15/16.07.1943 No. 158 Squadron Halifax II HR752 NP-T Fl/Sgt. Robert Deans
Operation: Montbéliard, Doubs, Franche-Compté, France
Date: 15/16 July 1943 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: No. 158 Squadron
Type: Halifax II
Base: RAF Lissett, East Riding of Yorkshire
Location: Near Sacquenay, Côte d'Or, France
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Robert Deans 1343832 RAFVR Age 21 - Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Victor Christopher Wainwright 635257 Age 23 - PoW No. 443 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug L6
Nav: Sgt. John Little 658501 RAFVR Age 22 - Evaded
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Gideon George Arnold RAFVR 1417057 Age 26 - Evaded
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Dennis Gordon Bingley 1211327 RAFVR Age 21 - Killed
Air/Gnr (MU): Sgt. Donald Stephen Loveland 1318280 RAFVR Age 21 - Killed
Air/Gnr (R): Sgt. Ian Rex Locke Acton-Hill 638104 Age 25 - Killed
We welcome contact from relatives of this crew with any further information and/or photographs
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off from RAF Lissett, East Riding of Yorkshire at 21.58hrs on a mission to bomb the Pugeot Works at Montbéliard, Franche-Compté, France.
The aircraft carried the following bomb load: 2 x 1000lb MC bombs, 2 X 1000lb GP bombs and 4 x 500lb MC bombs.
The only special equipment on board was Monica (Radar system fitted in rear of Bomber Command aircraft to provide some early warning of night fighters, however in July 1944 it was found that Monica was being detected and used as a homing signal by the Luftwaffe)
The route as per the Bomber Command Night Raid Report: Selsey Bill -Cabourg - 4815N 0100E - 4715N 0602E - Montbéliard - turn left - 4815N 0100E - Cabourg - Selsey Bill.
A force of 165 Halifax bombers was despatched to carry out a bombing raid on the Peugeot factory at Sochaux, 3km east of Montbéliard in Eastern France. The military importance of the factory was due to it being engaged in the manufacture of tank turrets for the Wehrmacht. Zero hour was 0150hrs and at Z-4 9 Blind Markers were to attack the target marking it with Yellow Target Indicators. 6 Visual Markers were to attack between Z-4 and Z dropping Red TIs to mark the aiming point. Unfortunately the first Red TIs overshot the works by about 700 yards and a very concentrated attack subsequently developed around them thus the damage caused to the works was far less than the main force deserved considering its accurate aiming. And in a bizarre incident, 12 bombers dropped their bombs on an aircraft that had crashed 40 miles from the target, mistaking the fire for TIs. The Peugeot Works covered a comparatively small area of 1100 yards by 600 yards so an overshoot of 700 yards was most significant, resulting in most of the bombs falling to the south east of their intended target.
The attack commenced at 0146hrs and continued until 0200hrs in conditions of thin cloud and moderate visibility. Apart from isolated points on the French coast very little ground opposition was encountered throughout the raid. Of the five losses two are thought to have been brought down by fighters at Auxerre and Chattilon-sur-Seine and two more due to unknown causes at Besançon and Orleans. One aircraft crashed on landing due to fuel shortage.
152 of the attacking force reported bombing the primary target and 3 bombed the alternative target whilst 5 aborted the sortie due to technical and manipulative faults.
Day reconnaissance photographs revealed that 7 buildings at the Peugeot Works were severely damaged and 6 others affected by the bombing. 90 houses and two small factories were damaged or destroyed in Sochaux. Local reports said that only 30 bombs fell on the factory whilst 600 fell on the town resulting in 123 civilians killed and 336 injured.
It was cloudy with patchy rain over England when Halifax HR752 took off from RAF Lissett. Piloting the aircraft was 21 year old Glaswegian Fl/Sgt Robert Deans: he and five of the crew had been posted to 158 Squadron from 1652 HCU six weeks earlier on 6 June, the other member, Mid Upper Gunner Sgt. Donald Loveland, had been posted from 1652 OTU on 19 June. At the briefing earlier that day they had been told that the low level attack was to be carried out at the 'best tactical height consistent with the defences encountered, but in no case less that 4000ft.' Selected crews were being used to 'ensure maximum damage to the works without avoidable civilian casualties.' The need for extreme accuracy was stressed and 'crews were specially warned to avoid violating Swiss neutrality'. Furthermore 'if TIs could not be identified bombs were to be brought back. No attempt was to be made to identify the target visually'.
