17.12.1942 No. 104 Squadron Wellington II Z8469 EP-F Fl/Lt. Charles William Macpherson Dallas
Operation: Tunis and La Goulette, Tunisia.
Date: 17 December 1942 (Thursday)
Unit: No. 104 Squadron - Motto: "Strike hard."
Badge: A winged thunderbolt. The device in conjunction with the motto implies the unit's formidable intentions and power. Authority: King George VI, December 1936.
Type: Vickers Wellington II
Base: RAF Luqa, Malta
Location: Crashed in the sea 10-15 miles North of Tunis
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Charles William MacPherson Dallas 84008 RAFVR PoW No. 79 Camp: Sagan and Belaria - L3 (1)
2nd Pilot: F/O. George Cochrane Silver J8842 RCAF Age 25 - Killed (2)
Nav: F/O. Richard Leslie (Les) Coulter J7022 RCAF Age 24 - Killed (3)
1st W/Op: Sgt. Herbert George Lines DFM 917233 RAFVR Age 23 - Killed (4)
2nd W/Op: Sgt. Leonard Booth 1060870 RAFVR Age 19 - Killed (5)
Air/Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Clifford Harry Pooley 934691 RAFVR Age 20 - Killed (6)
We appeal to anyone with further information and/or photographs to please contact us via our HELPDESK
In October 1941 15 aircraft of 104 Squadron flew to Malta from its base at RAF Driffield from where they conducted operations against targets in Libya, Sicily and Italy. In January 1942 the squadron and this detachment moved to Kabrit, Egypt and in May 1942 to Landing Ground 106 some 25 miles north west of El Alamein. On 6 November 1942 a detachment was again sent to Luqa whilst the rest of the squadron remained in Egypt. Throughout the period the squadron flew the Vickers Wellington Mark II continuing to do so until they were replaced with the Mark X version in July 1943. From detachment based in Malta conducted operations against targets in Sicily and Tunisia but from 4 December concentrated its efforts predominantly against the docks and shipping at Tunis and La Goulette carrying out 10 sorties against these targets between the 4th and the 15th of December.
REASON FOR LOSS
On 17 December 1942 7 Vickers Wellington bombers of 104 Squadron were despatched from RAF Luqa, Malta on an operation to attack the docks and shipping at Tunis and La Goulette. The operation involving a round trip of just over 600 miles usually took about 3½ to 4 hours including time over the target.
According to the Operations Record Book the first three aircraft took of simultaneously at 18.20 hours, the seventh getting away at 18.55 hours with Z8469 taking off at 18.30 hours.
The times given must be subject to question since a letter to the father of F/O. Coulter confirming the loss of his son's aircraft and dated 26 December 1942 quite clearly states that the aircraft took off from RAF Luqa at 5.30 P.M. and in a letter from the Air Ministry in London to the Director of Graves Registration and Enquiries at the War Office, London of 29 March 1946 the take-off time is stated as 17.30 hours.
At La Goulette the flak was only slight and the bombing was observed to cause explosions and an increase in fires already burning in the target area. At Tunis the aircraft encountered heavy and very accurate flak from five batteries. Owing to the aircraft having to take evasive action it was not possible to observe the results of their bombing.
The bomber force had also encountered night fighters and Wellington code "A" captained by Sgt. Cotterell was attacked sustaining damage to the tail unit and holes in the fuselage fabric: the Wireless Operator received a machine gun wound to his thigh. Aircraft code "R" captained by P/O. Anthony (Tony) Crockford was hit by heavy flak, the port wing fuel tanks holed and hydraulics rendered unserviceable with the Front Gunner sustaining a shrapnel wound to the right hand. Despite the damage all aircraft returned safely to base save Z8469 of which there was no news either of aircraft or crew.
In his book "Wellington Wings: An RAF Intelligence Officer in the Western Desert" by F.R. Chappell, the author recalls:
"I was on duty at night and it was a bad night indeed. Flight Lieutenant Charles Dallas and crew (Pilot Officer Silver, Flying Officer Coulter, Sergeant Lines, Sergeant Booth, Sergeant Stanley)* in our "F for Freddie" are missing. They are one of our best crews and are really good chaps, all of them. Three aircraft were sent out to search from Malta but no dinghy was sighted".
* He makes no mention Sgt. C.H. Pooley.
A second sortie was made on the same target later that night but only three of the aircraft were serviceable and able to take part; two of them were unable to locate the target and brought their bombs back.
