09/10.06.1944 49 Squadron Lancaster III ND533 Fg Off. Bryan E. Bell.
Operation: Étampes railway junction, France
Date: 9th/10th June 1944 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: 49 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Fiskerton, Lincolnshire
Location: North of Rosay-sur-Lieure (Eure), France
Pilot: Fg Off. Bryan Esmond Bell 151471 RAFVR Age 24. Killed
Flt Eng: Sgt. Sydney Charles Holmes 1810022 RAFVR Age 28. Killed
Nav: Fg Off. Duncan MacFadyen 425178 RAAF Age 28. Killed
Bomb Aimer: Fg Off. Philip Derek Hemmens 152583 RAFVR Age 20. Evader/PoW No. 78383
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. John Holden 1521290 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Air Gnr: Fg Off. Hilary Daniel Clark 159223 RAFVR Age 28. Killed
Air Gnr: Sgt. Joseph John Reed 1281835 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
Above: L to R: Fg Off. Bell, Fg Off. MacFadyen, Sgt. Holden and Fg Off. Hemmens (Aircrew Remembered archives)
REASON FOR LOSS:
49 Squadron provided 21 aircraft for this mission with ND533 taking off from RAF Fiskerton at 21:36 hrs on the night of the 9th/10th June 1944 to bomb the rail facilities at Étampes in France. This was the 5th operation of the night and ND533 joined 117 aircraft tasked with this mission. The stream crossed Dieppe at 23:15 hrs en route to the target located to the south of Paris.
En route from the target ND533 was attacked and shot down by a German night-fighter. The aircraft crashed 2 km north of Rosay-sur-Lieure (Eure) and 9 km north of Ecouis in France.
ND533 was claimed by Hauptmann (Capt.) Heinz-Horst Hissbach, his 15th victory, from 5./NJG2, in the Etrepagny area (UD-TD): 2,000m at 00:38 hrs (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (12 May 1944 - 23 July 1944) Part 3 - Theo Boiten)
Hauptmann Hissbach was shot down and killed on the night of 14th/15th April 1945 by American flak during a ground attack mission. He was credited with 28 victories at night and a possible 3 day victories. (Luftwaffe ACES - Biographies and Victory Claims (Mathews and Foreman) - Volume 2).
Fg Off. Hemmens was the only crew member that successfully escaped from the aircraft. It is clear that Fg Off. Hemmens successfully evaded for a period of time although the details are not known.
What can be surmised is that he was captured, probably wearing civilian clothes, in Paris as he was held at the Fresnes prison located to the south of Paris. This was were French political prisoners were held and ordinarily Allied airmen, after questioning, were moved to a PoW Camp. In the summer of 1944, with the Allies having liberated Paris and closing in, the Gestapo guards started reducing the prison population by execution, and then relocating surviving prisoners to various concentration camps east of France (Ref 1).
The prison was liberated on the 24th August by French forces.
On the 15th August 1944 168 PoWs including Fg Off. Hemmens and hundreds of French men and women were packed into a freight train and transported to Buchenwald concentration camp on a journey lasting five days. Buchenwald was located 8 km north of Weimar, in the German province of Thüringen.
A Sqn Ldr. Lamason was the senior officer at the Buchenwald concentration camp and he was instrumental in getting most of the airmen transferred to Stalag Luft 3:
Fg Off. Hemmens was one of two airmen that did not make the transfer to Stalag Luft 3. The second was 1st Lt. Levitt Clinton Beck Jr. O-736945 US AAF, who was transferred to the camp hospital where he died of purulent pleurisy due to medical neglect on the night of the 29th/30th October 1944. (insert Link when available)
Fg Off. Hemmens died in the camp hospital through medical neglect on the 10th October 1944 due to septicæmia from a wound received whilst escaping his crashing aircraft. This was further complicated through medical neglect for rheumatic fever and pneumonia. Note: although his official date of death is given as the 18th October the true date is thought to have been the 27th September 1944 (Ref 2.)
There is no known grave for Fg Off. Hemmens and it was speculated that his body was cremated at the camp and his ashes dispersed.
Crew graves (credit: Jane Chilvers of Norwich)
Fg Off. Bryan Esmond Bell. Bayeux War Cemetery Plot XVI Row C Collective Grave 10. Inscription reads: "HIS PRECIOUS MEMORY WILL LIVE ALWAYS IN THE HEARTS OF THOSE WHO LOVED HIM". Born during January 1920 in Elham, Kent. Son of Percy Henry and Marjorie May (née Waters) Bell, of Harrow, Middlesex, England.
Sgt. Sydney Charles Holmes. Marissel French National Cemetery Grave 248. Inscription reads: "OUR SYD. SOME DAY, SOME TIME OUR EYES SHALL SEE THE FACE WE KEEP IN MEMORY." Born in 1916. Son of Charles and Thirza Elizabeth May Holmes, of Edmonton, Middlesex, England.
Fg Off. Duncan MacFadyen. Bayeux War Cemetery Plot XVI Row C Collective Grave 10. Inscription reads: "HIS DUTY FEARLESSLY AND NOBLY DONE. EVER REMEMBERED". Born on the 31st August 1915 in Neilston, Scotland. Son of John and Margaret MacFadyen; husband of Elizabeth Adams MacFadyen, of Redcliffe, Queensland, Australia.
Above: Memorial at Buchenwald for Fg Off. Hemmens and 1st Lt. Beck (Credit Harold Skaarup).
Fg Off. Philip Derek Hemmens. Runnymede Memorial Panel 206. Born on the 22nd November 1922 in Hampstead, London. He resided in South Woodford in Essex. Son of the Reverend Ernest and Florence Hemmens. No further information found.
Sgt John Holden. Bayeux War Cemetery Plot XVI Row C Collective Grave 10. Inscription reads: "WE HAVE LOST, HEAVEN HAS GAINED ONE OF THE BEST THE WORLD CONTAINED." Born on the 30th April 1923 in Lancashire. Son of Thomas Edward and Mary (née Shepherd) Holden of Rising Bridge, Accrington, Lancashire, England
Fg Off. Hilary Daniel Clark. Bayeux War Cemetery Plot XVI Row C Collective Grave 10. Inscription reads: "ETERNAL REST GRANT UNTO THEM, O LORD; AND LET PERPETUAL LIGHT SHINE UPON THEM." Born during 1916. Son of Daniel and Sarah (née Smith) Clark of Burnopfield, Co. Durham, England.
Sgt. Joseph John Reed. Bayeux War Cemetery Plot XVI Row C Collective Grave 10. Inscription reads: "GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS, THAT A MAN LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS." Born on the 6th July 1921 in London. Son of James Alfred and Ellen Florence (née Morden) Reed of Dagenham, Essex, England.
Above Lancaster ND533 EA:M memorial: Left original, Right current (Credit: Alain Octavie)
1. Hitler’s Atrocities against Allied PoWs - Philip D. Chinnery - Page 191
2. Footprints in the Sands of Time: RAF Bomber Command Prisoners-of-War in Germany 1939-1945 - Oliver Clutton-Brook
Researched for the relatives of the crew. With thanks to the following: Jill Chivers for grave photographs. Thanks to Roger Bedford for the Sqn code correction (Jun 2015). Updated narrative by Ralph Snape of Aircrew Remembered (Apr 2021). Other sources below: