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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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No. 58 Squadron Crest
23/24.09.1941 No. 37 Squadron Wellington 1C Z8735 LF-N Sgt. Long

Operation: Benghazi, Libya

Date: 23/24 September 1941

Unit: No. 37 Squadron

Type: Wellington 1C

Serial: Z8735

Code: LF-N

Base: RAF Shallufa, Egypt

Location: Returned safely

Pilot: Sgt. Long Age 22 (1)

2nd Pilot. W/Cdr. Richard Rupert Nash CBE 22169 RAF Age 36 (2)

Obs: Sgt. I.M. Hendricksen (3)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. G.T. Price (4)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Walter Friend 908594 Age 29 (5)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Maurice C.F. James Age 21(6)

BBC War Correspondent: Edward Ward Age 35 (7)


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


REASON FOR LOSS:

Having been detailed for a bombing raid on shipping in Benghazi harbour six Wellington bombers of No. 37 Squadron took off from RAF Shallufa, Egypt in the afternoon of 23 September 1941. They flew to Landing Ground 09 at Bir Koriayim located about 250 miles west of Shallufa, Egypt from where the raid was to be launched later that night. Only four aircraft took part in the operation, a round trip of 1000 miles.


First away at 22:00 hours was Z8768 LF-V Captained by Sgt. Tweedie followed by Z8735 LF-N at 22:05 Captained by Sgt. Long then T2508 LF-O (seen in the photograph above) Captained by Sgt. Keynes at 22:16 and finally W5646 LF-R Captained by P/O. Owen at 22:20. Flying as a passenger in Sgt. Owen's aircraft was an American war correspondent.

Wing Commander Richard Rupert Nash, flying as second pilot in Wellington Z8735 was the Commanding Officer of the squadron; also on board was the renowned BBC War Correspondent Edward Ward.



Edward Henry Harold Ward, 7th Viscount Bangor (5 November 1905 – 8 May 1993) was an Anglo-Irish peer, journalist, war correspondent and author. He worked under the name Edward Ward.

The son of Maxwell Ward, 6th Viscount Bangor, by his marriage to Agnes Elizabeth Hamilton, third daughter of Dacre Hamilton, of Cornacassa, County Monaghan, Ward was educated first at Wixenford, then, like his father, at Harrow and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. His grandmother was the scientific illustrator Mary Ward, who died in the world's first motoring accident.

Becoming a journalist, Ward went overseas as a Reuters correspondent for China and the Far East. In 1937 he was taken on by the BBC as a radio announcer, and in 1939 was sent as war correspondent to Finland to cover what became known as the Winter War. On 12 March 1940, Ward delivered a sensational international scoop, when BBC Radio News carried his story of a ceasefire agreed between the Soviet Union and Finland, a day before it was formally announced. Ward was then deployed to Belgium and France, just before the Phoney War ended in Blitzkrieg. He escaped from the German advance by taking a ship from Bordeaux to Egypt, where the BBC used him to take the place of another correspondent, Richard Dimbleby. He reported from Athens on the May 1941 evacuation of the city. In November 1941 he was taken prisoner by Italian forces at Tobruk following the Battle of Sidi Rezegh. He spent the rest of the Second World War as a prisoner of war in Italian and later German camps. On 31 March 1945 he was among those liberated by American forces from Oflag XII-B, a camp for officers near Limburg an der Lahn.

After the war, Ward worked as a foreign correspondent around the world until 1960. He reported from Hungary during the 1956 uprising.

He appeared as a "castaway" on the BBC Radio programme Desert Island Discs on 28 August 1961 and published several books, including three volumes of autobiography.

His obituary in The Independent called him "one of the very best of the BBC's war correspondents".

Biographical details of Edward Ward courtesy Wikipedia.



In July 2016 Ross Friend, son of Sgt. Walter Friend the Front Gunner and Second Wireless Operator of Z8735, kindly sent Roy Wilcock the following copy of the script of a BBC radio broadcast made by Edward Ward in which he recounted that night's raid on Benghazi harbour.


Script of a broadcast by Edward Ward, September 24th 1941

This is a typical RAF communiqué from the Middle East:-

"During the night of the so and so, shipping and the harbour of Benghazi were again attacked by heavy bombers of the Royal Air Force. Hits were obtained on ships at the Central Mole and damage was caused to the harbour installations".

