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    Friesland wartime history     by Willem de Jong       page 34    

Hudson and Ventura bomber losses in 1942

Texel & Den Helder

 

D

Leeuwarden Airfield

Schiermonikoog

Harlingen & Harderwijk

Occupied Harlingen

German Radar

Ameland

Vlieland

Terschelling

St. Jacobparochie

Rottum Island

 

 

407 Squadron of RCAF Coastal Command, which served at RAF Bircham Newton, and Docking, near Kings Lynn in Norfolk, during most of 1942, earned its 'Demon' nickname from its fearless low-level attacks on enemy shipping in the North Sea.

It chalked up the highest numbers of ships sunk or seriously damaged in a single month.

 

At the National Air Force Museum of Canada, Ontario.

 

Losses of aircraft and crews reached a peak in 1942, when at least three aircraft were being lost for every ship sunk or seriously damaged.

The Canadian 407 Squadron and Dutch 320 Squadron, who flew combined operations with their Hudson aircraft, bore the brunt of these losses.

 

Hudson 111A  FH346 RR-A of 407 RCAF Squadron, together with four other aircraft, was detailed to attack an enemy convoy, believed to number 13 vessels off Den Helder. They took off from RAF Station Bircham Newton, at 2335 hours on the night of 19/20th June 1942. 

Four aircraft returned from the mission, one had attacked a ship of 2000 tons, and was slightly damaged by flak. Nothing was heard from FH 346 and it failed to return to base. 

Its crew were RCAF P/O P. C Little, (Pilot),  RCAF Sgt. L. L Aikenhead, (Observer), RAAF Sgt. A. S Bennett, (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner), and RAAF Sgt. T. M Duffy, (Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner). 

The bodies of Sgt Bennett (RAAF) and Sgt Aikenhead (RCAF) were washed ashore on the East Freisian Islands. Sgt Bennett is buried in the Sage War Cemetery and Sgt Aikenhead in the Delfzul General Cemetery, Netherlands.

In 1949 it was placed on record that the other two missing crew members, PO Little and Sgt Duffy, had lost their lives at sea and have no known graves.

Their names are commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing, at Runnymede, near Windsor, UK.

(RCAF) Pilot Officer Patrick Campbell  Little, the pilot, was the 22 year old son of Dr. Herbert M. Little and his wife Mary, of Montreal, in the Province of Quebec, Canada.

Patrick was born on September 11th, 1919. Around that time the family were living at 261 Peel Street in Montreal.

His father, Herbert, was a well known gynaecologist allianced with both Montreal General Hospital and McGill University where Patrick was later a student. He worked as a lecturer in both Canada and the USA, and wrote a number of medical articles for medical publications.

Patrick Little attended McGill University. He was a member of the 1938 Freshman's Rugby Club and graduated with a BA in 1941.

He then joined the RCAF and was on Course 32 at No.8 SFTS at Monkton between May 28th and September 5th, where he was trained as a pilot.

His UK training included air-crew instruction at No.1 OTU (Coastal Command) and then being posted with his new crew to 407 Squadron on 29th April 1942.

On the crew's first overseas operation, they were one of two new crews who flew out from Bircham Newton at around midnight on 7th June1942.

Patrick Little's Aussie gunners successfully attacked, and set on fire, a medium sized (1000 tons) enemy vessel off the Dutch coast.

They were not so fortunate on their second mission.

His name was published in ‘The Ottawa Journal’ of January 23, 1943, in a newspaper article under the title ‘Missing, believed killed during air operations’. At that time the family was living at 3419 Stanley Street in Montreal.

 

McGill University

 

Patrick's name is remembered on the ‘Honour-roll’ of McGill University,which is kept in their Memorial Hall. He is also commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial in the UK and the Book of Remembrance in the Memorial Chamber of the Canadian Parliament Building in Ottawa.

 

(RCAF) F/Sgt. Lloyd Lawrence Aikenhead, the aircraft's Observer, was the 25 year old son of storekeeper Frank Aikenhead, and his wife Iva Jane Bell of Greenway village near Greenway Lake, in Manitoba. 

Lloyd was born on Dec. 23, 1916, at Wellwood (Manitoba), and went to school at Wellwood and Altamont, from 1920 to 1927, Neelin High School from 1930-33, and Fort William College from 1934-5. From 1935 until 1941, he was employed as a clerk in his father's store.

He enlisted in the RCAF at Manning, Toronto in February 1941. He was then on training courses at No.3 Elementary Flying Training School and No. 4 Air Observers School at RCAF station Crumlin, near London, Ontario.

He passed out as an Observer with sergeant's stripes on 7th November 1941, and married 25 year old Annie Muriel Bell, who came from Baldur, Manitoba, in December 1941. On 8th January 1942 he was posted to the UK.

Lloyd arrived at 3PRC (Commonwealth Reception Centre) based at RAF Bournemouth on 21st January.

A posting to a flying training school followed and then on March 10th he was moved to No.1 Coastal OTU (Operational Training Unit) based at RAF Silloth in Cumbria, where he joined RCAF P/O Patrick Little's crew as an Observer to train on day and night flying with Hudson bombers.

