24/25.06.1944 No. 44 Squadron Lancaster I ME628 KM-V Fl/Sgt. Oswald
Date: 24/25th June 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit: No. 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Dunholme Lodge, Lincolnshire
Location: Bellencombre, Seine-Maritime, France
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Roy Oswald 1438718 RAFVR Age 20. Missing
Fl/Eng: Sgt. J.A. Hurley 1325774 RAFVR. PoW. No: 24844 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria
Nav: W/O2. A.R. Shoebottom RCAF Evaded capture
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. T.W. White RAFVR Evaded capture
W/Op/Air/Gnr: W/O. Arthur John Richardson 910760 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Leslie John Harry Hutchinson 1874082 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Robert Hawley Sargent 1624840 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 22:35 hrs to destroy a flying bomb site at Pommerval - a total of 739 aircraft were taking part on this night to bomb various flying bomb locations. The reports regarding the success or not of these raids were becoming increasingly difficult as they had by now been attacked many times and the sites were full of craters.
The operation was carried out on a clear moonlit night and so with the help of the effective searchlight units many aircraft were destroyed by night fighters, 22 Lancasters were lost!
44 Squadron Lancasters (courtesy I.W.M.)
ME626 was shot down at just after 00:15 hrs by either Oblt. Paul Rokker (1) or Maj. Paul Semrau (2) (both Luftwaffe night fighter aces) with the aircraft crashing in the village of Bellencombre.
44 Squadron also lost another aircraft during this operation:
Lancaster III ND751 KM-J Flown by 23 year old, P/O. Douglas Earl Aiken J/85822 RCAF, killed with all other six crew.
(1) Oblt. Paul Rokker - this was his 33rd confirmed claim of the war. He was to survive the war with a total of 65 confirmed victories (shown above right)
(2) Maj. Paul Semrau - killed on the 7/8th February 1945, with the rest of his crew when his Ju 88G-6, Wnr.620562 from Stab/NJG2 was shot down by Fl/Lt Sleep in a Spitfire at Twente. His final score as a night-fighter ace stood at 46 victories. (shown above left)
Left and above: Bellencombre Communal Cemetery, photographed by our Kate Tame during her visit in 2012. Any relative who would like a higher resolution of these images please don't hesitate to ask.
Fl/Sgt. Roy Oswald. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 221. Son of Frank and Alice Oswald, of Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England.
W/O. Arthur John Richardson. Bellencombre Communal Cemetery. Collective grave. Son of Arthur and Sarah Ethel Richardson, of Epping, Essex, England. Grave inscription reads: "In Memory Of John, Who Gave His Life For Us All. Gone But Not Forgotten".
Sgt. Leslie John Harry Hutchinson. Bellencombre Communal Cemetery. Collective grave. Son of Edward Leslie and Beatrice Mabel Hutchinson, of Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England. Grave inscription reads: "There's Some Corner Of A Foreign Field That Is For Ever England".
Sgt. Robert Hawley Sargent. Bellencombre Communal Cemetery. Collective grave. Son of Robert Wilson Sargent, and of Winifred Sargent, of Highfield, Southampton, England. Grave inscription reads: "Greater Love Than This No Man Hath, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends".
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses' Vol. 5, 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'.