31/01.09.1943 No. 75 Squadron Stirling III EE878 AA-P P/O. Henley
Date: 31st August/01st September 1943 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit: No. 75 Squadron (RNZAF 3 Group)
Type: Stirling III
Base: RAF Mepal, Cambridgeshire
Location: Ahrbrück, Germany
Pilot: P/O. Douglas Charles Henley NZ/414622 RNZAF Age 23. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Lewis Patrick Parsons 1455528 RAFVR Age ? PoW No: 222626 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria
Nav: F/O. Clifford Arnold Watson NZ/421946 RNZAF Age 33. Killed
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Ian Hector Ross Smith NZ/421614 RNZAF Age 34. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Robert N. Quelch 1319114 RAFVR Age ? PoW No: 222631 Camp: Stalag Muhlberg (Elbe)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Douglas C. Box 1578987 RAFVR Age ? PoW No: 222573 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria
Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Sutherland Grant NZ/421274 RNZAF Age ? PoW No: 43260 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus
Page of remembrance sponsored by Ian Box - January 2019
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Mepal in Cambridgeshire at 20:31 hrs to bomb the big city, Berlin. P/O. Henley together with 17 others from the Squadron were detailed to attack the Berlin with bombs of 1,000lb., 500lb. and incendiaries of 30lb. and 4lb.
EE878 was hit by anti-aircraft fire with the port inner engine out of action and the port tailplane damages they lost considerable height, they were then attacked by a night fighter (as yet unidentified). The New Zealand pilot nursed the Stirling for nearly 500 km before informing the crew to abandon the aircraft as they were nearly out of fuel.
Very shortly afterwards the aircraft crashed at location shown. Although Sgt. Parsons and Sgt. Quelch baled out at a very low altitude they survived but taken PoW. Sgt. Box and Sgt. Grant (who had been injured during the attack and amazingly survived despite remaining in the aircraft when he discovered his parachute was destroyed by fire) also were both soon captured.
F/O. Watson together with Fl/Sgt. Smith were killed when their parachutes failed to deploy fully. The pilot, P/O. Henley was awarded MiD in June 1946 for his actions during this flight.
Sadly, the older brother of the pilot, 29 year old, F/O. William John Henry Henley DFC. NZ/416846 RNZAF was also to lose his life on Thursday the 30th August 1945. Whilst serving in 164 Squadron and as a passenger on a 24 Squadron Dakota IV KJ974. Taking off from Malta in very bad weather with, it is reported, being warned not to take off.
Piloted by a very experienced pilot Lt/Cdr. Daniels of the Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service. Encountered violent thunderstorms and broke up in the air at 12:40 hrs. Wreckage falling near Crestet, a few kilometres SSE of Vaison-la-Romaine in France with the loss of all 4 crew and 10 other military passengers. F/O. William Henley DFC. had served with 571 and 162 Squadrons flyings Mosquitoes. A total of 1748 flying hours logged and having completed some 40 operational sorties.
Initially buried at the municipal cemetery at Mayschoß on the 04th September - later reinterred at the CWGC Cemetery at Rheinberg. None of the RNZAF graves have a personalised message from relatives - reasons explained here.
Pilot: P/O. Douglas Charles Henley. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 10.E.24. Born on the 19th October 1919 at Helensville, Auckland, New Zealand, the son of William James Henley and Mabel Alice Henley, of Mount Eden, Auckland, New Zealand.
F/O. Clifford Arnold Watson. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 10.E.25. Son of William James Watson and Janet Watson, of Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand and husband of Ivy Mavis Watson, of Nelson, New Zealand.
Fl/Sgt. Ian Hector Ross Smith. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 10.E.24. Son of Hector John and Gertrude Mary Smith, of Napier, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to IanBox, son of Sgt. Douglas C. Box who contacted us in January 2019, also to Fred Munckhof for grave photographs (used with permission). Finally to the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Weekly News of New Zealand, other sources as quoted below: