12/13.05.1943 No. 51 Squadron Halifax II JB806 MH-J Sgt. Brown
Operation: Duisburg, Germany
Date: 12/13th May 1943 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: No. 51 Squadron
Type: Halifax II
Code: MH-J Bar
Base: RAF Snaith, Yorkshire
Location: Weelde Station, Antwerp, 8 km N of Turnhout, Belgium
Pilot: Sgt. Beverley Brown 413162 RAAF Age ? PoW No. 1170, Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang, Stalag Luft Heydekrug and Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Arthur Lloyd George Knight 1454177 RAFVR Age ? PoW No. 327, Stalag Luft Heydekrug and Stalag Luft Sagan & Belaria
Nav: Sgt. W. B. Henderson 1317509 RAFVR Age ? PoW No. 11, Stalag Luft Heydekrug and Stalag Luft Sagan & Belaria
Air/Bmr: Sgt. John D. A. M. Rae 1321387 RAFVR Age ? PoW No. 1266, Stalag Mühlberg-Elbe
W/Op: Sgt. Kenneth Albert Goodchild 1330530 RAFVR Age ? PoW No. 319, Stalag Luft Heydekrug and Stalag Luft Sagan & Belaria
Air/Gnr (Mid Upper): Sgt. William Esmond North-Lewis 929468 RAFVR Age ? PoW No. 1193, Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang
Air/Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Phillipe Louis Marie Charles de Bourbon R/144970 RCAF Age ? PoW No. 1277, Stalag Mühlberg-Elbe
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 23.57 on 12th May 1943 from RAF Snaith, joining 238 Lancasters, 141 other Halifaxes, 112 Wellingtons, 70 Stirlings and 10 Mosquitos. 572 aircraft in all. 34 aircraft were lost - 10 Lancasters, 10 Wellingtons, 9 Halifaxes and 5 Stirlings - 5.9% of the total force.
Above left: Sgt. Kenneth Albert Goodchild with right: Sgt. Arthur Lloyd George Knight in 1975
JB806’s bomb-load consisted of 2 x 1,000lb general-purpose high explosive bombs, 48 x 30lb incendiaries and 630 x 4lb incendiaries. The course was set from Snaith to Stirling, then across the North Sea to Egmond on the Dutch coast at a height of approximately 20,000ft, and from there to Duisburg. The crew were tasked to be part of the second wave to bomb the oil refinery, before returning via Noordwijk, crossing the English coast at Scarborough.
Having made land-fall, JB806 experienced heavy flak, then about 10 minutes from target the aircraft was holed by anti-aircraft fire near the Wireless Operator’s position and in the cockpit roof. The shell exited the fuselage without exploding. In addition, a port wing tank was damaged and was leaking fuel into the wing. Nearing the target, the front turret was blown off and Sgt. Henderson, the navigator, was hit by a flak fragment that narrowly missed his lung. He was carried to the rear of the cockpit and given morphine.
As they were so close to target, the crew decided to carry on, Sgt. Rae taking on the role of Navigator alongside his bomb-aiming duties. The target was bombed successfully and they headed for home.
Over Holland they were attacked simultaneously by a Focke-Wulf Fw 190 and a Junkers Ju88. The port wing and the centre section of the fuselage caught fire, and the aircraft was sent into a dive when the port outer engine fell from its mounting. Sgt. Brown gave the order to bale out.
The Bakery - then and now
At 02.18hrs on 13th May 1943 the abandoned Halifax crashed at Weelde Station, Antwerp, 8km N of Turnhout, Belgium, practically on the border with Holland. The aircraft fell on a bakery, killing the owner’s wife and daughter.
Left photo - the Bakery. The other two the factory at the end of the road.
Sgts. Goodchild and Knight landed close to each other in countryside and were captured on entering a hut that turned out to be full of Germans. They were taken to a central command post where they were re-united with Sgt. de Bourbon, who had been badly injured when his parachute had become entangled in the aircraft’s tail. Here they also learnt that Sgt. Henderson was in a Luftwaffe hospital, and that Sgts. Brown and Rae were unharmed, though captured. They were transferred to Oberursel via Brussels, Cologne and Frankfurt, and then on to Stalag Luft Heydekrug near Konigsberg, arriving in June 1943.