When that course was completed he and his crewmates were posted to RCAF Coastal Command's 407 Squadron, at RAF Bircham Newton, on 29th April 1942.

It was only on his 2nd operational mission when he lost his life.

Flight Sergeant Lloyd Lawrence Aikenhead is buried at Delfzijl General Cemetery (Province of Groningen) - plot B, class 2B,-  row 21, grave 290

The bottom line text on his tombstone says ‘Ever remembered by his wife, son, mother, father, and brothers’. 

 

 

His grave at Delfzijl, and the monument at Altamont Cemetery erected by the Royal Canadian Legion, and incorrectly inscribed WW1.

 

He had at least two brothers, named Wayne and Allan, both pilots in the RCAF during WW2, and who fortunately survived the war.

Lloyd's name is remembered more than once.

It can be found in the ‘Manitoba & N.W. Ontario Command Military Service Recognition Book’, of the Royal Legion, volume 1 / page 9 (www.mbnwo.ca); and on the local War Memorial, in the cemetery, of Altamont village (near St. Lupicin Valley).

He is also commemorated in the Book of Remembrance (WW2) page 54 (1942) - in the Canadian Parliament Building in Ottawa, and mentioned on the 407 Demon Squadron Roll of Honour - carved in stone - in front of the National Air Force Museum of Canada, at Ontario.

Sadly he never saw his only son Larry, and his widow Annie did not re-marry. She passed away in 2009 aged 93.

 

RAAF Sergeant Alfred Stevenson Bennett, the wireless operator/gunner, was the 26 year old son of Frank Stevenson Bennett (1886-1934) and Gertrude Molloy (1894-1932) who were married at Tamworth, NSW in 1915. (On some records the spelling is Stephenson)

Both of his parents were quite young when they died in the 1930s at the mining town of Broken Hill, NSW. The family were then living at the local post office where Frank was employed as overseer of mails after he moved from Tamworth post office in 1927.

Nothing is known of Alfred's life from that time but his home address was Argent Street, Broken Hill, when he enlisted in the RAAF.

He married Olga in the city of Adelaide, South Australia, in January 1941.

Alfred was among a large number of RAAF and RNZAF passengers on board the luxury liner 'SS Monterey' when it left Sydney on September 18th 1941 en route to San Francisco, where it arrived on October 1st. The servicemen's final destination was Canada and its RCAF aircrew training camps.

When the cruise liner was back at its berth in San Francisco, news came of the attack on Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941.

The 'SS Monterey' was quickly refitted to hold 3,500 soldiers, and on 16 December 1941 she steamed to Hawaii with 3,349 fresh troops, and later returned to the USA with 800 casualties from the Japanese attack.

We know nothing of Alfred's service history except for his arrival at 407 Squadron from No.1 OTU, on 29th April 1942.

He is buried in Sage War Cemetery, near Oldenburg, Lower Saxony, N.W. Germany - grave 5.C.12. and his name is recorded on the Broken Hill Roll of Honour.

 

 

Sergeant Thomas Michael Duffy, the second wireless operator/gunner, was the 29 year old son of Patrick and Catherine Duffy of Nedlands, West Australia.

He was born at Condobolin, New South Wales, in 1912.

His father, Patrick, was a carpenter and listed as living at Coode Street, Fremantle, Perth, WA, in 1943.

 

His name is on the Condobolin War Memorial

 

Thomas Michael Duffy, a qualified accountant, whose home was at 93 Stirling Highway, Nedlands, was married to Enid Mary, and employed as an officer of the Agricultural Bank of Western Australia before he enlisted in the RAAF in 1941.

This was only his second overseas mission.

He has no known grave and is commemorated on Condobolin War Memorial at his birth-place, and the Runnymede Memorial, a few miles from Windsor Castle in the UK.

Sergeant Lloyd Lawrence Aikenhead (air observer) was flying in a Lockheed Hudson FH 346 aircraft out of RAF Bircham Newton, Norfolk, England when his plane was lost at sea presumed shot down on June 21st, 1942. On the shipping raid with him were Pilot Officer Little, a Sergeant Bennett and my great-uncle, Thomas Michael Duffy (aged 29) who was an Australian gunner serving with the RCAF 407 Squadron nicknamed "Demon". The bodies of Sergeants Aikenhead and Bennett were washed ashore on the East Frisian Islands. The bodies of Pilot Officer Little and my great-uncle have never been recovered. Last year I travelled to Holland and hoped to make it to the cemetery at Delfzijl where Sergeant Aikenhead is at rest to lay some flowers on his grave but I never made it. I'm very sorry I didn't. If you want to know anything further about my great-uncle then please feel free to ask.

Elise Pedley. from a note on the The Wartime Memories Project (not dated)

 

The Lockheed Ventura bombers and 21 Squadron

RAF Methwold is a Royal Air Force airfield located 2.1 miles (3.4 km) north east of Feltwell and 10.9 miles (17.5 km) north west of Thetford, Norfolk, England. 21 Squadron moved there from RAF Bodney in October 1942.

The American produced Ventura bomber was first delivered to the RAF in September of 1941, and went into service with 21 Squadron at Bodney, Norfolk, in May of 1942.

