10/11.12.1943 No. 161 Squadron SOE Lysander IIIa V9673 MA-J F/O. Bathgate
Operation: Special Operations Executive
Date: 10/11th December 1943 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: No. 161 Squadron (3 Group)
Type: Lysander IIIa
Base: RAF Tangmere, Sussex
Location: Berry-Au-Bac, Aisne, France
Pilot: F/O. James Robertson Grant Bathgate DFC NZ/403932 RNZAF Age 23. Killed
Captain Claudius Four (Also known as Kim)
Agent: Emile Cossonneau (Also known as Moreau)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 21:05 hrs from RAF Tangmere in Sussex on 'operation Sten' when they were hit by ant-aircraft fire crashing at Berry-Au-Bac, Aisne in France, killing the decorated New Zealander pilot as well his his equally decorated passengers.
Another Lysander flown by 25 year old, Fl/Lt. James McAllister McBride 113888 RAFVR was forced to return due to deteriorating weather conditions. Sadly he was also killed a week on the 17th December whilst trying to land in heavy fog. His Lysander V9367 MA-B crashed at 03:53 hrs at RAF Tangemere, his two 'passengers' survived.
During that same operation another Lysander V9674 MA-K flown by 28 year old, F/O. Stephen Alers Hankey 40822 RAF crashed in similar circumstances at 04:02 hrs - his two 'passengers' were killed.
"F/O. James Robertson Grant Bathgate has taken part in a very large number of sorties, many of them in the Middle East. He had displayed exceptional skill, keenness and determination, qualities which have earned many successes. He is a very efficient captain and his example has proved inspiring".
No. 161 (Special Duties) Squadron was a highly secretive unit of the Royal Air Force, which, together with 138 Squadron and 148 Squadron, was tasked with missions of the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War. Their primary role was to drop and collect secret agents and equipment into and from Nazi-occupied Europe. The squadron had a secondary role in acting as the King's Flight.
F/O. James Robertson Grant Bathgate DFC. La Ville-Aux-Bois British Cemetery. Grave 3.B.1A. Son of George Thomas Bathgate and of Eleanor Isabella Bathgate (née Macnee), of Outram, Otago, New Zealand and husband of Dorothea Valentia Bathgate. He had served previously both in the Middle East and England. A total of 1117 flying hours logged. Sadly his family also lost his brother just a few weeks earlier - details below.
Others mentioned within page:
21 year old, Pte. John William Macnee Bathgate. 438027 23rd Bn. New Zealand Infantry. Sangro River War Cemetery, Italy. Grave XVI.A.17. Next of kin details as shown for his brother.
47 year old, Captain Claudius Four. Initially at La Ville-Aux-Bois British Cemetery. Reinterred July 1948 at Bourg-en-Bresse, France at the request of his family.
49 year old, Emile Cossonneau. La Ville-Aux-Bois British Cemetery. A Locksmith by trade. Born in Paris on the 22nd October 1893. He was mayor of Gagny to the east of Paris in 1935 before becoming a Deputy (MP) for the Seine-et-Oise Department. He approved of the German/Soviet Pact and was arrested in October 1939 and stripped of his Parliamentary mandate for 5 years, sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and fined heavily. Transferred to North Africa in March 1941, he was liberated by allied troops in February 1943.
Fl/Lt. James McAllister McBride. Chichester Cemetery. Square 115. C. of E. Plot. Grave 24. Son of Donald and Jean W. McBride, of Port of Spain, Trinidad. Grave inscription reads: "Killed On Active Service".
F/O. Stephen Alers Hankey. Crowhurst Churchyard, (St. George). Son of Cecil George Herbert Alers Hankey and Gertrude Clare Hankey and husband of Elizabeth Anne Hankey (née Papillon), of South Kensington, London, England. Grave inscription reads: "Greater Love Hath No Man Than This".
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Frank Mahieu for taking photographs of the grave - February 2018. Also to the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Weekly News of New Zealand, also to Mr. R. Maddox for information on agent Cossonneau via Assemblée Nationale, other sources as quoted below: