25/26.08.1942 No. 70 Squadron Wellington 1C DV514 U Sqn/Ldr. Eric Bathurst Panter DSO, DFC
Operation: Battle area
Date: 25/26 August 1942 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit: No. 70 Squadron - Motto: Usquam - 'Anywhere'
Badge: A demi-wing lion erased - approved by King Edward VIII in October 1936. Developed from an unofficial winged lion badge probably derived from the Squadron's long dependence on the Napier Lion engine during the 1920s.
Type: Vickers Wellington 1C
Code: Call Sign U
Base: RAF Abu Sueir, Egypt
Location: Not known
Pilot: Sqn/Ldr. Eric Bathurst Panter DSO, DFC 42521 RAF Age 30 - PoW No. 4144 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria - L3 (1)
2nd Pilot: P/O. Leslie Denzil Cox 108572 RAFVR Age 21 - PoW No. 639 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria - L3 (2)
Nav: Sgt. Baron Ainslie (Barry) Brooke OBE, OAM Aus/402692 RAAF Age 23 - PoW No. 26822 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf - 344 (3)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Charles R.N. Shawyer 955331 RAFVR Age 22 - PoW No. 26827 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf - 344 (4)
Air Gnr (Front): LAC. Louis Frederick Rowles Halford (F.Arm).B 552343 RAFVR Age 21 - PoW No. 26879 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf - 344 (5)
Air/Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Ivor John Morgan 1379394 RAFVR PoW No. 26867 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf - 344(6)
We appeal to anyone with further information and/or photographs to please contact us via our HELPDESK
The nucleus of this crew, Sergeants Brooke, Shawyer and Morgan were actually members of a crew captained by New Zealand pilot, Sergeant James Douglas Gordon which had been posted in to No. 70 Squadron on 13 June 1942. Completing that crew was another New Zealander, wireless operator and front gunner Sergeant Stanley Isaiah Gallagher. At the time No. 70 Squadron was based at Landing Ground 104 Qotafiyah II (50 miles west of El Alamein) but on 25 June in the face of Rommel's advance the Squadron was ordered to relocate some 200 miles east to Landing Ground 224 near Cairo and three days later another 100 miles or so further east to RAF Abu Sueir also known as Landing Ground 205 located 10 miles west of Ismailia.
Sgt. Gordon and his crew flew their first operation on 20 June under the supervision of experienced pilot, Sgt. A.B. Wheeler with James Gordon flying as second pilot. The operation was against Tmimi satellite airfield Libya. There followed a further four operations under the captaincy of Sgt. Wheeler before the crew was deemed operationally experienced enough to fly without supervision.
Between 3 July and 23 August 1942 James Gordon and his crew flew a further 20 operations.
Eric Panter had joined the Royal Air Force on a short service commission on 19 August 1939. Within two weeks Britain and France had declared war on Germany and training of aircrew was a matter of urgency. The creation of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan lay several months in the future and training was a matter for this country alone.
Eric was clearly a fast learner and by the summer of 1940, having received his flying brevet, was in France with the Advanced Air Striking Force. In the face of the rapid German advance his squadron had to abandon all its equipment apart from its aircraft in which they escaped bringing a few wounded with them as space permitted.
He was engaged for a time in training night flying but in December 1941 the now Flying Officer Eric Panter, was posted to No. 70 Squadron at RAF Kabrit, Egypt.
Whilst there he was able to visit his elder half-brother, Air Commodore (later Air Vice Marshall) “Joe” Panter, who was the Principal Medical Officer, Royal Air Force, Middle East Forces, stationed in Cairo.
In June 1942 Eric was promoted to Acting Squadron Leader and Officer Commanding "B" Flight. He was also awarded the DFC on 7 July.
