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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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11/12.06.1943 No. 30 OTU Wellington III BK559 Fl/Sgt. Thomas George Dellar

Operation: Nickel (Dropping leaflets), Nantes, France

Unit: No. 30 OTU 

Date: 11/12 June 1943 (Friday/Saturday)

Type: Wellington III

Serial: BK559

Code: Unknown

Base: RAF Hixon, Staffordshire

Location: Château de Méridon, near Chevreuse, Yvelines, France

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Thomas George Dellar Aus/409522 RAAF Age 25. Killed (1)

Nav: Sgt. Delmar Murray Davis R/125221 RCAF Age 22. Killed (2)

Air/Bmr: Sgt. James G. Perfect 1324552 Age 19. PoW No. 41. Camp: Stalag Kopernikus - 357 (3)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Bernard Charles Reeves 1321751 Age 21. Evaded capture (4)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Cyril Edward Bartholomew RAFVR 1621796 Age 20. PoW No. 64. Camp: Stalag Kopernikus - 357 (5) + (8) 

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Horace John D.G. Adams 1456555 Age 20. PoW No. 53. Camp: Stalag Kopernikus - 357 (6) 


         We would welcome contact from any relatives of the crew with further information and/or photographs.


REASON FOR LOSS

On 11 June 1943, whilst a large force of heavy and medium bombers was despatched to bomb Düsseldorf and smaller forces to attack Munster, Duisburg and Cologne, RAF Training Groups sent out 23 aircraft to drop leaflets; 5 to Orleans, 8 to Nantes, 7 to Caen and 3 to Le Mans. Fl/Sgt Thomas George Dellar and the crew of Wellington BK559 were assigned to the Nantes operation; they took off from RAF Hixon, Staffordshire, at 23.00hrs on this, their first operational mission.

It seems that the aircraft became lost from an early stage due to navigational error. According to Wireless Operator Sgt. Reeves they 'should have crossed the coast at Selsey Bill but probably off track even then. ETA Nantes 01.30 hrs: soon after the Pilot asked Navigator (Sgt. Davis) whether they were over t/area or not. Navigator replied "in a few minutes"'. It is unclear whether they found Nantes but the leaflets were dispersed two hours late at 03.30 hrs and they turned for home. At this time Sgt. Reeves noticed, not surprisingly, that the petrol was getting low. He goes on to say 'got loop bearing on D: should have been on F but Navigator had omitted to get its position. Pilot made frequent changes of height and flew at 1000' for some time to try and get pinpoint. Petrol zero: emergency landing turned on and IFF switched on: 1hr later - Navigator admitted he was completely lost. Pilot (having no chute) and Navigator decided to stay in aircraft. Remainder baled out from about 5000''.  

In his Escape and Evasion Report (SPG 3315/1506) Sgt.Reeves says that he baled out at 05.00hrs and 'came down in a wood near Rambouillet'. He walked in a north easterly direction until he came to Vieille Église (en Yvelines). He stopped at a cottage here and a woman came out. Though he could not speak French he managed by gestures to make her understand that he wanted a drink. She took him inside and gave him a meal whilst her father buried his parachute. He was given a civilian suit and stayed with the family until 5 October. During his stay with them they made repeated attempts to get in touch with someone who would assist him in returning to the UK. On 18 September they put him in touch with an organisation that arranged his escape to England. He arrived in Gibraltar on 27 October and the following day landed at Portreath, Cornwall. He said that he believed Sgt. Adams had been captured but had no knowledge of the fate of the other crew members. 

After baling out Sgts. Perfect, Bartholomew and Adams all landed safely but were captured and interned in Stalag Kopernikus in Poland.  

Documents in the National Archives of Australia (ref NAA: A705, 166/9/107 and NAA: A9301, 409522) go some way to explaining more about the crash and its aftermath as well as revealing more information about Fl/Sgt. Dellar and the possible fate of Sgt. Davis.

In a letter dated 5 August 1943 to Mr G.T Dellar, father of F/Sgt. Dellar, the RAAF Casualty Section in South Yarra told him that his son's unit had received no communication from Wellington BK559 after it left base for Nantes on the 11 June 1943 and their enquiries so far had failed to reveal any trace of the plane or crew.  