When aircrews, who called it 'the Flying Pig' because of its shape, were asked what the Ventura could do and the Hudson could not, the answer came back - 'Consume more petrol!'

It had two impressive 2,000 hp Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp engines, was 50 mph faster than the Hudson, and carried a bomb-load of 2500 pounds instead of the Hudson's 1000 pounds. On the down side, the Ventura was over 7500 pounds heavier.

The bomber carried a crew of four or five, and was armed with two .50 and six .303 machine guns.

21 Squadron and RNZAF 487 Squadron aircrew NCOs at RAF Methwold early 1943

 

Unfortunately on the morning of 15th October, disaster struck F/Sgt. R.D. Williams who was making a single-engined approach to Bodney in Ventura AE 760.

Shortly after the aircraft had crossed the Swaffham road, near Hilborough, it stalled, dived into the ground and burst into flames killing all on board. The complete destruction of this aircraft meant that it was impossible to ascertain the exact cause of the crash.

On October 31st the squadron moved from Bodney to Methwold.

Practice takeoffs and landings continued to take their toll, with some lucky escapes. On 13th November Pilot Officer S. Coshall, flying Ventura AE824 EG-B, overshot the runway at Feltwell and crashed. Luckily he and his crew walked away from the aircraft unscathed.

On the 18th November, Pilot Officer Miles and his crew were not so lucky, attempting a landing at Feltwell in Ventura AE685, they too overshot the airfield, wrecking the plane and injuring the crew.

Three Venturas flew on their first combat mission with 21 Squadron from RAF Methwold on November 3, 1942. They were tasked with an attack against a factory at Hengelo. Unfortunately the navigators failed to find their target and were diverted to a raid against Dutch railway lines instead. All returned safely.

On 6 Dec 1942, 47 Venturas were engaged in a daylight low-altitude bombing attack against the Philips radio factories at Eindhoven, in Holland. It was soon discovered that Ventura aircraft were extremely vulnerable to enemy interception when 9 of the 47 bombers were shot down by German fighters. 

On the morning of December 10th, 21 Squadron's Ventura AE759 YH-H, arrived at RAF Feltwell for servicing.

The aircraft’s pilot was 27 year old F/Sgt Garnet Hartford Turcotte, a young American who had crossed over the Canadian border in1940 and enlisted in the RCAF. A native of Detroit, Michigan, he was a quiet-spoken, exceptional pilot and had taken part in the December 6th Phillips raid, in Ventura YH-H and as a result had just been promoted to Warrant Officer.

In the late morning, it was expected that he would take his aircraft back to Methwold and a number of ground crew were offered a lift back to the station.

Just before noon, Turcotte, his crew and LAC. Rutterford and Sgt O.W. Woodhead, both fitter/mechanics from "A" Flight 21 Sq., took off from Feltwell.

The official report relates "Aircraft flew into the ground after a shallow dive. The cause is unknown and must be classed as either an error by the pilot, or left unclassified. Reports that the aircraft was on fire in the air are not proven. Possibly the Pilot closed the throttles suddenly; in which case a considerable amount of flame would have issued from the exhaust. Only theory is that the aircraft was trimmed slightly nose heavy and as the Pilot gained speed, in a shallow dive, he was unable to pull out".

LAC "Jock" Rutterford, who had been given a lift on the Ventura, had only gone over to Feltwell on that fateful day to draw some new boots from the stores. Those boots were found intact in the wreckage.

 

Ventura AE692 YH-K, one of three from 21 Squadron shot down by fighters on 21st April 1943

 

By April 1943, Ventura losses were beginning to mount and a month later, on May 3rd, the aircraft's inadequacies were shown in a daylight attack on a power station near Amsterdam.

Twelve aircraft from 487 Squadron RNZAF, also based at RAF Methwold, and operating with an escort of Spitfires, were 'bounced' by German fighters as they approached the intended target. The Spitfires, who were unfortunately low on fuel, were engaged by elements of the defending force whilst the remainder attacked the helpless Venturas. Within minutes, 9 Venturas had been shot down and a tenth, badly damaged, managed to evade the fighters and return to England.

This left a single bomber, piloted by Squadron Leader Leonard Trent, which pressed on and managed to attack the power station. After seeing his bombs just miss, Trent's aircraft was then attacked and shot down with only the pilot and his navigator surviving the crash to become prisoners of war.

Squadron Leader Leonard Trent of RNZAF 487 Squadron, from Nelson, New Zealand, who also later took part in 'the Great Escape' from Stalag Luft III in March 1944, was finally awarded a Victoria Cross for his bravery, when the story of the fateful attack was reconstructed after the war.

On June 22, 1943, 32 year old British born RAF Wing Commander Robert Henry Swan King from Adelaide, South Australia, the commander of 21 Squadron, and his crew, together with the Methwold Station Commander, 34 year old RAF Group Captain William V L Spendlove DSO, who was flying with them, were all killed when their Ventura was hit by flak during an attack on an enemy gun position near the Abbeville-Drucat airfield.

