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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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90 Squadron Crest
12/13.09.1944 No. 90 Squadron Lancaster III PB193 WP-N F/O. Derek C. Law

Operation: Frankfurt

Date: 12/13th September 1944 (Tuesday/Wednesday))

Unit: No: 90 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: PB193

Code: WP-N

Base: RAF Tuddenham, Suffolk

Location: Vitry-Les-Nogent

Pilot: F/O. Derek Cunningham Law 143286 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. William Andrew Gardner Milne 1825462 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Nav: Fl/Sgt. Roy Victor Edward Slowley GM. 1382990 RAFVR Age 25. Killed

Air/Bmr: F/O. Richard Edmund Stainbank 152716 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alfred Charles Dempsey Gent 1383081 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Clifford Stapleton 1437148 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Frederick George John Wood 913872 RAFVR Age 23. Killed (Trained as Fl/Eng)

REASON FOR LOSS:

Took off at 18:22 hrs from RAF Tuddenham. A total of 378 Lancasters and 9 Mosquitoes took part in this raid. 

The rescue effort for the bombing of the city was hampered as the fire crews and rescue teams were away in Darmstadt - covering the city for the previous night's raid by the allies. The bombing caused severe damage and a troop train was also hit. 470 people were killed on the ground including over 170 people taking shelter in the Bockenheim district.

PB193 was not specifically claimed by any of the night fighters that hit the bomber stream both on the inbound and returning flight. Single engine fighters were used by the stab and 1./NJG11 Luftwaffe units operating from Lippstadt on this operation. Working with very clear weather and the highly concentrated search light units they had considerable success with the RAF losing some 17 aircraft on this operation with the loss of 113 aircrew killed and a further 12 made PoW.

The Lancaster crashed at Vitry-les-Nogent (Haute-Marne) where all the crew were buried.

Left: memorial to the RAF Tuddenham to the crews lost (courtesy Keith Lane) Right: Village sign at Tuddeham.

Further information supplied by Stuart Law:

"The brothers of F/O. Derek Law visited the site of the crash at the end of the war. Also, in 1994 two surviving relatives, a brother and a sister, went out for a special memorial service and a representative from the R.A.F. from the Paris Embassy also attended and provided further details.

Several villagers including in particular a Monseuir Bachalard who had been the village school teacher at the time and then later the mayor who also provided the following information.

The French in the village regarded this crew as having died for France.

Right: Grave of F/O. Law after a visit by relatives on the anniversary of his loss on the 13th September 1994 (courtesy Stuart Law)

At some point after returning to the UK, he joined 90 Squadron and was flying Lancaster PB193 of 90 Squadron, when he crashed outside the small village of Vitry-les-Nougent, near Chaumont on the night of 12/13th September 1944.  He was unusual in his care of his bomber crew, as he preferred to associate together with them as a group when off duty, sometimes going to shows in London as a unit and we feel that they were probably much better knit together as a result.

The story about his demise is that the aircraft had lost power on both starboard engines (one propeller was missing) and had to come down at some time on the continent without being able to make it home.  He circled the locality extensively before selecting a well cleared area and putting the aircraft down neatly. Unfortunately there was still some ordnance on board which exploded at the end of the ‘wheels-up’ landing, though unusually, the aircraft did not catch fire. (no fuel?)

The male villagers broke their curfew en-mass and went up the hill to find all the crew dead but intact, and the bodies were taken back and laid out in the school house at Vitry. A young lady peeked in during the morning and lifted the corner of one of the blankets covering them and was amazed at how young they all looked. The Germans looted some of their personal effects during the day, but after nightfall evacuated the area possibly because they felt that the situation was getting out of hand and would prove too much for them.

On the morning of 14th Sept, the locals awoke to find that the enemy had gone, and their view is that Derek's  Lancaster saved them from a much nastier way of escaping out from under the Occupation.”

Burial details:

F/O. Derek Cunningham Law. Vitry-Les-Nogent Church. Grave 6. Son of John William and Mabel Kathleen Law, of Hurlingham, London, England.

Sgt. William Andrew Gardner Milne. Vitry-Les-Nogent Church. Grave 5. Son of Andrew and Christina Milne, of Harrogate, Yorkshire, England.

Fl/Sgt. Roy Victor Edward Slowley G.M. Vitry-Les-Nogent Church. Grave 2. Son of William John and Violet Slowley, of Brockley, London, England.

F/O. Richard Edmund Stainbank. Vitry-Les-Nogent Church. Grave 1. Son of Edward Lloyd Stainbank and Ellen Gertrude Stainbank, of Tonbridge, Kent, England.

Sgt. Alfred Charles Dempsey Gent. Vitry-Les-Nogent Church. Grave 7. Son of Alfred Graham Gent and Eleanor Gent, of Rainham, Essex, England.

Sgt. Clifford Stapleton. Vitry-Les-Nogent Church. Grave 3. Son of Frank and Annie Stapleton, of Nottingham, England.

Sgt. Frederick George John Wood. Vitry-Les-Nogent Church. Grave 4. Son of Frederick Charles and Catherine Elizabeth Wood, of Charlton, London, England.

Researched for Stuart Law and relatives of the crew. With thanks to the sources quoted below.

KTY 23.07.2015 Map added

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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