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626 Squadron and RAF wickenby

626 Squadron Lost Aircraft

 

 

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Sergeant Arthur English and Flying Officer A P Jones's crew

 Paul English has kindly shared his grandfather's Wickenby photographs and log books. He would really appreciate any information about his crewmates and would love to put to put names to faces on these photographs.

Arthur English was the flight engineer on Flying Officer A P Jones's crew and served with 626 Squadron from early June till October 6th 1944.

Part of the collection are his father's log books for the period of bomber training at 1667 HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit) based at RAF Sandtoft, and the Lancaster Flying School at RAF Hemswell and those for the 34 missions from RAF Wickenby.

The crew were Flying Officer A P Jones, Sgt A Godden (Navigator) Sgt E A Reynolds (Wireless Operator), Sgt R J Barnaby (Bomb Aimer), Sgt A A English (Flight Engineer), Sgt H L Meredith (Mid Upper Gunner), Sgt G F Martin (Rear Gunner)

Arthur is 2nd from the left, his Rear Gunner G.F Martin is 3rd from the right. 

 

Their first mission was in W 4967 (G2) on 9th June a couple of days after the Normandy landings. That night 401 aircraft - 206 Lancasters, 175 Halifaxes, 20 Mosquitos - of 1, 4, 6 and 8 Groups bombed airfields at Flers, Le Mans, Laval and Rennes, all situated south of the Normandy battle area.

Bomber Command documents do not give any reason for these raids; it is possible that the intention was to prevent these airfields being used for German reinforcements being brought in by air because the railways were blocked. All the attacks were successful. 

 

The detail isn't brilliant but it's them with one of their Lancasters H2. G.F Martin is 2nd from the left and Arthur possibly far right?

 

626 Squadron's target was the French airfield at Flers where they reported bombing close to the green markers. Flying Officer Bob Bennet, who flew with PA990 (R2) on this mission, reported 'Flers German fighter drome in invasion area. Weather bad in and out. Bomb load 9000 lbs'. His navigator, Sgt Harry Hayton, noted : 'This was a 9000 lb bomb load dropped on a German Fighter Aerodrome in Normandy, south of the beach-head. Slight flak seen but no fighter activity. Bombed at 7000’ Real good prang. Light flak. Lost one A/C from 12 Squadron.' 

Arthur English and his crewmates went on to carry out a further thirty three missions. From the 12th July their main aircraft was PB 260 (E2).

We know from squadron records that they returned damaged by flak on at least two occasions, 4th July from the Orleans marshalling yards when Bomber Command lost three Lancasters, and 18th July, when attacking the Caen Battle area.

Their last mission together was on October 5/6th 1944 to Saarbrucken on the German/French border,when 531 Lancasters and 20 Mosquitos of 1, 3 and 8 Groups carried out the first major R.A.F raid on that target since September 1942. 3 Lancasters were lost.

The raid was made at the request of the American Third Army which was advancing in this direction; the intention was to cut the railways and block supply routes generally through the town. The bombing was accurate and severe damage was caused on the main town area north of the River Saar, the area through which the main railway lines ran. Damage was particularly severe in the Altstadt and Malstatt districts. 5,822 houses were destroyed and 1,141 were seriously damaged. 344 people were killed, a figure which suggests that much of the population may have been evacuated from this town, which was situated right on the Siegfreid Line.   

see Arthur English's log books.

 

What happened to Lancaster PB 260 UM-E2?

 

 Flying Officer Jones and his crew developed a real fondness for Lancaster PB 260 which had been their home for most of their ops since July 12th. They must have experienced some mixed feelings when the aircraft was written off on its very next mission.

On his first op' with 626 Squadron, 7th October 1944, Canadian Flying Officer Rodney Clement and his crew took Lancaster PB260 on a daylight operation to Emmerich. He reported, “On run up to target, damage was caused to mid-upper turret by flak, and as bombs were released, incendiary bombs from above caused extensive damage to main planes and tail section. Incendiary in starboard wing eventually burned its way through main plane and fell away, while an incendiary holed petrol tank in port main plane, which caused a small fire and carried on burning throughout return journey.” The damage was described as follows: “Extensive damage to starboard main plane, port main plane and starboard tail plane caused by falling 4-lb incendiary bombs. A slight fire had taken place in the starboard outer main plane.” An assessment of the incident noted the aircraft had been hit by incendiary bombs dropped by friendly aircraft above, and stated, “This came about by the tactical planning of the operation which developed a very concentrated attack with aircraft flying at dispersed heights.”

