27/28.08.1943 No. 78 Squadron Halifax II JD406 EY-P F/O. Richard H. Orr
Date: 27/28th August 1943 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: No. 78 Squadron
Type: Halifax II
Base: RAF Breighton, Yorkshire
Location: Osches, Souilly, France
Pilot: F/O. Richard Herbert Orr J/20704 RCAF Age 27. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Enoch Jones Williams 1130519 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Nav: F/O. William Victor Gregson 131902 RAFVR Age 25. Killed
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Percival Jack Wenmoth 997249 RAFVR Age 24. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Irvine Illingworth 1079192 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. W.A. Dunleavy R/125230 RCAF PoW No: 53144 Camp: 9C - Bad Sulza
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Hector McNeill Gill 613186 RAF Age 24. Killed
A memorial is in the process of planning for this loss in the Osches area by Celestin Jaunel who's father lived near the crash site and witnessed some of the events. They are keen to make contact with relatives of the crew.
Update: January 2017 - The nephew of the former navigator of this crew would very much appreciate further information and of course perhaps a photo of Sgt. Andrew John Kerr Steven 979723 RAFVR. He baled out of this aircraft thinking that they were hit, a few days previously (23/24th August) on an operation to Berlin. Sadly he was lost but the remainder of crew returned to base.
Update January 2020 - Ian McLeod submitted comprehensive details on Sgt. Enoch Williams, see foot of page.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 20:54 hrs from RAF Breighton, Yorkshire - 674 aircraft – 349 Lancasters, 221 Halifaxes and 104 Stirlings. 11 of each type were lost on the raid : 4.9% of the force. The marking of this raid was based mainly on H2S.
Above: Sgt. Enoch Jones Williams with a crew of 102 Squadron prior to joining 78. (Further information follows courtesy Ian McLeod - December 2019)
47 of the Pathfinders H2S aircraft were ordered to check their equipment by dropping a 1000 lb bomb on Heilbronn while flying to Nuremburg. 28 Pathfinder aircraft were able to carry out this order. Heilbronn reports that several bombs did drop in the north of the town soon after midnight. The local officials assumed that the bombs were aimed at the industrial zone, several bombs did fall around the factory area and other bombs fell further away. No industrial buildings were hit, one house was destroyed but there were no casualties.
Air Bomber for Halifax JD406, Sgt. Percival Jack Wenmoth (courtesy Jean Ragheb - see credits)
Photo courtesy Sherif Lotfy
58 course of the 19 OTU with PJ Wenmoth showing in last row, 4th from right Courtesy Sherif Lotfy
Nuremburg was found to be free from cloud but it was very dark. The initial Pathfinder markers were accurate but a creepback quickly developed which could not be stopped because so many Pathfinder aircraft had difficulties with their H2S sets.
Right: Wireless Operator Sgt. Irvine Illingworth (see credits)
The Master Bomber (whose name is not recorded) could do little to persuade the Main Force to move their bombing forward, only a quarter of the crews could hear his broadcasts. Bomber Command estimated that most of the bombing fell in open country SSW of the city but the local reports say that bombs were scattered across the SE and eastern suburbs.
The only location mentioned by name is the Zoo, which was hit by several bombs. 65 people were killed.
The crew, with Sgt. Percival Jack Wenmoth fourth from left (courtesy Jean Ragheb) - see original image below.One of two aircraft from 78 Squadron lost on this operation, the other:
Halifax II JD414 EY-M, flown by 27 year old P/O. Samuel Norris 149219 RAFVR was killed with 6 other crew. The Wireless operator taken PoW. The crew killed rest also in Durnbach War Cemetery. To read the story of this loss click here
Halifax JD406 was intercepted and shot down by the Luftwaffe ace Offw. Reinhard Kollack, his 29th abschusse of the war. Flying with 8./NJG4 he brought the aircraft down at 01.42 hrs (mistakingly claiming it as a Lancaster at the time)
(1) Offw. Reinhard Kollack, pictured left, survived the war with a total of 49 kills.