By summer 1943, most remaining Venturas had been replaced by Mosquito aircraft on bombing missions. Their last operation was flown by 21 Squadron on 9 September 1943.

On 6th November 1942, 21 Squadron despatched four Venturas to attack enemy shipping at Maasluis in Holland, and six more in pairs to Roosendaal, Ijmuiden, and Den Helder.

Poor visibility caused many problems. Of the first four, one aircraft bombed a ship at Rotterdam, another damaged barges at Maasluis, a third aborted the raid and returned to base, and a fourth was lost. Of the remaining six, only F/O Hicks bombed, again due to bad visibility, and two others, YH-V and YH-L, were brought down by flak..

Ventura I - AE784 - YH-‘L’ - of 21 Sqdn took off from RAF Methwold at 14.40hrs on November 6th 1942. It crashed into the Wadden Sea, while weaving to avoid flak, and landed on a sandbank around 5 kilometres East of Den Helder harbour. Its downfall was claimed by (German) Flak units FlaA. 764 and FlaA. 845 (both with light AA-guns). The Ventura was flying in extremely poor weather conditions, while bombing nearby ships at a height of only 10- 20 meters.

 

Ventura AE784's crash-landing on a sandbank during low tide (taken by an unknown German)

 

The crew were - pilot - RAF Flight Lieutenant John E. (Jack) Harrison, observer RAF Pilot Officer H.J. Luck, air-gunner RAF Flying Officer Colin Ward Dawson Hunt, and wireless op./gunner RAF Sergeant William Joseph Atkinson.  

The surviving crew were believed to have been taken prisoner by personnel (sailors of the Kriegsmarine?) of  the local ‘Hafenüber-wachung’, probably stationed in Den Helder.

* About this air crash and the related happenings later, the local German commander (‘Seekdt. Nordholland’) recorded in his war diaries, in his so called ‘Kriegstagebuch’ (KTB) of  Nov. 1942 / week 45: (14.35 hrs. - Forced landing of a ‘Hudson’, 5 - 6 km. E. of  Den Helder, on the Outer Dike. 3 crew taken POW, via boat of  the Sea Commander, by personnel of  the Harbour Guarding Unit of  Den Helder.

1 man found dead underneath plane.

Board weapons and ammunition recovered by Air Force).. from Willem's notes.

The pilot, Scottish-born Flight Lieutenant John ‘Jack’ E. Harrison 

The last-known survivor of the attempt to break out from a German prisoner-of-war camp, which became immortalised in the film The Great Escape, has died at the age of 97.

Jack Harrison was one of 200 prisoners who hoped to escape to freedom through the tunnel codenamed "Harry" at Stalag Luft III in March 1944. He was the 98th in line and was waiting his turn in Hut 104 to make his way through the tunnel, which would have taken him beyond the camp perimeter, when the alarm was raised and the break-out was halted.

Of the 76 men who made it out of the camp, only three managed to complete a "home run" by getting all the way back across Nazi-occupied Europe to Allied lines. Infamously, 50 of the recaptured prisoners were executed in an act of retribution ordered by Adolf Hitler himself.

The escape was turned into a Hollywood film in 1963 with a cast including Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen and James Garner. It was based on an account by Paul Brickhill, an Australian Spitfire pilot shot down over Tunisia while serving with the RAF, who helped organise the break-out.

Mr Harrison was a Latin teacher at Dornoch Academy in Sutherland until he was called up, and joined the RAF where he trained as a pilot. He was shot down on his first mission, bombing German shipping at the Dutch port Den Helder in November 1942. After being sent to the prisoner-of-war camp – he was told by one of the Germans who captured him: "For you ze war is over"

He joined in a plot to dig three tunnels. The tunnels were codenamed Tom, Dick and Harry but two were discovered by the guards before anyone could use them to escape.

Jack Harrison was appointed the righthand man of Sqn Ldr Roger Bushell, the main organiser of the escape plot, and one of those executed when recaptured.

The former pilot officer, who learnt to speak German to help his escape prospects, recalled in an interview last year, following the death of his friend and fellow Stalag Luft III prisoner Alex Lees: "Harry was the only one that wasn't discovered by the Nazis, because its entrance was hidden underneath the stove. We'd carry the sand away in cardboard boxes and down the prisoners' trouser legs to dissipate it around the camp."

When the escape from Harry was halted Mr Harrison had to act quickly to burn his forged identity papers and to get out of the clothes he was supposed to escape in.

"I was to be a Hungarian electrician so I became Aleksander Regenyi, who was employed by a German firm," he said.

 

A memorial at the entrance to tunnel 'Harry' and a cartoon tribute.

 

"The prisoners from Block 109 were ordered to report to Block 104. It got pretty crowded, but their job was to occupy our beds to fool the Germans." He added: "I guess it was a blessing in disguise I never made it through, as most were shot. But the main purpose wasn't just to escape. It was to outfox the Germans. It was a huge moral victory. It humiliated Hitler and gave the Nazis a bloody nose."

Mr Harrison spent his last years at Erskine veterans' home in Renfrewshire. Major Jim Panton, Erkine's chief executive, said yesterday that Mr Harrison would be greatly missed by all of the staff and veterans in the home and that it had been a privilege and an honour to care for him.

