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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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149 squadron crest
13.04.1941 No. 149 Squadron Wellington IC T2897 OJ-O P/O. Morison

Operation: Mėrignac, France

Date: 13th April 1941 (Sunday)

Unit: No. 149 Squadron

Type: Wellington IC

Serial: T2897

Code: OJ-O

Base: RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk

Location: Saint-Sever-Calvados, France

Pilot: P/O. Ronald Rutherford Morison 86641 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Pilot 2: Sgt. John Leo Guy Westley 754746 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Obs: Sgt. Ernest John Holland DFM 751976 RAFVR Age 22. killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ronald Hutchinson 942328 RAFVR Age 23. killed

Air/Gnr: W/O. Kenneth Charles Herbert Rawlings 939991 RAFVR Age 27. PoW No: 609 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus, Toruń, Poland (357)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Walter Hugh Wilkinson 755659 RAFVR Age 21. Killed


The people of St Sever Calvados are planning to hold a remembrance ceremony and unveil a monument in June 2018 for all seven airman killed in the St Sever area. If any readers have or want information, we would appreciate their getting in touch with us.


REASON FOR LOSS:

T2897 took off at 21:50 from RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk to attack the Luftwaffe airfield at Merignac near Bordeaux, this being home to the F2 300 long range maritime bombers of Kampfgeschwader 40. Eleven aircraft should have taken part in the raid but only nine became airborne.

Above on crew photo P/O. Morison shown first left.

T2897 was the only aircraft not to return from this operation. The loss of the plane, which crashed on the village of St-Sever-Calvados near Vire in France, was almost certainly due to mechanical failure and not to enemy action as was first believed.

In an attempt to find out what happened, members of the Morison family attended a 147 Squadron reunion and were able to meet a crew member of another aircraft in the same flight. This witness said that their flight appeared to take the enemy by surprise that night and met no opposition at all. He also stated that another squadron following on were not so lucky. A little later the Morison family received a message from a relative of someone who was on duty at Mildenhall on that fateful night. In a diary entry he writes that Mildenhall received a signal from T2897 stating that they were suffering engine trouble in the vicinity of the target. This would explain why they then took the most direct route home instead of returning as planned over water, the same way they had come. St Sever Calvados was on that route home. No other signal was received. According to an entry in the diary a search was organised but the search took place in the wrong area.

Above left: Sister aircraft to T2897 OJ-W from 149 Squadron. Right: Poster

Above left: P/O. Morison as a young 18 yr. old. Right: Sgt. Holland DFM (courtesy Loius Richards)

Warrant officer Rawlings was seen to bail out of the aircraft in order to light a flare in a field to aid the landing of the Wellington. The crew had decided to try and land T2897 rather than risk ditching at night in the English Channel. The plane flew low over the town of St Sever, waking many townspeople and came back a little while later. A witness has reported seeing the light of a flare. Unfortunately as the aircraft came in, it struck the tall chimney of a bakery in the town and crashed, killing 9 people on the ground. A huge fire then engulfed the crash site. The bakery is still trading and has a remembrance plaque to the crew on the wall above the shop.

Kenneth Charles Herbert Rawlings (born 1st January 1914) evaded capture for a few days. In the first few hours he was first helped on his way at a farm close to where he landed. Later he managed to find shelter at a farm in St-Manvieu-Bocage, about 5 miles further on, where the farmer took him in and fed him. It was here that the Germans came and captured him. On the 6th of June 1944 this farmer was executed by the French Resistance. There remain to this day grave doubts as to whether the farmer had anything to do with his capture.

Rawlings was taken first to Vire and from there sent to Stalag Luft I, Barth in Western Pomerania. After being held in 4 different camps, lastly in Stalag 357 at Fallingbostal, Lower Saxony, he was freed in April 1945 and returned to England. Before being sent to Germany however, Rawlings was taken back to the crash-site where he was paraded in front of the townspeople. The intention was to elicit a hostile reaction on account of the civilian deaths but according to witnesses the townspeople remained silent. It is also reported that several thousand people turned out for the funeral of the crew – not encouraged by the Germans of course.

It is also known that several thousand people turned out for the funeral of the crew - not encouraged by the Germans of course.

Sgt. Ernest John Holland DFM (courtesy Loius Richards)

Interesting as the famous poster encouraging people to volunteer to work within aircraft production features Sgt. Ernest John Holland DFM who only weeks previous to his loss was asked to attend photographic sittings by the Ministry of Information

Crew graves at St. Sever-Calvados Communal Cemetery (available individually to relatives, samples shown below, - courtesy Jacques Grasset)

Burial details:

P/O. Ronald Rutherford Morison. St. Sever-Calvados Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 2-6. Son of Fred Hughes Morison and Jane Margaret Morison, of St. Boswells-on-Tweed, Roxburghshire, England. Grave inscription reads: "Here, a boy. He dwell and ere the day of sorrow, departed as he came."

Sgt. John Leo Guy Westley. St. Sever-Calvados Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 2-6. Son of Alfred E. and Marie H. Westley, of Sutton, Surrey, England. Grave inscription reads: "We give him back, to thee dear lord, who gavest him to us, they will be done, RIP"

Sgt. Ernest John Holland DFM. St. Sever-Calvados Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 2-6. Son of Ernest and Ellen Holland, of Birmingham, England. Grave inscription reads: "A happy soul, heart of gold, no dearer son, this world could hold, God bless him."

Sgt. Ronald Hutchinson. St. Sever-Calvados Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 2-6. Son of Edmund and Margaret Hutchinson, of Sunderland, County Durham, England. Grave inscription reads: "Ever Remembered By his father and brothers."

Sgt. Walter Hugh Wilkinson. St. Sever-Calvados Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 2-6. Son of Walter Henry and Bessie Wilkinson, of Penrith, Cumberland, England. Grave inscription reads: "Among the chosen few, the very brave, the very true."

Researched by Jacques Grasset who took the first batch of grave photos for Aircrew Remembered. Further information supplied by Anthony Rickerby. To John Reid for visiting and taking the photographs of the graves. Details of the correct crash location our thanks go to Neil Clennell and Andre Laroze ( (local historian who has helped a great deal and continues to do so). Neil is the relative of a Typhoon pilot, Sgt. Dennis Herbert Clennell buried in the same cemetery. Photographs of Sgt. Holland DFM sent by Louise Richards, her mother was a close friend of 'Dutch'. With thanks also to the following sources.

KTY - Page updated 04.10.2017

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: 11 November 2017, 14:21

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