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    Friesland wartime history     by Willem de Jong                  

Friesland  Wartime  History

Texel & Den Helder

 

 

D

Leeuwarden Area

Schiermonikoog

Harlingen & Harderwijk

Occupied Harlingen

Shipdham Airfield & the USAF 44th

Ameland

Vlieland

Terschelling

St. Jacobparochie

Rottum Island

Hindeloopen

12 Squadron Losses

Sink the Scharnhorst!

Runnymede Memorial

 

 

 

Deanweb - the Forest of Dean Directo 

The Runnymede Memorial

 

The Air Forces Memorial, or Runnymede Memorial, in Englefield Green, near Egham, Surrey, England, and only a few miles from Windsor Castle, is dedicated to some 20,456 men and women from the British Empire who were lost in operations from World War II. Those recorded have no known grave anywhere in the world, and many were lost without trace. The name of each of these airmen and airwomen is engraved into the stone walls of the memorial, according to country and squadron.
The roof of the memorial looks over the River Thames and Runnymede Meadow, where the Magna Carta was sealed by King John in 1215. Most of north, west, and central London can be seen to the right from the viewpoint; such monuments as the London Eye and the arch of Wembley Stadium are visible on clear days. Windsor Castle and the surrounding area can be seen to the left.  Wikipedia
Our black & white photograph shows the Memorial shortly before its opening by the Queen in 1953.

S
ee YouTube video

 

Willem, Angeline and Tom visited the memorial on Willem's first trip to the UK in August 2014.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under the inscriptions there were a number of photographs,cards and mementos, left by visiting family members. We photographed some and did a little research...

 

 

 



A birthday card left at Runnymede. Flight Sergeant John England was the husband of Bessie England, of Tooting, Surrey. John was a technician from the B.S.R.U (No 1 Base Signals and Radar Unit) based at RAF Chigwell. On 7 November 1944, a Tank Landing Ship (LST420) which was carrying the main body of the Unit and their equipment to Ostend in atrocious weather, hit a mine and sank.


               A similar craft -they were built for the US Navy at Bethlehem Fairfield Shipyard, Baltimore.
A total of 14 officers and 224 other ranks were lost (only 5 officers and 26 OR were saved). The total revised establishment of the unit was 303 personnel, so this loss effectively wiped it out in one tragic event.  

 

 

 


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The above photos were left by family members at the Runnymede Memorial. They are of two brothers, Alan and Ronald McKillop, the sons of David & Ethel McKillop of Carlisle.
23 year old F/Sgt. Ronald McKillop from 616 Squadron, lost his life in Spitfire BS117 during combat with JG2 during an ASR sortie off Ile de Batz on August 31st 1943.
His brother, 20 year old Sgt. Alan McKillop, of 57 Squadron, was killed on 8th November 1941 when he was the co-pilot of Wellington Z8985 which crashed at Haastrecht, South Holland.
Also lost were two of his crewmates, the wireless operator/gunner, 19 year old Sgt. Arthur Anthony Thomson, from Eastbourne, Sussex, and their RAAF pilot, 25 year old Sgt Andrew Harry Theodore Cook, from Christchurch, New Zealand. They are all buried at Berge-Op-Zoom Canadian War Cemetery.
Wellington Z8985 took off on its last operation at 20.10 on 7th November 1941 from RAF Feltwell.

The remaining three crewmembers: Sgt A C Crease, Sgt. J H D Howes, and Sgt. J L Ledsham, managed to parachute to safety but were quickly captured and made prisoners of war. Sgt A C Crease pow camps 8B/L3/L6/357 no.24503, Sgt. J H D Howes pow camps 8B/L3/L6/357 no.24490, Sgt. J L Ledsham pow camps 8B/L3/L6/357 no.24502 .

Willem has uncovered more information about the crash of Wellington Z8985. 

Luftwaffe night-fighter ace Oblt. Egmont zur Lippe-Weissenfeld and his crew, of unit 5/NJG.2, claimed two Wellingtons on the night of 7/8 Nov. 1941, but unfortunately the exact locations of those incidents are not known.

On the 8th of November 1941,Wellington Z8985 made an emergency landing close to the village of Haastrecht. One of the crew was arrested at 04.30 hrs. (local time) in nearby Schoonhoven; and during the hours following, two more airmen were captured in Bergambacht. The villages of Bergambacht and Schoonhoven; are situated south of Haastrecht, near the river Maas (East of Rotterdam). 

This appears to indicate that the Wellington was descending northwards during its last minutes. The three airmen killed in the crash were buried on November 10th in the General Cemetery at Prins Hendrikstraat, Goude, with a military funeral led by the Germans.