Flying Officer Clement was awarded the DFC. The citation in the London Gazette read : In October 1944, when on his first operational flight as captain and pilot, Flying Officer Clement's aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire, causing damage in the mid-upper turret. Flying Officer Clement continued on his mission and successfully attacked his target, but fires broke out in both wings of his aircraft, causing considerable damage. The fire in the starboard wing died out but petrol from a damaged tank was feeding the fire in the port wing. After ensuring that the crew could abandon aircraft if necessary, Flying Officer Clement commenced his return flight. The fire in the port main plane subsided but a dull glow and flickering flames were seen through a hole in the mainplane. Flying Officer Clement, showing coolness and courage of a high order, was determined to fly his damaged aircraft back to base. Although the fire persisted in the port wing for the entire return flight, this officer landed his aircraft safely at base. The high standard of captaincy and skilful pilotage of Flying Officer Clement is worthy of the highest praise.

 

Lancaster LM113 UM-F2

 

 The 1945 crew of LM113 (Foxtrot 2) - from the blog of Canadian writer, artist and film-maker Simon St. Laurent.

The photo above (see top of page) is of the very Lancaster that my father flew in on the ‘Berchtesgaden’ operation; in addition to two earlier raids, including one on Bremen three days before. (The crew pictured here is not his crew.)

Those guys were a brave bunch. When I was in my late teens or early 20s, I would bellyache something like: "Ohh... where's the bus? My feet are cold." Okay, jerk, try the following: Cold or even frostbitten hands (if you were a gunner); flak exploding all around; getting 'coned' in searchlights over a city; coming under attack from a lurking night fighter, with your pilot sending your bomber into a violent corkscrew maneuver -- as the gunners open fire and fill the inside of the fuselage with the smell of cordite -- to increase your chances of seeing home that night; a bomb dropped by a friendly bomber above hitting your own aircraft, and right beside where you are sitting (that happened to my dad on a trip); wondering if you might end up bobbing about on the North Sea in the middle of the night, or having to bail out over enemy territory....
Those cold feet don't seem to be so bad, after all.

I’m just old enough to have had a father who served in World War II. I say this as when the subject comes up I am asked how I can be the offspring of a Second World War veteran – I’m 48, and I am one of the second batch as my late father had been married before.

In reference to that great opening speech in one of my favourite movies, Patton(1970), where George C. Scott as George S. Patton addresses an unseen crowd of soldiers, my father did not ‘shovel shit in Louisiana’. He served in RAF Bomber Command; specifically as an Air Gunner on Lancasters with number 626 Squadron. I say this, I suppose, partly in the hope to snag those former aircrew who might be surfing the Net after keying “626 Squadron” into their search engines. My dad’s “Skipper” was Pilot Officer A. R. Screen; referred to by his crew as “three engine Screen” as their Lanc often lost an engine on sorties.

Not to go on too much about the subject, Dave Stapleton also supplied me with my dad’s Operational Record (note: the Brits, Canadians, Aussies, and the others did not call raids “missions”), but I will end with this: “This raid on Berchtesgaden was the last operational sortie flown by 626 Squadron, and the last major raid of the war in Europe. Two targets were identified for the raid, the Eagles Nest itself and the SS Barracks nearby. 626 Squadron’s target was the SS Barracks.”        Simon St. Laurent         http://simonstlaurent.blogspot.com

 

Below is the crew from mid April 1945. This was after F/O Wilson and his crew (October 1944 - April 1945) had completed their tour. Wilson piloted this aircraft (LM113 F2) on his last two ops, 10th and 14th of April 1945.

 

Pilot Officer A R Screen - RAF - Pilot
Flying Officer R J Lovell - RCAF - Navigator
Warrant Officer E A Ellum - RAF - Wireless Operator
Flying Officer D H Mitchell - RCAF - Bomb Aimer
Sergeant W R Bradley - RAF - Flight Engineer
Sergeant H W St. Laurent - RCAF - Gunner
Sergeant C Rodger - RCAF - Gunner

 

Hi Tom,   I’ve just been on the 626 squadron site and was surprised to see a photo of my late father in one of the photos.  The photo in question is the 4 crew members standing in snow in front of the Lancaster.  My father was Robert Philip Owens and is second from the left in the photo. He was a tail gun charlie and came to 626 from 101 in September 1944.  I think one of the officers is F/O Benoit.  I have a squadron photograph from February 1945 which I had restored and donated one copy to the museum at Wickenby.

