27/28.01.1944 625 Squadron Lancaster III ND461 CF-W F/O. Roy James Cook DFM
Date: 27/28.01.1944 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: 625 Squadron - Motto: We Avenge
Squadron Badge: Within a circular chain of seven links, a Lancaster rose; The Lancaster rose stands for the aircraft used, the seven links the number of personnel in one such aircraft
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Kelstern, Lincolnshire
Location: Gournay-en-Bray, Normandy, France
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Pilot: F/O. Roy James Cook DFM 168676 RAFVR Age 22 - Killed (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Dennis Brown 1604293 RAFVR - Evaded, reached UK safely. (2)
Nav: P/O. Jeffery Berger 1393649 RAFVR - PoW No. 971 Camp: Stalag Koperikus at Thorn (now Toruń) in Poland - 357 (3)
Air/Bmr: P/O. Victor Henry Thompson 170455 RAFVR - PoW No. 284 Camp Stalag Luft Bankau, Silesia, Germany now Bąków, Opole Voivodeship, Poland - L7 (4)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Raymond Henderson 1094837 RAFVR Age 20 - PoW No. 1246 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus at Thorn (now Toruń) in Poland - 357 (5)
Air/Gnr (MU): P/O. Ronald Verdun Weller 169965 RAFVR - PoW No. 3400 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria - L3 (6)
Air/Gnr (R): Sgt. Jack Ringwood DFM 843261 RAF (Auxiliary Air Force) Age 37 - Killed (7)
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Officially, it was RAF Grimsby, but the station was usually referred to by servicemen and locals as Waltham after the nearby village in the County of Lincolnshire.
Sgt. Roy Cook and his crew were posted there on 12 September 1943 having completed conversion training at 1656 Conversion Unit based at RAF Lindholme in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
As luck would have it, due the inclement weather, the Squadron was stood down until 21 September but even then only 2 aircraft were detailed for Gardening operations.
The stand down provided an ideal opportunity for the many recently arrived new crews to acclimatise and undertake the many training exercises.
On 22 September, the last day of summer, the Squadron was at last placed under orders for operations against Hannover. The Squadron provided 18 Lancasters to join a total despatched force of 711 aircraft on the first major raid on the city for 2 years. Among them was the Cook crew but under the Captaincy of W/O. J. Clark with Roy Cook flying as second dickey.
W/O Clark later reported - 'a good attack, escaped twice from a Ju88.'
For this operation the crew had flown Lancaster III EE319 "The Phantom of the Ruhr", an iconic aircraft later transferred to 550 Squadron which survived the war having completed 121 operations. Sadly, this famous Lancaster suffered the ignominy of being scrapped on 19 February 1946.
On the night of 23/24 September the crew was in action again, this time with Roy as Captain and flying JB122 on an uneventful trip to Mannheim.
27/28 September was Hannover again (Lancaster DV242) followed on 7/8 October with Stuttgart in Lancaster LM317 and from where they returned with a feathered starboard inner.
On 8/9 October, on what was to prove the crew's final operation with 100 Squadron, it was Hannover yet again. All went well and they returned safely. Again they flew LM317.
Four days later "C" Flight, of which the Roy Cook crew were part, was posted to RAF Kelstern some 10 miles or so south of Waltham. The 12 crews of "C" Flight augmented by 3 crew from each of 101 Squadron and 12 Squadron were to form the operational nucleus of the newly formed 625 Squadron, a system that allowed the new squadron to become operational very quickly. Over the next 10 days these 18 crews were to be further enhanced by 12 more crews fresh from Heavy Conversion Units.
Monday 18 October, found 625 Squadron called into action when 9 crews, including that of Roy Cook, took off for a raid on where else but Hannover. For this operation the crew flew Lancaster I ED317, the mount that they would come to regard as their very own and which would carry them into battle on each of their next 8 operations.
On 20 October they were off again, one of 13 crews detailed as part of a force to bomb Leipzig.
On 3 November they flew under the Captaincy of the Squadron CO Wing Commander Thomas Preston with Roy flying as 2nd pilot for a raid on Dusseldorf.
18 November was a trip to the Big City - Berlin with a repeat performance four days later with Sgt. D Winlow as navigator in place of Jeffrey Berger.
2 December brought up three in a row to Berlin and another on 16 December made it four.
Berlin was becoming more than a habit and even before the curtain was drawn back on 20 December, most, if not all, of the 13 crews detailed for the operation, half expected that it would be the big one again - but this time it was to be Frankfurt. It was Roy James' and his crew's 13th operation.
Of the 13 Lancasters detailed by 625 Squadron, 1 was cancelled due to compressor failure and no less than 6 more later aborted the operation due to technical and mechanical failure leaving just six to go on and bomb the target. Among them was ED317 flown by Roy Cook but only because of his determination to battle through adversity. The story of his feat is found in the Squadron's Operations Record Book:
'ED317 was in trouble from the start. The captain and pilot Sgt. Cook R.J. had a port outer engine losing power, resulting in a severe swing to port on take-off. Sgt. Cook managed to turn down a runway not in use, taxi around to take-off position again and then took off successfully. This engine was still only giving partial power and flames started coming out of the exhaust manifold when the enemy coast was crossed on the way to the target. Despite this, and the fact that the aircraft could not be made to fly satisfactorily, Sgt. Cook persisted with his sortie, and bombed the target from a height considerably lower than the main force.
Throughout the return flight the faulty engine was still giving off flames and had to be carefully nursed until a safe landing was made at base. It was then, and not until then, that Sgt. Cook reported that the engine was faulty - proved faulty to the extent of an engine change being ordered. The high example set by Sgt. Cook, his determination and bravery in completing his task, knowing full well, even before take-off that the engine was faulty, which meant the attack would have to be made from a relatively low height, and for bringing his aircraft and crew safely home, this N.C.O. was recommended for, and subsequently awarded an immediate D.F.M.' (The citation is included in his biographical details below)
29 December took Roy and crew once more to the Big City. Hit by heavy flak on approaching the target and again over Bremen causing damage to fuselage, wings, tail plane and elevator the operation was to prove to be their last in ED317. The Lancaster did not fly again on operations until 19 February and was lost on 24/25 March 1944 whilst on a raid to Berlin. (To read the story of this loss go to http://aircrewremembered.com/jamieson-ronald.html)
As 1943 gave way to 1944 it was back to Berlin on 2 January 1944 and the Cook crew were allocated Lancaster ED814. Unable to gain height the bomb load was jettisoned at the Dutch coast and with the rear turret defective and motors over-heated they landed at RAF Coltishall in Norfolk.
5 January 1994 brought a raid on Stettin in their old friend Lancaster III LM 317 and again they had mechanical problems
'On the entire way out to the target the port inner engine was giving trouble due to rev fluctuations, but the Flight Engineer nursed it and stopped it from quitting. PFF were good and a good red glow of fires was visible 100 miles away on return from target. Coming up to Sweden on the way back the starboard outer engine had to be feathered for lack of oil pressure, the ASI became iced up on two occasions in cloud and the port inner engine was still giving trouble. Landed on three engines.'
On 14 January they made an uneventful trip to Brunswick flying Lancaster III LM384 and on 20 January it was back to the Big City in Lancaster III ND 461. This brand spanking new Lancaster was delivered to RAF Kelstern on 11 January 1944 and yet, unbelievably, on this, its first operational flight, the navigation lights would not switch off - not an ideal situation over enemy territory. Bombing the last resort target on Heligoland Island the Lancaster and its crew, somewhat fortuitously, returned unscathed.
The total number of operations undertaken by Roy and each member of his crew with the exception of navigator Jeffrey Berger, now stood at 18. Jeffrey Berger having missed the Berlin trip of 22 November was on 17.
It was seven days later before the crew were next detailed for operations - the target, somewhat inevitably - Berlin. It was to be their seventh trip to the Big City.
Thursday 27 January 1944, a cloudy day with moderate visibility saw little flying activity at Kelstern with just one aircraft engaged on circuits, landings and local flying. On the ground however it was a different story as sixteen crews were briefed for that night's operation and the ground crews swung into action readying the Lancasters.
The attacking force was to comprise 515 Lancasters and 15 Mosquitoes whilst various significant diversionary raids were to be made including 21 Halifaxes on Heligoland (between Z-77 and Z-56), 12 Mosquitoes on Aachen, 9 Mosquitoes on Herbouville and 80 Stirlings and Wellingtons mine laying in the Heligoland area.
The briefed outbound route to Berlin was also deliberately elaborate in an attempt to confuse the enemy as to the intended target and the return route was to be marked by (red?) steady flares at 50°31 N 07°35 E (33 miles SSE of Cologne).
For the first time the target markers of the Pathfinder Force were to operate with 'Supporters' from non PFF squadrons. Augmenting the 26 'Supporters' of Group 8 were to be 30 additional 'Supporters' provided by Group 1 and captained by its most experienced pilots.
Zero hour was set for 20.30 hours. At Z-2 the 13 Primary blind markers were to mark the aiming point with Target Indicators and the release point flares (green/red stars). At Z-2 the 26 Supporters of Group 8 were to bomb blindly if possible, otherwise on visual identification or centre of red TIs or release point flares.
The 30 Lancasters of Group 1, preferably Y-aircraft, which were designated to act as 'Supporter's and also to bomb at Z-2, were to aim at any TI visible or if there was thick cloud, bomb blindly or attack defences in the target area.
In the event only 28 of the Group 1 Supporters took off and subsequently 23 bombed the primary, 1 the alternative and 2 failed to return.
625 Squadron ORB makes no reference to any of its aircraft being detailed as PFF 'Supporter' but based on the individual captain's reports it would seem that at least 5 of the 625 crew were engaged in this role and in his book 'Bombers over Berlin' author Alan Cooper indicates that ND461 flown by Pilot Officer Cook DFM was also one of those detailed as a Supporter.
Further details of 625 Squadron aircraft and crews involved in the raid can be found in the story of the attack below.