Soon after the service, ' someone ' (an unknown civilian?) laid a wreath in front of the new graves. This caused some irritation to the local authorities who then removed the floral tribute.  Fortunately, in an attempt to maintain peace and order, they did not initiate any reprisals against the civilians.

One of the three captured survivors was Sgt. J.H.D. 'Johnny' Howes (Service No. 905236, and POW No. 24490) who came from Peacehaven, in East Sussex. He was transported into Germany  via Amsterdam/Weteringschans, and interned in the prison camps 8B, L3, L6 and 357.

It is believed that some of Johnny's cartoons and sketches, from life in the camps, are still around today.        

see   http://www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php?topic=713624.0

 

McKillop family member Scott Woodman, who is an RAF pilot and has also recently visited the Runnymede Memorial, wishes to make contact with the relative who left the photos, and anyone who has information about the crew of Wellington Z8985 and the crash.  Tom

 

 

 

 

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.

 

A Dutch crew from a visiting Dornier Do 24 flying boat in Roebuck Bay being taken into Broome by launch on 16th May 1941, and a historic view of the old wharf. The Port was connected to the town by a tramway line which ran from Chinatown to the end of the wharf.

 

Broome, because of its very high tides of 27ft high to low, had an 800 metre wharf with a small train to take passengers passengers/baggage etc to the launches.

During the attack John Charles Oram was able to operate the small train and helped speed up those who were rescued.

Qantas, by this stage, now had all of their flying boats either destroyed by Japanese fighters, or seconded to the RAAF for maritime patrols. Some were used during the formation of 10 Squadron RAAF in 1939. They operated in the UK out of RAF Pembroke Dock with Sunderland flying boats, and were the first RAAF squadron to see enemy action. My thanks to Alan Kitchen for his Qantas research.

Qantas cabin crews were now disbanded and John Oram joined the RAAF. Trained as a pilot at No. 5 Service Flying Training School, near Wagga Wagga, NSW, in early 1943, he was posted to the UK.

After air-crew training with 11 OTU (Operational Training Unit), he arrived with a newly-trained crew at RAF Wickenby on July 1st 1944.

Their first two flights with the squadron were on night-time training exercises.

As was the custom with 'rooky' Lancaster skippers, John Oram's first operational mission was as 2nd pilot. He flew with the experienced Squadron Leader Ravenhill in LM136 UM-D2, to bomb the Foret du Croc V-bomb launching site on July 6th.

On July 7th, on his first overseas mission as a captain, his Lancaster bomber was airborne at 7.37 pm from Wickenby.

Their task was to bomb troops and armour at Caen following the Normandy landings.

The Lancaster reached the target without incident, and at 21.09hrs the bombs were released from 6,000 feet on an excellent concentration of Red T.I.'s (target indicator flares).  

Unfortunately their Lancaster had to be 'ditched' at 10.03 pm having been hit by Flak and set on fire while leaving the target area.

Three of the five survivors were picked up within seven minutes, uninjured, but the fate of the two gunners, Sgt. John Wood, and Sgt. Fred Webb, was unknown.

No bodies were recovered and both are commemorated on Panel 240 of the Runnymede memorial.

 

John Oram and his remaining crew were allowed a short break from overseas missions, and it was July 20th when, with two new gunners, they set off to France to bomb the railway yards at Courtrai.

He was promoted to Flying Officer around that time, and remained operational with 626 Squadron until completing a tour of many dangerous missions on December 29th 1944. In March 1945, a bar was added to his DFC.

He married Joan at Melbourne in 1960, but tragically died in 1966 when only 53.

His son, Wing Commander Mike Oram, also had a distinguished RAAF career.

 

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

Standing L-R, Les Curtain, John Oram, D. E 'Ted' Just, and Trevor Jenkins. Squatting L-R, Jackie Wood, John Bright, and Fred Webb.

Lancaster LM112 - July 7th 1944. 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 Squadron Leader's tent erected in a ditch. He also returned to the UK 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.

 

 


This wreath and card were left  at Runnymede.


Our research into this card uncovered three tragic stories...

29 year old Pilot Officer Angus Carr MacKenzie was the son of John and Jeannie Mackenzie, of Rangiuru, Otaki, Wellington, New Zealand. Before the war he was the company secretary of a garage in Wanganui.
He joined the air force and flew on raids over Germany and France, twice surviving forced landings in the sea.
He was the pilot of Handley Page Halifax Mk II W7699 'TL-F' of 35 Squadron, when his aircraft was shot down by a German night fighter (Ofw. Paul Gildner of II/NJG 2) over the Netherlands during an operation to Essen, 8/9 June 1942 and all the crew were lost.
Three bodies were recovered and are buried at the Hague, Bergen-op-Zoom and Den Burg. Three of the crew, including Angus MacKenzie, were reported MIA and are commemorated at Runnymede.

