Friesland wartime history     by Willem de Jong      <   page 22   >  

Rottum Island

Texel & Den Helder




Leeuwarden Airfield


Harlingen & Harderwijk

Occupied Harlingen

German Radar




St. Jacobparochie

Rottum Island




Rottumeroog by Willem de Jong  (Rottum Island or Rottumeroog and in the local language of Groningen named "Rottuogij")





This early aerial photo shows the Toxopeus garden (the dark green enclosure)



Rottumeroog (or also known as Rottum) is one of the three islands that make up Rottum, a group of islands that are part of the West Frisian Islands archipelago. The island is situated off the Dutch coast, east of Schiermonnikoog and in the direction of the German border and Borkum island, the next greater and habitable isle in the Frisian Chain. It is named after the village of Rottum in Groningen from where the Benedictine "St. Juliana's Abbey" used to own two-thirds of the island.-  

Before the war, Mr. Toxopeus was living there with his family (at least 1 daughter). He was the so called "Strandvoogd" of the isle, the beach-supervisor and legal island authority appointed by the government. 

His family were living mostly from their own garden, the "Tuin van Toxopeus" (Toxopeus Garden), in which there were vegetables, fruit and bee-hives, and a chicken-run etc. He was also a stock farmer  (some cows and goats for milk etc.) and a fisherman, (mussels, eel, shrimps etc.). In the springtime they were also eating sometimes eggs of sea-gulls etc. 

A very "Robinson Crusoe life-style" indeed, full of adventure, for their children, for themselves and sometimes for visitors (a skipper, bringing supplies, a local fisherman of the nearby mainland, some bird-watchers etc.). 

But in September 1939 there was coming an "invasion".... Dutch soldiers and "zeemiliciens" (of the navy), building up the Marine Kust Wacht (MKW) - post no. 2. who were living there too.

In the long, dark and very cold wintertime of 1939/1940, it was a desolate and bizarre way of life. On the coldest nights they were sleeping in the cowshed. In the heart of winter they were running across the ice fields to the mainland, to Warffum village, for some supplies and post, when their radio on Rottum had "broken down" (frozen and empty batteries) and the telephone line was down under the mountains of crushed sea ice.......

A miserable time till the Germans came in May 1940 and dispatched them to a prison of war camp.. 

Today Rottum is uninhabited and a protected wildlife area for birds and seals.



The North Sea exposed farm and barns of the Toxopeus family. Their daughter Mina feeds the chickens and plays with a baby seal.







Some of the Dutch soldiers and marines of the Marine Kustwacht Post no. 2 in 1939/40, their barracks, and the self-made kitchen where they also baked their own bread.






A party crossing the ice to the mainland for supplies and post. The fitness regime in better weather included beach football.





A mountain of crushed ice, and thousands of birds near the beacon.





The second photo shows men of the NZHRM-lifeboat company (there was a complete lifeboat station on the island).





Some of the first Germans arriving in May 1940 and the the last residents leaving for ever in 1955 when it became  a protected wildlife area, for birds and seals.





We are extremely grateful for the information below from the Gemeente Eemsmond, in the Province of Groningen, by Mr.Jeroen Hillenga, "Streekarchivaris" of the old Warffum archive. It follows Willem's enquiries about the grave of New Zealand Pilot Officer Trevor Harry Smith who was first buried here.

See page 4  X3557 from 75 NZ Squadron







Translation, from German in English - as far as possible ! - of the letter to the mayor of Warffum; by Willem de Jong, 11 Febr. 2013)

Army Commander the 20th of July, 1942    Groningen Ubbo Emmius Singel 79        Phone 3873

Received 22 Jul. 1942

Mayor of the municipality of Warffum…………..No. Br.1210

In the cemeteries of your community are war graves situated, as named below in this letter. Therefore it is the duty of such a community to maintenance and care for these graves, and it is by this letter we are reminding you again. At the same time we again repeat that you must inform the Army Commander in Groningen and the Dutch Red Cross in The Hague, by writing, about all killed or dead soldiers buried in your community. You must give the name of the interred person, and all the information as far as known, together with the details of the cemetery and the grave (plot, row).   (signed) RAUCH   Hauptmann & Commander

Cemetery Rottumeroog left side of the cemetery, Grave-No. 22 Th. S m i t h

In accordance with the Grave-Officer (in) The Hague (it seems to me this letter is in a standard layout; they were using this many times, I think)              To the Army Commander Groningen.

