28/29.09.1941 No. 99 Squadron Wellington IC X9761 Sgt. Coleman
Date: 28/29th September 1941 (Sunday/Monday)
Unit: No. 99 Squadron
Type: Wellington IC
Base: RAF Waterbeach, Suffolk, England
Location: Malvoisin, Belgium
Pilot: Sgt. Eric Coleman 954634 RAFVR PoW No: 9681 Camp: 357 - Kopernikus, Poland.
Pilot 2: Sgt. (‘Larry’) Hilary Eldred Birk MiD. AUS/402634 RAAF Age 19. Evaded (1)
Obs: Sgt. Joseph Louis Trask 978459 RAFVR PoW No: 9674 Camp: 357 - Kopernikus, Poland.
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Harold George Lewis 573247 RAFVR PoW No: 18327 Camp: 357 - Kopernikus, Poland.
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. (‘Bob’) Wallace Harry Dyer MM. 1381730 RAFVR Evaded (2)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. ('Dixie') John Bartlett Dicks MiD. R/65466 RCAF Evaded (3)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire to attack the German city of Frankfurt - no further details as to the success of the operation but a disaster for the allies in general, losing some eight aircraft of the 30 Hampdens and 14 Wellingtons sent, and in particular for 99 Squadron, who lost 4 aircraft.
Left: Sgt. (‘Bob’) Dyer and right: with a friend, 'Dixie' J.B. Dicks (courtesy Cherie Scouller - née Dyer, his daughter)
It is understood that X9761 was shot down by Fw. Reinhard Kollak (4) flying from St. Trond he engaged the Wellington between 22.09 - 22.47 hrs over Malvoisin, Belgium. This was the only claim by night fighters during this operation.
Crews from 99 Squadron at RAF Waterbeach (not this crew)
Other aircraft lost from 99 squadron this night:
Wellington IC T2879. Flown by 26 year old, Sgt. Joseph Stewart Parry NZ/401287 RNZAF. From Paeroa, Auckland, New Zealand. Killed, with all 5 other crew members. Believed to have crashed into the sea.
Wellington IC W5436. Flown by 24 year old, P/O. Keith Howard Naughton Rumbo 67075 RAFVR. From Pernambuco, Brazil, killed with 3 others. 3 suffering injuries when their Wellington crashed in England near Bury St. Edmunds on return to base. One of the 3 injured died the following day.
Wellington IC Z8689. Flown by Sgt. John Watt 1052238 RAFVR. From Dundee, Scotland. All 6 crew killed on return to England, during the bad weather and possible lack of fuel, the aircraft collided with trees at Stone Farm in Great Finborough.
Above left: RAF Waterbeach airfield and right, Wellingtons during construction, showing the unique geodesic structure of the airframe.
(1) Sgt. (‘Larry’) Birk Mid. arrived back in Scotland at Gourock on the 10th March 1942. Evaded through France, Spain and Gibraltar with the assistance from the Comet Line. Mention In dispatches gazetted on the 1st January 1943.
"At 1905 hours on 28 September 1941 our aircraft left to bomb Frankfurt. At 2200 hours we were caught by searchlights and shot down by fighters. The aircraft was destroyed. The rest of the crew were Sergeant Colman, Captain (believed prisoner), Sergeant Trask, Navigator (believed killed), Flight Sergeant Lewis, wireless operator (believed prisoner), Sergeant Dyer (S/P.G.-692) and Sergeant Birk (S/P.G.-695).
I landed near Givet where I hid my parachute. I went to a nearby farmhouse where I was given civilian clothes and food. The people at the house took me over the French frontier and handed me over to a bus conductor who took me to Charleville. There I met a man who recognised me as British. He bought me a ticket to Besancon and gave me some money. On the train I met a boy of 14 who spoke to me and seeing that I was English took me on the train to Poligny. There we went to a café where we met two men who said they were crossing the line of demarcation that night and offered to take me. A party of twenty of us slipped across the frontier without any difficulty. They were all French.
