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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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502 Squadron crest
03/04.10.1944 502 (Ulster) Squadron Halifax HR686 Fg Off. Patrick J. McManus DFC

Operation: Rover Patrol

Date: 3rd/4th October 1944 (Tuesday/Wednesday)

Unit: 502 (Ulster) Squadron, RAF Coastal Command

Type: Halifax GRII

Serial: HR686

Code: V9:J

Base: RAF Stornoway, Western Isles, Scotland

Location: The Skagerrak, off Norway.

Pilot: Fg Off. Patrick Joseph McManus DFC J14558 RCAF Age 24. PoW No. 8712 *

2nd Pilot: Fg Off. Alexander Lawrence Lyttle DFC J25873 RCAF Age 27. PoW No. 8565 *

Flt Eng: Fg Off. Ian Edward Osbourne 142463 RAFVR Age? PoW No. 12816 *

Nav/Bomb Aimer: Sgt. Reginald ‘Plugs’ Godfrey Allen 1397157 RAFVR Age? Missing - believed killed

Nav/Radar: Wg Cdr. Charles Aubrey Maton DSO 76222 RAFVR Age? PoW No 8711 *

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Lt. Sidney Arthur Winchester J10019 RCAF Age 28. PoW No. 8717 *

WOp/Air Gnr: Fg Off. Hugh Thomas Conlin J86034 RCAF Age 25. Missing - believed killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Fg Off. Joseph Armand Roger Lucien La Palme J18647 RCAF Age 25. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: WO. Charles McLaughlin 643195 RAFVR Age 27. Missing - believed killed

* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).

Above: Fg Off. Patrick Joseph McManus (Credit: Paul McManus)


Research carried out by Mr Robin Hudson, who kindly provided us with these details via a relative of WO. Charles McLaughlin, Rae McKenna


REASON FOR LOSS:

At the briefing for the mission, the Met. forecast gave the weather conditions as cold, wet and windy, not unexpected for October in that part of the world! The mission would be a 'Rover' patrol, meaning the crew were free to attack any enemy vessels sighted in the patrol area. Intelligence indicated that the Germans were endeavouring to move men and material from Norway to Europe to bolster their defences following the Allied invasion of Europe in June. These movements were being undertaken under cover of darkness. Also, enemy night-fighters could be expected in the area!

With all preparations complete, the crew went out to the aircraft, which was fully loaded with depth charges and a full load of fuel, sufficient for over 12 hours of flying. It was already raining when they took-off at 23:08 hrs. on 3rd October 1944.

On such long endurance flights, the Wireless Operators/Air Gunners. (WOp/Air Gnr.) would frequently swop positions between the two turrets, wireless and radar positions. So it was on this flight. After testing their guns, everyone settled down for the long transit to the operational area off the Norwegian and Danish coasts.

The main tool used to search for targets was the radar, housed in a blister under the belly of the aircraft, just aft of the bomb-bay. The radar would also give 'returns' from rain and snow showers, as it did on this mission, which made identifying a real target more difficult. However, with practice, these real 'returns' could be distinguished from the phantom ones.

Once in the patrol area, the crew commenced their search pattern, until a call came from the radar operator, 'Contact 05 degrees starboard at 18 miles'. This contact looked promising and they set course to intercept. Speed was increased and altitude reduced in an effort to visually identify the target. Eventually, they broke through the clouds and there, dead ahead, they saw a ship on fire! It was obvious the ship had already been attacked and was sinking, so they aborted their attack and climbed away.

Returning to their search pattern, a while passed, when suddenly another call from the radar operator stated, 'Contact port 25 degrees, 15 miles'. Again the attack routine took over, with increase in speed and loss of height, swinging onto the new heading, looking for the target. Breaking through the cloud at about 800 feet, there in front was a ship which appeared to be brightly lit, usually an indication it was a neutral vessel.

Breaking off the attack, and beginning to swing away, it was only then realised that the 'lights' were in fact the muzzle flashes from numerous guns on the ship all firing at the aircraft! This barrage of fire hit the aircraft as it turned away, setting the port inner engine on fire and causing damage to other parts of the aircraft.

