13/14.07.1943 No. 90 Squadron Stirling III EE873 WP-D Fl/Lt. Cyril E. Coombs
Date: 13/14th July 1943 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit: No. 90 Squadron
Type: Stirling III
Base: RAF West Wickham, Cambridgeshire.
Location: Rotem (Limburg - Belgium)
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Cyril Ernest Coombs 144181 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Pilot 2: P/O. Ernest Candy 149523 RAFVR Age 32. Killed
Flt/Eng: Sgt. John Olav Bradshaw 1474536 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Air/Bmr: F/O. Paul Douglas Swallow 127306 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Air/Bmr: Sgt. William Gordon Dawson 1501161 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
W/Op/A/Gnr: Sgt. Charles Alexander Long 1332091 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Robert Clarke 1002829 RAFVR Age 25. Survived and evaded capture. (PRO Kew record No: 3314. File:1401)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Eric Bradley Potter 1585887 RAFVR Age ? Killed
The owner of the land 83 year old Mr. Sylvester Colson, who placed this fine memorial would like relatives to contact and visit him.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 23:46hrs from RAF West Wickham, Cambridgeshire.
One report shows that on the outbound portion of the flight was shot down by Oblt Wilhelm Telge of II./NJG1 at a heght of 4,000 mtrs. and crashed at 01:40 hrs at Rotem, midway between Dilsen and Elen, Belgium and within a few kilometres of the frontier with Holland. Those who were killed were originally buried at St. Truiden but after the war ended were exhumed and taken to Heverlee War Cemetery.
Further investigations show that Hptm. Heinrich Wohleres (16 victories) Stab IV./NJG4 - det. 3./NJG1 claimed this loss. (shown right)
Bob Clarke (pictured above) escaped after being found in a field by a Belgian and taken to his home where he rested and recovered for several days. False papers were arranged and he moved from "safe" house to "safe" house for a a couple more weeks.
Eventually he started his amazing trip back home with the assistance of many of the brave resistance fighters. His trip took him into Paris, onto Bordeaux Dax where he joined up with a Russian tank officer and two others who had escaped the Germans earlier.
Eventually he made it to Gibraltar and finally to the UK on September 12th 1943. (Escape information from "The Comet Line" Belgium - we hope to be working more with the website describing this and many other escapes)
Robert (2nd from right) with Anne Brusselmans
Mr. S.J. Clark informed us in January 2017 that Bob Clarke was reunited with Anne Brusselmans (of the Elgin Resistance Group) who assisted in his evasion, on the live 'This is Your Life' programme on Monday 27th November 1957. The relatives of Bob Clarke lost contact with him and his family when they moved to Belmont, Western Australia - perhaps you know them and inform them that other relatives including his niece, Jennifer, would very much like to hear from them? (January 2017)
Fl/Lt. Cyril Ernest Coombs on left with friends
P/O. Ernest Candy and below in happier times.
90 Squadron history:
Soon after the outbreak of war No. 90 ceased to be a first-line unit and assumed the role of a Group pool squadron or, in other words, became a training squadron. In April 1940, it was absorbed into. No.17 OTU but in May 1941, it re-formed, having been selected as the RAF squadron to receive the first Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft from America. Its role was now high-altitude day bombing and it flew its first operational mission with Fortresses on 8th July 1941, when Wilhelmshaven was attacked from 30,000 feet. It continued to operate its Fortresses over Europe - albeit with little success - until September 1941, and, later, had a detachment operating in the Middle East.
The squadron was again disbanded in February 1942, but re-formed in November 1942, as a heavy-bomber squadron equipped with Stirlings, and subsequently made a significant contribution to the Battle of the Ruhr, the devastation of Hamburg and the famous raid on Peenemunde. It also did a great deal of minelaying. In May/June 1944, No. 90 exchanged its Stirlings for Lancasters and with these continued to play a prominent part in Bomber Command's offensive until late April 1945.
Between 8/9th January 1943 (when it began operations with Stirlings) and 22nd April 1945, members of No. 90 Squadron earned 6 DSO’s 123 DFC’s, one bar to a DFC, 1 CGM, 1 AFC and 33 DFM’s.
Burial details: (Crew grave photographs shown above - available at higher resolution to relatives/friends
Fl/Lt. Cyril Ernest Coombs. Haverlee War Cemetery Grave 5.A.8. Son of Arthur Frederick and Florence Mary Coombs, of Liss, Hampshire, England.
P/O. Ernest Candy. Haverlee War Cemetery Grave 5.A.9. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Candy and husband of Isabel P. Candy, of Holloway, Bath, Somerset, England.
Sgt. John Olav Bradshaw. Haverlee War Cemetery Grave 5.A.14. Next of kin details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?
F/O. Paul Douglas Swallow. Haverlee War Cemetery Grave 5.A.14. Son of Frank and Elsie Swallow, of Netherton, Huddersfield, England.
Sgt. William Gordon Dawson. Haverlee War Cemetery Grave 5.A.11. Son of Robert and Edith Mary Dawson, of Lemington, Newcastle-on-Tyne, England.
Sgt. Charles Alexander Long. Haverlee War Cemetery Grave 5.A.12. Next of kin details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?
Sgt. Eric Bradley Potter. Haverlee War Cemetery Grave 5.A.13. Next of kin details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?
With thanks to the following, Karel Baeten from Belgium, for bringing this loss to our attention and Mr. Sylvester Colson who owns the land and erected this memorial to the crew. Also to Dave Thomas nephew of Ernest Candy, David Coombs for photo of Cyril Ernest Coombs, Mr. S.J. Clarke for photo of Robert Clarke. Kate Tame of Aircrew Remembered for her tireless work trying to contact relatives. Other sources as quoted.