After the war Reinhard found it difficult to adjust to civilian life before he rejoined the newly founded Bundeswehr in 1956. He later joined the Bundeswehr in 1956 and retired in 1967 as a Hauptfeldwebel. On 6 February 1980 he died at the age of 65.
PoW Camp - Bad Sulza. (courtesy Heinz Renkel)
F/O. Richard Herbert Orr. (left, below, courtesy Sherif Lotfy)Souilly Churchyard. Grave 3. Son of Arthur Joseph and Bertha Jane Orr, of Underwood, Ontario, Canada.
Sgt. Enoch Jones Williams. Souilly Churchyard. Grave 6. Son of Thomas and Rebecca Williams, of Blaenrhondda, Glamorgan, Wales.
F/O. William Victor Gregson. Souilly Churchyard. Grave 5. Son of William and Dorothy Gregson, husband of Sally Gregson, of Liverpool, England.
Sgt. Percival Jack Wenmoth. Souilly Churchyard. Grave 2. Son of Mr. and Mrs. C. P. Wenmoth, of Whalley Range, Manchester, England. Grave marker shown right (courtesy Jean Ragheb)
Sgt. Irvine Illingworth. Souilly Churchyard. Grave 1. Aunt; Mrs. A.E. Tylor of 82 Towneley Street, Burnley, Lancashire, England. Worked at Gregory’s Engineering prior to enlisting and studied at Heasandford School.
Sgt. Hector McNeill Gill. Souilly Churchyard. Grave 4. Son of John McNeill Gill and Catherine McNeill Gill, of Campbelltown, Argyllshire, Scotland. Husband of Verbena Ruth Gill.
Sgt. Enoch Jones Williams (courtesy Ian McLeod, January 2020)
Early Days. Young Enoch
His siblings had all left home by the time that World War II started and all were married. His elder sister Agnes, had married Albert Plaister and now lived in Filton, Bristol, his sister Eleanor, was married to David Mcleod and Lived in Perth, Scotland and his brother William Williams, married to Jean Clarke, and lived in High Wycombe. William also joined the Royal Air Force and was soon serving as a sergeant in Egypt. It was a close family and in spite of the geographic separation, they kept in touch by letter.
He volunteered for the RAFVR in order to become a member of an aircrew, sometime in late 1940 or early 1941. His training took place in several different locations, but there are no records available of where he actually was for each stage of his training. The usual sequence for a volunteer for air crew would be to attend a selection board to decide what for which specialisation he would be trained.
There was a shortage of personnel to fill the Flight Engineer position in the four engine bombers, which were now coming into operational service in greater numbers. Originally many trained aircraft fitters were converted to this crew position, however this practice couldn't continue for ever, it would mean a shortage of highly trained technicians in ground crew, so volunteers were selected. This would be followed by basic and ground training, where he followed the standard, firearm training, drill and physical training.
Enoch (second from left) in January 1941 during basic training
Finally, the time came to move on for further training and those that were training for Flight Engineers were usually posted to No 4 School of Technical Training, RAF St. Athan in South Wales, which was close to Enoch’s home. Here he was issued with a White Flash to wear in his side cap which indicated that he was training for Aircrew.
The first stage dealt with engines, airframes, hydraulics, electrics, etc. Finally, he was allocated (or volunteered) for the aircraft on which he would like to see operational service. Enoch specialised in the Handley Page Halifax Mark 2 heavy bomber. During this training, all were sent on a "makers course" these were in various parts of the country and generally in factories where the various aircraft were being built. The main course covered all aspects of the aircraft and lectures were very comprehensive.
The final part of the training usually took place in an aircraft that was tethered to the ground and the students carried out many engine runs, operated various parts of the systems and it would be probable that he did not even leave the ground whilst at St Athan. On successful completion of this course, he was awarded the Flight Engineer’s brevet and promoted to sergeant.
Enoch and his course during aircrew training. At this stage all would be wearing a ‘white flash in their side caps to show that they were training as aircrew.
