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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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550 Squadron Crest
10/11.04.1944 550 Squadron Lancaster I LL836 BQ-E Flt.Lt. Richard W. Picton DFC

Operation: Aulnoye France

Date: 10th/11th April 1944 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit: 550 squadron

Type: Lancaster Mk I

Serial: LL836

Code: BQ-E

Base: RAF North Killingholme, Lincolnshire

Location: Logeast Wood, near the village of Achiet-le-Petit, France

Pilot: Flt.Lt. Richard William Picton DFC.129769 RAFVR Age 24. Killed (1)

Flt.Eng: Sgt. Thomas Henry Guest 1801227 RAFVR Age? Killed

Nav: Fg.Off. John James Logan DFC. 135108 RAFVR Age 26. Killed (1)

Bomb Aimer: Fg.Off. John Foster Potter J/23136 RCAF Age 23. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Kenneth Percy Charles William DFM. 908406 RAFVR Age? Killed (2)

Air Gnr: Flt.Lt. William Hugh Waycott DFM.145708 RAFVR Age 22. Killed (3)

Air Gnr: Sgt. William Essar R/173206 RCAF Age 22. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off from RAF North Killingholme to bomb the railway yards at Aulnoye in France. The bomber stream consisted of 132 Lancasters from 1 Group with a further 15 Pathfinder Mosquitoes.

Reports state that the attack was a success - inspections later confirmed that 287 bombs hit the target - some landed in fields close to the railway but the engine shed was hit with 30 locomotives taken out of action. - 340 homes were either destroyed or damaged with sadly, 14 civilians killed. 7 Lancasters were lost amounting to 39 aircrew lost their lives, 4 taken PoW and 6 others evading capture. One of the Lancaster crashed shortly after take off - all crew survived uninjured.

Lancaster LL836 is reported to have been shot down at 3000 mtrs. by German Nightfighter ace Hptm. Helmut Bergmann of 8./NJG4 1.5 km North-North-West of Achiet-le-Petit. (He claimed no less than 7 Lancasters on this night alone!) Abschuß Report: Opened fire from behind and below and fired at a range of 100 metres. The fuselage and starboard wing root burst into flames at once. Lancaster LL836 went down burning, hitting the ground at 02:43 hrs.

This was the 22nd victory for the Night fighter ace. He went on to claim a total of 34 kills before he was killed on the 6/7th August 1944 when he was shot down by Flt.Lt. John Surman in Mosquito MM449 from 604 Sqn. (Information from the Kracker Archives on this website)

Essay Lake, south of Takipy Lake was named after Plt.Off. William Essar in 1982.

(1) Flt.Lt. Picton and Fg.Off. Logan were awarded their DFC with effect 10th April 1944. Gazetted 18th December 1945.

(2) Sgt. Williams won an immediate DFM, gazetted on the 2nd May 1944. Citation reads:

"One night in March, 1944, this airman was the wireless operator (air) of an aircraft which attacked Berlin. Soon after the bombs had been released the aircraft was attacked by fighters and sustained much damage. After the enemy aircraft had been evaded it was discovered that the mid-upper and rear gunners had been wounded. Displaying great promptitude, Sergeant Williams extricated the rear gunner from his turret. He was unconscious and his oxygen mask was damaged. Without regard for his own welfare, Sergeant Williams removed his own mask and fitted it to the face of his injured comrade. He then attended to the needs of the other gunner to whom he rendered efficient first aid. But for his prompt aid it is doubtful whether his injured comrades would have survived the long flight home.. Throughout the sortie, Sergeant Williams displayed great co-operation and devotion to duty".

(3) Sgt. Waycott 1167439, was awarded his DFM whilst serving with 101 Sqn. Gazetted on the 13th July 1943.

Burial details:

Flt.Lt. Richard William Picton DFC. Achiet-le-Petit Communal Cemetery, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France. Grave 7. Son of Clement John and Lillian Maud Picton of Letchworth, Hertfordshire.

Sgt. Thomas Henry Guest. Achiet-le-Petit Communal Cemetery, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France. Grave 5. Next of kin details unavailable - are you able to assist?

Fg.Off. John James Logan DFC. Achiet-le-Petit Communal Cemetery, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France. Grave 4. Son of George Charles and Janet Georgina Logan, of Penicuik, Midlothian.

Fg.Off. John Foster Potter. Achiet-le-Petit Communal Cemetery Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France. Grave 3. Born 16th September 1921 in Regina, Saskatchewan. Son of Archibald and Victoria Ruby (née Foster) Potter of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Sgt. Kenneth Percy Charles William DFM. Achiet-le-Petit Communal Cemetery, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France. Grave 2. Husband to Dorothy Molly Williams of Selby, Yorkshire, England.

Flt.Lt. William Hugh Waycott DFM. Achiet-le-Petit Communal Cemetery, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France. Grave 1. Son of Percival Guernsey Waycott and Annie Waycott, nephew of Mr C. C. Waycott, of Whitchurch, Devon, England.

Plt.Off. William Essar. Achiet-le-Petit Communal Cemetery, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France. Grave 6. Born on the 4th March 1922 in Hamilton, Ontario. Son of John of Lena (née Kitziul) Essar of Winnipegosis, Manitoba, Canada. (Both parents emigrated from Bukowina, Austria). Promoted to Plt.Off. J/90741 on the 9th March 1944.

Researched by Michel Beckers with some photographs kindly supplied by Jeröme Delavius, others from the Michel Beckers collection. With thanks also to Cilla Britton - relative of Flt.Lt. Richard Picton who contacted us in August 2016. Further detailed information of the nightfighter attack from the Kracker Archives on this website. Thanks to John Jones for the initial Next of Kin details for Fg.Off. Potter and Sgt. Williams.

RS 30.03.2020 - Updated with new information

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, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), 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', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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