09/10.12.1944 No. 171 Squadron Halifax III NA674 6Y-Q P/O. Trevor Sutherland Powe
Operation: Bomber Support
Date: 9/10 December 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit: No. 171 Squadron - Motto: Per dolum defendimus - We defend by confusion or Confound the enemy
Badge: In front of an eagle displayed a portcullis
Due to protracted discussions in correspondence between the Commanding Officer of No. 171 Squadron and the Chester Herald responsible for RAF heraldry concerning its style and content, the badge and motto were not received by the squadron until after its disbandment on 27 July 1945. To read a comprehensive account of the matter click here
Type: Handley page Halifax III
Base: RAF North Creake, Norfolk
Location: Kennfus, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Pilot: P/O. Trevor Sutherland Powe Aus/423320 RAAF Age 21 - Killed (1)
Fl/Eng: Fl/Lt. John Kirkpatrick DFC 143805 RAFVR Age 25 - Killed (2)
Nav: F/Sgt. Thomas Anthony Victor Brown 1549104 RAFVR Age 21 - Killed (3)
Air/Bmr: F/Sgt. Stanley Albert Brown 1399174 RAFVR Age 22 - Killed (4)
Special W/Op. Sgt. John Herbert Hinton 1893290 RAFVR Age 19 - Killed (5)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/Sgt. Stanley James Moore Aus/432254 RAAF Age 21 - Killed (6)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. John James Villiers Higgins 1514419 RAFVR Age 39 - Killed (7)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Henry Stanton 3010595 RAFVR Age 20 - Killed (8)
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Pilot Trevor Powe and fellow countryman, Wireless Operator Stanley Moore were practically neighbours back home in Oz. Born less than 8 months apart in 1923 they were brought up living barely one and half miles from each other in the adjoining suburbs of Willoughby and Chatswood on the lower North Shore of Sydney. Whether they knew each other before crewing up at No. 21 Operational Training Unit is unknown but they surely enjoyed a certain affinity with each other.
The other crew members were a little more diverse, at least their geographical backgrounds: navigator Thomas Brown was 20 and hailed from Blackburn Lancashire whilst his namesake and Londoner, Stanley Brown was the air bomber aged 21. The air gunner was 'Geordie', Henry Stanton; aged 19 he had been born at Gateshead in Co. Durham.
The time honoured process of crewing up took place on or just after 29 February 1944 at RAF Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire where airmen were posted for night bomber training on Vickers Wellingtons.
Three months later the crew was posted to No. 1658 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Riccall in the North Riding of Yorkshire to be trained to operate the four engine Handley Page Halifax heavy bomber. The Halifax heavy bomber operated with two additional crew members, a flight engineer and a second air gunner. To fulfil the role of flight engineer the crew acquired the services of Yorkshireman Frederick Swatton, aged 20 and from Rotherham (see biographical notes 9) whilst the second air gunner was John James Villiers Higgins about whom unfortunately, nothing more is known.
A month later the crew was considered ready for operational flying and on 27 July was posted to No. 158 Squadron at RAF Lissett, East Riding of Yorkshire.
The crew had barely settled in at RAF Lissett when Trevor Powe was sent on a pilots' course to 1 ECDU (Electronic Countermeasures Development Unit) at No 11 Operational Training Unit, RAF Westcott, Buckinghamshire from 7 to 14 August. After completing the course he was rated as "above average".
He went on to fly at least thirteen sorties with 158 squadron.
Six weeks later possibly due to Trevor's performance at RAF Westcott the crew was transferred to No. 171 Squadron at RAF North Creake in Norfolk.
Formed six weeks earlier on 8 September No. 171 Squadron operated as a bomber support squadron of 100 Group in a Radio Countermeasures (RCM) role over the North Sea and Germany dropping "Window" (strips of aluminium foil dropped to flood German radar with false echoes) and operating the Mandrel transmitter (to jam the German ground based air search radar systems Freya and Würzburg).
