22/23.08.1941 106 Squadron Hampden AE220 P/O. McGruer
Date: 22/23rd August 1941 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: No. 106 Squadron
Type: Hampden I
Base: R.A.F. Coningsby, Lincolnshire
Location: Plankstadt, 5 km. west of Heidelberg, Germany
Pilot: P/O. Allan Frederick McGruer NZ/402201 R.N.Z.A.F. Age 29. Killed
Nav: P/O. James Paul Erly D.F.C. J/3264 R.C.A.F. Age 25. Killed (1)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Anthony Leonard Powell Rawlinson 924494 R.A.F.V.R. Age 23. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Walter Goddard 1001141 R.A.F.V.R. Age 21. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
P/O. McGruer and crew took of from R.A.F. Coningsby at 21.40 hours, one of 41 Hampden’s and 56 Wellington’s for a sortie against three targets in the city of Mannheim.
Although the returning crews reported numerous fires burning, German reports after the raid stated that only six high explosive bombs fell on the city. One house was badly damaged along with slight damage to five others. One air-raid worker was injured when the vehicle he was driving crashed en route to an incident.
Above left: P/O. Allan F. McGruer Right: P/O. James P. Erly D.F.C.
Hampden AE220, the only aircraft lost on the mission, was hit by flak and crashed some six miles south east of Mannheim near Plankstadt.
P/O. Erly enlisted in the Canadian Grenadier Guards before transferring to the R.C.A.F.
Upon completion of his training at No.1 ITS at Toronto, he was enrolled at No.1 Air Observer School, Malton and then at No.1 Bombing and Gunnery School at Jarvis, Ontario. James Erly graduated with his Observers Wing from No.1 Air Navigation School at Rivers, Manitoba on 23rd December, 1940. Upon his arrival in England, he was posted to No.16 OTU at Upper Heyford on 16th February, 1941 and from there to No.106 Squadron on 3rd May, 1941.
His father, W.J. Erly receives the Distinguished Flying Cross from the Governor General in a posthumous award to his son.
P/O. Erly was awarded his D.F.C. for his participation in the successful raid carried out in daylight on 24th July 1941 against several German warships which included the battleship Gneisenau, moored at the port of Brest.
The citation for his award, which was to be effective on 2nd September, 1941 shortly after he went missing, reads:
‘In July 1941, large scale attacks were made on German warships at Brest and La Pallice (including the “Gneisenau”, “Scharnhorst” and “Prince Eugene”). A smaller attack was made on Cherbourg. The operations were carried out in daylight and extremely heavy and accurate anti-aircraft fire and fighter opposition were encountered by all aircraft when approaching the targets, which at Brest were protected by a balloon barrage. The aircrews engaged succeeded, nevertheless, in securing direct hits on their objectives and in inflicting very severe damage in the target area. During the combats with enemy fighters, 21 hostile aircraft were destroyed and others were severely damaged. The precise timing of the attack by the various formations of aircraft and their correct approach and accurate bombing of the objective in the face of such powerful opposition demanded great skill and high courage. The great success of these operations was largely due to the bravery, determination and resource displayed by the following officers and airmen, who participated in various capacities as leaders and members of the aircraft crews.’
Born in Toronto, he was educated at the D’Arcy McGee School in Montreal before joining the staff of the Commercial Credit Corporation until his enlistment in the R.C.A.F.
Sadly, the Erly family was to suffer a second loss when, on the night of 27/28th September 1943, his brother, F/O. William Jerome Erly, was lost without trace when his Halifax JN905 of 158 Squadron failed to return from a raid on Hannover. F/O. William Erly is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
(1) Erly Lake in Tuktut Nogait National Park, North West Territories, Canada is named after P/O. James Paul Erly.
P/O. Allan Frederick McGruer. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective Grave 2B 5-8. Son of Norman and Sarah Mary McGruer of Orakei, Auckland, New Zealand, husband of Nancy McGruer.
P/O. James Paul Erly D.F.C., Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective Grave 2B 5-8. Son of James William Joseph and Mary Maude (nee Kenney) Erly of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Sgt. Anthony Leonard Powell Rawlinson. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective Grave 2B 5-8. Son of Walter Henry and Ethel Louie (nee Barlow) Rawlinson of Gravesend, Kent, England.
Sgt. James Walter Goddard. Durnbach War Cemetery. Collective Grave 2B 5-8. Son of Walter Maltby and Alice Griffin (nee Pickersgill) Goddard of Barton-on-Humber, Lincolnshire, England.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and R.C.A.F. specialist Colin Bamford for relatives of this crew. With thanks to Auckland War Memorial Museum, the family members of P/O. James Erly, William and Elissa Schirmer Erly of Tucson, Arizona, Nora Murphy-Johnson of Denver, Colorado and Rita Mahar and Christine Ditchburn in British Columbia, Canada.