Above: The Bakery in 1992
In August 1943, due to the advance of the Russians, the prisoners were moved. Sgt. Goodchild was taken via Memel and Stettin to Stalag Luft IV at Gros Tychow, enduring harsh conditions and treatment en route. The Russian advance caused another move in February 1945, when Sgt. Goodchild was one of 650 prisoners forced on the “Death March”, during which the RAF attacked the column killing 26, possibly mistaking it for a movement of troops. Conditions were bleak and prisoners suffered from the cold, malnutrition and dysentery, as well as from the sheer physical effort of the 487-mile march.
On about the 25th April 1945 the column was met by the 6th Airborne Division and the German guards surrendered. Sgt. Goodchild was flown from Celle to Brussels and thence back to England. He weighed just six stones and lost his sight for ten days due to malnutrition.
Sgt. Goodchild was promoted to Warrant Officer and awarded the 1939-45 Star, the Aircrew Europe Star, the France and Germany Star, the Defence Medal, the General Service Medal and the Croix de Combat. After the war he served in the Air Training Corps until 1966, the last five years as CO.
In 1992 Ken Goodchild visited Weelde, where his Halifax had crashed 49 years previously, and met the baker’s son, who still ran the same establishment.
Details of the raid:
Duisburg, Operation. Date: 12/13th May 1943. Time of raid: 01.56hrs - 02.47hrs
Weather: No cloud, half-moon setting at 03.20hrs, moderate visibility
Force: 572 aircraft - 238 Lancasters, 142 Halifaxes, 112 Wellingtons, 70 Stirlings, 10 Mosquitos.
RAF Losses: 34 aircraft, 5.9% of the force - 10 Lancasters, 10 Wellingtons, 9 Halifaxes, 5 Stirlings
This was the fourth raid on Duisburg during the Battle of the Ruhr, the first 3 having been only partially successful. The Pathfinder marking on this night was near perfect and the Main Force bombing was well concentrated.
The centre of Duisburg and the port area just off the Rhine, the largest inland port in Germany, suffered severe damage. 21 barges and 13 other ships totalling 18,921 tons were sunk and 60 ships of 41,000 tons were damaged. 1,596 buildings were destroyed and 273 people killed. 4 of the August Thyssen steel factories were damaged.
Nearly 2,000 prisoners of war and forced workers were drafted into Duisburg to repair the bomb damage.
It was not deemed necessary to attack Duisburg again during this period.
In response to the raid, the Germans flew 160 Himmelbett sorties, mostly by NJG1 over the Netherlands and the Dutch coast. The clear weather conditions were favourable to the night-fighters. NJG1 crews claimed 24 bomber kills en route over the Netherlands, damaging a further 10.
I./NJG1 at Venlo destroyed 10 bombers, IV./NJG1 at Leeuwarden claimed 8, III./NJG1 at Twenthe was credited with 5, Oblt. Geiger and BF Uffz. Koch of VII./NJG1 scored three, and Major Ehle, Kommandeur of II./NJG1 claimed one. Two other crews from II./NJG1 reported undecided claims, and two from III./NJG1 both claimed, and were credited with, the same Lancaster ED239 of 57 Squadron, shot down at Maasniel near Roermond.
On the German side a Bf110 F-4 of the 1st Staffel, piloted by Fw. Nepperscmitt, made a forced landing at Gilze-Rijen at 01.55hrs. This was probably the aircraft claimed by the rear gunner of a Halifax as being a Bf110 damaged 30km NNE of Arnhem. Returning bomber crews claimed a Ju88 near Deventer at 01.41hrs and another near Winterswijk at 02.03hrs. A further Ju88 was damaged over the Netherlands.
Researched by our volunteer Jeremy Nicholson Aircrew Remembered with assistance from 51 Squadron History Society. For further details our thanks to the following, 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', 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'
. Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries (Updated 2014 version), 'Paradie Archive'
. Commonwealth War Graves Commission.