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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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103 Squadron Crest
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 

Serial: Z8833 

Code: PM-L 

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

Burial Details:

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)

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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Last Modified: 25 November 2014, 22:56

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