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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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78 Squadron Crest
24/25.03.1944 No. 78 Squadron Halifax III LW589 EY-G Fl/Sgt. Henry Jackson

Operation: Berlin

Date: 24/25th March 1944 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: No. 78 Squadron

Type: Halifax III

Serial: LW589

Code: EY-G

Base: RAF Breighton, Yorkshire

Location: Les Hautes-Rivières, France

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Henry Jackson 655767 RAF Age ? Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Peter John Sprague Crawford 1626265 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Nav: Fl/Sgt. John Dear 1393542 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. James Smith 1383434 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. ’Sonnie’ Herbert Desmond Patchett 1316032 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Robert Willard McNeil R/178854 RCAF Age 28. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. William George Baker 1809164 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Halifax LW589 took off from RAF Breighton at 18.41 hrs. for a bombing raid on Berlin. A very powerful wind blew the bombers off course on many occasions. These winds had not been forecast and the strength of wind changes could not be passed onto the crews accurately. 23 aircraft detailed for operations from the squadron, 13 aircraft reached and attacked target. 2 aircraft did not take off

      

Above and below: 78 Squadron halifax from RAF Breighton, also showing the rear gunners position (courtesy IWM)

Shortly before he left on his final operation, Sgt. Peter Crawford made this aircraft model from a "farthing' for his auntie - she has treasured this even today. A beautiful piece of work and worthy of a place within his page of remembrance.

The bomber force of some 811 aircraft became very scattered and on the return journey they encountered heavy flak with the loss of some 50 aircraft! Further aircraft were shot down by enemy night fighters.


78 Squadron 6 aircraft on this operation, the others:

Halifax III HX355 EY-D Flown by Fl/Lt. E.W. Everett taken PoW with all crew.
Halifax III LV903 EY-H Flown by 24 year old, Fl/Lt. Constable DFC. AUS/409383 RAAF from Victoria, Australia. Killed 5 other crew, 2 taken PoW.
Halifax III LW507 EY-K Flown by 21 year oldJackson, Sgt. Basil T. Smith 1389203 RAFVR. Killed with another crew member, 5 taken PoW.
Halifax III LW510 EY-? Flown by 21 year old, F/O. Michael A. Wimberley 150168 RAFVR. Killed with all 6 other crew.
Halifax III LW518 EY-A Flown by 21 year old Fl/Sgt. Henry K. Barden 1451841 RAFVR from St. Annes-On-Sea, Lancashire. Killed with all 6 other crew.

Halifax LW589 was shot down on the homeward track after being blown off course. The aircraft crashed at Les Hautes-Rivières, France where the crew buried locally. The only CWGC burials in this cemetery.

Villagers arriving soon removed from the wreckage the lifeless bodies of six men, the 7th thrown out by the impact, was found in the bank a little further. These seven brave fighters were so buried in our cemetery where all the people went with them despite the hostility and threats of German. A resistance group Hautes Rivières also gave their respects, despite the threat of the enemy close by. The following day, the women of the village made ​​a collection of flowers to decorate the graves. Today a memorial has been erected at the spot and the graves are looked after.

Burial details:

Fl/Sgt. Henry Jackson. Les-Hautes-Rivieres Communal Cemetery. Grave 6. Son of Annie Jackson, husband of Annie Jackson, of Warrington, Lancashire, England.

Sgt. Peter John Sprague Crawford. Les-Hautes-Rivieres Communal Cemetery. Grave 1. Son of John Robert and M. Crawford, of Ely, Cambridgeshire, England. First Class City and Guilds Certificate in gas-fitting

Fl/Sgt. John Dear. (shown right) Les-Hautes-Rivieres Communal Cemetery. Grave 5. Son of George William and Lillian Gertrude Dear, of Hanwell, Middlesex, England.

Fl/Sgt. James Smith. Les-Hautes-Rivieres Communal Cemetery. Grave 2. Son of Sydney and Nora Smith, of Crayford, Kent, England.

Sgt. ’Sonnie’ Herbert Desmond Patchett. Les-Hautes-Rivieres Communal Cemetery. Grave 7. Son of Mrs. D. Blamey, of St. Thomas', Exeter, England.

Fl/Sgt. Robert Willard McNeil. Les-Hautes-Rivieres Communal Cemetery. Grave 3. Son of William B. McNeil and Pearl McNeil, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Sgt. William George Baker. Les-Hautes-Rivieres Communal Cemetery. Grave 4. Son of George William and Florence Mary Baker, of Clapton, London, England.

The Bellarmine Jug (1) Story. As told by family member Rebecca Palmer:

'The jug was dug up from a field near Ely by Peter in 1944. He gave it to my mother, and she took it home on the train (she was 8 years old then). A little later, on 23rd or 24th March she was at her Aunt Min's house in Ely with Peter when he received urgent orders to return to his base in uniform. 


That was the order for what became his final mission. He changed into uniform and decided at the last moment to wind the clock (Nellie) - and the clock was then not wound again until many years later, when my father became the next person to wind it. The clock is still at my parents house in the kitchen, and keeps good time.'

Right: 'Nellie The Clock'

Researched for relatives of Sgt. Peter Crawford who the webmaster met at his work in August 2014. 

Note: Sadly, Group Captain John B. Andrews died on the 17th October 2014. John was the relative the webmaster had met.

Dedicated to all the relatives of this crew with thanks to Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', ‘Bomber Command Database’. Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and  2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries' (Updated 2014 version), Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Aircrew Remembered own Archives.

78 Squadron line up

(1) Bellarmine Jug:- A Bartmann jug (from German Bartmann, "bearded man"), also called Bellarmine jug, is a type of decorated stoneware that was manufactured in Europe throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, especially in the Cologne region in what is today western Germany. The signature decorative detail was a bearded face mask appearing on the lower neck of the vessel. They were made as jugs, bottles and pitchers in various sizes and for a multitude of uses, including storage of food or drink, decanting wine and transporting goods. In the 17th century Bartmann jugs were employed as witch bottles, a popular type of magic item which was filled with various objects such as human urine, hair and magical charms, which were supposed to benefit their owners or harm their enemies. Bottles with malevolent-looking face masks, typical of the period, were routinely chosen for this very purpose.

Bartmann jugs were a signature product of Frechen, but their popularity resulted in imitations made in Raeren and Siegburg. They were manufactured in several locations in England, either by English potters copying German patterns or by immigrant Germans. In the late 19th century, during a revival of German stoneware-making, Bartmann jugs were reproduced based on illustrations of museum collections. Attempted forgeries were discovered in England in the 1990s.

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: 12 November 2014, 22:50