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    Friesland wartime history     by Willem de Jong       page 33     

A Fatal Collision ?

Texel & Den Helder

 

D

Leeuwarden Airfield

Schiermonikoog

Harlingen & Harderwijk

Occupied Harlingen

German Radar

Ameland

Vlieland

Terschelling

St. Jacobparochie

Rottum Island

 

 

408 Squadron was formed at Lindholme, Yorkshire on 24th June 1941, and was the second of the many RCAF bomber squadrons which served overseas in the Second War. The squadron took part in the first 1,000-bomber raid on Germany, flew many missions against naval and industrial targets, and played an active part in Gardening (minelaying) for victory.

Beginning operations with Hampdens during 1941, in July it moved to RAF Balderton in Nottinghamshire and the very first operation was on 11th August 1941 when four Hampdens were sent to bomb Rotterdam docks.

 


Loading mines on a 408 Squadron Hampden at Balderton in 1942 (IWM)

RCAF 408 Squadron's Hampden AT227 EQ-L, with an all British crew, was one of five Hampdens taking off from RAF Balderton, in Nottinghamshire, on the morning of 19th July 1942, to bomb the ‘Moling Area’ (A3) covering the Elbe estuary, near Cuxhaven, N.W. Germany.  

AT227 was carrying four 500 lb. (± 226 kg.) bombs when it took off 20 minutes after the others at 8.40am.

The first four 408 Squadron Hampdens later reported as having flown to an area south of Texel in Northern Holland before turning back to base, each with their eight 250lb bombs still aboard, because of a complete lack of cloud cover. Their reports do not show any encounters with enemy aircraft or anti-aircraft fire.

"RCAF Squadron 75th Anniversary

Just after 11.30am, while over the North Sea, north-west of  Vlieland  island (some sources relate 50 kilometres offshore, more than 30 miles), and probably unaware of the other bombers aborting their mission, Hampden AT227 was suddenly intercepted by a twin engined German night-fighter.

What exactly happened in the following minutes is not clear.

It is thought now that both planes perhaps collided in mid air, or that the fighter succeeded in shooting down the Hampden, but was itself critically damaged, either by debris from the explosion, or from local anti-aircraft fire.

One fact is, however, clear. Both aircraft failed to return to their home bases.

The Luftwaffe crew involved in this happening, was not very experienced in that kind of interception. Uffz. Roman Brejczek - the pilot of Messerschmitt Bf.-110F-4,Wn. 2676, - and his ‘funker’ (radio operator/gunner) Gefr. Wolfgang Benno, both found a ‘sailor’s grave’, with no known burial site, as did three of the RAF airmen.

According to some sources , it must have been in the ‘ Planquadrat B - J ’ area of the so called ‘Jagdtrapeze Holland’ of the Luftwaffe, which is roughly calculated to be longitude - about 4° East, and latitude - about 53° North.

In that area the North Sea is 25 to 30 meters deep. For most of the time the sea water temperature there, in July, is not rising above 16° Cel. (± 61° Fahr.), less than half the normal regular temperature of the human body, and that's while healthy and fit but not someone who is wounded!   Willem

 

The above position is close to that described by the four returning 408 Squadron Hampden pilots as the point when they turned around to abort the mission. Three recorded 53° North, 4° East, and one '8 miles south of Den Helder'. They are believed to have been 20 minutes ahead of AT227.    Tom.

 

Three aircrews pose on a Hampden at RAF Balderton in 1942 (names not known).

 

On the next morning four of 408 Squadron's Hampdens were put on 'standby' to carry out a dinghy search of the crash area. Unfortunately, due to low cloud and poor visibility, that mission had to be called off.

