30/31.08.1943 No. 78 Squadron Halifax II JD453 EY-C Sgt. Collins
Operation: Mönchengladbach, Germany
Date: 30/31st August 1943 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: No. 78 Squadron
Type: Halifax II
Base: RAF Breighton, Yorkshire
Location: Gerderath, Erkelens
Pilot: Sgt. Ronald George Collins MiD. 1392410 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Fl/Eng: Fl/Sgt. Clifford Hunt 619830 RAFVR PoW No: 43127 Stalag Luft Heydekrug (1)
Nav: Sgt. William Herbert Evans 1421169 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. C.F. Jaggard 1318093 RAFVR PoW No: 222723 Stalag Mühlberg-Elbe
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. N. Simpson 1091021 RAFVR PoW No: 222776 Stalag Mühlberg-Elbe
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. J.E. Ward 637730 RAFVR PoW No: 506 Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Eric Ernest Deverell AUS/410221 RAAF Age 29. Killed
Would Guy Erwood please contact us as we have been contacted by a relative of yours who would like to make contact - we have tried to email you at last known address but with no response. (May 29th 2014)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 00:04 hrs from Breighton, Yorkshire to join 660 aircraft (297 Lancasters, 185 Halifaxes, 107 Stirlings, 57 Wellingtons and 14 Mosquitoes) to make a double attack on Mönchengladbach and Rheydt. With a two minute pause after the first phase to enable the pathfinders to transfer the marking from Mönchengladbach to Rheydt. The attacks were classed as a ‘model’ of pathfinder marking.
Mönchengladbach reported that over 1000 buildings were destroyed, of which 171 were classed as industrial - Rheydt reported 1,280 buildings destroyed. Losses on the ground for the combined raids was 370 people killed on the ground and a further 2,152 people injured with 12 missing.
The allies lost 34 aircraft (7 Lancasters, 6 Wellingtons, 13 Halifaxes, 6 Stirlings and 2 Mosquitoes) with 78 Squadron losing 3 this night:
JD201 EY-Y Flown by 30 year old Fl/Lt. Albert Robert Short from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk (all 7 crew killed).
JD409 EY-D Flown by Sgt. Alan David Johnstone (6 killed and 1 evading capture).
This Halifax JD453 EY-C is thought to have been shot down by either Lt. Helmut Perle E./NJG2 or Ofw. Werner Hellenbbrucks of 3./NJG1 at around 5,000 mtrs. at 03:40 hrs. Lt. Perle was shot down and killed during combat the following night - Ofw. Hellenbbrucks was also killed, but later - on the 30/31st January 1944 - shot down by a Mosquito from 141 Squadron.
Sgt. Ronald George Collins MiD and his original grave marker (courtesy of Guy Erwood - son of Janet Collins)
It is reported that the pilot, Sgt. Ronald George Collins MiD left the flight controls to assist Fl/Sgt. Cliff Hunt who was incapacitated and unable to leave the aircraft on his own to leave the aircraft. Having done this he returned to the controls to keep the aircraft level in order for the remainder of the crew to escape. This courageous action ultimately cost him his life. Sgt. Ronald Collins MiD did survive the crash (Not known if he escaped by parachute or he remained in the aircraft) but he was with Fl/Sgt. Hunt when he died in a barn at the scene of the crash.
Statement of Sgt. Hunt sent to the family of Sgt. Deverell on the 28th June 1944:
'I the undersigned, regret I have no conclusive evidence on the whereabouts of the above named airman, neither do I know if he be dead or alive. I was with our skipper, Sgt. R.G. Collins when he expired in a barn at the scene of the wrecked aircraft. I have knowledge also of three further members of the crew, Sgts. Jaguars and Simpson. Whilst in hospital at Acklanebef a sister of mercy informed me that two members of the crew were recovered from the wrecked aircraft quite dead. Supposing this to be authentic (though I have no more definite knowledge), these two men must be Sgt. Evans and the above named Sgt. Deverell. I have received no answer to my enquiries regarding them, from the German authorities.'
Sgt. William Herbert Evans and original grave marker (courtesy Margaret Sharp)
Newspaper cuttings (courtesy of Guy Erwood - son of Janet Collins)
(1) It is understood that Sgt. Clarence Hunt was repatriated on the "Arundel Castle" on the 6th February 1945 in an exchange of prisoners, it is known that he suffered leg injuries he sustained during the crash.
Crew graves (courtesy Michel Beckers)
Sgt. Ronald George Collins M.i.D. Rheinberg War Cemetery 3.E.10. Son of Thomas William and Elsie Victoria Agnes Collins of 10 Coleraine Road, Blackheath - later 42 Annandale Road, Greenwich, husband of Janet Collins, (nee Smiles) of 24 St. Mildreds Road, Lee, London, England. Married on June 5th 1943 at St, Mildreds Church. Prior to volunteering in May 1941, he was a junior designer with the Considere Reinforced Concrete Designing Company of Westminster. Born in August 1921.
Sgt. William Herbert Evans. Rheinberg War Cemetery 3.E.11. Son of Daniel and Mary Evans of Cardiff, Wales.
(Page sponsored again on Remembrance Day 2016 - Margaret Sharp)
Sgt. Eric Ernest Deverell. Rheinberg War Cemetery SP. Mem. 3.F.18. Son of Charles and Agnes Idona Deverell, of Parfitt Road, Wangaratta, Victoria 10, Australia.
Researched for Guy Erwood and relatives of the other crew members. With thanks to the following: Margaret Sharp (née Evans) who contacted us with NoK details for Sgt. William Evans (November 2014). Michael Beckers from the Netherlands for the grave photographs. Other sources as quoted.