A letter from RAAF in London to the Department of Air in Australia dated 14 December 1943 states that information had been received by the Red Cross in Geneva from German sources that Sgts. Perfect 1324555, Bartholomew 1621796, (See note 8)  and Adams 1456552 were prisoners of war and that Sgt. (sic) Dellar and another unknown had lost their lives. As Sgt. Reeves was by this time known to be alive and back in England it was assumed that the unknown was Sgt. Davis. In an interview with Sgt. Reeves the RAAF had learned that because of shortage of petrol the pilot had given the crew the option to bale out and apart from the Navigator Sgt. Davis who elected to stay on board, they had done so; the first one to bale out being Sgt. Reeves. 

Despite the best endeavours of the Missing Research and Enquiry Department of the RAF there remained no trace of the grave of Fl/Sgt. Dellar. However his father and brother in law Ralph L. Moyle never gave up hope of finding his grave and continued to request help and information from the RAAF. But in December 1945 in a letter to the Australian Department of Air, the RAAF concluded that all possible sources of investigation had failed to locate the grave and that it could only assume that Fl/Sgt. Dellar must be buried somewhere as an unknown in the vicinity of Chatres or Chevreuse. Missing Research Department was to take no further action at that stage but it was hoped that future exhumations of unknowns might reveal further information. These details were conveyed in a letter to Mr Moyle dated 22 February 1946. 

As part of the investigation, a report dated 8 January 1945 was obtained from Adjutant Trochet of the Brigade Chevreuse (Seine-et-Oise)In his report Adjutant Trochet says that at 04.30hrs on 12 June 1943 a British bomber had hit the chimney of a house and having immediately caught fire, crashed into trees at "Méridon" commune de Chevreuse and one of its engines fell hundreds of metres away. One of the crew was totally burned and unidentifiable but the other had been thrown from the aircraft. He had died instantly but was burning when Adjutant Trochet and Gendarme Brailly arrived at the scene. After putting out the flames they dragged his body away. He was identified as Australian from his clothing and inside his boot was the following: 'Aus/409522 Dellar T.G.'. An opened letter found on his body bore the name and address of Sgt. Pilot Bagot E.C. (see Note 7). The report also said that all this information was obtained before the arrival of the Field Gendarmerie and the Germans removed the body to an unknown destination but it fails to say what happened to the remains of the badly burned body.

On 11 April 1946 a report by Fl/Lt. Prior of No. 1 Missing Research and Enquiry Unit RAF finally resolved the location of the grave of Fl/Sgt. Dellar. Whilst on research work Fl/Lt. Prior had found an unknown grave in Guyancourt Cemetery which after investigation he found was that of Fl/Sgt. Dellar. The Mayor of Guyancourt told him that the body had been brought from Château Meridon, Chevreuse and it was that of an Australian Pilot whose name was on the cross that stood on the grave. The name on the cross however, had by now worn away, but the local Gendarmerie confirmed that it was indeed the grave of Sgt. Dellar. He was told by witnesses that the grave was well looked after by the local people and flowers had been planted on it. 

Fl/Lt. Prior then interviewed M. Pierre Cailler of Boullay les Croux (presumably Boullay les Troux about 4 km south of Chevreuse) who told him that about 15.00hrs on 12 June 1943 a Canadian who could speak a little French came to his farm and asked for money, food and directions to  Étampes. He said that he asked the airman for his papers as a means of identification but was told he had destroyed them in case he was captured. He told M. Cailler that he was Canadian and had baled out with two other members of the crew of an aircraft that had crashed nearby. M.Cailler gave him 500 Francs, some bread coupons and directions to Étampes and he left the farmhouse at about 22.00hrs that evening. For some reason M. Cailler was definite that two bodies were recovered from the aircraft. Fl/Lt. Prior next interviewed M. Harrau a guard (gamekeeper) at Château Méridon who told him that he was working at the Château at the time of the crash. The body of the Australian was caught up in one of the motors by his parachute gear but was freed by the people present before his body became burnt. The body was removed by the Germans to an unknown destination. Two days later whilst passing the wreckage his dog began barking at something in the wreckage. He investigated and found the carbonised remains of a body near the centre of the aircraft and nearby were RAF buttons and the sole of a boot. The remains were removed by the Germans to an unknown destination. Fl/Lt Prior adds that information from Le Mans was that the Canadian's name was Davis and he was killed in the Pyrenees.

A letter written by Ralph L. Moyle (the brother in law of Fl/Sgt. Dellar) on 9 December 1945 to Bureau de Recherche sur l'aide Apportée aux Évadés Alliés in France requesting their help in tracing Fl/Sgt. Dellar's grave, mentions that he had learned that Sgt.Davis had, at some stage, been sheltered by Mlle. M.T. George at 49, Rue de l'Orangerie, Versailles and by Madame Maurel at 1, Avenue de Paris, Versailles. He had clearly had contact with Madame Maurel as he says that it was she who suggested that he write to the Bureau requesting their help.

