21/22.05.1940 No 75 Squadron Wellington IC R3157 AA-H Fl/Lt. Collins
Date: 21/22nd May 1940 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit: No. 75 Squadron (RNZAF)
Type: Wellington IC
Base: RAF Feltwell, Norfolk.
Location: Near Kain, 4 km North North West of Tournai, Belgium
Pilot: Fl/Lt. John Noel Collins NZ/2513 RNZAF Age 23. Missing
Pilot 2: P/O. Francis Albert Gabriel Joseph De Labouchere-Sparling 41990 RAF Age 20. Killed
Obs: Sgt. G. Thorpe 523426 PoW No: 5399 Camp: L3 - Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Stanley Brooks 622115 PoW No: 50392 Camp: 357 - Stalag Kopernikus
Air/Gnr: Fl/Lt. Leonard Phillip Redcliffe Hockey 76011 PoW No: 410 Camp: L3 - Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Feltwell, in Norfolk at 21:20 hrs. joining some 124 other aircraft to bomb the rail yards that were feeding the battle front.
The force was made up from 52 Whitleys, 47 Wellingtons and 25 Hampdens with 4 of these Wellingtons lost on the Dinant part of the nights sorties. 2 Wellington crews from 115 squadron were lost - 6 killed on Wellington IC R3152 flown by 23 year old Canadian P/O. Douglas W.W. Morris with 6 others taken PoW from Wellington IC P9297, flown by F/O. D.F. Leslett. 99 Squadron also lost a crew of 6 on Wellington L7803 flown by 27 year old F/O. John P. Dyer DFC.
Above left: RAF Feltwell in Norfolk and right 75 Squadron crews (courtesy IWM)
It is known that R3157 fell victim to the heavy flak whilst flying at between 2-3000 ft during the run in to the target . It is also understood that this was the Squadron first loss and that Fl/Lt. John Noel Collins was the first RNZAF pilot to be killed whilst serving abroad in WW2.
Fl/Lt. John Noel Collins. Runnymede Memorial Panel 27. Although an aircrew member was killed on the same day as Wellington R3157 and buried very close at the Froyennes Cemetery in an unnamed grave. I have checked and have not found any reports that could confirm that the MRES investigated this grave. So not able to confirm this is the grave of Fl/Lt. Collins. 850 flying hours logged and this is thought to be his 11 operational sortie.
P/O. Francis Albert Gabriel Joseph De Labouchere-Sparling. Kain Communal Cemetery Tournai, Belgium. Grave 1. Son of Francis de Labouchere-Sparling and of Alice de Labouchere-Sparling (née Pollet) Brother of Irene Domeisen, Connecticut, USA.
Researched for relatives of the crew. With thanks to Heidi Domeisen, daughter of Irene, sister of Francis Albert Gabriel Joseph De Labouchere-Sparling who contacted us in October 2016. We recommend looking at the 75 Squadron website who we work closely with. Thanks to the following for valuable additional information / confirmation, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses' Vol. 1, Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Oliver Clutton-Brock - 'Footprints On The Sands Of Time', Stuart Hadaway 'Missing Believed Killed' - the story of the MRES and their investigations. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission.