16/17.06.1941 51 Squadron Whitley V Z6479 MH:M Sgt. Baston
Operation: Cologne, Germany
Date: 16th/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: Plt Off. Cecil Ernest Crichton 61989 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. James Leonard Evans 974425 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Nav: Plt Off. Kenneth Noel Holland 84723 RAFVR Age? PoW No. 1358 *
Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Douglas John Frederick Jefferis 902482 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria)
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 Sqn 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.
Z6479 was intercepted on return journey by two German night-fighters. One was shot down. Z6479 was claimed by Fw. Reinhard Kollak (left) and Uffz. Hermann flying in Bf110 C-4 G9+LH from 1./NJG1 over Houthalen, 11 km NNE Hasselt at 02:26 hrs. This was Kollak's first confirmed victory. (Nachtjagd War Diaries Volume 1 (September 1939 - March 1944) - Dr Theo E.W. Boiten). The aircraft crashed Tenhaagdoorn heathland near Houthalen, Limburg, Belgium.
Flt Sgt. Jefferis was thought to have been killed during the German fighter attack killed before the crash, as suggested by intercom transmissions.
Plt Off. Holland survived the crash with head injuries. He was captured several days later and spent the rest of the war as a PoW. 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 Plt Off. Crichton. However, no trace of him has ever been found either as a burial or a PoW. He is commemorated on panel 32 of the Runnymede War Memorial in Surrey.
Above Left: Sgt. Baston; Centre and Right: Flt Sgt. Douglas Jefferis and also shown with his sister before leaving by taxi to rejoin his unit for the last time. (Credi Jeremy Nicholson)
Plt Off. Kenneth Noel Holland with his wife Joyce Satchell, believed to be taken in spring 1941 and right as a Flt Lt in Japan.
(Credit David Satchell via Neil Smith)
Above: Wreckage of Z6479 (Credit Jeremy Nicholson)
The following are a series of photographs sent in by Jeremy Nicholson
Above: L-R: Sgt. Baston's aunt, name unknown, Sgt. Baston's mother - Alice Crosier, Flt Sgt. Jefferis' uncle, Bertie Harold Strode (great uncle to Jeremy Nicholson), Flt Sgt. Jefferis' father, Henry Nelson Jefferis (grandfather to Jeremy, Henry was an army veteran of WWI), Flt Sgt. Jefferis' mother, Rosina Ethel Jefferis (grandmother to Jeremy), Flt Sgt. Jefferis' sister, Mary Gwendoline Jefferis (now Nicholson - mother of Jeremy)
Above: L-R: The Mayor of Houthalen, Flt 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)
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.
Whitley Z6479 crew graves at Adegem Canadian War Cemetery (Credit: Michel Beckers)
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.
Plt Off. Cecil Ernest Crichton. Runnymede Memorial Panel 32. Born in 1918 in Toronto, Canada. 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 in Mar 1920 in Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire. Son of Albert Valentine and Hannah Jane (née Watson) Evans of Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire., England.
Flt 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.
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 Flt Sgt Jefferis. With thanks to the following for additional information, Luc and Suzy Vandevenne (nee Nellisen), Neil Smith of the 51 Squadron Historical Society. Thanks to Jeremy Nicholson for the replacement crash site image. (Apr 2021). Report narrative update and reorganisation by Aircrew Remembered (Apr 2021). Other resources below.