23/24.09.1944 No. 9 Squadron Lancaster I LL914 WS-U P/O. William Begg
Date: 23/24 September 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit: No. 9 Squadron - Motto: Per noctem volamus (We fly through the night)
Badge: A bat with wings extended. Approved by King Edward VIII in November 1936 as an authorised version of a badge highlighting the squadron's night-bombing role.
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Bardney, Lincolnshire
Location: Near Zuna, Netherlands
Pilot: P/O. William Begg 179702 RAFVR Age 21 - Missing believed killed (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Eric Haskins 2211443 RAFVR Age 34 - Missing believed killed (2)
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Harold Herbert J. Bromley 1601558 RAFVR Age 20 - Missing believed killed (3)
Air/Bmr: P/O. Timothy Ambrose Harrington J/90524 RCAF Age 26 - Killed (4)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Moreton 1684628 RAFVR - Missing believed killed (5)
Air/Gnr (MU): Sgt. Archibald Donald Jones 2220848 RAFVR Age 29 - Killed (6)
Air/Gnr (R): Sgt. Frederick Wilcock 1897947 RAFVR Age 38 - Killed (7)
We appeal to anyone with further information and/or photographs to please contact us via our HELPDESK
The first thing that would have struck you about the crew was the obvious disparity in their ages. At one end of the spectrum was the Scottish pilot, William (Jock) Begg 21 and erstwhile Surrey Panel Beater now navigator, Harold Bromley 20, whilst it was as plain as the nose on your face that Eric Haskins the flight engineer and air gunner Fred Wilcock were significantly older. Eric was 34 and married to Constance. They lived with his parents in Hoylake Cheshire and prior to enlisting he had been a full time ARP Warden. Fred Wilcock, a former Plasterer, was 38, had been married to Gertrude for 17 years and had three children. Lancastrian by birth the family now lived in Middlesex.
In between was Canadian Tim Harrington: aged 26 he hailed from Killaloe in Ontario, a small community of 500 or so souls. Coming from a farming family he had inevitable followed in the profession until 1940 when he tried Mining but did not like it so became a Press Helper at munitions firm DIL Nobel until enlisting.
The other air gunner was former Motor Mechanic Archibald Jones from Chepstow, Monmouthshire. Aged 29 and married to Gladys, they had a daughter Patricia and were looking forward to the birth of their second child due in February the following year.
The wireless operator was James Moreton. Sadly nothing more is known about James, if you have any information please contact our helpdesk
They had crewed up at No. 16 Operational Training Unit at RAF Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire in January 1944 and at Eric Haskins had joined them at No. 1654 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Wigsley, Nottinghamshire in May.
On 25 July 1944 they arrived at RAF Bardney, Lincolnshire the home of No. 9 Squadron. 6 days later their training would be put to the test when they were detailed for their first operation, the railway yards at Joigny La Roche in north-central France which they duly bombed and returned to base without mishap.
Ops then came thick and fast. The next day it was the flying bomb site at Mont Candon, the day after, the flying bomb supply site at Bois de Cassan and the day after that the flying bomb stores at Trossy.
On 4 August the crew had a welcome day off but then they were back at it.
The rail bridge at Étaples on the 5th was followed two days later with a raid on the U boat pens at Lorient when the whole force was ordered not to bomb by W/T and recalled.
On 9 August they bombed an oil depot at La Pallice and the following day another one at Bordeaux. They had completed 9 Ops in 11 days and their seven days leave from 13 to 19 August was presumably both welcome and enjoyable yet tempered by the knowledge of their inevitable return to operations.
Though the squadron flew two more ops in August but the Begg crew were not detailed for either.
There were no further ops until 11 September when the 9 and 617 Squadrons were deployed to Yagodnik, near Archangel, Russia, and on the 15th they attacked the Tirpitz in Kaa Fjord. The William Begg crew was not detailed for the attack.
But their respite was short lived and on 23 September the crew was back on ops.
