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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.
Further data available at Allied Losses & Incidents database

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217 Squadron Crest
12.05.1941 217 Squadron Beaufort I W6494 MW-F Sgt. Dermot E.R. Ellwood

Operation: Reconnaissance over St Nazaire, France

Date: 12th May 1941 (Monday)

Unit: 217 Squadron (Coastal Command)

Type: Bristol Beaufort MkI

Serial: W6494

Code: MW-F

Base: RAF St. Eval

Location: Carpiquet, Caen, France

Pilot: Sgt. Dermot Ezra Read Ellwood 745448 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Nav: Flt.Sgt Gerald Thomas Hardwick 581334 RAF Age 19. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. William Bennett 937589 RAF PoW No: 39296 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug (VI)

Air Gnr: Sgt. George A.D. Ritchie 974516 RAF PoW No: 39330 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug (VI)

REASON FOR LOSS:

Due to take off at 22:40 hrs from St. Eval, but probably due to the previous nights operations from the Luftwaffe bombing the airfield they were forced to use another aircraft.

Attacked by a night-fighter en route but the pilot took evading action and continued to the target area flying on instruments due to the cloud.

The pilot became lost and during their return they were diverted to Boscombe Down by a coded signal - the crew were unable to read this as they never carried decoders on operations.

The personal recollection of Sgt. Bennett provided by his son Robert recalls that:

Their original order was to return to Thorney Island. Thorney Island sent a coded message to divert to Boscombe Down which they didn't receive. Due to various reasons they thought they were landing in UK when they came out of cloud and saw an airfield with lights on but it was Carpiquet and German planes were taking off.


They were caught by searchlight followed by intense flak - hitting the aircraft from the anti-aircraft batteries at Carpiquet west of Caen, a Luftwaffe base. The aircraft crashed some time after 04:00 killing the pilotnand navigator. The other two crew were seriously injured but well looked after by Sister Mehl from the German Red Cross for some eight weeks, until they were fit enough to travel to the PoW camps.

Burial details:

Sgt Dermot Ezra Read Ellwood. Bayeux War Cemetery, France. Grave: XXVIII.J.8. Son of Arthur and Laura P. Ellwood, of Willingham, Cambridgeshire, England.

Flt.Sgt Gerald Thomas Hardwick. Bayeux War Cemetery, France. Grave: XXVIII.J.7. Son of Arthur William and Nellie Hardwick, of Rayleigh, Essex, England. His brother 22 year old, Lt. Arthur Cyril Hardwick 164567 also died on Service serving with the 1st Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers on the 25th October 1942. Buried at the Pietermaritzburg Cemetery (Fort Napier) in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa.

Researched for Aircrew Remembered Michel Beckers - October 2016. With thanks to Mr. R. Biaux for grave photographs - remainder from the Michel Beckers collection. Thanks to Robert Bennett, th son of Sgt. Bennett for his personal recollections.

RS 17.05.2020 - Additional information

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, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), 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', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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