Translation, from German in English - as far as possible ! - of the answer from the mayor of Warffum; by Willem de Jong, 12 Febr. 2013)


Warffum, the 23rd of July, 1942.

No. B-1.12.10

While paying attention to your letter of the 20th of July last, regarding war graves, I can inform you, there are only two cemeteries in our community of Warffum, one in Warf-fum village and one in (nearby) Breede hamlet. About any cemetery on the island of Rottu-meroog I do not have knowledge "ex officio" (of course he knew more about…..!).

From you, obviously well-informed, I understand now on Rottumeroog isle is buried Th. Smith, in grave no. 22. Via this information I have to believe, on Rottumeroog is constructed a cemetery indeed, in which are interred already many persons. In accordance with your letter, the community has to care for this graves indeed and to give all information about the interred persons, to the Army Commander in Groningen (city) and to the Dutch Red Cross in The Hague.

But to do so, giving care to the graves over there and giving information about these burials, I must travel the to island of Rottumeroog, which is not allowed for me yet.

For that reason I am asking you strongly to give me permission to visit the island.

I make bold to say further on to you, in reference to a letter of the 23rd of May last, from the head and also the representative of the former Dutch army troops, Unit C, Office 4, No. 167, in which is said, the care for the graves of the killed German military men, in the German "record year" from 1 April 1942 to 31 March 1943, is exclusively a matter of the German authorities themselves. Therefore your writing now is in conflict to that letter, because this buried Th. Smith, named in your epistle, is a German (…….?! ; he was trying to frustrate the Army Commander, by writing this ?).

The mayor of Warffum,

(signed) J. Hoen.



This is a copy of the answer / letter from the " Burgemeester " (mayor) of the Gem. Warffum to the German authorities in Groningen city etc. - Willem Hoen - to Komm. Rauch. This is "beautiful prose", because the mayor is complaining in this letter about the German authorities (!) Because the Gemeente Warffum is responsible for the graves on R'-oog, as the Germans were saying themselves, but at the same time it was forbidden for the mayor or any other representative of the gemeente, to visit there / to see with their own eyes the situation on the island etc. About the newest grave, gr. No. 22, they really didn't know anything; because the occupying German soldiers on the island were controlling everything in this military area - also the recovery / funeral of grave No. 22, without any help from civilians whatsoever). 

- Most important details, as found in this paperwork now: 

a.) His human remains were washed ashore and found / recovered on R'-oog, on 9th July 1942, by German soldiers there. 

b.) They knew soon his ID, by his tag I think, because in the list is written down: Smith B., New Zealand, 41953 NZ.CE. RNZAF (that service-number etc. is correct !) and they saw and knew also he was an airman, because of his dress etc. 

c.) His body was buried, by the German soldiers there, the same day, 9 July 1942 (nothing is known about a funeral service, but it was a "simple local exercise", I think) 

d.) His body was exhumed in Aug. 1947, together with the other RAF airmen remains there, by some "British Military" (?), without the knowledge of the local authorities (again), and also..... the Dutch sister-organisation of the CWGC did not know about! (They wrote a letter to the Gem. Warffum, in 1948, because they couldn't find any graves on R'-oog !!!!, and they also didn't know what was happened with the remains; reburials, where / when.?!). 










The loss of 218 Squadron's Stirling EJ125

Stirling EJ125 took off from RAF Downham Market at 1810 hours on the night of 21/22nd February 1944, detailed to carry out a gardening mission and lay mines off Borkum, Germany. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it failed to return to base.  The aircraft crashed in the sea off the island of Rottumeroog, and all the crew lost their lives. 
The body of Flt Lt Wiseman was found on the 8th May 1944 near Pieterburen (Groningen),  Holland, and he is buried in the Westernieland General Cemetery, De Marne, Netherlands. 

The body of Australian, Flt Sgt Brasington, was washed up at Borkum on the 16th  March 1944, and he is buried at the Sage War Cemetery in Germany. All the other five crew members have no known grave. Their names are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial near Windsor, UK.