Lancaster ND461 was to be armed with 1 x 4000 lb 'Cookie' 6 x 1000 lb HC bombs and 1 x 500 lb MC bomb, equipped with GEE and a Mark XIV bomb sight (see abbreviations)
REASON FOR LOSS
At precisely 17.08 with Roy Cook at the controls, Lancaster ND461 was first away from RAF Kelstern. Sunset was still a half hour away but by the time the sun finally disappeared from sight all 16 were airborne. In well broken cloud and good visibility they headed ESE to cross the Lincolnshire coast at Mablethorpe before turning ENE.
515 Lancasters and 15 Mosquitoes duly joined forces over the North Sea before turning south east crossing the Dutch coast around the islands of Terschelling and Nes. Continuing 250 miles to a point south west of Brunswick they turned sharply north east towards the target (see map).
ROUTE: Mablethorpe - 53°45N 04°30E - 51°55N 10°10E - 52°35N 11°50E - BERLIN - 52°16N 13°50E - 50°50N 12°10E - 50°30N 07°20E - 50°20N 01°32E - Dungeness
Elements of the bomber force had in fact been detected by the Germans whilst crossing the Norfolk coast and the bomber stream was met by Luftwaffe fighter as far out as 75 miles into the North Sea. At this point however the German controllers were distracted by the diversionary operations and the bomber stream met no further fighter opposition until reaching the Osnabrück area.
Cloud over the continent gradually increased to 10/10th layer cloud tops 8-10000 feet over the target area.
According to the Bomber Command Night Raid Report, the timing of the Pathfinders was good. The following reports of the 625 Squadron captains of their timing would seem to evidence that they were acting as PFF Supporters and the conditions they describe over the target are presumably the same as those experienced by Roy Cook and his crew flying ND461.
Lancaster III LM427 P/O. E. S. Ellis - Target bombed on ETA, searchlights and flak. At 20.26 hours from 20000 feet. Two large rings of searchlights which joined to form an oval pattern, followed by barrage. Heavy flak and green flares with red stars went down behind.
Lancaster III LM384 F/O. W.S. Middlemiss - Target bombed at 20.27 from a height of 20000 feet. Plenty of searchlights and Wanganui flares appeared.
Lancaster III DV364 Fl/Lt G. A. Spark - Target bombed at 20.28 hours from a height of 20000 feet on ETA. Target was well illuminated. We had a quiet trip.
Lancaster I ME594 F/S. R.W.D. Price - Target bombed at 20.28 hours from a height of 20000 feet. On leaving the target area heavy flak was encountered and green flares with red stars sent down where we had bombed. Four fires seen.
Lancaster I ME588 F/S. J. D. Aspin - Target bombed at 20.28 hours from a height of 21000 feet in conditions of 10/10ths cloud with tops at 15000 feet. Preparing to bomb searchlights when flares and G/R Stars went down at 20.27 hours.
Lancaster ND461 also bombed the target, turned for home and shortly after 2100 hours was over Leipzig
What happened next is taken from statements by the survivors of the crew and recorded on the RAF Loss Card.
'Received direct hit in starboard wing at about 22000 feet which set petrol tank on fire. Pilot put aircraft into dive and fire went out' (Mid upper gunner Ronald Weller).
'Aircraft at about 20000 feet.Fires in Nos 1 and 2 tanks on starboard side and starboard engines. Sudden explosion in No 2 tank and (found to be empty?). Dived at 1000 feet per minute to extinguish fire' (Flight engineer Dennis Brown)
'Losing [height] rapidly  of the engines had been hit and Captain gave order to jettison guns and ammunition then able to maintain 15000 feet' (Weller).
'To maintain height Pilot ordered rear to put out equipment (possibly the R/Gs chute went too)' (Brown)
Based on Dennis Brown's statement, it seems likely that Roy Cook's manoeuvres in extinguishing the fires exacerbated by the loss of the two starboard engines had contrived to leave the Lancaster very much off course.
'Homebound, Nav had difficulty in plotting and aircraft well S. of track before reaching Rhine - route marker (5031 0785) [33 miles SSE of Cologne] was sighted far to north and possibly 50 miles away'.
Considering the loss of fuel it must have been patently clear to the crew that the chances of making it home were a great deal worse than slim.
625 Squadron Operations Record Book states that:
Aircraft missing, though following Fixes suggest task was completed. S.O.S. 5017N 0014W - 0033 hours (From Southampton) Subsequently cancelled.
Later Fix - 10 mins. fuel - Position 49°35N 01°50E - 0117 hrs. (From Pulham) [Norfolk]
This later fix placed the aircraft some 60 miles north of Paris and 35 miles south of Abbeville
'Petrol gave out and Pilot advised "abandon". MUG left by rear hatch. Just before he left he heard Nav suggest that the Pilot should (just?) land the aircraft. MUG has heard no more of remainder of crew'. (Weller)
Engines gave out. BA out first followed by Nav W/Op and FE
P had ordered AGs to bale out together on one chute
3 of crew reported killed.
5 landed in (orchard?) ½ m[ile] S of Gurnay A/c crashed, blew up and burned fiercely on ground about 3 miles away. (Brown)
On the front of the loss card the names of the two air gunners, Ronald Weller and Jack Ringwood are bracketed together with the comment - one chute between them so probably did not b.o. The rest of the crew are marked as b.o.
LOSS CARD - Lancaster ND461
Dennis Brown, Jeffrey Berger, Victor Thompson, Raymond Henderson and Ronald Weller subsequently landed safely by parachute.
Though the pilot reportedly baled out successfully he was either dead on landing or died shortly afterwards. In the absence of a Missing Research and Enquiry Service report or other evidence, further details of his death remain unknown.
It seems that Jack Ringwood's parachute had been inadvertently thrown out whilst jettisoning equipment to lighten the load when the pilot was struggling to maintain height and though the pilot had ordered Weller and Ringwood to bale out on one chute it seems that Ron Weller went out alone. He clearly states in his report that after baling out he had 'heard no more of the remainder of the crew'.
The following excerpt, translated from the French, is from an account by eye witness of the crash by Louis Cardon which was included in a French magazine article entitled Le Crash d'un Bombardier a Bézancourt en 1944 by Daniel Collet published in Les Cahiers de la SHGBE No. 76 in 2016. It would seem to confirm that Jack Ringwood failed to bale out and died in the crash.
'After my departure from Landel but having temporarily returned to this place, on a beautiful winter night, around midnight, a large English bomber returning from a mission in Germany, was going back home on fire, it fell 50 metres from the house of my parents. An English airman perished in the burning furnace in the pasture.'
The article goes on to explain that the Lancaster, which had crashed in the grounds of the Château du Landel, burned fiercely with ammunition exploding. Four SS men were quickly on the scene and the Bézancourt fire brigade brought the blaze under control.
After the Liberation, scrap metal workers, whilst salvaging the metal remains, discovered one of the engines buried 7 metres deep.
Jeffrey Berger was captured almost immediately and taken to Dulag Luft near Frankfurt for interrogation before being sent to Stalag Luft 6, the northernmost POW camp within the confines of the German Reich and located near the town of Heydekrug, Memelland (now Šilutė in Lithuania). Now PoW No 971, he arrived at the camp on 13 February 1944 and was held in Lager 2, the all British compound. He was joined there 10 days later by Raymond Henderson (PoW No. 1246) who was housed in Room F9. Both men were later transferred to Stalag 357 Koperikus at Thorn (now Toruń) in Poland.
The circumstances of Ronald Weller's capture are not known but he was later incarcerated at Stalag Luft 3 - Sagan and Belaria in Lower Silesia as PoW number 3400.
Vic Thompson initially fared better than his three captured crew mates insofar as he avoided capture and helped by persons unknown was taken to Paris.
On March 3 he was taken to Gare d'Austerlitz and shown to a reserved compartment on a train for Bordeaux. Also in the compartment along with three French helpers were 6 more evaders: F/Sgt. Arthur Joseph "Dick" Holden 1178754 RAFVR and F/Sgt Wilfred Melvin Gorman R84878 RCAF, wireless operator and mid-upper gunner respectively of Lancaster LM345 of 405 Squadron shot down 27/28 September 1943 over the Netherlands: 1st Lt. Bruce G. Sundlun, pilot of B-17 41-24557 of 385 Bomb Group / 545 Bomb Squadron shot down on 1 December 1943: 2nd Lt Frank Mitchell, co-pilot of B-17 42-39781 of 303 Bomb Group / 360 Bomb Squadron also shot down on 1 December 1943 and two other Americans thought to have been S/Sgt Ernest C. King, left gunner and William P. Kiniklis, rear gunner, both of B-17 42-3225 of 381 Bomb Group / 535 Bomb Squadron, shot down on August 17, 1943.
The train arrived at Bordeaux at 7 a.m. the following morning. Vic Thompson, Holden and Gorman were then taken by train to Pons (Charente Maritime) where they were sheltered until 28 March at the house of Mme Pandin, Château Ardennes in Fléac-sur-Seugne, 7km south of Pons. The three were then taken to Toulouse where they were passed over to Marie-Louise Dissard who had originally worked with the Pat O'Leary escape line prior to its destruction and had afterwards created an escape network called the Françoise Line.
At the station buffet she gave them each a train ticket and instructions to follow a man onto a train.
The train took them about 40 miles south to Boussens where their guide bought them tickets for a charabanc to Saint-Girons some 10 miles from the Spanish border.
They were met by a young Frenchman who took them on foot to a shepherd's hut in the mountains, where they met a number of escaped members of the RAF and USAAF, the Dutch and their guide again from Boussens.
On the night of 7/8 April the group set off into the mountains. In cold, windy weather the escapees were soon struggling through snow up to their hips. Holden was exhausted and had to be left behind in a shepherds hut; the rest continued to the summit and set off down the other side. Caught in terrible storm they were forced to take shelter in a cave, by which time Gorman was also unable to go on. He was not the only one and the following day, six of the party with one of the guides chose to continue (and eventually reach freedom), the others, including Vic Thompson and Gorman, accompanied by the other two guides turned back.