On 14 October Trevor Powe was away again, this time to No. 1692 Bomber Support Training Unit at nearby RAF Massingham on a three day training course.
An additional crew member was required to operate the several Mandrel transmitters carried by the aircraft and the Special Wireless Operator assigned to Trevor Powe's crew was John Herbert Hinton who had joined 171 Squadron from No. 223 Squadron on 17 October. Alas nothing more is known about him.
Although 14 Halifax crews had been posted in to No. 171 squadron from other squadrons of 100 Group the 20 new Halifax Mark III bombers that had been allocated to the Squadron were still at RAF St. Athan in Glamorgan, South Wales having Mandrel and Window equipment fitted.
In the meantime the squadron was given "C" Flight of No. 199 Squadron Stirlings so that the squadron was operational.
The first two Halifaxes were not delivered to the Squadron until 21 October; one was NA674, the other NA107 and both flew on a Special Window Operation the same night. Indeed NA674 flew on similar missions for the next two nights but no further sorties were flown by the Squadron Halifaxes until 9 November.
It was 21 November before Trevor Powe and his crew made their operational debut, a window operation: they flew their second similar mission on 27 November.
The crew was detailed for its third operation on 1 December but for some reason the usual Flight Engineer Fred Swatton did not fly. His place was taken by Fl/Lt. John Kirkpatrick. Aged 25 he hailed from Belfast and already had a DFC to his name. Other Squadron records state that he joined No. 171 Squadron on 4 December but according to the Operations Record Book he flew on the mission with the Trevor Powe crew on 1 December. Fred Swatton was missing again the next night when his place was taken by Fl/Lt RJE Martin on a Mandrel Operation.
9 December and six Halifaxes were detailed for operations, four for Window and two for Mandrel in the locality of Koblenz in the Rhineland-Palatinate. The Flight Engineer was again Fl/Lt. John Kirkpatrick DFC.
REASON FOR LOSS
The six Halifaxes were airborne within 15 minutes; NA674 took off last at 17:35. The round trip should have taken approximately five hours and five of the six Halifaxes were safely back at base by 22:45. At midnight there was still no sign of NA674, nothing having been heard from the crew since take off.
It was to be February 1946 before the families of the crew discovered the fate of their loved ones and September 1948 before they knew where their remains lay.
On 19 April 1945 men of the 671st Field Artillery Battalion of the United States Army whilst on road patrol duty southeast of Lutzerath had noticed men working on the wreckage of an aircraft. On investigation it was determined that the men had recovered two bodies and parts of a third buried beneath the wreckage. No items of personal identification however were found with the bodies or in the wreckage.
It was learned from the Burgomeister of Lutzerath, Herr Bambusch, that the remains were buried on 20 April in Lutzerath Cemetery near others found at the time of the crash. A Catholic priest had conducted the ceremony.
He also told them that the aircraft had been shot down about 20.00 hours on 9 December 1944 by AA guns positioned at Lutzerath.
A numbered metal plate removed from the aircraft by farmers bore the following details "TYPE HALIFAX SERIAL NO> HBS FM/H6697 MOD 8 745 298 735" and in small figures '57941L8' and on the back 'H.I./ISS'
The plate was later identified as being from Halifax NA674.
On 12 September 1946 No. 2 RAF Missing Research and Enquiry Unit Search Officer Fl/Lt. Austin visited Lutzerath and learned from Herr Bambusch that after being hit by AA fire at Lutzerath the aircraft caught fire and crashed on the side of the main Lutzerath to Kennfus road 2km (1.25 miles) Southeast of Lutzerath. The Wehrmacht had taken charge of the wreckage and after it stopped burning, four badly burned bodies were extracted from the remains of the aircraft.
At the time there was a heavy fall of snow and although the Germans knew or guessed there were seven in the aircraft they thought it impossible to extract the other bodies at the time because of the very bad weather.
The four bodies recovered were buried without coffins at Lutzerath.