Regards,    Adrian Owens

 

More photos of LM113 - (Foxtrot 2)

Flying Officer Wilson's Crew   October 1944 -  April 1945

F/O Wilson's crew of LM113 (from Russ Gray's collection) Russ would like to know more about that nose-art.


 

Pilot Officer Lindsay Boreham   - Wireless Operator on F/O Wilson's crew   

October 1944 -  April 1945

 

 

 There is a long story to this tale. My mother passed away almost twenty years ago and I guess I only then got to know my father a bit better. 

He was Lindsay Duncan BOREHAM born Victoria, Australia March 5 1924.

He left school with top honours at about 14, trying various trades but ended back at school until 18 and soon after enlisted in the airforce.

During the depression of the 30s (1935) dad used to go shooting rabbits in the country with a Steve HART a descendant of Steve Hart who was linked to Ned Kelly the bushranger

He spoke little of his time overseas because of his nature - quiet reserved and not the loud one in the crowd. In his last days he always thought he was on "borrowed time" because of what he felt during his overseas service. It was not until a week after he died that I found a hand written letter (I had it typed and properly paragraphed).  

What took my interest was you had a  photo of a Lancaster with a lady painted with F2 on the nose. I  will include photos - sorry about the poor quality. Its the same plane and his crew in front. His log book shows that was the one he flew his last few "sorties'  in before the war ended.Also P/O Screen was the last pilot he flew with. 

I have emailed Anne at the Wickenby site.  She has helped with planes he flew in and I am still piecing things together.  My dad did get a letter from a crew member in the UK about 1997-99.        

Ross Boreham, Beaconsfield, Victoria, Australia.

This photograph shows P/O Boreham around 1944.

Ross has sent me photos of his father's log book. It records his progress from initial training in Victoria through to completion of 34 operations with 626 Squadron at RAF Wickenby in the UK. 

Lindsay qualified as an Air Gunner at the Wireless/Airgunner's School in Ballarat, Victoria during October 1943 and was soon overseas on a two weeks course with  RAF No.2 Radio School at Yatesbury near Calne in Wiltshire during April 1944 where  he completed his initial training as a Wireless Operator. After more instruction at Halfpenny Green in Worcestershire (now Wolverhampton Airport) he joined his new crew, captained by F/Sgt Wilson, at No. 30 OTU (Operational Training Unit) RAF Sleighford where they were trained on Wellington bombers.

This crew had the rare distinction of writing off two aircraft in August 1944. 

The first was on August the 4th when fog prevented them landing at Sleighford and they were diverted to RAF Jurby on the Isle of Man where their Wellington  crash-landed and was extensively damaged.

The second on the 9th of August was during a training mission over France when they had their first experience of 'flack'. He records 'this was our first experience of ack ack (ground artillery bombardment). Our Wellington was hit by flack. Fuselage of plane written off.'  (Because the damage was to the mainframe and unrepairable the aircraft was a write-off.)

In September and October 1944 the crew were training on Lancasters at 1668 CU, RAF Bottesford completing 26.4 hours day flying and 25 hours night flying. They were then posted to "A Flight" 626 Squadron at RAF Wickenby in Lincolnshire.

By that time their skipper had been promoted to Pilot Officer and within a few weeks was Flying Officer L Wilson.

 

Pilot                    F/LT  L Wilson (D

Radio Operator    P/O L Boreham  RAAF

Navigator            Sgt  G Mitchell (DFM) RAF

Bomb Aimer        Sgt J McCulloch RAF

Flight Engineer    Sgt A Brooks RAF

M/ Upper gunner  Sgt A Blewitt    RAF

Rear Gunner        Sgt M Reed RAF

 

Sgt Reed's log-book shows 32 ops with this crew between October 1944 and April 1945. His last trip was on April 14th 1945 when Potsdam was the target.

Ross has sent me photos of his father's log book. It records his progress from initial training in Victoria through to completion of 34 operations with 626 Squadron at RAF Wickenby in the UK. 