This course marked the end of the ground training and he was posted to the 102 Squadron Heavy Conversion Flight, which was located at RAF Pocklington. Here he began his flying training and become a member of a crew of seven personnel; Pilot, Navigator, Bomb Aimer, Flight Engineer, Wireless operator, Mid Upper Gunner and Rear Gunner. Five personnel would already have formed a crew and would have completed flying training on two-engine bombers, normally the Wellington at another unit. They would then need to add two members to their crew, the Flight Engineer and a new Gunner, for the Mid upper position. Generally, the choice was left to the individuals who they chose to join the crew.
After several weeks with the Heavy Conversion Flight, Enoch and the remainder of his crew were ready to undertake operations and we were posted to 102 Squadron, also located at RAF Pocklington.
102 Squadron Royal Air Force.
Enoch Williams’ time with 102 Squadron is clearly documented between five letters that he sent to his sister-in-law, Jean Williams, and the Squadron’s Operations Record Book of his time with the squadron. It was usual for an aircrew to complete 30 missions over a six-month period with an operational squadron, before being posted again to a Heavy Conversion Unit for refresher training and integration into a new crew.
In a letter to Jean Williams, dated 3 February 1943, from The Sergeant’s Mess RAF Pocklington, he informs her that he has been posted to 102 Squadron, which was on the same camp as the Heavy Conversion Flight and that he had carried out his first operation “last Sunday night”. The 102 Squadron records for January 1943, shows that he was posted to the unit for flying duties and that he had flown a mission on 30 January 1943.
No. 102 Squadron was a Royal Air Force night bomber squadron in World War I and a heavy bomber squadron in World War II. In October 1938 the squadron was based at RAF Driffield, Yorkshire and was equipped with the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley.
The squadron was active from the second day of World War II. It began to receive Halifaxes in December 1941 and the squadron moved to RAF to Pocklington on 7 August of that year. The squadron continued for the next thirty-six months to fly night sorties (including the thousand bomber raids) over Germany.
After the war it flew briefly as a transport squadron before being reformed a light bomber unit with the Second Tactical Air Force within RAF Germany. Its last existence was as a Thor strategic missile unit, and it disbanded in April 1963.
His first mission on 30 January was recorded as “Gardening”, which was the nickname for mine laying off the coast of enemy occupied Europe. This was the usual task given to a new crew on its first mission.
“we got to the target and back without any opposition, but the kites that were after us had a bit of excitement, but they all got off without a scratch. We were detailed for last night, but our crew got scrubbed so we had the afternoon off”. Don’t tell Mam I am on ops, it will not do her any harm not to know because she would only worry if she did know. You are the only one who knows so far. We have a good tea before we go on ops, as a rule they give us an egg, the old fashioned type in a shell”.
In his letter he also mentions that he hoped to get 14 days leave in a few weeks and was planning to take his mother and father to Perth in Scotland to visit his sister Eleanor and family.
The 102 Squadron records show that he was in the crew captained by Flying Officer Ingram. There were some individual changes in the crew from mission to mission, but the personnel that Enoch flew with, on most of his missions with crew were:
Pilot:Flying Officer G.F. Ingram
Navigator:Sergeant S.C Richards.Bomb Aimer:Pilot Officer Rushbrook
Wireless Operator:Sergeant A.D. Garlick
Air Gunner:Sergeant J. Moulsong
Air Gunner:Sergeant J. Hurst
Flight Engineer:Sergeant E.J. Williams
Of this crew, Flying Officer Ingram and Sergeant Hurst were also killed in action, the remainder appeared to have survived the war.