As Officer Commanding "B" Flight, Squadron Leader Eric Panter tended to step in as and when required or to join new crews on operations in order to cast his eye over them. In this instance since neither Sgt. Gordon nor Sgt Gallagher flew on the operation of 25/26 August it is perhaps reasonable to assume that since the crew had 25 operations under their collective belt the Squadron Leader was merely filling in for Gordon who along with Gallagher was perhaps on leave or otherwise unavailable. He also chose to take as his No.2 pilot, Sgt. Leslie Cox, who having just joined the squadron was destined to make his first operational flight. Similarly it can only be assumed that Squadron Leader Panter had decided to give some experience to LAC Halford who, in view of his rank, was presumably an air gunner under training. This was his first operation as well.
REASON FOR LOSS
For the fifth night running No. 70 Squadron aircraft were detailed to attack motor transport and tank concentrations in specified areas of the battlefield. On each of the first four nights 8 aircraft were detailed and these all flew direct from RAF Abu Sueir to the battle area and back. Significantly, little opposition was encountered on all four nights and the almost total absence of night fighters was the cause of much comment.
On the night of 25/26 August 11 aircraft were detailed for the operation but on this occasion the force was to fly from Abu Sueir to Landing Ground 86 (25 miles South of Alexandria) from where they would make their attack and then fly directly back to RAF Abu Sueir.
Soon after 1700 hours on 25 August the 11 Wellingtons made the 70 minute flight from RAF Abu Sueir to Landing Ground 86. After landing at LG86 one aircraft was found to be unserviceable thus only ten took off for the operation: 2 at 21.55 hours and 7 between 22.10 and 22.40. The time of take-off of DV514 is not recorded.
The following details of the operation are taken from No. 70 Squadron Operations Record Book:
"This operation to the battle area was marred by the loss of S/L Panter and his crew who, it is believed from observations made by other aircraft, were shot down by a night fighter over the target. The remaining 9 aircraft reported dropping their bombs among fairly well dispersed M.T. in the target area four direct hits and one large fire claimed. Quite an amount of light A.A. up to 4/5000' was encountered but generally it was inaccurate. Weather was good. Bombs dropped 116 x 250 GP and 18 SBC 40lb AP.
Information has since been received from the I.R.C. that all the crew are Prisoners of war at Dulagluft [sic], S/Ldr. being wounded, the nature and extent being unknown".
All 9 aircraft returned direct to RAF Abu Sueir the first one back landing at 0058 hours and the ninth at 0148.
Bomber Losses in the Middle East and Mediterranean by David Gunby and Pelham Temple's records that:
Took off 2210-2240, LG86, to seek out targets of opportunity over the battle area. The aircraft was shot down by a night fighter, crashed in flames, but all bailed successfully. S/Ldr. Panter was wounded.
However the statement made to PDRC (Special Administrative Section) RAF Brighton on 3 May 1945 by the navigator W/O. Baron Brooke following his repatriation differs on two salient points. Baron Brooke states that his aircraft was shot down by anti-aircraft fire, specifically a .88mm gun and also seems to infer that the crew did not bale out but were still on board the aircraft when it crash landed.
His statement reads as follows:
"Detailed to attack transport on the El Alamein front line.
Port engine hit by fire of .88mm gun. Pilot (S/Ldr. Panter) wounded by shrapnel or broken perspex. He fainted and I called up the second pilot, then dragged S/Ldr. Panter from the pilot's seat and the second pilot took over. The port engine was unserviceable and I told the pilot to fly on an easterly course. However we came back near the gun again, by this time down to approximately 500' and the next thing I remember is the aircraft hitting the ground. All members of the crew got out, S/L. Panter being the only member injured. [Crashed] approximately 30-40 miles south of El Daba".
He said that he had been "immediately surrounded by German soldiers" and identified by the enemy when he was "seen to emerge from the RAF aircraft wearing battle dress and carrying identity discs". All the rest of the crew were also taken prisoner of war with him.
Prior to this he had completed 27 operations and a total of 200 operational hours.
After spending 5 days at Dulag Luft he was taken to Stalag Lamsdorf - 344 where he was held until March 1945. He was released by the Americans but the date of this is not known. He was repatriated to the UK and on 28 April 1945 he arrived at No. 11 (RAAF) Personnel and Despatch Reception Centre at Brighton. He embarked for Australia on 18 June 1945 arriving at Sydney on 24 July and posted to No. 2 Personnel Depot at Bradfield Park, NSW.
