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Two German Night-fighter Aces at St Trond, Belgium in early summer of 1944. On the left is Oberleutnant Helmut Lent talking to Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, the Gruppenkommandeur  of NJG1. Helmut Lent went on to claim 102 night fighter kills and a further 8 kills (including 626 Squadron's LM136 piloted by F/O  William Wilson on the 21st of July 1944) before he himself died on the 7th October 1944 after suffering injuries sustained during a crash landing in his Ju 88 G-6 at Paderborn Airfield following engine failure.

St. Trond's airfield in Belgium was the base of one of the most famous Luftwaffe Night Fighter squadrons, NJG1, with units II/NJG1 and IV/NJG1 operating Junkers Ju88 and Heinkel He219 aircraft from there in 1944. The Gruppenkommandeur and highest scoring German night fighter pilot, Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer (121 air victories, most of them at night) was referred to as "The ghost of St. Trond" by British Bomber crews who flew over Germany on night attacks raids.

On the 25th of March 1944 he shot down HK539 piloted by 626 Squadron's Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Quentin Ross, returning from a bombing raid on Berlin. There were no survivors.  

On the Duisburg raid of 21/22nd of May 1944 Schnaufer is credited with the shooting down of 626 Squadron's ND964 over Belgium with Pilot Officer Robert Roy Brant's crew aboard of which Canadian Sgt Kenneth McCoy was the only survivor.

Schnaufer's greatest one-night success came on 21 February 1945, when he claimed nine Royal Air Force (RAF) heavy bombers in the course of one day: two in the early hours of the morning and a further seven, in just 19 minutes, in the evening.

 

Along with most other German nightfighters, Schnaufer's aircraft was fitted with a deadly weapon that had decimated RAF bombers for nearly two years without being fully understood by Bomber Command, this was "Schrage Musik".  

This comprised two upward-firing 20mm cannons installed at the rear of the cockpit, inclined at an angle of 70 or 80° which were aimed through a Revi gun-sight above the pilot's head. Having spotted his target, the pilot manoeuvred into position underneath the bomber, effectively in its blind-spot.  

A few cannon shells aimed between the inner and outer engines, the area of the fuel tanks on the Lancaster, invariably was enough to cause the destruction of the bomber as the wings erupted on fire. 

In a post-war interview, Heinz Schnaufer said that he had attacked 20 to 30 bombers at a range of 80 yards with his Schrage Musik guns and of those only about 10% saw him approaching at a distance of 150 to 200 metres and tried to evade him by "corkscrewing" before he could open fire.

 

 

 

THE BERLIN RAID 30/31st January 1944 - Flying Officer Bill Breckenridge's Crew and  626 Squadron RCAF Warrant Officer Richard Jack Meek awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal

 

Being 36 years old he was not a young man by aircrew standards. He was from Vancouver and joined the RCAF in 1941. Jack Meek was navigator on board Lancaster LM584 (UM-Y2) on the Berlin raid of 30/31st of January 1944. It was a disastrous  evening for Bomber Command when out of the 440 Lancasters sent on this mission 32 were lost.

The crew of LM584 comprised of three Scotsmen, three Canadians and an Englishman. This was their sixth trip together and already they had been to Berlin three times.

 

They had settled on the bombing run when suddenly an unseen fighter attacked at close range, perhaps 200 yards, on the starboard side. The kite shuddered as shells tore into the metal, making a terrific din, so loud it could be heard above the engines.

The mid-upper turret was smashed and 'Biff' Baker, the Englishman, a keen amateur boxer, was hit on the side of his face, his helmet and oxygen mask torn away. The rear turret was badly holed and the Canadian, Joe Schwartz, severely wounded by a piece of exploding shrapnel in his foot. Both he and 'Biff' Baker soon lapsed into unconsciousness. The intercom to the rear of the aircraft was u/s so those forward did not know what was happening aft.

Bill Breckenridge the skipper, took immediate evasive action, diving to starboard. On recovering, he again levelled out on the bombing run and Val Poushinsky, the Canadian bomb aimer, dropped the load on the estimated position of the markers seen before the attack.

A minute later they were again attacked, perhaps by the same fighter, but this time from the port quarter, and at 400 yards. With his two gunners out cold, though he did not know it, the skipper had no warning but dived to port on observing the first tracers coming Ill.

The kite was pitching around allover the place as the skipper tried everything he knew to shake off the fighter. The navigator, crouched down behind the skipper, was doubled up from hits and instinctively grabbed his chute before passing out.

