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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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218 squadron badge
03/04.08.1941 No. 218 Squadron Wellington IC X9747 P/O. Maxwell

Operation: Hannover

Date: 03/04th August 1941 (Sunday/Monday)

Unit: No. 218 Squadron

Type: Wellington IC

Serial: X9747

Code: HA-E

Base: RAF Marham, Norfolk

Location: Salhouse, Norwich, Norfolk.

Pilot: P/O. John Arthur Maxwell J/3715 RCAF Age 22. Killed

Fl/Eng: P/O. Thomas George Cottier J/4885 RCAF 27. Survived (1)

Nav: P/O. G.F. Jacobsen RCAF Survived

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. G. P. Hoult RAFVR Survived

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. G.M. Siddel RAFVR Survived

Air/Gnr: P/O. George James Leonard Crabb 82975 RAFVR Age 36. Killed (2)

REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off at 22:28 hrs from RAF Marham, Norfolk to bomb Hannover. 34 aircraft taking part in this small operation.

Shortly after take off the aircraft hit severe turbulence and suffered partial instrument failure the pilot ordered the crew to bale out. Four managed to comply before the aircraft crashed at 23:00 hrs in Salhouse, North West of Norwich killing the RCAF pilot and RAFVR rear gunner P/O. George Crabb (2).

Jubilee old school at Salhouse, Norwich Wellington X9747 crashed in the fields behind this building (courtesy Geoffrey Crabb)

Another 218 squadron was also lost on this night, Wellington IC Z8741.

(1) Thought to have been killed on the 16th January 1942. Flying with 419 Squadron out of RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk. Wellington IC Z1145 VR-A. Returning damaged from a trip to Hamburg, ran out of fuel with both engines failing, crashed in the sea off Spurn head.

(2) Tragically the wife of P/O. Crabb, Mary Francis Crabb aged just 29, was killed along with over 30 others when a German aircraft dropped a parachute bomb on the Prince of Wales Public house in Chigwell, Essex on the 19th April 1941. Further research is underway on this by Geoffrey Crabb and we hope that we may have new information on this. (see below)

Above: Graves of P/O. George James Leonard Crabb and P/O. Maxwell (courtesy Geoffrey Crabb)

Burial details:

P/O. John Arthur Maxwell. Marham Cemetery. War Grave Plot. Grave 4. Son of John McNeilly Maxwell and Molly Stiven Maxwell (née Blackwell) of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

P/O. Thomas George Cottier. Barton-Upon-Humber New Cemetery. Compt. 114. Grave 7. Son of Thomas Edward and Sadie Cottier, nephew of Mr. G. F. Cottier, of Bride, Isle of Man, United Kingdom.

P/O. George James Leonard Crabb. Dagenham, Chadwell Heath Cemetery. Sec H. Grave 1395. See below for further details.

Researched for: Mr. Geoffrey Crabb and dedicated to all relatives of this crew. With thanks to sources quoted.



Saturday 19th April the Prince Of Wales Public House Bombings

This information submitted by Geoffrey Crabb - February 2016:

Mary Frances Crabb (née Lavin) was born in at Lackaghbeg County Galway Ireland on the 20th December 1909 also known as Mabel. She became a nurse at Claybury Psychiatric Hospital, Woodford Bridge within walking distance of The Prince of Wales public house. Claybury was famous for its Irish Nurses and dances too.

Mary married my grandfathers brother George J.L Crabb in March 1930 at Romford, they lived at Mill Lane Chadwell Heath with my great-grandfather and the family building company, Father and Son. With the outbreak of war house building came to a standstill and they ceased trading, George and Mary moved to 7 Fontayne Avenue, Chigwell, followed by George joining the RAFVR training as wireless operator, later passing as P/O. with 218 Squadron RAF Marham Wellington 1c. Mary remaining as a Nurse at the Claybury.

My late Aunt described “Mabel” as a fair haired lady with colourful clothing..”not like us lot wearing dull clothing, there was a war on !”.

Due to the censor at the time many family's and public a far received little information, although the incident was reported in the press at the time, the name and location were withheld being described as 'hotel', my late family only knowing of “Mabel's” loss of life at a London Hotel or was just not spoken of.

Now recently backed-up by a death certificate censored under defence regulation 30a.

My late Aunt said “ the only thing to identify “Mabel” was the handle of her handbag” “and the hotel was hit by a land mine”, also showing similarity of clothing on Mary’s death certificate.
 With the now viewable bombsight survey showing bomb locations Manor Road Chigwell although not exact to the position of Prince of Wales public house.

