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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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RAF Crest
25/26.06.1942 No. 20 OTU Wellington IC T2723 ZT-N WO2 Norman William Levasseur

Operation: Bremen

Date: 25/26 June 1942 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: No. 20 Operational Training Unit

Type: Vickers Wellington IC

Serial: T2723

Code: ZT-N

Base: RAF Snaith, East Riding of Yorkshire

Location: Crashed in Noordzee, West of Terschelling, Holland

Pilot: Sgt. Norman William Levasseur R83181 RCAF PoW No. 24977 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf - 344 (1)

Observer: Sgt. Robert George Ashley (known as George) Brathwaite Aus/403312 RAAF Age 27 - Killed (2)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Alan Carruthers 1063043 RAFVR Age 31 - Killed (3)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/Sgt. Robert Cresswell Marchant R/92040 RCAF Age 23 - Killed (4)

Air/Gnr (R): Sgt. George C. Thomson R91859 RCAF PoW No. 25645 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf - 344 (5)


We appeal to anyone with further information and/or photographs to please contact us via our HELPDESK


INTRODUCTION

The first 1000 bomber raid carried out by the RAF on the night of 30/31 May 1942 against Cologne was a great success but a second follow up raid against Essen on 1/2 June was not. Although 1047 aircraft were scraped together for the Cologne raid only 956 could be put into the air for the raid on Essen. The third 1000 bomber raid against Bremen on 25/26 June was again similarly a misnomer: despite using every type of aircraft in Bomber Command only 960 aircraft were able to be despatched. The force consisted of 472 Wellingtons, 124 Halifaxes, 96 Lancasters, 69 Stirlings, 51 Blenheims, 50 Hampdens, 50 Whitleys, 24 Bostons, 20 Manchesters and 4 Mosquitoes and although 102 Hudsons and Wellingtons of Coastal Command took part in the raid their contribution was classed as an independent effort.

Sir Arthur Harris had no more than 400 front line aircraft with trained crews at his disposal, so in order to achieve the required figure, large numbers of aircraft and crews from Conversion Units and Operational Training Units were used to augment his front line force.

The 48 losses sustained by Bomber Command during the raid represented an arguably acceptable 5% of the total force employed but the heaviest casualties were inflicted upon the aircraft of the Training Units which were equipped with old aircraft that had been previously withdrawn from front line service.

Significantly, of these old 198 Wellingtons and Whitleys provided by the Operational Training Units, 23 of them, representing 11.6% of the total, were lost on the raid

The plan was for 142 aircraft of No. 5 Group to attack the Focke-Wulf factory; 20 Blenheims were allocated to bomb the AG Weser shipyard; the RAF Coastal Command aircraft were to bomb the Deschimag U-boat construction yard; all other aircraft were to carry out an area attack on the town and docks. The limited success was entirely due to the use of GEE, which enabled the leading crews to start marker fires through the cloud cover. 696 Bomber Command aircraft were able to claim attacks on Bremen.

572 houses were completely destroyed and 6,108 damaged. 85 people were killed, 497 injured and 2,378 bombed out. At the Focke-Wulf factory, an assembly shop was completely flattened, 6 buildings were seriously damaged and 11 buildings lightly so. The Atlas Werke, the Bremer Vulkan shipyard, the Norddeutsche Hütte, the Korff refinery, and two large dockside warehouses were also damaged.


REASON FOR LOSS


For the purposes of this raid Wellington T2723 of No. 20 O.T.U. based at RAF Lossiemouth in Morayshire was attached to No. 150 Squadron. Flying from RAF Snaith in the East Riding of Yorkshire the aircraft took off at 22.41 but after that time nothing further was heard from the aircraft. It appears that the aircraft duly attacked the target of Bremen but whilst over Holland on the return journey was shot down at 04.18 hours by Luftwaffe night fighter pilot Oberleutnant Egmont Prinz zur Lippe-Weißenfeld (see No. 6 in biographical details below)the Staffelkapitän of the 5th Staffel or Nachtjagdgeschwader 2 (NJG 2) operating from the airport De Kooy in Den Helder. The Wellington was set on fire and crashed in the North Sea, West Terschelling.

Three of the crew were killed but the pilot, Norman Levasseur and rear gunner George Thomson survived and were made prisoners of war. Prior to being moved to Stalag Lamsdorf in Silesia the injured rear gunner was hospitalised in Amsterdam but on 13 June 1944 in reply to an RAAF enquiry regarding the fate of Sergeant Brathwaite he stated that:

"The above mentioned Sergeant [Brathwaite] was to my knowledge killed whilst on operations on the morning of the 26th June 1942. This statement is based on information given to me whilst in Queen Wilhelmina hospital in Amsterdam by a German interrogation officer. Our aircraft was attacked by a night fighter, fired, our intercommunication destroyed, being the rear gunner I was off from the rest of the crew so can only give information received from the German authorities".

And Sergeant (later Warrant Officer) Levasseur in relation to the enquiry stated that:

"Sgt. Brathwaite was believed killed during the encounter with [the] German fighter. This was later confirmed at Dulag Luft by the Germans his body being found in our aircraft. I was unable to see the body".




It was later reported that three bodies had been recovered from the aircraft and buried at West Terschelling General Cemetery and although initially only Sg Brathwaite was identified the remains of Sgt. Carruthers and F/Sgt. Marchant were later identified and the airmen re-interred in separate graves.

In a conflicting report the body of Sgt. Brathwaite was said to have been found on the beach near 14.8 pole on Saturday 27 June and buried at 18.30. See: http://www.stiwotforum.nl/viewtopic.php?f=2&p=1856...


BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS

(1) WO2 Norman William Levasseur the son of Mr. W.E. Levasseur of 242 Cadillac Street, Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He was awarded his Wings on September 25 1941 at No. 9 Service Flying Training School Summerside, Prince Edward Island. Whilst a prisoner of war Sergeant Levasseur was promoted to Warrant Officer 2nd Class.


(2) Sgt. Robert George Ashley Brathwaite LL.B. (Sydney), was born on 22 March 1915 at Tokomaru Bay, New Zealand the son of Harold Ashley Brathwaite and Agnes Maud Brathwaite, later of 32 Wattle Street Killara, New South Wales, Australia. He had one known sibling, a brother Peter Langley Brathwaite killed in Syria 13 June 1941 whilst serving with the Australian Imperial Forces. Prior to enlisting George Brathwaite was a Barrister and Associate to Mr Justice Street.

He enlisted at Sydney on 6 January 1941 and embarked for Canada on 13 June 1941

Having lost her other son Peter in Syria Mrs Brathwaite applied to have George returned to Australia from training in Canada in order that he should not have to risk his life also. Her request however was refused.

George Brathwaite had been lucky to escape an accident just four weeks before his death when his aircraft Wellington Z8852 crashed in bad weather whilst on a training exercise in Scotland. The pilot Sgt Bruce Wallace McClennan RCAF was killed whilst the four others escaped with varying degrees of injury, those of George Brathwaite being categorised as slight. To read the story of this loss click here

He is commemorated on the Australian War Memorial Panel 119 at Canberra, in the Ku-ring-gai World War 2 Book of Remembrance and on the World War 2 Honour Roll in the War Memorial Chapel at St. Martin's Church, Killara, NSW.


(3) Sgt. William Alan Carruthers was born at Wigan, Lancashire in 1911 the son of John William H Carruthers (a Journeyman Joiner later Insurance Agent) and Eliza Carruthers nee Gorton. He had siblings John Carruthers born 1906 and Irene Carruthers born 1908. Alan Carruthers was an ex-rugby player for Wigan Rugby Union Football Club.

On 10 June 1941 he married Antoinette Marie Hall, a Nursing Sister at Wigan Infirmary at the Parish Church of St Michael and All Angels, Swinley, Wigan. They lived at Parbold near Wigan.


(4) F/Sgt. Robert Cresswell Marchant was born on 24 January 1919 at Willmar, Saskatchewan, Canada the son of Herbert Marchant (born Portsmouth, England) and Canadian born mother Nellie Marchant.

He had a sister Lily Eleanora born in 1918. In 1939 the family moved to Shalalth, British Columbia and later to Vancouver. Robert Marchant was educated at Arcola High School from 1934 to 1937 and after leaving school worked as a Jobbing Machinist for a local company until the business closed in 1939. After moving to Shalalth he was employed briefly as a Steel Worker.

At the time of his enlistment on 4 February 1941 at Vancouver he had a wiry physique, was 5'10" tall weighed 149 lbs., with a fair complexion, brown eyes and brown hair. He lived at 1111 Davie Street Vancouver and prior to enlisting had been working as a Logging Clerk. He played Hockey and Baseball extensively, softball and Tennis, moderately and photography was his hobby.

Photograph courtesy Operation Picture Me

After postings to No. 2 Manning Depot, RCAF Brandon, Manitoba, No 11 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Yorkton, Saskatchewan, No 2 Wireless School, RCAF Calgary, Alberta and No 3 Bombing and Gunnery School at RCAF MacDonald, Manitoba he was awarded his Air Gunners Badge on 8 November 1941 and promoted to Sergeant. He was posted to the UK where on Boxing Day he was posted to No 3 Personnel Reception Centre at RAF Bournemouth and on 20 January 1942 to No. 2 Signals School at RAF Yatesbury in Wiltshire where he qualified as a Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner Grade II. After several weeks at No 2 Air Observer School, also at RAF Yatesbury, he was posted to No 20 Operational Training Unit at RAF Lossiemouth, Moray, Scotland on 21 April 1942. On 8 May 1942 he was promoted to Flight Sergeant.


(5) WO2 George C. Thomson - Whilst a prisoner of war Sergeant Thomson was promoted to Warrant Officer 2nd Class. Nothing further known, if you have any information please contact our helpdesk


(6) Major Egmont Prinz zur Lippe-Weißenfeld (nicknamed Egi) was born on 14 July 1918 in Salzburg, Austria as a member of a cadet branch of the ruling House of Lippe. He joined the Luftwaffe in 1939 and during his career achieved 49 victories.

He and his crew, Oberfeldwebel Josef Renette and Unteroffizier Kurt Röber, were killed in a flying accident on 12 March 1944 on a routine flight from Parchim to Athies-sous-Laon.

For a comprehensive account of his career see http://ww2gravestone.com/people/lippe-weissenfeld-...





BURIAL DETAILS


Sgt. Robert George Ashley Brathwaite was buried at Terschelling (West-Terschelling) General Cemetery - Grave 47.

Epitaph reads:

Beloved


Sgt. William Alan Carruthers was buried at Terschelling (West-Terschelling) General Cemetery - Grave 46.

No epitaph


F/Sgt. Robert Cresswell Marchant was buried at Terschelling (West-Terschelling) General Cemetery - Grave 48.

Epitaph reads:

He fought and died

So that others

Might live in peace

With freedom




Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - January 2017

With thanks to the sources quoted below.

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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