He was transferred to No. 2 Medical Rehabilitation Unit at RAAF Jervis Bay, NSW, on 15 August and on 3 October 1945 he was demobilised.
SQN LDR. ERIC PANTER
After crashing Eric Panter was was taken to hospital in Greece where he was treated by a German doctor. When he had recovered sufficiently he was sent to Stalag Luft III where he was later involved in organising the disposal of soil during the digging of the tunnel for the "Great Escape". He was allocated an escape number of approximately 80 and therefore fortunately escaped the fate of the majority of the 76 who got out on 24 March 1944.
On the approach of Soviet forces in January 1945 it seems that he was one of the 11000 prisoners force marched for six days from Stalag Luft III to Spremberg in temperatures as low as -22C. It is thought that he was one of those then taken by rail in cattle trucks to the camps at Marlag-Milag near Bremen. The camps were liberated by the British Guards Amoured Division on 27 April 1945.
On Wednesday 8 May 1945 Eric's brother Rev. Noel Panter, the Rector of Churchill and Blakedown had risen early to hoist the Union Flag on the tpwer of Churchill Church near Kidderminster, Worcestershire. On his return the telephone rang and on answering it, to his amazement, heard Eric's voice who was ringing from Dover saying " we crossed the Channel overnight - we all have to go to RAF Cosford (near Wolverhampton) by train to be de-loused and hope to be free to join you this evening"
That evening as arranged Noel went to pick up Eric from a country inn but found it difficult to get him away from a party of strangers who were celebrating VE day and had recgnised Eric as one of the advertised and woefully bedraggled returned prisoners of war. Eventually he managed to get him to leave to join the country crowd at the dying embers of the Victory bonfire. There, Eric confided afterwards, he felt like "sinking into the ground" with embarrassment, when the people spontaneously sang "For he's a jolly good fellow"
Sergeants Gordon and Gallagher were back in action with a new crew on 26/27 August and though their old crew mates were by then already on their way to Germany and three years of incarceration their fate was ultimately preferable.
On 5 September F/Sgt. James Douglas Gordon NZ/402455 RNZAF age 27 was killed when Wellington BB477 W was shot down by flak over Tobruk. His remains and those of three of his crew were not found and are therefore commemorated on the Alamein Memorial. One of the two bodies that were recovered and buried at the Tobruk War Cemetery was that of F/Sgt. Stanley Isaiah Gallagher NZ/404059 age 29.
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) Wing Commander Eric Bathurst Panter DSO, DFC was born in 1911 at The Vicarage, Far Forest, Bewdley, Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire the youngest son of the Reverend Charles Edward Panter (Vicar of Far Forest) and Ethel Florence Panter nee Mallet. He had two elder siblings: Charles Hugh Panter 1908-1977 and the Reverend Canon Noel Panter 1910-2002 (Curate at St. George's Church Kidderminster and later the Rector of Churchill and Blakedown, Worcestershire). He also had three half siblings from his father's first marriage: Air Vice-Marshal Arthur Edward Panter CB., M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., K.H.S. 1889-1969, Reverend Ernest Downs Panter 1891-1963 and Margaret Lucy "Daisy" Panter 1897-1985.
In 1917 the family left Far Forest to live at Purbrook near Portsmouth and on the death of Reverend Charles Edward Panter in 1921 the family moved to Ramsgate where Eric and his brothers were educated at St. Lawrence College.
After leaving school he spent a short time in the Merchant Navy after which he went to Keble College, Oxford where he took a degree in politics, philosophy and economics.
He then worked in the City on the Stock Exchange until joining the RAFVR just prior to the outbreak of war.
Eric Panter was granted a short service commission in the RAF as an Acting Pilot Officer on probation for six years on the active list - 19th August 1939 (London Gazette 8 September 1939) confirmed in this appointment and promoted to Pilot Officer on probation on 1 February 1940 (London Gazette 26 March 1940) and confirmed in this appointment on 26 June 1940 (London Gazette 13 August 1940). On 1 February 1941 he was promoted to Flying Officer (war subs) (London Gazette 21 March 1941) and to Flight Lieutenant on 1 February 1942 (London Gazette 28 April 1942).
On 7 July 1942 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross whilst a Flight Lieutenant serving with No. 70 Squadron (London Gazette 7 July 1942). The citation for the award reads as follows:
"On many operational flights he has displayed great skill and determination. During a recent attack on Benghazi he remained unperturbed by the enemy's heavy fire and flew round the target area until he succeeded in dropping his bombs in the selected spot. On several occasions over the same area he has shown great tenacity of purpose and has nevere allowed the enemy to divert him from his task."
In the London Gazette of 16 March 1943 it was promulgated that Acting Squadron Leader Eric Bathurst Panter, D.F.C. (42521), No. 70 Squadron had been awarded the Distinguished Service Order with effect from 15 August, 1942. The citation reads:
"Since the award of the DFC this officer has completed a number of of operational sorties and his success as a Flight Commander has been due to his fine example and devotion to duty. He is a most determined and courageous captain, and shows an utter disregard for his own safety. Squadron Leader Panter has been an inspiration to the captains of his flight."
On 26 June 1945 he transferred to the Reserve with the rank of Flight Lieutenant. (London Gazette 26 June 1945)
His service was extended by four years on the active list on 16 May 1946 (London Gazette 29 July 1947) and on 1 November 1947 he was promoted to Squadron Leader (subs) (London Gazette 18 November 1947) made permanent in this appointment on 31 January 1949 and transferred to the Secretarial Branch (London Gazette 8 March 1949)
He was further promoted to Wing Commander on 1 July 1956 (London Gazette 29 June 1956) and he retired from the RAF in 1963.
After the war he served in the Canal Zone, Cyprus, Fontainebleu and Whitehall.
In 1945 he married Mary Laughton Leask at Forres Scotland. They had two children, Heather A. Panter born in 1946 and Peter I. Panter born in 1948.
Mary Laughton Panter sadly died in 1962 and following his wife's death Eric went to live in Majorca where he became a valued member of the British community in Puerto Pollensa and was probably one of the first people to be involved with self-catering holidays there.
In March 1982 he married his long term friend Mrs Edna Weatherill.
Following a prolonged illness Wing Commander Eric Bathurst Panter DSO, DFC died in Majorca on Tuesday 6 July 1982 aged 70. His funeral which took place at Pollensa cemetery on Friday 9 July 1982 at 11am was conducted by the Reverend Hedley Pickard.
2) Fl/Lt. Leslie Denzil Cox was born on 8 September 1920 probably at Peterborough.
11194009 LAC Leslie Denzil Cox was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 11 October 1941 (London Gazette 11 November 1941), promoted to Flying Officer on probation (war subs) on 1 October 1942 (London Gazette 4 December 1942) and to Flight Lieutenant (war subs) on 11 October 1943 (London Gazette 15 October 1943)
Posted to No. 70 in August 1942 this was his first operation with the Squadron.
He died at New Malden, Surrey on 19 January 2013 aged 93
(3) Sgt. Baron Ainslie (Barry) Brooke OBE, OAM was born on 24 December 1918 at Hampstead London the son of Irish Medical Practitioner Dr Baron Brooke and Kathleen Adele (Halloran) Brooke nee Edels. In 1919 the family immigrated to Australia where they lived at 18 Darling Point Road, Darling Point, Sydney New South Wales. He was entered Cranbrook School, Sydney in 1927 and left in 1936 having passed the Department of Education of NSW Leaving Certificate in seven subjects. Whilst at the school he was a member of the Senior Cadet Detachment 1932-1936 rising to the rank of Company Sergeant Major. He played cricket for the first XI (1935-6) rugby for the first XV (1937-39) and was a member of the swimming team in 1936: he played tennis and golf, skated and rode.
