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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.


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20/21.02.1945 No. 156 Squadron Lancaster III PB701 GT-Q Fl/Lt. Andrew D. Pelly DFC

Operation: Dusseldorf

Date: 20/21st February 1945 (Tuesday/Wednesday)

Unit: No. 156 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: PB701

Code: GT-Q

Base: RAF Upwood, Cambridgeshire.

Location: Target area, Dusseldorf, Germany

Pilot: Fl/Lt. Andrew Desmond Pelly DFC 152035 RAFVR - Injured - PoW. No further details as yet (1) (2)

Fl/Eng: Fl/Sgt. R. Morgan 1891410 RAFVR - Injured - PoW No further details as yet (2)

Nav: F/O. David Forster Sinfield DFC 153833 RAFVR Age 19. Killed (3)

Air/Bmr: F/O. Arthur James MacLeod J/35524 DFC RCAF - Injured - PoW No further details as yet (1) (2)

Air/Bmr: Sgt. J.D. Routledge 1671476 RAFVR - Injured - PoW. No further details as yet (2)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: W/O. William G. Pearce AUS/425904 RAAF PoW No. 11454 Camp: Nürnberg and Moosberg (4)

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Eric Cecil Bangs 1399979 RAFVR Age 22. Killed (3)

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Thomas Stanley Carr 1155863 RAFVR Age 28. Killed (3)


We would like to invite any relatives of the crew to contact us with the view that they may wish to add further information.


REASON FOR LOSS:

Took off at 22:42 hrs. from RAF Upwood to mark the Rhenania Ossag oil refinery in the Reisholz district. 514 Lancasters and 14 Mosquitoes took part in this final operation of the war on Dortmund. The object was to destroy the southern part of Dortmund which according to Bomber Command was achieved. No reports are available from the local archive on the damage caused.

Above left and centre: Fl/Sgt. Eric Cecil Bangs with right, mother and sisters.

Lancaster PB701 was shot down by Walter Telsnig - although we are unable to locate a claim for him on this operation.

W/O. William G. Pearce RAAF at the National War Memorial 2011

The interview held on the 16th May 1945 with Bill Pearce, reports that:

‘The trip went very well except we had to make up a bit of time so increased the airspeed for a while and cut a bit off at the corner turning on for the run-up onto the target. We were due at +8 with raid to open at 01.20 hrs. The skipper reported the first Target Indicators going down in front of us and that we were well in the centre of the stream, very shortly after we were hit by approximately ten shells. The skipper had also mentioned fighter attacking planes in front of us. The fighter came in from the starboard below firing into our tanks as he passed under to port (pilot’s observation). The skipper gave the order to bale out a minute or so later when he saw the extent of the fire. The Bomb Aimer and Engineer baled out in front of myself with the Navigator following me.’

(1) DFC citations from London Gazette 1st March 1946 reads:

"These officers have completed numerous operations against the enemy in the course of which they have invariably displayed the utmost fortitude, courage and devotion to duty".

(2) No PoW details as they were all hospitalised until liberation, returning home to the United Kingdom on 11th May 1945. We have since been contacted by a relative, Graham Taylor who advised us that Fl/Lt. Andrew Pelly DFC. married Nancye Jean Tatham on the 9th June 1945. Subsequently he had one son and three daughters. He died in Haywards Heath on 9 January 2015.

(3) W/O. Pearce stated in his post PoW interrogation that Fl/Sgt. Thomas Carr was killed by cannon fire whilst in the aircraft. F/O. David Sinfield and Fl/Sgt. Eric Bangs baled out but later reported to be dead by the Germans.

(4) We have since found out that W/O. William George Pearce wrote a book on his experiences, but to date unable to find a copy. ‘The Wing Is Clipped: A Real Life Adventure with the RAAF’. Published by Slipstream Archives Association Incorporated. 2000. ISBN: 095781190X / 9780957811904 - 121 Pages - fully illustrated.