Things were certainly happening fast. They could not shake off the searchlights or flak, let alone the fighter. It was a madhouse, with the terrific noise of exploding shells and screaming engines.

After a further two minutes, the fighter found them again. He closed in from the starboard quarter, at 400 yards, and let forth yet another devastating barrage. This time the skipper was hit, a passing bullet grazing his legs.

The original course was resumed from the target area after further violent manoeuvres, but three minutes later came the fourth attack. Again they were hit but the range was now about 500 yards.

By the time the fighter was shaken off, their height was down to 15,000 feet. No further attacks came as the skipper, completely unflurried and flying his battered kite as if on a cross-country trip, got away from the area as fast as possible.

Slowly the crew began to recover. Jimmy, the wireless op, was found slumped over his set. He was warm but unconscious, so he was given first aid. Not until they landed would they know he was past help.

Jack Meek regained consciousness to discover that he had two wounds. One was in his shoulder. The other was caused by shrapnel which went clean through his middle, entering at the right side of his back and emerging at the left front, just below his chest, missing his heart by inches. Though he knew he was badly hit, he would not know the full extent of his injuries until they landed.

'Biff' Baker and Joe Schwartz also revived. The latter extricated himself from his turret, crawled up the fuselage to the rest-bed, but again collapsed. Val Poushinsky rendered first aid to both Schwartz and Meek before taking up a position in the astrodome. Meanwhile, 'Biff' Baker clambered into the still- serviceable rear turret, even though he was injured and without 'oxygen.

To make matters worse, the rear fuselage began to fill with smoke soon after leaving the target area. Alex Stephenson, the engineer, went aft and put out the fire.

The kite was in a fearful state. The hydraulic system had been shot away. The bomb doors would not close, nor, as they found later, would the wheels lower. One petrol tank was holed, three rev counters and three boost gauges useless, as were the direction finder and gyro-compass. The elevators and rudders were also badly damaged.

Jack Meek's navigational gear was wrecked, but the accurate data on the winds on the route-in now came in handy. All he could do was dead reckon on these, but in reverse. He could not hold up the sextant for his left arm kept dropping down, finally becoming completely useless.

Luckily, his figures were good for they took them right back on track. He also took observation of landmarks he knew. When he saw searchlights or flak over German territory he would say to the skipper, "That's Hanover. Go so many minutes in such a direction then bear so much west." Two hours after leaving Berlin he was able to get a Gee fix despite feeling lightheaded from loss of blood and lack of oxygen. They were now over the Zuider Zee and only three miles off track.

The open bomb doors caused a lot of drag and the skipper could not get much speed, though he did manage to hold altitude. All were chilled through, due to the many gaping holes, while the lack of oxygen was taking its toll.

Over the North Sea the electrical system caught fire, but the mid-upper and flight engineer succeeded in extinguishing the fire after a short, fierce battle.

Thirty miles from the English coast the Gee packed up. A distress signal was sent out and in less than a minute the searchlights were homing them in to Docking, on the Norfolk coast. A crash-landing was inevitable. The wheels would not come down, as the air pressure was blown away, and frantic efforts by the skipper and engineer resisted all attempts to unlock them.

With the crew at crash positions, the skipper brought the kite in, but she was difficult to control and he had to overshoot. On the second attempt he brought her in like a baby, ran forward on the tail-wheel, nose well up, then slowed. The open bomb doors hit the ground, snapped shut, and suddenly all was quiet. They were down. There was no fire.     From a 1970s account of the mission by Bill Breckenridge

 

 

From the London Gazette

Flying Officer Breckenridge, Pilot Officer Baker and Warrant Officer Meek were pilot, mid-upper gunner and navigator respectively of an aircraft detailed to attack Berlin one night in January, 1944.

Whilst over the target area, the aircraft was hit by bullets from a fighter. Much damage was sustained. The wireless operator was killed and the rear gunner was wounded; Pilot Officer Baker was also wounded, being hit in the face and rendered unconscious'. Nevertheless, Flying Officer Breckenridge evaded the attacker and, displaying great determination, resumed his bombing run and successfully attacked the target. Almost immediately the bomber was again hit by machine gun fire from the enemy aircraft which had closed in.

This time Warrant Officer Meek was severely wounded. A bullet penetrated his breast close to the heart and another one hit him in the shoulder. Coolly and skilfully, Flying Officer Breckenridge manoeuvred his badly damaged aircraft, however, and finally evaded the attacker. By now, Pilot Officer Baker had recovered consciousness and, realising that the aircraft was unprotected, immediately made his way to the rear turret and manned it. In spite of his physical suffering, the intense cold and the lack of oxygen.