On 16 August 1943 following an enquiry from the mother of F/O. Coulter about her son, Fl/Lt. Dallas made the following statement.
"On the night of December 17th 1942 I was on operations when the aircraft was hit catching fire amidships. Sergeant Pooley, F/O. Coulter, P/O. [Sic] Silver and myself left the aircraft by parachute successfully. Sgt. Booth and Sgt. Lines were in the rear of the aircraft, they presumably also left the aircraft by parachute although no communication with the rear was possible owing to fire and telephone failure. After landing in the sea I heard Sgt. Pooley shout out in the water, after 3 hours swimming I reached a small trawler anchored about 100 yds. off-shore, and reported other members of the crew in the water with approximate positions. The position of the ship was about 10 - 15 miles North of Tunis. All members of the crew were wearing life saving jackets. The German Authorities had no news of any of these men at Dulag Luft, and I have heard nothing since concerning them. If no further news of these men has been received I should be glad if you will convey my sympathies to the next of kin".
The question of why Sgt. Pooley, the rear gunner, was in the front of the aircraft is explained in Fl/Lt. Dallas' letter to Mrs. Coulter in which he refers to Sgt. Pooley as the front gunner. It was common practice for gunners to swap positions and this would seem to be what had happened in this case with one of the wireless operators presumably manning the rear gun turret.
These were the first specific details received by the parents of Les Coulter and George Silver about the fate of their sons and though the details given by Fl/Lt. Dallas offered little specific hope for their sons' survival it gave an explanation of events and gave them some slight hope insofar as the statement at least contained nothing to indicate that their sons were definitely dead.
The body of Sgt. Pooley was found on the Tunisian coast near Soliman (Sulayman) on 23 December 1942 and buried in a small cemetery nearby. The Germans recorded his date of death as 22 December 1942. His body was exhumed in January 1947 and reburied at Enfidaville War Cemetery some 60 miles south of Tunis. Found alongside him in the Civil Cemetery at Soliman was the body of an unknown RCAF airman and he too was concentrated at Enfidaville War Cemetery. The date of death for this unknown was given by as 23 December 1942. No further unknown airmen were registered in the vicinity.
German records which came to hand in 1947 showed that "the body of an unknown British Airman was found washed ashore on the coast of Soliman Tunisia, on the 23rd December 1942". The following details were given: " (a) RAF - eagles (b) one black ring of cloth with white borders - suggesting P/O or F/O. (c) shoulder badges 'Canada' (d) about 30 years old (e) height about 1.7 Cm (approximately 5ft 7ins.)"
On the evidence to hand it was deemed impossible to state whether the body was that of F/O. Coulter or P/O. Silver. Dental records were submitted by RCAF Ottawa to the Director of Graves Registration and Enquiries together with a request for exhumation of the body if further additional information enabling identification was not available.
In a letter to the RCAF Ottawa dated 18 September 1946 the D.G.R.& E. replied that:
"The Graves Services hold no record of the condition of the teeth of the body"
"Since North Africa is now closed for further searches for graves as far as this Directorate is concerned, which includes exhumations, it is regretted that no further action can be undertaken by the Military Graves Services"
"Enfidaville War Cemetery has now been handed over to the Imperial War Graves Commission".
Thus due to lack of evidence the RCAF was not prepared to accept the grave in the name of one of the two airmen (F/O. Coulter or P/O. Silver) and the grave would therefore remain marked unknown.
Nothing further was heard of the missing crew members, the only body recovered and positively identified was to remain that of Sgt. Pooley with the other four crew members being presumed lost at sea.
The body of the unknown was buried in the grave next to Sgt. Pooley i.e. Ref: IV. E. 29. However in the CWGC Grave Registration Report for this airmen the year of death has inexplicably been altered from 1942 to 1943.
On contacting the Commonwealth Graves Commission for clarification about the date Roy Wilcock received the following reply on 31 October 2016 confirming that the date of death should indeed be 23 December 1942.
Dear Mr. Wilcock,
Thank you for your email.
As requested, I have looked through our records and it is clear that there has been some confusion over the year of death for this casualty. However, I have found a further document (which unfortunately we are not at liberty to make accessible to the public), which refers to the registration of this grave in a small cemetery by No.17 Graves Registration Unit. This report is dated July 1943, so it is clear to me that the correct date for the Unknown RCAF grave must be December 1942. It cannot be December 1943 on the basis of this report.
I trust you find this helpful.