The fate of Sgt. Davis remains a mystery. The date on his headstone gives his date of death as 12 June 1943; but if he did escape the crash and eventually reach the Pyrenees, his death must have been later than that. If he did not die in the aircraft then whose were the carbonised remains found in the wreckage? If he did die in the crash who was the Canadian airman helped by M. Cailler, Mlle. George and Mme. Maurel? In either case there seems little reason for his remains to be buried in Marseilles.

     Scale: 1" = 3 miles

         Whilst attempting a forced landing Fl/Sgt Dellar hit a house chimney and crashed into tree at Château                                                        de Méridon in the commune of Chevreuse -en-Yvelines.  (below)

                                             

                                                          


            

            Letter courtesy National Archives of Australia.                                   Grave photograph courtesy Alain Octavie 


By some coincidence the letter from RAAF Casualty Section to Mr G.T. Dellar informing him that his son's grave had at last been located was dated 12 June 1946 being the third anniversary of Fl/Sgt Dellar's death. He later received a photograph of the grave.

The temporary cross on Fl/Sgt. Dellar's grave was later replaced by a permanent headstone and on June 1957 Mr G.T. Dellar, father of Fl/Sgt. Dellar received a letter from the Australian Embassy in Paris. They had received a letter from a Madame G. Fabert whose son had been shot by the Germans and was buried in the grave adjacent to that of Fl/Sgt. Dellar. Part of her letter read: 

' If you have the address of the relatives of T.G. Dellar would you let them know that I never visit my son's grave without thinking about them and yesterday I put flowers on your compatriots grave'. 




                      

Group Portrait No. 4 Initial Training School, RAAF, Course No. 20, B Squadron, Flight 5 at Victor Harbour, South Australia c.October 1941

Back row, left to right: 409327 Arthur Edwin Skirving; 409515 Ivan William Conway;  409517 Albert James Corkill; 9183 Gordon Cashmore; 409512  Ernest Austin Christian; 409510 Arthur John Carmody (died of illness 6 May 1947); 409498 Robert Hazleton Allen; 409497 Harold James Boal (killed on operations over Holland 31 January 1944); 409507 Royston Richard Cameron (killed on operations over Germany 22 March 1945); 409504 Thomas Burrowes (killed on operations over New Guinea 14 December 1943); and 409505 John Dennis Byrne.

Centre Row left to right: 409501 Herbert Ivey Bradbury; 409496 Jack Gordon Stewert Bell (died in an accident 2 January 1943); 409489 Gordon Andrews; 409523 Maurice Dewer; 409511 David Alwyn Checchi (died in an accident in South Australia 13 May 1942); 409508 Ernest Thomas Cappi; 409519 Gregory James Black (killed on operations over north west Europe 3 April 1943; 409522 Thomas George Dellar (killed on operations over France 12 June 1943; 409520 William John Cameron; 409518 Eric Lawrence Coutts (discharged 10 April 1942); 409490 Thomas William Carlyon Angove (discharged 28 September 1944; and 409493 Ernst Marcel Baints.

Front Row, left to right:  409516 Beresford William Browne; 409524 Richard Woodfull Eades; 409487 Andrew William Allan; 409486 Gilbert Francis Ackland (discharged 5 December 1941); 409494 John Barton; 409514 William Charles Comerford; possibly 26704 Albert Henry Gray; 409506 Murray Cameron Caffyn (died as a POW in Germany 27 October 1943); 409509 Henry William Carew; 409492 Bertram Henry Armstrong; 409491 Kenneth Munro Anquetil; 409513 Ian Clement Ferguson; and 409488 Ian Wray Anderson. 

(Courtesy Australian War Memorial)


As noted Fl/Sgt Thomas George Dellar is on the middle row 5th from the right. Four others on the photograph can be identified as members of crews of aircraft lost over Europe. We hope to place memorial pages to these crews in due course. 



