14/15.10.1940 No. 77 Squadron Whitley V T4206 KN-A Sgt. Thomas Edward Coogan
Date: 14/15 October 1940 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: No. 77 Squadron - Motto: "Esse potius quam videri" ("To be, rather than seem").
Badge: A thistle. The thistle commemorates the fact that the squadron was formed in Scotland.
Type: Armstrong Whitworth Whitley V
Base: RAF Topcliffe, North Riding of Yorkshire
Location: RAF Topcliffe Airfield
Pilot: Sgt. Thomas Edward Coogan 534642 RAF Age 24 - Injured (1)
2nd Pilot: Sqn/Ldr. George Roderick Hartwell Black 37373 RAF Age 27 - Killed (2)
Obs: Sgt. P. Boddington (? 749589 RAFVR Age 20) - Injured (3)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. George James Garwood 701916 RAFVR Age 24 - Injured (4)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. James William Woodroffe 937800 RAFVR Age 24 - Injured (5)
We appeal to relatives of the crew with further information and/or photographs to please contact us via the Helpdesk
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 17:40 hours on an operation to bomb the synthetic oil plant at Pölitz near Stettin (Polish: Szczecin).
78 Hampden, Wellington and Whitley bombers were in action on the night of 14/15 October 1941. The targets attacked were Berlin, Le Havre and the three oil refinery and storage facilities at Pölitz, Magdeburg and Bohlen.
Aircraft designated to bomb the facility at Pölitz faced a round trip of some 1300 miles or about 8 hours flying time. On this clear, moonlit night the observers were able to map read the course and easily identify landmarks along the route to the target. Crossing the coast at Cuxhaven, north east of Hamburg the aircraft encountered significant flak but once through it, continued towards the target. Avoiding the defences at Stettin the force attacked the oil installations at Pölitz and caused so much devastation that production was totally stopped. Crews reported that on the homeward journey they could still see fires at the facility from 100 miles away.
An Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mark V pictured in 1940 (Courtesy IWM)
The Hydrierwerke Pölitz AG was founded by IG Farben, Rhenania-Ossag, and Deutsch-Amerikanische Petroleum Gesellschaft in 1937 and by 1940 was producing annually, one million metric tons of synthetic fuel from coal.
60 high explosive and many incendiary bombs fell on the plant leaving several storage tanks burning, the interim tank depot destroyed by fire, two high pressure compounds damaged and stored fuel destroyed. Though the internal power plant was undamaged an electrical transformer was burned down and internal and external power supply was cut. 11 tanks for secondary products were lost along with 2500 cubic metres of unidentified product. The only heating-gasometer (having a 50000 cubic metre capacity) was heavily damaged with no reserve available.
Several machines and cables were also damaged, a barracks burned down and four more badly damaged. Several delayed fuse bombs exploded an hour after being dropped. One person was killed, one seriously injured and three sustained light injuries.
Workers required to repair the facility were 100 Electrical Engineers, 200 Metalworkers, 50 Insulators 10 Electrical Fitters and 50 Welders. Production was stopped for four weeks.
Scale: 1" = 50 miles
The crew of Whitley T4206 successfully attacked the facility and returned home but on reaching RAF Topcliffe they found the weather to be very poor with reduced visibility and landing reported as marginal. Attempting to fly a short circuit in order to keep the airfield in sight, Sgt. Coogan undershot and his aircraft hit a tree, stalled and crashed short of the runway at 03:30 hours (04:30 hours according to W.R. Chorley). Four members of the crew although injured, survived, but Sdn/Ldr. Black was sadly killed in the crash.
Though no aircraft were lost during the raid on Pölitz another three crashed on return. They were:
Whitley V P4952 ZA-H of No. 10 Squadron and Piloted by Sqn/Ldr. Kenneth Francis Ferguson 32099 RAF. Abandoned over Hexham, Northumberland. There were no fatalities
Whitley V T4143 ZA-J also of No. 10 Squadron and Piloted by Flight Lieutenant Dennis Brendon Geoffrey Tomlinson 37989 RAF. Crashed near Thirsk, North Riding of Yorkshire. The Observer and Wireless Operator were killed in the crash. The others were uninjured.
Whitley V T4150 GE-C of No. 58 Squadron and Piloted by Flying Officer B. Brooke. Crashed at Harpham near Driffield, East Riding of Yorkshire. There were no fatalities.
(1) Sgt. Thomas Edward Coogan was born in 1916 at Wirral, Cheshire the son of William Coogan and Winifred Coogan nee Blake later of Greasby, Cheshire. He was awarded the D.F.M. on 17 January 1941 (London Gazette of that date). He was posted to 19 OTU on completion of his tour and was killed on 16 March 1942 when flying Westland Lysander R 9120 that crashed at Findhorn Bay, Morayshire, near Kinloss, Scotland. On board the Lysander and also killed was Sgt. Brian Phillips RAAF aged 20. They are both buried at Kinloss Abbey Burial Ground.
(2) Sqn/Ldr. George Roderick Hartwell Black was born 15 April 1913 at Southwell, Nottinghamshire the son of George Hartwell Black (a director of a printing works) and Gertrude Black nee Tomlin. He attended Lancing College, West Sussex from May 1927 until April 1928 and in May 1928 at the age of 15 entered Nottingham High School where he was a member of the school OTC. He left in 1930. Details courtesy of Nottingham High School Archives.
On 15 March 1932 he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation in the Royal Air Force Reserve of Officers - Special Reserve and confirmed in this appointment on 21 March 1933 (London Gazette 9 May 1933). He was later promoted to Flying Officer. From 24 April 1935 until the 23 October 1935 he was attached to the RAF (London Gazette 18 June 1935) and on 24 October 1935 relinquished his commission on appointment to a short service commission in the Royal Air Force as a Pilot Officer on probation (London Gazette 5 November 1935) and later confirmed in rank on 24 October 1936 (London Gazette 8 December 1936). He was promoted to Flying Officer with effect from 24 April 1937 (London Gazette 27 April 1937); to Flight Lieutenant with effect from 24 April 1939 (London Gazette 9 June 1939) and to Squadron Leader (temporary) with effect from 1 September 1940 (London Gazette 20 September 1940). Also in 1940 he married Vera Kathleen Charlotte Black nee Brown at Barrow upon Soar, Leicestershire. They later lived at New Barkby Leicester.
George Roderick Hartwell Black is commemorated on the Nottingham High School War Memorial, the War Memorial at St Mary's Church, Barkby and Lancing College War Memorial.
(3) Sgt. P. Boddington. Probably Peter Boddington born in 1920 at Exeter, Devon the son of Percy Edgar Boddington and Charlotte Helena Hanbury. 749589 Warrant Officer Peter Boddington was commissioned as Pilot Officer 172580 on probation (emergency) with effect from 7 February 1944 (Supplement to the London Gazette 11 April 1944). This rank was confirmed with effect from 7 August 1944 and he was promoted to Flying Officer (war subs) on the same date (London Gazette 29 August 1944). He died at Exeter in 1998.
(4) F/Sgt. George James Garwood was born in 1916 at Mile End, Middlesex the son of George Garwood and Elizabeth M. Garwood nee Goodwin later of Dagenham, Essex. He was killed when flying as a member of the crew of Fortress AN522 that broke up in the air and crashed in the Catterick Bridge/Gatherley area, North Riding of Yorkshire on 22 June 1941. F/Sgt. Garwood was buried at Catterick Cemetery.
(5) F/Sgt. James William Woodroffe was born in 1916 at Coventry the son of David Woodroffe and Elizabeth Annie Woodroffe nee Wallace of Radford, Coventry. He was killed on 30 November 1941 flying as a member of the crew of Whitley Z9299 of 77 squadron shot down whilst on a mission to bomb Emden. He was buried at Sage War Cemetery, Niedersachsen, Germany.
Sqn/Ldr. George Roderick Hartwell Black was buried at Barkby Cemetery, Leicester - Section W Grave No. 50
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for Nottingham High School and all relatives and friends of the members of this crew - January 2016
With thanks to the sources quoted below.