Angus's fiancé, Jane Winstone, was also a flyer. Both Angus and Jane had qualified for their private pilots A licence with the Wanganui Aero Club before the war.

Jane was keen to help the war effort and wanted to join the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) in Britain. The auxilary ferried planes to air bases, delivered mail and secret documents and transported service personnel on urgent duties.

Shortly before leaving New Zealand in June, 1942, she received word that her fiance was missing on a raid over Essen in Germany.

 She arrived in England in August 1942. After passing her tests she was appointed to the ATA, one of five New Zealanders among the 90 women who served with that unit during the war.

She ferried a variety of planes which was hazardous work.

She had to fly solo, radio contact was forbidden and sudden changes in weather meant unscheduled landings in difficult circumstances. Pilots also had to be on constant alert for barrage balloons.

In January 1941 the famous English pilot Amy Johnson had been killed flying for the ATA.

Jane worked her way up to second officer and ferried Hurricanes and Spitfires in her everyday work. She also flew Supermarine Spitfires, Hawker Hurricanes and also a Gloucester Gladiator for a film depicting the Battle of Crete.

By early 1944, she was flying from the Cosford airbase in Shropshire.

After taking off on February 10, 1944, the engine of her Spitfire failed at 600 feet. Her plane spun to the ground near Tong Castle and she was killed.

A talented pilot and a courageous woman, Jane Winstone was one of 16 women from the ATA killed during the war. She was buried in  All Saints cemetery, at Maidenhead, in Berkshire.

Two of Angus's brothers served with the army. Dugald, a sergeant, was sent home from the Middle East in 1942 after being wounded. His eldest brother, Lt. Andrew McKenzie, served with distinction in a British regiment.

Tragically Angus's youngest brother, 21 year old Squadron Leader Donald Carr MacKenzie DFC, the Flight Commander of 467 Squadron, was also killed during an operation to Dusseldorf a year and three days later (11/12 June 1943) in Lancaster W4983.

An extremely experienced pilot, this was meant to be the last mission of his tour.

He and his crew are buried at Rheinberg War Cemetery

 

 

 

 

A Wreath for Sergeant Dennis R Ward of 15 Squadron


 

Lancaster NN700 LS-Q from 15 Squadron took off on 7th August 1944 at 21.47hrs. from R.A.F. Mildenhall to bomb Rocquecourt, one of the strong points in the Normandy battle area. It is believed to have been shot down by Ofhr. Johannes Naskrent of 2./NJG2 at around 00.12 hrs and crashed in the English Channel northwest of Fécamp, France.

Six of the crew are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, but F/O Leah is buried in Walsden (St Peter) Church at Todmorden, Yorkshire.

The crew were - pilot F/Lt John Potter Ball Sgt. Dennis R.Ward, F/O Edmund Leah,  F/O  Bernard Wrenshall RCAF,  F/O George Bovett, Sgt. Albert Barkshire, and Sgt. George Morrison.

The pilot, 24 year old Flight Lieutenant John Potter Ball, was the son of John Potter Ball and Florence Clare Ball, and the husband of Dorothy Margaret Copple, of Liverpool.

Photos kindly supplied by John Potter Ball's daughter, Jackie.

 


Their best man, 25 year old Flight Lieutenant Ronald Tetlow Forgan, from St. Andrews in Scotland, was commissioned as a pilot at the start of the war and only survived until 11th June 1944.

He died with his 10 crewmates while serving as 2nd pilot on Sunderland flying-boat ML762-U of 228 Squadron of RAF Coastal Command, based at RAF Pembroke Dock, which is believed to have been shot down by a German U-Boat while on patrol in the Bay of Biscay.

He also has no known grave and is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

 

F/O George William Bovett,the wireless operator, was fromCamberwell, London. Born there on December 1st 1913, he was the son of milk-carrier George Harrington Bovett (b1874), and Margaret Canet (b1878), who were married at Lambeth in 1900. George was their second youngest child, and the only boy in a family of seven. At that time the family lived at 38 Councillor Street, Camberwell.

George had 6 sisters: Margaret Hannah Farmer (Bovett) 1901, Louisa Dorothy Heath (Bovett) 1903, Ellen Scotton Andrews (Bovett) 1905, Fanny Sophia Bovett - 1907, May Honorine Cutting (Bovett) 1909, and Elizabeth Bovett - 1911.

Loved by his sisters, he was known as a prankster with a great sense of humour. His death had a devastating impact on all the family.

He married Jane (Jenny) Bryant at Camberwell, London, in 1938, and the couple had two children, John (1940) and Jennifer (1942).