Global weather conditions over N. area of Holland (sea level) - Sunday19th July 1942:  Sunshine max. 2½ hrs. (betw. sunrise 05.43 hrs. - sunset 21.48 hrs.) Rather cloudy to total overcast - rain max. 7½ hrs. - 9.5 mm. in total Visibility, between showers, rather good - at least 30 km. (19 miles) Wind (swelling) NNW till  N (min. / max.) 2.6 - 15.4 m/sec. (5.8 - 34.4 mph.) - heaviest over NW coastal area (w.station‘DeKooy’)  Temp. (min./max.) 12 - 16° Cel. (53.6 - 60.8° Fahr.) Atm. press. ± 1009 hPa. (‘changeable weather’)

The  Dutch-based NZHRM lifeboat ‘Brandaris’(II), was sent out from the harbour at West-Terschelling, probably following a 'Meldung' (alert) from German military authorities after radio contact had been lost with their Messerschmitt.

It searched for several hours, in an area believed to be North of the neighbouring isles of  Vlieland and Texel, until darkness fell, but found no survivors or debris from the two aircraft.

The Dutch skipper Mr. Douwe Tot's ‘Strandingsrapport’ of that search of Sunday the 19th of July, has been catalogued and archived at the NZHRM office (Amsterdam)1942, and is numbered 687.

 

The 'Brandaris' lifeboat which served out of Terschelling from 1923 to 1960, and Douwe Tot's crew.

 

The beautiful old lifeboat ‘Brandaris’ is in the harbour of Terschelling again now. Completely restored and run by volunteers, it is used as a historical museum boat and makes short sea trips with sponsors and paying guests.      

 

The crew of Hampden AT227 EQ-L were, the skipper, Pilot Officer Edward William Swatton, observer Pilot Officer Harold Pearce, and the wireless operator/gunners, Sgt Roland Henry Burley, and Sgt Edward Haville.

Except for the pilot, who is buried in Denmark, the crew have no known graves and are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial near Windsor Castle.

 

Pilot Officer Edward William Swatton was the 29 year old son of Herbert and Martha Swatton, of West Ashling in Sussex.

His father, Keston, Sussex, market gardener Herbert William Swatton (1884-1975), had married a Lancashire girl, Martha Ellen Mellon (1887-1969), at St. Andrew's, West Kensington, London, in March 1911. They made their home with his widowed mother and ran the family market garden, tea-rooms and grocery store.

Their only child, Edward William Swatton, was born at Keston on 14th May 1913.

Herbert served with the Royal Garrison Artillery during World War 1, signing up on December 1915, and recorded his trade as a 'grocer'.

He was posted with 254 Seige Battery to France in the first week of February 1917 and returned to the UK in January 1919.

Local directories record him as a Keston grocer in the 1920s, and a nurseryman during 1930s-50s.

He appears to have retired to West Sussex in the 1960s, as both he and his wife are buried there.

We have no record of when his 29 year old son Edward William Swatton joined the RAF.

He had married a West Sussex girl, Catherine Mary Hair (bn 1915), in 1941 and their home was at New Fishbourne Nursery, Fishbourne near Chichester, Sussex. The couple had no children.

Edward was commissioned to Pilot Officer in January 1942, and was serving with RCAF 408 Squadron at the time of his death. It was his 9th overseas mission, and before this take-off, he had flown a total of 43.50 hrs.

His body was washed ashore on the beach at Lild Strand on the Northern tip of Jutland, in Denmark, in front of  the German's ‘Atlantikwall’ defence line, on the 9th of September 1942, and buried at Frederikshavn cemetery two days later.

A military funeral at Frederikshavn for the RAF crew of Hudson AM715 which crashed near Skjern 23rd November 1941, and the cemetery today.

 

He is the only member from both crews in that crash whose body was recovered. The family's text on his Danish grave says : 'Memories sweetly linger as time goes on its way.'

Edward is remembered inside St. Mary's Church, Chidham, and on nearby Funtingdon's memorial.

 

Uniquely, he is commemorated on more than one of the West Sussex local village war memorials. Edward is named on wall plaques inside St. Mary's church, Chidham, and St. Peter and Mary's, Fishbourne, and also on Funtingdon's War Memorial.

