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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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217 Squadron Crest
01.02.1941 No. 217 Squadron Beaufort I L9835 MW-W Fl/Lt. Oakley

Operation: Brest

Date: 01st February 1941 (Saturday)

Unit: No. 217 Squadron (Coastal Command) (motto: 'Woe to the unwary') Beaufort I

Type: Beaufort I

Serial: L9835

Code: MW-W

Base: RAF St. Eval

Location: North Atlantic - missing

Pilot: Fl/Lt. Richard Arthur Oakley Aus/215 RAAF Age 23. Killed

Obs: Sgt. Arthur George Hayman 580515 RAF Age ? Missing - believed killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Arthur James Croker 527080 RAF Age 23. Missing - believed killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Kenneth George Rowley 755531 RAFVR Age 26. Missing - believed killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off at 14:55 hrs to attack the 'Admiral Hipper' in dry dock for repairs at Brest harbour. The aircraft was reported to call on the R/T at about 16:15 hrs. that they had suffered an engine failure following being hit by anti-aircraft fire and were battling against 35-45 knot head wind, thought to have been transmitted on their return flight. The aircraft is assumed to have come down between Ushant and the English coast.

The Squadron dispatched aircraft to carry out a search but no trace of the aircraft or crew were found.

Several weeks elapsed when the body of the pilot was washed up on a beach near Calais on the French coast. The remaining crew is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

Another crew from the Squadron were also lost during this operation:

Beaufort I L9866 MW-J Flown by Sgt. Rutherford.

On the 3rd May 1945, RAF bombers severely damaged the Admiral Hipper while she was in Kiel. Her crew scuttled the ship at her moorings at 04;25 hrs, and in July 1945, she was raised and towed to Heikendorfer Bay. She was ultimately broken up for scrap in 1948–1952, her bell is currently on display at the Laboe Naval Memorial near Kiel.

Burial details:

Fl/Lt. Richard Arthur Oakley. Pihen-Les-Guines Communal Cemetery. Row A. Grave 3. Born on the 24th February 1917 at Brisbane, the son of Leonard Joseph and Mary Dorrell Oakley, of Ashburton, Victoria, Australia. Enlisted at Point Cook, Victoria on the 21st July 1937. Grave inscription reads: "His Duty Nobly Done".

Obs: Sgt. Arthur George Hayman. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 44. No further details - are you able to assist?

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Arthur James Croker. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 41. Son of Frank and Ethel Croker and husband of May Croker (née Williams), of Newquay, Cornwall, England.

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Kenneth George Rowley. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 51. Son of Thomas and Annie Rose Rowley.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources indicated below.

KTY 20.05.2019

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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