Pilot Officer Baker remained in the turret throughout the homeward flight, except for a short time when he left it to extinguish a fire which had commenced. Meanwhile, Warrant Officer Meek, though desperately wounded and suffering intensely, refused to leave his post. Although deprived of practically all his navigational equipment he plotted the route home with great skill. Eventually, Flying Officer Breckenridge reached base where he effected a successful crash-landing. His skill, courage and coolness in the face of heavy odds were worthy of the highest praise.

Pilot Officer Baker and Warrant Officer Meek proved themselves to be valiant members of aircraft crew, displaying great courage, fortitude and devotion to duty. In spite of their injuries and much suffering they did all that was possible to assist in the safe return of the aircraft. London Gazette 22nd February 1944

 

W/O Meek recovered from his wounds and returned to finish his operational tour with 626 Squadron, later receiving a commission. In August 1944 he was awarded the DFC having completed 28 missions over enemy territory.

Since the award of the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, Pilot Officer Meek has completed many sorties against targets in Germany, including four on Berlin. His outstanding technical skill, exceptional, efficient and gallant fortitude have won the admiration of all members of his squadron.

 

Another aircraft, 626 Squadron's ME587 piloted by F/O J Wilkinson, which had taken off from Wickenby at 5.18pm that evening was lost without trace.

On 18.11.43 I was a little shocked, not having done any ops, to be called into the Chief Flight Engineer’s office and told that I would be flying that night, not with my crew, but with Flight Lieutenant McLauchlin, a highly experienced senior officer, whose Flight Engineer had been recently commissioned & was away getting ‘kitted up’. Later at the briefing, it was another jolt to see that it was ‘the big city’, (Berlin), the first time for me of many.

For the first time I experienced the flak, the searchlights, the fires, the bombs bursting on the ground and the Lanc shaking when the flak was close. I saw the brilliant colours of the target markers on the ground, & experienced the long, long wait over the target while the bomb-aimer identified the target and gave his instructions to the pilot. I felt the great lift of the Lanc when the bombs were released and then the two minutes flying on straight and level for the camera to check where our bombs had gone. And finally to dive and turn away on a course for home. I had to wonder what this experienced crew thought of this new ‘sprog’ engineer on his first trip, the crew that I hadn’t even really met.

It seemed like hours before we got away from the target. We had worse trips than that later, but the first one was memorable. At the de-briefing, a cigarette & a tot of rum was like living again - but for how long?     Sgt Brian Soper  626 Squadron - Flight Engineer with W/O Arthur Rew's crew.  WW2 People's War

 

 

Three sections of a panoramic view at RAF Wickenby. Sixteen of the crews from 12 and 626 Squadrons lined up in front of the control tower (20th of January 1944) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top left P/O Eric Simms- Right - 626 Squadron Commander W/Cmdr Haynes

Back row left to right - 'B' Flight CO Sq/Ldr Johnny Neilson (arms folded), F/Lt H B Phillips, Unknown, 'A' Flight CO Sq/Ldr J Spiller and the Gunnery Leader F/Lt Whitehouse?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flight Lieutenant C.L. Wilson the first Adjutant of 626 Squadron

I have just come across your site via Google, and have enclosed a photo of my father, C.L. Wilson, always known as Leslie. He was assistant adjutant at 12 Squadron, Wickenby, and transferred on 7th November 1943 to be the first Adjutant of 626 Squadron. At that time he was a Pilot Officer, but on 24th February 1944 was promoted to acting Flight Lieutenant. His name appears on the original Operations Record Book sheets, some copies of which I was given by Dave Stapleton, including his posting-in date and number 146199.

On page 4 of your "Crew" section you have the photo of "Panorama of Power" and on the close-up of the central portion you list the top 2 as Eric Simms and W/Cmdr Haynes (with whom I believe my father used to fly on practice flights) and the next 5 as Neilson, Phillips, Unknown, Spiller and Whitehouse.

When I bought my father "Lancaster" by Garbett and Goulding, he immediately asked if I had seen his photo on pages 24/25. He was 2nd right where you have Spiller. Is it possible that Spiller is in fact "Unknown", wearing flying kit, whereas my father wasn't a flyer (colour blind), and is in that 2nd from the right position in the photo?