At 0130hrs whilst flying at 8000' Halifax HR752 was attacked by a night fighter piloted by Hauptmann Paul-Hubert Rauh of 5/NJG-4 based at Dijon-Longvic (See 8 below). The attack seems to have come suddenly, without any warning and with devastating effect. In his later report Flight Engineer Victor Wainwright described what happened next.
'We were on fire so quickly that it was a matter of a few minutes before the aircraft blew up. I warned the crew that I couldn't do anything with the fire and asked Bob (the pilot) to bale out. He refused and ordered the rest of us to go. Jack and George apparently did so and I was half way out when the aircraft blew up. I can't say whether anyone else got out or not.' He also said that he was 'Pleased to hear the good news of Jack (Little) and George (Arnold) I quite thought they had perished'.
The Halifax crashed at 'Les Herbues' approximately 1km east of the village of Sacquenay, making a crater 15 metres in diameter and 2 metres deep. The four crew members who were killed were buried in the churchyard at Sacquenay. Sgt. Wainwright was captured and sent to Stalag Luft 6 at Heydekrug in East Prussia (now Šilute, Lithuania).
Scale 1"= 12.5miles
Sgt. George Arnold and Sgt. John Little in their Escape and Evasion Reports (SPG 3322/2293 and SPG 3322/2294) say that they 'Baled out at about 01.35hrs and met each other very soon afterwards. After burying our parachutes and mae wests we hid in a nearby wood. An hour later we were discovered by some French women who had gone out to search for survivors and were taken to a farmhouse. Early that morning we were taken to a wood near the village of MORMENTIER about 8kms. South of Sacquenay where we were given civilian clothing.
Here we were visited by a member of the Resistance organisation and the same night were taken on foot to a house at ORAIN where we stayed for three days. On 19 Jul we were moved to a house in FRANCIS where we stayed for thirteen days. We were then accompanied to PONTAILLER SUR SAONE where we stayed at various addresses in the town until 25 Aug, when we were taken to the vicinity of the Swiss border near MAICHE. We crossed the frontier with two smugglers and were arrested by Swiss customs officials almost as soon as we reached SWISS territory'.
Sgt. Little says that the story of his return from Switzerland to the U.K. is the same as that of Sgt. Leo Fryer of LK739 (Ref; SPG 3322/2292). Shot down on 21 January 1944 he crossed into Switzerland about a week later, was imprisoned by the Swiss authorities overnight and then sent to the British Legation in Berne. He says 'I left Switzerland in a party of four Sgts. Newbolt, Little (SPG 2294) and Canning (SPG 2297) on 20 Aug. 44. We approached the frontier from ST. MAURICE and after climbing for eight hours we crossed the frontier and reached CHATEL which was held by the Maquis. Here we met Sgt. ARNOLD (SPG 2293) and Sgt. HAMMOND. From here we were taken to THONON where we met another large party of evaders. We were then guided by the Maquis to GRENOBLE, where we made contact with American troops. We were sent from here to SISTERON where we were given transport to TROPEZ which we left on 2 Sep. From here we went by air to CORSICA which we left on 4 Sep. for NAPLES. We left NAPLES on 8 Sep. for CASABLANCA and remained there for two days. We were then flown to the U.K.'
Sgt. Arnold says that he 'left Switzerland 25 Aug. with Sgt Hammond via MONTREUX, MONTHEY and TROIS TORRENTS. We crossed the frontier in the mountains arriving at CHATEL on 27 Aug. 44.
Some of the dates in between are clearly wrong but Sgt. Little and Sgt. Arnold are both recorded as having left Switzerland on 20 August 1944 and arrived back in the U.K. on 11 September 1944.
