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16/17.06.1944 No 431 Squadron Halifax III LK837 SE-L F/O. Johnson
Date: 16/17th June 1944 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: No. 431 Squadron
Type: Halifax III
Base: RAF Croft, Yorkshire
Location: Meijel, Netherlands
Pilot: F/O. Elmer Orville Johnson J/19424 RCAF Age 26. Killed
Fl/Eng: P/O. Donald Shenton 177165 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Nav: F/O. Richard C.B. Garrity J/20923 RCAF Evaded capture (1)
Air/Bmr: F/O. Rowland Woolley Jones 151373 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. William Risden Chapman 175750 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: P/O. Edward Calvin Green J/90088 RCAF Age 21. Killed
Air/Gnr: P/O. Vernon Patrick Obright J/90421 RCAF Age 21. Killed
Standing L to R: Sgt. Walter Thorn, P/O Willian 'Bill' R. Chapman, P/O. Vernon P. O’Bright: Seated L to R: P/O Donald Shenton, F/O Elmer O. Johnson, F/O Richard C.B. Garrity, Sgt. Gordon B. 'Joe’ Josie.
In early June, Sgt. 'Joe' Josie volunteered to fly with another crew to replace a sick crewman and was permanently replaced by F/O Rowland W. Jones. On the day of the fateful mission P/O. Edward C. Green replaced Sgt. Walter Thorn. (Credit: Stephen H Garrity)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Croft in Yorkshire at 23:14 hrs. joining 320 aircraft raid on the Sterkrade synthetic-oil plant in Northern Germany. 162 Halifaxes, 147 Lancasters and 14 Mosquitoes left to find the target area covered by a thick cloud and the markers dropped by the pathfinders very quickly disappeared. The main bomber force could do very little but bomb the demising glow of the markers through the cloud.
RAF photographic reconnaissance and the German reports agree that the bombing was scattered, although some bombs did hit the oil plant. This had little effect on production. 21 Germans were killed on the ground and a further 6 foreign workers. 18 Houses were destroyed.
The loss to the allies was huge with a total of 21 bombers shot down by the German night fighters and another 10 by flak. This amounted to 159 aircrew being killed, 53 being made PoW. Flak batteries reported that a total of 14,244 rounds were fired at the bomber stream.
Original intelligence reports gave credit to Hptm. Günther Wagner of 7./NJG2 as the pilot that shot down the aircraft. However, post war research by F/O. Garrity revealed that the aircraft was shot down by Haupt. Heinz Strüning with his navigator, Sergeant Apel.
(1) F/O. Richard Garrity evaded capture and returned to RAF Northolt on the 7th September 1944. After the war he returned to his home in Point Claire, Quebec, Canada. The following video retells the events leading up to the aircraft loss and his Escape & Evasion in his own words. (Credit: Stephen H Garrity)
A comprehensive account of F/O Garrity’s Escape and Evasion can be viewed here. ’Into their midst’ was created by Stephen H. Garrity, the son of F/O Garrity and pays tribute to his father’s remarkable story and that of the helpers (Resistance) who risked their lives in helping his safe return to England. (Credit: Stephen H Garrity)
F/O. Elmer Orville Johnson. Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. Grave X.11.F.9. Son of Benjamin Franklin and Zella Allred Johnson and husband of Beryl Gwendoline Johnson of Sanderstead, Surrey, England. Grave inscription reads: “He That Believeth On Me, Hath Everlasting Life”.
P/O. Donald Shenton. Jonkerbos War Cemetery. Collective Grave 12.F.2-3. No further details - are you able to assist?
F/O. Rowland Woolley Jones. Jonkerbos War Cemetery. Collective Grave 12.F.2-3. Born in 1924 in Surrey, England and originally posted to 431 Squadron on the 18th September 1943 as a member of the Craig crew, with whom he flew 13 operations. Rowland joined the Johnson crew after their regular bomb aimer, P/O Gordon Beverley Jose J/85356 RCAF was killed while serving as a mid under gunner with the Artyniuk crew during an operation to Versailles on June 7/8th - Halifax III MZ602 SE-U)
P/O. William Risden Chapman. Jonkerbos War Cemetery. Collective Grave 12.F.2-3. Son of William and Elizabeth Ruth Chapman of Cheam, Surrey, England. Grave inscription reads: “Forever In Our Thought, Au Revoir”.
P/O. Edward Calvin Green. Jonkerbos War Cemetery. Grave 12.F.1. Son of Mrs. J.G.C. Green of 793 Dufferin Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
P/O. Vernon Patrick Obright. Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. Grave X.11.F.10. Son of Wilfred and Magdalen Obright of Walkerton, Ontario, Canada.
Researched for Aircrew Remembered by Linda Ibrom - June 2017 and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Claire Jones, sister in law of F/O. Jones. Also our thanks to the Canadian Virtual War Memorial for photograph of Sgt. Obright. Page originally placed with Matt Lacroix running the great Bomber crew website - now updated with further information and operation details. Special thanks to Stephen H. Garrity for his kind permission for access to his research materials and web site.
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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