Sergeant George (Geordie) Morrisonwas the son of Arthur and Florence Morrison of 27 Ainsworth Avenue, Belfast, Co.Antrim. Born in August 1925, he had an older brother William Arthur Irwin who served on HMS Starling under Captain F.J.Walker on anti submarine warfare mainly in the Atlantic, and a younger brother Ernest. A sister Florence was a child when George died and now lives in Canada. He was known as “Geordie” by family and friends and was a keen billiards player. It is believed that he enlisted straight into the Air Force from school. Researched by: Linda Ibrom

Flying Officer Bernard Hartley Wrenshall (31) was one of three sons and one daughter born to Will and Maude Wrenshall of the Milden District, Victoria, British Columbia. The three Wrenshall boys all enlisted in the RCAF. The province of British Columbia honoured Flying Officer Wrenshall by naming Wrenshall Lake in his honour.

Bernard was born at Milden, Saskatchewan, on November 4th 1913. He attended Milden High School from 1929-1932 and then, for the next 9 years, was employed as a farm-worker. In 1941 he decided to change employment and after a short course at the local technical college, became a sheet metal worker. He enlisted in the RCAF on 25th May 1942, and after several training courses, passed out as a bomb-aimer with the rank of sergeant in August 1943. Bernard was posted overseas to the UK in October 1943, and after more bomb-aimer instruction, was sent to 12 OTU (Operational Training Unit) at RAF Chipping Warden in Oxfordshire, for aircrew training on 11th January 1944. Heavy bomber training on Lancasters with 1678 CF at RAF Waterbeach, in Cambridgeshire followed, and it was on the 10th July 1944 when he was posted to 15 Squadron, who were based at RAF Mildenhall, in Suffolk.

 

37 year old Albert Leslie Barkshire was the son of George and Clara Barkshire and husband of Annie Elizabeth Barkshire, of Morden, Surrey.

The navigator, Flying Officer Edmund Leah, was the only crewman whose body was recovered. He was the 21 year old son of cotton weaver,William Leah and his wife Alice, of Walsden, Todmorden, Yorkshire. At the time of his burial at Walsden, the family were  living at 3 Industry Street.

Sergeant Dennis Reginald Ward, the flight engineer, was the 23 year old son of Reginald Townsend Ward and Lilian Beatrice Caygill, of Ruislip, Middlesex, who were married at St. Michael, Chiswick on 2nd July 1919.

Dennis's birth was registered at Islington, Middlesex in 1921.

He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

 

 

 

 

The crew of Lancaster JB640 from 156 Pathfinders Squadron, now have a known grave.

The MOD released a statement in April 2016. "We have discovered the identity of some unknown airmen who are buried in communal graves in Berlin War Cemetery. We have unfortunately not been able to pinpoint which crew members are contained within the grave but we do know that they came from Lancaster JB640 (156 Squadron) and Halifax LK709 (77 Squadron).

We are now in the process of changing the headstone to reflect that the graves contain the crew members of these two planes. We are planning to hold a rededication service on 27 April at 1100hrs for Lancaster JB640 and 1400 for Halifax LK709.

The rededication services will concentrate on commemorating all of the crew members for each aircraft lost during WW2. 

We have several family members attending, including the widow of one of the pilots. The Defence Attaché will also be present.

Wreaths will be layed and our Berlin Branch of the Royal British Legion  will be in attendance.

Anyone finding themselves in Berlin on Monday 25th and Wednesday 27th are welcome to attend."

 

Lancaster JB640 was lost on the night of 2/3 January 1944 on a sortie to Berlin.

The crew were - pilot, 23 year old Pilot Officer John Donald Range Cromarty from Liverpool, navigator - 23 year old Sergeant Frederick Edwin Woolven from Littlehampton, Sussex, flight engineer - 21 year old Sergeant Leonard Norman Lapthorne from Birmingham, bomb aimer - 20 year old Flight Sergeant Dennis Frederick Burtenshaw of Morden, Surrey, wireless operator - 20 year old Sergeant Norman Henry Colebatch from Walsall in Staffordshire, mid-upper gunner - 31 year old Flight Sergeant Reginald Joseph Collens from Uxbridge, Middlesex, and rear gunner - 20 year old Flight Sergeant Kenneth Sidney James Chapman from Westbury, Wiltshire.

The Germans later reported via the Red Cross that two identified members of the crew, Flight Sergeant Collens and Sergeant Woolven, and five unknowns, had died, but no burial details were provided.

After the war the Missing Research and Enquiries Unit (MREU) found a ring attached to the German investigation file, belonging to F/Sgt Burtenshaw. However, due to the difficulties and restrictions of investigating in the Russian Zone of Berlin in the immediate post-war era, MREU was unable to find any graves for this crew. They did, however, state that it was believed that some of the bodies were still buried with the aircraft wreckage in marshy ground.

All seven crew members were commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, but the relatives were notified that further investigations would be made when circumstances permitted. The matter rested there until 1976 when the Russians handed over to the British authorities in Berlin, the remains of four individuals which they said came from the crash site of a Second World War Lancaster Bomber found in East Berlin

 

In May 1976 a news report in the London Daily Telegraph read - "The remains of four members of the crew of an RAF Lancaster which crashed near Berlin during the 1939-45 War being handed over yesterday by Soviet troops to RAF men on Glienicke Bridge, which marks the border with East Germany. The Russians recently found the plane's wreckage in woods. If the relatives cannot be traced, the remains of the men will be buried in West Berlin."


 

Further research by the Air Historical Branch now led to the belief that the four "Unknown Airmen" buried in Berlin War Cemetery,were four crew members of Lancaster JB640 of 156 Pathfinders Squadron.

The remains were examined by a pathologist who determined that they belonged to four adult males who had been dead for at least thirty years. However, he was unable to identify any individuals, even after referring to their service medical records.

They were then buried as "Unknown Airmen".

UK representatives were taken to see the wreckage, then at a scrap compound, and allowed to take it to the British Zone for further examination.

At RAF Gatow, on August 26th, the aircraft was identified by the discovery of the aircraft serial number hand painted on both machine guns, and a serial number on one of the propeller hubs.

The propeller had a circular hole ½ inch in diameter in one blade, 2 feet from the tip and in the mid-chord area.

The hole in the propeller’s blade was found to be consistent with 13mm calibre damage; probably indicating that the aircraft had been attacked by a fighter.

Experts later deduced that if the attack was in the target area, it would almost certainly have been from a single-engined "Wild Boar" fighter, whose secondary armament was 13mm calibre.

 

 

 

 

 

Rebecca Owen's photographs

 

The pilot, 23 year old Pilot Officer John Donald Range Cromarty, was born on 29th January 1921 in Liverpool. His parents were Ernest Cecil Cromarty and Margaret Agnes Range. The address at the time of his death was Berwick Gardens, Little Sutton, Cheshire. 

His father Ernest Cromarty was employed as the superintendent at the popular Rivacre Swimming pool which was situated just outside Ellesmere Port. He had married Margaret Range in 1916, and the couple had two children.

John's only sibling, Margaret, was born in 1925, but tragically died the same year.

We know nothing of his early RAF service, but records show that Sgt. Cromarty arrived at 1656 HCU RAF Lindholme (a Lancaster & Halfax training school in Yorkshire) in mid-July 1943.

On the 20th of July he flew on a four engine bomber familiarisation flight in a Halifax bomber with his newly picked crew, and on the 26th of July was airborne for the first time in an Avro Lancaster.

Seven more flights followed when they carried out air to sea firing, practice bombing and fighter affiliation in which a fighter would make mock attacks for the gunners to simulate returning fire. 

During one of those training flights, on 3rd August 1943, Lancaster W4781, piloted by Sgt John Cromarty, crashed on landing at Lindholme airfield in the early hours of the morning. The landing was made without using the flaps but the trainee pilot landed on the shorter runway, overshot into a field and broke the undercarriage. Apparently no crew-members were injured.

From RAF Lindholme the crew were posted to 12 Squadron at RAF Wickenby on August 15th 1943.

After three training flights the crew's first overseas operation was to Nuremburg on August 27th.

As was the custom, new skippers flew as 2nd pilot on their first mission. Their pilot on Lancaster JA865 was RAF Wickenby's commanding officer, Group Captain Bertram Crummy, and it says much for the Group Captain that he set an example to his crews as strictly speaking, he was not supposed to fly on Ops with his rank and position.

Their next overseas mission was on August 30th where the target was Munchen Gladbach, followed by a trip to Berlin the following night.

After completing three more dangerous missions, the crew were posted to RAF Upwood in Cambridgeshire to be trained with the elite Pathfinders.

Their specialised instruction took place between September 25th-28th 1943.

They were then posted to 156 Pathfinders Squadron based at RAF Warboys, the  squadron with the highest loss rate in Bomber Command.  

Their first “Op” was on the 1st of October to be in the forefront of a 261 bomber raid on the factories at Hagen, in the Ruhr.

On 22nd November 1943 their flight engineer, Sgt T McCartney, was replaced by F/Sgt L.W.Lapthorne and in mid-December F/Sgt. Cromarty was promoted to Pilot Officer.

During December, most of their overseas missions were over Berlin, and it was on January 2nd 1944 when a total of 383 aircraft consisting of 362 Lancasters, 12 Mosquitos, and 9 Halifaxes took off to visit 'the Big City' again.

Pilot Officer Cromarty's crew were flying Lancaster JB640. It was to be their 19th and final mission.The squadron had intended to fly 18 Pathfinder Lancasters but only 14 took off, and one of those had to turn back due to engine failure.

