04/05.08.1944 No. 148 Squadron Halifax II JP162 FS-S Fl/Lt. James M. McCall
Operation: Supply drops
Date: 4/5th August 1944
Unit: No. 148 Squadron
Base: RAF Campo Casale base, Brindisi, Italy
Location: Wojnarowa, Poland
Pilot: Fl/Lt. James Girvan McCall 127340 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Nav: F/O. Phillip James Anderson C/11369 RCAF Age 35. - Evaded capture.
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Walter Charles Underwood 1623931 RAFVR Age 20. - Evaded capture.
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Robert Orlando Peterson R/131742 RCAF Age 30. - Evaded capture.
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alan Jolly 1432300 RAFVR Age 22. - Evaded capture.
Air/Gnr Mid-Upper: Sgt. Clifford Aspinall 2206350 RAFVR Age 37. Killed
Air/Gnr Rear: Sgt. John Frederick Cairney Rae 2210115 RAFVR Age 33. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
On 4th August 1944, shortly before 20:00, 14 four-engine bombers (3 B-24 Liberators and 11 Halifax’s) took of from the airbase in Campo Casale in Italy. Seven aircraft belonged to the 1586 Special Duty Flight of the Polish Air Force, and seven to 148 (Special Duties) Squadron RAF. All aircraft were heavy loaded with badly needed supplies for the Polish AK (Home Army), fiercely fighting on the streets of Warsaw on the 4th day of the Warsaw Uprising. At the last moment orders were changed by Air Marshall John Slessor, who ordered the crews to drop their load on reserve drop zones held by the Home Army in southern Poland, avoiding Warsaw which was heavily defended by the German anti-aircraft artillery (nevertheless, the crews of the four Polish aircraft decided to ignore the orders and fly to Warsaw).
The airlift operation conducted at the night of 4th/5th August 1944 was tragic for the brave airmen: seventeen of them lost their lives. Four British Halifax’s were shot down and the fifth one crashed in Italy. The Polish squadron lost one Liberator; despite being attacked and damaged by a German night fighter, it managed to get back to Campo Casale but crashed during landing.
One of the aircraft which on 4th August 1944 departed from Campo Casale on hazardous flight to Poland, was Halifax JP-162 "S" of RAF 148 Squadron. Without any doubt this aircraft could be called meritorious for the Polish Underground State, as it had already successfully conducted as much as ten flights to the occupied Poland, delivering invaluable supplies for the Polish Home Army.
148 Squadron loading up in Italy for a supply drop over Poland
Sgt. Peterson, F/O. Anderson, F/O. Jolly and Sgt. Underwood survived by parachuting from the aircraft - but tragically F/O. McCall, Sgt. Rae and Sgt. Aspinall were to perish. They were eventually buried in Rakowicki Cemetery in Krakow.
The Halifax left Campo Casale airfield in Brindisi at 19:45 hrs that night in order to drop supplies for the uprising, the destination being Warsaw. However according to records the destination from Warsaw was changed to a meeting with the Home Army in the Polish countryside. According to Kajetan Bieniecki, ‘Lotnicze Wsparcie Armia Krajowej’, 1994 (Air Support for the Home Army).
After a long night flight over the occupied Europe, the Halifax eventually reached the town of Miechów, 30 km. north of Kraków, and made a successful drop at the drop zone "Kanarek 2". The supply containers were collected by the Home Army soldiers, and James McCall set the aircraft on the return course to Campo Casale.
Unfortunately, about a half an hour later, at 01:19 hrs. the Halifax JP-162 was intercepted by a German night fighter Me-110 from NJG100, flown by Feldwebel Helmut Konter. Approaching fast from astern and underneath in a classic fighter attack, Me-110 opened fire hitting the rear gunner, Sgt. John Rae, and setting alight the auxiliary fuel tanks of the Halifax. Four members of the crew: Anderson, Peterson, Jolly and Underwood survived by parachuting from the aircraft. Sadly, the rear gunner Sgt. John Rae, pilot Fl.Lt. James McCall, and mid-upper gunner Sgt. Clifford Aspinall were unable to bail out of the burning airplane and were killed.
