01/02.06.1942 No. 408 Squadron Hampden I AT191 EQ-A P/O. William Charlton
Date: 01/02nd June 1942 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: No. 408 Squadron
Type: Hampden I
Base: RAF Balderton, Nottinghamshire, England
Location: IJsselmeer, North of Harderwijk, Netherlands
Pilot: P/O. William Frederick Dixon Charlton 103549 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Obs: P/O. Cyril Ian Andrew Sandland 104477 RAFVR Age ? Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Frederick John Ernest Womar DFM. 550298 RAF Age ? Killed (1)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alfred Marland 1101605 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Balderton in Nottinghamshire at 22:58 hrs to take part in the second large 1000 bomber raid on Essen, although the full quota could not be mustered on this night - 956 aircraft did take part - made up from 545 Wellingtons, 127 Halifaxes, 77 Stirlings, 74 Lancasters, 71 Hampdens, 33 Manchesters and 29 Whitleys did make up the force.
The ground was covered in haze or low cloud resulting in very scattered bombing. Reports from Essen stated that 11 houses were destroyed and 184 damaged. A PoW camp was burnt out - this all resulted in 15 people killed and 91 injured. The scattering of the bombing also killed 83 people in Oberhausen, 52 killed in Dusberg and 15 killed in Mulheim.
The raid took its toll on the bomber force with 35 aircraft lost. A total of 140 aircrew were killed and 47 made PoW.
According to the latest edition of the night fighter war diaries they were shot down at 00:06 hrs over the IJsselmeer North of Harderwijk by Lt. Karl-Heinz Völlkopf (2) of 4./NGJ2 his 3rd claim of the war.
A Dutch War Aircraft salvage expert has confirmed that Alfred’s Hampden was recovered in 1961 during the draining of the “Polders” at the Southern end of the IJsselmeer. It was found 50 miles South of the position claimed by the German fighter pilot, Vollkopf (a full 20 minutes flying time) and without it’s bombs on board. Although this expert was not personally involved in this recovery, he claims that it could not have been Vollkopf who shot down the plane. Indeed it was most likely that the crew were on their way back from the target. Therefore it is likely that Vollkopf made a false claim of shooting down the plane.
(webmaster note: see loss details above - they may have jettisoned bomb load in an order to evade the Night Fighter - the loss area of the Hampden mentioned within this report does confirm the same area as this Dutch researcher)
Alfred was born in Astley near Manchester, but moved to Preston in 1936 when his father took up the position of grounds man at Hutton Grammar School. This was also the school Alfred attended before leaving aged 16 to start employment at County Hall in Preston. He was a member of the Royal Airforce Volunteer Reserve and was called up some time after June 1940. He was single and had one sister, Doris.
During the week of Alfred’s 21st birthday, he took part in the first 1000 bomber raid over Cologne before being killed in action, with the rest of his crew a couple of day’s later.
In his letters home from Balderton, he describes his worry over trying to wash his clothes but for such a young man he is very optimistic in his letters and enjoying celebrating his birthday.
In a last poignant and evocative letter he describes the mission and the bombing of Cologne, before setting out on his night operation of 1st June. which was to be his last. Before this letter reached the post office, (it is franked 09:15 2nd June), he had lost his life at the age of twenty-one.
Letter from Alfred 28th May 1942:
“Dear Mother, Dad and Doris,Thank you very much for your very nice birthday card, kind wishes and cigarettes. Despite the fact that I have reached the age of supposed reasoning I don’t feel more than a day older than I did on the 26th and not very much wiser. I spent my birthday in unhappy anticipation of an operational trip which, as usual, was scrubbed at a late hour. Not too late, however, to visit Newark for the purpose of celebrating with the crew.
Today the weather clerk has put out a normal programme-bags of storm clouds-a 45 mile an hour gale and frequent showers. Despite these conditions we are detailed to operate but I have no doubt that everything will be scrubbed at an inconvenient hour. Surprisingly I fancy a trip tonight-knowing the nature of it-a few more hours off the 200 would be very gratifying.
With regard to your oft asked question of the cigarettes which were sent just prior to my leave, it grieves me to inform you that the cigarettes in question never found their way into my possession-in other words they were either lost in the post or swiped. I haven’t suffered unduly and the matter has become a past worry, if ever a worry at all. My only problem at the moment is my laundry-the facilities offered in camp are hopelessly inadequate and I am at a loss to know where to send my now very dirty shirt, collar and handkerchiefs. If ops are scrubbed tonight I shall bow to the inevitable and wash them myself.
I am enclosing a savings book-a gift from Auntie Sally-will you please acknowledge safe receipt. I can’t think of any news at the moment-tea is waiting and after that I have to go to a briefing so hoping you are all well as I am here I’ll say cheerio for nowLove to all Alfred xxxx P/S Are you receiving all my letters o.k.”