I can enlarge a bit on this type of communiqué having just been in one of the heavy bombers which bombed Benghazi in the early hours of the morning, and I saw for myself exactly what happens on these almost nightly raids. I imagine this one was typical of the 200 odd raids which have been carried out over this town. In point of fact it was probably more spectacular than many because one of the planes scored a direct hit on a ship in the harbour. At any rate I'd like to try and give you an account of what happened as an illustration of the kind of thing the RAF are doing almost every night out here.

I arrived at the Base aerodrome about lunch time expecting to have to stay there for a few days before getting a chance to go on a raid. But as soon as I got there I was told that I could go straight away. I was given a parachute and harness; told how to put it on and how to pull the rip cord - if necessary - a flying helmet with communication telephone attachment and we drove across the flying field to the Bomber. The captain was a 22 year old sergeant pilot, whose home is in Belfast. This was his thirty first raid and the fourteenth on Benghazi. The wing commander was flying in the same plane on this trip as second pilot. The observer was a New Zealander; the wireless operator was a Londoner; so was the front gunner and second wireless operator; and the rear gunner came from Oxford. This same crew had flown together ever since they came out here in April.

When we left the base aerodrome ready bombed up we didn't know what our objective was to be, though the probability was that it would be Benghazi. We landed at an advanced Landing Ground and soon after we got there all pilots and crews met in the large hut which is the mess there for what is called the briefing. Here they were given the weather forecast and the details of the objective to be bombed. It turned out to be Benghazi; and the target was the shipping in the harbour. The results of reconnaissance photographs had been traced out on a large scale map of Benghazi. Ships that had been sunk in earlier raids were put in outline and new ones were blacked in. These were to be the targets. The pilots discussed the lines of attack they proposed to make. Then we sat down in the Mess for a bite of supper before taking off. "You'll see a pretty fine exhibition of Flak when you get there" a pilot said to me, "but you don't need to bother about the shell bursts until you can hear them; then they're getting a bit too close to be healthy". I was to remember this a few hours later.

We took off for Benghazi in the dark along a flare path. The distance is roughly the same as London to Berlin and it is a long, tedious flight there and back. But there's nothing tedious about it during the time you're there. The Flak is, I should say, just as heavy as Berlin, if not heavier because Benghazi isn't a very big place and it is heavily defended. I dozed in the back of the plane for some time until I was told we were about half an hour away from our objective. We kept a look out for night fighters but it was a very dark night and saw nothing. Then when we had about twenty minutes left I helped the wireless operator lift the heavy parachute flares out of their racks and place them ready alongside the trap down which they are dropped. At last we reached Benghazi. Everything was deathly still except the noise of our engines. And when I saw a flare light the whole place up. One of the other planes had got there ahead of us. Almost instantly the whole sky was pierced with a ring of searchlights, which criss crossed each other like a spider's web.

We flew in over the target and dropped a flare ourselves; then flew out again and circled round. A searchlight just tipped one of our wings but we got away from it. Then we made for the target. I could hear the orders being given on my headphones.

'We're just coming up to it; no, a little more to the left; now!" And the observer released a stick of bombs. But we didn't get a chance to see where they had landed. I was standing up in the middle of the Wellington watching through the domed "blister".

Suddenly the whole plane was floodlit. We'd got caught by a searchlight. Soon every searchlight in the place was on us. Up till now one had been able to watch the anti -aircraft fire quite objectively. It was more like a firework display. The shells twinkled as they burst in the distance; whirling spirals of tracers from the light ack-ack came rather ineffectively up towards us. But within thirty seconds of those searchlights getting us it was a very different story. It was a more personal affair. Every gun in the place was firing at us only.

As a pilot said to me later; "when they get you like that they put up everything they know; even the breach blocks of the guns!" There was no question about hearing these shells explode. You could hear them plenty and feel them. Most of them were exploding underneath us, with nasty thumps which several times shook me off my feet. One must have given the rear gunner a good shaking; it exploded right under the tail and made the plane give a sickening lurch. I thought for a moment - and so did the pilot as he told me later - that we'd been hit. This kind of thing went on for about three minutes - though it seemed a great deal longer to me - and all the time we were bumping and dodging and swerving in an attempt to get away from those maddening searchlights. Finally the pilot put the bomber into a fast shallow dive and we made our escape. I doubt if I've ever disliked three minutes so much!