The Halifax JP162 crashed between the villages of Wojnarowa and Niecew, some 80 km SE of Kraków. The three fallen airmen were first buried by the local villages in a grave in Wojnarowa and were later moved by the CWGC to the Commonwealth Section of the Rakowicki Cemetery in Kraków.
In 2010, the crash site was excavated by a group of Aircraft Historians linked to the Home Army Museum in Krakow and recorded by a Polish TV team. The remains of the aircraft found during the excavations will be exhibited in the Home Army Museum in Kraków, and a few parts of the wreckage will be incorporated into a small memorial to commemorate the crew of the Halifax JP-162 "S", intended to be erected soon on the crash site.
In 2013 the daughter of Sgt Rae was able to visit Niecew and meet with the homeowners Josef and Helena Koszyk and their family. The Polish national TV crew led by Adam Sikorski returned to continue documenting the story of JP162 “S” She visited the grave site in Wojnarowa and placed a small plaque to commemorate the bravery of the local polish people fore their kind action in burying the three crew and for the brave actions of the airmen of Halifax JP162.
In the summer of 2014 she plans to visit the area again to mark the 70th anniversary of this loss.
Area of loss
Sgt. Peterson, one of the survivors, has written about his experiences during this mission in the publication ‘Canadian Airmen in Poland’ 11, 1962 and describes how in the briefing room before take-off, crew members were instructed that the purpose of this flight was no longer a supply mission to Warsaw but instead a meeting and supply drop for the Home Army in the Polish countryside. Sgt. Peterson reported how the supplies were discharged over the prescribed meeting place and then how the aircraft was attacked by night fighter.
After parachuting from the aircraft Sgt Peterson landed on the side of a hill about 50 feet from a small forest, where he hid his parachute and started running. He heard the barking of dogs and steps of someone coming after him. He described how he ran without stopping, until he finally fell from exhaustion – and was able to hide successfully in a field with tall crops. He explained how the sound of the steps he had heard had been his own heart pounding ‘like a hammer’.
He remained in this field during the day - and that night knocked on the door of a nearby house. The man of the house opened the door to be confronted by Sgt. Peterson in a blue uniform and a pistol in his holster – whereby the man and his family were speechless. Sgt. Peterson remembered that they seemed to be filled with terror and were not able to utter a single word. Eventually after talking feverishly among themselves for a while they guessed that he must be a British airman who would be sought by the Germans. Sgt. Peterson wrote that he had felt sympathy, concern and compassion from this family - who took care of him while hiding him in their attic.
F/O. James Girvan McCall:- Rakowicki Cemetery, Kracow, Poland. Grave 1.E.11. Further information: Born 17th February 1921, married in 1943. Girvan McCall, as his family called him, was the son of Peter Charles Stewart McCall and Janet McCall. He had enlisted in the Royal Air Force in Edinburgh as an airman in March 13, 1941. Spent time in Canada training as a pilot. In September 1941 he was discharged and moved to the Arnold School in the USA where I learned that he was training pilots. In 1942 James McCall began his second tour and was appointed to a commission on August 5th 1942 In October 1943 he was back in England at OTU at RAF Finningly where he began further training and began the process of “crewing up” becoming “skipper” of the crew of Halifax JP162 and part of 148 Squadron.
Left: F/O. James Girvan McCall (courtesy Paul Frazier - grandson)
He was one of the crew who lost their lives after their airplane Halifax JP 162 was shot down and crashed in the village of Niecew. Flt. Lt. McCall was at first buried in Wojnarowa and later re interred in Krakow Rakowicki Cemetery. Girvan McCall’s wife Cathy is now 93 but in poor health. They had a daughter Eileen.