REASON FOR LOSS
On the night of 23/24 September 1944 a force of 136 Lancasters and 5 Mosquitoes of 5 Group was to attack the Dortmund-Ems Canal at Ladbergen some 15 miles north of Münster whilst in support of this raid a second force comprising 107 Lancasters, 5 Mosquitoes and 1 Lightening also of 5 Group was to attack the German night fighter airfield just outside Münster at Handorf.
The canal was a vital supply route for the transport of raw materials especially coke to the Ruhr steelworks. At Ladbergen the canal divided into two parallel branches to accommodate the large volume of traffic. Here the level of the canal was significantly higher than the surrounding land and its two branches each passed over the Ladberger Mühlenbach (mill stream) via an aqueduct. It was the two aqueducts that were primary the target.
No. 9 Squadron detailed 12 Lancasters to the force despatched to attack the canal whilst No. 617, the Dambusters, provided 11. Nos 9 and 617 squadrons were Tallboy specialists and as such the only two Bomber Command squadrons with Lancasters modified to carry the Tallboy 12000lb bomb and with appropriately trained crews. For this raid the Lancasters of 617 Squadron all carried Tallboy bombs and whilst it is probable that all those of No. 9 Squadron were similarly armed it is only known for certain that two of them were. [Gordon Thorburn in Bombers First and Last states that a flight from 9 Squadron were attacking aqueducts near Munster on the Dortmund Ems Canal using Tallboys]
The bombs, both Tallboy and conventional were all set with time delay fuses, the Tallboys for 30 minutes.
At RAF Bardney the first of the 12 Lancasters of No. 9 Squadron took off at 1900 hours and by 1926 all were airborne. Lancaster LL914 piloted by P/O. William Begg was away at 1902. On board was a 12000lb Tallboy fused for a 30 minute delay and one 500lb medium capacity bomb.
The bomber stream formed up and crossed the Essex coast at Clacton. The briefed route took the bombers south of Brussels before turning east and then north east near Liege towards Münster. The planned route was predominantly over liberated areas of Europe thus avoiding enemy action as much as possible.
By 2145 hours the main force was arriving over a target area covered in 7/10ths cloud and though heavy flak over the target was slight but increased as the main force came in and there was also some light flak. Some reports put cloud cover at 10/10ths tops 7-8000 feet.
Many crews later reported that they saw no target indicators and No. 97 Pathfinder Squadron Operations Record Book reported that:
"One of the controllers had navigational trouble, arrived late, and took no part in the operation. The remaining controller assessed the first flares as south of the target, and ordered the 2nd and 3rd flare waves to drop their flares 3 miles to the north. It was afterwards found however that the Mosquitoes had, in the light of these flares, marked the wrong aqueduct some 6 miles to the north of the target, so the original flares could hardly have been south."
The poor visibility due to cloud cover left many crews unable to locate the aiming point and of the 12 Lancasters of No. 9 Squadron, 5 returned to base with their bombs, whilst two more were lost on the home-bound journey with their Tallboys still on board. The five that delivered their bombs were unable to observe any results due to the time delay fuses.
The two aqueducts however were not hit but despite the weather conditions encountered, breaches were made in the banks of both branches of the canal and a six mile stretch of it was drained. Most of the damage was caused by 2 direct hits by 12000lb Tallboys dropped by aircraft of 617 Squadron at the opening of the raid.
On the first leg of the homebound journey significant numbers of enemy fighters were encountered. A total of 14 Lancasters representing 10% of the total force were lost, the majority to flak and Luftwaffe nightfighters whilst over Holland.
The fate of William Begg and the crew of Lancaster LL914 is not entirely clear but it seems that having failed to locate the target due to the low cloud, they turned for home without dropping their bombs.
At 23.23 hoursLancaster LL914 is believed to have been attacked at 8000 feet by a Messerschmitt Bf110 flown by Leutnant Theodor Adamski of the 8./NJG 1 and at about 23.30 hours eyewitnesses reported seeing a Lancaster on fire approaching from Nijverdal before crashing in a meadow bordered by oak trees along the Smeijersdijk in the hamlet of Zuna, between Wierden and Rijssen.
