20/21.02.1945 150 Squadron Lancaster I PD421 Fg.Off. Fairfax Moresby
Date: 20/21st February 1945 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit: No. 150 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Hemswell, Lincolnshire
Location: Hagen, Germany
Pilot: Fg.Off. ‘Tiger’ Fairfax Moresby 429763 RNZAF Age 23. PoW. (1)
Flt.Eng: Sgt. ‘Taffy’ Frederick John Howell 1837105 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Nav: Sgt. ‘Reg’ Ernest Reginald Edwards 1800886 RAFVR Age 30. Killed
Air Bmr: Sgt. ‘Bill’ Thomas William Heron 1591235 RAFVR Age 20. Missing
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. William Hastings 1685876 RAFVR Age 35. Missing (2)
Air Gnr: Sgt. Peter’ Henry Albert John Gage 1587070 RAFVR Age 22. PoW. (3)
Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Ivan Albert Horsley 4211814 RNZAF Age 25. PoW. (4)
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REASON FOR LOSS:
What was to be the last large bomber operation to Dortmund of the war. The objective to destroy the southern parts of the city which Bomber Command claimed that this was achieved. 515 Lancasters with 14 Mosquitoes taking part.
PD421 part of the crew L-R Rear: Sgt. Hastings, Sgt. Heron, Flt.Sgt. Horsley. Front: Sgt. Gage, Fg.Off. Moresby and Sgt. Edwards. Missing: Sgt. Howell - shown below.
PD421 took off during the late evening of the 20th February and was lost over Hagen. Night fighter claims for this late period of the war are inconclusive. It could have been the vicim of flak.
Henry Gages account of his time as a prisoner of war in his own words.
Henry Gage, known as “Peter” was the rear gunner of the crew and baled out becoming a prisoner of war from February to April 1945.He was taken at first to Dortmund civil prison and then to Lufts at North Dortmund and South Dortmund, Oberusel at Frankfurt, before Nuremberg as part of the Long March of prisoners of war. Stopping at various villages en route, he arrived at Stalag VIIA at Moosburg, (which was full of pow’s who had been marched and moved from other camps), where he and his fellow pow’s were liberated by Patton’s third army on the 28th April 1945 and taken to Rheims in France.
His wife at home, anxiously waiting for news received a telegram to inform her that he was missing and also letters of condolence from the Air Force. After he had been missing for more than six weeks and presumed dead, she then received a letter informing her that her married woman’s allowance would be stopped. After Henry returned home, she wrote in her diary for May 1945- “Tiger and Ivan are also back, Bill Hastings was wounded at Dortmund and Taffy, Bill Heron and Reg are dead.”
In Henry’s diary that he wrote in captivity he recounts:-
“February 21st. Morning.7a.m.In middle of forest. Ate escape rations and studied map. 07.30 hrs. Found path at top of a hill after forcing my way through the brushwood in battledress, socks and flying socks. Followed path, very wet, turned left along top of valley for nearly one and a half miles, stopping once to smoke a cigarette. On reaching the end of the path, decided to give myself up. I was all in. Met a German family who handed me over to the Wehrmacht. Waited on settee. Spoke to German officer. Cheerful type, asked how long the war would last. Taken into custody in ambulance to a civilian official. Was asked many questions about the Aircraft. Interpreter told me his mother was English. After 45 minutes was sworn at by officer for no apparent reason. Taken through Dortmund by two officers to civilian gaol, a small cell with a foot square window looking out onto a small courtyard with bomb hole. Solid iron door, with a half an inch peephole with a glass shutter. Double tier bed. Straw mattress and blanket, one stool, one portable chamber pot, one washbasin. A meal of dehydrated vegetable soup, tasteless. Two slabs of black bread. Duration of stay two and a half days.
Right Courtesy Keith Sampson: Sgt. ‘Bill’ Thomas William Heron
February 23rd. Taken from cell to waiting lorry containing 2 American flyers, 2nd Lieutenants. Drove through Dortmund to hospital. Was told about Bill Hastings (other crew member) by an officer, who mentioned that he was in hospital in bad shape and not expected to make it. Driven further to a large four-storey building and picked up a badly burnt Canadian Navigator who thought we were going to be shot. Driven into the country and picked up five other British aircrew, none from my crew. Arrived at Luftwaffe Camp at 6 p.m. approximately. Put in cell with an American, B.A.Hughes, also a British rear gunner, Jim, rations of soup, bread, marg. Duration of stay was five days.