Above left: Walter Telsnig with right: W/O. Bill Pearce

On July 7th 2008, the courier mail of Australia reported that W/O. Bill Pearce finally met the night fighter pilot who shot the aircraft down:
'World War II veteran Bill Pearce had no hard feelings when he finally met the German airman who shot him down over Dusseldorf 63 years ago. Mr Pearce and his one-time enemy Walter Telsnig phoned and wrote to each other for eight years, since a third party in Britain put them in touch. And last week they met for the first time since their fateful encounter in February, 1945 over Dusseldorf. The Brisbane-based veteran, who travelled to the Austrian town of Salzburg for the meeting, said it was an emotional time. 
"I was excited and more or less felt that I'd achieved something to have at last got here," he said. "It was a great feeling." The two men spent hours chatting in Salzburg, swapping stories about their wartime experiences.

Mr Pearce was the wireless operator on a bombing mission when his Lancaster bomber was hit by spurt of 20mm cannon fire, fired by Mr Telsnig's Messerschmitt, about 6km over Dusseldorf.'

One of four survivors from the crew of seven, Mr Pearce spent five days sleeping by day and trying to find allied lines by night.

He was eventually captured by a civilian in a paddock near Cologne and handed over to the Luftwaffe, before one of the tanks of flamboyant US General George S. Patton crashed through his prison gates and liberated him a few months later. But even though Mr Telsnig had tried to kill him, Mr Pearce said they were now "mates". "At the time it was war and he was doing what he was supposed to be doing and was trained to do and so was I," he said.

Burial details:

F/O. David Forster Sinfield DFC. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 11.A.14. Further information: Son of William Panter and Mary Elizabeth (nee Forster) Sinfield of Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, England. Exhibitioner of Bedford Modern School (where he is remembered on the Roll of Honour) and at 19 one of the youngest decorated navigators to lose his life on bombing operations. Previously trained with No. 20 EFTS, No. 9 SFTS and No. 1 AOS.

Fl/Sgt. Eric Cecil Bangs. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 11.D. 1. Son of Henry Cecil and Rose Bangs of Enfield, Middlesex, England. The eldest of 16 children. Eric Cecil 1923 - 1945, Henry Gilbert 1924 - 2009, father to Wendy Sawyer), Robert Peter 1925 - 1951 (known as Peter), Sheila M 1926 - 2008, Bernard John 1927-1996, Donald C 1928, Freda M 1929, Roger A 1932, Cynthia V 1933, Gerald David 1935, Leslie G 1938, Stanley C 1939, Linda 1940, Barbara L 1942-1944, Edward R 1944, Christine H 1945. Member of 3rd Enfield Boy's Brigade when he was younger.

Fl/Sgt. Thomas Stanley Carr. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 11.A.15. Understood to be from Belsay, Northumberland. NoK details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. Special thanks to Wendy Sawyer, niece of Fl/Sgt. Eric Bangs. With thanks to Graham Taylor who contacted us in October 2017.

The following article is from the Sunday Express. 30th September 2010 as part of their valued support for the Bomber Command Memorial - now of course a reality with thanks to them and many other sponsors.

As the only car owner among the Lancaster bomber crew, it was only natural that Flight Lieutenant Desmond Pelly regularly ferried his men to and from the local watering holes. however, squeezing seven burly fliers into his two-seater MG presented something of a challenge.

In those dark days, when the out- come of war hung in the balance and the brave young men of Bomber Command took the fight to Hitler, the crews were like families. they spent almost every waking hour together, trusted one another with their lives and, knowing that each sortie over europe could be their last, made the most of their down time.

In my MG we had two sitting on the mudguards, two on the hood and the rest of us crammed on to the front seat,” says Desmond, now 87, who became a father figure to his crew, taking responsibility for their safety in the air and their enjoyment on the ground. “We thought nothing of it. there was a tremendous bond between us and, in spite of what was happening, we did have some wonderful times. In the air we had to be a team and it was up to me, the pilot, to bring everyone together although we came from all walks of life.”

Desmond survived 41 missions but one of his closest friends wasn’t so lucky, killed on his first combat flight.