Letter from Alfred 31st May 1942”
“Dear Mother, Dad and Doris,By now you will have read and heard all about the mass attack last night on Cologne, well-in the words of the War illustrated “I was there”. If there is very much left of this German city I for one will be greatly surprised. however I will tell you about this historical event some other time.i have to report for duty again now. I am in good health-a little tired after last night’s work maybe, but otherwise sound and I hope you are all likewise. Cheerio for now and Love to all Alfred xxx”
Letter from Alfred 1st June 1942 (franked 09:15 2nd June):
Monday 1st June 1942
Dear Mother, Dad and Doris,Having recovered a little of my equilibrium after Saturday night’s party I can now proceed to tell you something about it.At six o’clock we were gathered together in the briefing room knowing that something “big” was in the air. We were greatly startled when out group captain informed us that we were to operate with over a thousand bombers against the city of Cologne-but somehow we tingled with pleasant excitement. At eleven o’clock we took off and were soon making a steady course for the North Sea, which we duly crossed without incident. On all sides we could see all types of bombers-just dull black shapes-some silhouetted against the moon, gleaming. At length we crossed the enemy coast and our real vigil commenced-the menace of enemy fighters being foremost in our minds.
Here and there searchlights probed enquiringly around the sky, sometimes accompanied by flak, but always at a reasonable distance from our trusty Hampden.Very soon Sandy announced the “lights” of Cologne were in sight and at this point our fun really started. Brilliant moonlight and a cloudless sky combined to make visibility perfect and we had no difficulty in seeing every detail of this once proud city. We flew along the Rhine-avoiding many inquisitive searchlights, picked our spot, and it was difficult to find a spot which wasn’t already burning fiercely, and dropped our load of incendiaries. Without making false claims I can say that we watched our bombs rain down on Cologne and start many more fires. We turned and set course for home and for an hour Pat and I in the back, stared fascinated at this monstrous bonfire. When we reached the Dutch coast we could still see the huge red glow in the sky and we were convinced that never before has such destruction been wrought in the air. Though I feel sorry for the German civilians I must say that if we pursue our present policy, destroy each Nazi city in like manner, they will at some date be unable to bear any more.
We have claimed our forty eight hour passes but due to the present exigencies of the service, are unable to get them yet. Still time is going by and very shortly my seven days leave will be due-I hope to have almost completed my ops by then. As we have been standing by every day my social life has been unduly interrupted and in consequence I have no “news of the town” for you. However when this horrid moon goes down, we should get a night or two off, in which case it will be “Nottingham here I come” At the moment I am overburdened with money, a queer thing says Dad-and will relieve myself of some when I can get into Newark before the Post Office closes. Here, enclosed is a P.O. from Auntie Betty. Have plenty of chocolate for you, Mam which I will send if we don’t get the 48 hour. I hope everyone at home is well as I am here, and will close for now until next time when I should have more exciting things to tell you about. Cheerio and love to all Alfred xxx
It was to take the Air Ministry until September 1942 to ascertain that Alfred had been killed rather than just “missing”.
Officialdom was to prove it’s insensitivity by, as early as the 18th June 1942, sending Alfred’s mother a letter detailing when a portion of the pay that Alfred had arranged to be paid directly to her, was to be stopped. Further letters followed to ensure that his pay book was handed back on time. Through all this heartbreaking time, no-one could tell the families where their sons had been buried. It took nearly another four years for this information to finally arrive. The family was sent a receipt for 10 shillings for having an inscription on the headstone. Alfred’s father paid for this to ensure that their own personal message was inscribed on his head stone.
(1) Fl/Sgt. Frederick J.E. Womar: Had previously served with 144 Squadron. Awarded the DFM, Gazetted on the 17th January 1942 - killed on his 56th sortie. From Air2/9250:
“This NCO has carried out 27 operational trips, making a total of 165.35 hours of flying. His work has been steady and he has proved himself an operator of courage and determination. On many occasions it has been due to his skill and courage as an operator that his aircraft has returned to base in adverse weather conditions. On all trips on which he has been the Wireless Operator, his work and courage have continuously had the highest praise from other members of the crews”.
(2) Lt. Karl-Heinz Völlkopf was killed on the 21st June 1943 in a flying accident at Gellendorf near Rheine. He had 6 claims to his credit by the time he lost his life.
P/O. William Frederick Dixon Charlton. Harderwijk General Cemetery. British Plot 2,Grave 13. Born on the 20th October 1919, the son of Clement John and Sarah Eleanor and brother of John Charlton. William was living in Northern Ireland and volunteered as there was no conscription there. He worked for the Belfast Banking Company and was killed in what was believed to have been his sixteenth or seventeenth mission.
P/O. Cyril Ian Andrew Sandland. Amersfoot General Cemetery (Oud Leusden). Plot 13, Row 3, Grave 38. Of Hampstead Heath, Surrey - no further details - are you able to assist?.
Fl/Sgt. Frederick John Ernest Womar DFM. Amersfoot General Cemetery (Oud Leusden). Plot 13, Row 3, Grave 39. No further details - are you able to assist?
Sgt. Alfred Marland. Amersfoot General Cemetery (Oud Leusden). Plot 13, Row 3, Grave 39. Son of Robert and Mary Alice Marland and brother of Doris Marland,of Hutton Lancashire, England. Epitaph reads: “At The Going Down Of The Sun, And In The Morning, We Will Remember Him. Mother, Dad And Sister Doris”
Researched by Linda Ibrom for Aircrew Remembered April 2017. Linda would like to thank Anthony McFarlane, (nephew), and the family of Alfred Marland for permission for his letters home to be transcribed and also for the photos. Also to John Charlton and family for the photo of his brother, William Charlton.