The crew were 


RAF Flt Lt J I Wiseman, (Pilot) 


RAF Sgt V L Twydell, (Flight Engineer) 

RAF F/O W P Cragg, (Navigator)

RCAF F/O H P Theriault (Bomb Aimer) 

RAF Sgt D Copley, (Wireless Air Gunner) 

RAF Sgt G H Foreman, (Air Gunner) 

RAAF 423217 Flt Sgt G C Brasington, (Air Gunner)




Some crew-members of No. 218 Squadron, RAF, being interviewed by an RAF intelligence officer. This photograph was published in British newspapers following the crew's participation in raids over Berlin in December 1943. 


Sitting, left to right: Flight Lieutenant White, interviewing officer; Flying Officer  H.P. (Hank) Theriault, of Canada, bomb aimer; F/O (later Flt Lt) J.I. (Red) Wiseman, of Edinburgh, Scotland, pilot; Sergeant Victor L. (Twid) Twydell, of London, England, engineer. Standing, left to right: Pilot Officer W.P. (Tiny) Cragg, a former police officer from London, England, navigator; Flt Sgt George Charles (Junior) Brasington, of Concord, NSW, air gunner; Sgt Dennis (Cop) Copley, of Doncaster, England, engineer and wireless operator; Sgt George H. Foreman, of Spalding, England, gunner; Flight Sergeant McGillavray, of Canada, 2nd pilot.

With the exception of Flt Sgt McGillavray, all were killed on operations on 22 February 1944 when their aircraft Stirling EJ125 crashed into the North Sea during mine laying operations off Borkum, Germany.


Right is a portrait of 20 year old Flight Sergeant (Flt Sgt) George Charles Brasington, of Concord, NSW. He was a junior clerk employed by the NSW Railways prior to enlisting on 20 June 1942. Brassington trained in Australia and England and was attached to 623 Squadron from August 1943 until it was disbanded in December 1943. He was then transferred to 218 Squadron. On the night of 21 February 1944 he was the air gunner, and sole Australian crew member, of Stirling EJ125.



*  *  *


The Loss of 21 Squadron's Blenheim V6034


On the 16th of June 1941 take off was at 13.20 from RAF Watton in Norfolk on a daylight anti-shipping raid over the  sea-ways north of the Fresian Island chain. Three Blenheim bombers of 21 Sqn engaged a German patrol vessel near the Island of Borkum. Sgt Leavers’s

aircraft dived in too low and collided with either the ship's mast and  antenna wires or some debris from the explosion. A large part of the right wing was torn off and the aircraft plunged out of control directly into the waves and sank into the deep sea in a mist of splashing water . Only some fuel slick bubbles on the water were seen later. The dramatic moment was captured on film by one of the other Blenheims. 

The crew of stricken Blenheim V6034 were Nottinghamshire born F/Sgt E A R. Leavers (DFM) pilot, Australian RNZAF Sgt. Ian Overheu (DFM) Observer, and 21 year old Welshman RAF Sgt Joseph W H Phelps Wireless Op./Gunner. This experienced crew had the reputation for showing outstanding courage in low-level attacks on enemy ships and that was the reason why two of them were a few weeks before decorated with the DFM. 


Their May 1941 citation had read -  "In April, 1941, Sergeant Leavers and Sergeant Overheu were the pilot and observer respectively in an aircraft which participated in an attack on a large enemy convoy. In the face of heavy anti-aircraft fire, Sergeant Leavers displayed great determination and tactical ability which enabled Sergeant Overheu to score two direct hits on a large ship.


24 year old Sgt Evered (Rex) Leavers's body was washed upon the coastline outside the sea dike of North Groningen. His grave is at Baflo Cemetery. The body of the wireless

op/gunner, 21 year old Welshman Sgt Joseph Phelps, was found on the German coast and is now buried at Sage Cemetery. Australian Sgt Ian Overheu was never recovered and he has been commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial near Windsor.
23 year old Sergeant Ian Overheu, DFM; son of Frederick and Florence Overheu was born in Geraldton, Western Australia, on the 28th of July 1917. His family roots were German, his ancestors migrating from Hanover to Adelaide in the early 1800s. Ian studied Engineering at Sydney University. He later married Peggy Skelton and the couple had one son, Murray while they were living at Subiaco. He moved to New Zealand in late 1936 and worked as a commercial traveller. In March 1940 he joined the RNZAF and was posted to England during August 1940. After training on Blenheims at 17 OTU he was posted to 21 Squadron.