After the war Mr Harrison was haunted by the death of his gunner Bill Aitkinson, the one member of his four-strong crew who died when his aircraft was shot down. The aeroplane crashed into the sea while weaving to avoid flak and Mr Atkinson failed to get out. Pilot Officer Harrison blamed himself for "poor flying".

He returned to his wife Jean in Glasgow when the war ended and resumed his career as a teacher.

In 1958 the family moved to Rothesay, where Mr Harrison was appointed director of education for the isle of Bute.

He retired in 1975. Mr Harrison’s son and daughter, Chris and Jane, said in a joint statement: “To others he was considered a war hero, but to us he was much more than that. He was a family man first and foremost as well as a church elder, Rotarian, scholar, traveller and athlete.

“He took up marathon running in his seventies to raise money for charity. He was a caring father and grandfather and he will be missed by the whole family. We are indebted to Erskine for the care and attention that he and we have received over the past two and a half years.”      (from Daily Mail 8th June 2010)

 

Sergeant William Joseph Atkinson, the wireless operator/gunner, was the 20 year old son of William Prudhoe Atkinson and Margaret Fewster, who were married at Walthamstow, Essex, in 1918.

He had one sister, Margaret, who was born in at Walthamstow in 1927. We know nothing of William's family or service history.

The aircraft's only casualty, he appears to have been trapped under the Ventura bomber when it crash-landed at Den Helder. The other members of his crew had managed to board their dinghy.

When the German seamen who captured his crewmates arrived at the scene of the crash in a speed-boat, they did not have any heavy lifting equipment to retrieve his body. The Dutch lifeboat crew of MRB Dorus Rijkers who also attended were only in a rowing boat and could do nothing.

He was first buried at Den Helder's Huisduinen General Cemetery on 11th November 1942, and exhumed after the War to be reburied at Bergen op Zoom. (grave 29. B.9)

1. The trapped body of William Atkinson. 2. Den Helder NZHRM lifeboat skipper Mr.Coen Bot,who recovered the dead body of Sgt. Atkinson from the crash landing site, reached the age of 60 years on February 23rd,1942, and is pictured here being congratulated by the director of the lifeboat company, Mr. H.Th. de Booy. He followed his father and grandfather as lifeboat skipper, and his family lived on a houseboat near the harbour during those years.

At the end of his rescue career, skipper Coen Bot had carried out a large number of launches and missions, saving the lives of many sailors and ships' passengers, while piloting the well known lifeboat Mrb. 'Dorus Rijkers' in heavy storms.

 

Translation of the Dutch lifeboat skipper’s own log, recording the NZHRM missions to the crash site of AE784 (by Mr. Coen Bot, skipper of the rowing boat, and leader of the recovery team)

Friday 6th November 1942 (mission 717) -

At 15.30 hrs. I received the message that an aircraft was down, around 2000 meters East of the ‘Langen Dam’ (Long Dam). The Mrb. (the regular lifeboat with an engine) ‘C.K. Baas’ had engine trouble, so I decided to take four crew and launch a rowing boat. At 16.30hrs we arrived near the airplane.

It was a rather large British aircraft. But we found no people there. We only saw a ‘small floating object’, at a distance of about 1000 meters. While we were rowing towards it, we discovered it was a rescue raft. When we were a distance of about 300 meters, a speedboat suddenly appeared from the direction of Wieringen (island), with German military aboard.

That vessel boarded the rescue raft and picked up the three survivors. We were told they were ‘New Zealanders’.

At 19.00 hrs. we returned to harbour (Den Helder).

 

 

Saturday 7th November 1942 (mission 718) -

With our ‘engine flat boat’ we launched again towards the airplane. During a closer search (at low tide) we found there was still a dead man underneath the aircraft. However, he was crushed down in such a way that we could never recover him without tools and more equipment.

Monday 9th November 1942 (mission 720) -

Today we visited the airplane again, with tools. After about 2 hours working, during very low tide, we succeeded in recovering the dead flyer. (They then transported him to shore).

 

The air-gunner on Ventura AE784, (RNZAF) Flying Officer Colin Ward Dawson Hunt NZ 39553, was from Auckland, New Zealand. After his 'rescue' he was taken to a German interrogation camp in the Amsterdam area and then transported to Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp which was situated in the German province of Lower Silesia near the town of Sagan, 160 kilometres southeast of Berlin. Colin Hunt (Prisoner no.824) had been promoted to Flying Officer on September 29th, 1942, and later to Flight Lieutenant, while he was in the  POW camp.

A New Zealand newspaper reported him 'missing in action' on December 14th 1942, and in a later edition he was confirmed a prisoner of war.

Colin returned to New Zealand after his release and, according to the 2006 obituary, was married to Joan for 46 years. The couple had no children.

He passed away at the Raeburn Rest Home, at Cambridge, in the Waikato district of North Island, on August 11th 2006 aged 88, and the funeral was held at the RSA (Returned Soldiers Association) club-rooms in Te Awamatu.

 

The observer/navigator on AE784 was 30 year old RAF Pilot Officer Howard John Luck 118879. The observer on a Ventura was also the bomb-aimer.