Rakowicki Cemetery, Kracow, Poland at night (courtesy Robert Reichert from Krakow)
Above, graves of Fl/Lt. McCall and that of Sgt. Aspinall at Rakowicki Cemetery, Kracow, Poland (courtesy Rosemary Edmeads)
Sgt. Clifford Aspinall:- Rakowicki Cemetery, Kracow, Poland. Grave 1.E.13. Further information: Clifford was born in Blackpool in 1907 and had an older brother Norman born in 1905 and two younger sisters Annie 1911 and Ada 1913. The two brothers came to Canada in 1921 and worked on farms in Ontario but Clifford was not happy and returned to England in 1930. Clifford Aspinall married Agnes Bickerstaff in 1933 and they had one daughter Patricia June born 1934. Patricia was 10 years old when her father was killed. Agnes Aspinall remarried in 1946 to Charles Nixon but sadly she died in 1948. Patricia married in 1958 to John Barras and had two sons born in 1960 and 1964 and the family apparently still live in the Blackpool area.Born 8th July 1907 - married in 1941. Clifford Aspinall was from Blackpool, Lancashire, enlisted in the RAF on 6th March 1943. Promoted to Sergeant in October 1943, after completing his training as an Air Gunner. He was the oldest member of the McCall crew.
Right: Sgt. Clifford Aspinall (courtesy Jacek Popiel and Tomak Jastrzebski of Poland)
First buried in Wojnarowa then later moved to Rakowicki Cemetery Krakow Grave1 E 13. The first grave site in Wojnarowa has recently been found. Married. But it is understood that they had not been married very long. His wife and family never contacted or gave any further information after he was killed. We have no contact address or further information on Sgt Aspinall. Roesmary contacted the Blackpool Gazette newspaper in the hopes that she may receive a response, but sadly none came.
The daughter of Sgt. John Rae, Rosemary Edmeades (nee Rea) paying her respects at Rakowicki Cemetery, Kracow, Poland in August 2013. (courtesy Robert Reichert from Krakow)
Sgt. John Frederick Cairney Rae:- Rakowicki Cemetery, Kracow, Poland. Grave 1.E.12. Further information: He was born in Dalmuir, Scotland to Martin and Rose Ann Rae, had six brothers and one sister. His younger brother Frank served in the Merchant Navy during WW2.
Served with 148 Special Duties Squadron, Brindisi Italy. This squadron was part of Balkan Air Force.
The original grave/memorial site in Wojnarowa has been found recently.
Left: Sgt. John Frederick Cairney Rae (courtesy Rosemary Edmeads)
The father of Rosemary was a Fitters Mate in Civilian Life. Married to Alice Johnson and had one daughter Rosemary Dawn Rae born 22nd April 1944. His wife Alice (known as Lal) died on November 6th, 1958.
As his daughter Rosemary is his closest living relative. He does have two granddaughters and four great grandsons as well as numerous great nephews and nieces. Rosemary been researching his service for several years.
Other crew - detailed information:
Sgt. Robert Orlando Peterson:- Born in Banff, Alberta, also resided in Revelstoke, British Columbia Canada where his step mother Mrs. A. Peterson lived. Employed as a printer for the Banff “Crag Canyon” and before he enlisted worked at the Hanna Herald newspaper. I received this information on July 5th 2013 from the Revelstoke Museum. He was reported missing in August in the local paper Revelstoke Review. Later there was an article published in April 1945 saying he was safe in Odessa.
Right: Sgt. Robert Orlando Peterson (courtesy Agnieszka Partridge)
Sgt. Robert Peterson was one of the four aircrew of JP 162 who successfully baled out of the aircraft and evaded capture. He served in the Polish Home Army until his return via Odessa to the UK. He was given shelter in a “safe house” near Tarnow which was where the German High Commissioner was staying and the family who owned the home was also hiding a Jewish girl. On his return to England he gave an evasion report to MI9 22nd March 1945. According to Sgt. Charlie Underwood, Sgt. Peterson returned to Canada.
Sgt. Robert Orlando Peterson - further information sought from relatives - can you assist us?