Enoch and his crew flew in the Handley Page Halifax II. However, for each mission the crew did not necessarily fly in the same aircraft and were allocated an aircraft for each mission. Enoch carried out 13 missions with this crew, in the aircraft as numbered and to the targets locations as listed:
30 January 1943 W7899 ‘Gardening’
4 February 1943 DT779 Lorient
7 February 1943 HR667 Lorient
13 February 1943 DT800 Lorient
14 February 1943 W7934 Cologne
16 February 1943 HR667 Lorient
18 February 1943 HR667 Wilhelmshaven
19 February 1943 HR667 Wilhelmshaven
5 March 1943 W7935 Essen
8 March 1943 W7935 Nuremburg
9 March 1943 W7927 Munich
11 March 1943 W7935 Stuttgart
12 March 1943 W7927 Essen
Halifax Mark II of 102 Squadron at RAF Pocklington
The Handley Page Halifax was a Royal Air Force four-engined heavy bomber of the Second World War. It was developed by Handley Page to the same specification as the contemporary Avro Lancaster and Short Stirling as heavy bombers. The Halifax performed its maiden flight on 25 October 1939, and it entered service with the RAF on 13 November 1940. 6,176 were built.
It had a wingspan of 98 feet 10 inches (30.12 m) and a length of 71 feet 7 inches (21.36 m). The maximum speed was 282 mph (454 k/h), service ceiling of 24,000 feet (7.315 m) and range of 1,030 miles (1,658 km). Empty weight was 38,240 lbs (17,345 kg) and the maximum take-off weight was 65,000 lbs (29,484 kg).
There was a Crew of seven: 7 (pilot, flight engineer, navigator, bomb aimer, radio operator/gunner and two gunners). The armament 8 × .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns (4 in dorsal turret, 4 in tail turret), 1 × .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers K machine gun in nose. It could carry 13,000 lb (5,897 kg) of bombs.
On 24 March 1943, he wrote to Jean Williams, from St James Hospital, Leeds and informed her that he was in hospital,
“but it’s only a broken jaw. It happened a week last Friday (12 March), we had been to Essen and on getting out of the ‘kite’ I slipped and hit my chin, my hands were full of kit, so I could not save myself”.
He describes in some detail his treatment and the routine of his life in hospital. He also talks in detail about the holiday to Perth with his parents to visit his sister, Eleanor. This leave would have been in the period between 19 February and 5 March. He mentions that a photograph has been taken of his crew, with one of the air gunners missing as he could not be found at the time, and that he will send a copy to her as soon as he can.
He writes again to Jean Williams on 29 April 1943, from his parent’s home in Blaenrhondda, where he is on sick leave, and informs her that he will be returning to the Squadron on Sunday (2 May). In his letter he mentions a visit to his sister Agnes and her family in Filton, Bristol and that he had received a letter from his brother, William, who was serving in Egypt. He also said again that he was sending her the photograph of his crew.
On arriving back with 102 Squadron, he has ‘lost’ his crew and now becomes a ‘spare bod’, having to fly to cover for sickness in other crews. Being a ‘spare bod’ was not popular as many crews were extremely tightly-knit. He writes in a letter to Jean Williams, dated 14 May 1943, that
“I have not done any flying since I arrived back as I am without a crew. I have to wait for a crew who are without an engineer, or for one to go sick before I can do any more trips. I’m getting a bit Browned off hanging around doing nothing all day. I never knew doing nothing was so hard.”
He also mentions that he has received a letter from his brother William and that the news of the last few days was that the North African Campaign was coming to an end, he comments:
“maybe they will start the war this end at last, the sooner we start, the sooner we finish”.
The 102 Squadron Operational Logs for the next three months show that he carried out a further four missions with various crews; to Dusseldorf on 25 May, Gelsenkirchen on 25 June, Cologne on 28 June and Cologne on 3 July. He is shown in the Squadron Operations Record Book for June 1943 as posted out of the Squadron. His next letter to Jean Williams is from RAF Marston Moor, dated 8 July 1943. RAF Marston Moor was the home of 1652 Heavy Conversion Unit, which was responsible for qualifying crews for Handley Page Halifax bombers. Enoch writes:
“I have been posted, I arrived yesterday. I should have come here 10 days ago, but I was operating with a crew for that time and my posting was put off. I do not know when I shall be having leave, but it is due in the last week of August. I have been sent here to be crewed up, this is only a training camp and the crews come here complete but for the engineers so it all depends on when the crew I get with had their last leave”.
