06.07.1943 466 Squadron Wellington X HF601 Wg.Cdr. John J. Owen MiD
Date: 6th July 1943
Unit: 466 Squadron (RAAF)
Type: Wellington X
Base: RAF Leconfield, Beverley, Yorkshire.
Location: Le Conquet, French coast
Pilot: Wg.Cdr. John Jervis Owen MiD, 26062 RAFVR Age. 35. Killed
Nav: Fg.Off. Egbert Horace Swain 119477 RAFVR Age 32. Killed
Air Bmr: Fg.Off. Frank Darbyshire 126819 RAFVR Age 21. Killed (196 Squadron)
WOp/Air Gnr: Plt.Off. Albert Morgan Long J/17237 RCAF Age 23. Killed
Air Gnr: Plt.Off. John Frederick Ray (Johnny) 145801 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 22.11hrs from 466 Squadron base at Leconfield for a mine laying detail in French coastal waters. 34 aircraft took part, two were lost. Stirling III EF436 AA-A from 75 Squadron and this Wellington, all crews killed. (See map of Gardening operations here.)
The Stirling in another Gardening area, was shot down by Oblt. Greiner of 11./NJG1 north west of Terschelling and it is thought that Wellington HF601 was hit by flak after being caught in searchlight beams and crashed into the sea very close to the shore. That night, visibility was good, about 25 km and the French coast was clearly visible. The mines were dropped in the target area on July 6th between 01:17hrs. and 01:27hrs. from an altitude of 200 to 250 meters.
Wellington HF601 was flying very low at this time (01:30 hrs) and local residents in Lochrist awoke to witness the aircraft receiving a direct hit. In the morning at the entrance to a cave in the little beach near Porzliogan towards Bilu, the body of an airman was found lying on a rock, three were found washed up on the sand of the beach.
The next day, at the request of the Mayor, Mr Louis Simon, some witnesses will identify four bodies that the Germans were summarily buried in the sand on the upper beach Porzliogan. Still wearing their flying gear, they show no apparent injuries.
Access to the beach was mined and fenced by barbed wire but the Germans directed them to the scene, the bodies were transported by truck to Magueur Cemetery, Lochrist. They are then placed in crude coffins made urgently by Mr. Cléach, a local carpenter.
The burial was preceded by a blessing of the bodies, on July 8th in the early afternoon. A salvo is fired by a detachment of German soldiers who provided the Wellington crew with full military honours in the presence of many people who had gathered for a final tribute.
The exact point of impact the aircraft has not been located although part of the fuselage and landing gear had been collected along the beach.
Wg.Cdr. Owen's MiD was awarded on the 24th September 1941 and gazetted the same day. He was on attachment from Group Headquarters at the time.
A memorial was erected near Porzliogan beach on the 50th anniversary of the loss in 1993.
Left: Plt.Off. Albert Morgan Long, Right: Memorial to Plt.Off. Long located at Long Bay on Wildnest Lake in Saskatchewan Canada. (Tedd Smith)
Porzliogan Memorial (Courtesy of Roland Grard)
Wg.Cdr. John Jervis Owen MiD, Le Conquet Communal Cemetery. Grave 4. Son of John Alexander Owen and of Dora Sophia Owen (née Jervis), husband of Rosemary Valerie Owen, of Feniton, Devon, England.
Fg.Off. Egbert Horace Swain. Le Conquet Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 1-3. Son of Walter Egbert and Gladys Isabel Swain, of Walthamstow, Essex, England.
Plt.Off. Albert Morgan Long. Le Conquet Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 1-3. Born 20th August 1918, Disley, Saskatchewan. Son of Albert James Long and Miriam Long, of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Fg.Off. Frank Darbyshire. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 124. Son of George and Nora Darbyshire, of Wath, Ripon, Yorkshire, England.
Plt.Off. John Frederick Ray (Johnny). Le Conquet Communal Cemetery. Collective Grave 1-3 Son of Samuel and Daisy Florence Ray, of Brockley, London, England.
With thanks to the following: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol 3', Martin Middlebrook 'Bomber Command War Diaries'. The CWGC.