5/6.08.1941 No 115 Squadron Wellington Ic R1471 KO-T Fl/Lt Frederick Lorne Litchfield
Operation: Mannheim, Germany
Date: 5/6 August 1941 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit: No 115 Squadron
Type: Wellington Ic
Base: RAF Marham, Norfolk
Location: Near Tienen, Glabbeek, Belgium
André Bruyninckx contacted Aircrew Remembered in July this year to help support his search for relatives of this crew and for further information and pictures. André is writing a book about this crash and three others in the area and would welcome any further information. There will be a Remembrance weekend for the relatives in Glabbeek, Belgium on the 29th, 30th April and 1st May, 2017. A memorial board was placed in the area of the crash in November 2015. If you have any further information then contact us via the 'add info' button at the top of the page or add a message to our guest book which can be located on the front page
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Frederick (Fred) Lorne Litchfield 39209 RAF Age 27 PoW No 3716 Camps: Stalag XC - Neinburg, Stalag Luft III - Sagan and Belaria (1)
2nd Pilot: Sgt Richard (Dick) Hanmer Hilton-Jones 1101962 RAFVR Age 28 PoW No 65 Camps: Stalag IIIE- Kirchain, Stalag Luft III - Sagan and Belaria, Stalag Luft IV - Heyderkrug, 357 - Korpernikus (2)
Nav: Sgt. Donald (Don) Arthur Boutle 922609 RAFVR Age? Injured PoW No 39536 Camps: Stalag IXC - Muhlhausen, Stalag Luft VI - Heyderkrug, 357 - Korpernikus (3)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. A (Jock) S Lawson 646300 RAFVR Age? Injured PoW No 85 Camps: Stalag IIIE - Kirchain, Stalag Luft VI - Heyderkrug, Stalag Luft IV - Gross Tychow
Air/Gnr: Sgt E (Ted) F Lambert 958963 RAFVR Age? Injured PoW No 70 Camps: Stalag IIIE- Kirchain, Stalag Luft III - Sagan and Belaria, Stalag Luft VI - Heyderkrug, 357 - Korpernikus
Air/Gnr: Sgt James Ian Bradley (Cobber) Walker RAFVR Injured PoW No ? Camps: Dulag Luft, Reserve Lazarett 1249 - Stalag IXc, Reserve Lazarett Stalag IX-A/H at Kloster Haina(4)
Map showing the area of the crash site
Left: RAF Marham, Norfolk. Right: Wellington Ic (both courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Wellington R1471 took off at 22.47hrs from RAF Marham for an operation on Mannheim. Nothing further was heard from the aircraft after take-off. The aircraft was claimed as shot down by Lt. Hans-Joachim Redlich of 1./NJG1 at 02.03hrs north of Tienen. Wellington R1471 was caught by three searchlights and Fl/Lt. Litchfield informed the crew that was not good and that they had very little chance of survival. Fred Litchfield informed the crew that he was going down to shoot out the light which they did, but were hit in the process. Switching off all the electrics and the engines reducing the risk of fire the aircraft started its descent. As the aircraft came down, it hit some high tension cables and then touched the ground in a potato field, carried on, hitting a hedge and then ploughing through some tree which helped to slow the aircraft down, the aircraft finally came to a stop in the middle of the next field. The front gunner Sgt. Ted Lambert was trapped in his turret and it took some time finding him and getting the injured man out.
Left: Taken in 1947 the line of trees that the aircraft first hit slowing it down. Right: A Belgium farmer standing on the mound of soil where the aircraft came to a stop. In the distance can be seen the village church and a hand drawn map (courtesy Gaston deBecker who sent the pictures to Don Boutle in May 1947)
2016. The line of trees as they are now and the field where the aircraft came to a stop. In the distance can be seen the village church
Far left: Frans and Bertha Harry's house as it is now in 2016.
Left : Frans Harry and Bertha Willems on their wedding day
The crew were first taken to the house of Frans and Bertha Harry, Kersbeekstraat, 5, Glabbeek. Three of the crew had been injured and two were carried on stretches by Edmond Empsen, Victor Mertens, Burgomaster and Notary in Glabbeek who had organised the stretchers, Van Hemelen (teacher), Victor Vangramberen and Francois Laermans (postman), and Gaston deBecker. Edmond Empsen and Laermans Francois were both woken by the noise of the low flying aircraft and rushed to help at the crash site.
