01.09.1942 No.223 Squadron Baltimore III AG843 Sgt. Percy Wilson Carruthers DFM, MiD
Operation: Battle Area
Date: 1 September 1942
Unit: No. 223 Squadron - Motto: "Alæ defendunt Africam" ("Wings defend Africa").
Badge: A lion statant. The squadron served in Kenya during the late 1930's and the lion in the badge commemorates this fact. Authority: King George VI, August 1937.
Type: Martin Baltimore III
Serial: AG 843
Base: Landing Ground 86 (German name Bir Abu Ogos I) 30°51'5"N 29°52'0"E
Location: El Alamein area, Egypt.
Pilot: Sgt. Percy Wilson Carruthers DFM, MiD 546056 RAFVR Age 23 - PoW No. 90164 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug - L6 (1)
Observer: F/Sgt. Cedric Howie Pierson Aus/407590 RAAF Age 24 - Missing believed killed (2)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Eric William Hargreaves 1000562 RAFVR Age 25 - Missing believed killed (3)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Richard Arthur Cherrington 1294666 RAFVR Age 22 - Missing believed killed (4)
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Originally formed in 1918 No. 223 Squadron was disbanded in 1919 after the end of the Great War and was reformed in 1936 at Nairobi, Kenya. In 1940 whilst based at Summit in the Sudan and equipped with the Vickers Wellesleys the squadron began to carry out bombing raids over Italian East Africa. In April 1941 the squadron moved to Shandur, Egypt, where it became an Operational Training Unit for squadrons converting to the Blenheim, Maryland, Boston and Baltimore medium bombers in the Middle East. Between October 1941 and January 1942 a detachment from the squadron used the Maryland for strategic reconnaissance missions over the Western Desert.
The training role of the squadron ended in January 1942 and having converted to Baltimores, resumed full time bomber operations in May 1942, just in time to take part in the Battle of Gazala, Rommel's successful offensive that was finally stopped at El Alamein. For the rest of the North African campaign the squadron supported the advancing 8th Army as it pushed westwards across the desert.
REASON FOR LOSS
Baltimore AG843 took off at 1756 hours from Landing Ground 86 on the second operational sortie of the day to bomb Axis motor transport at El Alamein. After having dropped its bomb load, heavy anti-aircraft fire was encountered. The aircraft received a direct hit, the port engine fell away and the machine went straight down and crashed at about 1850 hours.
One member of the crew [Sgt. Carruthers] was seen to escape by parachute and it is believed he descended on to enemy held territory. The aircraft was last seen on the ground in flames.
Sgt. Carruthers was taken prisoner of war and it is presumed that the other three crew members perished in the crash. It was recorded in 1948 that no trace of the graves of the three dead crew members could be found and the case was closed.
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) W/O. Percy Wilson Carruthers DFM, MiD husband of Mrs R Carruthers of Winston Hill, Plumpton, Penrith.
Mentioned in Despatches for distinguished service whilst a prisoner of war (London Gazette 28 December 1945)
(2) F/Sgt. Cedric Howie Pierson was born on 15 January 1918 at Marden, Adelaide, Australia the son of Albert John Smith Pierson and Catherine May Pierson nee Hunter. He had five siblings: Albert Edward Pierson (1902-1976), Jasper Smith Pierson (1904-1955) Eric John Pierson (1906-1970) Klem William Pierson (1908-1943) and Rex Benjamin Pierson (1911-1930)
He was the husband of Mary Eileen Pierson, of Lyndhurst, South Australia. Prior to enlisting at Adelaide on 11 July 1940 he was employed as a Station Bookkeeper and Storekeeper and embarked from Australia on 9 September 1941
On 17 January 1942 whilst serving with 211 Squadron based at Wadi Gazouza in the Sudan Sgt. Pierson was the Observer of the crew of Blenheim Z7695 which was involved in a mid air collision with Blenheim L1492 on a training exercise. A forced landing ensued and the aircraft caught fire. Cedric Pierson, pilot Sgt Mervyn Scope and wireless operator/air gunner Sgt. R.P. McMillan, all escaped with slight burns and bruising.
On completion of their Blenheim course towards the end of January 1942, they were posted to No. 223 Squadron
(3) Sgt. Eric William Hargreaves was born in 1916 at Birkenhead, Cheshire the son of William Blundell Hargreaves and Anne Hargreaves nee Gallears of Newport; nephew of Gertrude M. Gallears, of Birkenhead. He had four siblings: Robert Hargreaves born 1919, twins Geoffrey E. Hargreaves and George Hargreaves born 1925 and Colin Hargreaves 1928.
(4) Sgt. Richard Arthur Cherrington was born on 17 December 1919 at Barnet, Middlesex the son of Arthur Cherrington ( a Printer's Compositor) and Bessie Cherrington nee Boulton of 13 Dickens Avenue Finchley, Middlesex. He had three siblings: Mary Cherrington born 1923, John F. Cherrington born 1925 and Margaret Cherrington born 1929. Prior to joining the air force Richard Cherrington was a Capstan Lathe Hand.
(2) F/Sgt. Cedric Howie Pierson - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial, Column 265.
(3) Sgt. Eric William Hargreaves - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial, Column 261.
(4) Sgt. Richard Arthur Cherrington - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial, Column 250.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - December 2017
With thanks to the sources quoted below.