01.08.1942 No. 14 Squadron Blenheim IV Z9614 P/O. Alan Eason Ellis
Operation: Landing Ground 18 Fuka South, Egypt.
Date: 1 August 1942 (Saturday)
Unit: No. 14 Squadron - Motto 'I spread my wings and keep my promise', an extract from the Koran suggested by the Emir of Transjordan.
Badge: A winged plate charged with a cross throughout and shoulder pieces of a suit of armour - approved by King George VI in May 1937. The badge represents a crusader in association with the Cross of St George because of the Squadron's close First World War ties with Diospolis, Palestine, the reputed burial place of the Saint, and its location in the Middle East at the time of submission to the Chester Herald.
Type: Bristol Blenheim IV
Code: Not known
Base: Landing Ground 88 near Al Jazair, Egypt
Location: 40 miles South East of Fuka Aerodrome, Egypt
Pilot: P/O. Alan Eason Ellis Aus/406474 Age 28 RAAF PoW No. 25692 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria - L3
Obs: Sgt. Harry Bertram A. Langmaid 927841 RAFVR Age 29 PoW No 25663 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf - 344
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Maurice German 1282510 RAFVR Age 25 - Injured/wounded taken PoW, later missing believed killed
We appeal to anyone with further information and/or photographs to please contact us via our HELPDESK
On 28 June 1942 following the advances made by Rommel through Libya and into Egypt and the ensuing Allied withdrawal, No 14 Squadron was ordered to withdraw from Landing Ground 116 some 12 miles or so west of Fuka, near the northern coast of Egypt to Landing Ground 97 about 60 miles east of Alamein. On 10 July the Squadron moved to the nearby Landing Ground 98 and four days later to Landing Ground 88 near Al Jazair about 15 miles south west of Alexandria.
REASON FOR LOSS
It was from Landing Ground 88 that Alan Ellis took off on the fateful mission of 1 August 1942 to bomb Landing Ground 18, Fuka South. Beside him on the starboard side as usual was Sgt. Harry Langmaid the Observer and behind them in the Wireless Operators position was Sgt. Maurice German.
Maurice had previously flown only one operation with Alan and Harry but he had flown at least five operations with other crews of the squadron. Two other Blenheims had been detailed for this operation, Z7164 piloted by Fl/Lt A. Watson and Z9655 piloted by Sgt. H.W.T. Bates. First away at 03.00 hours was Fl/Lt. Watson followed at 03.10 by Sgt. Bates and at 03.20 by Alan Ellis the three Blenheims heading out to sea over Burg El Arab for the 125 mile flight west to Fuka.
Fl/Lt. Watson failed to locate the target due to ground mist and bombed lights and tents north of the Fuka road. Sgt. Bates was also unable to locate Landing Ground 18 but on approaching Landing Ground 17 (Fuka Main) observed a flare path and a Chance Light* which he bombed with unobserved results and immediately following another aircraft. The crews of the two aircraft however were unable to offer any information regarding the fate of Blenheim Z9614 or its crew.
*Runway floodlights, known universally as Chance Lights after the manufacturers Chance Brothers (an old-established firm making lighthouse equipment), were positioned one at each end of each runway on the left-hand side when viewed from approach. A second could be brought into use where a hump in the runway interfered with the floodlight beam. Being a hefty piece of machinery, they incorporated an obstruction light so aircraft could be alerted to the position of the ones not in use - 'Britain's Military Airfields 1939-45' by David J Smith.
It was not until May 1945 following the release and repatriation of Flight Lieutenant Alan Eason Ellis to the UK that the circumstances of the loss were finally learned. In his repatriation statement Alan Ellis gave his account of the loss and aftermath.
"Attacked by Ju 88 causing damage to Starboard Engine. Crash landed machine 40 miles South East of Fuka Aerodrome. Crash landed aircraft - total loss. W.Op. A.G. injured his right foot during crash landing.
W.Op. A.G. Sgt. M. German RAF missing has not been heard of since reported in Fuka Hospital under German supervision.
