29/30.07.1943 428 (Ghost) Squadron, RCAF Halifax V DK239 NA:Q Flt Sgt. David H. Bates
Date: 29th/30th July 1943 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: 428 (Ghost) Squadron, RCAF
Type: Halifax V
Base: RAF Middleton St. George
Pilot: Flt Sgt. David Henderson Bates R131551 RCAF Age 23. Killed
Flt Eng: Sgt. Thomas Idwell Hughes 1684906 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Nav: Flt Sgt. Wallace Gale Arlidge R156931 RCAF Age 19. Killed
Bomb Aimer: Sgt. Paul Demcoe R157401 RCAF PoW No: 1297 * (1)
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. James Galloway 1368326 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Sgt. George Conrad Nault R161983 RCAF Age 22. Killed
Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. Louis Joseph Roger Andre Pelland R135100 RCAF Age 21. Killed
* Stalag Luft 6, Heydekrug, Memelland (now Šilutė in Lithuania)
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.
DK239 was claimed by Fw Willi Rullkötter from 3./JG Hermann, 8km south of Harburg at 4.000m at 02:02 hrs. The aircraft crashed at Lüneburg. Note: DK239 was coned by 2./Flakscheinw. Abt. 530, also claimed by Flak of 2./schw. Flak Abt 418(Eis), 1. & 3./schw. Flak Abt. 603, 5./schw. Flak Abt. 601 and 2. & 3./schw. Flak Abt. 336 (Halifax Klecken 01:25 hrs). The flak claim was confirmed by the OKL on 12th September 1944. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (23 June - 22 September) 1943 Part 2 - Theo Boiten).
(1) Sgt. 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.'
Flt Sgt. Bates was originally buried at the Hittfield Cemetery and the rest of the crew at the central cemetery in Lüneburg - reinterred at war end at Hamburg Ohlsdorf Cemetery, with the pilot buried at Becklingen War Cemetery.
Flt Sgt. David Henderson Bates. Becklingen War Cemetery. Grave 14.C.13. Grave inscription: "HE WAS LOVED BY HIS FAMILY AND FRIENDS AND WAS AN EXAMPLE OF GOODNESS TO ALL." Born on the 9th March 1920 in Magrath, Alberta. Son of Franklin Richard and Effie Corine (née Henderson) Bates of Diamond City, Alberta, Canada.
School Teacher prior to service. 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. Grave inscription: "LOVED IN LIFE HE'S LIVING YET IN THE HEARTS OF THOSE WHO NEVER FORGET." Son of Thomas and Rebecca Hughes, of Holyhead, Anglesey, Wales. Also commemorated on the Holyhead Cenotaph.
Flt Sgt. Wallace Gale Arlidge. Hamburg Ohlsdorf Cemetery. Grave 10A.N.15. Born on the 31st October 1923 in Toronto, Ontario. Son of George Ainslie and Anne Isobel (née Wallace) Arlidge of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Sgt. James Galloway. Hamburg Ohlsdorf Cemetery. Grave 10A.M.11. Grave inscription: "MAY THE SWEETNESS MISSED ON LIFE'S HIGHWAY BE FOUND IN GOD'S HAVEN OF REST." Son of James Galloway, and of Helen Paterson Galloway, of Grangemouth, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
Sgt. George Conrad Nault. Hamburg Ohlsdorf Cemetery. Grave 10A.J.15. Grave inscription: "BELOVED HUSBAND OF KATHLEEN, FATHER OF JIMMY AND LINDA. R.I.P." Born on the 24th February 1918 in Fort Francis, Ontario . Son of James Nault (deceased) and Adelia (née Wailford) Nault and Husband to Kathleen Nault of St. Rouyn, Quebec, Canada.
Flt Sgt. Louis Joseph Roger Andre Pelland. Hamburg Ohlsdorf Cemetery. Grave 10A.M.9. Grave inscription: "DORS EN PAIX LOIN DE NOUS, QUI PENSONS TOUJOURS A TOI." (Translation: SLEEP IN PEACE AWAY FROM US, WHO ALWAYS THINK OF YOU). Born on the 25th December 1921 in Montreal, Quebec. Son of J. Albert and Jeanne (née Hardy) Pelland of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Thanks to contact with Jeff Jackson, nephew of Flt Sgt. David Henderson Bates who contacted us in December 2015, Michel Beckers for grave photo and medals. With further thanks to the Memory Project for the transcript of Sgt. Demcoe’s survival. Narrative updated by Aircrew Remembered (Mar 2022).
Other sources as quoted below.