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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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218 squadron badge
03/04.08.1941 No. 218 Squadron Wellington IC Z8781 W/Cmdr. Fletcher

Operation: Hannover

Date: 03/04th August 1941 (Sunday/Monday)

Unit: No. 218 Squadron

Type: Wellington IC

Serial: Z8781

Code: HA-S

Base: RAF Marham, Norfolk.

Location: Moordeich, Stuhr, Germany

Pilot: W/Cmdr. John Lionel Howe Fletcher 05218 RAFVR Age 31. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Frank Craighton Dodd 1104391 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Nav: Fl/Sgt. R.J. Alexander 979955 RAFVR PoW No. 130/785. Camps: 3E, L3, L6, 357 (1)

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Terence Alfred Evelyn Bridewell 945177 RAFVR Age 18. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Frank Grail 965679 RAFVR Age 29. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. E.S. Spong 544575 RAFVR PoW No. 72. Camps: 3E, L3, L6, 357 (1)

REASON FOR LOSS:

Took off from RAF Marham, Norfolk at 22:54 hrs on a 34 aircraft operation to bomb Hannover.

Two aircraft were lost on this raid, the other:

Also a 218 Squadron Wellington IC X9747 HA-E flown by P/O. John A. Maxwell suffered instrument failure and the crew were ordered to bale out. Four managed to comply before the aircraft crashed at 23:00 hrs in Salhouse north west of Norwich killing the RCAF pilot and RAFVR rear gunner P/O. George J.L. Crabb (2).

Wellington Z8781 was shot down by flak of the 8th flak Division and crashed at Moordeich, Stuhr, 20 meters from the house of the Thomas family. near Bremen at 01:04 hrs. Sgt Spong was captured in Obernheide.

Fl/Sgt. Terence Alfred Evelyn Bridewell (courtesy of his niece, Ceine Bridewell via Linda Ibrom)

Fl/Sgt. Terry Bridewell on Z8781 and right photo marked as "Junior" on Wellington Z8781 - thought to be the front gunner? (courtesy Ken Kemp)

Fl/Sgt. Bridewell Third row from bottom on extreme right (courtesy of his niece, Ceine Bridewell via Linda Ibrom)

After being shot down, Fl/Sgt. Alexander who spoke fluent German and had baled out near Bremen narrowly failed to reach the neutrality of Sweden. He managed to find a bicycle and after reaching Hamburg on the 9th August boarded a Swedish ship, part of a small convoy leaving for Malmo. While under way a German launch drew up and boarded and a German interrogated Alexander, who having finally admitted that he was English was dragged off and three days later was at Dulag Luft.

Alexander was elected to go through the tunnel third and with the others made his escape. On May 12th, in preparation for leaving the Camp for Stalag III, the Germans asked to see Alexander and a search was made whereby the tunnel exit was then discovered. All who had managed to escape were found and then transferred to Stalag Luft III. Fl/Sgt Alexander arrived back in the UK on April 24th 1945.

(1) 3E: Stalag Dobrilugk-Kirchhain, L3: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria, L6: Stalag Luft Heydekrug, 357: Stalag Kepernikus


We are pleased to announce that Mr. Steve Smith, the No.218 (Gold Coast) Association Historian, is now assisting us with further information on 218 Squadron and also No.3 (Bomber) Group Research 1936-1945.)
Notes:


Of the crew listed only three were from the original crew members posted onto the squadron via No. 20 O.T.U, (Bridewell, Spong and Alexander.) The crew were taken over by Sgt. Edward Chidgey, he was already a seasoned pilot having completed 9 operations as 2nd pilot.

The crew carried out there first operation on April 20th 1941 against the Dock Area of Rotterdam. There followed a further 20 operations with various crew changes, however the core of the crew (Chidgley, Bridewell, Spong andAlexander) remained unchanged. Sgt Chidgey completed his 1st tour on July 24th 1941, having completed 29 operations. He went on to marry in March 1943 a WAAF he meet at No. 27 OTU. His second tour was with No. 35 PFF Squadron were he eventually obtained the rank of acting Sq/Ldr. and was awarded the DSO and DFC. He died in 2006.

