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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.


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101 Squadron Crest
27/28.08.1942 No. 101 Squadron Wellington III X3649 Fl/Sgt. Brown

Operation: Kassel

Date: 27/28th August 1942 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: No. 101 Squadron (3 Group)

Type: Wellington III

Serial: X3649

Code: SR-?

Base: RAF Stradishall, Suffolk

Location: North Sea off East Anglia

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. George Thirlwell Brown NZ/411364 RNZAF Age 25. Missing believed killed

Obs: Fl/Sgt. George Lionel Downer 130207 RAFVR Age 21. Survived - rescued (1)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alfred Kenneth Bonser 976336 RAFVR Age 22. Missing believed killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Gordon Leonard Otter NZ/402493 RNZAF Survived - rescued (2)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Farnham Hill 134661 RAFVR Survived - rescued (3)

REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off at 20:45 hrs on an operation to Kassel, however shortly afterwards the aircraft suffered an engine fire which then failed. Despite jettisoning its bomb load and ammunition the Wellington continued to lose height.

The pilot was forced to ditch at 22:40 hrs. All the crew survived this and decided to attempt to swim to the shore. Three were picked up by a trawler but it seems that the pilot and one of his W/Op/Air/Gnr's were lost, presumed drowned.

Above: 101 Squadron in front of Wellington X3670 SR-F - Missing on the 31st May 1942 with all five crew.

Rear row: Air/Gnr. John Skipsey, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Rogers, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Mullin, Air/Gnr. Tracey, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Skinner, A/G. Sundberg, W/Op/Air/Gnr. William Harry Armold, Obs. Mullan, Obs. Downer, Air/Gnr. Ferguson.
Middle Row: W/Op/Air/Gnr. Matheson, Air/Gnr. Sime, Pilot. Foxcroft, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Kilwyn, Pilot. Keen, Pilot. Richards, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Garland, Pilot. Llewelyn, Obs. Baker, Obs. Clark, Obs. Calhoune, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Sibbald, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Sauve, Pilot. Machin, Air/Gnr. Spooner, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Brace.
Front Row (sitting): W/Op/Air/Gnr. Hart, Pilot. Marney, Air/Gnr. Wigham, Air/Gnr. King-Scott, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Ward, Obs. Menage, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Young, Pilot. Diemer, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Artham, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Jones, Air/Gnr. Angelo, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Pollock, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Oakley, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Cormack, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Bott, Air/Gnr. Mackay, Pilot. Early, Pilot. Williams, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Tattoh, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Woodgate, Air/Gnr. Urwin, Obs. Pearson, Air/Gnr. Charles, Pilot. Attwood, Pilot. Brown, Air/Gnr. Murray, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Burgess, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Jaggers, W/Op/Air/Gnr. Stewart, Air/Gnr. Wade, Air/Gnr. Symonds.

(1) F/O. George Lionel Downer then a holder of the DFC was killed on the 14th January 1944 whilst with 115 Squadron. Lancaster II LL673 KO-G Flown by 25 year old, Fl/Lt. John Horace Christiansen NZ/413551 RNZAF. 3 o†her RNZAF crew and 4 RAFVR crew all lost their lives and are now buried at the Hanover war Cemetery.(Details here)

(2) Sgt. Gordon Leonard Otter was back in action very soon afterwards. On the 21/22nd September 1942 he was a member of Wellington III X3815 crew on a gardening operation when they were shot down by a night fighter. The pilot, 26 year old Sq/Ldr. Victor Robertson Paterson DFC 37478 RAF was killed along with 2 other crew members. The remaining two were taken PoW. Sgt. Otter Pow No. 27157 was held at Stalag Lamsdorf. The other P/O. C.H. Mitchell J/9768 RCAF PoW No. 716 was held at Stalag Luft Sagan. (see below photograph and details)