Left to right: Edmond Empson, Francois Laermans and Georgette Depre nee Vandereyken. Georgette was 10 when she witnessed the accident (courtesy of Andre Bruyninckx)
The Harry family ripped a sheet into bandages to tend their wounds. The family did not know the names of the crew at this time and were given support by Victor Mertens, Burgomaster and Notary in Glabbeek, Van Maegdenbergh, Parish Priest, Maria Vandereyken and her 10 year old daughter Georgette whose mother helped prepare food for the men. Bertha Harry had to cut Don Boutle's parachute strap so he could breathe more easily. Don had a head injury and was so badly injured that a priest was called to give him the Sacrament of Extreme Unction (Last Rites). Many of the villiger's came to see the crew that night and many shed a tear for the injured men.
Part of an eye witness statement: '....After the crash local farmers tried to hide the crew but because of the three injured airmen it proved impossible. The farmers and members of the crew then tried to set the plane on fire but that also proved to be impossible. A local doctor Dr Homans gave the injured first aid until the Germans arrived who took the injured airmen to the local hospital in Leuven. The plane was dismantled by the Germans and taken to Germany. One of the eye witness still has a part of the parachute that was given to the local woman who made shawls from it, which they then painted'.
(1) Frederick (Fred) Lorne Litchfield was born 21 February 1914 in Croydon and enlisted before the war. He was commissioned as Acting Pilot Officer 19 October 1936 and posted to RAF Depot, Uxbridge, Middlesex and then to No 37 (Bomber) Squadron, Feltwell 30 June 1937. He was confirmed as Pilot Officer 24 August 1937 and promoted to the rank of Flying Officer 24 April 1939. On the 3 September 1940 Flying Officer Frederick Lorne Litchfield was promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant and relinquished his commission 1 July 1945. Transferred to the Royal New Zealand Air Force 1 July 1945 'His Excellency the Governor-General has been pleased to approve the following transfer of officers to the Royal New Zealand Air Force' Flight Lieutenant F L Litchfield transferred back to the Royal Air Force reserve list 20 April 1962 and relinquished his Commission retaining his rank 20 April 1966.
Fred Litchfield attended Shoreham College as a border when still only six years old and from there attended Marlborough College along with his elder brother Harold and younger brother Peter. He didn’t like team sports and was described by his matron at the time as being ‘angry’. He enjoyed and excelled at rifle shooting and represented his school at Bisley.
With New Zealand in the grip of ‘the slump’ he immigrated to New Zealand in the early thirties to learn about farming. He loved it but the locals had difficulty taking to a young English schoolboy sheepherder. He remembered riding many miles for a drink at a country bar. Ordering a dry sherry was the last thing he could remember before the barman hit him; loaded him back on his horse, which returned him to the farm where he was staying.
Right: Hawker Hart aircraft (courtesy Imperial War Museum)
Abandoning the rural existence he took flying lessons in a Tiger Moth at New Plymouth Aero Club before enrolling for a short service commission in the Royal New Zealand Air Force and continuing training Air Work Reserve Training School in Perth, Scotland. First in a Tiger Moth, then a Hawker Hart on which he qualified, still in 1936. He then moved to Flying Training School at Thornaby in Yorkshire to continue training on multi engine Harrows and assigned to 37 ‘B’ Squadron, Bomber Command. He continued to live a somewhat privileged existence, learn navigation, flying on instruments, bombing, gunning and exploring the local pubs on his Norton International. In 1939 he took delivery of his first Wellington (L4331). He and his crew then took it to Marseille, twice but with no indication of the purpose.
On September 3 he took part in his first military attack on the German Fleet in Helligoland. November 2 he crash landed near Cirencester but with no casualties. March 23 he flew a leaflets and recon trip over Hanover and Brunswick. April 12, raided German shipping off the South coast of Norway but couldn’t see the target. The same situation on April 16 and 17 over Stavanger. Until after the 26 May and Dunkirk, he really hadn’t seen any action and it seemed likely that this was the reason for signing up for another tour of duty based at Marnham where they were soon not expected to pay for their drinks at the local pub as they would be unlikely to be returning before long. After another leaflet drop on 11 June over Avalon in France, he and his new crew then attacked Brest on the 4th, Munster on the 7th and Osnabruck on the 9th. On the 13th they couldn’t see Bremen so they bombed Borkum and Duisberg on the 15th.
