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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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51 Squadron Crest
1011.04.1944 No. 51 Squadron Halifax III LV880 MH-C P/O. Horace M. Hall

Operation: Tergnier

Date: 10/11th April 1944 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit: No. 51 Squadron

Type: Halifax III

Serial: LV880

Code: MH-C

Base: RAF Snaith

Location: Davenescourt, France

Pilot: P/O. Horace Mervyn Hall AUS/410158 RAAF Age 31. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Gordon Joseph William Peck 1812386 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Nav: F/O. Frederick Godfrey Kirkwood AUS/422577 RAAF Age 22. Evaded capture

Air/Bmr: F/O. Charles Thomas Hartley J/26313 RCAF Age 24. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: W/O. John Bruce Osborn AUS/408733 RAAF Age 22. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Patrick William Hegarty 1894062 RAFVR Age 29. PoW No: 8095. Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Mervyn James Fairclough AUS/427078 RAAF Age 20. PoW No: 8087 Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria

REASON FOR LOSS:

Took off from Snaith at 21:20 hrs to bomb the rail installations at Tergnier. LV880 carrying 7  x 1000 pounders and 6  x 500 lb HE’s. At the same time a large diversionary raid was taking place at Hannover by 36 Mosquitoes which resulted in the night fighter force being partly fooled of the main targets.

Sgt. Patrick William Hegarty on left in overcoat - it is thought that this photo does show the complete crew at time of loss plus of course some ground crew members. (courtesy Amanda Hegarty)

Halifax LV880 was attacked by Hptm. Gerhard Friedrich of 1./NJG6 (11 kills at this stage and already classed as an ace) at 00:11hrs. over the Eastern part of Montidier with combat taking place at 3.200 mts.

Left: Hptm. Gerhard Friedrich (courtesy Kracker Archive)

 The attack caused the port wing to catch fire and the pilot P/O. Hall attempted to extinguish the fire by placing the aircraft into a steep dive - this was unsuccessful and shortly after ordering his crew to abandon the aircraft exploded. Three of the crew were blown out and managed to land safely.

Above left to right: P/O. Hall (A) Sgt. Peck (B) F/O. Charles Thomas Hartley (C) W/O. John Bruce Osborn (D) Fl/Sgt. Fairclough (for credits see below) 

Airplane that F/O. Hartley built in his back yard! (courtesy Rod Keith) 

Notes from Fred Kirkwood:

"A local - Mr. Femand rescued one of our crew from a tree, I think, it would have been Merv Fairclough (Rear Gunner) for I myself landed in a field 5km north and headed SE (away from Paris!) while Bill Hegarty mentioned sometime having sheltered the first night in the porch of a church - where, I don’t know - and being found there in the morning by a woman.


Both Fairy (Merv Fairclough) and Bill Hegarty were befriended and sheltered separately in various locations near, and for a time, in Breteuil for 10+ weeks - by which time there were a dozen or more airmen being supervised by a local resistance group. All were duped by a very plausible infiltrator, Jacques Desoubrie who in mid-July collected the lot and delivered them to Gestapo HQ in Paris. 

Fred Kirkwood second right (courtesy Rod Keith)

By mid August the haul reached 168 allied airmen (29 Canadians) . Just before Paris was liberated they were all shipped off to Buchenwald arriving on 20th Aug. There they endured hell for 8 weeks until, mere skeletons, they were ‘rescued’ by the Luftwaffe (and sent to Stalag Luft 3). Fairy never fully recovered mentally and died in July 1964. In 1988 six of the nine Australians Involved had a reunion in Canberra, which I was privileged to attend."

Photo left - Left to right: Fred Kirkwood, Clary Jones (not LV880 crew) John Osborn, Merv Fairclough and Merv Hall taken at Lichfield Railway station, September 1943. Photo right: Merv Hall, Merv Fairclough, John Osborn taken at Snaith (courtesy John Bruce Osborn)

Fred Kirkwood felt a head-on attack was very unlikely, since the closing speed would be several hundred MPH, too fast for an accurate attack. He felt ‘Schrage Musik’ from below was much more likely. According to what Fred had written in the document referenced above, Bomber Command was not fully aware of ‘Schrage Musik’ in April of '44. 

Burial details:

P/O. Horace Mervyn Hall. Davenescourt Communal Cemetery. Row 1. Grave 1. Son of Horace Martin Hall and Daisy Evelyn Hall; husband of Gladys Mary Hall, of Bendigo, Victoria, Australia.

Sgt. Gordon Joseph William Peck. Davenescourt Communal Cemetery. Row 1. Grave 2. Son of George Walter and Doris Peck, of Duckmanton, Derbyshire, England. Husband of Marjorie Peck.

F/O. Charles Thomas Hartley. Davenescourt Communal Cemetery. Row 1. Grave 3. Son of Wesley Herbert and Emma Hartley, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, husband of Billie Hartley.

W/O. John Bruce Osborn. Davenescourt Communal Cemetery. Row 1. Grave 4. Son of Hubert Theodore and Violet May Osborn, of Deepdene, Victoria, Australia.

Researched by Neil, 51 Squadron Historian for Aircrew Remembered. Credits for photographs used: Christine Cutler, Amanda Hegarty, Mervyn Hall, Nigel and Stella Scott, Rod Keith, E. Fairclough,

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 and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), 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', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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Last Modified: 09 June 2015, 17:47