It was not until 20 April that the Burgomeister ordered the removal of the other bodies (the excuse being that it was such a bad winter). They were buried the same day: a Catholic priest conducted the ceremony
Two other badly burned bodies and remains of a third were recovered and buried in coffins on 20 April near the other four.
On the same day Fl/Lt. Austin visited the village of Urschmitt 7 km (4.35 miles) from Lutzerath where he obtained the following information from the Burgomeister Herr Schneider.
In approximately the second week in December 1944 he had been told by the Wehrmacht that an English Flyer had been found in a tree in a field near the village. Apparently his parachute had opened too late and he had broken his neck. The Wehrmacht buried him in a sack, four days after he was found on approximately 15 December in Urschmitt Cemetery.
The body buried at Urschmitt was identified as being that of Air Gunner Sgt. Henry Stanton.
It was suggested by Fl/Lt. Austin that: "It would be practicable to move the remains of Sgt. Stanton to Lutzerath".
There is no record of this being done but Commonwealth Graves records do show that the remains of all eight crew members had been buried at Lutzerath prior to being re-interred at Rheinberg War Cemetery on 5 March 1948.
Exhumation of the remains at Lutzerath had taken place on 2 March 1948.
Henry Stanton was of course buried in an individual grave at Rheinberg War Cemetery.
Thomas Brown is also recorded as being buried in an individual grave at Rheinberg War Cemetery although there is no mention of his remains having been separately identified.
Trevor Powe and Stanley Moore were identified as Australian by RAAF battle dress but it was impossible to say which was which. They were therefore subsequently buried together at Rheinberg War Cemetery in a Joint Grave.
The remains of the other four rest in a Collective Grave at Rheinberg War Cemetery.
The foregoing account was compiled from No. 171 Squadron records, No. 2 RAF Missing Research and Enquiry Unit Investigation Report, Records of the Commonwealth Graves Commission and sundry documents in File NAA: A705, 166/33/265 in the National Archives of Australia.
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) P/O. Trevor Sutherland Powe was born on 16 October 1923 at Willoughby, New South Wales, Australia the son of John Sutherland Powe and Dorothy Powe nee Watt. The family lived at 56 Salisbury Road, Willoughby.
After leaving school Trevor Powe worked as an Insurance Clerk for the Eagle Star Insurance Co Ltd in Sydney.
When he enlisted at Sydney on 20 June 1942 he was described as being 5' 7½" tall weighing 139 lbs of medium complexion with blue/grey eyes and dark brown hair.
After training at No. 2 Initial Training School, RAAF Bradfield Park NSW, No. 8 Elementary Flying Training School, RAAF Narrandera, NSW and No. 1 Service Flying Training School at RAAF Point Cook, Victoria he was awarded his Flying Badge on 19 May 1943 and promoted to Sergeant the following day.
He embarked for the UK at Brisbane on 15 June 1943 and appears to have travelled via San Francisco, USA where he arrived 3 July 1943, eventually reaching the UK on 31 July. The following day he was posted to No. 11 RAAF Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre Brighton and on 31 August to No. 20 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Kidlington in Oxfordshire on No. 25 Advanced Flying Training Course until 15 February 1944 (whilst at RAF Kidlington he was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 20 November).
On February 15 1944 he was posted to No 21 Operational Training Unit at RAF Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire until 25 May when he was posted to No. 41 Base Battle School at RAF Marston Moor in the North Riding of Yorkshire.
He was posted to No. 158 Squadron at RAF Lissett, East Riding of Yorkshire on 27 July 1944 and two months later on 1 October to No. 171 Squadron at RAF North Creake, Norfolk.
His promotion to Warrant Officer was on 20 November 1944 and he was retrospectively commissioned as a Pilot Officer with effect from 15 November 1944 as promulgated in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette of 15 June 1945.
He is commemorated on Panel 129 of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra
(2) Fl/Lt. John Kirkpatrick DFC was born c 1919 the son of John James Alexander Kirkpatrick and Annie Kirkpatrick, of Belfast, Northern Ireland.
He was posted from No. 42 Base at RAF Marston Moor in the North Riding of Yorkshire to 171 Squadron at RAF North Creake, Norfolk on 4 December 1944
He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 5 April 1943 (London Gazette 25 May 1943) and promoted to Flying Officer on probation (war subs) on 5 October 1943 (London gazette 8 October 1943)
On 15 September 1944 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in recognition of gallantry and devotion to duty in the execution of air operations whilst a member of No. 102 squadron
The RAF Loss Card for Halifax NA874 contains a note against his name as follows "If any news arrives of this man please let me know Sqn/Ldr (?) Collins (?)" The significance of this note is not known, if you can assist please contact our helpdesk
(3) F/Sgt. Thomas Anthony Victor Brown was born in 1923 at Blackburn Lancashire the son of Henry Victor Brown and Margaret Mary Agnes Brown nee Leighton later of Stretford, Lancashire.
(4) F/Sgt. Stanley Albert Brown was born in 1922 at Mile End Old Town, London the son of Albert James Brown and Clara Beatrice Brown nee Nevill; stepson of Mr. C. Mundill, of Dagenham, Essex.
(5) Sgt. John Herbert Hinton was born in 1925 at West Ham, Essex the son of Herbert John Hinton ( a Director of a Tobacco Retail Business) and Lilian Hinton nee Wootton. The family resided in and around Leyton where they ran four tobacco stores (Hintons Ltd) which were started in 1892 by his grandparents Herbert and Catherine Hinton.
He had three siblings: Iris M. Hinton (1920-1921), Betty C. Hinton born 1930 and Doreen L. Hinton born 1930. Doreen achieved some fame as a singer, stage performer and Television personality better known as Pip Hinton who appeared regularly in the children's tv show Crackerjack.
In 1939 the family lived at 23 Rectory Road, Walthamstow, London.
Sgt Hinton was posted to No. 171 Squadron at RAF North Creake, Norfolk on 17 October 1944 from No. 223 Squadron at RAF Oulton also in Norfolk.
(Details kindly provided by Jeff Neely)
(6) F/Sgt. Stanley James Moore was born on 25 February 1923 at Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia the son of Richard Stanley Moore (an Accountant) and Doris Harriet Hastings Moore nee Foy of Chatswood, New South Wales, Australia. He had a younger brother Gordon Moore and the family lived at 7 Sutherland Road, Chatswood
He attended Knox Grammar School, Wahroonga, Sydney 1935-1939 where he was a member of the School Cadet Corps 1937-39 rising to the rank of Corporal in 1939.
He played cricket and football for the school 3rds and was a Royal Life Saving Society Instructor. Radio was his hobby.
After leaving school he was employed by the Commonwealth Bank from February 1940 to March 1941 when he became an Accounts Clerk for D H Perkins 70 King Street Sydney. He attended the University of Sydney Facility of Economics as an evening student and passed years 1 & 2 (1941-42)
When he enlisted at Sydney on 5 December 1942 he was 5'9" tall weighing 134 lbs with a fair complexion, brown hair and hazel eyes.
After training at No. 2 Initial Training School, RAAF Bradfield Park NSW, No. 3 Wireless and Gunnery School, RAAF Maryborough Queensland and No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School, RAAF Evans Head NSW he was awarded his Air Gunners Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 19 August 1943. The following day he was posted to No. 2 Embarkation Depot at Bradfield Park and on 10 September embarked for the UK.
On 20 October, the day after his arrival, he was posted to No. 11 RAAF Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre Brighton.
After passing an Aircrew NCOs course at Whitley Bay on 12 January 1944 he was posted to No. 3 (Observer) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Halfpenny Green Staffordshire on 18 January 44 until 29 February on No.181 Wireless Operator and Air Gunner Course which he passed.
He was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 19 February 1944.
On 29 February 1944 he was posted to No. 21 Operational Training Unit at RAF Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire and on 25 May 1944 to No. 41 Base Battle School at RAF Marston Moor in the North Riding of Yorkshire.