He was from Rochester in Kent, the son of draughtsman Robert Luck & Clarie Fife who were married in the Medway, Kent area in 1908.

Howard married 29 year old Olga Vera Bamber at Marylebone, London, in 1937.

Unfortunately we have very little information about him other than, like his crewmates, he was taken to a German interrogation camp in the Amsterdam area and then transported to Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp, (Prisoner no.825), situated in the German province of Lower Silesia near the town of Sagan, 160 kilometres southeast of Berlin, and incarcerated in the 'Belaria' compound about 5-6 kilometres from the main camp.

After the war he stayed in the RAF and was listed as a Flying Officer in the General Duties Branch in 1948.

He died at Molesey, Surrey in 1995.

 

A 21 Squadron Ventura pictured while flying over the IJmuiden harbour area

 

Another of the three 21 Squadron aircraft lost on the November 6th raid was Ventura II AE848 YH-V.

It is reported as being shot down by radar guided flak and presumed lost near the Dutch coast. Its crew were, RAF F/O. A.E.K Perry, RAF P/O. L.G.O Smith, RCAF F/O. R.W Neill, and RCAF F/Sgt. N.A Gardner. The only body recovered was that of Norman Gardner, who is buried at Amsterdam (Watergraafsmeer) New Eastern Cemetery. His crewmates have no known grave and are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

The pilot, RAF Flying Officer Allan Ernest Kench Perry (111943) was the 29 year old son of London born estate agent, Ernest Walter Perry and Eleanor Edith Hopkins, who were married at Sunbury-on-Thames in 1906.

Allan joined the army in 1940 and after passing out from a cadet training centre in October 1940, was posted as a 2nd Lieutenant with the Lincoln Regiment.

After a short time, he left the army and was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in the RAF on 22nd October 1941.

He had married Barbara Mary Rhodes (1916-2006) at Hailsham, Sussex, in December 1938. Their only son, Nigel A Perry, was born in 1942.

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

In June 1947, his widow, Barbara, married her second husband, Neil Smalley, in Hailsham, Sussex.

She died on July 7, 2006, at Northampton, at the age of 90.

 

RAF Pilot Officer Leslie George Oliver Smith (117026) was the 24 year old son of James Oliver Smith and Ethel Mary Killby, who were married at Tottenham, Middlesex in 1917.

We know nothing of his family or service history other than the 30th October 1942 announcement in the London Gazette of his promotion to Flying Officer effective from 6th September 1942.

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

 

The wireless operator/gunner on AE848, was RCAF Flight Sergeant Norman Alexander (Alex) Gardner (R 76113).

He was born on June 22, at 1920 Halifax, Nova Scotia, the only child of clerical worker Perry McQuinn Gardner and Geraldine Evelyn Webber of Brooklyn, Queen's County, Nova Scotia.

He attended Liverpool High School, Nova Scotia from 1932 to 1939 and enjoyed field hockey, aquatic hunting and fishing.

A Boy Scout for six years, he was still a student when enlisting in the RCAF at Halifax, Nova Scotia on 23rd October 1940.

After his training in Canada, Alex was awarded his Air Gunner Badge and posted to the UK on 18th September 1941, arriving at RAF Bournemouth Commonwealth Reception Centre on 28th September. After training at the radio school at RAF Yatesbury in Wiltshire, and further gunnery instruction, Alex was posted on 10th December to 42 OTU at Ashbourne, Derbyshire, for aircrew training. There he joined a crew and was sent to 21 Squadron on 21st April 1942.

His name was published in ‘The Ottawa Journal’ of December 17, 1942, under the headline ‘Missing On Air Operations Overseas’. Alex was later posthumiously promoted from Sergeant to Flight Sergeant.

The only crew member whose body was recovered, he is buried at Amsterdam (Watergraafsmeer) New Eastern Cemetery, plot 69, row D, joint grave 2.

 

Norman Gardner's name commemorated at the Peace Tower in Ottawa

 

The fourth crew member, RCAF Flying Officer Robert Walter Neill (J 15441), was the 30 year old son of Doctor Robert Weir Neill (bn 1859) and his wife Mary Isabelle Hill (1877), from Winnipeg, Canada.

The couple, who were married at Winnipeg in November 1911, had three children, Kathleen, Walter, and Betty. Dr. Neill was then the medical officer at Stony Mountain penitentiary.

Around 1913 the family moved to Saskatchewan and the 1916 census records them living at Humboldt, where Robert Weir Neill was the area's local doctor.

Walter, who was born at Netherhill, and educated at Preeceville, was a clerk and junior accountant in the unemployment relief department of the Manitoba government when he enlisted in the RCAF at Winnipeg in1940.

He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial and at the Peace Tower in Ottawa.

He also has Neill Lake, Manitoba, named in his honour.

Walter is now remembered on the Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial.

 

Obituary. News of the death of Dr. Robert Weir Neill, who died at Canora Hospital, near Preeceville, Saskatchewan, on Monday, June 14, 1943 in his 76th year, following an illness of two months, was received with deep regret by many friends in the Capital and surrounding district.

