30/31.07.1943 No. 78 Squadron Halifax II JD375 EY-P Sgt. Derrick Hadwin
Operation: Remscheid, Ruhr, Germany.
Date: 30/31st July 1943 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: No. 78 Squadron
Type: Halifax II
Base: RAF Breighton, Yorkshire.
Location: Rengen, 24km West North West of Cochem
Pilot: Sgt. Derrick Hadwin 1436394 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Bernard John Bond 1338770 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Nav: Sgt. Arthur Bryce Cresswell 1575726 RAFVR Age 24. Killed
Air/Bmr: Sgt. George Harold Irons 1468380 RAFVR Age ? Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alfred Bryden Radcliffe 1484662 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Charles Gibson 1397245 RAFVR Age 18. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Arthur Suffield 1623604 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 22:10 hours from RAF Breighton. Halifax JD375 was part of a 264 four engine heavy bombers and a further 9 Mosquitos dispatched to bomb Remscheid in the Ruhr. 15 were lost.
The target was identified by Red and Green PFF flares, many fires observed and huge explosions reported. 2 aircraft reported missing all others returned safely. (taken from the squadron ORB for the day)
The other aircraft lost from the squadron:
Halifax II JD329 EY-G Flown by Sgt. Ronald Shelton 1484074 RAFVR from Sale, Cheshire - killed with 4 other crew, 2 taken PoW. Hit by flak then shot down by a night fighter.
The raid was classed as an exceptionally accurate one and this area which had never been bombed previously was devastated. 7 of this force were shot down by flak and the other 8 by German night fighter units. This loss was made up of 8 Stirlings, 5 Halifaxes and 2 Lancasters.
During this raid a total of 871 tons of bombs were dropped - 107 industrial buildings were destroyed - 3.115 houses destroyed - 1.120 people killed and a further 6.700 were injured. Post War British Bombing survey estimated that 83% of the town was devastated. This raid cost the Germans 3 months production and never regained previous levels.
Crash site of Halifax JD375 - Lt Johannes Hager 6./NJG2 visited the crash site shortly afterwards - shown below. (Photograph kindly supplied by 'Eifelverein Daun' of Germany and Mr Roy Coppack)
Lt Johannes Hager 6./NJG2 (7 abschüsse to his credit up to this point) claimed to have shot this Halifax down at a height of 5.600 m.
Combat took place at 00:56 hrs - the location described as Rengen, 24km WNW Cochem. Lt. Hagar was a true night fighter ace with a final score of 42 kills by the end of the war. He survived, but no further information is available on his post war history.
Peter Gibson takes up the story: I was told by more than one person about how the Halifax flew low over Neunkirchen and, although badly crippled, jettisoned it’s bombs and munition in the countryside, ensuring that they did not hit any villages. The German people were very appreciative of this. Unfortunately, two barns were destroyed and two houses damaged by fire, but no casualties were reported. As the Halifax lost altitude, the pilot and crew desperately searched for a safe open space in which to land the aircraft. I am informed that the moon was bright that night, which assisted the crew as they searched the ground below. They flew over the town of Daun, then over Boverath in a northerly direction.
This is where Paul Kneip takes up the story:
“On July 31st, 1943 Paul was a five year old boy playing with his little sister, aged three in the bedroom of the farmhouse between Rengen and Nerdlen. The bedroom windows were all fitted with wooden ‘black-out’ frames covered with a black fabric to prevent any light from shining through from the inside. The game which Paul and his sister were playing involved removing the black-out frame from the window and using it as an imaginary sledge. During their game the frame became broken.
Their mother came into the bedroom and discovered that the frame was not up at the window and immediately put it back up. Because it was broken it did not stay in position and fell down. Once again the mother put it up and again it fell down. This happened several times during which time Paul heard the sound of an aeroplane but it sounded ‘different’. He said it was stuttering and described it as a “put put put put put put” sound, so he looked out of the window to see what was happening. He saw the Halifax flying extremely low to the ground. As he looked out he saw one engine fall to the ground. His mother thought the crew were dropping bombs and Paul said he can still hear the sound of his mother screaming because she thought the house was going to be bombed.
