no known grave.

malcolm@latham-ci.com 

 

As a matter of interest, over the last few weeks I have had contact with the persons who look after the archives of the cemeteries on Schiermonnikoog. In the case of Wyb Jan Groendijk, he took over the archives of the Vredenhof cemetery on Schiermonnikoog after the death of the original creator who was involved with burials during and after the war. Gerlof Molenaar on Ameland actually instigated the creation of detailed archives relating the military graves on that island. In doing this (voluntary) work, both men have been able to contact relatives of those identified and have maintained in touch with them.
Last weekend I visited Schiermonnikoog and was able to go through the detailed archives of Wyb Jan Groendijk. Yesterday (Monday the 18th of October) after returning from Schiermonnikoog, we travelled to Ameland and met Gerlof Molenaar who gave us a tour of the graves. Like Mr. Groendijk, Mr. Molenaar's knowledge of each grave is outstanding.
The reason for our visit to both islands was to see the graves of the identified and unidentified airmen who were washed up during the same period in 1944. Being an island graveyard, history has meant that many bodies have been washed up on their shores, including quite a number of Dunkirk victims. My particular interest related to two unidentified graves on Schiermonnikoog which may contain crew members of ME589.
Similarly, on Ameland there are two graves of unidentified airmen washed up in 1944. One is buried next to Sgt. Mitton and nearby a grave of an airman who was washed up in November 1944, much later than the others but due to the local currents and winds, it is still possible that it contains a crew member of ME589. It is a known fact that, by 1944, far fewer aircraft were lost in that region.
Best regards,    Malcolm Latham     October 2010

 

See also  our Fresian Islands pages

 

No Military-style funerals for aircrew at Vredenhof in 1944

 

 

 

Looking to that, you can really " see " the history, because in the year 1944, after so many years of ruthless occupation and exhausting war economy by Nazi-Germany, and of course on an isolated island as Schiermonnikoog was (German checkpoints by roads and ferry) there wasn't timber enough to make a fine piece of carpentry!

Carrying the coffin to the grave by civilians (from left to right) Nico Faber, Jilke Visser, Sake van der Werff (once a hotel-manager and one of the previous carers of the Vredenhof Cemetery) and Mr. B. Laning; thus, no guard of honour by German soldiers of the "Marine-Flak-Ab- teilung " anymore, no funeral oration by the " Kommandant ", also no rifle salute again..... No time for that, " Uncle Heinrich " was bitter and bloody fighting! .. Willem

 

Another aircraft from Wickenby lost on this tragic night was ND410 from 12 Squadron. The plane is thought to have crashed into the Grevelingen Lake in South West Holland where three of the bodies were washed to shore, four of the crew were never found.It was the 52nd confirmed victory of Major Radusch, at that time Kommodore (C.O.) of the 2nd Night Fighter Group. A memorial service in Holland with photos and memories of the crew can be seen on YouTube.       

The last flight of 12 Squadron's ND410

P/O P D Wright - Pilot
P/O E Travers-Clarke - Navigator
F/S B A Stratton - Wireless Operator
P/O A J Gillis - Bomb Aimer
Sgt T E Roe - Flight Engineer
Sgt B G White - Mid Upper Gunner
Sgt T White - Rear Gunner                                              

 Photo courtesy of Wickenby Register

 

 

 

 

Top left is  the entrance to Schiermonnikoog graveyard today. The top right-hand photograph shows the three graves at Ameland.  Sgt Mitton's is in the centre. You will notice that Sgt. Mitton and an unknown airman lie adjacent to each other. The other airman on the foreground was washed up much later but the  keeper of the archives knows of no other aircraft lost near the islands during that period. 

The Dutch island of Schiermonnikoog and Sergeant Bodycot's grave.  There are three burials. Graves 107 & 108 possibly contain members of the crew of ME589. They were washed up around the time that Sgt. Bodycot's remains were found.  Malcolm

 

From Leigh Nethercot  20th of January 2012

To Willem in Holland

 

Hello Willem

I read with great interest your report on www.626-squadron.co.uk about the fate of ME589.

My grandfather was Sgt Gordon Bodycot who is buried on Schiermonnikoog.

We have visited his grave on the Island and met with Wyb Jan Groendij and his family.

It is good to see the history you have researched regarding the losses during the WW2.

I am happy that my grandmother Sadie (Whitcraft) Bodycot is still alive and is 93 years old on February 14th 2012 nearly 68 years after her husband died.  I know she still thinks of him regularly.

I am lucky also that she has given me his war medals (see picture) so that she knows they are safe when she is no longer here.

My mother has Sgt Bodycot's flight records and RAF information too.

Thank you again for research and for sharing it on the website.

Best Regards

Leigh Nethercot

 

 

Their skipper was Canadian F/Sgt Alexander McGregor Matheson (his memorial notice ranks him as a Pilot Officer but the 626 ops board records him as still a Flight Sergeant at the time of take-off). Mid-Upper Gunner Sgt Gordon Harry  Bodycot (29) was the  son of Harry Goude Bodycot and Alice Bodycot, of Leicester and  husband of Sadie Bodycot. Bomb-aimer Sgt Arthur Westwood Mitton (23) was the son of Arthur and May Mitton, of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester. Navigator Sgt Harry Cook (20) was the son of Harry James Cook and Mary Evelyn Cook, of Leek, Staffordshire.   

Sgt Thomas Joseph Pullman (22) was the son of Mr. and Mrs. C. Pullman, of Thornaby, Yorkshire.

 

Tom Pullman lived in York Street, Thornaby on Tees before he joined up [a few doors down from my gran]

I still have all her love letters from him. Quite moving really. I've been following his history in the RAF and now know what came of him. Have also been in touch with Malcolm Latham whose uncle was on the same aircraft when it went down. Seems there is just one more image needed to complete the crew picture now – Henry Dunn.    Terry Brown

 

Picture on left shows Harry Cook's memorial at his local church