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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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26/27.04.1944 No. 106 Squadron Lancaster III JB601 ZN-V Sq/Ldr. Anthony O'S. Murdoch

Operation: Schweinfurt (Ball bearing production factories) Germany

Date: 26/27th April 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: No. 106 Squadron.

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: JB601

Code: ZN-V

Base: RAF Metheringham, Lincolnshire

Location: Laneuville-à-Bayard, France.

Pilot: Sq/Ldr. Anthony O'Shea Murdoch NZ/40414 RAF Age 28. Killed

Pilot 2: Sgt. Roy Bradley 1575978 RAFVR Survived - injured (Broken leg). PoW No further details available at this time.

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Leonard George Alfred Izod 1873929 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Nav: Sgt. Henry David Clark 1122986 RAFVR Age 30. Killed

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. William Frederick Evans 902284 RAFVR Age 26. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. William Frederick Collins AUS/402458 RAAF Age 29. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ernest Ambrose Hatch 933266 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Howard Rees 1580581 RAFVR Age 31. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Took off at 21:41 hrs to attack the ball bearing production factories at Schweinfurt as part of a 206 Lancasters, 11 Mosquitoes from 5 group and 9 further Lancasters from 1 group to bomb the ball bearing production plant.

Another huge failure with very light damage done on the ground due to strong head winds making the markers inaccurate from the Mosquito pathfinder force. It is reported that only 2 people were killed on the ground in the target area but a total of 21 Lancaster's lost!

125 aircrew killed and a further 28 being made PoW.

Lancaster JB601 was attacked by a night fighter and subsequently shot down over Bayard, south east of St. Dizier. Combat taking place at 4,800 mtrs at 00.50 hrs. The Luftwaffe pilot being the ace Hptm. Helmut Bergmann (1)

Above and below impressive details showing actual crash location together with detail on how the area was in 1944. Now with many new developments. (courtesy Franck)

A local resident, who was then aged 9, clearly remembers the incident and passed on the following information via his son Franck to Aircrew Remembered in January 2016. Franck also visited and photographed the graves for us.

Left: Villagers cutting away rubber from one of the tyres - a valuable commodity at the time - used mainly for repairing shoes and boots. (courtesy Franck)

“The villagers watched as they heard the aircraft coming in very low, they saw one man jump but as they were very low the parachute slowed his descent but he broke a leg when he landed in one of the trees. At first they thought that it was trying to land in the fields of Ruetz Farm but seemed to have decided it was too small so climbed slightly to avoid trees which the aircraft clipped, losing one of the engines which was found in the garden of a resident. A machine gun was also dropped or sheared from the aircraft during its descent.

The aircraft hit a field but did not catch fire or explode. Villagers were the first on the scene, one woman removed a ring from one of the crew explaining that she wanted to return it to the relatives. Another (now deceased) took a wallet from the ground which was later handed over to the Germans - another villager wanted to take the boots off one of the crew but was ‘asked to leave’!

One of the villagers travelling in a hay cart found Roy Bradley picked him up with a view to assisting his evasion but he was in too much pain and asked for treatment from the Germans. This they did, sending him first to the hospital at St. Dizier and then on to the hospital at Chaumont.

After the aircraft had crashed the Germans lined up the men of Laneuville-à-Bayard on the following day, for two hours as a machine gun from the aircraft could not be accounted for. (The Germans knew that the French resistance were very active in the area) At one stage it was thought the German officer was about to have them all shot. A Mr. Pierre Chatel, director of the village foundry and also the Mayor left the Town Hall to calm down the situation which after discussions with the Germans and villagers he managed to do. It was suggested that the machine-gun maybe in the canal. This was then partially drained and found with men in a boat probing the bottom.”

An anniversary memorial service was held a year after the crash by the Mayor and people of the village, members of the French Patriotic Group, an RAF representative also attended.

A disastrous night for 106 squadron losing some 5 aircraft:
F/O. Frederick M. Mifflin DFC Lancaster I ME669 ZN-O, killed with another crew member, remaining 5 made PoW.
P/O. Edward C.B. Harper Lancaster III JB562 ZN-H, killed with 4 other crew, remaining 2 made PoW.
P/O. W.G. Fraser Lancaster III ND850 ZN-C, evaded capture along with 3 other crew members, 3 were killed.
P/O. Cyril A. Bishop Lancaster III ND853 ZN-J, killed with 4 other crew members, 2 being made PoW.
All the crews who lost their lives from these 4 losses are buried at Durnbach War Cemetery.

(1) This was the 26th kill for the ace Helmut Bergmann who also shot two others down on this same operation. He went on to claim a total of 34 kills before he was killed on the 6/7th August 1944 when he was shot down by Fl/Lt. John Surman in a Mosquito MM449 from 604 squadron.

Roy Bradley, the sole survivor from the crew returned to the village several times over the years. Sadly he passed away in 1995.

The family of P/O. William Collins also came to visit in June 2004. (courtesy Franck)

The original funeral for the crew that were killed - an impressive number of locals attending the event. (courtesy Franck)

The church and cemetery at Laneuville-à-Bayard, France. (courtesy Franck - who also supplied photographs of the graves in high resolution - Franck has provided permission for copies to be sent to any relative who contact us)

Burial details:

Sq/Ldr. Anthony O'Shea Murdoch. Laneuville-à-Bayard Churchyard. Coll. Grave 1-7. Son of William Thomas Murdoch and Ellen Catherine Josephine Murdoch, of Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand.

Sgt. Leonard George Alfred Izod. Laneuville-à-Bayard Churchyard. Coll. Grave 1-7. Son of Edmund Joseph Charles and Florence Rachel Izod, of Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England. His epitaph reads: ‘Greater Love Hath No Man Than This. That He Gave His Life For Those He Loved.’

Sgt. Henry David Clark. Laneuville-à-Bayard Churchyard. Coll. Grave 1-7. Son of Thomas and Agnes Clark, husband of Sarah H. Clark, of Ayr. Scotland. His epitaph reads: ‘Ever Remembered By Loving Wife And Daughter.’

Fl/Sgt. William Frederick Evans. Laneuville-à-Bayard Churchyard. Coll. Grave 1-7. Son of William Thomas Evans and Doris Evans, husband of Jocelyn Marion Evans, of Ealing, Middlesex, England. His epitaph reads: ‘He Gave The Life He Loved For Those He Loved He Shall Not Have Died In Vain.’

P/O. William Frederick Collins. Laneuville-à-Bayard Churchyard. Coll. Grave 1-7. Born 06th December 1914. Son of Harold and Elizabeth Collins, of Ocean Parade, Burleigh Heads, Queensland, Australia. Prior to enlisting worked as a wood machinist. His epitaph reads: ‘Resting In The Peace Of God. My Beloved Son. Au Revoir.’

Sgt. Ernest Ambrose Hatch. Laneuville-à-Bayard Churchyard. Coll. Grave 1-7. Son of Ernest George and Edith May Hatch, of Mile Cross, Norwich, Norfolk, England. His epitaph reads: ‘May The Sunshine He Missed In Life’s Highway Be Found In God’s Haven Of Rest.’

Sgt. John Howard Rees. Laneuville-à-Bayard Churchyard. Coll. Grave 1-7. Son of David John and Harriet Rees, of Llanelly, Carmarthenshire, husband of Nancy Rees, of Llanelly, Wales. His epitaph reads: ‘Silent Thoughts And Secret Tears Keep His Memory Ever Dear Remembered By Wife.’

Dedicated to all relatives of this crew. With thanks to Franck for his detailed maps, photographs and first hand information on the crash as witnessed by his father.

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: 06 January 2016, 20:54

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