NOTES AND BIOGRAPHIES


(1) Fl/Sgt. Thomas George Dellar. Born 15 September 1917 at Rainbow, Victoria, Australia. Lived at Lake Hindmarsh, Jeparit, Victoria, Australia.  Son of George Thomas Dellar and Florence May Dellar Nee Roberts of Portland, Victoria, Australia. Peacetime Profession: Farmer with his father. He enlisted at Melbourne 12 September 1941 when he was described as being 6'4" tall with fair complexion, green eyes, brown hair and weighing 136lbs. After pilot training he embarked for the UK 24 August 1942 arriving in the U.K. 18 November 1942. He was posted to the Advanced Flying Unit at Andover on 26 January 1943 and to 30 OTU on 30 March 1943. Sgt. T.G. Dellar was promoted to Flight Sergeant retrospectively with effect from 25 December 1942. 

(2) Sgt. Delmar Murray Davis. Born c1920. Son of William Alfred and Edith Jane Davis of Pembroke, Ontario, Canada.

(3) Sgt. James G. Perfect. Born 1923 Amersham, Buckinghamshire. Son of Frederick B. Perfect and Maisie A. Perfect nee Holiday.

(4) Sgt. Bernard Charles Reeves. Born 30 August 1921 Southwark, London. Son of Bernard Reeves and Jane J. Reeves nee Woolcott. Died 1992 Greenwich, London. Lived at 222 Sherwood Park Avenue, Sidcup, Kent. Peacetime Profession: Butcher. RAF Service from 8 July 1941.

(5) Sgt. Cyril Edward Bartholomew. Born 1923 Halstead, Essex. Son of Sidney J. Bartholomew and Mabel L. Bartholomew nee Lintott. Died 1998 Hitchin and Stevenage, Hertfordshire. 

(6) Sgt. Horace John D.G. Adams. Born 1922 Islington, London. 

(7) F/O. Edward Christopher Bagot. The opened letter found on the body of Fl/Sgt. Dellar was reported by Adjutant Trochet of the Brigade Chevreuse (the Gendarmerie) to have been addressed to 'Sgt. Plt. Bagot E.C. RAF Hiscon, Seighport, St Affs. Aus/416645'. Since he remarked that the writing was a little illegible it would seem that the address probably read: RAF Hixon, Seighford, Staffs. The letter had been posted in Brighton, Sussex on 4 June 1943. Why this letter should be with Fl/Sgt. Dellar is unknown. Sgt Bagot was posted to 156 Squadron RAF on 22 September 1943 and was promoted to Flying Officer on 5 October 1943. He was the pilot of Lancaster LM344 GT-H that crashed 15 January 1944 on a bombing mission to Brunswick with the loss of all the crew. F/O. Bagot was 22 years old and it was his 25th operational mission. He was the son of Edward Daniel Alexander (Alec) Bagot the South Australian adventurer, polemicist and politician, and Christobel Bannatyne Bagot (nee Bollen) of Sidney, N.S.W. Australia. He is buried at Hanover War Cemetery, Collective Grave No. 4.J.18. 

(8) The Loss Card for BK559 records that the M/U Gunner was Sgt. D.W. Bartholomew No. 1188499 but this man is also recorded on the Loss Card for Lancaster W4989 that crashed on a bombing mission to Bochum on 13 June 1943. All the crew were killed and Sgt. Douglas Wallace Bartholomew was buried at Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany. Grave No. 5. G. 1. He was 32 years old, the son of Wallace James and Lily Maud Bartholomew. The Sgt. Bartholomew reported as being a prisoner of war as per the letter of 14 December 1943 from RAAF in London to Department of Air in Australia (see above), was Sgt. C.E. Bartholomew serial No. 1621796. After the war Sgt. C.E. Bartholomew remained in the RAF. He was promoted to Pilot Officer 2 July 1949 as announced in the Supplement to the London Gazette 9 August 1949 and promoted to Flying Officer 19 July 1951 as announced in the Supplement to the London Gazette 11 December 1951. He resigned his commission 19 November 1953 as announced in the Supplement to the London Gazette 2 March 1954. 


BURIAL DETAILS 

Fl/Sgt. Thomas George Dellar buried at Guyancourt Communal Cemetery, Yvelines, France (1)

Sgt.Delmar Murray Davis buried at Mazargues War Cemetery, Marseilles, France. Grave No. 3.E.61 (2)


Researched by Roy Wilcock for Aircrew Remembered - May 2015. Sources: RAF Loss Card, RAF Bomber Command Report on Night Operations, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Bomber Command Database, Australian National Archives, Australian War Memorial. Thanks also to Pierre Vandervelden and Alain Octavie of In Memory  for the photograph of the grave of Fl/Sgt Dellar at Guyancourt Communal Cemetery.          


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 and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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