Later, whilst trying to cross a fast flowing river in the foothill all except Gorman and a Frenchman were captured by German soldiers.
Gorman was also captured along with 16 others on 21/22 April during a later attempt to cross into Spain.
The captured escapees were all held at Saint-Michel prison in Toulouse until early May when they were transferred in railway trucks to the brutal Fresnes prison near Paris. Housed in tiny cells they suffered constant threats of execution and other deprivations.
Just before D-Day the servicemen held at Fresnes were transported in railway trucks to Frankfurt where they were led in handcuffs to a large prison.
They spent the first night packed into a room so small it was impossible to lie down and lacking ventilation they barely survived the night. The following day they were moved into cages of five foot by seven foot in the cellar. In these cold damp conditions with insufficient space to walk around the prisoners were given one opportunity per day for exercise and to fill a bucket with fresh water. The bucket also served as their toilet.
Interrogations, sometimes accompanied by violence were regular events until their tormentors lost interest and they were finally sent to prisoner of war camps.
Several of them, including Vic Thompson arrived at Stalag Luft VII at Bankau, Silesia, Germany on 7 July 1944 where conditions were very poor.
In January 1945 with the Red Army approaching more than 1500 prisoners were marched out in bitter cold. Forced marched almost 150 miles to Goldberg (Zlotoryja, Poland) and on 6 February herded into cattle trucks and taken to Stalag III-A at Luckenwalde, 20 miles south of Berlin where they arrived at 8:30 a.m. on 8 February.
In overcrowded and unhygienic conditions the prisoners endured the next 3 months until liberated by the Russians on 22 April 1945.
(Sources: So Close to Freedom by Jean-Luc E. Cartron Publishes by University of Nebraska Press. Liberation Reports of F//Sgt. Arthur Joseph Holden - National Archives WO344/147/2 and WO208/3337/676).
Flight Engineer Dennis Brown is known to have evaded capture and returned safely to the UK but with the closure of UK National Archives due to Covid 19, it has been impossible to access his Escape and Evasion Report.
However a brief reference to Dennis Brown can be found on page 434 of the book 'They came from Burgundy - a study of the Bourgogne escape line' by Keith Janes.
'Note that Sgt. Charles W. Creggor [sic] had stayed with M. Pradal for ten weeks from 3 January until 14 March, when he and Sgt. Dennis Brown were taken to St. Brieuc and Plouha (for Operation Bonaparte 3)...'
Although Dennis Brown's experiences after landing in France on 28 January until 11 March 1944 remain unknown it has been possible to compile the following account of his movements afterwards from digitalised MIS-X Escape and Evasion Reports of some of the American evaders held by the United States National Archives and Records Administration.
The following account has been compiled mainly from details in the following Escape and Evasion Reports:
MIS-X #470 Sgt. Charles W. Cregger - B-24 42-7548 Bull O' The Woods, shot down 30 December 1943
MIS-X #456 2nd Lt. Shirley D. Berry - B-24 42-40747 Heavy Date, shot down 7 January 1944
MIS-X #460 2/Lt Edward J Donaldson - B-17 42-29963 Judy, shot down 30 December 1943
For the most part, the reports are hand written in pencil and being in note form are not only difficult to read but frequently hard to follow or understand. Most of the following account is written as the detail appears in the reports with only the barest of additional words [thus] to aid its readability and comprehension.
Sgt. Charles W. Cregger, the left waist gunner of B-24 42-7548 Bull O' The Woods had baled out when his bomber was shot down by a German fighter over Western France on 30 December 1943 whilst returning from a raid on Ludwigshaven.
Having rapidly managed to contact sympathetic French helpers, he had, since 5 January, been sheltered by an old gentleman, Monsieur Jean Charles Pradal and his dog Tout Suite at their home at 6 Villa Blanqui, 44 Jeanne d'Arc, Ivry-sur-Seine in the southeastern suburbs of Paris. The old gentleman who sported a long grey beard, worked as a Mechanical Engineer in central Paris but during the Great War he had been private secretary and 'l'interprète to a Maréchal de France'. With the rank of Lieutenant he had been a 'sort of ADC'.
Although M. Pradel had helped Frenchmen to escape from Paris to the country, he had lately expressed a desire to help allied evaders and Charles Cregger was his first one.
His home was a large apartment in an old small block of flats and he had a trustworthy maid who also looked after the American evader and for whom her son cooked.
Among several regular visitors to the old man's apartment was Monsieur Marcel [Cola] - 'he seemed to be an important man in the organisation, he talked as [if he was] the chief, [he] was getting places for Americans to live. He took my serial number, name, rank etc., brought [a] photographer, had papers made.'
'On the 11th of March Marcel brought a british [sic] boy called DENIS [sic] ------ [Brown] (had fallen over Normandy on his way back from his 6th Berlin raid on the 19th [sic] of January. The boy and I stayed together until [we reached] England.
'Marcel said that on 23 January he had sent 21 Americans back*. He also said that he has seldom [helped?] british fliers, Denis was the first one.'
*The first rescue from Bonaparte beach (Bonaparte 1) was on the night of 28/29 January 1944, when 19 evaders were returned to the UK on MGB 503.
'On Monday [13 March] [Marcel]ask [ed] the old gentleman to take us to the station the next morning and said that papers would be given to us at the station.
On the morning of 14 March we left the house at 6.15, took the Metro to Gare Montparnasse - Marcel was not in the station. We stood waiting an hour in the station with him - Marcel was late. About 8, Marcel came with the guide that took us to the coast we all had a (huddle?) Marcel had brought new identity papers'
After we got in the compartment Marcel said that the guide would give [us] our papers and that we should tare [tear?] the old ones in the lavatory. When we got in the compartment while the guide was giving us our papers (could not speak any English) I gave mine to Marcel - Marcel knew English.
Train left at 8.20, was at St Brieuc a few minutes after 6 - 6.30 changed trains and went to Châtelaudren.
When [we] got off the train [we] walked through [the station] following the guide. The signal for the guide waiting was to put his hand over his hair but he didn't come up to our guide.
We followed new guide (spoke little English), asked us if we wanted beer or cider, 3 minutes' walk from station went in cafe, the proprietor told us to go to the back room - we drank. The guide who brought us from Paris came behind us with members (what I thought) of this organisation. Three of the guides, Denis and I ate there, the others were going and coming.
The proprietor seem to keep the roster of all escapees who went through there because he came [to the] guides with a note book and talked to them.
They told us to hurry to eat our meal. Outside of the cafe at 7.25 p.m. we jumped in truck. We went north about 3 miles, stopped on top of a small hill in the woods and whistle[d]. Boys jumped in, 12 of them. We were [now] 14 and a girl (she must know every path in France). After these 12 got in we went 6 miles. At this point 8 of us got out. She took 6 of the 8 of us.'
One of the 12 who had boarded the truck in the woods was 2/Lt Shirley D. Berry. He explains in his report that they 'went about 15 miles then the truck stopped in the hills. People [were] waiting for them - 6 went with one guide 6 with another and 2 [Charles Cregger and Denis Brown] somewhere else. Six of us went with the girl, walked for an hour, arrived at the girl's house.'
Charles Cregger continues:
'Denis and I went alone with a man who got in the truck at the Forest stop (first time I noticed him - might have come from the cafe).
We started walking down the road with this fellow - once we heard a motorcycle we jumped in the hedge but it was ridden by a friend - French.
We joined with the 6 for a few minutes - then the six with the girl left [Berry's group]. We went back to where we got out of the truck. We had quite a race then through the fields.
30 minutes later we all joined them again. We walked half a mile and she entered a house with her six and us three continued for a mile and a half. The guide's wife and another lady met us on the way through.
10 p.m. arrived Tuesday 14 March - Nobody spoke English (in the house were 3 women a boy of 14 and French policeman.
Wednesday after policeman his wife and his [illegible] boy of 14 who were [illegible] left, the guide came to speak a few words, say hello.
Thursday we were alone with the two women, one was the guides' wife about 22 the other was there with her husband.
Thursday night 10 pm guide came with a lady of 50 and took us to [the] assembly point. There we met the other 23.'
Here a note states 'the rest as Berry'
Shirley Berry and the other five of his group stayed at the girl's house until Thursday night 16 March.
'We left the third night. We walked with her climbed fences, [crossed] fields, swamps. Walked an hour.
Came to a farm house - ran into the original 6, met in the field - others came - total of 25 [sic] [and also] with us a French colonel who travelled.
In the house saw british I.O. [Intelligence Officer] - we gave him all the money and he took us to the boat. He gave Donaldson a suit case to take to British Intelligence.'
Edward Donaldson says he was one of a group of 6 that had been sheltered at a dress makers shop for 2 nights. On Thursday 16 March they were 'led by two men across fields for a mile to a farm house.
Then "Capt. Short" (Andre) came in dressed as a farmer, took our fliers money and papers. Several other Americans and an Englishman came in whom Capt. Short* interrogated'. [Donaldson refers to Capt. Short earlier in his report as being a British agent].
* In November 1943, working for MI9, Sgt. Major Lucien Dumais of the Canadian Fusiliers Mont Royal and Sgt. Raymond Labrosse of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals landed by Lysander in France. They went on to organise a series of evacuation of evaders by Motor Gun Boat (MGB) from the beach at Anse Cochat near Plouha in Brittany. Code named Operation Bonaparte the first evacuation (Bonaparte I) had taken place on the night of 28/29 January 1944 when 19 evaders were rescued by MGB 503 and the second (Bonaparte II) on 26/27 February 1944 when MGB 503 took off 18 evaders.
Lucien Dumais aka Léon is also known to have used the alias Captain Harrison (of Military Intelligence). However none of the reports of the 24 evaders who were rescued on the night of 16 March make any reference to anyone named Harrison.