The aircraft came to a standstill against a wooded bank followed 5 minutes later by a violent explosion that caused great damage to nearby farms.
The remains of three of the crew were recovered but of these only those of Frederick Wilcock could be positively identified at the time. The recovered remains were buried by the Germans the following morning at Wierden Cemetery, those of Sgt. Wilcock separately and the unidentified in a joint grave.
On 12 December 1945 following an enquiry by No. 5 (Holland Section) Missing Research and Enquiry Service it was established that the previously unidentified remains buried at Wierden were those of Archibald Jones and Timothy Harrington but it had not been possible to make individual identification.
In 2006 the Salvage Service of the Royal Netherlands Air Force undertook the excavation of the wreckage. In doing so some unidentifiable remains of the other four crew members were recovered and on 18 August 2008 these were interred at Wierden Cemetery.
The details the crash, aftermath and the later excavation of Lancaster LL914 have been compiled using the reports by de Documentatiegroep ’40-’45 and Luchtoorlog boven Twente 1940-1945
No 9 Squadron lost another aircraft that night. Lancaster LL901 captained by Fl/Lt. Charles B. Scott was shot down by a night fighter and crashed at Populierendijk near Deventer Holland. To read the story of this loss click here
4 more more attacks were made on the canal during late 1944 and early 1945 but it was not until the sixth attack on 3 March 1945 that the canal was finally put out of action for good.
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) P/O. William Begg as born in 1922 at Lugar, Ayrshire, Scotland the son of Robert Seaton Begg and Nellie Begg nee Muir
1681800 Sgt. William Begg was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 23 July 1944 (London Gazette 5 September 1944)
He is commemorated on the Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh Castle
(2) Sgt. Eric Haskins was born on 12 March 1910 at Hoylake Cheshire the son of Golf Club Maker Joseph John Haskins and Ann Haskins nee Lyons. He had six siblings: Lucy Lilian Haskins born 1904, John Haskins born 1905, Mary Mabel Haskins born 1906, Edith Edna Haskins born 1908, Winifred A Haskins born 1912 and Elsie Haskins born 1917.
In 1939 Eric married Constance A. Evans at Wirral, Cheshire and afterwards lived with Eric's parents at 80 Market Street Hoylake. Eric Haskins at that time had become a Full Time ARP Warden
(3) Fl/Sgt. Harold Herbert J. Bromley was born on 8 October 1923 at Farnham Surrey the son of Herbert E. Bromley (a Coach Painter) and Emmeline J Bromley nee Gale. He had five siblings: Edward T Bromley born 1921, Leonard R Bromley born 1925, Mary Bromley born 1929, Audrey J. Bromley born 1931 and Elizabeth A Bromley born 1932. The family lived at 5 Hillside Cottages in Farnham.
After leaving school Harold Bromley became an apprentice Panel Beater for a motor company
P/O. Timothy Ambrose Harrington was born on 4 September 1918 at Killaloe, Ontario, Canada the son of Cornelius Harrington (a Farmer) and Mary Isabella Harrington nee Carty. He had 14 siblings: Beatrice Harrington born c 1907 (Mrs E.R. Smith), Earl Harrington born c 1909, Thomas Gregory Harrington born c 1910, Michael Harrington born 1912 died before 1945, Mrs Ken Walsh b c 1912, Harold Harrington born c 1914, Leonard Harrington born c 1915, Mrs J R Mapwell born c 1918, Gerald Harrington born c 1921, Joseph Harrington born c 1922, Isabel Harrington born c 1925, Omer Harrington born c 1928, Therese Harrington born c 1929 and Orville Harrington born c 1933.
Timothy Harrington was educated at St. Andrews Separate School (1924 - 1933) and St Andrew's High School (1933 -1936) Killaloe.
After leaving School he worked in Farming from 1936 to 1940 and in Mining from 1940 to 1941. After leaving mining he worked as a Press Helper at DIL Nobel Ontario until enlisting.
From 2 February 1942 to 12 May 1942 he studied and passed a Pre-Entry Aircrew Educational Course under the War Emergency Training Plan (WETP) at Ontario Training College, Hamilton, Ontario.
