16/17.06.1941 No. 51 Squadron Whitley V Z6479 MH-M Sgt. Baston
Operation: Cologne, Germany
Date: 16/17th June 1941 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: 51 Squadron
Type: Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk V
Serial No: Z6479
Base: RAF Dishforth, Yorkshire.
Location: Houthalen, Limburg, Belgium
Pilot: Sgt. Thomas James Baston 754477 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Pilot 2: P/O. Cecil Ernest Crichton 61989 (USA) RAFVR Age 23. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Leonard Evans 974425 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Nav: P/O. Kenneth Noel Holland 84723 RAFVR Prisoner of War No. 1358 Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Douglas John Frederick Jefferis 902482 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Reason for loss:
Took off at 22.43 hrs from Dishforth, Yorkshire joining 104 other aircraft (47 Hampdens, 39 Whitleys, 16 Wellingtons and 3 Halifaxes) to bomb Cologne. The bombing was poor and only scattered damage. 19 people on the ground were killed and a further 17 injured.
During the raid 3 aircraft were lost - Whitley V N2849 PM-? Flown by Sq/Ldr Dermot Kelly (3 times MiD) from 103 squadron with all 6 crew killed and a Wellington from 405 squadron W5522 LQ-Q flown by Sgt. William Macgregor again with all 6 crew lost.
This Whitley Z6479 was intercepted on return journey by two German night-fighters. One was shot down. Hit by the second, piloted by Ofw. Reinhard Kollack, 1/NJG1. Crash-landed at 0226, on Tenhaagdoorn heathland near Houthalen, Limburg, Belgium.
Above: Sgt. Baston, Fl/Sgt. Douglas John Frederick Jefferis and also shown with his sister before leaving by taxi to rejoin his unit for the last time. (courtesy Jeremy Nicholson)
P/O. Kenneth Noel Holland with his wife Joyce Satchell, believed to be taken in spring 1941 and right as a Fl/Lt in Japan.
(courtesy David Satchell via Neil Smith)
Wreckage of Whitley Z6479 (Courtesy Jeremy Nicholson) insert: Ofw. Reinhard Kollack survived the war with 49 kills - no further information is available about him.
Whitley Z6479 crew graves at Adegem Canadian War Cemetery - Sgt Crighton has no known grave (courtesy Michael Beckers)
These remarkable series of photographs sent in by Jeremy Nicholson
Photo left: L-R: Sgt. Baston's aunt, name unknown, Sgt. Baston's mother - Alice Crosier, Fl/Sgt. Jefferis' uncle, Bertie Harold Strode (great uncle to Jeremy Nicholson), Fl/Sgt. Jefferis' father, Henry Nelson Jefferis (grandfather to Jeremy, Henry was an army veteran of WWI), Fl/Sgt. Jefferis' mother, Rosina Ethel Jefferis (grandmother to Jeremy), Fl/Sgt. Jefferis' sister, Mary Gwendoline Jefferis (now Nicholson - mother of Jeremy)
Photo right: L-R: The Mayor of Houthalen, Fl/Sgt. Jefferis' mother, Rosina Ethel Jefferis, One of the Mayor's sons, Sgt. Baston's mother, Alice Crosier, Another of the Mayor's sons. (They were pallbearers at the burial)
Sgt. Thomas James Baston. Adegem Canadian War Cemetery, Plot 1, Row AA, Grave 8. Also commemorated on the Warkworth War Memorial, Northumberland, England. Son of Elizabeth Alice Crosier, of Warkworth, Northumberland, England.
P/O. Cecil Ernest Crighton. Runnymede Memorial Panel 32. Son of Alexander and Phoebe Crichton, of Alhambra, California, USA
Sgt. James Leonard Evans. Adegem Canadian War Cemetery, Plot 1, Row AA, Grave 9. Born December 7th 1919, prior to enlisting had been a hairdresser. N.o.K. Details not currently available.
Fl/Sgt. Douglas John Frederick Jefferis. Adegem Canadian War Cemetery, Plot 1, Row AA, Grave 10. Son of Henry N and Rosina E. Jefferis of Brislington Bristo, England. Further details: F/Sgt. Jefferis was thought to have been shot and killed before the crash, as suggested by intercom transmissions.
The bodies of Jefferis, Evans and Baston were prepared for burial by local people, who tended the graves. Originally the bodies were buried in Houthalen Cemetery but were moved to Adegem on 6th April 1961 due to subsidence caused by mine workings.
P/O. Holland survived the crash with head injuries. He was captured several days later and spent the rest of the war as a P.O.W. After the war he returned to duty and spent some time as an interpreter in Japan, before being posted back to Surrey. It was he who provided details of the Whitley's demise. He was killed as a passenger in a car crash, travelling with other officers to the Officers' Mess one morning.
Local witnesses to the Whitley crash in Belgium reported another airman being escorted away by German troops. This was presumably P/O. Crichton. However, no trace of him has ever been found either as a burial or a Prisoner of War. He is commemorated on panel 32 of the Runnymede War Memorial in Surrey.
In 2006 the crews of four British bombers, Z6479 amongst them, were honoured on a monument entitled 'Fallen Wings' erected in the cemetery in Houthalen.
Researched by Jeremy Nicholson - nephew of Fl/Sgt Jefferis. With thanks to the following for additional information, Luc and Suzy Vandevenne (nee Nellisen), Neil Smith of the 51 Squadron Historical Society, Mr. David Satchell, Michael Beckers, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses' Vol. 2, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook "Bomber Command War Diaries". The Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Tom Kracker - 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'.