16/17.09.1944 No. 115 Squadron Lancaster III LM693 KO-T Fl/Lt. Bickford
Date: 16/17th September 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit: No. 115 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Witchford, Cambridgeshire
Location: Near the village of Strijen, Holland.
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Peter William Bickford J/25920 RCAF Age 24. Killed
Fl/Eng: P/O. Peter Lawrence Dooley 189628 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
Nav: F/O. Arnold Ney Johnston J/28771 RAFVR Age 28. Killed
Air/Bmr: F/O. WilfrId George Scanlan J/25351 RCAF Age 22. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Uriah Bernard Butters 1622660 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Air/Gnr: P/O. Douglas Dawson J/90321 RCAF Age 20. Killed
Air/Gnr: P/O. Donald George Flood J/90719 RCAF Age 20. Killed
A memorial was unveiled in 2015 for these crews and others lost in the area. This is being organised mostly by Anton de Mann who was born in the area and remembers seeing the graves of this crew in his childhood.
Ron Paglia, who submitted a great deal of information and photographs for this page of remembrance is a freelance writer living in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, USA. He has written many articles on this crew and working on a follow up story. Ron emphasised to us that he has received a great deal of assistance with this. Please see credits placed.
Angela Fox contacted us in January 2016 and placed names to these and others to be added. Angela's great Uncle, Donald S. Miller (rear gunner) also served with 115 Squadron.
Bob Scanlan - cousin of F/O. WilfrId George Scanlan also contacted us with further detailed information.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 21:28 hrs from the Cambridge airfield at RAF Witchford in support of operation ‘Market Garden’. The target for this crew were the flak positions at Moerdijk. The outcome was that the target suffered only near misses, however the supply roads were cut to the German army.
The memorial honours 87 Allied and Dutch military personnel who lost their lives in The Netherlands during World War II.
They included the crew of Lancaster Bomber LM693, which crashed late near the memorial site on the night of September 16, 1944 as it was returning from a bombing mission over positions held by Nazi troops at Moerdijk in southern Holland. Members of the Bickford, Dooley and Scanlan families took part in the unveiling of the plates carrying the names of all the men honoured on the memorial.
Key comments offered by speakers at the ceremony:
Jan Van Tol, who served as master of ceremonies, reminded the crowd of the words of American General George S. Patton: “Live for something rather than die for nothing.”
“These men we honour today died for a reason,” he said. “They came from far away, just like many of you. They died in a country that they might have heard about vaguely. But they gave their lives for freedom in which they believed. They died for freedom in which we now live for more than 70 years.
“This memorial is a lasting memory for everyone about the sacrifices one has brought, so they who gave their lives will always be remembered.”
Van Tol also emphasised the flags of eight countries flying above the memorial.
“The special thing about these flags is that they were not made by a Dutch manufacturer, but come from the countries where the fallen aircraft crews live,” he said.
He called attention to the American flag presented to the dedication organisers by the City of Monongahela, “the town in which Peter William Bickford lived and worked.” He thanked Mayor Robert Kepics, councilmen Thomas Caudill, Alan Veliky, Ken Kulak and William Hess, and city clerk Carole Foglia for donating the flag and said it was symbolic because it had flown over the City Building on another “day of remembrance,” Veterans Day, November 11, 2014, in America.
Mayor Klaas Tigelaar of Oud-Beijerand said the memorial offers a solemn reminder about the air fights, bombings, crash landings and the people who offered help to the airmen … “in short the story of the air war above the Hoeksche Waard.”
“This memorial reminds us of the huge impact of a horrible war,” Tigelaar said. “It commemorates the fallen pilots and soldiers who fought for our freedom and all citizens who were killed because of helping those in the crashed aircraft.
“This memorial forces us to look up, to become, together with surviving relatives, silent … silent in memory, in remembrance, out of respect and gratitude, and with hope of no more war, ever.”
Teun Simons, chairman of the Foundation of the Monument Luchtoorlog Hoeksche Waard 1940-45, said the organisation board “sincerely hopes that this monument honouring those who perished will be a place where it will be loud and clearly visible for everyone that freedom by no means can be taken for granted.”
Crew photo, understood to have been taken in the summer of 1944: F/O. WilfrId Scanlan, Fl/Lt Peter Bickford, F/O. Arnold Johsnton, Fl/Sgt. Uriah Butters, P/O. Peter Dooley, P/O. Donald Flood and P/O. Douglas Dawson. (see credits)
Crew taken on the afternoon of the operation - just hours before they were sadly lost. (see credits)
During the operation catastrophe struck, when LML93 and LM169 from 90 squadron collided, with the loss of all 14 crews. Lancaster LM169 was flown by F/O. Paul William Tooley
, their aircraft crashing at S-Gravendeel, north east of Strijen, the crash area of LM693. F/O. Tooley and his crew are buried at the Dordrecht General Cemetery.