Edward Donaldson, as already stated, refers to the Intelligence Officer as 'Capt. Short': 2nd Lt. Ralph K Patton (MIS-X #476) also refers to the British Intelligence Officer as 'Capt. Short (André)' and 2nd Lt Philip A. Capo (MIS-X #459) refers to him as the 'British Intelligence Officer (Short, with hooked nose)' - Lucien Dumais was in fact short - he was just 5 feet tall - with a hooked nose.
The organisers of Operation Bonaparte deliberately moved evaders in small groups and by circuitous routes so as to avoid suspicion and detection by the Germans. Their other great fear was to be infiltrated by enemy agents posing as evaders. Constantly changing plans, taking various routes, backtracking, splitting and rejoining of groups were just some of the tactics employed to confuse and confound anyone unfamiliar with the terrain and their ultimate destination.
The various small groups later met up at the assembly point from where they were led in single file to the beach.
Edward Donaldson says that: 'About 11.30 pm we started out across country in single file to the beach where we waited until 2 a.m. when we were picked up by boats.'
Shirley Berry recalls
'We walked in single file, left the farmhouse, walked an hour, went down a steep bank waited 2 hours in a cove signalling with a white lamp and left a blue lamp to (side?)'
Gunfire, presumed to be from German shore batteries, was heard and a message was received by walkie talkie from MGB 502 that they were withdrawing but would return later.
Though the escape and evader reports vary it is generally accepted that MGB 502, by captained Lieutenant P. Williams, duly returned between 2 and 3 a.m. and despatched 4 surfboats to collect the evaders.
Berry says '4 row boats came in to get us'
The boats brought stores and weapons for the Resistance but as soon as they were unloaded the evaders were urged to get into them as quickly as possible.
According to Charles Cregger 'Brown was first in'
At about 8.30 a.m. on Friday 17 March 1944, MGB502 sailed into Dartmouth harbour carrying the 24 evaders safely back to England.
The 24 evaders brought back by MGB502 on Operation Bonaparte 3.
The numbers in brackets refer to their MIS-X E&E Reports.
<blockquote>Sgt Dennis Brown (1848)625 Sqn Lancaster ND461
2/Lt Manuel M Rogoff (#455) 389BG/567BS B-24 42-40747 Heavy Date
2/Lt Shirley D Berry (#456) 389BG/567BS B-24 42-40747 Heavy Date
T/Sgt Harold R Vines (#457) 389BG/567BS B-24 42-63977 Los Angeles City Limits
S/Sgt Russell L Paquin (#458) 389BG/567BS B-24 42-40747 Heavy Date
2/Lt Philip A Capo (#459) 385BG/548BS B-17 42-31380
2/Lt Edward J Donaldson (#460) 379BG/527BS B-17 42-29963 Judy
Sgt Neelan B Parker (#461) 379BG/527BS B-17 42-29963 Judy
S/Sgt Robert K Fruth (#462) 93BG/328BS B-24 42-7614
S/Sgt Everett E Stump (#463) 92BG/326BS B-17 42-37984
Sgt Carlyle A Van Selus (#464) 92BG/326BS B-17 42-37984
Sgt Carl W Mielke (#465) 305BG/364BS B-17 42-40020 Good Pickin
T/Sgt William C Lessig (#466) 379BG/525BS B-17 42-29633
2/Lt Dean W Tate (#467)379BG/525BS B-17 42-29633
Lt Charles B Winkelman (#468) 100BG/351BS B-17 42-30035 Torchy
Sgt John T Amery (#469)100BG/351BS B-17 42-5997 Heaven Can Wait
Sgt Charles W Cregger (#470) 44BG/66BS B-24 42-7548 Bull O' The Woods
2/Lt Joseph A Birdwell (#471) 390BG/569BS B-17 42-3306 Phoenix
T/Sgt Kenneth P Christian (#472)384BG/544BS B-17 42-39784 Cabin in the Sky
2/Lt William T Campbell (#473) 94BG/333BS B-17 42-37815 Miss Lace
S/Sgt Frank J Moast (#474) 94BG/333BS B-17 42-37815 Miss Lace
2/Lt Jack McGough (#475) 94BG/331BS B-17 42-31212
2/Lt Ralph K Patton (#476) 94BG/331BS B-17 42-31212
2/Lt William H Spinning (#477) 351BG/509BS B-17 42-29863 Kentucky Babe</blockquote>
SUMMARY OF THE BERLIN RAID OF 27/28 JANUARY 1944
RAF records state that the bombing appeared to have been spread well up and down-wind.
Elaborate feints diversions were partially successful in diverting German night fighters but some were sent 75 miles out into the North Sea to attack the bomber stream. A total of 33 Lancasters were lost representing 6.4 per cent of the heavy bombers
625 Squadron Opertaions Record Book report
Sixteen of our aircraft were detailed to take part in this operation and twelve of these aircraft attacked the target successfully in conditions of 10/10ths cloud, without trouble from the defences. Two aircraft attacked last resort targets. One aircraft 'R' Captain and Pilot F/S Gallop had an abortive trip owing to the A.S.I. being unserviceable and this is now being changed. Aircraft 'W'/N.D.461/Lancaster 111/ Captain and Pilot P/O R.J. COOK was reported missing from this operation, although it is hoped that he and his crew may have baled out or landed on the Continent.
Their very own Lancaster
The January 1944 issue of "Pennyfare," the London Transport staff news, included the above photo with the following report:
'Pilot Officer Cook at the controls of his Lancaster, W. for William, which bears a cartoon portrait of Billy Brown*, the "Tutor of Travel" made famous in England by David Langdon.The plane carries the record of 15 bombing missions and is specified to have been over Berlin at least three times. Except for its Canadian skipper (Cook, Roy), its crew is British.'
*Billy Brown of London Town was a cartoon character, drawn by David Langdon, who featured on London Transport posters during World War II. Brown's appearance was that of a City of London businessman of the time, wearing a bowler hat and pinstripe suit, and carrying an umbrella.
The aircraft in the photograph is almost certainly Lancaster ED317 CF-W which was flown on its 15th operation on 18 October 1943 by Roy Cook and his crew during a raid on Hannover. ED317 did in fact take part in 7 operations to Berlin (including 1 aborted), all of them after this photograph was taken. Having flown on at least 30 operations ED317 was lost on 24/25 March 1944 whilst on its 8th visit to Berlin.
Constructed in 1942 ED317 entered service with 1656 Conversion Unit on 30 November 1942. The aircraft was transferred to 101 Squadron on 26 June 1943 and to 100 Squadron on 27 September 1943 before joining 625 Squadron on 22 October 1943.
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) F/O. Roy James Cook DFM was born on 3 December 1921 at Rusylvia, Vermilion River, Alberta, Canada the son of William Wood Cook and Dorothy May Cook nee Wilson later of Kisber Ave., R.R.4, Victoria and 938, Howe Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
He had five siblings: Evelyn Cook (1914-2005), Elizabeth Margaret Cook (1916-2016), Dorothy Helen Cook born 1919, William Stewart Cook (1920-1966) and John Gordon Cook (1925-2007)
He is one of the group of boys who flew from Bermuda to Lisbon and on to England with T. Westinghouse to join the R.A.F. in 1941. He trained at Carberry, Manitoba in 1942 and received his wings in November 1942. For further details see The Biggs Boys by Ken Stofer.
1392381 Sergeant Roy James COOK (168676) was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 5 July 1943 (London Gazette 18 January 1944) Confirmed in this appointment and promoted to Flying officer (war subs) on 5 January 1944 (London Gazette 25 February 1944)
Distinguished Flying Medal - awarded as per London Gazette 7 January 1944.
1392381 Sergeant Roy James COOK, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 625 Squadron.
This airman was the pilot of an aircraft detailed to attack Frankfurt one night in December, 1943. From the very beginning of his mission, one, of the bomber's engines partially lost power. Nevertheless, Sergeant Cook held to his course. When crossing the enemy coast, flames were bursting from the exhaust manifold. Although he was unable to climb satisfactorily, Sergeant Cook persisted in his mission and eventually pressed home a successful attack. This airman has "undertaken numerous sorties and has always displayed praiseworthy skill and resolution.
The Province of British Columbia honoured the memory of Flying Officer Roy James Cook by the naming of Cook Point. It is located at the North East side of Nelson Island, Jervis Inlet, New Westminster Land District.
There is also a Memorial Window dedicated to him in St. Luke's Anglican Church, Victoria, British Columbia - see photographs below.
(2) Sgt. Dennis Brown - See addendum below.
(3) F/O Jeffrey Berger - Probably Jeffery [sic] Berger born 1922 at Edmonton the son of Joseph Berger and Sarah Berger nee Kramer. Siblings: Murial born 1915, Gerty born 1917 and Rene born 1927
1393649 Flight Sergeant Jeffrey [sic] Berger was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 14 December 1943 (London Gazette 22 February 1944), confirmed in this appointment and promoted to Flying Officer (war subs) on 14 June 1944 (London Gazete 28 July 1944)
He relinquished his commission on 16 March 1954 (London Gazette 20 July 1954)
(4) Fl/Lt. Victor Henry Thompson - if you have any information please contact our helpdesk
1333663 Sergeant Victor Henry Thompson was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 2 January 1944 (170455) (London Gazette 22 February 1944), confirmed in this appointment and promoted to Flying Officer on 2 July 1944 (London Gazette 13 October 1944)
He was promoted to Flight Lieutenant (war subs) on 2 January 1946 (London Gazette 25 January 1946)
(5) Sgt. Raymond Henderson was born 1922/23.
In 1946 he married Doris E. Colvin (marriage registered at Durham Western, County Durham) and with whom he had five children.
The family emigrated to Australia in 1953.
Raymond Henderson died on 7 June 2016 aged 93. His funeral service was held at Pinnaroo Valley Memorial Park East Chapel, South Australia on 21 June 2016.
