12.05.1940 No. 12 Squadron Battle I P2332 PH-F P/O. Norman M. Thomas
Operation: Vroenhoven Belgium
Date: 12th May 1940 (Sunday)
Unit: No. 12 Squadron
Type: Fairey Battle Mk.I
Base: RAF Amifontaine
Location: Vroenhoven, Belgium
Pilot: P/O. Norman M. Thomas 37659 RAF PoW No: 1401 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagen and Belaria.
Obs: Sgt. B.T.P. Carey 580996 RAF PoW No: 13097 Camp: Stalag Kopernikus
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Cpl. T.S. Campion 551696 RAF PoW No: 13085 Stalag Kopernikus
REASON FOR LOSS:
Airborne 08:18hrs from Amifontaine, tasked to destroy the concrete bridge spanning the Albert Kanaal at Vroenhoven. Shot down by Flak and fighters and force landed near the bridge, 24 km SE of Hasselt, Belgium at 09:20 hrs. All crew taken PoW.
During the operation 12 Squadron lost 5 aircraft, the others:
Battle L5421 Flown by P/O. T.D.H. Davey, was hit during an attack by Fw. Sawallisch of 2./JG2 and force landed - all crew survived.
Battle L5227 Flown by 28 year old Fred Marland 514450 RAF from Oldham, Lancashire, killed with all crew.
Battle P2204 Flown by 21 year old F/O. Donald E. Garland (1) 40105 RAF from East Finchley, Middlesex, killed with all his crew.
Battle L5439 Flown by P/O. I.A. Macintosh and his crew survived.
(1) For his actions on this operation, F/O. Donald E. Garland received the highest honour - the Victoria Cross. Citation published in the London Gazette, 11th June 1940:
“Flying Officer Garland was the pilot and Sergeant Gray the observer of the leading machine of a formation of five aircraft that were ordered to destroy, at all costs, a bridge over the Albert Canal which had not been demolished by the land forces and was allowing the Germans to advance into Belgium. In spite of very heavy defence of the area surrounding the bridge, the formation made a successful dive-bombing attack from the lowest practicable altitude, after releasing their bombs they were attacked by a large number of enemy fighters. Only one aircraft of the five returned to its base. Much of the success of the operation must be attributed to the formation leader, Flying Officer Garland, and to the coolness and resource of Sergeant Gray, who navigated the leading aircraft under most difficult conditions in such a manner that the whole formation, although it subsequently suffered heavy losses, was able successfully to attack the target.”
Tragically the family of F/O. Donald E. Garland also lost 3 others sons:
27 year old, P/O. Desmond William Garland 115223 RAFVR of 50 Squadron, killed on the 05th June 1942. Piloting a Manchester I R5833 lost on a gardening operation in the Gorse region (5 other crew also killed, 1 taken PoW)
32 year old, Fl/ Lt. John Cuthbert Garland 101796 RAFVR, died of natural causes on the 28th February 1943.
36 year old, Fl/Lt. Patrick James Garland 49602 RAF of 2 Squadron, killed on 01st January 1945. Pilot of a Spitfire XIV RM803 - killed when the aircraft bounced on landing, overturned, killing the pilot.
None - crew survived as PoW.
Researched by Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered May 2015. Michel also kindly supplied photographs of the aircraft crash site. (additional information - webmaster)