03/04.05.1944 460 (RAAF) Squadron Lancaster III JB741 AR:J Plt Off. Francis W. Baker
Date: 3rd/4th May 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: 460 (RAAF) Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire
Location: Dommartin-Lettree, Marne, France
Pilot: Plt Off. Francis William Baker 54076 RAF Age 20. Killed
Flt Eng: Sgt. James William Ranger 1832973 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
Nav: Sgt. Willis Henry Thompson R145476 RCAF Age 27. Killed
Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. Wilfred 'Barney' Bernard Martin R176165 RCAF Age 23. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. George Edward O'Neill 1713620 RAFVR Age? Killed
Air Gnr: Sgt. William Cochrane Maxwell 1345994 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Air Gnr: Sgt. Harry Penrice Black 1823613 RAFVR. Age 19. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
JB741 took off at 21:56 hrs from RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire to join an attack on a German tank training and repair facility near the town of Mailly-le-Camp, France. Seventeen aircraft from 460 (RAAF) Squadron were briefed. 17 x 4000 lb. bombs and 270 x 500 lb. bombs were carried. JB741 was one of six 460 Squadron Lancasters lost on the Mailly operation.
Above the Pilot and Bomb Aimer for JB741 (Credit: Gordon Forrest and Mark Rogers)
Above: Sgt. Thompson and Sgt. Martin from their service records.
Of the two attack waves, the second (including JB741), consisting of 173 aircraft, suffered the most casualties - 28 aircraft were lost. Most heavily hit was No. 460 (Australian) Squadron, stationed at Binbrook. They lost 6 out of the 17 aircraft dispatched.
The other five we have listed:
Lancaster ME728 AR:F2 - Flown by 30 year old Plt Off. Norman D.L. Lloyd 414050 RAAF, of Winton, Queensland, Australia - killed with all six other crew.
Lancaster III ME740 AR:E - Flown by 26 year old Flt Sgt. Herbert J.G. Fry 416945 RAAF of Walkerville, South Australia, killed with killed with all six other crew.
Lancaster III LM531 AR:R - Flown by 29 year old WO. George K. Gritty 1375424 RAFVR of Enfield, Middlesex, England, killed with three other crew, three others evaded capture.
Lancaster III ND630 AR:G - Flown by 21 year old Plt Off. Joseoh W. Smart 409760 RAAF of Victoria, Australia, killed with killed with all six other crew.
Lancaster III ND860 AR:? - Flown by 21 year old Flt Lt. William E. Hull 125522 RAFVR of Hertford, England, killed with killed with all six other crew.
The attack destroyed 114 barrack buildings, 47 transport sheds, several ammunition buildings and 102 vehicles that included 37 tanks. 218 German soldiers were killed and 156 injured. Most of the casualties were Panzer NCO's. There were no French casualties through bombing, but some people were killed when a Lancaster crashed on their house.
The control of this raid in the target area failed to operate according to plan.
The crew L-R Rear: Plt Off. Francis Baker, Sgt. Willis Thompson, Sgt. George O'Neill. Front: Sgt. Harry Black, Flt Sgt. Wilfred Martin (Credit: Mark Rogers)
The initial low-level markers were accurate and were well backed up by Lancaster marker aircraft. The 'Marker Leader', Wg Cdr. Cheshire, ordered the Main Force to come in and bomb but the 'Main Force Controller', Wg Cdr. L.C.Deane, could not transmit the order to do so to the waiting Lancaster's because his VHF radio set was being drowned by an American forces broadcast and his wireless transmitter was wrongly tuned. The main attack eventually started when the Deputy Controller, San Ldr. E.N.M. Sparks took over. German fighters arrived during the delay and bomber casualties were heavy.
Above: the crater at the crash site. Inside a local schoolteacher, Mr. Moussey who had corresponded with the grandmother of Gordon Forrest after the war. (credit Gordon Forrest)
Night-fighter attacks continued over the target and on the return route. Among the aircraft shot down was that of Squadron Leader Sparks, who stayed over the target to the end. Sparks evaded capture and soon returned to England. A total of 42 Lancasters were lost, 11.6% of the force.
Right: Battle Under the Moon. Published by Crecy Publishing 1995 ISBN 978-0859791090. A great tool for relatives researching the operation on Mailly-Le-Camp
The publication, Battle Under the Moon notes that JB741 was hit while on its bombing run to the target. The kill is credited to Oblt. Richard Delakowitz from 7./NJG4. Combat took place 20 kilometres SSW of Chalons-Sur-Marne at a very low height of 100 metres. Time: 00.31 hrs.
Oblt. Richard Delakowitz had 3 kills in the area that night finishing the war with a total of 7 night fighter kills. Eye witnesses reported the aircraft on fire with the night fighter in pursuit and still shooting. It lost a wing before crashing. The wing was found much later standing vertically between two pine trees.
It should be noted that the claim by Oblt. Delakowwitz from 7./NJG4, was for an unidentified Lancaster over Vanault-le-Châtel area, 20 km SE of Châlons-sur-Marine at 1.800 m. at 00:31 hrs. The victory was confirmed on the 18.08.1944.
JB741 was claimed as one of three probables by Ofw. Reinhard Kollak, his 38th Abschuss, from 8./NJG4 15 km SW of Châlons-sur-Marine at 3.000 m. at 00:26 hrs. The other two were 550 Sqn Lancaster LL826 or 626 Sqn Lancaster LL753. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (16 March 1944 - 11 May 1944) Part 2 - Theo Boiten)
Plt Off. Francis William Baker. Dommartin-Lettree Churchyard Collective grave 2-3. No further details as yet. Are you able to assist further?
Sgt. James William Ranger. Dommartin-Lettree Churchyard Collective grave 2-3. Son of George Palmer Ranger and Ellen Edith Ranger, of Bethnal Green, London, England.
Plt Off. Willis Henry Thompson. Dommartin-Lettree Churchyard Collective grave 2-3. Born on the 12th August 1916 in Windsor, Ontario. Son of John Henry and Marie Juliette Thompson, brother to Inez, of Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. with Service No. J88089 with effect 1st May 1944.
Flt Sgt. Wilfred 'Barney' Bernard Martin. Dommartin-Lettree Churchyard Collective grave 2-3. Born on the 25th March 1921 in St. Brieux, Saskatchewan. Son of Thomas and Marie Theresa (née Daubenfeld) Martin of Daylesford, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Sgt. George Edward O'Neill. Dommartin-Lettree Churchyard Collective grave 2-3. No further details as yet. Are you able to assist further?
Sgt. William Cochrane Maxwell. Dommartin-Lettree Churchyard Collective grave 2-3. Son of William Cochrane Maxwell, and of Mary Andrew Maxwell, of Glasgow, Scotland.
Researched for and with extensive information supplied by Gordon Forrest relative of Flt Sgt. Martin. Also thanks to Mark Rogers for photographs and information (Oct 2019). German night-fighter claim updated along with additional photographs by Aircrew Remembered (May 2021).