WO. Charles McLaughlin pictured 2nd left during an operation debrief

The captain, Patrick McManus realised the aircraft was doomed and told the crew to prepare for a ditching at sea. Wrestling with the controls, helped by co-pilot Larry Lyttle, they managed to keep the aircraft fairly level as it hit the sea, but any contact was going to cause massive damage. At the time it was thought all 9 crew members managed to escape the sinking aircraft, via one means or another, and ended up in the rough sea. Unfortunately, the dinghy carried in the port wing, aft of the port inner engine, had been burnt and was useless

Patrick realised their only hope of survival was to get together in a group and so searched around in the water to locate the others. In the dark and rough seas, this was difficult. Eventually, all the survivors who could be located came together but, without the dinghy, it was difficult staying afloat. Then, one of the aircraft's main wheels and tyre was seen floating nearby and they managed to cling to that.

Above: The wheel and tyre of Halifax HR686, to which the survivors owe their lives

As dawn began to break, and after several hours in the water, they were rescued by the ship that had shot them down (later identified as the 'Amisia'), and the surviving 5 crew members McManus, Lyttle, Osbourne, Winchester and Maton became PoWs. Their experiences as PoWs is a whole different story and outside the scope of this article.

One thing I did find in doing this research, as is common I'm sure with much historical research, is that for almost every piece of new information you discover, it raises new questions. For instance, in the 502 Sqn. Operational Record Book (ORB), the official squadron diary, the crew list for HR686 for its final sortie differs from the actual crew who flew her, and yet at the end of the monthly summary for October 1944, it gives the correct crew names as those missing!

Above: 502 Squadron Halifax HR686 J - much sought after collectors model from Corgi.

Of the 4 crew lost, the body of Fg Off. LaPalme was washed ashore near Mandel in Norway, where he is buried. The bodies of the others were never recovered and are remembered at the RAF Memorial at Runnymede, in the RAF Stornoway Book of Remembrance and RAF Stornoway Memorial, they are Fg Off. H. T. Conlin, Flt Sgt. C. McLaughlin and Sgt. R. G. Allen. This article is dedicated to those who were lost.

Burial details:

Sgt. Reginald Godfrey Allen. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 215. Next of Kin details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?

Fg Off. Hugh Thomas Conlin. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 245. Born on the 25th March 1920 in Huntsville, Muskoka, Ontario. Son of Will James and Hannah Lillie (née Fletcher) Conlin. Husband to Edith Irene (née Goldie) Conlin of Dwight, Ontario, Canada.

Conlin Island in Georgian Bay, Parry Sound, Ontario is named after Fg Off. Hugh Thomas Conlin

Fg Off. Joseph Armand Roger Lucien La Palme. Mandal Churchyard. Grave I2.12. Son of Albert and Alphonsine La Palme, of Montreal, Province of Quebec, Canada.

WO. Charles McLaughlin. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 214. From Limavady, Northern Ireland. Son of Mrs McLaughlin of Kennaught Street, husband of Mrs Mclaughlin of Clooney Terrace, Wtwrside, Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Joined the RAF in 1939, serving in both Europe and North Africa.

Listed as a Flt Sgt. at time of loss, later posthumously promoted to WO. Served with Bomber Command prior to service with Coastal Command.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Mr Robin Hudson, Paul McManus, Rae McKenna, Hugh Halliday, Also to Dave Champion who submitted further information and photographs - July 2018. Thanks to Paul McManus for the additional information and photographs of his father (Sep 2021). Further updates too the narrative by Aircrew Remembered (Sep 2021).


What makes this article possible is the fact that some of the crew survived the war and were able to tell the tale. With many of the losses from 502 Sqn, and its sister Sqn 58 stationed at Stornoway, occurring with no witness, their stories will never be told.

I would like to thank Paul McManus for his help in providing so much information about his father's experiences and what truly happened on that fateful night.

In 2010, for his 90th birthday the family conspired to document the story of his very storied life. His son Paul McManus took on the task of his war service. During his research into his father’s war service discovered a group hoping that Corgi Toy and Collectables would produce a scale replica of 'his' Halifax, HR686. He became involved, and following his advice, led to 23 changes to Corgi's initial project design. Paul was very proud to present his father with this replica of his beloved Halifax.