Friday April 18:

Goring provided a Birthday present for Hitler who would be 52 on the Sunday 20th!! The present was to be “ Der Tausand Tonne Geschenk!” A Thousand Ton Raid on London, this was the only time during the blitz the Luftwaffe planned to drop 1,000 tonnes of high explosive on a single target on a single night, they were to be busy! With Londoners still getting over Wednesdays raids and picking up the pieces the following night was to be unbelievable.

At this time Luftwaffe where nearing the end of “Knickebein” a radio system to guide the bombers to their targets with a new system to follow as the enemy knew we had worked it out. Bletchley Park continued to decoded the information for Number 80 wing RAF thus continuing interrupting and and tampering the existing German system named by our intelligence as “headaches” and our countermeasures “aspirins”, they were with some effect able to shift the raiders away from London, Docks and Central, with the help of a jamming systems also transmitted from Alexandra Palace code named “domino”to confuse the bombers. Where would they go? Or was one target actually to be the barrage balloon works at Debden during the early phase Saturday night near Chigwell?

The main target was to be The Docks..Luftwaffe KG units planned up to three raids for one night
to deliver their deadly load including SC 250-1000kg parachute land mines with 25 second clock- work fuze initiated on impact, delivered via a single 27ft artificial green silk parachute falling at 40mph. Over 850 Luftwaffe bombers and additional night fighters to take part with early raids from sunset to sunrise 05:55 Sunday morning. (And recorded 21:23 to 04:20 London time.)

Saturday April 19: 
visibility moderate poor with rain, gaps in cloud.

At the Prince of Wales pub Manor Road Chigwell a darts match was at full swing with darts visitor team from Ilford (unknown pub) some say also a wedding was also being held, locals and casual visitors alike, at 21:45 a ton of high explosive silently floated down to directly hit the packed little pub the result was devastating. Officially the death toll was 46 but the true figure is believed to be over 100. The pub was reduced to a pile of rubble as was the row of cottages nearby.

It was a terrible sight which greeted rescue workers - that cannot be described. People said it took over a week to clear up and even then many victims could not be identified only by missing and failing to come home.


A reconnaissance officer at the ARP post some 100 yards to the east of the pub, was most likely to be the first personnel on site and may have viewed the aircraft, bombs parachutes and explosions.

Immediately Chigwell Council went into action to make funeral arrangements for the victims some private and 20 including Mary F. Crabb where buried in a communal grave behind St. Marys Church

All civilian casualties are recorded at St Georges chapel book Westminster Abbey and CWGC, Stone of Remembrance 1997 outside the position of Montpellier House Manor Road and wall hanging inside St. Marys Church.

The grave fell into disrepair and was paved over and repaired in the 1980's with sponsorship via “After The Battle" magazine and Chigwell parish council.
 A 50th anniversary was held attended by local people, with memories being spoken of . For such is the price of war far from any battlefront , even a pint in the local could end in death.

Sunday April 20:

First phase scattered bombing Second phase and Third the Docks and major damage East End 1,460 fires started, 1,000 injured and 1,200 killed.
 Fighter command dispatched 101 aircraft dusk, night and dawn hampered by by weather conditions 1 Henkel 111 of 7/KG4 downed by Hurricane of 151 Squadron flown by P/O. Stevens.

4 German aircraft lost.
 Also to be the largest single loss of firemen and firewomen in English history.

The German people, fully confident of victory are celebrating in earnest mood and high spirits the 52nd birthday of the Fuhrer. The hearts of all Germans go out to the defender of German honour and freedom and the guarantor of the German future, in unchangeable and inextinguishable gratitude. We look back on the uninterrupted chain of faithful victories which could only be achieved under the leadership one who is not only a statesman and a soldier but also a leader and man of the people. Reichmarschall Herman Goring April 20th, 1941


Information submitted by Sheri Simpson - February 2016. Together with photographs supplied by Geoffrey Crabb:

This is my father's account of his experience of visiting shortly after the incident in Chigwell in 1941. It is obviously from a family perspective and 75 years after the event, but there maybe some bits that are of interest.

'On 20th April 1941, when I was 13, I accompanied my father Edward Cockle who was the brother of Alexander Cockle, the landlord of the Prince of Wales in Chigwell, and who was himself a pub landlord at the time. (The King and Queen in Wendover, very close to Halton Camp, and popular with RAF personnel during the war). Following a telephone call from a friend of my father who lived somewhere not far from Chigwell, we journeyed up to the view of the neat stacks of bricks that were now almost all that remained of the a Prince of Wales.

