04/05.05.1942 No. 103 Squadron Wellington IC Z8833 PM-L Fl/Sgt. John R. St. G. Arrowsmith
Operation: Nickel, Nantes, France
Date: 4/5th May 1942 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: No. 103 Squadron
Type: Wellington IC
Base: RAF Elsham Wolds
Location: Bay of Biscay / Celtic Sea?
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. John Raymond St. George Arrowsmith 931603 RAFVR Age 24. Killed
Pilot 2: Fl/Sgt. George Arthur McLean R/69782 RCAF Age 20. Killed
Obs: Sgt. Walter Gordon Harrison 1066469 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Philip Robert Abbas 1199343 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. P.R. Adlam RAFVR PoW Details not available.
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. George William Gibb R/62671 RCAF PoW No: 4110 Stalag Kopernikus (357 also stayed in Stalag Luft L3 and L6)
Reason for loss:
Raymond Arrowsmith and his crew took off at 12.08 am on the 5th of May 1942 from RAF Elsham Wolds for an operation to Nantes. Bomber Command's main effort that night was against Stuttgart, but they sent 19 aircraft to Nantes and 10 aircraft on a Nickel (leaflet dropping) operation over France.
Pilot of Z8833 - Fl/Sgt. John Raymond St. George Arrowsmith (courtesy John Hamblin)
By the time the aircraft returned over the enemy coast it was heavily damaged and Arrowsmith alerted the crew that he was going to attempt to force land the stricken aircraft on the sea. He ordered the front gunner to the back of the aircraft to assist the rear gunner. As the aircraft was some 50 feet above the surface of the sea it broke in two killing all those in the front half, which sank immediately. The two gunners managed to escape and climb into the life raft.
On the 11th of May, after nearly a week adrift, the aircraft’s dingy was found by the Germans with two survivors who were taken prisoner. The rest of the crew were never recovered.
Theirs was the only aircraft lost on the raid.
Left, Memorial at RAF Elsham Wolds
Fl/Sgt. John Raymond St. George Arrowsmith. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 173. Further information: born at Wokingham in Lancashire on the 23rd of April 1918 the elder son of Henry Arrowsmith and Margaret Joan (nee Pearson) Arrowsmith of 4, Kensington Court Gardens, South Kensington in London. Educated at Lancing College where he was in Seconds House from January 1932 to July 1936. Went on to Wye Agricultural College from 1936 to 1940 and achieved a B.Sc (Lond) in 1940. On leaving college he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and was sent to Canada for pilot training. On completing his training posted to 103 Squadron operating Wellington bombers. Although offered a commission he refused, preferring to remain an NCO. By May 1942, in terms of numbers of operations flown, Fl/Sgt. Arrowsmith was one of the most experienced pilots in the squadron.
Fl/Sgt. George Arthur McLean. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 105. From Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Next of kin details not known as yet.
Sgt. Walter G Harrison. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 85. Son of Captain Walter Gordon Harrison, C.B.E., and Maud Harrison, of Workington, Cumberland.
Sgt. Philip Robert Abbas. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 77. Next of kin details not known as yet.
Right, Sgt. Philip Robert Abbas (courtesy Kay Collins)
Page researched by Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered, November 2014.
With thanks to John Hamblin for photographs of Fl/Sgt. Arrowsmith, Kay Collins for the photo of Sgt. Philip Abbas, both via Michel Beckers.
Left: Medal collection of Fl/Sgt. Arrowsmith (courtesy Michel Beckers)