Each year a ceremony is held in Sacquenay for members of the British families of the crew and their French friends in memory of the loss.
On Tuesday 16 July 2013, to mark the 70th anniversary of the crash, a plaque, bearing the names of the four crew members who were killed and affixed to the war memorial at Sacquenay was unveiled by Marie-Helene Valente, Secretary General of the Prefecture and the Mayor on behalf of the Municipal Council. In paying homage to the airmen Mayor Jean-Noël Truchot described the circumstances leading up to the crash and said that the aircraft 'dropped a bomb on the nearby wood of Occey to lighten the plane and thus save the village of Sacquenay by crashing east of the village. He added that four airmen were killed, one and who was slightly wounded was captured. The two airmen who escaped were rescued by Robert Golfier and his brother Raymond and taken to Montormentier. He added that the deceased airmen had been interred in the churchyard with the honours they deserved and despite the German presence.
The ceremony was attended by many personalities including Alain Houpert, Senator of Côte d'Or; Nicolas Urbano, General Councillor representing François Sauvadet; Gérard Leguay, General Councillor of the township of Selongey: Michel Verney, Chairman of the Community of Communes and Warrant Officer Philipe Duval, Brigade Commander Selongey.
To see photographs of the war memorial at Sacquenay click www.aerosteles.net/steleen-sacquenay-halifax.html
(1) Fl/Sgt. Robert Deans - Born c1922 the son of John and Ellen C.L. Deans of Knightswood, Glasgow, Scotland.
(2) Sgt. Victor Christopher Wainwright - Born 1919 at Gravesend, Kent, the son of Christopher Wainwright and Beatrice E. Wainwright nee Martin. Died 1999 at Gravesend, Kent. Joined the RAF 22 August 1941.
(3) Sgt. John Little - Born 29 July 1920 and of 48 Sunnyside Drive, Clarkston, Renfrewshire. Peacetime Profession: Insurance Clerk. Joined the RAF in February 1939.
(4) Sgt. Gideon George Arnold - Born 30 November 1916 the son of Simeon Arnold and Mary Arnold nee Dowden of Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales. Lived at 31 Penllyn Avenue, Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales. Peacetime Profession: Police Constable. Died 1979 at Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales, aged 62.
(5) Sgt. Dennis Gordon Bingley - Born 1922 at Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, the son of George Bingley and Annie Bingley nee Hymas of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.
(6) Sgt. Donald Stephen Loveland - Born 1921 at South Stoneham, Hampshire the son of Norman E. Loveland and Alice Loveland nee Wilkinson of Ilfracombe, Devon.
(7) Sgt. Ian Rex Locke Acton-Hill - Born c1915 the son of Herbert and Mable Irene Acton and stepson of Mr E.H. Hill of Smethwick, Staffordshire.
(8)Hauptman Paul-Hubert Rauh (left) - Born 15 November 1913 Wolkersdorf, Austria he joined the Air Force of the First Austrian Republic in 1933 absorbed into the Luftwaffe in 1938. Flying with NJG1 and NJG4 until 1945 he scored 31 victories all of them at night. In 1945 he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. In 1956 he joined the Bundesheer (Armed Forces) of the Second Austrian Republic retiring in 1974 with the rank of Oberst. He died in Pitten, Austria on 30 August 2005 aged 91. (see Kracker Luftwaffe Archive on this site)
Fl/Sgt. Robert Deans - Buried at Sacquenay Church Yard, Côte d'Or, France - Grave No. 1 (1)
Sgt. Dennis Gordon Bingley - Buried at Sacquenay Church Yard, Côte d'Or, France - Collective grave No.2 (5)
Sgt. Donald Stephen Loveland - Buried at Sacquenay Church Yard, Côte d'Or, France - Collective grave No.2 (6)
Sgt. Ian Rex Locke Acton-Hill - Buried at Sacquenay Church Yard, Côte d'Or, France - Collective grave No.2 (7)
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for relatives of this crew - August 2015. Sources: RAF Loss Card, Bomber Command Report on Night Operations, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Bomber Command Database, Escape and Evasion Reports as referenced in the text, Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries'