18.12.1939 No. 9 Squadron Wellington 1A N2939 WS-H F/O. Challes
Mission: Reconnaissance, Wilhelmshaven, North Sea
Date: 18th December 1939 (Monday)
Unit: No. 9 Squadron
Type: Wellington IA
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
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No. 9. Squadron Wellingtons 1A
Wilhelmshaven November 1939
REASON FOR LOSS:
Wellington N2939 took off at 09.00hrs with eight other 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 9 aircraft from both No. 149 Squadron and No. 37 Squadron. The formation were attacked South of Wilhelmshaven at 12.30hrs 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 12 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 16.00hrs. Wellington N2873 was so badly damaged it was forced to land at RAF Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire at 17.30hrs, two of the crew having been wounded, and Wellington N2871 was forced to land at RAF Northcoates Fitties at 17.30hrs 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
F/O. John Thomas Irvine Challes. Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. Panel. 1. Understood to be from St. Catherine, Ontario, Canada. No further information on next of kin - are you able to assist? (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. 1936 5th September Acting Pilot Officer Challes was posted to No. 10 Flying Training School, Tern Hill, Shropshire. 1937 27th May A/P/O. Challes was posted to No. 70 Bomber Transport Squadron, Hinaidi, Iraq. 1938 29th December Pilot Officer John Thomas Irvine Challes promoted to the rank of Flying Officer. 1939 27th September F/O. 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) A/P/O Bourne was confirmed as Pilot Officer 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
Acknowledgements: 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, ww1cemeteries.com for picture of Surbiton War Memorial. Also to John Jones who contacted us in October 2016 regarding pilot origin.