F/O. Phillip James Anderson:- Date of birth: 20th August 1909. Enlisted in Toronto on 1st May 1942. Baled out of aircraft and was successful in evading capture. He served with the Home Army until he was able to return to England. Because of his rank he assumed the responsibility of trying and getting help for the evaders to get them home safely. He was mentioned in Dispatches with the award effective 13 June, 1946 as per London Gazette of that date and SFRO9. I believe this is from Royal Air Force Records dated 26 July 1946.
Left: F/O. Phillip James Anderson (courtesy Jacek Popiel and Tomak Jastrzebski of Poland)
He evaded capture by the Germans and was helped by villagers near Tarnow He as well as the three other members of the JP 162 fought alongside the men in the AK Army.
He returned to England March 1945. He gave two evasion reports to MI.9. One gave the details of his plane JP162 being shot down and another about his efforts to get the evaders home. In reading these reports, if the reader was not aware of the seriousness of the situation, some of his actions seemed almost comical but he did not give up his efforts in helping his fellow airmen.
Phillip Anderson was an Economist in peacetime and came from Toronto Canada. Sgt. Charlie Underwood in a letter said F/O. Anderson had returned to Canada after he left the RCAF. Retired from RCAF 6th September 1909.
F/O. Phillip James Anderson - further information sought from relatives - can you assist us?
Sgt. Walter Charles Underwood:- Date of birth: 22nd March 1924. He was a student before enlisting and came from Nasby, Yorkshire and was the youngest member of the crew. He was one four aircrew who baled out of the plane. He evaded capture and was rescued and served with the Home Army until he was able to return to England in approximately March 1945. He gave an evasion report to M I 9 on his return.
Right: Sgt. Walter Charles Underwood (courtesy Jacek Popiel and Tomak Jastrzebski of Poland)
Latest information I have is from by Agnieszka Partridge who is a Polish journalist and writer and works for Polish TV Krakow. She located Sgt. Charlie Underwood who was then living in Nottingham. Her grandparents were in the AK Army and her grandmother had given Agnieszka a photo of two “British Pilots” thought to be Sgt’s Underwood and Peterson but in fact was Sgt’s Jolly and Peterson from JP162.
Charles Underwood was married to Beatrice and lived in Nottingham. Sgt. Underwood died on 25th December,1997.
Agnieszka recently tried to find Sgt Underwood or his family without success, Rosemary had written to Nottingham newspapers hoping for a response.
Sgt. Walter Charles Underwood - further information sought from relatives - can you assist us?
Sgt. Alan Jolly: Born 30th December 1924. He baled out of plane evading capture. He was rescued by Home Army and served with them until he returned to the UK in March 1945. He was in a “safe house” in Tarnow and stayed there until the end of January 1945. Most of the time he was evading capture he was with Fl/Sgt. Robert Peterson, his fellow crew mate from Canada.
In Rosemary’s research she recently discovered he came from Fleetwood in Lancashire, England.
Left: Sgt. Alan Jolly (courtesy Agnieszka Partridge)
Further information has come to light that he did meet with Sgt. Walter Davis whose plane JP244, piloted by P/O. Tom Story, had engine problems and crashed in April 1943. All the crew survived but Sgt. Davis had become separated and had been kept in a “safe house” for 5 months then handed over to the AK Army. He met up with the crew from Rosemary’s fathers aircraft when they were being transported home to the UK. Sgt. Alan Jolly died on the 12th July 1992.
In recent attempts to find any family members of Sgt Alan Jolly, I wrote to a local paper in Fleetwood. The story was printed on the 13th October, 2013 in the Blackpool Gazette edition and I was contacted by his son Robert on the same day. The timing was perfect as Rosemary had a trip planned to England and they were able to meet. This story continues.
Compiled with very detailed information supplied by Rosemary Edmeads (nee Rae), as well as Frances Gates of Australia. References: Kajetan Bieniecki, Lotnicze Wsparcie Armii Krajowej, 1994.