(6) F/O. Ronald Verdun Weller was born on 9 March 1916 at Epsom Surrey the son of Sydney A. Weller and Evelyn J. Weller nee Ansell. He had one sibling: Cecil B. Weller born 1912.
In 1939 Ronald Weller was a Nurseryman Manager at 1, Nursing Home Croydon of which the Officer was Sgt. James Gerald Leslie Knowles 742254 RAFVR
In 1942 he married Marjorie Broomfield (marriage registered at Surrey Mid-Eastern) with whom he had two children: Angela M. Weller born 1944 and Ian R. J. Weller born 1950.
1864689 Sergeant Ronald Verdun Weller was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 11 December 1943 (London Gazette 8 February 1944) confirmed in this appointment and promoted to Flying Officer (war subs) on 11 June 1944 (London Gazette 1 September 1944)
He died on 29 September 1990 aged 74. At the time of his death his address was Lamorna Lodge, High Road, Chipstead, Coulsdon, Surrey.
(7) Sgt. Jack Ringwood DFM was born c 1906 at Bristol the son of John Thomas Ringwood (a Leather Warehouseman) and Mary Maria Ringwood nee Webb. He had two siblings: Florence Nellie Ringwood (1888-1974) and Grace Ethel Ringwood born 1895.
On 23 September 1934 he married Murial Mary Cooper Forbes at Chertsey St Peter's Parish Church, Surrey. Their son Michael J Ringwood was born in 1935
Jack Ringwood was a Clerk prior to joining the air force and the family lived at Shepperton-on-Thames, Middlesex.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal wef 26 January 1944 (London Gazette 1 June 1945)
BURIAL DETAILS, MEMORIALS AND EPITAPHS
(1) F/O. Roy James Cook was buried at Marissel French National Cemetery, Oise France - Grave 209
His epitaph reads
Taken by his Maker
For a higher duty
(7) Sgt. Jack Ringwood DFM was buried at Marissel French National Cemetery, Oise France - Grave 210
His epitaph reads
In loving memory
Of my dear husband,
Michael's brave daddy
This Archive Report was researched and compiled by Aircrew Researcher Roy Wilcock as part of the project 'The History of 625 Squadron Losses by Jack Albrecht'
I am most grateful to Roy Wilcock for this meticulously researched archive report.
There are several observations and comments that I would like to add to this report that come to mind as well as the Decoration Suggestions for this heroic crew.
The actions taken by Sgt. Cook and his crew during the December 20, 1943 Berlin raid were above and beyond the call of duty and could not be ignored by the Squadron’s senior staff. Sgt. Cook deserved to be decorated for his actions and his flight engineer deserved recognition as well. However, one has to question his judgment in returning to the takeoff queue without fulling evaluating the reliability of their port outer engine. Seconds later on the takeoff roll and the outcome would have been much different with loss of control, sheared undercarriage, a ground loop followed by a massive explosion from a full fuel and bomb load. Food for thought and it is highly likely that the senior staff officers would have cautioned him of this possibility.
One has to consider the message conveyed to other crews of the factors that could be accepted as reasonable cause to abort a mission. Surely a dangerously, unreliable engine would be considered just cause to abort. One only has to consider the end results of F/O Jim Alexander’s decision to press on regardless after a temperamental engine declared itself before clearing the English coast. They failed to return but all survived to become POWs. See Lancaster NG240
This crew’s final op on January 27, 1944 provides insight of the resourcefulness and determination of this crew to return to Kelstern, despite a plethora of obstacles to dictate otherwise. As a result of major battle damage resulting from flak strikes, F/O Cook was faced with loss of two engines and petrol. In the process of lightning the aircraft, the rear gunner’s parachute was inadvertently thrown overboard. Thrown off course by the actions to extinguish the petrol fires, the navigator struggled with his calculations to re-establish a track to return to Base.
As Roy Cook struggled to bring his stricken Lancaster home his crew came to realise what he already knew.
At the point of fuel starvation F/O Cook gave the order to abandon aircraft. This was done in an orderly fashion by five of the crew. Tragically, F/O Cook and Sgt. Ringwood were unable to follow their crew mates. See addendum below. JEA.
DECORATION SUGGESTIONS by Jack Albrecht
168676 F/O R.J. Cook DFM: DFC KIA, See text.
1604293 Sgt D Brown: DFM, Evader.
1333663 Sgt V.H. Thompson: DFM, POW.
1393649 F/Sgt J. Berger: DFM, POW.
1094837 Sgt R. Henderson: DFM, POW.
1864689 Sgt R. Weller: DFM, POW.
843261 Sgt J. Ringwood DFM: VC, KIA, See text.
ND461- EVADER REPORT BY SGT. DENNIS BROWN
M.I. 9/S/P.G. (-) 1848.
EVADED CAPTURE IN FRANCE
The information contained in this report is to be treated as
1604293 Sgt. BROWN, Dennis, 625 Sqn., Bomber Command, R.A.F.
Arrived: U.K., 17 Mar 44.
Date of Birth: 4 Dec 22. Peacetime Profession: Fitter assembly.
R.A.F. Service : Since 27 Jul 42. Private Address: 66 Riddlesdown Road, PURLEY, Surrey.
O.T.U.: Not at O.T.U.
Post in crew: Flight engineer.
Conversion Unit: No. 1656 (LINDHOLME).
Other members of the crew:
P/O COOK, R.C.A.F. (pilot) (Fate unknown)
Sgt. HENDERSON, (wireless operator) (Fate unknown)
Sgt. THOMPSON, (bomb aimer) (Fate unknown)
Sgt. RINGWOOD, (rear gunner) (Fate unknown, believed killed)
Sgt. WELLER, (mid-upper gunner) (Fate unknown, believed killed)
F/Sgt. BURGER, (navigator) (Fate unknown).
I took off from KELSTERN (Lincs.) about 2000 hrs. on 25 or 26 Jan 44 in a Lancaster aircraft to bomb BERLIN.
We reached our target. While over France on the way home we were hit by flak in two petrol tanks and two engines, and they all caught fire. We managed to put the fires out but the aircraft was out of control. We jettisoned all we could from the aircraft and while we were doing this Sgt. RINGWOOD accidentally threw out his parachute. Sgt. WELLER and Sgt. RINGWOOD intended to try and get out on the same parachute. Some Frenchmen told me later that two airmen had been found dead and I believe them to be WELLER and RINGWOOD.
I landed in a field near GOURNAY-EN-BRAY (N.W. EUROPE, 1:250,000, Sheet 7, M 6513) about 0200 hrs. on 26 Jan. I buried my parachute and ran west and then went into a nearby barn where I remained until nightfall. I then went to a farmhouse and asked for something to eat and drink, which I received. I went back to the barn at night and the next morning (27 Jan) I started walking South. I stopped several farmers on the road but did not receive any help. I later stopped a cyclist who spoke a little English. This man took me…
INTERVIEWED BY: I.S. 9(W).
O.R.S., Bomber Command, R.A.F. 18 Mar 44.
ND461- REPORT OF LOSS OF AIRCRAFT ON OPERATIONS
OPERATIONS RESEARCH SECTION (B.C.) REPORT NO. K.162
COPY NO. 12
REPORT OF LOSS OF AIRCRAFT ON OPERATIONS
Aircraft: Lancaster III, No. ND461 “W” of 625 Squadron
Date of Loss: 27/28th January, 1944 Target: Berlin
Cause of Loss: Flak
Position of Loss: Near Gournay (4428 N 0144 E), homeward bound
Information from: Sgt. Brown, D., Flight Engineer, on 18th operation
Remainder of Crew:
Pilot & Captain: P/O Cook R.C. Fate unknown
Navigator: F/Sgt. Berger J. P/W
Wireless Operator: Sgt. Henderson R. P/W
Air Bomber: Sgt. Thompson P/W
M-U Gunner: Sgt. Weller R. P/W
Rear Gunner: Sgt. Ringwood R. Fate unknown
All the crew were on their 18th operation, except the Navigator who was on
Cromer - 5345 N 0430 E - 5155 N 1010 E - 5235 N 1150 E - Target -
5215 N 1350 E - 5050 N 1210 E - 5030 N 0735 E - 5020 N 0132 E -
1. The crew of Lancaster “W”, a new aircraft, were briefed to bomb the Berlin area before zero hour in support of the Pathfinder force. They took off from Kelstern at about 2000 hrs. and climbed to cross the enemy coast at about 20,000 ft.
The outward trip was uneventful, and they bombed searchlights in the Berlin area, from about 22,000 ft., before the P.F.F. markers went down. (O.R.S. Comment: planned time for the markers: zero - 2 = 2028 hrs).
2. On the homeward route the Navigator had difficulty with his plotting and the Lancaster was well off south of track before reaching the Rhine, where a route-marker was expected north of Koblenz (at position 5031 N 0735 E). The marker was eventually sighted by informant, very far to the north - he thought perhaps as much as 50 miles away, but before seeing the marker the Lancaster was engaged by flak.
3. There was no searchlight cooperation, and our aircraft was at about 20.000 ft. when the flak started bursting all around it. Hits were sustained, causing fires in No. 1 and No. 2 tanks on starboard side and also in the starboard engines, both of which were stopped. The starboard-inner propeller was feathered but it was impossible to feather the starboard outer owing to damage. Suddenly there was a great sheet of flame, from what was evidently an explosion in No. 2 tank, subsequently found to be completely empty. The Pilot had put the Lancaster into a dive, hoping to extinguish the fires in the fuel tanks, and continued, losing height at a rate of about 1000 ft. per minute, down to about 13,000. The fires then went out, and the starboard-inner engine was re-started using petrol from No. 1 tank.
