20/21.04.1944 420 Squadron Halifax III LW692 PT-V Plt.Off. Leonard
Operation: Lens, France
Date: 20/21st April 1944 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: 420 Squadron
Type: Halifax III
Base: RAF Tholthorpe, North Yorkshire
Location: Scie River, Pourville, Dieppe, France
Pilot: Plt.Off. Raymond Gale Leonard J/85859 RCAF Age 22. Missing
Flt.Eng: Sgt. Patrick Francis Gough 1652948 RAFVR Age 20. Missing
Nav: Plt.Off. Alfred Warren 176005 RAF Age 25. Missing
Air Bmr: Plt.Off. Herbert Clarke Wilson J/86417 RCAF Age 24. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Plt.Off. Clifford James Wheelhouse 175807 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Air Gnr: Sgt. Paul Joseph Hector Jean Paul Bourcier J/86241 RCAF PoW No: 4179, Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria (1)
Air Gnr: Sgt. Robert Allan Anderson R/191468 RCAF Age 20. PoW No: 4176, Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria (2)
REASON FOR LOSS:
taking off from RAF Tholthorpe, North Yorkshire to bomb the rail junctions at Lens. 175 aircraft taking part on the target, bomb loads - 9 x 1000 lbs, 6 x 500 lbs - raid was a success with crews reporting extensive fires and large explosions on the target.
Halifax LW692 strayed off course, crossing the French coastline near Dieppe, instead of Le Havre as instructed. As soon as they crossed the coast they were hit several times by anti-aircraft fire. The port engines caught fire which rapidly spread to the wing.
The crew of Halifax LW692
Rear left to right: Plt.Off. Warren, Plt.Off. Wheelhouse, Sgt. Gough, Plt.Off. Wilson. Front left to right: Sgt. Anderson, Plt.Off. Leonard, Sgt. Bourcier. (courtesy Bill Anderson)
Images of Plt.Off. Leonard and Plt.Off. Wilson from their service records (Courtesy John Jones)
The flight engineer called the pilot explaining that he considered they had no option but to abandon the aircraft. Two of the crew managed to bail out, the remainder, it seems could not and went in with the aircraft in the Scie River, Pourville, Dieppe, France.
The following is an extract from the report by Sqn.Ldr. G. Wood from No 6 Section No1 MREU dated 23 August 1946:
In accordance with your instructions in your enquiries dated 25 September 1945 and 29 November 1945, enquiries have been made regarding LW692 and the causalities involved. The scene of the crash has been visited and found to be a marshy small river estuary at POURVILLE. The Maire confirmed from records left by the Germans that two bodies were removed from the wreckage of the plane and were identified. From examination of the wreckage it would appear probable that the aircraft did explode in the air and I consider it impossible that any further human remains will ever be found as the estuary of the stream there is a wide and consists of a large mud flat. The graves referred to in para 4 of your letter dated 29 November 1945, viz 52 and 53, no longer exist but it is considered probable that Plt Off Wilson is in Grave No 32 and Sgt Wheelhouse in Grave No 33. Reasons for this assumption are that they were buried in the next graves to the crew of Halifax LW692 (Casualty Enquiry F.168) and on concentration being effected by the Americans and 57 G.C.U. the original order is presumed to have been preserved.
The two PoW’s were imprisoned at Stalag III until May 1945 when they managed to slip past the Russian ‘liberators’ to the American lines at Magdeburg. A short USAAF DC3 flight to Rheims, then onto a Lancaster to Tangemere back in England.
Left: Letter sent home from Bob Anderson whilst a PoW reads:
(Received July 20th 1944)
Well how is all in Brandon? All is ok here and I’m not fooling. You must be glad to know I’m here and someday I’ll come home alive and unwounded. If you knew the joy in my heart right now for I’m with Don Macdonald. I spent the day with him and I’m going to have supper with him tonite, he sure looks fine and we really talked things over. Write to Mrs Alex Bourcier, Châteauguay village, Quebec. You remember Paul, well we’re still together thank God. I guess we’ll be pals till we die. The rest of the crew weren’t so lucky. I only got a nose bleed when I bailed out. I’ve been treated good and fed well so please don’t worry. In fact you should be relieved for now you know I’m O.K. whereas it was doubtful when I was operating. (That address I gave you is Pauls folks) My biggest burden is worrying about you because I know you are worrying about me, My spirit is high and I can sure you I’ll come home as young and wild as when I left.
All my love. God bless you, Bob."
Bob Anderson passed away on the 17th March 1979 and Paul Bourcier on the 16th February 2008.
Paul Bourcier, his Mother Madame Bourcier and Robert Anderson in Chateauguay Quebec post liberation (Courtesy Bill Anderson)
A great photograph taken, we understand, at Stalag Luft Sagan in 1944. We have details on most of the incidents representing the aircraft losses of these chaps - all from Manitoba, Canada. (courtesy Bill Anderson) See Featured story for details of the PoWs
(1) Sgt Bourcier's PoW statement to the International Red Cross dated 19 January 1945.
“Our aircraft was directly hit by (censored) and set on fire over (censored). Plt.Off. Leonard gave the order to abandon and I was first to leave the aircraft. I was informed by the Germans who captured me that WO. Wilson had been drowned and that Sgt Wheelhouse had been found with his parachute unopened. They are buried at Bourgdun Dieppe. I regret I have no information as to the fate of Sgt. Gough, Plt.Off. Leonard and Sgt. Warren”.
(2) Sgt. Anderson was promoted to Plt.Off. J/92326, whilst as a PoW.
The two crew whose bodies were identified, were originally buried at Riquire-es-Plains, later at Grandcourt War Cemetery, after the end of war.
Plt.Off. Raymond Gale Leonard. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 251. Son of Charles and Lillian M. Leonard, of Crowsnest, British Columbia, Canada.
Sgt. Patrick Francis Gough. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 230. Son of Patrick Francis and May Gough, of Barry, Glamorgan, Wales.
Plt.Off. Alfred Warren. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 212. Son of George Arthur and Elsie Warren, husband of Winifred Warren, of Oldham, Lancashire, England.
Plt.Off. Herbert Clarke Wilson. Grandcourt War Cemetery. Grave E.5. Son of Henry Herbert and Mary Wilson of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Plt.Off. Clifford James Wheelhouse. Grandcourt War Cemetery. Grave E.4. Son of John Henry and Emily Alice Wheelhouse, of Stockton-on-Tees, Co. Durham, England.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Bill Anderson (son of Air Gunner, Sgt. Robert Anderson) Les Allison and Harry Hayward - 'They Shall Grow Not Old', 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', Capt. Fred Paradie - 'Paradie Archives', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Tom Kracker - 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'. Oliver Clutton-Brock - 'Footprints On The Sands Of Time'. Aircrew Remembered own Archives. Thanks to John Jones for the two statements, other details and the images of Sgt. Leonard and Sgt.Wilson. Thanks to Bill Anderson for the photograph of his father, Paul & his mother and additional detail for his father, Sgt. Anderson.