CWGC Records Data Manager
Wellington Z8469 had reportedly been attacked and shot down by a Ju88 night fighter. Only two Wellington victories in the area were claimed for that night both of them by the same night fighter pilot Oblt. Albert Schulz* of 5./NJG2.
Details of the two Wellingtons claimed shot down were:
20.52 hours at 2000m 0744/13 East - SE Sulayman
21.25 hours at 2000m 0719/13 East - Near Tunis
The identity of the second Wellington claimed shot down on the night of 17 December 1942 remains unknown.
* See Biographical Details below (7).
Between 23.07 hours and 0015 hours on the night of 17/18 December 1942 the Luftwaffe made their last heavy raid on Malta. About forty Ju88s bombed Luqa, Qrendi, Siggiewi Gudja and Safi and catching the majority of the British aircraft on the ground destroyed 9 Wellingtons (of No. 104 and No. 40 Squadrons) and a Baltimore as well as damaging 4 Spitfires whilst also killing six civilians and four serviceman with one civilian injured.
On 7 May 2017 Aircrew Remembered was contacted by Mr Jack Brook a retired RAF officer who has many years of research and very kindly goes through our website checking for any errors.
He informed us that the serial number that we have used for this aircraft was never allocated and is therefore incorrect. The serial number Z8469 was in a block referred to as a "Black-out block" which were used to confuse the enemy. The previous block ended at Z8441 and the subsequent block started at Z8567.
He cites his sources as being 1. British Military Aircraft Serials by Bruce Robertson
2. UK Serials Resource Centre provided by the Wolverhampton Aviation Group.
We are grateful to Mr Brook for bringing this discrepancy to our attention and appeal to anyone with further information to contact our helpdesk.
(1) Fl/Lt. Charles William MacPherson Dallas the son of Gilbert L Dallas and Elizabeth Dallas nee Macpherson. Sergeant 754833 Charles William Macpherson Dallas was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation on 24 August 1940 with seniority 18 August 1940 (London Gazette 20 September 1940) confirmed in his appointment and promoted to Flying Officer (war subs) on 24 August 1941 with seniority 18 August 1941 (London Gazette 30 September 1941). He was further promoted to Flight Lieutenant (war subs) on 24 August 1942 with seniority 18 August 1942 (London Gazette 11 December 1942)
He married Grace Morris at Cambridge in 1948.
(2) F/O. George Cochrane Silver was born on 31 December 1917 at Tient Sui, North China the only child of Capt. H. E. Silver (a Mining Engineer and formerly of the Indian Army) and Sylvia A. Silver nee Cochrane. Given the names Arthur Harold at birth he later changed his name by Deed Poll in August 1936 to George Cochrane. After living in China and India the family returned to Canada in 1923 where they lived at 10 Dalhousie Street, Ottawa, Ontario where George Silver attended the Public School until 1934. In 1934 his parents moved to Quebec but George seems to have remained in Ottawa where he attended Lisgar Collegiate Institute until 1936. The Silver family later lived at Duparquet, Province of Quebec, Canada.
After briefly attending the Royal Military College at Kingston, Ontario for a year he studied Commerce at Queens University also in Kingston for three years until 1940. After working briefly as a Clerk he enlisted in the RCAF at Ottawa on 6 January 1941. He was described as 5' 7" tall weighing 144lbs with a ruddy complexion, brown eyes and hair. He stated that he boxed extensively.
Photograph courtesy Operation: PictureMe
After initial training at RCAF Toronto and RCAF Picton, Ontario he was posted to No. 19 Elementary Flying Training School at RCAF Verden, Manitoba on 7 June 1941 and to No.16 Service Flying Training School RCAF Hagersville, Ontario on 9 August 1941. He was awarded his "Wings" and commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 6 November 1941 and three days later posted to 1 Y Depot Halifax. After 12 days leave he embarked for the UK on 20 November and on arrival was posted to 3 PRC Bournemouth. On 26 January 1942 he was posted to No. 12 Service Flying Training School at RAF Grantham, Lincolnshire, on 3 March to 11 Operational Training Unit and on 5 June to No. 21 Operational Training Unit at Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire. After joining 104 Squadron in the Middle East he was posted to No. 2 Middle East Training School on 2 August 1942. He was promoted to Flying Officer with effect from 1 October 1942.