My guess is that though his wife and parents lived in the Chichester rural area they may have belonged to different parish churches.

 

The aircraft's observer, Pilot Officer Harold Pearce, was the 25 year old son of a Gillingham, Kent bank official, Fernley Charles Ewart Pearce, who had married Medora Lissenden in 1911.

The couple had two sons, Harold 1917, and Ronald 1920.

Harold was born at Ware, Hertfordshire in 1917.

His promotion to Pilot Officer, effective from 4th of October, was announced in the London Gazette on December 23rd 1941.

It was the 8th overseas mission with 408 Squadron, and before this take-off, he had flown a total of 33.50 hrs.

The home address at the time of his death was 7 The Avenue, Tiverton, Devon.

His father, Fernley Pearce, was living at Gillingham, Kent, in 1943.

Harold has no known grave and is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, a few miles from Windsor Castle.

 

Sergeant Roland Harry Burley, the wireless operator/gunner, was the 32 year old son of Walter and Beatrice Burley.

Manufacturer's clerk, Walter James Burley and Beatrice May Drinkwater were married at Handsworth, Staffordshire in 1902.

They had four children, Dorothy (1905), Harold (1908), Roland (1909) and Raymond (1915).

Roland Burley's home in 1939 was at 126 Gillott Road, in the city of Birmingham. It was his 10th overseas mission, and before the last take-off, had flown a total of 46.50 hrs.

He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial a few miles from Windsor Castle.

 

The second wireless operator/gunner, Sergeant Edward Haville, was the 26 year old son of Edmund & Eliza Haville of Benwell, Northumberland.

Edmund John Nixon Haville (1883) who was the son of Sgt. Francis Haville, a regular soldier in the Royal Artillery, married Eliza Myers (bn 1882) at Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1908.

The couple had four children, Gertrude 1910, Margaret 1913, Edward 1916, and John 1918, all born at Newcastle.

They were living in the village of Benwell, now part of the city of Newcastle, at the time of their son, Edward's death in 1942.

It was his 7th overseas mission, and before this take-off, he had flown a total of 34.50 hrs.

He also has no known grave and is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, a few miles from Windsor Castle.


The pilot and the gunner of Messerschmitt Bf.-110F-4,Wn. 2676.

About half-way through the morning of Sunday 19th July 1942, 24 year old Austrian pilot, Unteroffizier Roman Brejczek, (a rank roughly equivalent to sergeant in the RAF), and his ‘funker’ (radio operator/gunner) Gefreiter Wolfgang Benno, from Luftwaffe Gruppe II of  NJG.2, stationed at Flgh. Leeuwarden, received an alarm call that an enemy bomber was in his area. It had been detected by the 'Tiger' radar station at Terschelling.

 

A Messerschmitt Bf.-110

 

Roman was directed by the radar operators to intercept a RCAF 408 Squadron Hampden bomber which was crossing the North Sea, north of the Frisian islands.

What exactly happened in the following minutes is not clear.

It is believed now that both planes perhaps collided in mid air, or that the fighter succeeded in shooting down the Hampden, but was itself critically damaged, either by debris from the explosion, or from local anti-aircraft fire. No emergency messages were sent out.

One fact is, however, clear. Both aircraft failed to return to their home bases and

the bodies of the two Luftwaffe airmen never recovered.



Roman Brejczek was the son of Angela and Johann Brejczek. He was born 1918 in Vienna and went to school there. He was a Roman Catholic.

He had two brothers, my father Johann Brejczek (1916-2000) and Kurt Brejczek (1928-2010). 

My grandfather Johann Brejczek was a famous Plate Painter for Promotion in the whole Monarchie. He painted the murals also on housewalls.

Uffz. Roman Brejczek was engaged too be married.  After his death the family lost contact with this young girl.

He was a bookbinder. My father told me that he was a happy person, who played accordion and entertained his friends. He liked sports and boxed.

The photo in uniform was taken 14. Sept 1941 in Munich for my father.

Gabriele Brejczek

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

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