03/04.04.1943 No 158 Squadron Halifax II DT795 NP-N W/O. Blake
Date: 03/04th April 1943 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit: No. 158 Squadron
Type: Halifax II
Base: RAF Lissett, Yorkshire
Location: Appeldoorn Canal, Wapenveld, Holland
Pilot: W/O. Frederick Henry Blake R/78495 RCAF Age 26. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Gerard Stanley Walters 1271369 RAFVR Age ? Missing - remains later recovered
Nav: Sgt. William David Hawkins 1316309 RAFVR Age 23. Missing - remains later recovered
Air/Bmr: Sgt. John Ceredig Jones 1386043 RAFVR Age 31. Missing - remains later recovered
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Philip Henry Eldridge 1293257 RAFVR Age 29. Missing - remains later recovered
Air/Gnr: W/O.2 Rodney Webber R/106709 RCAF Age 21. Killed (1)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Thomas Victor Trollope 1352234 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Information and photographs were kindly submitted by Eric Munk, from the Netherlands and Dick Breedijk
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 19:41 hrs to bomb the city of Essen - with a total force of 348 aircraft (225 Lancasters, 113 Halifaxes and 10 Mosquitoes) Weather forecast was not good for the operation but it turned out that there was no cloud over the target resulting in the fairly accurate bombing.
Widespread damage was caused in the centre and the western half of the city. 635 buildings were destroyed with a further 526 suffering severe damage. Casualties on the ground amounted to 118 killed, 458 injured.
The allies lost some 21 aircraft with 3 from 158 squadron lost. The others:
Halifax II DT635 NP-F Flown by 27 year old Fl/Lt. John D. Cole RAFVR from Alexandria, Egypt, killed with all 6 other crew members.
Halifax II HR754 NP-K Flown by 29 year old Sgt. John Keedwell RAFVR from Purton, Berkeley, was killed with 3 other crew, 3 injured, when their aircraft crashed near Sigglesthorne, Yorkshire on return.
It is understood that DT795 was attacked and shot down by Uffz.Emil Heinzelmann (2) of 8./NJG1 at 23.50 hrs with the aircraft coming down in the Appeldoorn Canal, Wapenveld, Holland.
Excavation 2014 (courtesy Eric Munk)
It has been discovered that an unmarked Commonwealth War grave in the local cemetery at Wapenveld may perhaps contain 2 of the missing crew - they were buried during the removal of the bulk of the wreckage a few weeks after the crash in 1943.
In late 2014 Dutch authorities recovered further remains of the wreck along with the remains of 2 of the missing crew. Research is underway to identify these and then also perhaps, in time, identify the two others at the cemetery in Wapenveld.
Eric Munk wrote and advised us:
'For years, the council had been thinking about making a final attempt at identifying the four missing crew members from the Wapenveld site. However, the logistics needed would cost around half a million Euros (to partially drain the canal and take out the dyke the aircraft impacted) and the small community could not afford this. Province and national funding is on a need-to-do-basis, with cases taking priority where new developments are planned (roads, estates, etc). Last year, the province decided to dredge the entire canal to make it navigable again for small boats. By law, such a dredging operation has to take into account ammunition-sensitive sites (from WW2), to ensure safe working conditions for the dredgers.
The Wapenveld site which was partially in the canal, therefore, moved way up the list for extra funding, and within three months enough money was raised from the water authorities, province, council and nation to allow for a full excavation of the site. The canal was dammed and partially drained, the dyke dugout, and about 5000 square metres of land dug down to undisturbed soil.
Above L-R: W/O. Frederick Blake, Sgt. John Jone, W/O.2 Rodney Webber, Sgt. William Hawkins and Sgt. Thomas Trollope
This took about four weeks to do. In the course of this, incomplete sets of remains from two crew members were found, as well as fragmented aircraft debris and some major components (a prop hub, undercarriage parts, oxygen bottles, etc). All this despite two earlier recovery efforts (by German forces in 1943 and the Dutch navy in 1947). The site is now back to normal, and the contractor has guaranteed that no aircraft or crew remains over 8 mm tall are left (all earth was sifted). A massive operation.
Parts found will be put on permanent display sometime next year at the local education centre in the nearby windmill for future generations, and around 3000 people visited the site over the weeks to learn of the Halifax crew. Among them were family members of missing crew member Jack Jones, and tail gunner Tommy Trollope who are buried at Oud-Leusden.
