12/13.08.1944 No 578 Squadron Halifax III LW383 LK-K F/O. MacPhillamy
Date: 12/13th August 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit: No. 578 Squadron
Type: Halifax III
Code: LK-K Bar
Base: RAF Burn, Yorkshire
Location: Ath, Belgium
Pilot: F/O. Owen Scott MacPhillamy AUS/423850 RAAF Age 21. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Frank B. Newman 1589826 RAFVR PoW No: 8996 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria.
Nav: P/O. John Wensley Humble 170143 RAFVR Age 35. Killed
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Nigel R. Beamish 179537 RAFVR Evaded capture (1)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Lancelot Ross Bodey AUS/424313 RAAF Age 31. Evaded capture (1)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. George Ernest Ward 1865789 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Leonard Stafford 2221029 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 21:37 hrs from RAF Burn in Yorkshire one of 24 aircraft sent from the Squadron - joining some 296 other aircraft flying deep into southern Germany to bomb the Opel works at Russelsheim (The factory was thought to be manufacturing the wings for the V1 flying bombs).
The bomber stream encountered night fighters from Brussels all the way to the target and also on their homeward bound flights. The allies lost some 20 aircraft in the onslaught.
The target was only slightly damaged, most of the bombs landed in open countryside. However the tyre and dispatch departments and powerhouse were hit - some 9 people killed on the ground with a further 31 injured.
Halifax LW383 was intercepted and shot down by Uffz. Friedrich Gruner of 8./NJG2 at 01:45 hrs. This was his first of 2 claims before going missing on the 31st December 1944 during and interdiction sortie.
Right: The father of the pilot wrote to the Secretary of Air Melbourne in 1952 after he was advised that his son was awarded the Oak-Leaf-Emblem (MiD).
The Squadron lost another crew on this operation:
Halifax III NA604 LK-T Flown by 30 year old, F/O. John Joseph Pearson J/89814 RCAF - killed with all 6 other crew.
(1) Fl/Sgt. Lancelot Bodey was captured with Sgt. Beamish on the 29th August 1944 by the Gestapo and held in the St. Gilles Prison in Brussels. Both escaped from the “Ghost Train”. These crew members passed away in 1993. Fl/Sgt. Lancelot Bodey - MiD in June 1945. Both crew members were offered positions in other theatres as was normal practice for evaders (to protect those that had assisted them in their escape should they be captured at a later date) It is known that Fl/Sgt. Lancelot Bodey then joined Transport Command, no details where Sgt. Nigel Beamish was posted.
The train itself was a line of 30 or so goods wagons formed up by the German SS troops at Bruxelles Midi Railway Station. It was filled with 1,370 political prisoners and 41 Allied airmen from Saint-Gilles prison, and destined for prison camps in Germany.
Left: Sgt. Nigel R. Beamish (courtesy of Michael Beamish, his son - January 2018)
The train had been scheduled to leave in the early morning of Saturday 2 September 1944 but was delayed by railway workers until nearly five o'clock in the afternoon. Further delaying tactics resulted in the train only getting as far at Mechelin/Malines that evening and then diverting to Muizen for water replenishment. On leaving Muizen station next morning, further problems (mostly due to sabotage) were encountered and the train eventually returned to Klein-Eiland/La Petite-Ile at 10:15 Sunday morning. More (deliberate) confusion resulted in the locomotive for the train being detached and no suitable replacement being found. Following negotiations with various officials, including the Red Cross, the political prisoners were released from the train at 12.30 and the Germans took the train over for their own troops that afternoon. The train only got as far as Schaerbeek that evening before it was shunted into the railway yards there. In the confusion, several wagons, including the one holding the POWs, were derailed and abandoned. The POWs escaped in small groups throughout the night. The two evaders returned to England on the 3rd September 1944 on a flight from Brussels.
F/O. Owen Scott MacPhillamy. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Grave 41. Born on the 28th October 1922, the son of Angus Owen and Isma MacPhillamy, of Rockley, New South Wales, Australia.
P/O. John Wensley Humble. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Grave 38. Son of Wensley Thomas and Louise A. Humble; husband of Edith Mary Humble. of Woolavington, Somerset, England.
Sgt. George Ernest Ward. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Grave 39. Son of Arthur Thomas Ward and Phyllis Rose Ward, of Leyton, Essex, England.
Sgt. Leonard Stafford. Chievres Communal Cemetery. Grave 40. Son of George W. and Ada Stafford, of Newark, Nottinghamshire, England.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew, with thanks to Michael Beamish who contacted us in January 2018. Also to sources quoted.