001/02.06.1942 114 Squadron Blenheim IV R3620 RT:A Flt.Sgt. Patrick B. L'Hirondelle
Date: 1st/2nd June 1942 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: 114 Squadron
Type: Blenheim IV
Base: RAF West Raynham, Norfolk
Location: Buschbell, Germany
Pilot: Flt.Sgt. ‘Bernie’ Patrick Bernard L’Hirondelle R61124 RCAF Age 20. Killed
Obs: Plt.Off. Ronald George Inglis 104574 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Henry Meakin 1359228 RAFVR Age 26. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
On 1st June 1942 at 10:39 hrs R3620, RT:A, manufactured by Rootes Securities Ltd. and build at both Speke and Blyth Bridge, took off from RAF West Raynham, Norfolk for a supporting Intruder mission near or over the major German night fighter airfield at Venlo in SE Netherlands in the province of Limburg and adjacent to the border with Germany.
Intruder Mission: An offensive operation by day or night over enemy territory with the primary object of destroying enemy aircraft in the vicinity of their bases.
Above left: Flt.Sgt. ‘Bernie’ Patrick Bernard L’Hirondelle standing at the rear. On the back of the photograph is written “ Pop, Bruce and me". On the back is stamped "Jerome 20 March 1942", likely taken in Norwich. Picture of Bernard standing behind fellow 114 Sqn members Flt.Sgt. W.M. Popplestone 'Pop' RCAF and Plt.Off. C.E. White. (Identities provided by the research paper "A Slave Lake Blenheim Boy" - Todd Mayson)
One of the mysteries of this photograph is that all Commonwealth Air Force uniforms had brass buttons, whereas the Sgt. on the right has black buttons on his uniform. Only the US Air Force is known to have used black buttons, but it is not known how Bernie would have met a US Air Force Sgt. at such an early date. (courtesy Gwen L’Hirondelle) Above centre: Sgt. Henry Meakin (courtesy Sandy and Mike Boyles) Above right: Plt.Off. Ronald George Inglis (courtesy of his family via George Warson College, Edinburgh - see acknowledgements)
Note by Aircrew Remembered: The group of three airmen are wearing RAF Other Rank (OR) pattern Greatcoats and some issues had brown leather buttons instead of the traditional metal (brass) Kings Head embossed buttons.
Flt.Sgt. Popplestone, Plt.Off. White and their fellow crew member Plt.Off W.G.F. Hawkins were killed in action when their Blenheim IV (Z7307 RT:L) on an intruder sortie on the 26/27th March 1942 was claimed by Ofw. Paul Gildner, his 30th Abschuss, from 5./NJG2 over the Waddenzee north of Wieringgen at 23:57 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (13 July 1941 - 29 May 1942) The Early Years Part 2 - Theo Boiten)
At 00.29 hrs on the 2nd June R3620 RT:A was shot down by anti-aircraft fire (Fliegerabwehrkanone=flak) supported by ground based radar stations, sound detection and direction units, and searchlight batteries. the aircraft crashed at Buschbell in Germany 90 kilometres SE of Venlo, Netherlands.
Two German Flak batteries 2./Res. Flak Abt. 245 and 1./Res. Flak Abt. 270 claimed the shooting down of R3620. The headquarters (HQ) of these two flak batteries were in Cologne (Köln), Germany. Nachtjagd Combat Archive (30 May - 31 December 1942) The Early Years Part 3 - Theo Boiten)
Another 114 Sqn was also lost on the same operation. Blenheim IV V6337 RT:D flown by 21 year old Sgt John L. Mitchell from Tottenham, Middlesex. He was killed with his two crew members after being shot down by flak units, crashing into the English channel off Dunkirk, France at 00:06 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (30 May - 31 December 1942) The Early Years Part 3 - Theo Boiten)
114 Squadron were one of the first squadrons to receive delivery of the Blenheim in March 1937 (shown above)
Initially buried at the Military Cemetery, Cologne, reburied at Rheinberg after war end.
Flt.Sgt. Patrick Bernard L’Hirondelle. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 1.F. 7. Son of Mr. August L’Hirondelle and Mrs. Julia L’Hirondelle (née Borie) of Slave Lake, Alberta, Canada. (Mr August L’Hirondelle died in 1926 - Julia remarried in 1930 to a Mr. Frank Nash) Patrick was born on the 7th March 1922.
Left: Original grave marker for Flt.Sgt. Patrick Bernard L’Hirondelle
Plt.Off. Ronald George Inglis. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 1.F. 8-15. Son of George and Janet Smail Inglis, of Hinchley Wood, Esher, Surrey, England. Note: He played for Scotland v England in the Boys' Golf International Match at Southport in 1936 and captained the Scottish team at Bruntsfield in 1937, in which year he won the Scottish Boys' Championship at North Berwick, a performance which he repeated in 1938. In 1939 he led the qualifiers in the Scottish Golf Championship (Service) at Prestwick. Joining the RAF in 1940 as an aircraftman, he was commissioned in 1941.
Sgt. Henry Meakin. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 1.F. 8-15. Son of William Henry and Margaret Beatrice Meakin, of Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, England.
Researched for relatives of these crews with thanks for additional information to Gwen L’Hirondelle (niece of the pilot), Sandy and Mike Boyles (Sgt. Meakin relatives) George Watson College, Colinton Road, Edinburgh,
Below: very touching photograph showing Julia, the mother of Bernie L’Hirondelle, visiting her son and crew graves at Rheinberg War Cemetery - 1970's. (courtesy Gwen L’Hirondelle)
Above: very touching photograph showing Julia, the mother of Bernie L’Hirondelle, visiting her son and crew graves at Rheinberg War Cemetery - 1970's. (courtesy Gwen L’Hirondelle)
The photograph shown left was found in Bernie's possessions and he had written on the back: "Hugh Denorean and Neville Malet-Veale. Manning Depot. They were inspecting a camera and I snapped them rather unawares” .
We have included this in the hope that they or relatives may like to contact us. Gwen wrote: 'I can find no record of a Hugh Denorean, but I did find out something about Neville Malet-Veale. He served as a rear gunner and returned as a Warrant Officer in the summer of 1944 to an RCAF base in Dafoe, Saskatechewan (BCATP No. 5 Bombing and Gunnery School). Understood to have survived the war, and may still be alive.'
Researched for relatives of these crews with thanks for additional information to Gwen L’Hirondelle (niece of the pilot), Sandy and Mike Boyles (Sgt. Meakin relatives) George Watson College, Colinton Road, Edinburgh. Thanks to Todd Mayson for sharing his research into Flt.Sgt. L’Hirondelle (Nov 2020). Additional research by Aircrew Remembered (Nov 2020).