It must have been an incredible baptism of fire. By now he had flown 1200 hours and was a highly skilled pilot with very little combat experience. But on the final night he got caught in three searchlights. While the anti-aircraft gunners got their range he informed his crew that in such a situation they had no chance of survival so he was going down to shoot out the light, which they did but got hit in the process. Switching all the electrics and the engines off thus successfully reducing the risk of fire he put it down between two trees and everyone survived though some quite badly injured; including the front gunner who had become trapped in his turret and took some searching to find. My father was hurt and concussed but not injured and everything became a bit hazy before the Germans arrived. He did remember being well treated by the civilians and Germans alike although as the only officer he was soon separated from the rest of the crew and spent the next four years as a POW where, as officers they were treated with some degree of respect. He used to say that ‘for anyone who has spent any time at public school or in jail, the experience was remarkably familiar.’ He was liberated by the Russians which had its disadvantages as they held onto prisoners as a means of bargaining over Berlin.
By the time he got back to the UK the country was awash with younger pilots with four engine experience so he decided to train as a veterinary surgeon and return to New Zealand. So he enrolled at Glasgow University. Unfortunately he also met and married my recently divorced mother and her two children. Lacking the strength to survive the climatic rigors of Scotland she was obliged to stay in the South of England while he commuted to Scotland. It didn’t work so he returned south and joined the Milk Marketing Board. The only connection with his life as a pilot was the fact that he rode a motorcycle combination to visit the farms.
14th August 1945. Frederick Lorne Litchfield was granted a commission in the Royal New Zealand Air force
In the 50’s he surprised us all by returning to the RAF as a catering officer; having refused to retrain him as a four engine pilot. I discovered his secret when he returned from his training course with a full flying kit at the bottom of bag. Apparently getting him back his flying licence on a Chipmunk had been the responsibility of a senior officer who was so appalled by the site of an ex war-time pilot obliged to accept such a position that he organised his license retrieval. Even more surprising was the fact that some years later he, accompanied by his family, was posted to RAF Idris in Libya to run the transit hotel. Fortunately, the station was also equipped with a twin-engine DeHavilend Devon. Somehow he and his pilot colleagues somehow managed to get him retrained back onto twin prop engines with a full instrument rating. They also had a Chipmunk on which he surreptitiously taught me to fly while his son-in-law became a V-bomber pilot who in the knowledge that he would be given a desk job if he gained promotion, remained a Flight Lieutenant pilot until his eventual retirement.
(2) Sgt Richard (Dick) Hanmer Hilton-Jones. Born 2nd November 1913 near Welshpool, Powys. Educated at Prestfelde Preparatory School, Shrewsbury, Shropshire followed by Shrewsbury School. After leaving school (Hanmer, as known by the family) started his training as an accountant training in Liverpool. Richard was attracted to the RAF after seeing a promotional film at the cinema. He completed part of his training at RAF Little Rissington, Gloucestershire where he flew Ansons and Wellington aircraft. Having completed his training he flew four operational flights in July 1941 with Pilot F/Lt Litchfield to Osnabruck 9th July, Bremen 13th July but the target was covered in thick fog so bombed Bremem and Borkum 15th July. Sgt Richard (Dick) Hanmer Hilton-Jones was not injured in the aircraft crash and became a prisoner of war.
Sagan watch tower
Part of Richard's time as a PoW was spent at Stalag Luft III - Sagan and Balaria where he studied and passed his Chartered Accountancy exams, and taught many other prisoners of war in the art of accountancy. When the war ended Richard was in a PoW Hospital with Impetigo and was unable to walk free from the camp. After returning to the UK he was taken to hospital and when his family visited him for the first time he was so covered in bandages, that the only way they could recognized him was by his distinctive laugh. After arriving home in Overton-on-Dee he gave a talk about his experience as a PoW to the local Women's Institute, but never spoke to his family about his time as a PoW. He continued to have a great interest in flying and obtained his private pilots licence in 1949. The family remember that each year around Christmas time that a crate of fresh New Zealand apples would arrive from Sgt. Hayden Neil Guymer RNZAF who Richard had met while both were PoW. Richard married Mary Bovill in 1953 and had three daughters. He worked for Whittingham Riddell in Shewsbury as a chartered accountant. Richard died in November 1993 aged 80 in Wrexham, Clywd, Wales
(3) Sgt. Donald (Don) Arthur Boutle joined the RAF 7th June 1940. Don was seriously injured in the crash and after bring looked after by the local people was taken to the Civil Hospital in Leuven. He'd fractured his skull and was unconscious for just under two weeks.