The crew remains found are now with the BIDKL (air force identification unit) for identification, which could take months if not years. It is hoped that these remains, combined with those buried (since 1943) in a nameless grave in Wapenveld will enable authorities to identify either individual crew members or identify four individuals as a group. Time will tell…
Update: Indeed they were and the missing crew members were laid to rest in a full military funeral service on the 28th June 2016
The outfit who did the recovery is now at Werkendam excavating Lancaster LM508, where they were able to recover human remains last week that can only be from missing tail gunner Sgt. Keogh, who will be formally identified in the next months.'
(1) Rodney Webber was the sole survivor on a 15 OTU Wellington VIII HX566 which crashed on a delivery flight to the Middle East. Full story here.
(2) This was the first abschüss for Uffz. Emil Heinzelmann. He was killed later on the 13/14th December 1944 after a failed belly landing during a practice flight after an engine fire. Total abschüsse totalled 5.
Excavation of crash site in Holland 2014
Crew graves (courtesy PupDawg - see credits)
Above and below the funeral in 2016 (courtesy Dick Breedijk)
Dick kindly advised us where the complete album of the funeral service is located. See here
W/O. Frederick Henry Blake. Amersfoort General Cemetery (Oud Leuesden). Plot 13. Row 5. Grave 95. Born on the 30th of Sep tember 1916 at Mongtreal. Son of Frederick Herbert (died 15th January 1968, age 79) and Mary Annie Blake (died in 1933, age 39) Remarried a Gladys D. Blake on the 29th March 1945 (died on the 29th December 1996, age 91), of The Dallas, Oregon, USA, husband of Barbara Blake. The grave inscription 'And How Can Man Die Better Than Facing Fearful Odds, For The Ashes Of His Fathers...'
Sgt. Gerard Stanley Walters. Heerde General Cemetery (Wapenveld). Collective grave 221-224. Earlier inscribed on the Runnymede Memorial. Panel 168. Son of Albert Sidney and Jane Walters, of Stratford, Essex, England.
Sgt. William David Hawkins.Heerde General Cemetery (Wapenveld). Collective grave 221-224. Earlier inscribed on the Runnymede Memorial. Panel 152. Born on the 08th February 1920 at Tewksbury. Son of George and Ada Georgina Hawkins, of Gloucester, England. Grave inscription 'Beloved Son Of George And Ada Georgina Of Gloucester. Gone But Never Forgotten'.
Sgt. John Ceredig Jones Heerde General Cemetery (Wapenveld). Collective grave 221-224. Earlier inscribed on the Runnymede Memorial. Panel 155. Son of John and Ellen Jones, of Llanon, Cardiganshire, Wales. Grave inscription 'Yn Cofio Mewn Hiraeth A Chyda Diolch Am Un A Fu Farw Dros Gyd-Ddyn A'i Wlad'. (Roughly translated: Remembering In Longing And With Thanks For One Who Died For A Man And His Country.)
Sgt. Philip Henry Eldridge. Heerde General Cemetery (Wapenveld). Collective grave 221-224. Earlier inscribed on the Runnymede Memorial. Panel 148. Son of Walter Richard and Emily Harriet Jane Eldridge, husband of Joyce Monica Eldridge, of King's Langley, Hertfordshire, England. The grave inscription 'Here Lies An Airman Reunited With His Crew. They Gave Their Lives For Our Freedom'.
W/O.2 Rodney Webber. Amersfoort General Cemetery (Oud Leuesden). Plot 13. Row 5. Grave 96. Born on the 01st June 1921 at Missoula, USA Son of Fred W. and Onia Webber. Of Bellingham, Washington, USA.
Sgt. Thomas Victor Trollope. Amersfoort General Cemetery (Oud Leuesden). Plot 13. Row 5. Grave 94. Son of Eliza Ann Trollope, of Walthamstow, Essex, England. Grave inscription 'Sleep On, Dear Boy And Take Thy Rest God Calleth Those He Loveth Best. Mother'.
For further details our thanks to the following, Tracey Goodwin member 46990892 for Find a Grave, grave photographs used here with permission. Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', ‘Bomber Command Database’, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2', ‘Runnymede Database’, Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries (Updated 2014 version), 'Paradie Archive'. Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Tom Kracker - 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'. https://photos.google.com/u/0/share/AF1QipNA648D-F... With additional thanks to Dick Breedijk. Further information from these titles/organisations are available from us, just use the 'help' button on the main page above or 'add info' button also shown on this page.