It is also very possible that it wasn't father at all, but  many years after the war he tried to obtain a copy of this photo, as he clearly remembered it being taken, and then it appeared in a book which I bought for his birthday! I think he said that it was in the Picture Post, but unless he could tell them an issue number there was no way of tracing it.

Anyway, I now have a copy of it, with my father's signature on the reverse! I also have a photo very similar to the one on page 1 of your "Crew" section, but the ground crew are standing on the wings. Most of those standing and sitting in front of the aircraft appear to be the same as your photo, with my father sitting towards the left of centre.

I found the website very interesting, and several of the names mentioned are shown on the record sheets which I have.

My father left at the end of April when F/Lt Stanley took over as Adjutant. He returned to the RAF Police following a request for former police officers (RAF or civilian) to return. He was sent to France on D-Day itself, and was mentioned in Stephen Davies's book about the RAF Police, landing on Gold Beach.

Christopher Wilson November2013

 

 

 

 

RAAF Pilot Officer John Charles Oram of 626 Squadron, and the loss of two of his crew.

Lancaster LM112  UM-A2 - 7th of July 1944

P/O J.C. Oram RAAF (Pilot), Sgt T.E. Jenkins (Flight Engineer), Sgt J.B. Bright (Navigator), F/S L.S. Curtain RAAF (Bomb Aimer), F/Sgt D.E. Just RAAF (Wireless Operator), Sgt John William Wood (Mid-Upper Gunner), Sgt Frederick James Webb (Rear Gunner)

 

John Charles Oram was born in New Zealand in on 16th January 1913. After working as a steward with the merchant navy in the 1930s, he was serving as a flight steward on Qantas Empire flying-boats during the evacuation of Singapore and Java when South East Asia was under attack by the Japanese in 1941 and 1942.

The Australia-England route, over which the flying boats operated, became a vital line of communication and Qantas pilots continued to fly to Singapore, maintaining the thrice-weekly services.

Singapore fell to Japanese forces and the last Qantas flying boat escaped the beleaguered island on 4 February 1942 carrying 40 passengers.

Broome in Western Australia was used as the Australian end of an air shuttle service from Java.

Hundreds of evacuees were ferried there in Dutch, American and Australian military and civil aircraft, including the flying boats of Qantas Empire Airways.

John Oram was in Broome, Western Australia, during the devasting raid by Japanese Fighters in 1942, which resulted in the loss of 19 flying boats with Dutch civilians on board and several USAAF bombers at Broome Airport.

On 3 March 1942, without warning, Japanese fighters attacked. The attack lasted no more than 20 minutes, during which time 25 Allied aircraft were destroyed and dozens of people were killed or wounded. Many victims were Dutch women and children packed into flying boats on the harbour either waiting to be unloaded and ferried ashore, or waiting to depart for the southern states.

The Qantas crew, who were on land during the attack, immediately took to several boats and rescued as many as possible.

 

This photograph was left by a family member at the Runnymede Memorial when Willem & I visited in August 2014

 

Flak appeared to be very heavy, especially to the South West of Caen.  Immediately the bombs were released the captain turned off to avoid these heavy flak defences. Suddenly a sharp crack was felt underneath the aircraft which tore a hole in the wireless operator’s seat. The wireless operator believed he had been hit in the foot, which became strangely numb.  He had in fact stopped a fragment of shrapnel with his boot, although no bodily injury was caused.

Despite the unpleasant thud the performance of the aircraft did not convey to the captain that any serious damage had been caused.  The bomb aimer however reported “Bomb doors not closed”. The captain reselected a couple of times and finally instructed the bomb aimer to use emergency air.  This method proved abortive.

A few seconds later the mid upper gunner reported holes in the fin, rudder, and tail plane. The navigator then reported that he thought that petrol was swilling around inside the aircraft.  Simultaneously the wireless operator reported that hydraulic fluid was emerging from beneath him.  The flight engineer then inspected the header tank and found it intact.

The captain had by now levelled out and was heading for the coast.  Below and to Starboard at 22.02hrs a Lancaster was seen with its Port inner engine on fire and apparently out of control.  Before it was lost to view it appeared to be once again under control, and the fire had died away.

As he was now a satisfactory distance from the Caen area and no longer receiving the attention of the German gunners, the captain decided to make a detailed check of the aircraft.  To his dismay he saw that outboard of the Port outer engine there was a jagged hole of 8 to 10 inches diameter with a flicker of flame, and as he believed the petrol tank to be on fire ordered an emergency jump.  The crew with the exception of the rear gunner acknowledged the instruction and started to act upon it.  The mid upper gunner asked if he should jump from the rear hatch to which the captain replied “Yes go now”.  The bomb aimer immediately donned his chute and jettisoned the front hatch.