He mentions that the camp is very dispersed and that the billets are some distance from the Mess and that there is no water in the billets so he often uses the river running behind the huts to bath in.
78 Squadron Royal Air Force
The crew was posted to 78 Squadron at RAF Breighton and arrived there on 12 August 1943. His new crew consisted of:
Pilot:Flying Officer R.H. Orr RCAF
Navigator:Sergeant F. Ward
Bomb Aimer:Sergeant P.J. Wenmouth
Wireless Operator: Sergeant I. Illingsworth
Flight Engineer: Sergeant E.J. Williams
Rear Gunner:Sergeant H. Gill
Mid Upper Gunner: Sergeant W.A. Dunleavy RCAF
78 Squadron was first formed in 1916 to defend England against Zeppelin raids. It was reformed in 1938 and equipped with Heyford night bombers then with Whitleys and it moved to RAF Dishforth in Yorkshire. In early 1942 it converted to the Halifax and after several moves it arrived at Middleton St. George in June 1942 and to Linton-on-Ouse in September 1942. In June 1943, the squadron moved to RAF Breighton. The squadron continued in the bomber mission until the end of the war in Europe.
In May 1945 the squadron was transferred into Transport Command, re-equipping with Dakotas and operating in the Middle East until it was disbanded in 1954. It later reactivated as a helicopter unit being finally disbanded in 2014
In a letter to his sister Eleanor, dated 27 August 1943, from Sergeants Mess, RAF Breighton, Selby, Yorks, he writes:
“The crew that I am with are OK, but the first navigator we had was too slow, so we had another. Our first trip together was on the 22nd and the gunners shot a JU88 down. Our next trip was Berlin, we got coned (Note: ‘coned’ is being caught in searchlight beams) over the target so the skipper had to throw the kite about a bit to get out of it, which he managed without getting a hole in the kite. The navigator must have thought that we had been hit and were going to prang as he baled out, the Bomb Aimer navigated us back, he made a good job of it too as some of the maps & charts went out with the navigator owing to the slipstream. So we are waiting for a new navigator now. I have not told Mum I have been over again. Am writing this dinner time so am in a hurry so I have not much time. Cheerio, Love, Enoch".
The Squadron Operations Record Book shows that Flying Officer Orr’s crew flew in Halifax Mark II bomber, JD.406. They carried out a mission to Leverkusen on 22 August 1943 and to Berlin on 23 August 1943. The crew details for the Berlin raid show that the new navigator was Sergeant J Steven. The Berlin raid was by 727 aircraft, of which 56 were lost, which was the greatest loss of aircraft in one night so far in the war. The raid was only partially successful and casualties on the ground were substantial. The Details of the Sortie for Halfax, JD.406 states that “The primary target was attacked and bombed at 0025 hours from a height of 18,000 feet. Highly successful attack around A/P (Aiming Point). Navigator baled out over target of his own accord. Clear visibility”. 24 year old, Sergeant Andrew John Kerr Steven 979723 is shown as Killed in Action on 24 August 1943 and is buried in the Berlin War Cemetery.
The squadron recognition letters were EY and the individual aircraft recognition letter was P for the aircraft (JD 406) in which Enoch and his crew flew on the three missions with the Squadron.
Flying Officer and his crew, with replacement Navigator, Flying Officer W V Gregson, carried out their next mission on 27 August 1943 to Nurnberg. They were again in Halifax II, JD.406. The aircraft took off at 2054 hours and in the ‘Details of Sortie’ is shown as ‘missing’. The only information on the fate of Halifax, JD.406 was that passed on by the one survivor of the crew, Sergeant Dunleavy, who had spent the remainder of the war as a Prisoner of War and was repatriated to Canada at the end of the war, who said that all he remembered was that were being chased by a German fighter and the next thing he knew was waking up as a prisoner in hospital.