The smuggled letter and covering letter from Sgt. J. L. Newton 742570 sent to Mrs Boutle
The smuggled letter written by Sgt James Ian Bradley (Cobber) Walker. Cobber wrote a letter to Mrs Boutle on the 14th August 1941 explaining what had happened to her son. He told her that her son had been injured and that he was getting better and the Doctor says he will make a full recovery. This letter was smuggled out of the hospital in Leuven by a visiting young lady and passed to a local priest. How the letter was then passed to Sgt. Jack Newton is not known. When Sgt. Jack Newton arrived back in the UK he sent it to Mrs Boutle on the 17th January 1942 with a covering letter explaining who he was and how he was given the letter. For further information about Sgt. Jack Lamport Newton click (here)
1941 Christmas. Institute Bordet, Brussels. Sgt Don Boutle middle row 2nd from the right
Don was moved on the 22nd September to the Institute Bordet which was in the centre of Brussel's. He was looked after by German Red Cross sister who spoke excellent English. Don was able to write one foolscap letter per week which had not been allowed in his previous hospital. Don spent his first Christmas at the Institute Bordet. The hospital was decorated and the local Belgium people brought in wine, cigarettes, cake and sweets. On the 11th November 1942 Don was sent to Stalag IXc where he played the violin in a dance band. Food was not good with a meagre ration of spuds and watery soup for lunch and bread with margarine and some 'tinned' item for tea. He was then moved travelling by cattle truck to Sagan station 6.30am on the 30th April. This camp was brand new and the conditions were much better and the POW's were astonished to be issue with cutlery, eating bowls, washing bowls and a small towel. The prisoners made gardens around their huts, took part in athletic contest and there was a theatre and library. Food was supplemented by the vegetable grown in the prisoner's garden.
Both pictures were taken in March 1942 at Stalag IXc. Don Boutle middle row 2nd from the right and Don middle row far right
Moving again on the 16 June 1943 to Stalag Luft VI. This camp was also new and for the 2000 prisoners Red Cross Parcels never ran out and they had hot meals at lunch and supper. There was a theatre and musical society, a debating society and several classrooms were set up and many exams taken. With the advancing Russians the prisoners were moved and on the 16 July 1944
Map of the PoW Camps drawn by 'Skip' Brown at Thorn 31.07.1944
Don and his fellow prisoners of war walk the 5km to the station where they were packed into cattle trucks and left for Stalag 357, Thorn in Poland at 9pm arriving at 6pm on the 17th July 1944. The prisoners were only in this camp for just over four weeks and were moved again to Stalag 357 (late 355), Fallingbostel, Germany arriving 10th August 1944. Electric lights were installed in September and there was no coal issue and parties were arranged for collecting wood. Two football pitches were made but when they ran out of Red Cross food parcels all football games were stopped. Christmas parcels arrived at the beginning of 1945, sufficient for 1 per man. Food became an acute issue by February. By Friday, March 30th the camp strength reached 9,436. April 6th, 1945 the camp was evacuated by foot in a very haphazard manner, but Don stayed behind with the sick (1000 men). Gun fire and serial activity was very intense and food very short with the water off most of the time and no electricity. By the 13th April the camp strength was back up to 6,400 and we were able to walk around as the Germans had left and we were now on our own.
April 17th, 1945. Arrival of armoured cars and tanks of the 7th Armoured Division to liberate us. 24th April, 1945 Left Cosford for home arriving at 1pm
Left: 1940 Donald Boutle still under training. 1970. Teacher Don Boutle. Right: Don on his 80th birthday
Sgt. A (Jock) S Lawson. No further information as yet. Are you able to help?
Sgt E (Ted) F Lambert. No further information as yet. Are you able to help?
(4) Sgt James Ian Bradley (Cobber) Walker. James was born on the 20 February in New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand and completed part of his education at Richmond Road and Mt. Albert Grammar School. Enlisted 15 January 1940. Leading Aircraftsman J I B Walker left for overseas duty having completed part of his training at Weraroa and Ohahea, New Zealand in 1940. Cobber had served with No 264 Squadron and No 600 Squadron in 1940 and had escaped unhurt from a Wellington bomber when it crashed at Oakington on the 3 May, 1941
Ian's leg was broken in two places when the aircraft came down, and after being treated by the villagers of Glabbeek he was taken by the Germans to the civil hospital in Leuven where he stayed until he was transferred to Institute Bordet, Brussels 22 September 1941. He remained there for a few months. He was later sent to PoW Camps including Kloster Haina near Kassel in 1943 where he escaped for 8 days before being recapture. He was exchanged and repatriated back to New Zealand in October 1943.
