23/24.08.1940 No. 144 Squadron Hampden I P2117 PL-N Sgt. Norman Elcoat
Operation: Brest, France
Date: 23/24 August 1940 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: No. 144 Squadron Motto: "Who shall stop us"
Badge: In front of a decrescent a boar's head erased. The boar's head in front of a waning moon commemorates the squadron's work in connection with the defeat of the Turkish Armies in 1918. The wild boar is a fine fighter.
Type: Handley Page Hampden I
Base: RAF Hemswell, Lincolnshire
Location: RAF Boscombe Down, Wiltshire.
Pilot: Sgt. Norman Elcoat 531265 RAF Age 22 (1)
Observer: Sgt. Herbert Wathey D.F.M. 563289 RAF Age 27 (2)
Air Gunner: Fl/Lt. Boyan (3)
Air Gunner: P/O. John Richard Drewry 77202 RAF Age 30 (4)
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Handley Page Hampden MkIs (Courtesy IWM)
On the night of 23/24 August 1940 forty Hampdens including P2117 were detailed for minelaying operations. 31 laid their mines in the Lorient area whilst at Brest three small naval vessels and five barges were attacked. In addition the aerodromes of Lanveoc-Poulmic and Guipas were bombed.
Though no losses were sustained over France, Hampden P2117 crashed at RAF Boscombe Down, Wiltshire whilst attempting a landing.
Whether as a result of injuries sustained in the crash or some subsequent event is not known, but this operation proved to be the last for Pilot Officer John Richard Drewry and he died at Welton, Lincolnshire on 12 September 1940.
Scale: 1" = 90 miles
BIOGRAPHIES and BURIAL DETAILS.
(1) Sgt. Elcoat - probably later Fl/Sgt. Norman Elcoat 531265 RAF (Pilot) born in 1918 at Weardale, County Durham the son of Richard Elcoat and Emily Elcoat nee Rutherford of Stanhope County Durham. Flight Sergeant Elcoat was killed on 2 May 1944 whilst serving with 17 Flying Training School. His Blenheim K7125 having taken off from RAF Cranwell went missing on an exercise and it was subsequently presumed that it had crashed into the sea with no survivors. Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial Panel 217.
(2) Sgt. (later Flying Officer) Herbert Wathey D.F.M. was born in 1912 in Nottingham the son of Frank Wathey and Hilda Wathey nee Bentham. His twin sister Phyllis died in 1913. The family moved to Doncaster where his brother Colin was born in 1915 followed by sisters Muriel in 1918 and Mary in 1921. In 1939 he married Louie Margaret Aldridge at Gainsboro', Lincolnshire. An apprentice at RAF Halton Herbert Wathey later joined 144 squadron and in May 1940 was awarded the D.F.M. for his actions on 11/12 May 1940 whilst a member of the crew of Hampden P1326. The award and citation were published in the Supplement to the London Gazette of 28 May 1940. The citation reads:
"563289 Sergeant Herbert Wathey
This airman was air gunner and observer in an aircraft engaged in an attack on a target at Gladbach-Rheydt on a night in May 1940. Although the aircraft was hit at least five times and severely damaged, one engine being stopped and the rudder controls shot away, he continued firing his gun on enemy searchlights and succeeded in putting two of them out of action. When the aircraft was almost unmanageable he assisted the pilot to keep a straight course. His coolness and courage materially assisted a flight of over 100 miles to a place in friendly territory where the crew could abandon the aircraft".
He was commissioned a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) with effect from 6 December 1941 announced in the London Gazette of 3 February 1942 and was later promoted to Flying Officer date not known. F/O. Herbert Wathey was the Observer on Hampden AT175 of 144 Squadron when it was thought to have been shot down on 12 February 1942 during Operation Fuller. All the crew were lost and no bodies were found. They are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
Herbert Wathey's brother, RAF Warrant Office Colin Wathey, was the pilot of Lancaster I R5847 shot down over Holland on 4 June 1942 with the loss of all the crew. He is buried at Westerbork General Cemetery, Holland.
(3) Fl/Lt. Boyan - nothing further known, can you help?
(4) P/O. John Richard Drewry was born in 1910 at Lenton, Nottingham, the son of Richard Walter Drewry (a Department Manager for Pullman and Sons, Drapers) and Lucy Elizabeth Drewry nee Page. John Drewry entered Nottingham High School in 1920 aged 9 and left in 1927. He was a member of the OTC. (Courtesy Nottingham High School Archives)
LAC 743011 J.R. Drewry was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation for the duration of hostilities from 14 January 1940 as announced in the London Gazette of 6 February 1940.
After his death at Welton, Lincolnshire his body was taken to Rothley Cemetery in Leicestershire for burial in Section A, Grave No. 142. His mother having died in 1939 at Nottingham it seems that his father probably moved to the Leicester area where he died in 1956 and therefore explains John Drewry's burial at Rothley, 6 miles north of Leicester.
The entry for John Drewry in the Probate Registry gives his addresses as 84 Main-Street, Kirby Muxloe, Leicestershire and 4 Sherwin Road, Nottingham. Probate was granted to William Burton a cardboard box manufacturer of Aberfeldy, The Ridings, Rothley who also owned his grave. His estate was valued at £1268.16s.6d.
He is commemorated on the Nottingham High School War Memorial.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for Nottingham High School and all the relatives and friends of the crew - December 2015
With thanks to the sources quoted below.