12 Squadron Battle I L5227 PH-J Sgt. Fred Marland
Operation: Albert Canal, Belgium
Date: 12th May 1940 (Sunday)
Unit: No. 12 Squadron (AASF - Advanced Air Striking Force)
Type: Battle I
Base: RAF Amifontaine, Northern France
Location: Eigenbilzen, Belgium
Pilot: Sgt. Fred Marland 514450 RAF Age 28. Killed
Obs: Sgt. Kenneth Douglas Footner 580423 RAF Age 24. Killed (1)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: LAC. John Lawrence Perrin 537397 RAF Age 22. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Orders were received for an immediate attack on the bridges at Veldwezelt and Vroenhoven over the Albert Canal in Belgium. The enemy were using these to pour troops over to assist in the spearhead.
Above left: Sgt. Marland with right, bridge at Vroenhoven.
Due to previous heavy losses by the anti-aircraft until in the area, volunteers were requested even though they would receive an escort from 1 Squadron Hurricanes. All crews volunteered - 6 were chosen from the duty roster, of which 5 actually took part. 1 of the aircraft suffered a technical fault leaving 5 to proceed.
The devastating fire from the flak units claimed 4 of the attacking force with another shot down by Fw. Otto Sawallisch of 2./JG27.
6 crew were killed, 7 made PoW, 2 others made it back to allied lines.
The first Victoria Cross of the war for aircrew was posthumously awarded to two airman from one of these crews, although the 3rd member did not receive anything - apparently as he was not a decision maker for the action!
(1) The family of Sgt. Kenneth Footner were to suffer another devastating blow later in the war. Their other son, 25 year old Sgt. Glen Malcolm Footner was listed as missing on the 11th April 1942. Commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial - no further details available.
Sgt. Fred Marland. Heverlee War Cemetery. Grave 8.J.4. Son of Albert and Minnie Marland, of Oldham, Lancashire, husband of Evelyn Marland, of Oldham, England.
Sgt. Kenneth Douglas Footner. Heverlee War Cemetery. Grave 8.J.5. Son of H. F. and Margaret Footner, of Paignton, Devon, England.
LAC. John Lawrence Perrin. Heverlee War Cemetery. Grave 8.J.6. Son of Alfred Edward and Minnie Perrin, of Norwood Green, Southall, Middlesex, England.
For further details our thanks Michel Beckers for photographs and to the sources quoted below. Also to the Belgian Living History Association and the Wickenby Register.