With the money which the man at Charleville had given me, I bought a ticket to Lyons and arrived there on 2 October. I was in Lyons for about five weeks and went to Perpignan on 5 November. From there I made my way to the mountains where I crossed the frontier. On reaching the road to Figueras I jumped on a truck which took me to Figueras. I was arrested at a small place nearby which I think was called St. Lorenzo di Corda. I was in prison there for three days and was then sent to Barcelona for three weeks and arrived at Miranda on 18 November. I was detained eight weeks there and then sent to Madrid. I left Madrid on 26 February 1942 for Gibraltar".
Sadly was killed the following year on the 15th July, 1942. The policy of the RAF was that evaders should not serve in the same theatre of operations. Consequently was posted with 159 Squadron to RAF St. Jean, Israel. During an operation to Benghazi Harbour on Liberator II AL566, crashed into the sea after being hit by flak and avoiding a fighter attack. His was the only body recovered. The family tragically also lost another son, his brother Fl/Sgt. Doric Phillip Birk was killed on the 15th June, 1943. Flying with 460 Squadron on Lancaster III LM324 AB-O, piloted by 31 year old F/O. William J. Dennett AUS/413178 RAAF. From Bondi Beach, NSW, Australia - all 7 crew lost.
(2) Sgt. (‘Bob’) Wallace Harry Dyer MM, arrived back in Scotland at Gourock on the 10th March 1942. Evaded through France, Spain and Gibraltar. Awarded the Military Medal on 26th May 1942. Died in Dumfries in 1987.
(3) Sgt. J.B. Dicks MiD, arrived back in Scotland at Gourock on the 10th March 1942. Evaded through France, Spain and Gibraltar. No details of his evasion available but understood to have completed it on his own. Mention In dispatches gazetted on the 11th June 1942.
Left: Fw. Reinhard Kollak (courtesy Kracker Archives)
(4) This was the 7th claim by Fw. Reinhard Kollak. Reinhard Kollak joined the Luftwaffe in 1933 at the age of 18 becoming a night fighter ace by the end of the war with 49 victories. His was the highest total for a non commissioned pilot in the Nachtjagdgeschwader which, was in itself, rather unusual, as most were commissioned officers.
By all accounts Kollak was a modest man who shared the credit for his successes with his radio operator Hans Herman which was not the case for most Luftwaffe pilots. After the German surrender in 1945, Reinhard found it difficult to adjust to civilian life working at a number of administrative jobs for several years. Upon the founding of the Bundeswehr in 1956 he rejoined his beloved Luftwaffe where he remained until his retirement in 1967. He died at the age of 65 on 6th February 1980 and was buried with full military honours.
Hans Herman joined the Luftwaffe in 1938 at the age of 19 and served as Kollak’s Bordfunker until wars end. After the war ended he got a job with the German Federal Railroad, a position he held until his retirement.
Left: Sgt. (‘Bob’) Wallace Harry Dyer MM. Right: with his grandson in 1983 (courtesy Cherie Scouller - nee Dyer, his daughter)
None - all crew survived this operation.
(1) Sgt. (‘Larry’) Hilary Eldred Birk, MiD. Benghazi War Cemetery. Grave 6.E.20. Son of the Revd. George Phillip Birk and Elvy Grace Birk, of Croydon, New South Wales, Australia. (shown above).
His brother: Fl/Sgt. Doric Phillip Birk. Heverlee War Cemetery. Grave 4.E.1.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Cherie (daughter of Bob Dyer) and Alan H. Scouller from New Zealand, thanks also to Alan Scouller for his assistance in identification of photo. Alan also hope to provide further information on another RNZAF pilot. Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Oliver Clutton-Brock 'RAF Evaders’, 'Footprints On The Sands Of Time'. Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Tom Kracker - 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'. Also to Dave Champion who contributed further details - March 2019.