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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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No 427 (Lion) Squadron
29.12.1943 No 427 (Lion) Squadron Handley Page Halifax V LK965 W?-? P/O. Robert (Bob) Cyril Deegan

Operation: Berlin, Germany

Date: 29th December 1943 (Wednesday)

Unit: No 427 (Lion) Squadron

Type: Handley Page Halifax V

Serial: LK965

Code: W?-?

Base: RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire

Location: USAAF Bungay, Suffolk

Pilot: P/O. Robert (Bob) Cyril (Deeg) Deegan J/18889 RCAF Age 27 Safe (1)

2nd Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Alexander Rex Clibbery R/142144 RCAF Age 20 Safe (2)

Nav: Fl/Sgt. Cecil Axford R/158790 RCAF Age 20 Safe (3)

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Joseph Clement (Clem) Aloysius Corbiell MiD R/121428 RCAF Age 23 Safe (4)

Air/Bmr: WO2 Robert (Bob) Desmond Anderson. R/161094 RCAF Age? Safe

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. James (Jim) Albert Smith. 1388724 RAFVR Age 19 Safe (5)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. M. P. (Johnny) Gibbs. R/179493 Age? Safe

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Philip (Phil) Alfred Dubois J/86864 RCAF Age? Safe (6)


Halifax LK965 took off at 16.55hrs from RCAF Station at Leeming for their third operation to Berlin. One of 712 aircraft that took off that night on this operation. This was P/O. Deegan's 15th operation and showing his exceptional skills and untiring efforts was responsible for bringing back his badly crippled aircraft, and saving the lives of all his crew

Almost half way to the target area and flying at 18,000 feet the port outer engine failed and became unserviceable. After this the pilot had great difficulty in maintaining height so it was decided that the bomb load be jettisoned safely and large explosions were seen when the 2000 pound bombs exploded. After this a course was set for base. Ten minutes later the rear gunner Fl/Sgt. Phil Dubois warned the pilot that night fighters were dropping flares to try and find the aircraft. This continued for about an hour until the Zuider Zee was reached. It was only then that a night fighter succeeded in finding the Halifax and attacked from starboard and below. The rear gunner Fl/Sgt. Phil Dubois gave evasive action when the night fighter was at 1,000 yards and the enemy aircraft was not seen again

At 20.46hrs the starboard inner engine became unserviceable which further reduced the flying height of the aircraft. It was at this point that the decision was made to jettison all loose equipment. The bomb doors were opened, which resulted in the trailing aerial being cut off and the W/Op. Fl/Sgt. Smith not being able to send or receive any messages. Fl/Sgt. Smith managed to repair the aerial and continued to send S.O.S.'s messages. The port inner engine was overheating and the aircraft was down to 5,000 feet. The pilot continued on two engines flying at 110 miles per hour, just above stalling speed

On reaching the English coast the S.O.S call was answered by USAAF Station, Bungay, Suffolk. Pilot P/O. Deegan immediately flew straight for the runway and just on landing at 22.00hrs, the inner port engine failed completely and the aircraft landed on one engine, which was as smooth as if the aircraft had all four engines

Map showing RAF Bungay, Suffolk where the aircraft landed

The Squadron records show that in expressing his appreciation to his crew, lauding the work and co-operation of everyone concerned including his Co-Pilot Fl/Sgt. Clibbery, particularly praised the work of his W/Op. Fl/Sgt. Smith and the Fl/Eng. Sgt. Corbiell

No 427 Squadron arrived at RAF Leeming on the 5th May 1943 from RAF Croft, County Durham

Handley Page Halifax III (courtesy Aircrew Remembered archive) Operations room at RAF Leeming (courtesy of Imperial War Museum)

(1) P/O. Robert (Bob) Cyril (Deeg) Deegan. Born in Smiths Falls, Lanark, Ontario on the 26th November 1916 and enlisted in Perth, Ontario on the 31 January 1940, remustering to aircrew in 1942. Trained at No 6 ITS (Initial Training School) Toronto, No 7 EFTS (Elementary Flying Training School) Ontario and No 9 SFTS (Service Flying Training School) Ontario. Deeg arrived in the UK in November 1942 and was commissioned in 1943. Posted to No 427 Squadron from No 1659 HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit) on the 3rd August 1943. Robert Cyril (Deeg) Deegan had been involved in two flying accidents. The first while serving at 1659 Heavy Conversion Unit on the 28th July 1943. Sgt R C Deegan and Sgt J H Tovey flying in Halifax DT500 took off at 02.34hrs from RAF Topcliffe, North Yorkshire for a night training flight of circuits and landings. At 02.44hrs on touch down a tyre burst and the undercarriage collapsed, ensuring that the aircraft never flew again. No one was hurt. See also (Halifax EB247 P/O. Deegan) and (Halifax DK251 Sgt. Tovey)