The aircraft was by this time 2 to 3 miles off the French coast and the captain remembering that the rear gunner could not swim, and that the mid upper gunner was a poor swimmer decided to turn to Port to give the a chance to bale out over land.  Actually his intention was to put in “George” and head the aircraft towards the German lines, in the hope that it would crash there and not endanger Allied lives. Unfortunately “George” was U/S so the aircraft continued turning so that it headed towards the Channel again.

The bomb aimer, flight engineer, and navigator were now queuing up to bale out, and the wireless operator intimated that he was going to the rear door to bale out.

By this time the fire in the Port wing had the appearance of a blowlamp, emitting a fierce red jet of flame.  To the captain’s dismay he found a similar fire on the Starboard wing.  Despite the damage, the engines were still behaving normally and the captain’s one concern was to abandon the aircraft so that it would clear the numerous ships off shore, He therefore left the engines on full power.

As previously stated the rear gunner had not replied to the order to abandon aircraft, and in the light of the report from the mid upper gunner of the damage to fin, rudder, and tail plane he assumed he had been hit by shrapnel.

By now the aircraft was becoming difficult to control, and the captain realised that it was high time he left.  He got out of his seat, controlling the aircraft with his left hand, and buckled on his chute with his right hand.  He reports the operation was one of the most complicated he had ever undertaken.  He repeatedly called the rear gunner on the intercom.  With parachute on he had a good look round to see the aircraft was untenanted, felt confident the aircraft would clear the shipping, centralised the controls and baled out through the forward hatch at 3,000’.

For reasons of clarity the crew reports are separate after baling out.

 

Captain - After leaving the aircraft the parachute opened normally, but unfortunately his boots fell off.  He eventually landed in the sea just beyond the outer line of shipping without any violent impact.  He was picked up by a small launch after only 2 minutes in the briny, and transferred to the Albatross (A Navy Depot Ship) where he was put to bed in the sick bay with numerous hot water bottles and plenty of Navy rum.  The Navy fitted him out with clothes, and he was transferred by Air Sea Rescue launch to Normandy, where he spent the night at a Royal Marines establishment.  There was a particularly vicious air attack during the night, but he had been so liberally supplied with rum that it hardly mattered.  He returned to England the following day by Anson.  The Lancaster incidentally had performed numerous evolutions before hitting the sea clear of the shipping.

Navigator----Landed in the sea about 2 miles off shore and was picked up by an A.R.L. after 2 mins.  Eventually joining the captain ashore and returning to this country in the same aircraft.

Bomb Aimer - Landed in the sea 400 to 600yds off shore and was rescued after 2 minutes by a Marine Landing Craft.  After excellent treatment by the Marines he was handed over to the R.A.F. in Normandy, and spent the night in a S/L's tent erected in a ditch.  He also returned in the same Anson as the captain and navigator.

Flight Engineer - Baled out without incident and landed in the sea near the wireless operator.  His experiences thereafter being the same.

Wireless Operator - Upon receiving orders to bale out, acknowledged them, took up his logs, and with the assistance of the oil in the aircraft slithered to the main door.  There he found both gunners (off the intercom) with their chutes on and obviously dazed, and unable to make up their minds to jump.  He shouted at them to get going but they made no move.  He then thought that his good example might have the desired effect on them.  He therefore jumped, his parachute only opening after he had clawed off its cover.  He does not remember hitting the water or seeing any shipping, but his dousing revived him, and he was picked up within a minute or so by a landing craft and transferred to the cruiser Adventure.  He spent a very disturbed night on the cruiser, his sleep being punctuated by a series of violent explosions.  The personnel of the cruiser did everything they could to make him comfortable.  He was landed at Calshot by an Air Sea Rescue launch.

For this operation P/O J.C. Oram was immediately awarded the D.F.C. After further distinguished service, on the 23rd of March 1945, Flt/Lt John Oram was awarded a bar to his DFC. He was officially decorated by the Governor of Victoria at Government House in July 1947.

WWII War Memorial, St. Mary's Church, Bucklebury, Berkshire, Frederick James Webb.  Service No: 1474327 Rank: Sergeant.   Age: 26.   Date of Death: 07/07/1944. Son of Frederick A. and Charlotte E. Webb, of Cold Ash, Berkshire. CWG does not record the family of the other gunner, John William Wood.

 

see this account on our Runnymede page

 

 

Two 626 Squadron aircraft lost on the 25th of August Russelheim  raid 

 

On August the 25th 1944, 412 Lancasters of Nos 1, 3, 6 and 8 Groups attacked the Opel motor factory at Rüsselsreim. 15 Lancasters were lost, 3.6 per cent of the force. The Pathfinder marking was accurate and the raid was successfully completed in 10 minutes. 

An official German report. says that the forge and the gearbox assembly departments were put out of action for several weeks, but 90 per cent of the machine tools in other departments escaped damage. The assembly line and part of the pressworks were able to recommence work 2 days later and lorry assembly was unaffected because of considerable stocks of ready-made parts.

Thirty six Lancasters took off from RAF Wickenby. Eighteen from 12 Squadron, and eighteen from 626. Two of the 626 Squadron aircraft were lost, PA989 UM-U2 piloted by Canadian Flying Officer R L Harris, and LM140 UM-O2 with Flying Officer Leonard Whetton and his crew.

 

Two Canadian brothers, both navigators, F/O Harold Good, aged 30, in 626 Squadron's PA989, and only married three weeks earlier, and  F/O Francis (Eddy) Edward Good, aged 32, flying in Lancaster ME802 with 90 Squadron, were both killed on this raid. 

They were the sons of Mr. & Mrs. Edward & Martha Good of Red Deer, Alberta. 

Eddy Good's aircraft, 90 Squadron's ME802, piloted by Sqdn Ldr Henry Lee-Warner DFC, took off from RAF Tuddenham at 8.23pm. It is believed to have been shot down, and been the 4th 'kill' of night-fighter pilot Ofw. Walter Exner  of 7./NJG2 at 01.20 hrs over Wisbaden. All the crew were lost and are buried at Durnbach War Cemetery. German pilot Walter Exner also lost his life that evening when apparently shot down by a Lancaster's air-gunner.

 

PA989 took off from Wickenby at 8.27pm on August 25th 1944. It is not at present known how the aircraft was lost. It is believed to have crashed at Ruschberg in Germany. Four of the crew had successfully bailed out, were captured and became  prisoners of war. They were the Canadian pilot, F/O R.L Harris, Bomb Aimer F/O J.T Farrell RCAF, Mid Upper Gunner Sgt J. Keil RAF, and Flight Engineer Sgt A Loveridge RAF.

Those losing their lives were Canadian navigator F/O Harold Good, Wireless Operator Sgt J.A Perdue RCAF, and Rear Gunner Sgt A.G Kerr RAF. They were buried at Rheinberg War Cemetery. 

 

LM140 UM-02 took off at 8.29pm on the 25th of August 1944 from Wickenby. The cause of the crash was not established. The bomb aimer Flt/Lt Sydney Brown was the only survivor. Those who died were buried at Durnbach War Cemetery. They were

 

Flying Officer Leonard Whetton (Pilot) Aged 31.

Son of William Henry and Elizabeth Ann Whetton; husband of Marjorie Whetton, of Mansfield, Notts. 

Sergeant George Stanley Lowson (33) (Air Gunner)

Son of George and Hannah Lowson

Flying Officer Derrick Laycock (22) (Navigator) 

Son of Frank Joseph and Elizabeth Woodburn Laycock, of Davyhulme, Urmston, Lancashire.

Sergeant Herbert Walter Douglas (21) (Wireless Operator)

Son of Thomas and Lily Douglas, of Aintree, Liverpool.

Sergeant Peter Corrigan (30) (Air Gunner)

Son of Mr. and Mrs. Denis Corrigan, of Sacriston, Co. Durham. Husband of Julia Hughes (24)

Sergeant Harry William Brotherhood (Flight Engineer)

 

Flying Officer Leonard Whetton

 

From F/Lt Sydney Brown's log book (many thanks to his daughter Janet) we know the crew started their missions in June 1944, mainly flying in Lancaster LM140 UM-02. 

She writes -

My father, Syd Brown, flew in 626 Squadron and was shot down on his 27th mission.  He was the only survivor of LM140 UM-O2.

I started to look at these websites when writing the attached from his records for a church magazine issue for Remembrance day and am stunned by what is available.  I would love to help and also to find out more.

He is the subject of an info request at the Wickenby archive which I have replied to.  