The aircraft crashed in the Parish of Orches at a place called la Vaux-Warin during the night 27/28 August 1943. The Orches Parish Death Register for 1943 shows that the bodies of Flying Officer Gregson and Sergeant Gill were recovered and identified that night, but three other unidentified British airmen were not found until 1 November, 21 December and 24 December respectively. The sixth member of the crew that was killed was found in the Parish of Souilly on 28 August, identified as “Jack Wenmouth” and registered there. All remains were subsequently buried together in the churchyard at Souilly.
Extract of Operations Record Book of 78 Squadron RAF for August 1943, which records the details of the raid carried out on the night 27/28 August. It shows that Aircraft No JD.406, of which Enoch was a member of the crew, was posted as ‘MISSING’
The details of the remains that were discovered on 24 December were entered in the Orches register as:
“On the twenty-fourth day of December one thousand nine hundred and forty-three hours, the body of an English airman of the Royal Air Force was found on the territory of the parish of Osches at a place called Wachivaux close to the plane that crashed on the night of August 28, 1943 due to combat. Death goes back to this date. Description height 1metre 75 hair ? Insignia of an engineer, British subject buried Souilly under No. 6.
Registered on the twenty-sixth of December, nineteen hundred and forty-three at three o'clock, on the declaration of Andre Faron, thirty-three, living in Souilly who after reading the statement signed with us, Julien Gilbert Perard Mayor of 'Osches”.
Souilly is a village and parish on the main road from Bar-le-Duc to Verdun (La Voie Sacrée). It is 30 kilomres north-north-east of Bar-le-Duc ans 16 kilimetres south-west of Verdun. In the cemetery the graves are near the east wall of the church. Osches is avillage and parish three kilometres north-west of Souilly. The SouillyTown Hall, fronting on the Voie Sacrée, served as headquarters for General Pétain and, later, General Nivelle during the Battle of Verdun in 1916. In 1918, it served as headquarters for the US General Pershing during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
In a letter to Jean Williams, dated 29 August, Enoch’s parents wrote:
“About tea-time we had sad news. Enoch is missing from Friday nights raid letter to follow, missing from 27th.28th Aug. We can only now hope for the best Jean and that one day he shall return to us. Aunty is writing to Dai. Will close as I want to write to William, Agnes and Ellen and the house has been full since friends are very kind, I did not think that we had so many and please God we shall soon have better news.”
A letter from the Group Captain Commanding RAF Holme on Spalding Moor stated that Enoch’s personal effects were being processed and included the paragraph:
“Please accept my sincere personal sympathy with you during this very anxious period and I hope that there will soon be some good news of your son. Any information received will be sent on to you immediately.”
His parents lived in hope that he was a prisoner of war or had survived, evaded capture and would be discovered after the Allied invasion of France. His mother, Rebecca Williams, died in 1944 and his father did not receive confirmation of his death until 1947.
A letter from the Air Ministry (Casualty Branch), dated 22 October 1947, to his father Thomas Williams, stated:
“Further to the letter dated 23 march 1943, in which you were promised the result of enquiries which were being pursued in France concerning the identity of the occupants of certain graves in Souilly Communal cemetery, I have now received a complete report from the Royal Air Force Investigating Officer which establishes the identity of each of the six members of your son’s crew.
Original wooden crosses on the graves in Souilly Churchyard
The graves were initially marked with wooden crosses but were later replaced with Commonwealth War Grave Commission headstones. Thomas Williams visited his son’s grave in April 1949. There have been several family visits over the years and the moving ceremonies held by the communities of Souilly and Osches to commemorate Enoch and his comrades in 2011 and 2018 have all made sure that their sacrifice has not been forgotten.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Jean Ragheb, niece of Sgt. Wenmoth, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', 'Bomber Command Database'
, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2', 'Paradie Canadian Archive'
, Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Tom Kracker - 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'
. Aircrew Remembered own Archives. Burnley and District
in World War 2. Also to Ian Mcleod for updated information.
Left: Photo of crew as received, prior to work by our photo reconstruction specialist.