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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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90 squadron crest
13/14.07.1943 No. 90 Squadron Stirling III EE873 WP-D Fl/Lt. Cyril E. Coombs

Operation: Aachen

Date: 13/14th July 1943 (Tuesday/Wednesday)

Unit: No. 90 Squadron

Type: Stirling III

Serial: EE873

Code: WP-D

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 20. 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.


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.

(Left) Sgt. Charles "Charlie" Long, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (Courtesy: Charlie Dixon)

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.

(left) Charles A. Long with his family, Charlie is front, right and his brother George is in the front, left. (Courtesy: Charlie Dixon)

(Right) Aircraftman (AC) Charles "Charlie" Long (Courtesy: Charlie Dixon)

AC Charles "Charlie" Long (Back row, 2nd from left) (Courtesy: Charlie Dixon)

This photograph appears to depict a section of airmen as recruits shortly after reporting for initial training. The airman in the second row, 2nd from the left is still awaiting his uniform issue and some of the recruits are missing the RAF shoulder flashes. Standing in the centre is Cpl. Scott who was undoubtably the section Drill Instructor (DI)

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 as shown - 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. Born on the 21 June 1919, the son of John Archibald, a schoolmaster, and Catrine (née Halvorsen) Bradshaw of Camberwell. Younger brother, Peter, arrived in 1924. In 1939 the family had moved to Seaford, Sussex but John remained in London where he was attending school as a mechanical laboratory student.

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.

(Left: Original Grave marker Courtesy: Charlie Dixon) Sgt. Charles Alexander Long. Haverlee War Cemetery Grave 5.A.12. Son to Frederick and Catherine Long. He was the second youngest of seven brothers and one sister, who lived in Stratford, East London.

Sgt. Eric Bradley Potter. Haverlee War Cemetery Grave 5.A.13. Born in Gloucester on 13 January 1923, the son of Percy H, an RAF contractor, and Gertrude J (née Tombs). His younger brother, Dennis, was born a year later. In 1939, all the Potter men were employed by the Air Ministry with Eric a junior clerk and Dennis an office boy. Gertrude passed away in 1942 and Percy in 1946.

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. Thanks to Charlie Dixon, the great nephew of Sgt. Charles A. Long for the images of his Great Uncle. Kate Tame of Aircrew Remembered for her tireless work trying to contact relatives. Also to Dave Champion for additional details - July 2018. Other sources as quoted.

RS 30.07.2019 - Page updated with images and information for Sgt. Long

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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Last Modified: 23 March 2021, 17:24

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