In the main RAF Bomber Force, a confusing radio message lead some 60 aircraft to turn back.

German fighter controllers followed the rest of the aircraft on radar all the way to the target but were late in achieving contact with the night fighters until they were in the Berlin area.

27 Lancasters were lost,10% of the force that had continued to the target. 10 Pathfinder aircraft were lost and 156 Squadron alone lost 5 of their 13 aircraft taking part.

One German night-fighter pilot was credited with shooting down 5 Lancasters over Berlin.

The deaths of the crew of Lancaster JB640 were confirmed by the RAF's Casualty Branch on July 3rd 1944, and on 8th of August they added “All seven members of the Lancaster are reported to have lost their lives when it was shot down on the 3rd of January 1944, but only the bodies of Flt Sgt Collens and Sergeant Woolven, the navigator, were identified."

Further information was passed to the relatives on 6th December 1946, reporting that the aircraft was shot down by anti-aircraft fire near Hellersdorf, East Berlin, and only two bodies were identified.

John Cromarty had no known grave and was commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

Rebecca Owen from Worcestershire only came to learn of her cousin when she was contacted by a complete stranger, called Maureen, who was involved in tracing Mr Cromarty’s relatives.

59 year old Rebecca has now unearthed the only surviving picture of Jack Cromarty, from her mum’s photo albums, which show the future Pilot Officer, aged around three, with the words, ‘Jack raided Berlin 1944', written underneath.

Rebecca Owen is disabled and so unable to get to Germany to attend the service, but she sent a close friend to represent the family.

She told a Liverpool newspaper: “John was born in 1921, so I never met him. His mother and my grandfather were brother and sister."

“I’ve gone over what his parents went through when they got that telegram and spending the rest of time not knowing what had become of him.

It’s fantastic what the Ministry of Defence has done to help find me.

This holds personal resonance for me. It’s very admirable.

Those men were so young and it’s only right their names should be on their graves.”

 

F/Sgt. Reg Collens Sgt. Norman Colebatch  Sgt. Fred Woolven F/Sgt. Ken Chapman

 

Flt Sgt Dennis Frederick Burtenshaw, the bomb-aimer, was born on 2nd July 1923, in Burwood, Sydney, Australia, the son of English-born Arthur & Florence Burtenshaw.

His family returned to to the UK in the 1920s and settled at Lewes, in Sussex, UK.

He married Bridget Amelia Kelly at Morden, in the latter part of 1943 and their last address was Seddon Road, Morden, South London.

Dennis Burtenshaw came to us when his parents moved into the East Sussex area.

He returned to his first school for a final year when his parents again left East Sussex.

All the more reason for paying tribute to his loyalty to us. We understand that the school scarf always accompanied him on his flights over Germany and that his school cap hung, in his room.

While at Lewes he proved himself an excellent swimmer, and gained the bronze medallion of the Royal Life Saving Society.

After holding a clerical appointment with the Brighton Electricity Company, he joined the R.A.F.

His prowess as an airman can be judged from the fact that he was on Pathfinders. He lost his life in a raid on Berlin when only twenty.

A quiet determined fellow; we feel deeply for his parents in their sad loss. The Magazine Of The Lewes County School For Boys, December 1944.

A receipt on Sgt’s Mess notepaper dated the 5th of November reveals that Reg Collens, whose wife Gladys was then living at Wembley Park, and 23 year old Dennis Burtenshaw, the crew's bomb-aimer, who lived at Morden, only 14 miles away,  purchased a motor bike, registration VM 6882, from a Sergeant Phelan for £6. 

 

F/Sgt Reginald Joseph Collens was born on the 3rd September 1912 at Upper Norwood, Surrey, the third son of 30 year old cheesemonger's assistant, William Willoughby Augustus Collens, and his wife, 30 year old Louisa Arnold, who were married in the London suburb of Lambeth in 1907.

He had two brothers, William Arnold Collens (born 1908), and John Ewart Collens who was born in 1910, but died when only five years old.

Reg was employed in the printing trade as a linotype operator. He was living with his parents at Melden Road, Kentish Town, when he married 25 years old Gladys Maud Baigent at West Norwood, Lambeth, in August 1937.

He enlisted in the RAF at Euston, London, in November 1942 to train as aircrew.

After initial training, and gunnery instruction at No. 7 Air Gunnery School at the aptly named RAF Stormy Down, in Glamorganshire, he was promoted to sergeant, and posted to 81 OTU ( Operational Training Unit), based at RAF Ashbourne in Shropshire, for aircrew instruction, on May 4th 1943.

