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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.


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01/02.06.1942 21 OTU Wellington Ic W5618 Fl/Sgt. F.B. Albright

Operation: Essen

Date: 01/02 June 1942 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit: No. 21 OTU (Operational Training Unit)

Type: Wellington Ic

Serial: W5618

Code: UH-W (note: also possible: ED-W / SJ-W 21 OTU used 3 code variations)

Base: RAF Moreton-in-Marsh

Location: Moustier Sur Sambre, Belgium

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Frederick Bruce Albright R/76714 RCAF Age 28. Killed (1)

Pilot U/T: Fl/Sgt. John Hamilton Forsyth R/86422 RCAF Age 32. Evaded (2)

Obs: Sgt. Ernest Victor Stephens AUS/406413 RAAF Age 26. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Rex Theodore Burt AUS/407601 RAAF Age 23. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Douglas Alexander George Watkins AUS/406542 Age 27. PoW No: 452 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug (3)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Mortimer Richards J/15450 RCAF Age ? Killed


Page researched for Gwen L'Hirondelle - see credits shown below for further explanation.


REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off from RAF Moreton-in-Marsh at 23:07 hrs together with another 11 aircraft from this base. A further 11 from 21 OTU based at RAF Edgehill (satellite airfield for 21 OTU) to bomb Essen, 3 aircraft from 21 OTU returned early due to technical problems. One of a series of operations against the city in June 1942.

The Operational Training Units were used in order to make up the 1000 bomber raid although this was not achieved 956 aircraft were sent. Many flares were dropped by the leading Wellingtons to assist target marking but despite a reasonable weather forecast many crews experienced great difficulty in locating the target as the ground was covered in haze or low cloud. Bombing was very scattered.

Reports from Essen stated that 11 houses were destroyed and 184 damaged. A PoW camp was burnt out - this all resulted in 15 people killed and 91 injured. The scattering of the bombing also killed 83 people in Oberhausen, 52 killed in Dusberg and 15 killed in Mulheim.

The loss to the allied consisted of 15 Wellingtons, 8 Halifaxes, 4 Lancasters 1 Hampden, 1 Manchester, 1 Stirling and 1 Whitley lost.

Oblt. Reinhold Eckardt (4) his 22 abschüsse of the war, of 7./NJG3 (on detachment from III./NJG4)  brought down Wellington W5618 at 02:31 hrs with the aircraft crashing at Moustier Sur Sambre, Belgium

(1) Albright Ridge in Alberta Canada was named after Fl/Sgt. Frederick Bruce Albright during the 1980’s.

(2) Fl/Sgt. Forsyth was flying as second dicky for this operation (every pilot had to go through with this operational experience prior to taking their own command) Although he evaded capture he was tragically killed by a train at Chalon-sur-Saône station in France on the 6th June 1942, whilst trying to make his way to unoccupied areas in France. Forsyth Island in Saskatchewan, Canada was named after Fl/Sgt Forsyth.

(3) Sgt. Douglas A.G. Watkins was from Stanley Street, Scarborough New South Wales, Australia. Born on the 8th January 1915 at Southern Cross Western Australia, enlisted on the 6th January 1941 in Perth. Married to Margaret. Liberated by allied forces and returned to UK on the 14th May 1945 - Promoted to W/O.

(4) This was the final claim for the Luftwaffe ace Oblt. Reinhold Eckardt he lost his own life just a month later. Killed on the 30th July 1942 after his parachute caught on the tail of his Bf110. His radio operator survived.

Right: Oblt. Reinhold Eckardt (Kracker Archives)

Left: Group portrait of members on aircrew training course. Identified back row: AUS/400871 Austin James Collins (later Fl/Sgt), 22 Squadron RAAF, lost on operations 1st June 1943 (far left - buried at Port Moresby War Cemetery, New Guinea). Also in the back row, positions not confirmed but probably left to right following Collins, are: AUS/406323 Herbert Frederick 'Fred' Backhouse (later Fl/Sgt), 162 Squadron RAF, lost on operations 29th January 1943 (commemorated on the Alamein Memorial); AUS/407524 Robert John 'Bob' Burns (later Fl/Sgt), 221 Squadron RAF, lost on operations 23rd January 1943 (commemorated on the Alamein Memorial); AUS/402693 Frank Coleman (later Fl/Lt), 3 Operational Training Unit; Doug Bell; and AUS/406283 Thomas Leon Ford Bailey (later Fl/Sgt), 104 Squadron RAF, lost on operations 30th September 1942 (commemorated on the Alamein Memorial). Front row, positions not confirmed but probably left to right: AUS/406342 Albert Norris Bingley (later W/O), Air Gunnery School West Sale; AUS/406324 Vernon Stewart Barnes (later W/O), 38 Squadron RAF, lost on operations 27th October 1943 (commemorated on the Alamein Memorial); AUS/406548 Gerald Ware (Gerry) Copeland (lost on operations with 78 Squadron RAF 4th May 1942 - buried at Hamburg Cemetery); AUS/407601 Rex Theodore Burt (later Sgt), 21 Operational Training Unit, lost on operations 2nd June 1942 - buried at Charleroi Communal Cemetery); and AUS/408102 Lionel Brownley (later Fl/Lt), 21 Squadron RAAF. Right: Sgt. Ernest Victor Stephens (courtesy Australian National Archives)

Burial details:

Fl/Sgt, Frederick Bruce Albright. Charleroi Communal Cemetery. Joint grave. Row V. 22-23. Son of William Donald Albright, and of Eva Belle Albright, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Fl/Sgt. John Hamilton Forsyth. Choloy War Cemetery. Grave 1A.A.23. Son of John and Emma (née Rutledge) Forsyth. Husband of Elizabeth McAustin (née Dunbar) of Winnipeg, Canada.

Sgt. Ernest Victor Stephens. Charleroi Communal Cemetery. Row V. Grave 21. Born 26th December 1915. Son of Thomas Henry and Bessie Martha Stephens, of 15 Holyrood Street, West Leederville, Western Australia. Enlisted in Perth, Australia.

Sgt. Rex Theodore Burt. Charleroi Communal Cemetery. Joint grave. Row V. 22-23. Son of Gilbert Roswall Burt and Antonia Elsie Burt, of Yorketown, South Australia, also of Maid of Auckland Hotel, South Road, Edwardston NSW, Australia.

Sgt. William Mortimer Richards. Charleroi Communal Cemetery. Row V. Grave 20. Son of Thomas Reginald and Rachel Richards, of Montreal, Province of Quebec, Canada.

With many thanks to Gwen L’Hirondale for bringing this loss to our attention in her quest to identify the others shown in a photo of her Uncle, Blenheim IV R3620 RT-A pilot, Fl/Sgt. Bernie L’Hirondelle . Australian National archives. For further details our thanks to the following sources shown.

Gwen wrote to us in September 2015:

"What I found was a brief reference in a letter from a cousin who was working at an experimental farm at Beaverlodge, Alberta for a Mr. W.D. Albright (a well known agricultural researcher at the time), to a clipping about my uncle that he intended to send to his son Bruce. So, looking for Bruce Albright, I found information on your database. My uncle could have met Bruce Albright when he was working at the farm (as I know my own father did), in training in Canada, or at an OTU in England. I think I recall that my uncle was at 21 OTU for part of his training". We welcome any feedback on this and indeed the photographs shown on Gwen’s Uncle's page.

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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