His pilot, 24 year old F/Sgt Evered Arthur Reginald (Rex) Leavers, was the son of Jessie Leavers of Dunkirk, Nottinghamshire.Their wireless op./gunner, 21 year old Sgt Joseph William Howell Phelps, was from Bedwellty in South Wales, the son of Herbert and Olive Phelps.

This excellent photo of pilot F/Sgt Rex Leavers (right), and his wireless operator/gunner, Welshman, Sgt Joseph Phelps, both displaying DFMs, therefore shortly before their deaths, was kindly passed to us by Julian Horn who looks after the RAF Watton website.

A second photo, showing the pilot with his Australian observer, Sgt Ian Overheu, again passed to us by Julian, and taken the same day. This and the other picture originally came from Peggy Stanton, the lady Rex Leavers would have married had he survived this, his 30th Op.




A 21 Squadron Blenheim crew in August 1941




Filmed by one of the other Blenheims this picture captures the moment the aircraft lost a portion of its right wing.



Position 53 degrees 41' N- 06 degrees 42' and the North Coast of Groningen near Ballo where the body of Rex Leavers was recovered




21 Squadron

At the start of the Second World War 21 Squadron was a light bomber squadron equipped with newly arrived Blenheim IVs. Like many bomber squadrons it had a quiet start to the war, but that ended in May 1940 with the German invasion of the Low Countries. No.21 Squadron took part in the costly attacks on the advancing Germany columns, before at the end of May moving to Lossiemouth, to join Coastal Command.

The squadron spent most of the next two years operating as an anti-shipping unit, alternating between Lossiemouth and Watton between June and December 1941, before moving to Malta at the end of December 1941 to attack the vital Axis supply convoys attempting to get supplies to Rommel in North Africa.

The squadron was disbanded on Malta on 14 March 1942, and immediately reformed at Bodney, this time as a day bomber squadron. The new squadron inherited No.82 Squadron's Blenheims, which were soon replaced by the Lockheed Ventura, but it was not until the arrival of the Mosquito FB Mk.VI in September 1943 that the squadron gained a truly effective bomber. Its first operation as a day bomber squadron was an attack on the Philips works at Eindhoven on 6 December 1942.

The Mosquitoes were used for a mix of pinpoint daylight raids and night raids until February 1945, when the squadron moved to France. From then until the end of the war the squadron flew night intruder missions over Germany, helping add to the "mosquito panic". After the war the squadron spent two years as part of the occupation forces in Germany, before being disbanded in November 1947.  




Baflo Cemetery




The grave of Rex Leavers and a clipping from the Melbourne Argus of 24th May 1941

Wellington Mk.1C R3202 KO-J of 115 Squadron


Wellington Mk.1C R3202 KO-J of 115 Squadron took off from RAF Marham at 9.25pm on 2nd August 1940 part of a mission to bomb  an oil refinery in Hamburg. The crew were - Pilot - P/O Reginald T. Gerry - RAF - Age 23, Co-Pilot - P/O Ronald W. Pryor - RAF - Age 21, Observer - F/Sgt Richard J. Ruffell-Hazell - RAF- DFM,  Air Gunner - Sgt Jack M. Croft - RAF, Wireless Operator - Sgt James Dempsey - RAF - Age 21, and Air Gunner - P/O Sidney J. S. Wilde - RAF - Age 31.

It was lost at around 2am on 3 August 1940 in the North Sea off the island of Rottumeroog. Four of the crew: Reginald Gerry, Ronald William Pryor, James Dempsey and Sidney John Scott Wilde are buried in Holland. The bodies of the other two crew members, Richard James Ruffell- Hazell and Jack Millen Croft, were not found and are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

Sgt. James Dempsey's body was found at sea on 23 August 1940 and is buried at Delfzijl General Cemetery. P/OSidney Wilde is also buried in Delfzijl. P/O Bill Pryor, who was found on August 20th, is buried in Uithuizen. P/OReginald Gerry was washed ashore on 23rd August 1940 and is buried in Oldebroek General Cemetery.

This monument was arranged by Bill's parents after the war.