We circled round once again and as we approached the target again we suddenly saw a great sheet of flame shoot up from alongside the outer mole of the harbour. We knew there was a ship there and this great blaze of flame and a great cloud of smoke which shot up many hundreds of feet left no doubt that one of the planes had scored a direct hit. The whole harbour was well lit up by the flares. I know Benghazi pretty well and could easily recognise the whole layout. And this direct hit made things even plainer.

We turned out again in order to approach the target from another direction and flew in towards the fire. As we approached, the flames spluttered out. The ship must have been sunk. The searchlights which had been periodically going on and off again suddenly all came on together. I counted fifteen of them - making a network which we had to go through to get to the target. I don't know how we managed to get through those beams without being picked up again, but we did and we dropped our last stick and then turned back and made for home. When we were well away from Benghazi the Wing Commander came back to where I was in the plane, "What did you think about it?" he asked, "Well you certainly gave me my money's worth!" I said. Some hot coffee and biscuits and chocolate were produced and they certainly seemed good. On the long trip back I could see in the distance the flashes of gunfire at Tobruk. We carried on until we landed at the advance landing ground just as dawn was lightening the sky. Ours was the last plane back, we had been over Benghazi for almost exactly an hour.

All the pilots gave in their reports in the "ops" room and everyone agreed that it had been a very successful raid. And then we all went along to the Mess where a good hot breakfast awaited us.

Looking back on it I wouldn't have missed going on that raid for anything. Without seeing it for yourself you can't really have any idea of what it is like, of what the RAF does on these raids. And besides it was nice for once being on the right end of the bombs - even though it did mean being at the wrong end of the ack-ack.



On 25 August 2017 Aircrew Remembered was contacted by Pyers O'Conor-Nash, the son of Group Captain Richard Rupert Nash, who kindly provided a copy of the entry in his father's log book recording the events of 23/24 September 1941.





The raid had indeed been successful, the squadron Operations Record Book (ORB) records that V8768, Sgt. Tweedie's aircraft, had "carried out an attack against the shipping in Benghazi harbour. He scored a direct hit on a ship moored in the harbour, and a colossal explosion followed. Debris was seen to fall into the water within a radius of three hundred yards from the ship".

In relation to the other three aircraft the ORB records that no results were observed.

Edward Ward's broadcast script however is at odds with the squadron ORB regarding the time of return. He states that the aircraft in which he flew was last to return yet the ORB records that N8735 and O2508 both returned at 05:50 and Tweedie's V8768 five minutes later at 05:55. Last to return by a long way was P/O. Owen's R5646 arriving back almost one hour later at 06:45.



BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW

(1) Sgt. Long was probably born in Belfast c1919 but nothing further known, can you help?

(2) Gp. Capt. Richard Rupert Nash CBE was born on 20 June 1905 in Limerick, Ireland. He was educated at St. Gregory's School, Downside, Somerset from 1920 to 1924. He was granted a short service commission as a Pilot Officer on probation 13 March 1926 the appointment confirmed on 13 September 1926; was later promoted to Flying Officer (date not known) and to Flight Lieutenant on 30 June 1931.

His commission was made permanent on 1 July 1936 and also that year he married Gertrude Mea Mary O’Conor in Dublin. On 1 April 1937 he was attached to the Department of the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Ministry and the following day was promoted to Squadron Leader. The following year on 4 May he commenced flying duties with 215 Squadron at RAF Driffield.

He was promoted to Wing Commander (Temp) on 12 March 1940 and Group Captain (Temp) on 1 March 1942.

He was Commanding Officer of No 37 Squadron from 21 August 1941 to 4 March 1942.

After the war he remained in the RAF and on 1 July 1947 his appointment to Group Captain was made substantive.

On 2 January 1950 he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (Military Division) (CBE).

He retired from the RAF on 8 February 1954.