From January 1937 he attended the School of Applied Advertising part time for twelve months whilst working in the advertising and printing industry. From March 1938 until enlisting in 1940 he was an Articled Clerk to Dudley Westgarth, Solicitor and studied law passing the Intermediate and Section I of the Final Exam of the Solicitors' Admissions Board of NSW.
When he enlisted at Sydney on 12 October 1940 5'10" tall weighing 139 lbs with a medium complexion, grey eyes and brown hair.
He trained at No. 1 Initial Training School at RAAF Somers, Victoria, No. 1 Air Observer School ,RAAF Cootamundra, NSW, No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School, RAAF Evans Head, NSW and No. 1 Air Navigation School, RAAF Parkes, NSW, he was awarded his Observers Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 26 June 1941. He was then posted to No. 2 Embarkation Depot, RAAF Bradfield Park NSW.
He embarked for the UK from Sydney on 17 July 1941 and on arrival on 2 September was posted to No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre, RAF Bournemouth and on 30 September to No. 11 Operational Training Unit, RAF Bassingbourne, Cambridgeshire for night bomber training on Vickers Wellingtons. On 9 April 1942 he was posted to No. 15 Operational Training Unit at RAF Harwell, Berkshire for Air Ferry Duties to the Middle East and was transferred to Middle East Command on 28 April 1942.
On 29 May 1942 he was posted to No. 2 Middle East Training School at RAF Kabrit (Landing Ground 213) 20 miles north of Suez, Egypt and on 13 June was posted to No. 70 squadron at RAF Abu Sueir some 72 miles north east of Cairo.
After returning to Australia in 1945 he was demobilised on 3 October. He resumed his legal career and in 1946 passed the Diploma in law at Sydney U.T.S.
On 7 August 1948 he married Lynn Dumbrill
Also in 1948 he became a partner in Lightoller, Talty & Brooke, Solicitors of Sydney a position he held until 1987. He was then a consultant to law firm Dibbs, Crowther & Osborne of Sydney from 1987 until 2000.
He was also the president of the Old Cranbrookians' Association, 1960-1963, Member Royal Australian Air Force Association (president 1970-2000) a member of the Royal Sydney Golf Club and the Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club.
On 14 June 1975 he was awarded the Order of the OBE for services to ex-servicemen and promulgated in the London Gazette of that date.
He was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) with effect from 24 August 1998 for services to veterans.
Baron Ainslie Brooke OBE OAM died on 30 January 2015 aged 96.
His death notice read:
Late of Double Bay. Loving husband of Lynn (Deceased) and loving companion of Elaine Irwin.
A memorial service for Baron Ainslie Brooke will be held at St Mark's Anglican Church, 53 Darling Point, New South Wales on Monday February 9 at 11.30am.
The service will be followed by a private cremation.
(4) Sgt. Charles R.N. Shawyer was born 1 April 1920 at Stockton, County Durham the son of Charles J. Shawyer and Sallie Shawyer nee Nicholas. He had two siblings: Norah A Shawyer born 1914 and Ruby N. Shawyer born 1923. In 1939 he worked as a rent collector for a real estate management firm. He passed away at Cleveland, North Yorkshire in 1983. (Details courtesy Dave Champion)
(5) LAC Louis Frederick Rowles Halford was born at Fulham in 1921 the only child of Frederick Charles Halford and Constance Vera Helena Halford nee Griffiths. He married Thelma Bass at Acle , Norfolk in the December quarter of 1947, the union resulting in two sons . He lived to age 94 passing away at Wymondham, Norfolk on 8 April 2014. (Details courtesy Dave Champion)
(6) Sgt. Ivor John Morgan - Nothing further known: if you have any further information please contact our helpdesk.
Aircrew Remembered would like to thank Heather Panter Jones, the daughter of Sqn Ldr. Eric Bathurst Panter, for providing the biographical and other details of her father, together with photographs as credited. We would also like to thank Pauline Panter Hubick for contacting Aircrew Remembered initially and providing the family photograph as credited together with other biological details of the Panter family. Our thanks also to Christabel Panter for her most welcome assistance in obtaining some of the aforementioned details.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - January 2018
With thanks to the sources quoted below.