Pilot Officer Sidney John Scott Wilde was from Rottingdean, Sussex. He born on 13 April 1910 and was the son of Sidney and Iris Scott Wilde. He worked for Farebrother Ellis, Chartered Surveyors in London before the war, as did his father. John was married to Ila Wilde and they had a daughter named Susan. P/O Wilde is also honored on the Rottingdean War Memorial. John's brother, Ordinary Seaman David Scott Wilde, who joined the Navy in 1939 when only aged 16, was killed when HMS Coventry was lost off Tobruk on 14th September 1942.


Sgt Richard James Ruffell-Hazel DFM  31st May 1940. Citation for DFM - Sergeant Ruffell-Hazel acted as Navigator to his Flight Commander, Squadron Leader du Boulay, on all long distance bombing attacks made by the Flight Commander between 9th and 13th April 1940. In these flights, by day and by night, his skill both as a Navigator and Bomb Aimer and the unruffled manner in which he carried out his duties in the face of enemy opposition were largely responsible for the success achieved. Throughout the operations during the period 4th. to 13th. April 1940, he set a fine example of tenacity and devotion to duty. Remarks by A.O.C This NCO displayed gallantry and devotion to duty of the highest order during a period of intensive operations under difficult conditions. His skill, courage and general attitude towards the work which had to be done, steadfastly maintained day by day and night by night, proved a very valuable example to the remainder of the flying crews. Very strongly recommended.



Wellington R1371 KX-F from 311 (Czech) Squadron

On 19th July 1941, 311 (Czech) Squadron's R1371 KX-F Wellington took off with seven other Wellingtons from RAF East Wretham, in Norfolk, at 22.52 hrs with their main target the railway yards at Hannover, N. Germany.

Its new crew, was formed from existing squadron members after its former pilot, F/Sgt Alois Sedivy, and some of his crew, had completed their tour on July 16th. This was Sgt Netik's first mission as the captain of an aircraft.

After a successful raid, the aircraft is believed to have been intercepted and downed by a Luftwaffe night- fighter. That attack (most likely from unit 4./ZG. 76) was confirmed by other RAF crews, who reported later: ‘Observed in combat with an enemy fighter; both aircraft (!) were seen crashing into the sea’ somewhere off the Dutch coast, north of Uithuizermeeden'. The returning bombers from 311 Squadron, arriving back at base between 04.27 and 05.48am, reported strong flak and searchlight activity but had not encountered any German night-fighters.

Till now nothing is known about a Luftwaffe crash in that area, only the fact that about the same time that night Messerschmitt Bf.-110D, Wn. 4273 (coded M8 +..?), piloted by Uffz. Paul Wencke, and with radio operator/air gunner O.Gefr. Hans Heinrich aboard, from unit 4. / ZG.76, made a crash landing at the ‘Fliegerhorst’ Leeuwarden (further details unknown). Was that Me.-110 crippled by return fire from the rear gunner of the R1371?

The remains of Sgt Pavel Babacek, Sgt Jan Ctvrtlik and Sgt Vaclav Netik are believed to have been washed ashore on the island of Rottumeroog. However, it is not known where Sgt Babacek and Sgt Ctvrtlik are buried today. They remain listed as missing on the Runnymede memorial. Sgt. Netik's body was identified at the time but he was buried as unknown on Rottumeroog. In 1947 he was re-interred at the cemetery of Oldenbroek and in 1955 was positively identified.

Note: this Wellington R1371 “survived” 40 bombing missions with 311 Sqdn. before crashing. Here’s a photo of the crew and their lovely mascot dog. The crew shown is probably that of F/Sgt Alois Sedivy who flew the aircraft until 16th July 1941.


The Wellington's Czech crew were -

(RAFVR) Sgt. Václav Netik ( Pilot/Skipper) - KIA - his body was recovered and he was interred by the Germans after a positive ID-check at R’-oog island. (See the register of the Gem. Warffum below) 787211 on 7 Aug. 1941).

He was reburied after the war (1947) in the Oldenbroek War Plot, at the ‘De Ekelenburg-cemetery - grave 18 and it is almost unbelievable that at that time his identity was ‘unknown’! There came a later exhumation and new ID-check in 1955! His name is also on the Czechoslovak Airman’s Memorial in Praha (Prague) - Dejvice. This was his first mission as captain of an aircraft.