“That did shake me but it happened regularly,” says Desmond. “In the evening you would just go to the pub and try to relax and forget about it all. It was the only way to operate otherwise you’d become a nervous wreck. I knew all about the high casualty rates but I was young and always believed it would never happen to me. I still remember the faces of friends who didn’t come back.”

Growing up, Pelly always wanted to fly and volunteered for the RAF straight from school. he was selected for Bomber Command, joining the Pathfinders in the later stages of the war and receiving the DFC.

The wartime role of Bomber Command is con- troversial because of the number of civilian casualties inflicted but he says: “At the time I didn’t feel any emotion, I was just doing a job. As I’ve grown older I do sometimes wonder how many people I killed but I still believe we had no choice. We had to reduce Germany’s capacity to fight.”

Despite all his precautions in February 1945 Pelly’s Lancaster was shot down by a German fighter. “the aircraft caught fire and I gave the order to bale out. the rear gunner was killed in the attack but I stayed at the controls until everyone else was out.”

Two more of the crew died during the escape but the pilot found himself on the ground, safe and sound but stranded in the heart of Germany. He set out to walk home, evading capture for 24 hours. “We had little compasses so I just headed west,” he says. “I was captured by a German soldier and during interrogation was told that my crew members had died.”

Pelly spent the remainder of the war in a PoW camp. three weeks after he was liberated he married his fiancée Nancye and they recently celebrated 65 years together. His determination to hike for home is typical of the spirit shown by the crews. They qualified for a break after completing 30 missions but many chose to continue putting their lives on the line for their country. tony Iveson, 91, joined the Dambusters squadron and was involved in the raid in which the German battleship tirpitz was sunk. his Lancaster was badly damaged by a German fighter over Bergen in Norway.

“The engine was on fire, the control cable damaged and the rudder was half hanging off so the aircraft was difficult to fly,” he says. Somehow Iveson managed to nurse the Lancaster 350 miles to the nearest Allied landing strip on shetland. “I thought the North sea was going to get me this time,” he says.

The idea of sitting at 15,000 feet in an aircraft loaded with explosives while the enemy does its utmost to blow you out of the sky seems terrifying but Iveson, another DFC recipient, insists: “the worst part was the waiting, not the flying. In the morning battle orders were posted up on the notice board.

As a flight commander I got to know more about the sort of defences we were likely to face so I had a good idea of what was coming.

“That was when the butterflies started and you got this grinding feeling in your stomach. You couldn’t stop your mind fearing the worst but I learnt that just as you can’t be happy all the time, you can’t be afraid too.” In the seven months he served with 617 squadron it lost 80 aircrew. early on Iveson watched a close friend, squadron Leader Drew Wyness, crash into the Rhine, only to learn later that he’d survived but been interrogated and murdered by the Gestapo. “There were new people coming in all the time,” says Iveson. “There was a chap whose job it was to gather up all the belongings and store them until it was known if a man was a PoW or dead. Then they’d be released to the family.”

The losses were hard but it wasn’t all grim. Iveson found himself billeted at Petwood Hotel, which was requisitioned by the RAF in 1942 because it was near the Dambusters’ base, Woodhall Spa airfield in Lincolnshire. “It was luxurious and I had my own room,” he says. “Some of the other squadrons were envious because they were in Nissen huts. There were lovely grounds, a billiards room and the food was excellent. There were three Australian gunners sharing the bridal suite.”

In their uniforms the fliers of Bomber Command must have cut dashing figures and some, like Iveson’s lost friend Drew Wyness, lived for the moment. “It was as if he knew his days were numbered,” says Tony. “There’s no doubt we enjoyed ourselves and sometimes there would be a week between missions. There were parties on base and we’d go to the Palais de Danse in Boston.”

An official memorial for Bomber Command is long overdue. Flight Lieutenant Tony Hiscock, now 87, who flew 68 missions and received a DFC with bar, says: “It was a phenomenal feeling to be a Lancaster pilot and I’m proud of that I achieved but we suffered terrible losses. It’s a great shame these men have not been properly commemorated.

“At the time we barely paused to raise a glass to them but I look back now and think of all those young lives lost. It would be a very emotional day for me to see the memorial unveiled.”

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', 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 and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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