Pictured Above: Patrick McManus with the special edition HR686 as presented by his family in 2011

Patrick attended Royalty twice, once when being awarded his DFC by King George VI at Buckingham Palace, and once when attending Prince William and his new wife Kate Middleton in laying a wreath at the War Memorial in Ottawa.

Patrick's greatest achievement (other than family) was in building Conservation Authorities in Ontario. He loved nature, and was an avid birder. He was a volunteer firefighter, and owned his own 1922 Model T Ford firecar, which he painstakingly restored.

Above Patrick's 1922 Model T Ford Firecar (Courtesy: Paul McManus)

Patrick wrote a book of his wartime exploits, titled "Her Last Flight".

Above Patrick. J. McManus DFC with his book of his wartime exploits, titled "Her Last Flight". (Credit Paul McManus)

Further Information

Fg Off. Patrick J. McManus DFC:

Patrick J. McManus was born during March 1920 in Perth, Ontario and had his home there. A newspaper clipping in DHist biographical file claims that he was born in Smith Falls although his home was given as Perth;

He enlisted into the RCAF in Ottawa on 10th March 1941;
No.1 Manning Depot, 1 September 1941;
No.4 WS, 25 October 1941;
No.1 ITS, 31 January 1942 from where he graduated and was promoted to LAC on the 27th March 1942;
No.1 EFTS, 28 March 1942 and graduated on the 6th June 1942;
No.5 SFTS from where he graduated and was commissioned on the 25th September 1942;
No.31 GRS on the 22nd October 1942;
Western Air Command, 8th January 1943;
Promoted to Fg Off. on the 25th March 1943;
“Y” Depot on the 15th April 1943;
RAF overseas on the 26th May 1943;
Reported missing on the 4th October 1944. (A Newspaper clipping dated 16th June 1945 stated that he was captain of a Halifax attacking shipping off Norwegian coast.);
Returned to the UK on the 13th May 1945. and was repatriated to Canada on the 6th July 1945;
AFHQ on the 20th July 1945.
To Release Centre on the 27th September 1945.
Retired from the RCAF on the 19th October 1945.
He was presented with the DFC on the 21st May 1949 with effect the 19th July 1945 and promulgated in the London Gazette, 2nd November 1945 (Citation below);
Patrick J. McManus passed away in 2014. Interred at the Elmswood Cemetery, Perth, Lanark County, Ontario, Canada

Above: Patrick J. McManus grave marker at the Elmswood Cemetery (Credit Paul McManus)

Fg Off. Alexander Lawrence Lyttle DFC:

Born in Ottawa, Ontario on 24 August 1917, the son of Alexander Lawrence and Jean Annie Maud (née Bawden) Lyttle. In the late 20s the family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia

He enlisted in the RCAF in Ottawa on the 23rd March 1942;
Trained at No.2 ITS and graduated on the 10th December 1942;
No.19 EFTS and graduated 19th March 1943;No.17 SFTS and graduated 23rd July 1943;
He was appointed to Commission in 1943;
He was presented with the DFC on the 21st May 1949 with effect the 19th July 1945 and promulgated in the London Gazette, 2nd November 1945 (Citation below);
Following his adventures with 502 Sqn and his time as a PoW, he returned to British Columbia where he founded the "L&K Lumber Company". While flying the company plane on 23rd February 1959, he crashed on the eastern slope of East Redonda Island (part of British Columbia's Discovery Islands) and was instantly killed.


The joint citation for Flt Lt. McManus and Fg Off. Lyttle reads:

‘Flight Lieutenant McManus was first pilot and captain of aircraft and Flying Officer Lyttle was second pilot of an aircraft detailed for an attack on enemy shipping in the Skagerrak. Intense anti-aircraft fire was encountered and the aircraft was so badly damaged it was forced down onto the sea. From the moment the aircraft was hit till its final plunge into the sea these two officers remained at their posts and by their calm efficiency inspired the other members of the crew with confidence. Although badly cut about the head, Flight Lieutenant McManus continued in a rough sea to look to the safety of the others. In these difficult circumstances these two officers displayed cool courage and devotion to duty and averted disaster and saved the lives of all nine members of their crew.’


RS 26.09.2021 - Additional photographs for Patrick J. McManus added to updated report

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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, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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