I also found the extract on the 626 website (Lost Lancasters' page now corrected.. TB) but if the reference to an escape attempt is true, it is not something he ever told anyone.  I don't think it can be true...... he always said he kept his head down.  I know he spent a month in solitary, but he said that was normal for new prisoners. 

He was called up in July 1942 and joined the RAF. He was to spend almost the next two years training, in the UK and in Canada.  In Canada, he trained first as a pilot officer but after an accident involving a training plane and a snow drift, which wasn’t the first accident of its kind but was the last straw for the officer in charge, he was taken off the flying course, transferred to bomber crew and began to train as a bomb aimer.

Bombing training in Malton, Ontario and in the UK lasted almost a year but he finally started active missions on 6th June 1944, in support of the D Day landings, bombing targets in Northern and coastal France, and later, in Belgium and Germany.  He recorded over 400 flying hours, of which about one third were on active missions, always with the same crew.  He was close to his Lancaster crew and they all agreed that, should they be shot down, any survivors would visit the families of all those who had been lost. 

 

His flight book records that he joined 626 squadron in May 1944, based in Lincolnshire and was reported missing over Germany on his 27th active mission, to Russelheim in Germany, when his plane was shot down on 25 August 1944.  His bombing position was over the escape hatch and, although exposed, he was also “first man out”.  He bailed out by parachute and landed in a tree, in the middle of a forest.  He was the only survivor.  He was injured on landing but clung to the tree all night, in the darkness, not knowing how far he was from the ground.  As the light came up he saw that he was only 6 feet from the ground.  Unable to walk as a result of a knee injury, he was found by a woodcutter and taken prisoner.  As his life was saved by a parachute he was entitled to membership of the “caterpillar club”. 

After a period of interrogation, he arrived at Stalag Luft 1, a POW camp on the Baltic, near Barth in Northern Germany, on 30th September 1944.  He spent the final months of the war there.  Many prisoners of war were forced to take part in the long march away from the fronts, as the Allies advanced from east and west.  As the Allies approached, the camp commandant called in the senior British and Allied officers and told them that the camp would be marched westwards.  They asked what would happen if they refused and the Commandant replied that he would not tolerate bloodshed and that the Germans would leave and the Allied officers should assume control and run the camp in an orderly fashion. The Germans left on 30th April 1945.

 

 

 

 

The raid on Lützkendorf April 4/5th 1945

 

On the 4/5th of April 1945  258 Lancasters and 14 Mosquitos of Nos 1 and 8 Groups attacked the oil refinery at Lützkendorf in Germany.  RAF Bomber Command later claimed 'moderate damage'. 6 Lancasters were lost. Two were from 626 Squadron. PB411 and PD295.
Lancaster PB411 was airborne from Wickenby at 8.55pm on April 4th 1944 on that mission to attack the Wintershall synthetic oil plant. Nothing was heard from the aircraft and it is assumed that they were shot down somewhere near Berlin as they are all buried in the Berlin War Cemetery. The Lancaster had a Canadian Air Force skipper and four other members of the crew were also Canadian.

Flying Officer HAROLD WILLIAM REID  Pilot J41869 (25) Son of James Evarad Reid and Gladys Olive Reid of Aylmer West, Ontario

 Flight Sergeant NORMAN GEORGE REED, Flight Engineer, 1582745 (21) Son of George Henry and Ethelwyn Gertrude Reed, of Bagworth, Leicestershire, UK.

Flying Officer WILLIAM SEMENIUK, Navigator, J/42214 (32) Son of Antonius and Mary Semeniuk; husband of Margaret Lilian Semeniuk, of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. M.Sc., Ph.D.

Flying Officer DONALD HUGH JOHNSON, Bomb Aimer, J/42264 (29)  Son of Richard and Annie Johnson of Oshawa, Ontario

Flying Officer BERNARD ERIC STANLEY STAGG,   W.Op./Air Gnr 178375 (20) Son of George Thomas Stagg and Carrie Stagg, of Muswell Hill, Middlesex, UK.

Flying Officer MATTHEW FREDERICK EASTON SERGEANT Air Gnr. J/46101 (22) Son of Matthew H. Sergeant and Pearl E. Sergeant; husband of Helen D. Sergeant, of Fenelon Falls, Ontario, Canada.

Flight Sergeant JAMES WILLIAM CHURMS Rear Gunner R/281050 (19) Son of Sydney and Louise Churms, of Welland, Ontario, Canada.

 

This was the crew's 5th mission with 626 Squadron.

 

 

 

F/Lt Kenneth Horace EAMES. D.F.C. and the crew of PD295

 

Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 626 Squadron, Royal Air Force.    Died 5 April 1945. Aged 23.