The Pilot intended to climb, but informant could not restart the starboard-outer because the fuel cocks in the flight engineer’s cabin had been damaged by a second flak burst some 2 or 3 minutes after the explosion in No. 2 tank. This engine continued to “flicker”, as its propeller could not be feathered. The Pilot was able only to maintain height with difficulty. (O.R.S. Comment: Informant was unable to give the time of the explosion, but many crews reported seeing an aircraft onfire N. of Frankfurt, between 2212 - 2216 hrs., which went down into cloud and then seemed to explode).
4. Other damage to the Lancaster occurred, but informant could not give much information about it. He believed that the undercarriage hydraulic system was damaged - the Wireless Operator reported that one of the pipes behind his head was hit. Damage to the wings included a considerable number of holes in the starboard wing, especially around No. 1 tank, and No. 2 tank was actually visible through holes in the wing.
5. To maintain height the Pilot ordered the crew to throw out loose equipment, and guns, ammunition, oxygen bottles, bundles of WINDOW were jettisoned. In the process the Rear-Gunner must have thrown out his parachute, as it could not be found later. About 20 mins. after the explosion the bomber again ran into flak,but was not damaged on this occasion.
6. After using all the fuel left in No. 1 starboard tank, informant switched over to Nos. 1 and 2 on port side which together contained about 300 galls. To maintain height the Pilot had to keep the revs. of 3 engines pretty high, but informant estimated there was enough fuel to reach the French coast if the Navigator had given their position correctly. This was doubtful, however, as the Navigator had lost his maps during the manoeuvres while engaged by flak, and the ground was obscured by cloud.
7. Eventually, at the Navigator’s request when there was fuel for about 20 mins. flying left, the Wireless Operator asked for and obtained a fix from Southampton. Informant states that this placed the aircraft over France, N.W. of Paris, but that the Navigator distrusted it and asked for a second fix which confirmed the previous one, placing them near Gournay. (See comment, para. 9). The
Navigator believed the position was actually over the Channel, so the Pilot decided, when there was about 15 mins. petrol left, to lose height to get below cloud.
Cloud base was very low, however, and when informant gave warning that there was only 5 mins. petrol left the ground was still obscured. Soon after that all engines cut simultaneously, at about 6,000 ft. The order to bale out was given directly.
8. The air-bomber got the front hatch up, and jumped first, followed byNavigator, Wireless Operator, and informant in that order. Before he left the Pilot had ordered the gunners to bale out together on the one parachute, but informant considers they were among the three members of the crew whom the French villagers reported killed. Informant himself landed without injury in an orchard about half a mile S. of Gournay after observing, during the descent, that the Lancaster crashed, blew up, and burned fiercely on the ground about 3 miles from his landing place. He noticed in the darkness two uniformed figures whom he took for the Air-Bomber and Navigator. One was helping the other, but he did not approach nearer lest they should turn out to be Germans.
9. Informant could say little about the timing of the various incidents.
Moreover his account of the final stages of the flight is evidently not accurate from the navigation report. Further particulars are applied by the Sortie Raid.
Report for the missing aircraft, as follows:
S.O.S. Position 5017 N 0014 W., at 0033 hrs. (from Southampton) subsequently cancelled.
Later Fix (10 minutes fuel left) position 4933 N 0150 E at 0117 hrs. (from Pulham).
This partly explains the Navigator’s difficulties and also suggests that the time of baling out was about 0127 hours.
23rd April, 1944.
ND461 Aircrew Remembered Archive Report: ADDENDUM/AUTHORS' NOTES
We are most grateful to Mrs. Gillian Brown, widow of Sgt. Dennis Brown, for sharing with us the Evader Report and Report on Loss of Aircraft on Operations. Sgt. Brown was the first evader to return to the Squadron, a mere seven weeks after ND461 crashed at Gournay-en-Bray, France, following a devastating flak encounter.
These two reports provide significant information that allows us to draw a clearer picture of the last moments of this flight. Additional facts include the following:
- The last three engines stopped from fuel starvation at an altitude of 6,000 ft AGL, in cloud, at night.
- ND461 blew up and burned fiercely on impact.
- One engine was found at a later date at the crash site, buried 7 metres into the ground.
- The crash occurred in the dark, and the eyewitness was 3 miles from the crash site.
- F/O Cook was an experienced, decorated Skipper.
- Sgt. Ringwood, age 37, was married and the father of a nine year old son.
These facts are indicative of a high impact crash of an aircraft with bombs or fuel on board. There is no mention of a bomb hang up by this experienced crew. Even though the engines failed due to fuel starvation, there was still fuel aboard ND461. It just wasn’t in the fuel tanks. Due to flak damage, the petrol had siphoned from the tanks, into the wings and possibly the fuselage. The force of gravity with a nose-low or high attitude would have caused the fuel to flow into the fore or aft sections, resulting in a shift of the aircraft’s centre of gravity beyond its control limits. This would have resulted in an unrecoverable nose dive or stall/spin scenario. With the simultaneous failure of the last three engines, an experienced Skipper would lower the nose to maintain control. However, with the sudden, unexpected forward shift of the C of G and lack of power would mean that recovery would be impossible. The rapid increase in airspeed would leave no time for baling out, even if both airmen had chutes, and a greater possibility of structural failure of their flak damaged ‘kite’. Due to darkness and distance, the descending cremates would have witnessed the impact explosion and ensuing fire, unaware of the rapid descent and possible breakup. This was definitely not a controlled forced landing.
Co-author, John Naylor has offered additional information and an alternate plausible scenario:
You have obviously put a lot of thought and work into this scenario. I like your scenario of the fuel seeping into the fuselage, but am not convinced that this was so. I see the fuel cocks were damaged in the starboard outer fuel explosion, but do not honestly think that this would have led to fuel in the fuselage? The 1500w generators on the two inboard engines fed the fuel booster pumps inside the tanks in each wing. These generators also fed the prop feathering mechanisms, fuel content gauges, and the fuel pressure warning lights. Although the flight engineer knew what was happening when he was in the cockpit, he doesn't know what action the Pilot took after he baled out. My own supposition is that when all 3 engines quit, in turn, the Pilot was actually flying blind. He would have had no horizon, no gauges to read, as the power had gone to the instrument panel, no hydraulics, and was probably flying by feel alone! He would have been aware of the possibility of a stall occurring, had he not maintained a small forward push on the stick to prevent the nose rising, but in complete darkness and no forward view, could easily have contributed to an irrecoverable nose dive, without realising, whilst hoping to break through the cloud in order to perform a belly landing in a field? The large explosion seen and heard would indicate that there was indeed some fuel still aboard, and in fact, there may have been more than supposed, but even if not, there could have been other factors contributing to the explosion, including oxygen tanks, hydraulic fluid and oil. All of these mixed together with fuel residue and vapour, would indeed have produced a large explosion, particularly so in a nosedive and the subsequent inertia? You must of course stick with your own scenario as you see fit, but I thought I might just offer another? JN.
Co-author, Reg Price DFC has the final word on the demise of ND461
Re: ND461— loss of flight instruments- during daylight, sufficient height, no other damage, it should be possible to maintain control of the aircraft. At night and/or in the cloud it would be, even with no other damage, just about impossible. Reg.
There are many parallels between the loss of ND461 and ND811, with petrol in the wrong places and crew members unable to bale out—
Other possible causes would include structural failure due to flak damage or spatial disorientation. As noted by Reg above, spatial disorientation leading to loss of control was the most likely factor in this loss.
With the simultaneous failure of the last three engines at 6,000 ft. the situation was still salvageable, providing that all crew members had a chute and the aircraft was stable in its flight characteristics. However, in the case of ND461, this was not so. It is apparent that F/O Cook could only see one course of action, carry out a forced landing at night, giving Sgt. Jack Ringwood and himself a chance to survive. There can be no doubt that F/O Cook was aware that his rear gunner was married, with a young son. Sadly, they would both pay the ultimate price.
It is interesting that in its eighteen month operational history, that no members of 625 Squadron were awarded the Victoria Cross for their valour in combat. However, during this time two Conspicuous Gallantry Medals were awarded to W/O Edward Ellis and Sgt. Jack Bettany. http://www.aircrewremembered.com/paige-d-r.html
During research of the seventy-four 625 Squadron losses there have been several situations in which airmen displayed valorous action comparable to that of others who were awarded the VC—on most occasions not being decorated at all. For comparison, I propose the awarding of the VC to P/O Andrew Mynarski and S/L ‘Baz’ Bazalgette.
Airmen of 625 Squadron who were overlooked for consideration of the VC or CGM:
Loss #9: ND461, Sgt J. Ringwood 843261
Loss #32: LM513, 1st Lt. M.E. Dowden 0.886262 and P/O F.H.R. Moody 177085
Loss #38: PB126, Fl/Sgt Robert Gledstone 1378355, rear gunner
Loss #52: LL956, F/O L.A. Hannah J87007
Loss #68: NG240, F/O J.W. Alexander J41173
On review of the archive reports for these losses there can be no doubt that each of these individuals sacrificed their lives or in the case of F/O Alexander exposed himself to extreme danger in order to save the life of a crew member who had his chute destroyed. Even though these awards will never be made, it is comforting to know that they should have been. With thirty losses still to be researched, it is quite likely that this list will be expanded. JEA.
ND641: THE FIRST CHAPTER, Roy James Cook
Extracted from Picardie 1939-1945 Website
Courtesy John Naylor
On this day, January 27th, 1944, my Uncle Henry’s cousin Roy Cook, Pilot Officer on Lancaster III ND 461, crashed in France.
Here is his story:
ROY JAMES COOK:- Roy Cook left Victoria, B.C. in June of 1941, along with four other chaps, all intent on joining the Royal Air Force on their arrival in England.They were helped in their intention by Captain Henry Seymour-Biggs.
A news item in the Victoria Daily Colonist at that time read as follows:
"Five young men from British Columbia Coast points, recently completed what must have been, to date at least, the most thrilling chapter of their lives. Four of them traveled from Victoria by steamer, train and plane to England via Montreal, Bermuda and Lisbon, while a fifth flew to Montreal from the Coast, made the steamer trip to Hamilton, (Bermuda) and there boarded a plane flying directly to the Old Country. Here is how the journey came to pass.