 (RAFVR) Sgt. Miroslav Jindra ( 2nd Pilot) - KIA - Uithuizermeeden (Gr.) - row 16, grave 27; His body was found on “kwelderland” outside of the sea dike at Groningen, recovered and buried 17 Sept. 1941.

He was born in Dolní Krupá (Okres Mladá Boleslav), a small village in former Central Bohemia, today's North Ceska Republika, on 5 March 1916 . Like the other members of the crew, his name is also on that Airman’s Memorial in Praha (Prague) - Dejvice, and as far as we know, there is also a symbolic urn for him, in which is some soil from his grave, interred in the Prostejov Airmen Memorial (Cz.). 

(RAFVR) P/O. Jaroslav Partyk ( Navigator)- KIA - First buried at Borkum isle (Germany) in ‘ Friedhof ’ of (Jaroslav) the Evangelical Lutherian Church. Reinterred after W.W.II in the Sage War Cemetery (near Oldenburg/Ost Friesland) - grave 7.F.4 - alas no grave photo. Born 16 Dec. 1916, in Rakovnik town (former Kroisenbach, Central Bohemia) in the Czech Republika of today. His name can be found also in Praha (Prague) - Dejvice, on the A.F. Memorial there, and there is a symbolic urn, No. 87, from him buried also in the other memorial at Prostejov town, in the Olomouc region of the Czech Republika, in which is some soil from his grave at Sage/Niedersachsen (Germany).


Sgt. M. Jindra (Uithuizermeeden (Gr.) - row 16, grave 27-Oldenbroek. Sgt. V. Netik ‘De Ekelenburg-cemetery - grave 18.

(RAFVR) Sgt. Jan Ctvrtlik (W.O. / A.G.) MIA / Runnymede (Surrey / UK) - panel 42. He was born 18 April 1918. His body was also recovered and buried at R’-oog, by German soldiers there (?). There is nothing known about a reburial (after the war ?) His name is recorded on the Runnymede memorial for that reason. He is mentioned also on the Czechoslovak Airman’s Memorial at Praha (Prague) - Dejvice.

 (RAFVR) Sgt. Pavel Babácek ( A.G. (Rear) - MIA / Runnymede (Surrey / UK) - panel 39 (Pavel) born 30 Aug. 1914 ( According to some sources his body was washed up at Rottumeroog island soon after the crash; but it isn’t known where his body is now! Nothing is known about a reburial later, and therefore his name can be found on the  Runnymede memorial. His name is also mentioned on the Czechoslovak Airman’s Memorial in Praha (Prague) - Dejvice.

He had left home, after the occupation of the rest of Bohemia and Moravia, for Poland, then on to France, where he applied for service in the Foreign Legion and then training in the French Air Force. After the defeat of France he, with several dozen other members of the Air Force, departed by boat to Great Britain. There he joined the RAF and after appropriate training became a rear gunner on a Wellington aircraft. He became the rear gunner on R1371 and was part of F/Sgt Alois Sedivy's crew until Sedivy finished his tour on 16th July 1941.

(RAFVR) Sgt. Václav Vales (A.G. Front) - MIA / Runnymede (Surrey / UK) - panel 54 (Václav) born 26 Nov. 1914 (where ?); Some sources, possibly of German origin, are saying his dead body was found, recovered and interred in a temporary grave at R’-oog ? Possibly his remains were washed away later? From the paperwork of the Gem. Warffum, in the Gem. Eemsmond archive today, nothing is known about him or the other two ‘MIA-crew’, but there were also emergency graves on the nearby Rottumerplaat isle (!), thus outside the ‘ Soldaten Kerkhof ’ (Soldiers Cemetery) of Rottumeroog.

Alois (Lou) Sedivy was until the end of his tour, on July 16th 1941, the captain & pilot of Wellington R1371. He became a living legend at 311 Squadron where he rose from the rank of Sergeant to Squadron Leader, from rank-and-file to pilot and Flight Commander. 
He undertook eighty combat sorties in total, half of those for Bomber Command (1940-1942), and the rest for Coastal Command (1943-1945). He was the only Czechoslovak skipper to attack a Japanese submarine (I-29) and one of only five to have the confirmed sinking of a German U-boat (U-1060) to his credit. 
Lou was one of only three Czechoslovak flyers who gained both British air decorations,the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and its NCO equivalent, the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM). He was also awarded the Czechoslovak Gallantry Medal for Bravery and three times the Czechoslovak War Cross.

