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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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10 Squadron crest
12/13.03.1943 No. 10 Squadron Halifax II DT778 ZA-N P/O. John Dickinson

Operation: Essen

Date: 12/13th March 1943

Unit: No. 10 Squadron

Type: Halifax II

Serial: DT778

Code: ZA-N

Base: RAF Melbourne, Yorkshire.

Location: Buldern, Germany

Pilot: P/O. John Dickinson 142572 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Henry Edward Henden 634581 RAF Age 25. Killed

Nav: Sgt. Jessel Hyam Harris 1035756 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Frederick Wade Stanners 1038690 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Ernest Smith 1263058 RAFVR Age? Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Leslie John Gait 1315144 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Frank Patrick Crawford 631115 RAF Age ? Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Took off at 19.45 hrs to attack Essen. Nothing else was heard from this aircraft.

The story is taken up by Milton Josephs, who also supplied us with the photographs used in this loss report:

'I have been privileged to have been a part of the Royal Air Force through the Air Cadet Organisation continuously now for 27 years since joining 2236 (Stanmore) Squadron aged 13 and for the past 21 years as an instructor on 613VGS. This year, however, has been a particularly poignant one for me as I have travelled on a journey of discovery about a family member who perished during WWII.

                     

Sister aircraft to Halifax ZA-N - ZA-D R9376 in flight

This journey started about 18 months ago when my father moved house.  Whilst he was packing his belongings, he found an old photograph of his cousin, resplendent in his RAF battle dress sporting a side cap worn at a ‘jaunty angle’ and the brevet of an Observer on his chest (an Observer was the forerunner to today’s Navigators.)  Dad gave me the photograph and on a visit to the RAF Museum, we were able to get his service number.  From there a simple ‘Google’ search revealed a plethora of information.  Coupled with a visit to the National Archives in Kew which allowed me to read and copy the actual Operational Record Books from his squadron and his service record I have been able to piece together a remarkable, yet ultimately sad (with his death), history. As an aside, I also got into contact with his niece, who lives in Australia whom I last saw and spoke to when I was 13 – we are now in regular contact!

Sergeant Jessel Hyams Harris, was born on 21st March 1921. My father, who was 15 years Jessel’s junior remembers him as a joker and aspiring actor.  In 1941, Jessel received his call-up papers and joined the RAF, like countless others of his generation. On 1st February 1941, Jessel started his basic recruit training and on 24th May 1941, started his observer (navigator) training. This involved over a month in Canada before earning the coveted brevet. A year after joining the RAF, Jessel spent 4 months completing advanced training in Pensacola, Florida before returning to the UK. From there, he went to an operational training unit and finally in November 1942, was posted to 10 Squadron which was part of 4 Group and was flying the Halifax II Bomber out of RAF Melbourne, Yorkshire. 

On March 12th, 1943, a Halifax II bomber, DT778 departed RAF Melbourne, at 19:45hrs, with a crew of seven Sergeant airmen. DT778 was a part of a larger force of 457 aircraft, two of which were from 10 Squadron, all of whom were detailed to bomb targets in Essen, Germany.

Out of the force of aircraft that departed their various airfields that night, 23 failed to return. The statistics are horrific – 5% of the aeroplanes failed to return. That may not sound like bad odds, but that equates to some 189 airmen who lost their lives or who were taken prisoner – and this was on that one raid. Add to that the fighters that were lost and the soldiers and sailors who inevitably also lost their lives that day – there is a number we can never fathom. This happened night after night after night. It is worth mentioning here that Bomber Command had the highest loss rates of any British military formation.

  

Left - Right: P/O. Dickinson, Sgt. Henden and Sgt. Harris - the remaining four shown below, we have been unable to place names to them, can you assist? (courtesy Milton Josephs) In December 2014 Mr Richard Jennings (Methodist Church Archivist for Bede Circuit and Newcastle upon Tyne District) contacted us as a lady from his chapel recognised Sgt. Frederick Wade Stanners on row below as the chap on extreme right.

            

He, like the rest of his crew, made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. One cannot even begin to imagine the sheer terror of flying through flack or being attacked by German night fighters. I have read that airmen on bombers often were a complete bundle of nerves after only a couple of missions and yet they went back out and flew similar missions again and again, night after night until they either died or were reassigned.

One thing I have found quite poignant is that according to the Operational Record Book, their last checkpoint before heading out over the English Channel was RAF Halton, where I have been flying for many years with 613VGS.

Last year, my father and I went to the Reichsweld Forest War Cemetery to visit his grave. Being of the Jewish faith, we wanted to say the mourner’s prayer – Kaddish. Jessel is buried with his six crew-mates. This was a very moving experience for us.'

                  

Burial details:

Originally the crew were buried at Mulen Cemetery, Dulman, Germany but re-interred in Reichswald where the C.W.G.C look after these cemeteries. 

P/O. John Dickinson. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave: 2.B.9. Son of Alfred and Fanny Dickinson, of Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England.

Sgt. Henry Edward Henden.  Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Collective grave: 2. B. 5-8. Son of Frederick James Henden 1883-1955 and Emma Elizabeth (née Gorringe) Henden 1880-1950 of Pirbright, Surrey, England. Husband of Doris Irene Bailey 1920-1999.

Sgt. Jessel Hyam Harris. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Collective grave: 2. B. 5-8. Maude and Julius Harris in Leeds, Yorkshire, England.

Sgt. Frederick Wade Stanners. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Collective grave: 2. B. 5-8. Son of Albert Hardy Stanners, and of Barbara A. Stanners, of Springwell, Co. Durham, England.

Sgt. John Ernest Smith. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave: 2. B. 10. Next of kin details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?

Sgt. Leslie John Gait. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave: 2. B. 11. Son of John Howard Gait 1891-1974 and Elsie (née Lawrence) Gait 1887-1967, of Masbury, Somerset, England. Born in Somerset 1922. 

Also commemorated on the Beaminster 1939-45 War Memorial as shown above (courtesy Jonathan Foster)

Sgt. Frank Patrick Crawford. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Collective grave: 2. B. 5-8. Son of Francis Crawford 1895-1967 and Rosanne (née Markey) Crawford 1894-1970 of Dundee, Angus. Born 30th January 1921.

With thanks to F/O. Milton Josephs - relative of Sgt. Harris for photographs and extensive information supplied. Additional details courtesy of Richard Jennings. Further information kindly submitted in January 2015 by Jonathan Foster on behalf of the family of Sgt. Henden. Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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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