February 28th. Three lorries loaded with Aircrew, U.S., English, Canadian, Australian and New Zealanders. Saw our Wireless operator but was unable to speak to him and didn’t see him again. Arrived the same day at a Luftwaffe camp. Placed with 15 others, including Ivan in an underground room under a partially demolished barrack block. Food insufficient. Elsan type latrine, the smell at times unbearable. Duration of stay - nine and half days.
March 9th. Journey in covered train and on foot, wearing only a pair of broken Russian clogs. First night of journey from Veret to a large station crowded with refugees. Two guards and only one under officer. Arrived at small station, pitch dark, pouring with rain. Marched into muddy lane with two guards. Nearly lost clogs in the mud. Feet wet. Very cold. Reached farm.”
On a postcard to his wife, he wrote from Lager-Bezeichnung, Stalag Luft 3
“My darling wife, I am a Prisoner of War in Germany. I am not wounded. I am quite fit. Don’t write until I reach a permanent camp. God bless you. I will always love you. And for mother - she is the best in the world. Keep saving for our little home. We will realise our hopes and dreams, your loving Peter”
Peter sent this on his birthday on March 12th but it didn’t reach his wife till after the war.
He wrote again after Liberation from Camp 7A, hoping that it would reach his wife via the American Army
“I have seen the German countryside and much of it is very beautiful. It makes one wonder why they have coveted other nations. There are men in our tent who have been prisoners since 1940. We have been fortunate in comparison. We are near the town of Moosburg”.
In his dairy written on his return home he recollects-
“End of European war announced. German aircraft flew low over aerodrome on way to other aerodromes to surrender. J.V.87 landed with bomb load. Spent five days at Ingolstadt, billeted in political gaol, semi underground. Arrived Tangmere on May 11th. De-loused at reception area where there was a band, a good meal and pretty WAAF’s. Travelled to Cosford on the same day, arriving early morning, beds all ready made. Sent a telegram to Mother, long distance call to Blanche (his wife). Met Blanche at 4pm at Gamston and we went to Retford and stayed the night at the Station hotel. Travelled to Bristol on Monday. 28 days leave and freedom at last!”.
(1) No PoW details available - Born at Wellington, New Zealand on the 19th of November 1921, died on the 24th of May 1972 aged 50, buried in Raetihi Cemetery, New Zealand.
(2) According to Sgt. Gage it seems that Sgt. Heron had survived seriously wounded. No other details.
(3) No PoW details for Sgt. Gage. Born in Bristol on the 12th of February 1923, had an older sister and worked as an apprentice printer before volunteering for the RAF. Husband of Blanche (née Barnes) who also served in the RAF in Signals Maintenance at RAF Gamston, near Retford. They married on the 3rd January 1945 with Fg.Off. Moresby, the crew’s pilot, acting as best man. Although Henry Gage was a PoW for a relatively short time, he became unwell shortly after his return with hepatitis because of the poor sanitation in the camps and suffered terrible nightmares and mood swings for quite a while. He died in 1982 aged only 59 of a heart attack.
(4) No details on PoW captivity for Flt.Sgt. Horsley. Died at Rakaia, New Zealand on the 19th of March 1966.
Sgt. Frederick John Howell. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 18.F.3. He was the son of Frederick James and Gladys Howell of Newport. Monmouthshire, Wales.
Sgt. Ernest Reginald Edwards. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 18.F.4. Son of Francis Albert and Mabel Emily Edwards and husband of Margaret Annie Edwards of Isleworth, Middlesex, England.
Sgt. Thomas William Heron. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 275. Son of William and Eliza Morgans Campbell Heron of Cambois, Northumberland, England.
Sgt. William Hastings. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 275. Son of David and Bessie Milligan Hastings, husband of Dorothy Hastings of Hellesdon, Norwich, Norfolk, England.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. For further details our thanks to the following, Amanda Thompson - daughter of Sgt. Gage. Also to Glynis Jones for photograph of Sgt. Frederick John Howell - April 2018. Runnymede Memorial Database. Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', ‘Bomber Command Database’, Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries (Updated 2014 version). Commonwealth War Graves Commission.