The crew graves at Strijen Protestant Cemetery, beautifully looked after by the Dutch people.
Fl/Lt. Peter William Bickford. Strijen Protestant Cemetery. Grave 5. Born in Bristol, England on 16 July 1920. He was the son of William Colston Spence and Elsie (née Chapman) Bickford, both of Bristol. In 1925, the family immigrated to Oakville, Ontario. Younger brother Barrie Spence Bickford, who served in the RCAF, was born in Canada and sister Barbara Laura May in the United States. In 1935, they moved again, this time to Monongahela, Pennsylvania where William was employed as a railroad station agent. Peter attended Monongahela High School from 1935-39. In 1939 he took a job as a sports editor with the Daily Republican newspaper which he held until enlistment. He also found time to attend the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics for a year, studying navigation and meteorology. Sometime after 1947, the family returned to Bristol, having never taken out US citizenship. William passed away in Bristol in 1955 and Elsie died there in 1970.
P/O. Peter Lawrence Dooley. Strijen Protestant Cemetery. Grave 8. Son of Albert and Frances Sybil Wass Dooley, of Stoneleigh, Epsom, Surrey, England.
F/O. Arnold Ney Johnston. Strijen Protestant Cemetery. Grave 6. Born on the home farm in the hamlet of Cadmus,(near Burketon) on the family farm, May 16, 1916, (28 years at time of death) son of John Alexander Johnston and Elizabeth May Johnston (née Ferguson). Arnold was preceded by an older sister Ferga Marjorie, born April 25, 1914 and followed by brother Keith Bruce, September 3, 1920 and Neil Alexander, born February 19, 1922. Arnold’s name is engraved on the memorial monument in nearby Blackstock, Ontario.
F/O. WilfrId George Scanlan. Strijen Protestant Cemetery. Grave 7. From Westport, Ontario, Canada. Son of John and Ethel Scanlan of Westport, Ontarion, Canada. Wilfrid also had (at time of death) 2 sisters and seven brothers.
Fl/Sgt. Uriah Bernard Butters. Strijen Protestant Cemetery. Grave 4. Son of William Bernard and Emily Horton Butters, of Hull, England.
P/O. Douglas Dawson. Strijen Protestant Cemetery. Grave 2. Born in Cookstown, Ontario 10 November 1924. He was the son of druggist Thomas James and Isobel Caroline (née Forbes) Dawson of Cookstown. At the time of enlistment on 9 March 1943 he had been employed as a lather and machinist at Canada Cycle and Motors in Weston, Ontario. To add to the pain of his loss, his brother F/O. Gordon Forbes Dawson, also on No. 115 Sqn, was killed 15 November 1944.
P/O. Donald George Flood. Strijen Protestant Cemetery. Grave 3. Born in Woodstock, Ontario on 4 April 1924. He was the oldest son of George and Lila Katharine (née Reed) Flood of Woodstock, Ontario.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Anton de Man for bringing this loss to our attention, Ron Paglia for the many photographs and additional information. Ron also acknowledges the assistance provided to him by, the family of the pilot, including, his sister, Barbara Myers, and her son, Tony Myers, both of Bristol, England, nephew, Peter J. Bickford, and his mother, Mrs. Pat Bickford (Peter’s sister-in-law)
Right: Anton de Man by the crew graves, who is doing so much, with others in his community, to remember crews lost in his country.
Anton de Man of Strijen, Netherlands, who is spearheading the memorial project there, Jack France, DDS, a longtime dentist in Tampa, Florida. Jack is the son of the late Floyd M. France, who was managing editor of The Daily Republican newspaper in Monongahela, where Peter worked. I had the privilege of working for Floyd France in 1959-60. Leonard Dooley of Ullenhall, England. Henk Noonenboom, also of Strijen, also has sent material and photos. Also to Bob Scanlan (relative of F/O. Wilfred George Scanlan) who has supplied detailed information on F/O. Arnold Ney Johnston in November 2016. Finally to Dave Champion who provided us with such comprehensive details of some of the crew in July 2018.
Left to right: Bill Smith, Terry Bradshaw, Doug Marsh, Peter Dooley, Wilfred Scanlon, with Peter Bickford in the foreground. All of them so very young.
Fl/Lt. Peter William Bickford - left with other pilots, Ken Gadd, Peter Anaka, extreme right - not known.
Left: Fl/Lt. Peter Bickford with his Grandmother, Elsie Chapman and a cousin, Right: With Arnold Johnson.