Born at Aylmer, Quebec, he was the son of the late Joseph Neill and his wife, Elizabeth Hill.

Dr. Neill was a graduate of McGlll University and also of Glasgow and Edinburgh in 1879.

He had practised in the Preeceville district for the past 30 years.

The funeral service was held at Preeceville on Wednesday, June 16, with many former friends attending, including a large number of men in the services on leave in the district who attended in a body.

As Dr. Neill was the organizer of Masonry in Stoney Mountain, Manitoba, where he had formerly practiced, lodges from both provinces were well represented at the service. Survivors, in addition to his widow, are two daughters, Kathleen, R.N, Canora Hospital; Betty, with the Department of Agriculture, Ottawa; one brother, J. K. Neill, of Ottawa; a nephew, J. Weir Neill, with the R.C.M.C  in Scotland, and a niece, Mrs. Paul McCreary, of Vancouver, B.C.

The only son, Walter Neill, has been missing in air operations since November, 1942.

 

Postings on a couple of web sites have discussed the possibility that a German pilot from Unit I./JG1 2./JG1, flying a Bf109 G1, may have shot down Ventura AE848.

Heinz Knoke (1921-93) was a Luftwaffe flying ace, and is credited with 33 confirmed aerial victories, all claimed over the Western theatre of operations, and a further 19 unconfirmed kills in over 2,000 flights.

He claimed a victory over a Mosquito bomber on November 6th.

But records reveal that their were no Mosquitoes lost that day and it is speculated that, due to the bad weather, he may have wrongly identified what was really a Ventura.

In “I Flew for the Fuehrer", written several years later, he recalled - 13.30. I take off with Wenneckers... Tommies are heading north-west over the Bremen area. From past experience they may be expected to cross the East Friesian Islands. The most recent report gives the position of the Mosquitoes as map reference sector Berta-Quelle-eight, on course three-one-five.

Time : 1347 hours. I am unable to see anything at all ahead. It is maddening. Base calls : "You should see them now. Try a little to the left."... A shadow suddenly looms out of the greyness ahead. It is a Mosquito. He has spotted me also, and whips round to the left in a vertical bank, almost dipping his wing-tip in the sea. Now he twists round to the right. Then he dodges to the left again... Every time he turns I fire in front of his nose. We are flying low, very low... at full throttle he follows a steady course of three-two-zero... my good Gustav is just able to maintain the pace... I want to fire at only the closest possible range. Slowly I draw nearer to my opponent. I shut the radiator flaps, and the range drops to 150 feet. He is squarely in my sights... The burst catches him in the left engine. The plane is constructed of wood. The wing goes up in flames at once and shears off at the root. A few seconds later one De Havilland Mosquito vanishes into the green depths of the North Sea. Nothing but a sludge of oil is left on the surface.

One problem with that Ventura theory is the location of Heinz Knoke's attack, believed to be 70 kilometres north of Borkum island.

On that day, the six Venturas from 21 Squadron were detailed to split into pairs and bomb targets at Roosendaal, Ijmuiden, and Den Helder. Unless one of them was seriously off course, due to the foul weather, they should not have even been as far north as Den Helder.

In addition, the only body recovered from AE848, that of Norman Gardner, was buried at Amsterdam, indicating its discovery nearby.       Tom

 

The third Ventura lost on November 6th 1942, was AJ220 piloted by Flying Officer D.O Brown. His crewmates were Flight Sergeant B.B Shipton, Flight Sergeant R.G Rowe, and Flight Sergeant D.J Reynolds.  It was one of the four Venturas detailed  to attack enemy shipping at Maasluis in Holland.

According to one account, during the bombrun the plane was hit by flak, the shrapnel immediately killing F/Sgt Rowe.

With the aircraft's right wing on fire, and flying very low, the pilot tried to reach the sea.

Unfortunately the Ventura exploded when very close to the ground, F/Sgt.Reynolds and F/Sgt.Shipton were thrown out, and F/O Brown finished up on the ground near the wreckage. 

All three crewmen were wounded, two were taken from Hoogvliet to Rotterdam, and F/Sgt Shipton was taken by ambulance to the Luftwaffe hospital at Amsterdam were he died a few day's later.  

 

 

 

V9041's crew with navigator/2nd pilot Simon du Porto on left, and pilot D. Schroder, third from left.

RAF Flight Sergeant Bernard Bruce Shipton (1375957) was the 28 year old son of solicitor's clerk, William Joseph Shipton (1876-1946), and Beatrice Ada Hewitt (1873-1958), of Richmond, Surrey.

The London born couple were married at Marylebone in 1908 and had five children. Bernard died from his injuries at the Luftwaffe hospital in Amsterdam on 20th November 1942. At that time his home address was 45 Pagoda Avenue, Richmond, Surrey.

He is buried at Amsterdam New Eastern Cemetery, Plot 69. Row D. Joint grave 20. On the tombstone is inscribed: 'A loving son, brother and friend, faithful unto his death'.

 

 

F/Sgt. Bernhard Bruce Shipton, badly wounded in the Ventura AJ220 crash at Spijkenisse, was transported to the Luftwaffe hospital in Amsterdam city, by the German - named and numbered, Lw. - Lazarett (o) 1/VI 'Hermann Göring'.

