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: Gourney-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 wuld 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 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 - if you have any information please contact our helpdesk
(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.
On 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. F/O Cook was the last to leave ND461 but it would appear at too low an altitude for his chute to fully deploy. Sadly, it appears that the rear gunner, Sgt. Jack Ringwood, would also lose his life in the explosive crash of ND461.
DECORATION SUGGESTIONS by Jack Albrecht
168676 F/O R.J. Cook DFM: VC 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: Bar to DFM, KIA, See text.