According to a police sergeant who was there, we were told that he estimated that there were up to 120 people killed and missing as the result of the land mine which had been parachuted onto the pub the previous evening. This was entirely possible as it was a popular pub and there was a darts match going on at that time.

My father spend the rest of that day visiting various temporary mortuaries seeking to identify his brother, known as 'Kitch' and his wife Nelly and her sister, known as 'Bunny' and her husband Mac, who I believe comprised the entire staff of the pub, but without success. Whilst my father was talking with some of the people at the scene, I stood on the landing of the Bald Hind, which was immediately next door to the Prince of Wales and looked down from the window onto the carnage of the Prince of Wales.

A few days later we returned to Chigwell and underneath the wreck of his brother's garage found his car, an Austin 10 or 12. The key was still in the ignition and when he turned it, the car started immediately. He backed the battered vehicle out and drove it home, pausing only to stop at a friends business in Palmers Green, where it's battered state and brick dust coating attracted so much attention that the police called and asked us to move it on.

The following day, I spend the entire morning clearing the rubble from the interior and washing off the layer of dust which covered it. There was not a single panel which had not been badly dented. The war damage people wrote it off as having a value of about £5, but father later sent it back to the manufacturers to get the bodywork restored. I rather suspect they rejected it and put on a new body!

Later negotiations were undertaken with the War Damage Commission and my grand mother, who had herself been a pub landlady and who had provided considerable finance for her son and his wife to take over the Prince of Wales. Unfortunately, as no traces of a Will was found (which my business like uncle almost certainly would have drawn up) and as his next of kin, compensation would have more or less been expected to me made to her.

They did however find some hundreds of pounds in a bank account of my aunt Nelly and when told about this, my grandmother said that it should be sent to Nelly's family. A local solicitor acting for her daughter-in-law's family, and which Nelly and her sister had little or nothing to do with for some years, ascertained that as she was younger than her husband when both were killed, and in law it is presumed that the younger died last, the result being that her family claimed virtually the entire estate. This added further pain to my bereaved grandmother.

A good many years later my son drive me up to Chigwell to see if the pub had been rebuilt, which it had, but the only reference we could find to the bombing was in the local churchyard where there was a mass grave mentioning the incident. I thought this was a oversight by the local authorities and wrote to them to say so.

By a stroke of luck, the chairman of the local council, who had been about the same age as me at the time of the incident, and who had been standing in his garden watching the Ack-Ack when he saw not one, but two parachutes holding the mine or mines descending from a German plane and saw the explosion that followed. He thanked me for drawing the matter to his attention and took up my suggestion that there needed to be a more significant memorial to the scores of people that had been killed in what was one if the most significant single damage incidents and casualties during the war.

Local papers, told about this, also started to ask questions and as a result this chairman arranged for one or possibly two very large boulders to be erected in front of the rebuilt pub and carrying a plaque recording what had happened there. I was invited to attend the unveiling of this and again accompanied by my son travelled to the ceremony which was strongly attended by local people, many of whom had lost family members in the incident.'


Casualty List (thought to be 40 + killed)

I have identified only 34 - are you able to assist? Not all these casualties are buried in the mass grave, others buried elsewhere:

Arthur George Bass Age 40 - Son of Eliza Bass, of 62 Buntingbridge Road, Newbury Park, Ilford, and of the late Arthur Bass, husband of Alexandra May Bass, of 57 Kingsley Road, Barkingside. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Minnie Adelaide Bell Age 49 - of 10 Headley Approach, Cranbrook Road, Ilford. Widow of John Lindsay Bell. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Florence Edith Besly Age 38 - of 272 Tomswood Hill, Barkingside, Ilford. Daughter of Annie Green, of 131A Fulwell Avenue, Ilford, and of the late Frederick Charles Green, wife of Henry Besly. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Cpl. Henry Besly (Home Guard) Age 36 - of 272 Tomswood Hill, Barkingside, Ilford. Son of Henry Besly, of the same address, and of the late Agnes Elizabeth Besly, husband of Florence Edith Besly. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Ernest Clements Bonney (Home Guard) Age 42 - Son of Mrs. J. Bonney, of 10 Cranley Road, Ilford, husband of Mary Ann Bonney, of 32 Neville Road, Barkingside. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Thomas Henry Bultitude Age 49 - Husband of Hilda May Bultitude, of 1 Mount Pleasant Cottages, Manor Road. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Frederick Stanley Carter (Home Guard) Age 29 - of Millbrook Cottage, Grange Hill. Son of C. and Rose Carter, of Malvern Cottage Stapleford Tawney, husband of Nellie May Carter. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Nellie May Carter Age 27 - of Millbrook Cottage, Grange Hill. Daughter of Edith Barford, of Blackboard Cottage, Ongar Road, Abridge, wife of Frederick Stanley Carter. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Alexander George Cockle (Royal Observer Corps) Age 43 - of Prince of Wales, Manor Road. Son of Mrs. F. M. Cockle, of 19 Sunnymede Drive, Ilford, and of the late E. Cockle, husband of Nellie Irene Cockle. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Nellie Irene Cockle Age 33 - of Prince of Wales, Manor Road. Wife of Alexander George Cockle. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Mary Frances Crabb Age 29 - of Fontain Avenue. Wife of George Crabb, RAF. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Albert William Dodkins Age 43 - of 46 Smeaton Road, Woodford Bridge. Husband of Louisa Mary Dodkins. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Louisa Mary Dodkins as above.