Front row: NZ/405311 W/O. William Kevin Charles O'Byrne, either NZ/416637 W/O. Jack Edwin Hyde - or - NZ/413420 W/O. Galbraith Mickle Bullen Hyde, Grimsby - no RNZAF chap with this surname in WWII, NZ/404550 Fl/Lt Bruce Alexander McKenzie, NZ/412349 W/O. Edwin Burton Mossman, NZ/41708 W/O. William James Stanley Voice, NZ/405327 W/O. Denis Butler Scoble, NZ/41596 W/O. Norrice John MacKenzie.
Centre row: NZ/414564 W/O. John Douglas Hardie, most likely NZ/41565 W/O. Leslie Sydney Bevan - otherwise - NZ/44772 (but previously RAF as 959593 until Jun 44) W/O. Stephen Henry Rossfield Bevan, NZ/413470 W/O. Derek Cecil Pitts, NZ/402174 W/O. George Emmerson, NZ/411057 W/O. John William Filda Atkin,, NZ/411745 W/O. Thomas William Devine, NZ/405310 W/O. Uila Nicolson, most likely NZ/413423 W/O. Eric William Peter Johnson, otherwise - RAF 43643 (later NZ/2473 in 1945) Fl/Lt Theodore Faire Storrier Johnson, NZ/404559 W/O. Gordon George Whitla.
Rear row: NZ/403290 W/O. Carlye Arthur Powel, NZ/412369 W/O. Raymond Herbert Thom, NZ/404535 Fl/Lt William Edmund Gibbes, NZ/402493 W/O. Gordon Leonard Otter, NZ/403819 W/O. Noel Stuart Craddock , NZ/41135 F/O Aynsley Stuat Forbes, NZ/41164 W/O. Roden Barnsdale Pickford, NZ/412222 W/O. Douglas Cecil Giddings. (Identified by Erroll Martyn - see credits)

(3) On the 16/17th February 1943 Lancaster ED374 crash landed on return from an operation to Loient. The aircraft caught fire, five of the crew managed to escape from the aircraft. However, the Flight Engineer was trapped. Details ...

London Gazette 14th May 1943: Sq/Ldr. Geoffrey Wilson O'Neill Fisher, DFC. 42560 RAF OBE - P/O. Farnham Hill, DFC. 134661 RAFVR MBE:

"One night in February 1943, a bomber aircraft crashed in a field on return from an operational night during which damage had been sustained to the elevator controls. The aircraft broke in two at the rear of the mid-upper turret, and the whole wreckage caught fire. Five members of the crew were able to step out through the gap where the fracture took place, whilst the pilot escaped through his window. Sq/Ldr. Fisher and P/O. Hill, who had both landed in another aircraft just before the crash, having been on an operational sortie of 5.5 hours duration, were in the immediate vicinity and rushed to the aircraft. AC. Fletcher, who was on duty with the airfield controller, and LAC Miles, who was engaged at a dispersal point some 100 yards away, also hurried to the scene.
AC. Fletcher was the first to arrive and he entered the fuselage, thinking that all members of the crew had been trapped therein. He was joined by Sq/Ldr. Fisher and LAC. Miles, but owing to the intense heat, all were forced to retire.
The flight engineer was then found hanging from the pilot's window and unable to move owing to a broken thigh. AC. Fletcher climbed along the port wing in order to render assistance to him. Sq/Ldr. Fisher, P/O. Hill and LAC. Miles all helped, the work being directed by Sq/Ldr. Fisher.
Despite the intense heat and the danger from exploding petrol tanks and ammunition they succeeded in extricating the flight engineer, who had been trapped in the pilot's cockpit. The initiative and heroic efforts displayed by these officers and airmen undoubtedly saved their comrade's life."
1544738 LAC. Arthur George Miles. RAF and 1047210 AC. 2nd Class Herbert Fletcher, RAF were also awarded the BEM for their part in this action.

Note: It is thought that following this, P/O. Farnham Hill, DFC, no longer took part in operations, perhaps due to injuries received or at the end of his tour.

Burial details:

Fl/Sgt. George Thirlwell Brown. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 117. Son of Thomas John and Agnes Johnston Brown, of Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand. A total of 386 flying hours logged and thought to be on his 9th operational sortie.

Sgt. Alfred Kenneth Bonser. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 78. Son of Alfred George and Emily Susan Bonser, of Aigburth, Liverpool, England.

Later:

F/O. George Lionel Downer DFC. Hanover War Cemetery. Grave 1.F.7. Son of E. Gordon Ross Downer and Ellen Downer, of Bognor Regis, Sussex, England. (Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society) Grave inscription reads: "I Have Fought A Good Fight, I Have Finished My Course, I Have Kept The Faith".

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Weekly News of New Zealand, other sources as quoted below:

KTY 17.07.2018

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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