Group Captain Richard Rupert Nash CBE died on 21 August 1980 and was buried at Deansgrange Cemetery, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

(Biographical details of Richard Rupert Nash courtesy www.unithistories.com/officers/RAF_officers_N01.ht... )

His son informs us that as a proud Irishman his father had a "Shamrock" painted on the side of his aircraft

(3) Sgt. I.M. Hendricksen was probably born in New Zealand but nothing further known, can you help?

(4) Sgt. G.T. Price was probably born in London but nothing further known, can you help?


(5) W/O. Walter Friend was born on 25 December 1911 at Fulham, London the son of Montague Friend and Alice M. Phyffers. After leaving school Walter worked in radio construction before volunteering for the RAF on 5 December 1939. He served his first tour with No. 14, No. 15 and No.37 Squadrons in the Middle East. Whilst with No 37 Squadron on 4 October 1941, he was the front gunner on Wellington Z8768 LF-V on an operation to bomb Benghazi. Returning from the raid an engine caught fire and the aircraft ditched 25 metres off the coast near El Dabaa, Egypt and the crew were paddled ashore in their dinghy. Three of the crew were slightly injured including Walter Friend who received hospital treatment for an injured leg. Still with 37 Squadron on 2/3 March 1942 and flying from Luqa, Malta, Walter was the W/Op/Air/Gnr. of Wellington Z7911 LF-D (see photograph below). Returning from bombing shipping in Palermo harbour the aircraft overshot the runway at Luqa and crashed. There were no injuries.


In the above photograph the middle Wellington is Z7911 LF-D, the aircraft that crashed at Luqa on 3 March 1942.

Later in 1942 he returned to the UK where he converted to Lancasters and joined 156 Squadron. On 6 September 1943 he was the Wireless Operator of Lancaster JA858 on a bombing raid to Mannheim. On the way home the aircraft was shot down by a German night-fighter resulting in the death of two of the crew. The others including Walter Friend were captured and spent the rest of the war in captivity. Walter was PoW No. 222695 and held at Stalag Muhlberg-Elbe - 4B. The full story of the loss of Lancaster JA858 can be seen at

http://www.aircrewremembered.com/prichard-john.htm...

Right: an image of the German PoW tag issued to Walter Friend and sent to us by his son Ross. A somewhat strange anomaly surrounds the tag in that several reputable sources record his PoW number as 222695 yet the number on the tag would appear to be 222595




He was promoted to Flight Sergeant and on 3 June 1943 to Warrant Officer.

After returning to England in June 1945 he was admitted to RAF Hospital Cosford suffering from tuberculosis and severe malnourishment contracted whilst a prisoner of war. He remained in hospital until November 1945 when he was discharged from the RAF as medically unfit.

It seems that the time that Walter had spent in North Africa had made an impression upon him and he had fallen in love with the place for he wasted no time in returning there and eventually to South Africa where he took employment as a Radio Repair Engineer. Whilst in South Africa he also got married and shortly afterwards in 1949 he and his wife moved to Southern Rhodesia where he set up a Radio and Television Repair business and in due course the couple had three children.

In 1970 Walter decided to move his family back to the UK but not quite in a conventional manner. He built a caravan that became home for the five of them and towing it behind his Morris Minor they travelled through Rhodesia and South Africa to Cape Town where they boarded a boat to Barcelona in Spain. Over the next couple of months Walter and his family worked their way northwards through Spain and France and eventually to England.

However by 1976 Walter was missing Africa and once again returned to South Africa, this time only staying for 4 years before returning to the UK for good.

Walter Friend died in October 1991 aged 79 at Exeter, Devon where he was cremated.

(6) Sgt. Maurice C.F. James was born in 1920 at Oxford the son of Joseph James and Winifred N. James nee Franklin.

(7) BBC War Correspondent Edward Ward - further details of his career including, photographs, film and sound recordings can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33803566


Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for Ross Friend and all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - July 2016

Special thanks to Ross Friend for making the copy of Edward Ward's script available to us and for additional biographical details of his father and to Pyers O'Conor-Nash for providing the photograph of his father and a copy of his log book entry relating to the operation and the presence of BBC War Corrspondent Edward Ward on the aircraft.

Our thanks also to the sources quoted below.

RW 29.07.2016

RW 26.08.2017 Log book entry and photo from Pyers O'Conor-Nash 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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