The 20th of July 1943 saw him on Lancaster bomber instruction with No 1656 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Lindholme in Yorkshire, where he joined Sgt Jack Cromarty and his crew. At 31 he was the oldest, the average age of his six crewmates was 22.

From there, on the 15th August 1943, with his total Lancaster flying time of 27 hours and 40 minutes, he and his crewmates were posted to 12 Squadron based at RAF Wickenby in Lincolnshire.

The new crew must have impressed their superiors as, after only five dangerous overseas missions, they were either selected or volunteered, for the elite Pathfinder Force, and sent, for further specialised training, to the Pathfinder Force Navigation Training Unit at RAF Upwood in Cambridgeshire.

From there he was posted to 156 Squadron of 8 Group Pathfinder Force based at RAF Warboys, 7 miles North East of Huntingdon, on October 1st.

A receipt on Sgt’s Mess notepaper dated the 5th of November reveals that Reg, whose wife Gladys was then living at Wembley Park, and 23 year old Dennis Burtenshaw, the crew's bomb-aimer, who lived near Croydon, only 14 miles away,  purchased a motor bike, registration VM 6882, from a Sergeant Phelan for £6. 

In mid-December his promotion to flight sergeant came through.

His final overseas mission was to Berlin in Lancaster JB640 on the night of 2/3 January 1944.

Next day a telegram was delivered to Gladys Collens at 16 Wentworth Hill, Wembley Park. It read: REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT YOUR HUSBAND F/SGT REGINALD COLLENS IS MISSING AS THE RESULT OF AIR OPERATION STOP LETTER FOLLOWS STOP ANY FURTHER INFORMATION RECEIVED WILL BE COMMUNICATED TO YOU IMMEDIATELY STOP PENDING RECEIPT OF WRITTEN NOTIFICATION FROM THE AIR MINISTRY NO INFORMATION. 

Tragically he never saw his daughter Christine. She who was born the following July.

The crew's deaths were confirmed by the RAF's Casualty Branch on July 3rd 1944, and on 8th of August they added "“All seven members of the Lancaster are reported to have lost their lives when it was shot down on the 3rd of January 1944, but only the bodies of Flt Sgt Collens, and Sergeant Woolven, the navigator, were identified." 

Further information was passed to the relatives on 6th December 1946, reporting that the aircraft was shot down by anti-aircraft fire near Hellersdorf, East Berlin, and only two bodies were identified.

 

The wireless operator Sergeant Norman Henry Colebatch was from Leamore, near Walsall in Staffordshire. He was the 20 year old son of William and Evelyn Colebatch. Before joining the RAF he was employed as a clerk with the Highgate Brewery in Walsall.

Norman is commemorated on Panel 227 at the Runnymede Memorial, and is remembered every Remembrance Sunday at Bloxwich's War Memorial.

 

 

The navigator - 23 year old Sergeant Frederick Edwin Woolven from Littlehampton, Sussex, was the son of Frederick and Ellen Mary Woolven. He married Joan Marie West, in 1941.

 The West Sussex Gazette  in April 2016 reported - Littlehampton relatives of Sergeant Fred Erwin ’Chick’ Woolven have been invited to attend a formal service in Berlin on April 27.

The Second World War RAF navigator went missing, presumed dead, on January 3, 1944, and the family knew nothing more about his whereabouts until the Ministry of Defence contacted them late last year.

His grandson, Michael Woolven, said: “It was a relief to a certain degree that they found the remains, because as a child, you wonder if he bailed out, lost his memory and got stuck in Berlin.

I think it’s put the end to the story, the wondering what happened.”

Chick Woolven’s Lancaster bomber was identified in 1976 during excavation work, but due to the politics of the time, regulations prevented the release of information.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, communication between the former East Germany and the West opened up again.

Michael and his sister were eventually informed by the Ministry of Defence in November that a pathologist’s report had identified their grandfather’s remains.

Nicknamed for his quiet and shy disposition, Chick was the first Burpham pupil to win a scholarship to Chichester High School.

He was awarded a scholarship to Oxford, but turned the place down as his parents could not afford to send him. Instead, he stayed in Arundel to become a railway clerk, where he met and married Joan Marie. In 1941, he volunteered for the RAF and was assigned to the 156 Path Finders Force in 1944 (1943).

The elite squadron dropped flares over Germany to allow the following bombers to hit their targets.

He was declared missing on his 19th mission during a sortie over Berlin. His son, named after him as Frederick Erwin Woolven, was born seven months later.

Frederick Erwin junior became a telephone engineer at Littlehampton post office, and made enquiries to the West Sussex Gazette after the paper published a photo of his father’s cricket team from 1938.

In a tribute piece, the West Sussex Gazette recalled Chick as ‘a good scholar, a man much respected in and around Arundel’.