When he enlisted at Hamilton on 15 May 1942 he was 5'7" tall weighing 150lbs with a dark complexion, blue eyes and black hair. He stated that he played hockey and basketball and hunted occasionally.
After pilot training in Ontario at No. 5 service Flying Training School at RCAF Brantford, No. 1 initial Training School at RCAF Toronto, No. 7 Elementary Flying Training School at RCAF Windsor he was remustered as an air bomber and posted for training at No. 4 Bombing and Gunnery School at RCAF Fingal, Ontario on 12 June 1943 and on 23 July 1943 he was awarded his Air Bombers Badge and promoted to Sergeant. After a posting to No, 4 Air Observer School at RAF London Ontario he embarked for the UK on 13 September and after disembarking on 19 September was posted to No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre at RAF Bournemouth.
On 14 December he was posted to recently formed No. 8 (Observer) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Mona, Anglesey and on 25 January 1944 to No. 16 Operational Training Unit at RAF Upper Heyford Oxfordshire for training on Vickers Wellingtons.
After a posting to 51 Base he was posted to No. 1654 Conversion Unit at RAF Wigsley, Nottinghamshire on 20 May before being posted to No. 9 Squadron at RAF Bardney on 25 July 1944.
He was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 24 April 1944 and commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 5 September 1944.
(5) Sgt. James Moreton - nothing known. If you have any information PLEASE contact our helpdesk .
(6) Sgt. Archibald Donald Jones was born on 24 September 1914 at Chepstow Monmouthshire the son of Coal Merchant, William Charles Jones and Nellie Louisa Jones nee Wilding. He had two brothers William Stan Jones born 1916 and Royston William Jones (1923-1966)
After leaving school Archibald Jones became a Motor Mechanic and on 16 April 1938 married Gladys Maud Tyrrell at Woolaston, Gloucestershire and afterwards lived at 13, St. Ann's Street, Chepstow. Their daughter Patricia A. Jones was born the following year and their son Robert Charles Jones in February 1945.
(7) Sgt. Frederick Wilcock was born in 1906 at Blackburn, Lancashire the son of William Wilcock and Amelia Wilcock nee Hughes. He had four siblings: William Wilcock born 1896, John Wilcock born 1897, Florence May Wilcock born 1899 and Lilian Wilcock born 1903.
After leaving school Frederick worked as a Plasterer and in 1927 he married Gertrude Wilding at Blackburn. They had three children: Frederick S. Wilcock born 1928, Victor Wilcock born 1930 and May Wilcock born 1934. In 1939 the family lived at 15 Oakington Avenue, Hayes, Middlesex.
(8) Lt. Theodor Adamski was born 8 June 1920. Awarded the Iron Cross Classes 1 & 2 and Night Fighter Operational Clasp. He was killed in action 8/9 March 1945 crashing at Möhne Dam, bailed out too low after colliding with balloon cables while being chased by a Mosquito (Boiten). One known victory, a "4 mot" on the Dortmund/Münster raid of 23 September, 1944.
Boiten states 3 victories and the Bf 110 Loss List suggests he was killed in combat on 5 March, 1945 at Mohnetal-Sperre due to icing, and they refer to the LW Loss Report for this detail.
BURIAL DETAILS, MEMORIALS AND EPITAPHS
(1) P/O. William Begg - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 204.
(2) Sgt. Eric Haskins - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 231.
(3) Fl/Sgt. Harold Herbert J. Bromley - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 216.
(4) Fl/Sgt. Timothy Ambrose Harrington was buried at the Wierden General Cemetery, Overijssel, Netherlands - Row A. Joint Grave 12.
(5) Sgt. James Moreton - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 234.
(6) Sgt. Archibald Donald Jones was buried at the Wierden General Cemetery, Overijssel, Netherlands - Row A. Joint Grave 12.
(7) Sgt. Frederick Wilcock was buried at the Wierden General Cemetery, Overijssel, Netherlands - Row A. Grave 13
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - September 2018
With thanks to the sources quoted below.