Messrs. James Maloney, Albert Moorehouse, "Tommy" Westinghouse, Roy Cook and Richard Slee, all of whom had sought Captain H. Seymour-Biggs' advice and help in their desire to reach England and join the Royal Air Force, had their passages booked across Canada to Halifax, as well as steamer accommodation allotted them on a ship sailing for England from the Nova Scotia port, when they were notified that their space had been requisitioned for urgent military reasons, and furthermore it could not be determined definitely when they would be able to be accommodated for the Atlantic crossing.
The plight of the lads became known to a member of a well-known United States family at present residing on Vancouver Island. Admiring their determination to proceed to England and don the uniform of the Royal Air Force and train as pilots, he offered to purchase accommodation on a Pan American Airways plane from La Guardia Field, New York, to London, via Bermuda and Lisbon, provided Captain Seymour-Biggs could arrange to assure accommodation between Lisbon and England, Pan American making its European terminus at Lisbon..." (from where the British Airways flew to the British Isles).
Cabling the Air Ministry in London that a number of potential pilots from British Columbia would fly the Atlantic to Lisbon if it were possible to get space aboard the British plane out of the Portuguese capital, the Air Ministry replied to Captain Biggs, stating that "priority in passage space would be available from Lisbon to England provided the air officer of the Royal Air Force in Lisbon was notified in time”. Things began to look rosy for the boys until notified their visas for Portugal could not be issued by the Portuguese Consul for Canada but would have to go to New York. The Consul for Portugal at New York, when (he was) approached by wire, stated that the visas would have to be authenticated by the International Police at Lisbon before they could be okayed with the New York office, otherwise, it would be useless to start the journey.
It would require from 10 to 14 days to get this sanction from the International Police, he added, but undoubtedly the air officer, who had been advised of the circumstances would see that the police in Lisbon dispatched the business of the visas, as quickly as possible.
In the belief that these would be put through by the air officer, the party decided there was no advantage in waiting in Victoria for their passports to be forwarded here, and wiring instructions for these to be forwarded to Bermuda, they set out, deciding to travel east by train to Montreal and go by boat from the St. Lawrence port to Bermuda, arriving there to take the Pan American Clipper on a certain date allowing ample time for the delivery of the passports properly visaed.
The party didn't get away on the clipper by which it had been originally booked, but spending a week in Bermuda was no hardship, although the members were eager to be on their way.
The passports arrived in time for them to leave by the next clipper departing, and they went aboard on the last day of May, arriving in Lisbon on Monday, June 2, (1941) where they had to wait for the British Airways plane until Monday of that week. Tuesday of that week Captain Seymour-Biggs received a cable from England stating the boys had landed, all well.
To achieve their ambitions and be enrolled in the Royal Air Force the boys travelled by Canadian Pacific train to Montreal, "LADY" ship of the Canadian National Steamships from Montreal to Bermuda, Pan-American clipper from Bermuda to Lisbon and British Airways plane from Lisbon to England.”
VANCOUVER DAILY PROVINCE - March 4, 1944 - "Missing on active service with the R.A.F. is Pilot Officer R.J. Cook, DFM, son of Lce.-Cpl. W.W.Cook, C.M.S.C., and Mrs. Cook, 938 Howe, Vancouver, B.C., who have two other sons and two daughters in uniform and a third daughter engaged in defence work.
P.O. Cook, 22, whose family's peacetime residence is at Kisber Ave., R.R.4, Victoria, B.C., is one of the group of boys who flew from Bermuda to Lisbon and on to England with T. Westinghouse to join the R.A.F. in 1941. He trained at Carberry, Manitoba in 1942, receiving his wings in November of that year.
Returning to England Pilot Officer Cook was commissioned in December 1943, and reported missing in January…
The name of Flying Officer Roy James Cook, D.F.M. is also commemorated here in London among the gallant company whose names are inscribed in the Royal Air Force Book of Remembrance in St. Clement Danes Church in the Strand.”
Yours sincerely, Mrs. P. J. Elderfield
ND461-THE LAST CHAPTER, Gillian Brown
The final moments of ND461 as recounted by Mrs. Gillian Brown, widow of Flight Engineer, Sgt. Dennis Brown—
First 625 Squadron evader to return to the UK.
Sgt. Dennis Brown and Crew. Dennis took the photo as he isn’t in it!
Photo ID analysis by John Naylor:
I have revised the crew photos' for ND461, though only changing two of them over. I am certain now that they are as follows:
Cockpit: Brown, Weller, Cook, Thompson.
My rationale comes from the main crew photo, that we know was taken by Brown!
So, Left to Right. we have Rear Row: Thompson, Berger, Cook (Pilots' Wings'), Henderson.
Front: Ringwood and Weller.
OK., now the rationale! Berger is wearing an 'O' Wing, that clearly is for Navigator. It meant Observer before the advent of the later (N). We know the next is Cook, as he has Pilots' Wings. In the end has to be Henderson, as he is young looking, (20), and wearing an (S) Brevet.
In 1944, the old (WAG) Brevet was changed to (S) for Signaller or Wireless Operator.
The two guys in front are wearing (AG) Brevets, and we know that Ringwood was 37 years old, and clearly the older of the two. He therefore must be the one on the left with the dog (probably his?), leaving Weller on the right. I think I can just see a shadow of a crown above his stripes on his right arm? It would also have made sense that Ringwood was in the rear turret, as he is considerably thinner than Weller, who may have found the rear turret somewhat cramped!
So, we are left with just Thompson, who must be top left, wearing what I am sure is a single (B) in his brevet. We don't know his DOB that would have helped, but he does also look considerably older than some of the others?
This rationale, I took to the Cockpit view, and you can clearly see the same faces where I have put them. Poor Cook looks a bit exhausted for some reason? The fact that Brown is still in his helmet, would suggest he was winding up/down the electrics and controls, pre/post an Air Test? John Naylor.
Flight Engineers. Dennis is in the top row left.
When we visited the Ballet family in 1997, Simone and her daughter, Jacqueline, took us into the forest near Gournay en Bray and showed us the tree where the German search party found Roy Cook:
He and Dennis were the last to leave the fast-falling Lancaster. Bear in mind it was pitch black, the plane was descending at probably 200 km/hour. They jumped out of the nose. Dennis remembered feeling Roy's foot on his shoulder: “See you on the ground ‘Junior’ (Dennis's nickname)”. Dennis blacked out but regained consciousness to open his chute and made his descent.
Graves of P/O Roy Cook DFM and Sgt. Jack Ringwood. ND461 Wreckage
The graves at Beauvais War Cemetery of Roy Cook, pilot and Jack Ringwood’, rear gunner. We found and made contact with Jacqueline Ballet and her mother, Simone, in 1997, a year after moving to France. We visited several times after Simone died in 1998, but was in her own home when we first visited—where Mr. Ballet took Dennis until arranging transfer to Paris.
Jacqueline took us into the forest (I could never find the place again many years later when the documentary was made) and showed us where the Germans found Roy Cook. Dennis always said that he felt Roy’s foot on his shoulder the second before he jumped. They were the last two to jump.
The body found in the wreck was Jack Ringwood.
Dennis landed, buried his parachute and started walking. First night in a barn, in the loft. A small boy gave him food. He continued walking the following day until Mr Ballet stopped on his bike, said he was a friend and took Dennis to their holiday home on the handlebars of his bike!
Dennis in the actual lane where Mr. Ballet offered him a ride on the handlebars of his bike!
Again, when the film was made in 2011 we had no idea where it was as Jacqueline had sadly died a year before.
Jacqueline Ballet and Dennis, 1997?
Brown family and Jacqueline Ballet, 1997?
Ballet house: 1997 and 1944.
He never knew what happened to Roy until 1997.
He nearly made it. Roy landed in a pine tree a few metres from the ground, a large branch pierced through him. The Germans got him down and tried to save him but he died shortly after the branch was removed. This is according to information Jacqueline Ballet told us.
Dennis was thinking of Roy during the last few hours of his own life, as he did his imaginary pre- flight checks in the air in front of him. Roy was Dennis's life long hero.
I’ve always been aware that Roy's family never knew how he died. His parents wrote to Dennis's parents after the war asking for information, which of course wouldn't be revealed to Dennis until 1997. So sad.
Back to Bézancourt, 27th January 1944. Mr Ballet has left Dennis in the house while he cycles to the village for food. Dennis, not 100% at this stage that he is in safe hands, is hiding in a large shrub in the garden. All around him he is aware that the Germans are searching for him... He waits, watches... Mr Ballet is returning alone. Dennis knows he can trust this man, a gentle shirt salesman with a weakness for antiques. Dennis comes indoors making an excuse for being outside. They eat, salted pork and eggs. Strong coffee flavoured with 'eau de vie’, strong apple brandy.
The following morning Mr Ballet knows he has to get Dennis to Paris and the resistance cell that will transport him to Plouha, Brittany, to board a British navy motor launch, back to Dartmouth UK, if he's lucky— the Shelburne line as it became known.
Dennis is still wearing his flying boots... Obviously RAF. Mr Ballet lends him some clothes. It's cold. Dennis jumped in a shirt, he left his flying jacket back in England that fateful night. They take a chance, at Neuf Marche station they go into the café (in 1997 many years later Jacqueline will take us to the café, then owned by the wartime owners grandson. When we filmed in 2011 it was derelict).
Back to the Cafe.. Young German soldiers walk in... Sit next to Dennis and Mr Ballet who calmly get up to leave... One of them asks Dennis for a light... It's offered, a cool head kept… Whew… They leave the Cafe and head for the station. Mr Ballet deals with the tickets... Alert! German search party.. Looking for Dennis... The station master is fortunately a resistance sympathizer. A lot of the SNCF staff were German supporters. The station master hides Dennis inside an enormous roll top desk/storage unit... “Keep quiet, don't move”. It's a group of young soldiers, not too thorough.... They move on and away. Mr Ballet tells Dennis to board the train separately by himself... They reunite on the platform in Paris and so the network falls into place. Dennis returned to the UK 6 weeks later on March 17th, the quickest return at that point.
