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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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166 Squadron Crest
166 Squadron Wellington X HZ314 AS-P W/O. George Ashplant CGM

Operation: Hamburg

Date: 24/25th July 1943 (Saturday/Sunday)

Unit: No. 166 Squadron

Type: Wellington X

Serial: HZ314

Code: AS-P

Base: RAF Kirmington, Lincolnshire (Now Humberside International Airport)

Location: Buchholz, South of Hamburg, Germany.

Pilot: W/O. George Ashplant CGM 148442 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Nav: P/O. Henry James Arthur Reid 149302 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Cyril Arthur Land 1392263 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alexander George Wells RAFVR Age 31. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Albert Edgar Jeffery RAFVR Age 21. Killed


Note: The medals of W/O. George Ashplant were stolen during a burglary in the 1980’s - anyone who has information on these precious memories, please contact us. If you would like to simply return them - use our mailing address.


REASON FOR LOSS:

Took off at 22.38 hrs. from Kirmington to join 790 aircraft to bomb the city of Hamburg. Window (1) was used for the first time during the war. The dropping of this new device totally confused the German Night fighters resulting in a very low loss rate for the bombers. A total of 2,284 tons of bombs were dropped during the 50 minute raid. Severe damage caused with 1,500 people killed on the ground - the highest number so far. The main police station, the main telephone exchange was hit as well as the Hagenbeck zoo where 140 animals were killed.

Sgt. Cyril Arthur Land (courtesy Anmacd)


The losses to the allied bombers amounted to 12 (Plus another 2 lost on take off / landing) with 78 aircrew killed, a further 7 made PoW.

Initial research was that it had been hit by flak and crashed at Buchholz, where all were buried on 26th July. However, a claim has since been established that HZ314 was intercepted and shot down by Uffz. Walter Rohlfing (3) of 9./NJG3. Attacked at 2,500 mtrs with a recorded time of 01.40 hrs. Crash area same at Buchholz

Their remains have since been exhumed and taken to Hamburg Cemetery at Olhsdorf.

W/O. Ashplant gained his CGM earlier in the year following a mid air collision with a 158 squadron Halifax W1182 NP-L flown by Fl/Lt. Peter Ayscough (2) and subsequent forced landing.

Above left: Sgt. Alexander George Wells, Right: Alex Wells during gunnery training - 2nd from right. The instructor we understand, is a Sgt. Ranson (courtesy Richard Williams)

Right: Newspaper cutting reporting the death of Fl/Sgt. Jeffery (courtesy Dave Catchpole and family of Albert Jeffery)

(1) Window - Tinfoil strips dropped by bombers to disrupt enemy radar system - on this raid it is known that 92 million strips of foil were dropped!

(2) Fl/Lt. Peter Ayscough and his crew of 6 were killed when their Halifax fell inverted into flood water North of Langport, Somerset. 1 Crew member Sgt. William Smalley from the 166 Squadron Halifax BE460 AS-V was killed in the mid-air collision. P/O Henry Reid and Fl/Sgt. Albert Jeffery were also on the crew of the 166 Halifax.

Citation for the C.G.M. awarded to W/O. Ashplant:

‘Fl/Sgt. Ashplant, after successfully completing an operational sortie on Lorient, was returning to base when, while over this country, his aircraft came into collision with a Halifax. His aircraft was severely damaged. Both engines were torn from their bearers, the front turret and the underside of the nose were ripped off, the bomb aimer's parachute stowage and parachute were carried away, and both propellers were missing. The aircraft went out of control into a spin. Regaining control, however, Fl/Sgt. Ashplant gave his parachute to the bomb aimer and ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft. By a fine display of airmanship and determination he made a crash-landing with the remains of his bomber, without personal injury.’ Award presented by King George VI to next of kin 18th December 1945.

He also crash landed a Blenheim V BA288 when it ran out of fuel due to a leak. His crew were Sgt. William Smaller and Sgt. Bakewell. They were all interned but allowed to escape to Gibraltar. Fl/Sgt. Ashplant was made an honoury Sq/Ldr. by the Portuguese Air Force for his landing of the Blenheim.

(3) This was the second kill for Uffz. Walter Rohlfing, who survived the war with 11 claims.

Hamburg War Cemetery (courtesy CWGC)

Burial details:

W/O. George Ashplant C.G.M. Hamburg War Cemetery Grave 10A.N.6. Son of George and Sarah Ashplant of 254 Higher Road, Halewood, Liverpool, England. George was born Wavertree Liverpool 11th April 1922, one of 2 sons born to George and Sarah Ashplant. His father was a Teacher at a school in Anfield, Liverpool. George was educated at Saint Francis Xaviers school Liverpool. Commemorated on 3 local memorials: Halewood parish church [St nicholas], S.F.X school Woolton and St Charles R.C. Church Aigburth. His brother Michael served in the Fleet-Air-Arm. Georges medals were stolen during a break in at his sister in laws house in the 1980s. Before the war George was working in the junior clerical staff of the civil service in London. He was originally put forward for a V.C but as there was no enemy action involved it was down graded to the C.G.M.

P/O. Henry James Arthur Reid. Hamburg War Cemetery Grave 10A.N.7. Son of Henry James and Lillian Caroline Reid of Ilford, Essex, England.

Sgt. Cyril Arthur Land. Hamburg War Cemetery. Grave 10A.N.3. Son of Alfred Frederick and Lizzie Emma Land of Tottenham, London, England.

Sgt. Alexander George Wells. Hamburg War Cemetery. Grave 10A.N.5. Son of Albert Eugene and Martha Jane Wells and husband of Gladys of North Wembley, London, England.

Fl/Sgt. Albert Edgar Jeffery. Hamburg War Cemetery. Grave 10A.N.4. Son of Samuel and Sarah A.F.Jeffery of 45, Ashford Road, Mutley, Plymouth, England. Albert was the fourth son and attended Treville Street School and Warrans College, Plymouth. Also a former member of Kitto Boys Club. After leaving school employed at the Dockyard joining the RAF when he was eighteen, completing his training in Canada.

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. With thanks to the following: Richard Williams for new information and photographs of Sgt. Alexander George Wells, the chaps on the WW2talk forum, Anmacd for photo's of Sgt. Cyril Arthur Land who wishes not to be named correctly, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt "Bomber Command War Diaries", CWGC.

Above: Photograph showing the 43 course Wireless operators Air gunners on 17th September 1942 - included as you may be a relative of one of these chaps and perhaps would like a high resolution copy.
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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