The re-dedication at Berlin war cemetery will be attended by Chick’s grandchildren and wider family.

Frederick Woolven is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, and also on a plaque inside the church of St Mary the Virgin, Burpham near Arundel.

 

The rear gunner, 20 year old F/Sgt Kenneth Sidney James Chapman from Westbury, Wiltshire,was born in September 1923. He was the son of Edgar Sidney Chapman and Daisy Brewer who were married in 1922. Ken had one sister, Olive W M Chapman who was born in 1928. She married Ernest R Davis at Warminster in 1947.

In April 2016, Kenneth Chapman’s second cousin, Alison Calderan, from Yate, was scrolling through Facebook when she saw the MOD statement shared in a Westbury discussion group, was in a state of shock. She said: “My initial reaction was a mixture of shock and excitement. It was the only thing that loaded on my screen to start with, as if it appeared there by magic."

“My mum and Kenneth were first cousins and got on very well, they were almost like brother and sister. When he joined the RAF all those years ago she feared that he wouldn’t return, and she was sadly right.

She always presumed that he was just missing and was in denial that he was dead.

She passed away just before Christmas, but if she was still alive, I’m sure it would’ve been very emotional for her to find out that he did indeed die.

We all want to say thank you to the MOD for releasing the statement. It's nice for our family to have closure."

Mr Chapman’s nephew, Ken Davis, 63, of Meadow Lane in Westbury, was informed of the statement by his cousin and initially could not believe it.

Mr Davis said: “It’s all quite amazing really, I’m still finding it hard to believe that we as a family now have closure on the matter.

“However, it is a shame the discovery didn’t happen a few years ago, as that would have meant some more of his close relatives who have since sadly passed away would have also had closure.

“I was too young to know him well when he was alive but I’ve heard a lot about him in the past from grandparents.

“It’s crazy, almost scary, to think that he was enlisted into the RAF at the age of just 17, but I guess that was the norm back then.”

“We’re now planning our trip to Berlin and are looking forward to it. We’d like to find out more as we don’t really know a lot about it. ”

 

The flight engineer was F/Sgt Leonard Norman Lapthorne. He was the 21 year old son of Percival Lapthorne and Winifred Ashton, of Small Heath, Birmingham. The couple, who were married in December 1922, had six children, tragically, Percival died in 1938 at Birmingham, while only 39 years of age.

Leonard was not one of the original crew. He joined them at 156 Squadron when he took the place of their flight engineer, Sgt T. McCartney, on 22nd November 1943.

He is commemorated on Panel 219 at the Runnymede Memorial.

In June 2004 there was a message in the Birmingham Evening Mail from one of his sisters. "I would desperately like to make contact with the lady (or any relative) who was engaged to my beloved brother, Flight Sgt Leonard Lapthorne, aged 21 years in 1944." There is no record of any reply.

 

Acknowledgements and thanks to Bob Osborne from the Mid-Sussex Branch of the Aircrew Association, who provided much of the information, Rebecca Owen, for her input and photos, and to Nicola Nash of the Ministry of Defense, for really going 'above and beyond.'


 

 

 

 

 

 

Willem's Introduction

14

Ameland in war-time

25

Texel  & Den Helder 

1

Friesland War-time Crashes

14b

Ameland,166 & 75 Sqdn.

26

Hindeloopen

2

Friesland Cemeteries

14c

Ameland Graves

27

Destroy the Scharnhorst!

3

Leeuwarden area

15

Terschelling

28

Destroy the Scharnhorst! 2

3a

Wirdum Remembers

15b

Terschelling 2

28a

Destroy the Scharnhorst! 3

4

Schiermonnikoog

16

Sage War Cemetery

29

12 Squadron in World War 2

4b

Schiermonnikoog  part 2

16b

RAF Topcliffe & 424 Sqdn.

30

The Runnymede Memorial

5

Harlingen

17

Vlieland Cemetery

31

Vuren at war

6

Kallenkote Cemetery

18

Jacobiparochie

32

Makkum Cemetery

7

Wartime Harlingen

19

Hampden AE 428, & Koudum

33

A fatal collision?

8

RCAF 428 Ghost Squadron

20

Willem's War-time photos

34

Hudson & Ventura losses

9

Zwolle's ' De Groene ' group

21

Shipdham Airfield & the 44th

34a

Hudson & Ventura losses

10

408 Squadron's Leipzig raid

21b

68th Squadron's Casualties

35

101 Squadron

11

Friesland radar

22

Rottum Island

12

Lancasters DS776  & JA921

23

Bergen General Cemetery

13

Cartoons

24

Lemmer

   

 

 

 

back to 626 Squadron

 

 

 

 

 

 email-address:  w.jong1@upcmail.nl

 

 

 

 

uk :      tom.bint2@gmail.com