17/18th June 1940 No. 58 Squadron Whitley V N1463 GE-L Fl/Sgt. Gordon J. Ford
Date: 17/18th June 1940 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: No. 58 Squadron
Type: Whitley V
Base: RAF Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Gordon James Ford 562682 RAF Age 28. Killed
Obs: Sgt. Eric Jones-Roberts 580580 RAF Age 23. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. H.P. Maguire 580105 RAF PoW No: 61 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug (L6)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt A.E. Furze 535346 RAF PoW No: 56 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus (357)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. F.S. Staley 633860 RAF PoW No: 54 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus (357)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Linton-on-Ouse in Yorkshire at 21:40 hrs. with 5 other aircraft to bomb the synthetic oil facilities at Gelsenkirchen.
At 22:42 hrs No. 4 Group intercepted a message from the aircraft reporting sighting of a fire. At 00:52 hrs a further signal was received after which nothing was heard.
The order came from the pilot for the crew to bale out which the three survivors did however he discovered the observer, Sgt. Eric Jones-Roberts had been injured and unconscious so he decided to try and crash land the Whitley. He thought that he found a suitable piece of land located behind the dyke on the south part of the River Lek. The ground was not suitable and both the pilot and observer killed during the attempt.
Nico Peeters oil painting of the aircraft showing it skimming the dyke - in the background the bridge over the River Lek can be seen with the German searchlights searching the sky. (Used with permission from the artist, July 2016)
The painting has also been used on the cover of the book ‘The Pykeendulum and the Scythe: A history of operations undertaken by No.4 Group Bomber Command between 1939 and 1945. ISBN Number: 9781911255017. Ken Marshall's acclaimed history of No. 4 Group, Bomber Command in World War Two was first published in 1996 in hardback. To mark the twentieth anniversary of this authoritative work, the book has been updated with additional photos and published in paperback by Bomber Command specialist publisher “Mention the War Ltd”.
Ken's book tells the operational history of the squadrons that made up the group for the duration of the Second World War, including the early days when the mainstay of air operations was the often overlooked Whitley bomber. 4 Group differed from other groups in the Command by mainstreaming the Handley Page Halifax rather than the otherwise ubiquitous Avro Lancaster.
Ken sets the Group's operations in the wider context of Bomber Command's strategic campaign through six years of toil and sacrifice, includes an overview of the aircraft types deployed and personalised the operational details with detailed accounts of many of the individuals directly involved. No. 4 Group was unique in never being granted an official crest. Ken's book has acted as a mark of respect that goes some way towards compensating for this bureaucratic oversight. In its new format, it will continue to ensure that the history of the Group, its squadrons and crews will not be forgotten.
The crew graves are tendered regularly by the local villagers to this day. (courtesy Nico Peeters)
Fl/Sgt. Gordon James Ford. Culemborg General Cemetery. Joint Grave 1. Son of William James Ford and Rachel Ford, of Crumlin, Monmouthshire, Wales.
Sgt. Eric Jones-Roberts. Culemborg General Cemetery. Joint Grave 1. Son of Charles and Elizabeth Ann Jones-Roberts (née Roberts), of Llangollen, Denbighshire, Wales.
With many thanks to Nico M. Peeters from the Netherlands who sent us the photo of the crew graves and his wonderful oil paining of the aircraft. Kees van Hattem commissioned the painting which he then kindly donated to the Bomber Command museum in Hendon, England. For further details our thanks to the sources shown below. Imperial War Museum for photographs of N1463 and others.