He had escaped from Hlinsko in what was then Czechoslovakia, by train using the underground movement and fled to Poland where he joined the French Foreign Legion in August 1939. There he experienced the cruel discipline of a Legionnaire’s life under the blazing heat of the desert. Relief came with the declaration of war and his secondment to the French Air Force. When France was over-run Lou stole a petrol tanker and fled to the South of France where at Bordeaux he joined a group of Czech Airmen on a ship bound for England on 19th June 1940. On arrival in England, Lou joined the RAF and after induction and training was posted to the newly formed 311 (Czech) Bomber Squadron.

Following the end of World War II, he returned to Czechoslovakia but the Russian communist regime soon meant he once again had to flee his home country and seek shelter in England. Following his return to England, he once again joined the RAF, where he had a long and distinguished flying career before retiring to South Australia.

He was remembered  as a quiet, calm and reliable young man with strong nerves. "Sedivy was a quiet tough guy with a kind face and wide shoulders which you always wanted to pat" wrote one of his colleagues. 
As a commander he was very popular with his subordinates, mainly because he did not give orders but expressed wishes. He never shouted at his subordinates, on the ground or in the air. He was known for his calmness and coolness, which he kept even during the most difficult situation and that is why both his crews survived till the end of the war and caused "great losses" to the enemy. 
Although he received many awards he stayed himself, a humble lieutenant who did not know pretentiousness.


On the same day that Wellington R1371 KX-F took off on its fateful journey, Wellington R1804 KX-D had a collision with a steam-roller.
At 11.45am  on 19th July 1942 at RAF East Wretham. Flying Officer Josef Stransky was taking the aircraft on an air test when it developed an uncontrollable swing during take-off and collided with a steam roller. Fortunately all the crew survived the impact. 
Earlier that morning, at 00.21am, a German bomber, probably involved in the night's raid on the city of Hull, bombed the dispersal at the south-east corner of the airfield
, but no injuries were reported.
Squadron Leader Josef Sransky DFC did not live to see the end of the War. He was killed in France while piloting a 21 Squadron Mosquito in June 1944.

The grass airfield of RAF East Wretham was located near East Wretham, 6 miles NE of Thetford in Norfolk. It was hurriedly brought into service during the early years of World War II as a satellite airfield with 311 (Czech) Squadron dispersed there from RAF Honington on 29 July 1940. 
The squadron operated their bombers from the airfield until April 1942 when it transferred to Coastal Command. Later, RAF 115 Squadron, operating Wellington Mk IIIs and later Lancasters, occupied the airfield from November 1942. 
It was officially transferred to the US Eighth Air Force in September 1943. The 359th Fighter Group and its three squadrons arrived in October and went into action in December flying P-47 Thunderbolts. Due to waterlogging issues suffered by many grass airfields, the 359th laid a steel mat runway across part of the airfield, and retained the grass runways for drier weather. They converted to Mustangs during the spring of 1944 and remained in occupation until late autumn of 1945. East Wretham was officially returned to the RAF on November 1,1945. 

Our photo shows the airfield during its USAAF period

Wellington HE519 EX-X from 199 Squadron

Wellington X - HE519 from 199 Squadron based at RAF Ingham in Lincolnshire, took off at 19.30 on 12th March 1943 to bomb Essen in Germany  during the Battle of the Rhur. It was part of a force of 457 aircraft - 158 Wellingtons, 156 Lancasters, 91 Halifaxes, 42 Stirlings, and 10 Mosquitos on a very successful Oboe-marked raid.

The centre of the bombing area was right across the giant Krupps factory, just west of the city centre, with later bombing drifting back to the north-western outskirts. Photographic interpretation assessed that Krupps received 30 per cent more damage on this night than on an earlier successful raid of 5/6 March.

23 of our aircraft were lost - 8 Lancasters, 7 Halifaxes, 6 Wellingtons, and 2 Stirlings, 5.0 per cent of the force.

199 Squadron lost two Wellington Xs that night, HE519 EX-X piloted by Sgt. Dennis Clifford, and HZ263 EX-E,piloted by F/Lt W J King, which was lost with all its crew, in the sea off the coast of Holland, the 12th victim ofLuftwaffe pilot Feldwebel Heinz Vinke.

