20.08.1944 168 Squadron, Mustang I AG346, Flt Lt. Denis Clark
Operation: Tactical Reconnaissance
Date: 20th August 1944 (Saturday)
Unit: 168 Sqn, 2nd Tactical Air Force
Type: Mustang I
Serial No: AG346
Code: No Sqn Code:?
Location: NE of Gacé, France
Base: ALG B.21, Sainte-Honorine, France
Pilot: Flt Lt. Denis Clark 119758 RAFVR Age 23. PoW/Murdered
REASON FOR LOSS:
Flt Lt. Clark took off from the Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) B.21 at 16:26 hrs with Flt Lt. Ken H. Hutchingson for a Tactical Reconnaissance sortie. His aircraft was hit by intense accurate light flak NE of Gacé and caught fire. He successfully bailed out over enemy territory.
The circumstances of his capture are not known, however, it has been determined that he was eventually held at a temporary PoW prison camp located SE of Rouen, France. The camp housed many black South African nationals, French Colonial Arabs and Turks who were being used as slave labour. Also held at the camp were:
2nd Lt. George M. Mikels O-759899 US AAF, whose B-17 had been shot down on the 13th of August 1944;
S/Sgt. Norman E. Thielan 14057011 US AAF, whose B-26B had been shot down on the 12th of August 1944;
WO1. Griffin ‘Griff’ James Young R85855 RCAF, a Spitfire pilot shot down on the 13th of August 1944;
Pvt. Gordon Lafayette Bryant 6969514 from the 117th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division, US Army. The circumstances leading to his capture are unknown;
Two British soldiers from the Royal Artillery (RA), one whose identity is unknown and a L/Bdr. Jack Martin 976272 from the 65th (The Norfolk Yeomanry) Anti-Tank Regiment. The circumstances leading to their capture are unknown but L/Bdr. Martin was reported missing on the 21st of August 1944.
On the 25th of August 1944 at about 17:30 hrs a group of 10 SS troops broke into the camp apparently looking for American and British captives. They abused and shot to death Flt Lt. Clark, WO1. Young, Pvt. Bryant, L/Bdr. Martin and the unidentified British soldier from the RA. Their bodies were buried, apparently without removing their personal belongings, at the site of the camp.
Note: it is assumed that the men buried together in the collective grave at the Les Hogues Communal Cemetery were also the victims of that SS massacre.
2nd Lt. Mikels and S/Sgt. Thielan were not noticed and escaped the murderous intentions of the SS troopers. 2nd Lt. Mikels later escaped and hid with the help of French citizens until the arrival of British troops. He reported what he had witnessed to the authorities.
There is some evidence that this atrocity had been investigated and that a Court of Enquiry was held on the 11th of January 1945. The results of the Court of Enquiry are not known at the time of researching this report.
Above: Les Hogues Communal Cemetery (credit: TWGPP)
Above grave marker for Flt Lt. Clark. (credit: TWGPP)
Flt Lt. Denis Clark. Les Hogues Communal Cemetery Coll. Grave 439C. Inscription reads: “GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS, THAT A MAN LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIEND”. Born on the 17th of December 1918 in Stockton, County Durham. Son of Sydney and Minnie G. (née Richie) Clark; husband of Beth (née Ayre) Clark of Seaton, Carew, County Durham, England.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’. Thanks to The War Graves Photographic Project for the war grave images.