Lindsay qualified as an Air Gunner at the Wireless/Airgunner's School in Ballarat, Victoria during October 1943 and was soon overseas on a two weeks course with  RAF No.2 Radio School at Yatesbury near Calne in Wiltshire during April 1944 where  he completed his initial training as a Wireless Operator. After more instruction at Halfpenny Green in Worcestershire (now Wolverhampton Airport) he joined his new crew, captained by F/Sgt Wilson, at No. 30 OTU (Operational Training Unit) RAF Sleighford where they were trained on Wellington bombers.

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The Crew of  ED424 - Lost April 25th 1944

 

 

F/S F.B. Baker, Sgt F.C. Kimber, F/S E.G.M. Eyres, Sgt J.H. McVey, F/S R.G. Craddock, Sgt B.M. Kimber, Sgt F. Skelly 

 

ED424 was a Mk.111 and delivered to No.12 Sqdn 14 May 1943 and to 626 Sqdn, newly formed from 12 Sqdn 'C'Flight, 7 Nov 1943.  Lost on the operation to Karlsruhe 24/25 April 1944. ED424 was one of three 626 Sqdn Lancasters lost on this operation. (See: DV177; DV244.)

Airborne 21.13 on the 24th of April 1944 from Wickenby, it was shot down by a night-fighter and crashed at Hagenau (Bas-Rhin), a large town on the southern fringes of the Forest de Hagenau at about 14 km from its nearest point to the Rhine and the Franco-German border. 

All are buried in Hagenau French National Cemetery. Pilot F/S F.B. Baker, Flight Engineer Sgt F.C. Kimber, Navigator F/S E.G.M. Eyres, Bomb Aimer Sgt J.H. McVey, Wireless Operator F/Sgt R.G. Craddock, Mid Upper Gunner Sgt B.M. Kimber, Rear Gunner Sgt F. Skelly.  

F/Sgt Ronald Gerrard Craddock's wife Vera of Fulwell, Sunderland, Co. Durham, was on duty in Wickenby Control Room that night. This crew was only posted in to RAF Wickenby from 1667 Conversion Unit on April 16th. 

 

 

Buried at Haguenau French National Cemetery (Bas Rhin France)

FREDERICK BASIL BAKER Flight Sergeant (Pilot) Royal Air Force 626 Sqdn. Age: 25. Son of Edward & Olive Baker, of Winton, Bournemouth.

 

RONALD GERRARD CRADDOCK Flight Sergeant (W.Op./Air Gnr.) Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 626 Sqdn. Age: 21. Husband of Vera Craddock of Fulwell, Sunderland.

 

ERIC GORDON MORRICE EYRES Flight Sergeant (Nav.) Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 626 Sqdn.

 

BERNARD MICHAEL KIMBER Sergeant (Air Gnr.) Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 626 Sqdn. Age: 19. Son of Fred & A Kimber of West Bowling, Bradford.

 

FREDERICK CHARLES KIMBER (Flt. Engr.) Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 626 Sqdn.  Service No: 1835657

 

JOHN HAROLD McVEY Sergeant (Air Bomber) Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 626 Sqdn. Age: 21. Son of John & Margaret McVey of Cathcart, Glasgow.

 

FRANK SKELLY Sergeant (Air Gnr.) Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 626 Sqdn. Age: 31. Son of John and Mary Skelly; husband of Lilian Ada Skelly of Luton. (Also on City of Dundee Roll of Honour)

 

My great uncle Frederick (Freddy) Charles Kimber flew with 626 Sqn as a flight engineer and was downed and killed on the 25th April 1944 while trying to bomb Baden-Baden. It would be great to hear from anyone who has a relation who flew with my great uncle in Lancaster ED424 UM-E2.   Paul Trickett, Scotland.   

 

 

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Our pictures show a Lancaster bomber wireless operator next to his multiband Marconi R1155 radio receiver and direction finder with the T1154 transmitter mounted above. His task was to monitor radio transmissions being sent from Command Headquarters in Britain.  He was also usually a trained air gunner and could  be called on to use the Astro Dome to help co-ordinate the defence against enemy fighter attacks.

He was separated from the cockpit by a 7mm-thick armoured door and normally  sat at a small table next to his radio armed with pad and pencils. There was a  small window which was level with the leading edge of the wing and at night had a curtain drawn across it. This was because he needed artificial light by which to work, and also would not wish to betray the presence of the bomber to any enemy fighters in the area.  He had the warmest place in the aircraft and was  often overheated while other crew members were freezing. 

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