The complete Second World War story of Ian Walker is told in the book: From Battle of Britain Airman to POW Escapee: The Story of Ian Walker RAF, written by his daughter Angela Walker and published by Pen & Sword Books.
Below: A summary of James Ian Bradley Walker's account of the crash transcribed by his daughter Angela Walker.
Tail gunner James Ian Bradley Walker’s account of the crash, recorded in 1997:
“The night that we failed to return… we experienced engine trouble on the way out… the pilot decided we would jettison our bombs before the target area… We unloaded our bombs on a bridge… and then we turned for home. At this stage we got caught in a searchlight cone, which didn’t involve anti-aircraft fire, so we knew it was a fighter cone that was working in conjunction with the night fighter squadrons. Violent evasive action was taken. The operators of the searchlight cone were particularly efficient in holding the aircraft that they had captured, and it was with considerable difficulty that our aircraft managed to escape from this cone… At the same time a fighter appeared… we were flying on only one engine. The hydraulic system was out of action and I was faced with the fighter right on our tail… he unleashed a burst of gunfire, which I think was off target. The pilot then took more evasive action. We lost the fighter but by this time we were down to a couple of thousand feet, flying on one engine heading for home. Everything seemed quite normal. The Wellington bomber was quite capable of flying on the one engine so we assumed we would make it home…the next thing I heard was the front gunner…screaming out… and the next thing I remember was the graunch as we hit the ground. No time to bail out, just this graunching contact impact with mother earth again. All then was blackness. I really think at the time I was regaining consciousness. I endeavoured then to escape from the aircraft by manually operating the door so I could escape out of the turret out onto the ground, which I did… as I dropped I felt this searing pain. My left leg was badly injured… again I passed out. And the next thing I remember was the front gunner… on impact his front turret had been knocked off the aircraft with him inside it. The turret rolled around and he eventually got out of it… completely uninjured and dashed round to see how I was in the rear turret. And the pilots also had got out uninjured… the aircraft didn’t catch fire. It was broken into two pieces… separated by some 50 odd feet or more. The pilots came then to assist us. They dragged the injured ones away from the aircraft to the edge of the field. It was pitch black but the pilot had told us at the time that we had crashed through tall trees. The trees had broken our fall, otherwise I doubt there would have been any survivors. So they then went back and set fire to the aircraft. The oxygen tanks were exploding like bombs and the fire was then noticed by a local village and the villagers came out to assist and we then discovered we had crashed in Belgium… The villagers took us in, gave us breakfast and then had to inform the Germans because of the injuries. The Germans took us to the Leuven hospital… there I was treated for my injuries, consisting of compound fractures of the left leg, bones protruding through the skin…”
The first New Zealand members of overseas air personnel to be repatriated from German hands - Warrant Officer H M English, Pakaututu Station, Hastings, David C Allen. Napier and J I B Walker, Auckland, all of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, have arrived back in New Zealand. One member of the party has gained two stone in weight since leaving Germany. They are fit and well, with the exception of Warrant Officer English, who sustained a leg injury when his aircraft crash-landed in enemy territory. Sgt. H M English RNZAF was flying in Wellington T2474 on an operation to Mannheim 22/23 December 1940, No 75. Squadron. Sgt English spent some time in hospital in Rouen before being sent to a prisoner of war camp. Sgt. David C Allen was flying in Stirling N6035 on an operation to Berlin 25/26 July 1941, No 7 Squadron.
On his return to New Zealand James Ian Bradley (Cobber) Walker was told that he had been promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer. James Ian Bradley (Cobber) Walker died on the 6th June, 2009
Researched by: Kate Tame Aircrew Remembered and for all the relatives and friends of the crew. With special thanks to Andre Bruyninckx, Belgium researcher and author for all his support, information and relative details, David Litchfield son of Fl/Lt. Frederick Lorne Litchfield, Jude Boutle daughter of Sgt. Donald Arthur Boutle, Priscilla, Diana and Nina Hilton-Jones daughters of Sgt Richard (Dick) Hanmer Hilton-Jones, Angela Walker daughter of Sgt. J I B Walker and other sources as indicated below.