02.03.1945 No. 51 Squadron Halifax III MZ451 MH-F F/O. Frederick S. Eastwell
Date: 2nd March 1945 (Friday)
Unit: No. 51 Squadron
Type: Halifax III
Base: RAF Snaith, Yorkshire
Pilot: F/O. Frederick Stanley Eastwell 177625 RAFVR Age 30. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. “Nic” Arthur Nicholson 1593361 RAFVR Injured - remained in hospital until liberation
Nav: Fl/Sgt. “Taffy” Gerald Alfred Chugg 1653076 RAFVR Injured - PoW - Camp: Stalag Moosburg
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. “Paddy” Denis Paddy Murnane 1547338 RAFVR Injured - PoW - Camp: Stalag Moosburg
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. James Shirlaw Henderson 1566195 RAFVR Injured - remained in hospital until liberation
Air/Gnr: Sgt. John P. Watson 1891195 RAFVR Injured - PoW - Camp: Stalag Moosburg
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Hubert M. Walcott 1894973 RAFVR Injured - PoW - Camp: Stalag Moosburg
Relatives of 51 Squadron who would like us to put them into contact with the 51 Squadron History Society please do not hesitate to contact us.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 07:20 from RAF Snaith for Cologne which was almost the German front line. 858 aircraft took part including 531 Lancasters, 303 Halifaxes and 24 Mosquitoes. The weather was clear and the Pathfinders dropping good markers. The raid was highly destructive although details of casualties are vague. The Americans entered the city a few days later and they cleared over 400 bodies from the streets. The Krebsgasse Police Station was used as the local air raid control centre and a further 160 German soldiers (Mostly SS) were found dead in the basement - 5 high explosive bombs had hit this complex.
This was the last raid of the war on Cologne by the RAF with American troops arriving 4 days later. 6 Lancasters were lost and a further 3 Halifaxes resulting in 46 aircrew killed and 10 made PoW.
Halifax MZ451 is thought to have been hit by flak and the crew were classed as safe - they were made PoW. The exact location where this Halifax came down, is as yet unknown. However, some of the crew are still alive today and we are in contact with them via the 51 Squadron History Society.
Rear L-R: Fl/Sgt. Chugg, Fl/Sgt. Murnane, Sgt. Watson. Front: Sgt. Walcott, F/O. Eastwell, Sgt. Nicholson, Fl/Sgt. Henderson (courtesy Neil / Pete, 51 Squadron History Society)
Extract taken from the book "Living Through" (Five Rise Press) Written and reproduced by kind permission from Arthur Nicholson)
"2nd March 1945
Early call and go to briefing at 06:30. Usual performance. The target was Cologne and there would be eight hundred bombers from two, four and six group taking part in three waves with four minute intervals. We were to be in the second wave flying at twenty three thousand feet so at eight o’clock off we went. The weather forecast was variable with fifty/fifty cloud, a fairly strong head wind and occasional showers.
Cologne was a large city in the centre of the Rhine valley with very good air defences for miles around and we became aware of this more than thirty miles from the target. We could see the aircraft in front (the first wave) being shot at and some unfortunate planes getting hit and going down, and listening to the pathfinder bomber giving instructions to bomb the red flares which they had recently dropped. Soon we could see the explosions on the ground and the fires starting as we took up our position for the bombing run. Just as we had started our run in some new instructions came from the master bomb aimer to leave the reds and bomb the greens from a completely different heading.
Was this instruction for us or was it the third wave following on? Stan and Paddy had quick words and decided that we should give it a go (bad decision). So we turned ninety degrees to our left and started to fly across the rest of the wave who were determined to follow the first instructions. This was a very dangerous thing to do as it left us with very little company when we turned onto our new heading to start the bomb run.
Above L - R: Sgt. Walcott, Sgt. Nicholson, Fl/Sgt. Henderson
We started the run and the flak was heavy and buffeting us about making it difficult for Stan to keep the Halifax steady. Paddy could see the green marker and was giving his instructions. “Right a bit, Left, Steady, left a bit more, Steady, Bombs gone”. Bomb doors closed and then it happened. A quick crack and a cloud of smoke and the plane lurched violently and Johnny the mid upper gunner shouted we had been hit on the starboard wing. I checked the instruments and saw the inner engine was racing and the fire warning showing so I activated the engine extinguisher and tried to feather the prop as Stan switched it off. Nothing would stop the propeller from turning.
The fire started to spread each side of the engine. Curly the rear gunner had turned his turret round so that he could lean out and give a running commentary of the bits flying off the wing. The plane was loosing height and turning right as Stan did his best to control it and then he gave the dreaded order “Bail out. Bail out”. All of us must have had our microphones switched on because comments were coming from all directions.
The wireless operator was sending a message back to base to say that we were going down, the bomb aimer and the navigator were arguing about what to do with the escape hatch. I butted in and told them to lift it and throw it down the front side. Johnny was saying how fast the fire was spreading in the wing before saying that he was now leaving the turret. Paddy should have jumped first but he hesitated when he looked down so Gerry went first, then Jim and by the time Paddy decided to go his parachute outer casing was on fire.
Left: Stalag Moosburg (VIIA)
I clipped on my chute as the mid upper gunner scuttled past me and followed the others out of the hatch. Curly said goodbye as he dropped of the back from his turret. Now there was only me and Stan left, who was clinging onto the controls trying to keep the doomed plane steady. I found his chute and clipped it onto his chest before saying goodbye and good luck and then scrambled through the escape hatch. From the order to bail out to the time I jumped would have been no longer than two minutes.
I counted to ten and pulled the ‘D’ release. The small chute came out and pulled the main canopy out and up past my face and there I was swinging and spinning in fresh air.
I saw our Aircraft going down in a wide arc until suddenly the wing broke off and it went down vertically in a tight spin. I did not know if Stan had managed to get out and did not find out that he did not until after the war. All of this happened in about half a minute after I left the aircraft and now I was just left hanging on a few strings."
L-R: "Curly" Sgt. Walcott - "Nic" Sgt. Nicholson - "Jimmy" Fl/Sgt. Henderson - “Taffy” Fl/Sgt. Chugg (courtesy Neil / Pete, 51 Squadron History Society)
“Taffy” Fl/Sgt. Chugg and "Nic" Sgt. Nicholson are still going strong and were reunited after 64 years thanks to the 51 Squadron History Society. Right: Arthur Nicholson in 2009 (courtesy 51 Squadron History Society)
They also met up again in 2015 (courtesy Alan Betson and Kirstin Campbell from the Irish Times)
F/O. Frederick Stanley Eastwell. Hotton War Cemetery. Grave: VIII.B.9. Son of Frederick Carl and Alice Maud Eastwell, of Upper Holloway, London, England.
Researched with assistance from the 51 Squadron History Society. Also with thanks to Richard Bradshaw and John Morgan. Alan Betson and Kirstin Campbell from the Irish Times.