Cpl. William Stevenson Fyfe (Home Guard) Age 53 - Husband of Elizabeth Fyfe, of 262 New North Road, Barkingside, Ilford. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Charles Henry Hare Age 50 - of 36 Smeaton Road, Woodford Bridge. Husband of Ethel May Hare. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Ethel May Hare as above.

Henry Hutchison Age 59 - of 20 Dudley Road, Ilford. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Sgt. Leonard Patrick Ives (Metropolitan Police) Age 32 - of 24 Brackley Square, Woodford Green. Son of Mary Ellen Ives, of 21 Sheila Road, Collier Row, Romford, husband of Brigid Teresa Ives. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Brigid Teresa Ives as above.

Dick Foster Johnson Age 32 - of 10 Shawville Gardens, Barkingside, Ilford. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Harry Foster Johnson Age 27 - of 10 Shawville Gardens, Barkingside, Ilford. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Jack Kestrel Age 33 - Son of Tom Andrew Kestell and Kate Kestell, of 89 Aldborough Road, Seven Kings. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Lilian Daisy Ling (Pavitt) Age 29 - of 26 Merlin Grove, Ilford. Died at Prince of Wales. Manor Road.

Doreen Elinor Little Age 31 - Daughter of Ernest H. and Gladys E. Fisher, of 60 Lawns Way, Chase Cross Road, Romford, widow of Stephen Bernard Little. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Gordon Mackie (Royal Observer Corps) Age 38 - of Prince of Wales, Manor Road. Husband of Kathleen Mackie. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Albert Edward Mason (Leading Fireman) Age 40 - Son of Alfred and Julia Mason, of 3 Council Houses, Chigwell Row, husband of Winifred Annie Mason, of The Cottage, Hainault Road. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

John Dennis Gough Murray Age 51 - of 9 Elces Cottages, Hainault Road. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Arthur Joseph Nash (Royal Observer Corps) Age 37 - Son of A. J. and L. Nash, of Vicarage Lane, husband of Phyllis Rosina Nash, of Hillbrow, Fencepiece Road. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Jack Osborn Pavitt (Royal Observer Corps) Age 51 - Son of the late James and Edith Pavitt. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Thomas Glyn Rees Age 30 - Son of Evan Rees and Mary Ann Rees, of Harlesden, Mayals, Swansea, husband of Beryl Meredith Rees, of Langland, Forest Way, Woodford Green. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Benjamin Wathen Age 56 - Son of Sarah Ann Wathen, of 208 New North Road, Hainault, Ilford, and of the late Benjamin Reeve Wathen, husband of Fanny Selina Wathen, of the same address. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Constable Benjamin Surflen Wathen (Metropolitan Police) Age 29 - of Section House, Ixworth Place, Chelsea, London. Son of Fanny Selina Wathen, of 208 New North Road, Hainault, Ilford, and of Benjamin Wathen. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Alfred Leslie James Wells Age 39 - of 129 Collingwood Gardens, Ilford. Husband of Irene Rosina Wells. Died at Prince of Wales, Manor Road.

Irene Rosena Wells Age 38 - of 129 Collingwood Gardens, Ilford. Wife of Alfred Leslie James Wells. Died at Prince of Wales. Manor Road.

KTY - 27.02.2016 Map added, plus additional comprehensive details of the bombing submitted by relatives.

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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Last Modified: 06 March 2016, 18:50