14/15.02.1943 No. 101 Squadron Lancaster I ED373 SR-X Sgt. Ivan H. Hazard
Date: 14/15th February 1943 (Sunday/Monday)
Unit: 101 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Holme-on-Spalding Moor, Yorkshire
Location: RAF Tangmere, West Sussex
Pilot: Sgt. Ivan Henry Hazard CGM. 1313768 RAFVR Age 22. Survived
Fl/Eng: Sgt. James Fortune Bain CGM. 654077 RAF Age 21. Survived
Nav: Sgt. William Ernest Williams CGM. 144449 RAFVR Age ? Survived
Air/Bmr: P/O P. W. Moffat 120668 RAFVR Age ? PoW No: 2595 Stalag Luft Sagan and Bellaria (L3)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Frederick William Gates DSO. 126623 RAFVR Age 30. Survived
Air/Gnr: Sgt. George Dove RAFVR Age ? Survived
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Leslie Airey RAFVR Age ? Survived
Researched by Lyndon Pugh - author of "The Lost Gunner" for Aircrew Remembered - see details below
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the 14th February 1943, 101 Squadron Lancaster ED373 SR–X was flown to Milan by Sgt. Ivan Hazard and his crew. Four of them, P/O. Moffatt and Sergeants Williams, Brisbin and Airey, had joined their pilot during October 1942 when they began their tour of duty on a 101 Squadron Wellington. With the addition of Sgt. Bain and Sgt. Dove, they took over Lancaster ED377 SR–X on the 16th January 1943. Their trip to Essen that night ended with an early return due to gun mechanism failure. During the first month of 1942 ED377 SR–X had suffered the usual vicissitudes which were inflicted on bombers - bad weather, gun turret problems, adverse winds causing late arrivals over targets, undercarriage problems and generator failure.
The difficulties they were faced with on the operation to Milan on the 14th February 1943 were of a very different order of magnitude. They had successfully bombed and were leaving the target area when a nightfighter attack started a fire in the fuselage and the port outer engine. In spite of suffering burns, Sgt. George Dove, occupying the mid upper turret, together with rear gunner Sgt. Airey, shot down the CR 42 (shown left). Although he was wounded, Sgt. Airey’s initial burst from the rear turret hit the nightfighter and set it ablaze. Sgt. Dove then administered the coup de grace as the Luftwaffe pilot turned away from his target (1).
During the confusion the bomb aimer, P/O. Moffat, mistook an instruction from the pilot and left the aircraft. After a spell as a pow in Italy, he spent the rest of the war in Stalag Luft 3, Sagan, Bavaria.
The order given by Sgt. Hazard was actually to prepare to bale out. At that moment, he was not aware that the rear gunner was trapped in the rear turret. When this became clear, the order was rescinded, but P/O. Moffatt had already left the aircraft.
In the effort to put the fire out, Sgt. Hazard had dived and levelled out at 800 ft. Having decided to fly the aircraft home, he was then faced with the task of regaining height in order to cross the Alps on three working engines and one which needed to be nursed.
Meanwhile, the fire inside the fuselage was spreading. Initially confined to incendiaries which had hung up in the bomb bay, it began to spread through the fuselage, threatening to consume the mid upper turret. Sgt. Dove was already suffering from second-degree burns to his face and hands when he left his position. He then realised that Sgt. Airey was in trouble at the rear of the aircraft. To reach his comrade, George Dove had to make his way through the flames while machine gun bullets from the ammunition ducts were flying everywhere. After leaving his turret, the mid upper gunner was unable to communicate with the rest of the crew, and was working without oxygen.
He found Sgt. Airey in a bad way. Without the help of George Dove he would have found it extremely difficult to negotiate the huge hole in the floor of the Lancaster, which had been caused by the nightfighter. However, George Dove succeeded in releasing Sgt. Airey from the rear turret, and made him as comfortable as he could.
While the rest of the crew were fighting the fire, and at 800 ft, Sgt. Hazard took on the task of bringing the crippled Lancaster home. Assisted by P/O Gates, the pilot coaxed the Lancaster over the Alps, sometimes flying down Alpine valleys because he was unable to gain enough height while nursing the damaged engine. From time to time, P/O. Gates left the cockpit and made his way down the fuselage to help with the wounded rear gunner. This involved struggling around the hole in the floor.