Son of Walter John and Emma Eames. Husband of Doris Edith Elsie Eames, of Tonbridge, Kent. Commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial and at Bidborough Church.

 

Crew members were - F/Lt K.H. Eames DFC, Sgt G.H. Fletcher, F/O A.D. Moore, F/O W.Young, P/O W.A. Mitcham, Sgt R.F. Clarke, Sgt G. Davies 

 

On the evening of 4 April 1945, Kenneth was the pilot of Lancaster PD295 UMB2 which took off from R.A.F. Wickenby, Lincolnshire at 2101 hours to take part in a mission by 258 Lancasters and 14 Mosquitos of Nos. 1 and 8 Groups Bomber Command to bomb a synthetic oil plant near Lützkendorf. Some time after take off the aircraft crashed into the sea just off the French channel coast. The reasons for the crash are not known. Only five bodies of the seven crewmen were found, these being washed ashore at various times and locations following the crash. 

Recent research has found that the bodies of 21 year old Pilot Officer Mitcham of Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, and 19 year old Sergeant Ronald Clarke of Haslemere, Surrey were washed ashore near the French village of Equihen, and were initially buried in Equihen Churchyard. However at some time later their bodies were transferred to Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, Pas de Calais,France. 35 year old Flying Officer Arthur Moore of Ampthill, Bedfordshire is buried in Calais Southern Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France. Sergeant George Davies is buried in Pihen-les-Guines War Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.33 year old Sergeant George Fletcher of Harrogate, Yorkshire is buried in Texel (Den Burg) General Cemetery, Holland. Kenneth Eames’s body and that of 22 year old William Young of Penpont, Dumfriesshire, Scotland were never found, and both are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. Kenneth’s aircraft was one of six Lancasters that were lost on the Lützkendorf mission.  Our photo shows his memorial at Bidborough, Kent

 

PD295 was one of two 626 Sqdn Lancasters lost on this operation. (The other was PB411).

 

Ronald Frederick CLARKE Sergeant (Air Gunner) 3031556, 626 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Died 5th April 1945. Aged 19. Son of Frederick George and Hazel Clarke, of Haslemere, Surrey. Buried in BOULOGNE EASTERN CEMETERY, Pas de Calais, France. Plot 11. Row B. Grave 7.

 

 

 

Sgt Ernest Berry and the crew of DV190    

DV190 626 Sqdn  -  Berlin 1/2Jan44 - Lost. Airborne 0016 2nd January 1944 from Wickenby. Cause of loss not established, crashed at Gardelegen. Those killed are buried in the 1939-1945 War Cemetery, Berlin.

 

Sgt Ernest Berry   Pilot      RAFVR

Sgt E Atkinson        Flight Engineer  (19) from Mirfield, Yorkshire

Sgt J.P Edwards   Navigator    POW

Sgt Ronald Doull  Bomb Aimer  (22) from Ilford, Essex

Sgt Stanley Henderson  Wireless Operator (23) from Consett, Co. Durham

Sgt Victor Trayler  Mid Upper Gunner  from Newport, Gwent

Sgt John (Paddy) Waters     Rear Gunner from Ireland

 

Sergeant John "Paddy" Waters, the  son of Matthew Waters, and Margaret Waters  was serving as the Rear Gunner on board Lancaster Mk. III DV-190 coded UM-B2 during their third mission with 626 Squadron on an operation to Duisberg on January 1/2, 1944. The aircraft took off from Wickenby shortly after 0016 but crashed at Gardelegen killing all but one of the crew.

 

Sergeant Victor Trayler joined the RAF at age 18, he was the son of William and Gwendoline Trayler and husband of Olive of Newport, Monmouthshire. Olive and Victor's son, Michael Victor was to be born on 13th February 1944, just over a month after Victor and his crew were shot down.

Victor, the mid-upper gunner, was good friends with rear gunner John "Paddy" Waters as well as with the other members of the crew, Sgt "Chic" Henderson was a brilliant cartoonist and used to pass the time by drawing cartoons of the crew's time together.

 

This is the aircraft mentioned in Jack Currie's book 'Lancaster Target' where Currie  put Lancaster DV190 into a spin while avoiding flak on his way home from Hamburg in bad weather. He apparently ended up tearing the wing tips off and concussing his engineer. Jack brought the aircraft back using rudder control and differential power settings on the engines to steer the aircraft.

 

 

 

626 Squadron ground crew