Date: 15/16th June 1944 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: No. 75 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Mepal, Cambridgeshire.
Location: Rieux-en-Cambresia, France.
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Roland Desmond Ernest Betley NZ/421495 RNZAF Age 22. Killed
Fl/Eng: Fl/Sgt. Basil Griffiths 1578754 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Nav: Sgt. Edward George Gilliatt 648452 RAF Age 22. Killed
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Lawrence Eastmure Hale NZ/42395 RNZAF Age 26. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: W/O. Edward Wallace Toohey NZ/416672 RNZAF Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ronald Howe 993314 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Peter Jackson Cook NZ/42708 RNZAF Age 21. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Mepal, Cambridgeshire at 23.09 hrs. to bomb the railway yards at Lens and Valenciennes. Visibility was considered excellent for the 224 aircraft operation with both targets accurately bombed.
Left to right: Fl/Sgt. Betley, Fl/Sgt. Cook and Fl/Sgt. Hale (courtesy N/Z. Weekly News)
Lancaster LL888 is reported to have been shot down by 'probably' Hptm. Josef Krahforst (1) an ace at this time with 5 abschusse from 2./NJG4 at 00.51 hrs.
(1) Hptm. Josef Krahforst claimed a total of 11 kills, before he was shot down by a Mosquito on the 27/28th September 1944 at Somborn, south of Geinhausen, Hessen.
Rieux Communal Cemetery (courtesy Michel Lespagnol)
Also buried here are some of the crew from 514 Squadron. Lancaster II LL690 crashed the same night after being shot down.
Fl/Sgt. Roland Desmond Ernest Betley. Rieux Communal Cemetery. Coll.
Grave 8-10. Son of John Ernest Betley and of Amy Violet Betley (nee Shaw), of Hastings, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, husband of Barbara Isobel May Betley, of 6 Wellesley Street, Fielding, Wellington, New Zealand.
Further information: Flight Sergeant Roland Desmond Ernest Betley was born in Hastings, New Zealand. Educated at Palmerston North T S and became an electrical engineering apprentice at Feilding Freezing Works. Ten months with the Territorials before enlisting in the RNZAF in March 1942 as an Aircraft hand GD, re-mustering as a Pilot under training. During his training at No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School at Ashburton he survived a mid-air collision then completed his training in Canada at No. 10 Service Flying Training School at Dauphin Alberta where wings were awarded in July 1943, embarking for the UK the same month. In England he was sent to an Advanced Flying Unit followed by 11 Operational Training Unit for experience on Wellingtons at R.A.F. Westcott in Berkshire and then to 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit for training on Stirlings and Lancasters at RAF Wratting Common in Cambridgeshire moving finally to 75 Squadron. This was his second operation.
(Left) Fl/Sgt. Basil Griffiths. Rieux Communal Cemetery. Coll. Grave 8-10. Born in 1922. Son of Robert and Cicily Griffiths from Pant, Shropshire, England. Brother to Margaret, Ken, Don and Len. Fl/Sgt Griffiths is remembered on a Plaque at the Pant Memorial Hall. (Photograph courtesy of the Griffiths family)
Sgt. Edward George Gilliatt. Rieux Communal Cemetery. Coll. Grave 8-10. Son of John and Ellen Orrell Gilliatt; husband of Monica Julia Gilliatt, of Cheetham Hill, Manchester, England.
Fl/Sgt. Lawrence Eastmure Hale. Rieux Communal Cemetery. Grave 7. Son of Sylvester Gresham Hale and Violet Francis Kate Hale, of Auckland City, New Zealand.
W/O. Edward Wallace Toohey. Rieux Communal Cemetery. Grave 5. Son of Edward Cornelius Toohey and of Alexandra Toohey (nee Wallace), of Hokitika, Westland, New Zealand.
Sgt. Ronald Howe. Rieux Communal Cemetery. Grave 6. No further details currently available.
Fl/Sgt. Peter Jackson Cook. Rieux Communal Cemetery. Grave 11. Son of Henry Cook and of Ellen Mary Cook (nee Hewson), of Huinga, Taranaki, New Zealand.
Researched with the kind assistance of Michel Lespagnol, who lives close to where the Lancaster crashed. With thanks for further information to Auckland War Memorial Museum, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol. 5', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth Graves Commission. Thanks to Helen, the Secretary of the Pant Memorial Hall, for the new information for Fl/Sgt. Griffiths.