07.07.1944 No. 626 Squadron Lancaster I LM112 UM-A2 P/O. Oram
Date: 7th July 1944 (Friday)
Unit: No. 626 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Wickenby, Lincolnshire
Location: English Channel of France near Caen
Pilot: P/O. John Charles Oram AUS/422250 RAAF Survived (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Trevor E. Jenkins 575892 RAFVR Survived (2)
Nav: Sgt. J.B. Bright 1515316 RAFVR Survived (3)
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. L.S. Curtain AUS/415912 RAAF Survived (4)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. D.E. Just AUS/28010 RAAF Survived (5)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. John William Wood 1593500 RAFVR Age 19. Missing
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Frederick James Webb RAFVR Age 26. Missing
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 19:37 hrs from RAF Wickenby to assist in the Normandy land operations. The 1st Canadian and British 2nd Army were being held up by a series of fortified village strongpoints. As the villages were also close to Allied positions it was decided to keep the bombing to the northern edge of Caen.
The results were poor, the Northern area was badly damaged but had little effect - only a few German casualties were reported in the areas bombed, although damage to this part of the city was considerable. 2,276 tons of bombs were dropped.
467 aircraft took part - 283 Lancasters, 164 Halifaxes with 20 Mosquitoes providing the target markers.
Identification now possible with thanks to Graham Wood - Standing L-R: Fl/Sgt. Les Curtain, P/O. John Oram, Fl/Sgt. ‘Ted’ Just, Sgt. Trevor Jenkins. Squatting: Sgt. ‘Jackie’ Wood, Sgt. John Bright, Sgt. ‘Jimmy’ Webb.
Four aircraft were lost during this operation, the others:
105 Squadron Mosquito XVI LM964 GB-J. Flown by 31 year old Sq/Ldr. William W. Blessing DSO. DFC. RAAF From N.S.W. Australia. Killed, his navigator baled out and survived.
166 Squadron Lancaster III ND678 AS-Q. Flown by Sq/Ldr. Ralph H. Weston RAFVR - Killed with all 6 other crew.
550 Squadron Lancaster I LL850. Flown by P/O. Taylor - all crew escaped injury after their aircraft was hit by a bomb from above, the pilot managing to return to RAF Manston. Aircraft destroyed on landing.
Having been hit by flak over the target area the pilot headed away to assess the damage. It was decided that as the port outer engine was seriously damaged and flames could be seen close to the fuel tanks that they should abandon the Lancaster. When they were over the Channel he gave the order to bale out. All the crew did so except the rear gunner who was thought to have been hit by shrapnel during the attack, the other gunner is also believed to have gone down with the aircraft. The surviving crew members were all picked up from the sea within minutes.
The pilot, P/O. John Chrles Oram received a DFC for this action, with a bar to follow for further action during the war. Published in the London Gazette on 19th September 1944:
"In July, 1944, this officer was the captain of an aircraft detailed to attack a concentration of enemy forces in daylight. The attack was successfully executed but, whilst over the target area, the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and sustained extensive damage. Control was not affected, however, and a course was set for home. Almost as the French coast, was reached - one of the fuel tanks was seen to be on fire. The flames spread furiously and soon both wings were alight. Nothing could be done to save the aircraft and Pilot Officer Oram ordered his crew to leave by parachute. At this stage the crew would have descended in the sea. Fully aware that some of his comrades were unable to swim Pilot Officer Oram turned so that the drop could be made over land behind our lines. This done he again headed for the sea. Displaying 'complete disregard for his own welfare he remained at the controls until he was satisfied that the burning aircraft was clear of a concentration of shipping before he jumped himself. A few seconds later the aircraft plunged into the sea well clear, of the ships. This officer displayed skill, courage and devotion to duty of the highest order."
Further information can be found on the website of the 626 Squadron
run by Mr. Tom Bint. They, as did we, found the photograph of the crew at the Runnymede Memorial - left by relatives of the Flight Engineer, Sgt. Trevor Jenkins.
Right: The family of Sgt. Jenkins left this touching photo and message at Runnymede 2014 (Air-Rem archives)
1) P/O. John Charles Oram - from New South Wales, Australia.
(2) Sgt. Trevor E. Jenkins - from Cardiff, Wales.
(3) Sgt. John B. Bright - from Manchester, Lancashire, England.
(4) Fl/Sgt. Les S. Curtain - from Melbourne, Australia.
(5) Fl/Sgt. ‘Ted’ D.E. Just - from Port Augusta, South Australia.
Sgt. John William Wood. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 240. Son of George and Muriel Wood of Worsbrough, Barnsley, England.
Sgt. Frederick James Webb. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 240. Son of Frederick A. and Charlotte E. Webb, of Cold Ash, Berkshire, England.
For further details our thanks to the following, Graham Wood - nephew of Sgt. John Wood for crew photo and information. Also to sources as quoted below. Also to Tom Bint and the 626 Squadron website.