Navigator, Sgt. Williams, flight engineer, Sgt. Bain, and wireless operator, P/O. Gates, were also fully occupied. Williams navigated by dead reckoning and astro fixes for the five or six hour trip home. He also had to engage with the added problem of neutral Swiss air space. Sgt. Bain nursed the fuel system, and P/O. Gates, taking periodic rests from firefighting, completed a temporary repair to the aircraft wiring. This enabled him to restore communications. He also fitted in the duty of administering periodic shots of morphine to both gunners.
Against all the odds, this crew brought their aircraft back to the UK, landing at RAF Tangmere.
Apart from the CGM awarded to the pilot, George Dove, William Ernest Williams, James Fortune Bain and Leslie Airey also received the CGM. In the case of the pilot, the initial recommendation was for the VC, but this was overruled. Frederick William Gates received the DSO. Four CGM awards in one crew on one operation was an astounding achievement.
The postscript to this story is that three of the crew, Sgt. Hazard, Sgt. Bain and Sgt. Williams, died on the 20th March 1943 when Lancaster ED446 SR-N crashed during an air test. This was shortly before the London Gazette published the citation for Sgt. Hazard’s CGM. Sgt. Williams is buried in his home town of Llandudno. Sgt. Bain is buried in Cambuslang Cemetery, while the 22 year-old pilot is buried in Wolvercote Cemetery. He was from Oxford.
F/O. Frederick William Gates sadly died on the 5th May 1943. At 30 years of age he was well above the average age of aircrew in WWII. From Cheam, he was married to Ellen Gates and is buried in Sutton Cemetery. He was the wireless operator on Fl/Sgt. Hough’s 101 Squadron Lancaster which crashed in North Yorkshire while homeward bound from a raid on Dortmund which was described as ‘a quite awful night for 101 Squadron’ by Bill Chorley (2). Lancaster ED835 SR-T had sustained major flak damage.
(1) Combat Report filed by Sgt. George Dove 14th February 1943 (National Archives of Great Britain AIR/50/292/73)
(2) Chorley, W. R. Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War. Volume 4. Aircraft and Crew Losses 1943. Midland Counties Publications 1996.
The Lost Gunner - Author Lyndon Pugh. Available from the publisher or via Lyndon - contact us in the first instance. Limited copies available from the Hours Bookshop in Powys, Wales.
Sgt Ronnie Pugh, my father’s younger brother, was killed during WWII while serving in 101 Squadron of RAF Bomber Command. He was the rear gunner in the crew of F/Sgt. Billy Banks RAAF. This crew had been in action throughout the Battle of the Ruhr in the Spring and Summer of 1943. Their aircraft crashed off Zaandvoort in Holland, after an encounter with a Luftwaffe nightfighter, and six men died in the early hours of the 26th June 1943. One member of the crew, bomb aimer Geoff Brook, survived and served out the rest of the war in a German prison camp. The author was fortunate enough to talk to him in detail before his death
All crew survived this incident, later, others as described in this crew lost their lives in various incidents as described:
Sgt. Ivan Henry Hazard CGM. Wolvercote Cemetery. Sec.E.3. Grave 152. Son of Stanley Cecil John and Dora Hazard, of Oxford, England.
Sgt. James Fortune Bain CGM. Cambusalng Cemetery (Westburn) Grave 5059. Son of Alexander and Jeanie Curtis Bain, of Rutherglen, Scotland.
Sgt. William Ernest Williams CGM. Llandudno Cemetery (Great Orme’s Head). Of Llandudno, Wales. No further details - are you able to assist?
P/O. Frederick William Gates DSO. Sutton Cemetery. Sec. F. Grave 209. Son of Frederick Cuthbert and Elizabeth Louisa Gates, of Cheam, husband of Ellen Gates, of Cheam, Surrey, England.
Researched by Lyndon Pugh for Aircrew Remembered, February 2016. Other sources as quoted below.