(3) F/O. Richard Leslie (Les) Coulter was born on 13 July 1918 at Delisle, Saskatchewan Canada the son of son of Ralph Arnold Coulter (a Farmer) and Edna Grace Coulter nee Irwin. He had a brother Ben Irwin Coulter born 1920 and in 1925 the family moved to Chilliwack, British Columbia. He was educated at Atchelitz Public School, Chilliwack from 1925 to 1932, Chilliwack High School from 1932 to 1936 and from 1937 to 1939 he studied for his Associate Bankers qualification with the Shaw School Correspondence School. He was employed by the Royal Bank of Canada at Chilliwack and New Westminster, Vancouver from 1936 until joining the RCAF in 1940 rising from Junior Clerk to Ledger Keeper to Teller during this time and qualified as a Member of the Canadian Bankers Association.
He enlisted at Vancouver on 21 November 1940 when he was describes as 5' 9" tall weighing 172lbs with a fair complexion, hazel eyes and dark brown hair. He engaged in the following sports: badminton, golf and swimming moderately and sailed extensively. His hobbies were wood working/boat building and photography. His address on enlistment was RR1 Sardis, British Columbia.
After training at No 2 Initial Training School, RCAF Regina, Saskatchewan he was posted for Observer training to No. 4 Air Observer School at RCAF London, Ontario on 16 March 1941. On 10 June he was posted to No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School at RCAF Jarvis, Ontario where he was awarded his Observers Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 19 July. After a month's training at No 2 Air Navigation School, RCAF Pennfield Ridge, New Brunswick he was posted to Y depot Halifax. After 2 weeks embarkation leave he sailed for the UK on 14 September. On arrival he was posted to 3 PRC Bournemouth before being posted to No. 22 Operational Training Unit at RAF Wellesbourne Mountford, Warwickshire on 14 October and then to 15 Operational Training Unit at RAF Harwell, Berkshire on 9 April 1942 pending posting overseas. He was attached to Ferry Command but after contracting malaria was flown home from Cairo for rest arriving 18 July 1942. The following month he returned to the Middle East where he flew with 104 Squadron during the El Alamein offensive in October and November 1942.
The memory of Flying Officer Richard Leslie (Les) Coulter was honoured by the Province of British Columbia with the naming of Mount Coulter
(4) Sgt. Herbert George Lines DFM was born in 1919 at West Ham the son of Herbert Oliver Lines and Catherine Phyllis Lines nee Terry of Stratford, Essex. He was awarded the DFM on 26 May 1942 while serving with 57 Sqn (London Gazette 26 May 1942)
(5) Sgt. Leonard Booth born c 1923 Son of Ernest Edward Booth and Valerie Booth of Huyton, Lancashire.
(6) Sgt. Clifford Harry Pooley was born in 1922 at Hampstead, London the son of Clifford Arthur Pooley and Lulu Mary Pooley nee Gray of Aylsham, Norfolk. He is commemorated on the Aylsham War Memorial.
(7) Hauptmann Albert Schulz was born on 7 July 1917 at Danzig. After serving with 2/NJG-2 (from January 1941), 1/NJG-2 (from September 1942), 5/NJG-2 (from December 1942), he was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of IV/NJG-3 on 8 October 1943 and Gruppenkommandeur of I/NJG-2 (on 30 January 1944). On the day of his final appointment he was killed in action when he was shot down by a B-17 and crashed at Bodenwerder, near Dorf an der Weser in Lower Saxony. His Bordfunker (Wireless Operator Feldwebel Heinz Krüger was also killed but his Bordshütze (Gunner) Unteroffizier Georg Frieben, bailed out and landed safely.
During his Luftwaffe career he claimed 15 victories and received the following awards:
Kreigsorden des Deutchen Kreuz Gold Klasse (Order of the German Cross Gold Class) - 21 August 1942.
Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (Honor Goblet of the Luftwaffe)
Eisernes Kreuz (Iron Cross) Klasse 1 & 2
Night Fighter Operational Clasp
BURIAL DETAILS AND EPITAPHS
F/O. George Cochrane Silver - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Malta Memorial - Panel 4, Column 1
F/O. Richard Leslie (Les) Coulter - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Malta Memorial - Panel 4, Column 1
Sgt. Herbert George Lines DFM - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Malta Memorial - Panel 4, Column 1
Sgt. Leonard Booth - having no known grave he is commemorated on the Malta Memorial - Panel 3, Column 2
Sgt. Clifford Harry Pooley was originally buried at a small cemetery at Cherifat Soliman (Sulayman), Tunisia on 23 December 1942 and re-interred at Enfidaville War Cemetery on 24 January 1944 Grave Reference: IV.E.28
His epitaph reads
Time changes many things
Maybe it does
But memories last
And so does love
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - November 2016
With thanks to the sources quoted below.