Acting Squadron Leader Robert Cyril Deegan J/18889, 420 (RCAF) Sqn, was awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) as per London Gazette dated 13th October 1944. Deeg survived the war. Squadron Leader Robert Cyril Deegan DFC died on the 3rd January 1972 in Smiths Falls, Ontario. Roberts brother Donald Maurice Deegan also served in the RCAF during the war and was awarded the Purple Heart

Left: Fl/Sgt Clibbery citation for his award of the DFM (courtesy London Gazette archive) Right: Hamilyon Spectator 28 August 1944 (couresy Democracy of War, Canadian War Museum)

(2) Fl/Sgt. Alexander Rex Clibbery. Born in Winnipeg, 1923 and enlisted on the 20th November 1941. Alex trained at No 2 Initial Training School, Toronto, No 2 Elementary Flying Training School, Fort William, Ontario and No 3 Service Flying Training School, Calgary, Alberta, Further training in England with No 1659 HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit, RAF Topcliff and was posted to No 427 Squadron on the 3rd December 1943.

Alex was awarded the DFM in 1944 as per London Gazette 15 February 1944 "Distinguished Flying Medal. Can/R.142144 Flight Sergeant Alexander Clibbery, Royal Canadian Air Force No 427 (RCAF) Squadron. This airman was the pilot of an aircraft detailed to attack Megdeburg one night in January, 1944. Whilst over the target area his aircraft was illuminated by searchlights and afterwards attacked by a fighter. Although the enemy aircraft was evaded the bomber had sustained much damage. Instruments had been shot away, the inter-communications system rendered unserviceable and the oxygen supply destroyed. Despite this, Flight Sergeant Clibbery completed his bombing run and afterwards flew the damaged aircraft to base. This airman displayed a fine fighting spirit, great determination and devotion to duty"

The date of the operation on Magdeburg was 21/22nd January 1944. Part of a large force of 648 aircraft that took off that night for the first operation on this target. Many night fighters attacked the aircraft before the German coast with a total loss of 57 aircraft on this operation

On the 10/11th May 1944 WO2 A R Clibbery DFM aircraft took off from RAF Leeming, Noth Yorkshire in Halifax LV986 ZL-V was badly shot about by a night fighter while on an operation to Gent. The aircraft was so badly damaged it landed at RAF Woodbridge, Suffolk. The aircraft was so badly damaged it was beyond repair

No. 1 Air Observers School, Malton airfield, Canada where Cecil Axford completed part of his training (courtesy Aircrew Remembered archive)

(3) Fl/Sgt. Cecil Axford born on the 3 January 1923 in Hamilton, Ontario. Cecil was educated at Hamilton Technical Institute and Central High School of Commerce and had been employed by Otis-Fensom Company before enlisting. Cecil graduated from No 1 Air Observers School, Malton, Ontario on the 22nd January 1943 as LAC. Pilot Officer Cecil Axford was killed on the 12th August 1944 while serving with No 420 Squadron. Cecil is remembered on the Hamilton Roll of Honour, Hamilton, Ontario

Joseph survived the war, but died on the 11th September 2011 (courtesy of Darilyn Stone)

4) Sgt. Joseph Clement (Clem) Aloysius Corbiell. Born 5th February 1920 Ontario. Clem enlisted in 1941 and was posted overseas in 1942. MiD (Mentioned in Despatches) in June 1943. Commissioned 30th April 1944. Joseph served with No 409 Squadron, No 427 Squadron and 1659 HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit) Clem Corbiell had recorded his memories of his life in Canada before the war, his wartime experiences and life after the war. The sound recording is held at the Imperial War Museum, London. Joseph Clement Aloysius Corbiell passed away on the 11th September 2011 at Foothills Hospital, Calgary

(5) Fl/Sgt. James (Jim) Albert Smith was confirmed as Pilot Officer and promoted to Flying Officer 18th July 1944. Are you able to provide any further details?

(6) Fl/Sgt. Philip (Phil) Alfred Dubois born 1st June 1924 in Arcola, Saskatchewan and after enlisting in the RCAF served with No 427 Squadron and No 420 Squadron. Phil Dubois gives a good account of this operation in (Short Bursts May 2003) after the war Phil served for 31 years in the Vancouver Police force and was an executive of the Canadian Legion Branch 109 in Gibsons, British Columbia. Philip Alfred Dubois passed away on May 19th, 2005

Researched by: Kate Tame Aircrew Remembered and for all the relatives and friends of the crew. With special thanks to the Deegan family, Darilyn Stone for Clem Corbiell's headstone photograph, No. 427 Squadron "Short Bursts", Capt Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive Aircrew Remembered, Ian Tavender - The Distinguished Flying Medal Register of the Second World War ISBN 9781902366036, Canadian War Museum - Democracy at War, The RCAF Overseas.

KT. 18.09.2015

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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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