Wing Commander Fletcher was on the squadron to gain operational experience, he had, prior to his loss, completed 2 operations. The first was with A Flights Sq/Ldr Price against Duisburg on the July 15th. He was lucky to return home from that operation, the Wellington was badly hit by flak losing an engine. The whole return trip was flown at 600 feet, eventually they crash landed In Suffolk, Sq/Ldr. Price was awarded a DFC. His second Op was a daylight against the Toads on July 24th with B Flight Sq/Ldr. Gibbs. Again he was lucky to return after being badly hit by flak.

Fl/Sgt. Frank Grail was flying his 1st op with the crew.


Burial details:

W/Cmdr: John Lionel Howe Fletcher. Becklingen War Cemetery, Soltau, Germany. Grave 26.F.7. Son of Horatio and Lilian Fletcher of Woodhurst, Sussex, England. The pilot, Wing Commander Fletcher was standing in for the usual pilot who had leave to get married on the day of the operation. Grave inscription reads: "Abide With Us: For It Is Toward Evening And The Day Is Far Spent Luke XXIV.29"

Sgt. Frank Craighton Dodd. Becklingen War Cemetery, Soltau, Germany. Grave 26.F.4. Son of William George and Miriam Dodd of Ambleside, Westmorland, England. Grave inscription reads: "Courageous And Loyal He Died As He Lived, Splendidly. God Bless Him".

Fl/Sgt. Terence Alfred Evelyn Bridewell. Becklingen War Cemetery, Soltau, Germany. Grave 26.F.6. Son of Alfred W. and Nellie Gordon Bridewell of Colchester, Essex, England. Further information: He had an older brother, Douglas William Robinson Bridewell (born 1912), a sister Helen Elfreda and a brother Henry Winter (known as Peter) Bridewell.

His mother, Nellie never got over losing him.

Known as Terry to family and friends, he was a large, well-built lad who worked in a radio shop before joining the Air Force aged 16.His last training prior to joining 218 Squadron was at Lossiemouth. He had flown 25 ops before this final one, his prior ones being Hamburg, Frankfurt and Cologne and had only five more to do. He was looking forward to returning home and while stationed at Marham often joined fellow officers at the “Ship” pub then owned by a Mrs Heron, that the Air Ministry had commandeered as a place where the crews could relax between ops. He made friends with a local family, the Kemps and was keen on Pansy, the young daughter and friends with her brother Ken. The Kemp family opened their doors and hospitality to Terry and the navigator of the crew. When the crew failed to return, they were told by the rear gunner of another crew the sad news that Terry and the rest of the crew were lost. Grave inscription reads: "He Has Heard The Great Reveille: It Is Morning, All Is Well".

Fl/Sgt. Frank Grail. Becklingen War Cemetery, Soltau, Germany. Grave 26.F.5. Son of Allan Alfred and Mary Jane Grail of Pontymister, Monmouthshire, Wales. Grave inscription reads: "At The Going Down Of The Sun And In The Morning We Will Remember".

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. Special thanks to Ken Kemp (see the Ken Kemp story, 215 SEAC on Robert Quirks site) and his family. Thanks also to the niece of Fl/Sgt. Terence Bridewell, Ceine Bridewell, to Oliver Clutton-Brock for allowing the details of Flight Sergeant Alexander on pages 65-68 of “Footprints on the Sands of Time” to be used. Also to, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - "Nightfighter War Diaries Vol. 1", Bill Chorley - "Bomber Command Losses Vol. 2, Commonwealth Graves Commission. (2) Mr. Geoffrey Crabb for corrected crash location of Wellington IC X9747. Mr. Steve Smith, the No.218 (Gold Coast) Association Historian. No.3 (Bomber) Group Research 1936-1945. also to Delwyn Griffith relative of Fl/Sgt. Frank Grail who contacted us in November 2018.

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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