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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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No. 9 Squadron
18.12.1939 No. 9 Squadron Wellington IA N2939 WS-H F/O. Challes

Mission: Reconnaissance, Wilhelmshaven, North Sea

Date: 18th December 1939 (Monday)

Unit: No. 9 Squadron

Type: Wellington IA

Serial: N2939

Code: WS-H

Base: RAF Honington, Suffolk

Location: North Sea off the coast of Germany

Pilot: F/O. John Thomas Irvine Challes 39041 RAF Age 19. Missing (1)

2nd Pilot: P/O. Alistair Hugh Richmond Bourne 40882 RAF Age ? Missing (2)

Obs: Sgt. Frank Michael Mason 580718 RAF Age 20. Missing (3)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Thomas Henry English 524025 RAF Age ? Missing

Air/Gnr: LAC. Gurth Ernest Cox 566740 RAF Age ? Missing

Air/Gnr: AC1. Alexander Telfer 531938 RAF Age ? Missing

If you have any further information on the loss of this aircraft, crew, their relatives and friends than please contact us via the "Add info" button at the top of this page

No. 9. Squadron Wellingtons 1A

Wilhelmshaven November 1939


Wellington N2939 took off at 0900 hours with eight other No.9 Squadron Wellingtons from RAF Honington to carry out a reconnaissance in the Schilling/Jade Road and Wilhelmshaven to attack any battleships or cruisers. No. 9 Squadron Wellingtons flew in formation with nine aircraft from both No. 149 Squadron and No. 37 Squadron. The formation were attacked South of Wilhelmshaven at 1230 hours by approx. 30/40 enemy aircraft and the attack continued until reaching Wilhelmshaven when heavy AA fire was encountered from both shore based batteries and Navel craft. No suitable enemy battleships or cruisers were seen. After leaving the Wilhelmshaven area the aircraft were followed for some 70/80 miles to the German coast by the enemy fighters. A total of twelve aircraft were shot down on this reconnaissance mission. Situated on the island of Wangerooge the Germans had been tracking the bomber force for many miles using the experimental early warning Freya radar system and this information was passed on to the German fighters. Wellington N2939 may have been shot down or hit by flak and is thought to have been lost near Wilhelmshaven. Of the remaining No. 9 Squadron aircraft - Wellington N2964 and N2981 managed to land at their home base at 1600 hours. Wellington N2873 was so badly damaged it was forced to land at RAF Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire at 1730 hours, two of the crew having been wounded, and Wellington N2871 was forced to land at RAF Northcoates Fitties at 1730 hours again due to the extensive damage to the aircraft. The total loss for No. 9 Squadron from the mission was 24 killed and four injured. No. 9 Squadron losses (N2983) (N2872) (N2940) (N2941)

Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. Sgt. Mason is remembered on the Surbiton War Memorial, Surrey

Burial details:

F/O. John Thomas Irvine Challes. Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. Panel. 1. Understood to be from St. Catherine, Ontario, Canada. Son to Mr. and Mrs. J. A. McDonald Challes of Louth Township, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.

(1) John Thomas Irvine Challes was granted a short service commission as Acting Pilot Officer on the 24th August 1936 and posted to RAF Depot, Uxbridge. On the 5th September 1936 Acting Pilot Officer Challes was posted to No. 10 Flying Training School, Tern Hill, Shropshire. On the 27th May 1937 Acting Pilot Officer Challes was posted to No. 70 Bomber Transport Squadron, Hinaidi, Iraq. On the 29th December 1938 Pilot Officer John Thomas Irvine Challes promoted to the rank of Flying Officer. On the 27th September 1939 Flying Officer Challes posted to No. 9 Squadron

P/O. Alistair Hugh Richmond Bourne. Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. Panel 1. No further information on next of kin - are you able to assist?

(2) Acting Pilot Officer Bourne was confirmed as Pilot Officer on the 16th May 1939 was posted to No. 9 Squadron on the 23rd October 1939

Sgt. Frank Michael Mason. Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. Panel 2. Son of Frank Leslie and Gladys Mason of Surbiton, Surrey. (3) Sgt. Mason is remembered on the Surbiton War Memorial

Sgt. Thomas Henry English. Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. Panel 1. No further information as yet - are you able to assist?

LAC. Gurth Ernest Cox. Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. Panel 2. No further information as yet - are you able to assist?

AC1. Alexander Telfer. Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. Panel 3. No further information as yet - are you able to assist?

Researched by: Kate Tame for all the relatives and friends of the crew

Acknowledgments: With special thanks to Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - The Bomber Command War Diaries 1939 - 1945, UK National Archives Air 27/125 and Air 27/131, W. R. Chorley Bomber Command Losses 1939 - 1940 and Prewar July 1936 - September 1939, Imperial War Museum, for picture of Surbiton War Memorial. Also to John Jones who contacted us in October 2016 regarding pilot origin. Thanks again to John Jones for Next of Kin information for Fg.Off. Challes.

RS 29.03.2019 - Update to Fg.Off. Challes NoK details

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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