Wellington HE519 is believed to have been hit by Flak, most likely from the heavily defended 'Atlantikwall', and crashed at 2203 into the North Sea off the Dutch coast some 5 km W of Camperduin, NorthWest of Alkmaar city, on Holland’s West coast, and South of  Den Helder.

In his book Air battle of the Ruhr, Alan W. Cooper relates that it was shot down by a Luftwaffe Me.-110 night-fighter. Those killed have no known graves and are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

HE519's crew were -

Sgt. Dennis John Clifford  - Pilot / Captain - 20 year old son of John and Daisy Clifford, of Gravesend, in Kent. MIA / Runnymede Memorial - panel 145.

Sgt. Leslie Morgan Jones - son of Claverhouse & Beatrice Jones of Chepstow, in Monmouthshire. MIA / Runnymede Memorial panel 155.

W/O Jack Graydon Richardson (RCAF)  - 20 year old son of Jesse and Lottie Richardson, of McConnell, in Manitoba /Canada. MIA / Runnymede Memorial panel 180.

Sgt. Raymond Lambert - 19 year old son of Oliver & Dora Lambert of Whitworth, Lancashire / UK. MIA* / Runnymede Memorial- panel 156.

F/O. C M Kitson - Rescued and taken prisoner. POW (No. 925) - camp L3 /Stalag Luft III - Sagan (in former Lower Silesia / today's Poland). Promoted to F/Lt in 1944.

Raymond Lambert is remembered in his hometown. At Whitworth, in the Memorial Gardens, their is the local War Memorial, on which his name is recorded. He is also commemorated on panel 156 of the Runnymede Memorial where we remember aircrews with no known grave.

That is a tragedy. Raymond did originally have a grave on Rottumeroog island, in the Netherlands. His body was washed ashore there and buried in the Soldiers Cemetery by the Germans in April 1943. In 1947, his remains were exhumed and transported to the mainland, like most of the servicemen's bodies from the island, by members of the ‘Graves Concentration Unit’ (British), to be reburied in the ‘De Ekelenburg’ Cemetery near Oldebroek village. Unfortunately something went wrong in either 1947 or 1953 and now there is no trace of his grave and he became 'missing in action'. Grave Concentration Units (GCU's) - transported remains from the initial burial sites (in the case of airmen: field graves at or near crash sites or local cemeteries) to so-called concentration cemeteries.

The record of Raymond Lambert's 1943 burial at Rottumeroog island

Essen was attacked for the second time that month on the night of March 12th. It was by a force of 457 aircraft - 158 Wellingtons, 156 Lancasters, 91 Halifaxes, 42 Stirlings, and 10 Mosquitos in a very successful Oboe-marked raid.. Weather conditions were excellent with no cloud and bright moonlight, though the usual industrial haze and later, smoke, obscured ground details. Reports indicated that a smoke screen was in operation to the north and northwest of the town from which smoke drifted over Essen.

Defences too had evidently been considerably strengthened and very intense and accurate heavy flak was experienced during the first half of the attack. Searchlights, operating in large cones of fifty or sixty and smaller cones of about twenty, were extremely active. In spite of fierce opposition the attack was pressed home. The Pathfinder Force had done a good job and the target indicator markers were well concentrated. During the first quarter of an hour of bombing, numerous and fairly concentrated incendiary fires were observed around Target Indicator markers.


(1)The Krupps factories at Essen after the 1943 raids, and (2) After bombing in 1945  (IWM)


Crews bombing after this reported that the fires then gained a good hold and merged into huge masses of red flames. The signal for this development was a large explosion followed seven minutes later by another impressive explosion accompanied by flames and dense clouds of smoke. A few minutes later a third explosion occurred which was accompanied by a huge white flash. The glow of the fires was visible 150 miles away. Five days later another photographic sortie was made over Essen to supplement information already gleaned from the photographs taken the day following the raid. The most important evidence of new damage was found to be at the Krupps Harbour Foundry Works, lying between Gerschede and Vogelheim. Here direct hits on the Steel Works were thought to have seriously damaged the new electric furnaces and to have caused considerable delay to the constructional work in progress. Several warehouses on the Kanal Hafen, possibly connected with Krupps, were also destroyed.








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