The aircraft then appeared to steer away from the farmhouse, as if the pilot had seen the light from their window. As it did so, another engine dropped to the ground, followed immediately by the tail rudder. The Halifax was now almost at eye-level and as it passed close to the farmhouse Paul could see that there was fire inside the plane and he could clearly see the crew working frantically. He could not say what they were doing, but he said he saw arms waving as if attempting to put out a fire, or maybe wrestling with the controls. The landing gear had not been lowered and seconds after passing the Kneip family farmhouse, Halifax JD-375 came down in an open field and broke up. The following morning Paul was desperate to go to the wreck and investigate, but it was forbidden the go near an aircraft wreckage until the German authorities had sifted through it first. Prisoners of war were then employed to clear every piece of the plane from the site.”
The seven crew members on board JD-375 that night were buried locally in a beautiful little churchyard in Rengen (shown below). They were given a full Christian burial by the locals and the graves were carefully maintained by the people of Rengen as if they were their own. Then in 1947 the bodies were exhumed and taken for burial at Reinberg.
Peter Gibson revisited the wonderful memorial to the crew many times after the unveiling, in fact his last visit was just a few weeks ago in December 2015 - both he and his brother John were taken aback when they found a candle still burning in a red lantern within the memorial garden, despite the fact that it is located on a bleak, freezing cold (when they went) windswept hillside, half a mile away from the nearest building. Not only that, the little garden is still being meticulously well maintained. Hats off to the people of Rengen who had once been the enemy, but still, some 70 years later paying respect to a crew sent over to bomb them!
Kate, mother of Sgt. John Charles Gibson at his grave in the mid sixties. (courtesy of Peter Gibson) The grave to the rear is that of a 171 Squadron crew - Halifax III LK874 6Y-C Flown by 23 year old Fl/Lt. Peter Sinclair Jennings NX/416501 RNAZAF of Merivale, Canterbury, New Zealand - killed with all his 7 other crew members. Their aircraft collided with a 156 Squadron Lancaster III PB403 GT-E flown by F/O. John Jamieson 183019 RAFVR also killed, with all his 6 other crew (grave also shown to the right)
Grave photo's kindly supplied by John Gibson (Relative of Sgt. John Charles Gibson - available at a higher resolution to relatives - please contact us)
Sgt. Derrick Hadwin. Rheinberg War Cemetery Coll. grave 9.J.15-21. Born on the 27th May 1921 at Ulverston, son of Edgar Nelson and Mrs. Jane Hadwin (née Jackson), of Ulverston, Lancashire, England. Posted to Lakeland, Florida USA for pilot training 28th March 1942. Posted to 78 Squadron 18th July 1943 - 13 days before being killed.
Sgt. Bernard John Bond. Rheinberg War Cemetery Coll. grave 9.J.15-21. N.o.K details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?
Left: Sgt. Arthur Bryce Cresswell (courtesy Graeme Clarke)
Sgt. Arthur Bryce Cresswell. Rheinberg War Cemetery Coll. grave 9.J.15-21. Son of Horace and Matilda Bertha Cresswell, of Rushall, Staffordshire, England.
Sgt. George Harold Irons. Rheinberg War Cemetery Coll. grave 9.J.15-21. N.o.K details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?
Sgt. Alfred Bryden Radcliffe. Rheinberg War Cemetery Coll. grave 9.J.15-21. Born 15th August 1920, the son of Maggie Ellen Radcliffe at the Railway Hotel, Ballaugh, Isle of Man. Commemorated on the Ballaugh War Memorial St Mary’s (New) Church. Three brothers, John (1924-1974) and Leonard (1924-1991) twins born Liverpool, Arthur (1926-2006) born Bootle.
Right: Telegram sent by Sgt. Gibson's mother to his brother who was an engineer serving in Gibraltar at the time (courtesy of Peter Gibson)
Sgt. John Charles Gibson. Rheinberg War Cemetery Coll. grave 9.J.15-21. Son of Mrs. Kate Gibson, of St. John's Wood, London, England. Sgt. John Gibson was amongst the youngest airman killed on bomber operations.
Sgt. James Arthur Suffield. Rheinberg War Cemetery Coll. grave 9.J.15-21. Son of Harry and Elizabeth Terry Suffield, of Harrogate, Yorkshire, England.
With some great assistance from Peter Gibson. Also to Graeme Clarke for Sgt. Cresswell photo. Further details on crew and operation supplied by Roy Wilcock, Aircrew Remembered February 2016.