It was located in a part of the (civil) Amsterdam hospital, named 'Queen Wilhelmina Gasthuis' (renamed soon after the German invasion into NL. to 'Wester Gasthuis', let's say Western City Hospital).

The German occupiers kept 500 beds there.

Once during the war, 'Fat Hermann' himself visited the 'Lazerett', to see the location with his own eyes. He looked over some of the medical equipment etc., and spoke with some of the Luftwaffe patients.

Later on in the war, while some civil units of the hospital were settled in the barracks, part of the complex was suddenly hit and damaged during an Allied early morning air raid (I really don't know when it happened till yet). That photo shows us the destroyed part of the barracks in the foreground, while behind can be seen the actual hospital building.  Willem

Flight Sergeant Ronald Geoffrey Rowe, (759221) the wireless operator/gunner, was the 32 year old son of Frederick and Catherine Rowe from Hackney in Middlesex. Telegraph clerk, Frederick William Rowe (born 1859) married Catherine Sims (born 1862) at Hackney in 1897.

On the 1911 census, when the couple were living at Durleton Road, Upper Clapton, they had five children of whom Ronald was the youngest.

In 1935 Ronald Rowe married Amelia Anne Deathridge (1913) and their only son, David, was born in the Romford area in 1939. At the time of his death the family were living at Wensleydale Avenue, Ilford.

Ronald is buried at Rotterdam (Crooswijk) General Cemetery Plot LL. Row 1. Grave 23.

 

21 Squadron ground crew receiving last instructions during warming up of the engines

 

In the 1970's, the Dutch historical researcher and author, Mr. Hans Onderwater, born in Dordrecht city (Zuid-Holland) and writer of the (Dutch) book 'En toen was het stil...' (And then there was silence...), was trying to trace the survivors of the Hudson AJ220 crash at Spijkenisse.

Attempting to find the address of F/Sgt. Air Gunner D.J. 'Titch' Reynolds through his son, who was a Church of England vicar then living in Wales,there was some correspondence, but, however, it was, he said, more or less 'disappointing'.

Titch' was an experienced air gunner, already a 'veteran', and flying on his 61st operational mission when downed on Friday 6th of November 1942 at Spijkenisse. Directly after that terrible crash, while himself wounded (burns on his face, etc.), he saved the life of his skipper, F/Lt. Brown, who was still laying in the burning wreckage, by moving him away from the flames, but soon after, lost consciousness himself. Later the German soldiers arrived, and woke him in a very rough way!

Hans Onderwater soon learned, that Titch Reynolds was not very happy to recollect the happenings of those days, or the time after the crash.

'He was a depressed and aggrieved man who was rather disappointed about what had happened during his time as a POW in Germany, and also about his treatment by some of his 'good friends' and family in the years after. He was now divorced from his wife, and generally depressed about the time following the war.

In a letter to Holland he wrote : 'I did not accept the awards of this country (Great Britain). Although I'm still very proud of the people who I did know then, and with whom I was flying, and their belief in the just struggle.

Meanwhile we know how 'empty' this is all sounding. 

Write down your history lessons indeed.

You Dutch people were proud, stubborn folks, with a lot of courage then. Go write about your own people, who helped some of us survive, (we're grateful for it). I wish you much luck, but please, leave me in peace.....'.

In later contact in England, with Flight Lieutenant Ken Edingborough DFM (1915-97), then a member of the Air Gunner's Association, and himself an air gunner with 21 Squadron who was on that same mission of 6th November 1942, Hans Onderwater got more details about the crash story, and information about 'Titch' himself.

Apparently Ken and Titch knew each other well, and Hans learned then, what had happened.

The crew of Ventura AJ220 received no immediate first aid from the German troops who arrived at the crash site and captured them.

Like 'dead bodies' they were transported by an army truck to a barracks/prison complex at Rotterdam.

While at the prison, their crash wounds were not treated for several hours. Then, to make them 'weaker', their German captors lined them up, in the inner square of the complex, and faced to a wall, and more than once, gave the order to fire, and pretended to execute them.

They also delayed permission to allow the seriously injured Flight Sergeant Shipton, to be transported by ambulance to the Luftwaffe hospital in Amsterdam. He later died, and apparently, the Luftwaffe medical personnel there, were absolutely 'not amused' by his earlier treatment.

During his time as a POW, and after the wounds were healed, Titch was 'heavily imprisoned' for 30 days in a so called 'cooler', after an attempted escape (he was outside of the camp for some time).

He also recalled, without giving details, the 'bad behavior' towards him, of one senior RAF officer, acting with the Germans.

Then, in that severe winter weather of early 1945, he was on the forced 800km 'long march', of 80,000 western Allied prisoners, moving in a line stretching nearly 20 miles long, westward across Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Germany, and during which, hundreds of Allied servicemen died, while being kept ahead of the advancing Soviet Army by their German captors.

 

Part 2

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

back to 626 Squadron

 

 

 

 

 

 email-address:  w.jong1@upcmail.nl

 

 

 

 

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