21/22.06.1944 630 Squadron Lancaster I ME782 LE:N Plt Off. Thomas G. Hart
Operation: Wesseling (Synthetic Oil Plant)
Date: 21st/22nd June 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: No. 630 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF East Kirby
Location: NE Turnhout, Belgium
Pilot: Plt Off. Thomas George Hart J86480 RCAF Age 21. Killed
Flt Eng: Sgt. Ronald Merrick Jordan 1853154 RAFVR Age 26. Killed
Nav: Sgt. Michael John Macnaughton-Smith 1604049 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. John Joseph Scully R121914 RCAF Age 21. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Sgt. Raymond Guy Harwood 1189042 RAFVR Age 33. Killed
Air Gnr: Sgt. Richard John Walton R163129 RCAF Age 20. Killed
Air Gnr: Sgt. Archie Harry Siemens R218106 RCAF Age 22. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF East Kirby at 23:08 hrs. Although the weather forecast was clear the bomber stream encountered very low cloud over the target area.
Bombing was thought not to have been successful with only slight damage to the plant according to the post-raid reconnaissance. However it later transpired from German Secret reports that the bombing did in fact cause a 40% loss of production. 15 Germans, 5 foreign workers and a pow were killed in the surrounding area.
The allies lost a huge amount of aircraft with 38 Lancasters not returning. The loss of life from crew members totalled 207 killed. 42 being made PoW and 8 evading capture.
Right: Hptm. Eckart Wilhelm von Bonin, of Stab II./NJG1 (courtesy Kracker Archive)
Lancaster ME782 was thought to have been possibly shot down by Hptm. Eckart Wilhelm von Bonin, of Stab II./NJG1 at 01:14 hrs - already a Luftwaffe night fighter ace with 35 abschüsse. He survived the war and died age 73, on the 11th January 1992 in Hamburg, Germany.
Update March 2018: Another report submitted by Hubert Michiels state that his research group feels that the Luftwaffe pilot responsible for this loss was Lt. Manfred Scheunpflug of Stab 1./NJG3 flying Messerschmidt 110 G-4/U5 D5+YB - colour codes 83 + 81 + 82, based Eindhoven at 02:16 hrs.
Update April 2021: ME782 was claimed by Lt. Manfred Scheunpflug from Stab I./NJG3 - Turnhout/Lerseke area (LK-LJ): 2,800m at 02:16 hrs. Hptm. Eckart Wilhelm von Bonin, from Stab II./NJG claimed claimed 619 Squadron Lancaster ME846, 18km ESE of Turnhout: 5,400m at 01:14 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (12 May 1944 - 23 July 1944) Part 3 - Theo Boiten).
On the 10th July 2008 a local historical society erected a fine memorial to this crew. (courtesy of Camille Vanhove from Belgium who sent this in August 2015)
The squadron were to lose 5 aircraft/crews on this operation, the others:
Lancaster I LM118 LE:V - Flown by 21 year old, Plt Off. John Henry George Smith 175502 RAFVR from Harcourt Oxford, England - killed with all 6 other crew.
Lancaster I NE795 LE:G - Flown by Fg Off. L.N. Racily RAAF - all crew survived after abandoning the aircraft at 03:38 hrs over Henlow, Bedfordshire, England.
Lancaster I ME843 LE:U - Flown by 22 year old, Plt Off. Robert Cecil Hooper DFC 172176 RAFVR from Bridgewater, Somerset, England killed with all other 6 crew.
Lancaster III ND531 LE:K - Flown by 23 year old Sqn Ldr. Arthur Edgar Foster DFC 113416 RAFVR from Chertsey, Surrey, England - missing with all other 6 crew. Sadly the parents also lost his twin brother earlier in the war. Plt Off. Alec Leonard Foster 113415 RAFVR killed with 61 Squadron on the 3rd September 1942 on Lancaster W4136 flown by 28 year old Sqn Ldr. Douglas Sinclair Forsyth DFC 39077 RAF from Orpington, Kent, England - all 7 crew missing.
Plt Off. Thomas George Hart. Schoonselhof Cemetery. Grave IVa.F.12. Born 9th April 1923 in Oshawa, Ontario. Son of Maurice George and Greta Victoria Madeline (née Newsome) Hart from Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.
Sgt. Ronald Merrick Jordan. Schoonselhof Cemetery. Grave IVa.F.13. Son of Robert Godfrey Merrick Jordan and Florence Agnes Jordan, of St. Denys, Southampton, England.
Sgt. Michael John Macnaughton-Smith. Schoonselhof Cemetery. Grave IVa.F.14. Son of Hubert John and Jessie Macnaughton-Smith, of Crawley Down, Sussex. Scholar of St. John's College, Oxford, England.
Plt Off. John Joseph Scully. Schoonselhof Cemetery. Grave IVa.F.11. Born 21st May 1923 in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Son of Bartholomew and Mary (née Houlihan) Scully of 191 Kennedy Street, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Flt Sgt. Scully was posthumously commissioned and promoted to Plt.Off. (J91095) with effect 20th June 1944
Flt Sgt. Raymond Guy Harwood. Schoonselhof Cemetery. Collective grave IVa.F.8-10. Born 29th October 1911. Son of Herbert Richard and Margaret Beatrice Harwood of Southampton, England.
Plt Off. Richard John Walton. Schoonselhof Cemetery. Collective grave IVa.F.8-10. Born 22nd June 1924 in Ontario. Son of Richard and May (née Taylor) Walton, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Sgt Walton was posthumously commissioned and promoted to Plt.Off. (J91095) with effect 20th June 1944
Plt Off. Archie Harry Siemens. Schoonselhof Cemetery. Archie Harry Siemens was born on the 14th June 1922 in Dalmeny, Saskatchewan (rural Saskatoon). The only child of John Henry and Annie (née Bergen) Siemens. (note, some publications have misspelt his name as Siemins)
Sgt Siemens was posthumously commissioned and promoted to Plt.Off. (J912125)
With thanks to Camille Vanhove from Belgium for memorial photographs. Also to Dave Champion for details and photographs (Jun 2018). Thanks to John Jones for the German night-fighter claim (Apr 2021). Other updates by Aircrew Remembered (Apr 2021). For further details our thanks to the sources shown below.