PoW enquiries were made to IRC on numerous occasions but they were unable to trace this airman's whereabouts.
Sgt. Obs. Langmaid taken prisoner with myself PoW at Stalag 344."
David Gunby and Pelham Temple however, in their book "Bomber Losses in the Middle East and Mediterranean", give the following account of the incident and additional details regarding Sgt. German.
Hit by flak, the aircraft crash-landed, the crew escaping unhurt, but Sgt. German lost his right foot when he stood on a mine near the crash site. The others left him to get help and 14 hours later he was rescued by a hospital plane and taken to the Axis hospital at Fuka. The date and circumstances of Sgt. German's death are uncertain. Sgt. Ellis believed that he was on a hospital ship which was torpedoed en route to Italy. If so he died considerably later than 1 August, the date given in Commonwealth War Grave Commission records.
The fate of Maurice German was to remain unknown but just to complicate matters a telegram to the RAF from the International Red Cross dated 26 August 1942 quoting German sources states that all three crew members, Alan Ellis, Harry Langmaid and Maurice German were prisoners of war at Dulag Luft and Maurice German is said to be wounded. Was there perhaps some misunderstanding and though they were all indeed PoWs, Maurice German was not at Dulag Luft. If he had indeed lost his foot, blown off by a mine, it is more likely that he was still in hospital and certainly not in any condition to be transferred to Dulag Luft.
Why Alan Ellis chose to make no reference in his repatriation statement to Maurice German standing on a mine is strange. Although he was quite justifiably more interested in getting home than form filling to say that Maurice "injured his right foot during crash landing" seems much different from Maurice, having (presumably) exited the crashed aircraft, standing on a mine and thereby losing his foot. The incident was undoubtedly most relevant to the question of the fate of Sgt. German so its omission is all the more perplexing.
We must surely accept the pilot's assertion that they were shot down by a Ju 88 although his aircraft may well have been hit by flak as well. In searching the Tom Kracker database for details of the Luftwaffe pilot who shot the Blenheim down, only one possibility was found. The database records that according to Jäger Blatt journal of 1/2001 Ofw. Walter Siewert had 1 victory, a Blenheim on 1 August 1942 in the Fuka area. However, Tom Kracker informs us that on examining the OKL Claims List he can find no reference to a Blenheim being downed on 1 August. He did discover though, that NJG-1 & 2 were active that night and that NJG-1 flew the Bf 110 and NJG-2 flew the Ju 88 exclusively. He would therefore place Siewert in NJG-2. The daytime losses on this particular date were all fighters.
Nothing further is known of Walter Siewert, if you can provide any further details please contact the helpdesk
Alan Ellis and Harry Langmaid arrived at Dulag Luft on 15 August 1942 and two weeks later they were sent to Stalag 344 at Lamsdorf in Poland. Nothing more is known about the PoW experience of Harry Langmaid but he survived the war and returned home (see biography 2 below).
Alan describes the conditions at Lamsdorf as generally bad: the bathing, washing and sanitary conditions being particularly so and the latrines were in a dilapidated state. Food was insufficient and supplemented by only irregular Red Cross food parcels dependant on transport and clothing was only that which was sent in clothing parcels 50% of which never reached the prisoners. Recreational facilities were non-existent for 12 months.
Airmen prisoners were not allowed to join working parties and therefore were unable to escape the boredom of the compound and there was also the remote possibility that a pilot may manage to steal a plane and escape.
To get round the problem it was common for airmen prisoners to exchanged identities with a prisoners not similarly constrained thus and Alan exchanged identities with Private Hugh S. Benson AIF. The first intimation of the exchange was a letter in Alan's handwriting to his parents in May 1943 but signed as Hugh. However on 13 July Alan was moved to Stalag Luft 3 where conditions and facilities were much better in comparison to Stalag 344 and by September the subterfuge had been dropped and the two reverted to their own identities.
Alan Ellis was promoted to Flying Officer on 26 January 1943 and to Flight Lieutenant on 26 July 1944
He was held at Stalag Luft 3 until January 1945 when he was one of the 3000 prisoners evacuated to the camp at Marlag north east of Bremen. The camp was liberated by the British Guards Armoured Division on 27 April 1945 and by 10 May he was at 11 PDRC (Personnel Dispatch and Reception Centre) at Brighton; three months later on 8 August he embarked for Australia.
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) Fl/Lt. Alan Eason Ellis was born on 27 March 1914 at Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia the son of Joseph Arthur Ellis and Elizabeth Muriel Ellis nee Smyth. The family later lived at 124 Victoria Avenue, Claremont, a suburb of Perth, Western Australia. Joseph Arthur Ellis, a Civil Engineer, was the Commissioner of Railways for Western Australia.
He was an Engineering Cadet for 4 years followed by 4 years as an Installation Superintendent for the Vacuum Oil Company prior to enlisting at No. 4 Reception Centre, Perth on 6 January 1941. On enlisting he was described as being 6' tall, weighing 168 lbs with medium complexion, brown eyes and brown hair. He gave his residential address as Grey Street, York WA.
After Initial Training School at RAAF Pearce, Western Australia he commenced pilot training on 6 March 1941 on Tiger Moths at No. 9 Elementary Flying Training School, RAAF Cunderdin, WA. On graduation from Pearce he was posted to No. 4 Service Flying Training School at RAAF Geraldton WA on 5 May 1941 where he trained on Ansons and was awarded his Flying Badge on 26 June. After further advanced training at Geraldton he was promoted to Sergeant on 22 August and on 9 September embarked from Fremantle for the Middle East disembarking in Egypt on 25 September 1941.
On 17 November 1941 he was posted with the first cohort to the newly formed No. 72 Operational Training Unit at Wadi Gazouza in the Sudan where he trained on Blenheims. On completion of training in the Sudan he was posted to No. 22 Transit Camp at RAF Almaza near Cairo, Egypt on 2 February 1942 and two weeks later on 16 February to No. 14 Squadron at Landing Ground 116. He made his first flight with No. 14 squadron two days later and on 22 February was promoted to Flight Sergeant. Although not Gazetted until November 1942 he commissioned as a Pilot Officer with effect from 26 July 1942. Five days later he became a prisoner of war.
On 9 September 1945 and precisely four years to the day after embarking for the Middle East, Alan Ellis finally made it back to Australia. Disembarking at Sydney he was posted to No. 2 Personnel Depot at RAAF Bradfield Park and on 8 October to No. 4 Medical Rehabilitation Unit at RAAF Yanchep, 40 miles north of Perth where he remained for 6 weeks and after a further week at No. 5 Personnel Depot, Perth was finally demobilised on 26 November 1945.
On 27 March 1948 he married Joan Mary Marwick of York WA at St Mary's Cathedral in Perth. They were to have five children together.
Newspaper photograph and report courtesy Sunday Times (Perth) - 28 March 1948
Alan Eason Ellis died on 17 October 1982 aged 68. His grave is at Karrakatta Cemetery, Nedlands, Perth.
He is commemorated on the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial at Ballarat, Victoria.
(2) Sgt. Harry Bertram A. Langmaid was born on 20 June 1913 at Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales the son of Henry Felix Langmaid and Alice Mary Langmaid nee Davey. He had siblings Eileen M Langmaid born 1915 and Stanley F. Langmaid born 1916. The family lived at 36 Preston Avenue, Newport, Monmouthshire.
In 1949 he married Phyllis Garrett at Rugby, Warwickshire. They had one known child, Keith H. J. Langmaid born at Leicester in 1950.
Harry Bertram A. Langmaid died at Leicester in 1990 aged 77.
(3) Sgt. Maurice German was born in 1916 at Islington the son of William Alfred German and Maud German nee Dinsmore. The family lived at 23 Bredgar Road Highgate London N19.
Sgt. Maurice German - Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Alamein War Memorial column 261
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - October 2016
With thanks to the sources quoted below.