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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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105 Squadron Crest
04/05.11.1943 105 Squadron Mosquito DZ587 GB-B Flt.Lt. John Gordon DFC

Operation: Leverkusen

Date: 04/05th November 1943 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: 105 Squadron (motto: Fortis in Proeliis - 'Valiant in battles')

Type: Mosquito B.IV

Serial: DZ587 (1)

Code: GB-B

Base: RAF Marham, Norfolk

Location: Road Green Farm. Hempnall, Norfolk

Pilot: Flt.Lt. John Gordon DFC. 86721 RAFVR Age 25. Killed (3)

Nav: Fg.Off. Ralph Gamble Hayes DFC. 120087 RAFVR Age 22. Killed (3)

REASON FOR LOSS:

24 Mosquitoes detailed to attack chemical works (see note) at Leverkusen with DZ587 taking off at 17:29 hrs. Reports state that the operation was a success with reports of fires and a large explosion at the works.

Details are vague regarding the crash, but it seems that on return from the operation they were flying on a single engine after damage during the operation. They were trying to make a landing at Hardwick but had to abort due to a lorry on the runway. The aircraft’s wing then dropped on the dead side, hit a tree and then spun in crashing at 21:10 hrs in a field belonging to a farm owned by the father of John Ellis.

In 2013 a witness to the crash, the now 78 year old Mr. John Ellis erected a memorial to the crew at the crash site. He wrote to us in May 2015 and described the events - see below (courtesy Roger Stretton and Mr. John Ellis)

Above: 105 Squadron Mosquitoes at RAF Marham.

The letter sent to Aircrew Remembered May 2015:

"As a boy of nearly 6 years old I can remember my father, Percy Ellis calling my mother, Mary and my sisters, mary and Pat and myself to go outside and look.
The Mosquito had been circling Hardwick Airfield throwing out distress flares. We watched for a short while, when suddenly it crashed between us and the village of Hempnall.
I can remember the red glow in the sky behind the trees at Road Green.
My Dad told us to go inside whilst he went to see if he could help. Unfortunately both the crew were killed.

The next morning going to school I could see the crashed plane on our field called the ‘Ravens’. Returning from school I saw the wreckage being loaded onto a ‘Queen Mary’ articulated lorry by a crane from Hardwick Airfield. (type shown left)

After all the wreckage had been cleared we found parts of the wooden wing in a straw stack by the road. The American guard had made himself a bivouac to shelter from the November cold. We had these pieces for a long time at Road Green until slowly they rotted away. How I wish I still had them now!
The field was growing Mangolds (2) when the Mosquito crashed and when Dad came to plough it with the Standard Fordson (type shown right) he got stuck, presumably where one of the propellers had undermined the soil.On the 29th June 1997, Peter and John Gordon the son and grandson of the pilot Flt.Lt. John Gordon arrived at Road Green Farm as they had then only recently found out that the Mosquito had crashed at the farm. They had always thought that it had crashed at sea.
We went to see David Woodrow at Airfield Farm in Topcroft and they were both taken for a flight over the crash site and as far as Flixton by Maurice Hammond in his Cessna light air craft.
We tried to contact relatives of the navigator Fg.Off. Ralph Hayes of Leamington Spa, but only found his brother who was in poor health in a nursing home so we were unable to continue with the investigation.
Mr Terry Spruce from Poringland, Norwich investigated the site of the crash on March 14th 1978."
John Ellis May 2015

Note: The chemical works, IG Farben, were manufacturing experimental drugs (amongst many other chemicals) for trials run by SS Doctor Hellmuth Vettter on prisoners held at Dachau, Gusen and Aushwitz. He was later found guilty of committing crimes against humanity and hanged in the prison at Landsberg on the 2nd February 1949. (shown right)

(1) Mosquito DZ587 delivered to 109 Squadron on the 8th May 1943. 105 took it on strength on 3rd July 1943. Total Airframe flying hours at date of crash 132.05 hours.

(2) Mangolds - also known as fodder beet - used as stock feed although can be eaten by humans - cooked like a potato. (shown left)


(3) DFC Citation for both Flt.Lt. Gordon & Fg.Off Hayes: "On the 30th January, 1943, two forces of bombers were detailed to attack Berlin, one during the morning and the other during the afternoon. To reach the German capital necessitated a flight of more than 500 miles, mostly over heavily defended territory. Close co-ordination and precise timing were essential but, such was the skill exhibited. that the target was reached and the attacks delivered within seconds of the specified time. That complete success was achieved, despite opposition from the ground defences, is a high tribute to the calm courage, resolution and endurance displayed by the following officers and airmen who, in various capacities, acted as members of the aircraft crews." Gazetted on the 12th February 1943. These were two of seven DFCs, one DSO and three DFMs awarded for the mission.

Burial details:

Flt.Lt. John Gordon DFC. Kileanan Burial Ground. Near N.W. Corner. Son of Peter (Peter died on the 7th August 1961, aged 86) and Christina Gordon (née McMillan - Christina died on the 22nd December 1940, aged just 54), husband of Rachel Gordon, of Brackla, Inverness-shire, Scotland.

Nav: Fg.Off. Ralph Gamble Hayes. DFC. Putney Vale Cemetery And Crematorium, London. Block U. Grave 327. Son of Harold Hayes, and of Edith Hayes, of Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Roger Stretton for bringing this loss to our attention and of course to John Ellis who erected the memorial and sent his story to us (April 2015). Terry Spruce for aircraft information. For detailed information and grave photograph of Flt.Lt. Gordon DFC our thanks to the Highland Memorial Inscriptions. Loz Hennessy for grave photo of Fg.Off. Hayes. Also to sources quoted below.

RS 10.06.2020 - Update to include DFC citation.

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, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), 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', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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