The above photo is of the station.
Dennis's false papers, given he didn't speak French (never did even when we moved here in 1996), were as a deaf and dumb beekeeper called Daniel?.
There was also another thing Jacqueline Ballet told us. Once Dennis was put on the train from Paris to Brittany with the American, Charles Crugger, he was tailed by a resistance helper who in turn was trailed by a German spy who ended up shooting her… Dennis and Charles knew nothing of this... We haven't been able to verify this but I imagine a lot of events happened that weren't recorded in any way. Dennis talks about this event in the documentary which has been shown 100's of times on Sky History Channel since May 12th 2012 when it was first screened and no one has ever crept out of the woodwork to contest it!
Follow-up regarding the Billy Brown cartoon history. Courtesy Gillian Brown.
The photo showing the David Langdon cartoon happened because Dennis's brother-in-law was in publishing and knew him, the Daily Mail cartoonist, who did the Billy Brown cartoon because Dennis (Brown) was in the crew and they thought it was amusing. The character in the bowler is “Billy Brown of London Town”—the surname being the connection. Dennis is the one back left in his flight engineer position with the flying helmet on, Roy in the pilots position. The other two I don’t know, sadly.
Your article is wonderful. My information regarding Roy isn't found anywhere else. It is literally due to our friendship (until both Simone and Jacqueline died) with the Ballet family.
I must add that the previous raid account where the Lancaster comes home on limited engine power, it was Dennis who brought it home.
At the time his commanding officer wanted to award him a DFM as the crew apparently agreed without his skill calculating fuel and bringing it in, ( Roy didn't feel well as I was told), they wouldn't have made it… You had forms to fill in to be awarded a medal and say why you thought you deserved it.
The Dennis I met as a middle-aged man still hated forms! Dennis never filled in the form and their next raid as a crew was sadly their last. When the documentary was made about Dennis, the Director contacted the Air Ministry to see if the medal could be awarded to Dennis at the end of the documentary... Wouldn't that have been amazing!
They acknowledged and validated the action Dennis took from their own records of the crew de-briefing report, but sadly, Dennis was the only crew member left. No first-hand witnesses were left. Please leave the account of this event/raid as it is—in the past where it belongs.
I think I have told you I have Dennis's Merlin flying jacket, his dress uniform jacket, blouson work jacket—with his Warrant Officer insignia (I guess he was promoted on his return), the silk map which would have been in his flying boots (Jacqueline Ballet was 15 on the 29th of January 1944 when her father brought Dennis home. She fell in love with this handsome ‘pilot’ who had just appeared out of the sky!)
When we met Jacqueline and Simone in 1997, Jacqueline gave Dennis the silk map lovingly wrapped up in tissue paper in a Gucci bag kept for all those years. Just after the war, the Ballet family came to England to visit Dennis's family. By then Dennis was engaged to be married to his first wife, Kay Taylor.
I also have debris from the Lancaster that Mr Cardon gave us when he was interviewed for the documentary.
The Cardon family have their own story to tell:
Mr. Cardon’s father, won the château and its farm and former glassworks in a poker game! At the time Dennis's burning Lancaster glided silently over the village of Bézancourt, window falling like golden snow on the terrified villagers, the Germans chasing it (10 lorry loads of wreckage were removed the next day) through the country lanes.
The Cardon family were living in the farmhouse in the grounds as the château was in very poor repair. The plane hit the ground in the field behind the farmhouse. Sixteen year old Mr. Cardon watched with horror from his bedroom window. It slid sideways and ended port-side, with the nose in the ground.
The following morning the young lad couldn't resist exploring. His father had a camera. The photos I sent to Mike were taken by Mr. Cardon senior. Not many people had cameras. Copies were given to Mr Ballet who later sent them to Dennis.
The Château is now a luxury hotel, the production company paid for our two nights there while the dig took place. All other wreckage found we donated to a local resistance museum.
The Cardon family used this vast, run-down estate as a cover to save Jewish families and orphaned children, and get them to safe escape routes. There is a book in French about their extraordinary bravery and the risks they took.
Flying log showing the Berlin mission when the plane was shot down.
Telegrams. The first two were sent to Dennis’s mother, the third was by Dennis himself.
Mr Ballet helped an American pilot to escape as well. At the time we met Simone—(she died in November 1998 the very afternoon Dennis and I were giving a lecture with all his uniform /photos at our daughters school for their history class) she received Christmas cards from both the RAF and the American airforce for her late husband's brave efforts to help the resistance.
After his return to the UK, thanks to the bravery of the French resistance, and subsequent debriefing by MI6, Dennis was transferred to Transport Command on active flying duties, until being demobbed in 1946.
After the war Dennis married his wartime sweetheart, Kay Taylor and had a son, born in 1956.
Dennis sadly became a widower in 1980 and through his business as a manufacturers agent eventually met his second wife, Gilly, with whom he had two daughters and later, in 1996, retired to a new life in France, where we re-established contact with Simone Ballet and her daughter Jacqueline. Sadly Mr Ballet died many years earlier. Simone died in 1998 and Jacqueline in 2003, and Dennis in 2013, aged 90.
What you are doing is historical and so important. Dennis would be so very proud. He was, before he started to become ill, a very positive, happy man to be around, very young at heart and never looked his age—he was my James Bond.
We had 33 years together and if I had my life again I would still choose Dennis. We ran our lives like Bomber Command. We always functioned as a team.
Life goes in circles, and it was the closing of a circle for Dennis to have reunited with Simone and Jacqueline. A documentary about the resistance featuring Dennis's escape story was made for the Sky history Channel in 2011, 'War Digs with Harry Harris, Lancaster Bomber', released May 12th 2012.
The documentary included the excavation of the crash site of ND461 and I am in possession of small items of wreckage salvaged at the time. Life certainly does go round in circles.
The RAF paid for Dennis (and many others) to visit the family who saved him. The Ballet family stayed in touch with Dennis and his family and visited them in Purley, Croydon, after the war.
Dennis and presenter, Harry Harris in front of the café, and a still from the filming on site of the excavation of the plane at Château du Landel.
Film Crew, Dennis centre
You could still smell the fuel after all these years. Live ammunition found had to be exploded…items found were donated to the nearby resistance museum. If you watch the film you will hear Mr. Cardon (who was 16 when the plane crashed and gave me all the small parts of the wreckage he collected the day after. I have part of fuel pipe, Perspex and many other bits.) describe the plane cruising over the village in flames with window flowing out like confetti. (metal squares used to confuse German radar)
Professor Pradel who sheltered Dennis and Charles Crugger, the American, also stayed in touch with Dennis and his family after the war. I have a postcard he sent of the Arc de Triomphe on Liberation Day and a letter from Simone Ballet describing Liberation Day. There are so many documents. Jacquline had kept the silk map Dennis had in his flying boots and gave it to him in 1997. She loved him I think. She never expected to see him so many years later.
We are most grateful to Gilly Brown for sharing the documents and photos that bring the loss of Lancaster ND461 and her crew into sharper focus.
It is noteworthy that battle damage due to what appears to be radar-guided flak resulting in navigational difficulties, found P/O Cook above a cloud deck, uncertain of his location, over sea or land. Confronted with the simultaneous loss of the three remaining engines at 6,000 AGL, he gave the order to bale out. Five of the crew did so successfully. Tragically, P/O Cook, Pilot, and Sgt. Ringwood, Rear Gunner, would lose their lives, in confusing circumstances, as ND461 crashed due to fuel starvation.
NOTE: This documented event rules out and supersedes the three scenarios above based on conjecture. They have been left in the text for historical and technical information included.
Despite the additional information provided by Gillian Brown, we have had difficulty in reconciling the events documented in Sgt. Brown evader’s report and the Intelligence Officer’s Report compiled shortly after his return to Kelstern, with those recounted by Gillian after his death.
With this in mind we resorted to the expertise and experience of co-author Reg Price DFC to help us assess the three possible scenarios that may have occurred during the final moments aboard ND461:
1. P/O Cook decided to attempt a forced landing and both he and Sgt. Ringwood perished in the crash.
2. In the cockpit, the decision was made that P/O Cook would bale out with his chute, leaving Sgt. Ringwood to his own means.
3. The decision was made that Sgt. Ringwood would bale using his Skipper’s chute, out leaving P/O Cook to attempt a night forced landing. If this were the case then Sgt. Ringwood died in the forest and P/O Cook perished in the crash of ND461.
Reg was adamant that a Skipper would not bale out, leaving a crew member aboard to perish in the inevitable crash. With this in mind options, 1 and 3 would be the most likely scenarios.
We realize that this does not leave us with a definitive resolution and have elected to leave it to the reader’s imagination. We are hopeful that future access to the crew’s liberation accounts and the final conclusion of the MRES, if existing, will provide the elusive solution. Exhumation reports, if available, should provide the essential information as to which crew members baled out or perished in the final crash of ND461.
The conversations that we will never hear. “Theirs is a world you’ll never know”—Noel Coward. lie in the dark and listen
There is an amazing parallel between to loss of ND461 and ND811—one at night and one during daylight. The painting commissioned by the Bomber Command Museum of Canada, at Nanton, Alberta, provides vivid insight into the final moments of a desperate crew and mortally wounded Lanc. Archive link for ND811 in the text above.
Beyond Praise by Len Krenzler, courtesy of the Bomber Command Museum of Canada.
It is difficult to admit that key information and photos from Gilly Brown were located at a much later date, when the author was in the process of purging his Inbox and bursting Dropbox files. The fickle finger of fate, war and IT overload, with a tincture of ageing! JEA.
Submission by Gillian Brown, widow of Sgt. Dennis Brown, and Mike Edwards.