29/30.07.1943 No. 428 Squadron Halifax V DK239 NA-Q Fl/Sgt. David H. Bates
Date: 29/30th July 1943 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: 428 Squadron (Ghost)
Type: Halifax V
Base: RAF Middleton St. George
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. David Henderson Bates R/131551 RCAF Age 23. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Thomas Idwell Hughes 1684906 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Wallace Gale Arlidge R/156931 RCAF Age 19. Killed
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Paul Demcoe R/157401 RCAF PoW No: 1297 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug (1)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Galloway 1368326 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. George Conrad Nault R/161983 RCAF Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Louis Joseph Roger Andre Pelland R/135100 RCAF Age 21. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Middleton St. George at 22:23 hrs to bomb the port and city of Hamburg - joining 776 other aircraft on the third raid on this target within the last five days. 340 Lancasters, 244 Halifaxes, 119 Stirlings, 70 Wellingtons and 4 Mosquitoes made up the force.
The idea was that the target be approached from the north and to concentrate on the northern area of Hamburg which had not been bombed on previous occasions. The pathfinders dropped their markers too far east of the city. 707 aircraft got through to the target and dropped a total of 2,318 tons of bombs on residential areas - no figures are available as to the casualties on the ground for this raid although it is known that over 40,000 were killed during that week and over 16,000 residential buildings were destroyed.
The worst incident was when bombs hit a large department store in Wandsbek - the building collapsed and blocked exits from a shelter that was in the basement - 370 people died from poisoning by the fumes from a coke store nearby. A total of 1.2 million people fled the city after these raids!
The allies lost 31 aircraft on this operation with 176 aircrew losing their lives and a further 17 being made PoW. Most of the aircraft were shot down by the Luftwaffe night fighters, although 14 were shot down by searchlight assisted flak over the target area.
Halifax DK239 is listed as a 'probable' first abschüss for Fw. Will Rullkotter (2) of 3./JG Herrman at 02:02 hrs. With the Halifax crashing at Lüneburg.
(1) Sgt. Paul Demcoe originated from Saint Ouens, Manitoba, Canada. He made a recording of his escape from the aircraft and the subsequent capture (see credits):
“We dropped our bombs and the last words I spoke on the intercom was, “Close bomb doors, Skipper,” because the handle for closing and opening the bomb doors were on the dash in front of the pilot. I had no sooner said that, then we fell out of the sky, which was really weird because when you drop your bombs you lighten your load very substantially. The total weight of the aircraft is much lighter and we should have got an added air lift. And the reverse happened. We went into a power spin, straight for the deck as they say. And the very last words spoken on the intercom was the pilot’s words, “Prepare to abandon aircraft”.
So I was thrown about in the nose and got knocked unconscious. Came to and started working my way back towards the escape hatch on my knees and elbows as best I could against the g-forces of the spin of the aircraft. We were in a power spin, corkscrewing towards the ground. And I got to the escape hatch and was on my left elbow with my right on the T-bar, which was the release mechanism on the escape hatch. And there’s quick release hinges on the escape hatch, not unlike the top of the old portable typewriters. Anyway, it came off the hinges and when it got partway out, the slipstream outside jammed it and it wouldn’t come in and it wouldn’t come out and I was fighting it. And that’s the last thing I remember inside the aircraft.
When I came to the next time, I was falling like a rock and as I came to, I started feeling for my parachute as it had come off the snaps that hold it on your chest and was up, unopened at the end of the harness above my head. And I found the ripcord and pulled it and in a very short time and - it’s impossible to judge exactly - it seemed a fairly short time before I became aware of shadows from below and I braced myself and I was, hit the ground and I felt warm oozing down around my face and I found that I had a big gash on my head, my right side of my forehead.
So I tore up some of my parachute and wrapped it around my head and put some in my pocket, buried the rest of my harness and chute in the, one of the stooks [of grain stalks], and started to walk as best I could away from the scene of the bombing, which was to the south and east. And I had got into a cow’s pasture and I suddenly realised I had my identification and some English money and stuff in my battle dress pocket, so I buried that in a fresh pile of cow plop and washed my hands in the water trough that was nearby.
There was a series of hedges, tall trees and hedges along the edge of the cow pasture and there was two anti-aircraft batteries, one to the left and one to the right facing south. And so I got to this hedge, in between these two batteries, you could hear the voices of the personnel manning the guns and the guns banging away of course. When I got through the hedge, there stood 15 or 20 German people who had summer cottages in the south of the hedge.
And they were all out watching the air raid. And when I appeared out of the hedge, I was probably 40 yards from them. I turned and tried to run but of course, from not having oxygen coming down and loss of blood and shock and what have you, I couldn’t run more than a few steps at a time and I was captured very quickly. Within a hundred metres, I would say.”
(2) Fw. Will Rullkotter went on to become an ace with 5 to his credit - understood to have survived the war.
The crew were originally buried at the central cemetery in Lüneburg - reinterred at war end at Hamburg Ohlsdorf Cemetery, with the pilot buried at Becklingen War Cemetery.
Fl/Sgt. David Henderson Bates. Becklingen War Cemetery. Grave 14.C.13. Further information: Son of Franklin Richard and Effie Corine Henderson Bates, of St. George, Utah, USA. School Teacher prior to service. Born on the 09th March 1920 in Margate, Alberta, educated at Diamond City, Arkansas and enlisted in the RCAF on the 27th August 1941. Arrived in UK after training in Canada in November 1942. Awarded various medals including the RCAF Operational Wings in recognition of gallant service in that he has completed a tour of operational duty in action against the enemy posthumously on the 27th February 1946.
Sgt. Thomas Idwell Hughes. Hamburg Ohlsdorf Cemetery. Grave 10A.M.15. Son of Thomas and Rebecca Hughes, of Holyhead, Anglesey, Wales. Also commemorated on the Holyhead Cenotaph.
Fl/Sgt. Wallace Gale Arlidge. Hamburg Ohlsdorf Cemetery. Grave 10A.N.15. Son of George Ainslie and Anne Isobel (née Wallace) of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Sgt. James Galloway. Hamburg Ohlsdorf Cemetery. Grave 10A.M.11. Son of James Galloway, and of Helen Paterson Galloway, of Grangemouth, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
Sgt. George Conrad Nault. Hamburg Ohlsdorf Cemetery. Grave 10A.J.15. Husband of Kathleen Elizabeth Nault, of Capreol, Ontario, Canada.
Fl/Sgt. Louis Joseph Roger Andre Pelland. Hamburg Ohlsdorf Cemetery. Grave 10A.M.9. Son of Albert and Jeanne Pelland, of Montreal, Province of Quebec, Canada.
Thanks to contact with Jeff Jackson, nephew of Fl/Sgt. David Henderson Bates who contacted us in December 2015, Michel Beckers for grave photo and medals. With further thanks the the Memory Project for the transcript of Sgt. Demcoe’s survival. Other sources as quoted below.