He was posted to No. 158 Squadron at RAF Lissett, East Riding of Yorkshire on 27 July 1944 and on 1 October to No. 171 Squadron at RAF North Creake, Norfolk.
He is commemorated on Panel 127 of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra
In February 1945 his father, Richard Moore nominated Mr J. Stanton, 26 Dine Road, Sheepwash, Choppington Northumberland to accept delivery of his son's bicycle
(7) Sgt. John James Villiers Higgins was born in 1905, the son of Painter and Decorator, Isaac Higgins and Ann Jane Higgins of 58 Radnor Street, Nottingham. He had three siblings: William Higgins born 1894, Gladys Mary Higgins born 1901 and Doris Higgins born 1903.
In the September quarter of 1939 he married a lady with the surname Hay, at Wandsworth, London.
(8) Sgt. Henry Stanton was born in 1924 at Gateshead, Co. Durham the son of John Robson Stanton and Ellen Elizabeth Stanton nee Pentland, of Choppington, Northumberland. He had three siblings: Thomas W. Stanton born 1913, John R. Stanton born 1916 and Emily Stanton born 1920.
He is commemorated on the Guide Post War Memorial, Morpeth Road, Choppington
F/Sgt. Sidney Stuart the Flight Engineer of Halifax NA111 of 171 Squadron and killed 7 March 1945 was also from Choppington. He is also commemorated on the Guide Post War Memorial.
(9) Frederick William Stanley Swatton was born on 8 June 1923 at Rotherham in the West Riding of Yorkshire the son of Frederick William Swatton and Nellie Swatton nee Cufflin (or Coughlin). He had an elder sister, Margaret Rosemary Swatton (1920-2006)
In 1944 he married Dorothy Margaret Ada Martin at Willesden, Middlesex.
He was promoted to Flight Sergeant wef 4 April 1945
After the war he worked as a Technical Representative. He and his wife emigrated to Australia in 1957 and lived initially at 4 Hope Street North Manly, Sidney later at 53 Therry St Avalon, Barrenjoey, Mackellar, New South Wales,
He died on 24 February 1997 aged 73 at Brisbane, Australia and was buried at Murwillumbah Lawn Cemetery, Tweed Shire, New South Wales.
BURIAL DETAILS, MEMORIALS AND EPITAPHS
(1) P/O. Trevor Sutherland Powe was originally buried at Lutzerath, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany and reburied on 5 March 1948 at Rheinberg War Cemetery, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany:- Plot 9, Row K, Joint Grave 3-4
His epitaph reads:
Our dearest possession -
(2) Fl/Lt. John Kirkpatrick DFC was originally buried at Lutzerath, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany and reburied on 5 March 1948 at Rheinberg War Cemetery, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany:- Plot 9, Row K, Collective Grave 5-7
His epitaph reads:
We mourn our loss
(3) F/Sgt. Thomas Anthony Victor Brown was originally buried at Lutzerath, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany and reburied on 5 March 1948 at Rheinberg War Cemetery, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany:- Plot 9, Row K, Grave No. 1
His epitaph reads:
Sacred Heart of Jesus
Grant him eternal rest
Mary Immaculate pray for him
(4) F/Sgt. Stanley Albert Brown was originally buried at Lutzerath, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany and reburied on 5 March 1948 at Rheinberg War Cemetery, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany:- Plot 9, Row K, Collective Grave 5-7
His epitaph reads:
(5) Sgt. John Herbert Hinton was originally buried at Lutzerath, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany and reburied on 5 March 1948 at Rheinberg War Cemetery, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany:- Plot 9, Row K, Collective Grave 5-7
(6) F/Sgt. Stanley James Moore was originally buried at Lutzerath, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany and reburied on 5 March 1948 at Rheinberg War Cemetery, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany:- Plot 9, Row K, Joint Grave 3-4
His epitaph reads:
Dearly loved son
Of Richard and Doris Moore
(7) Sgt. John James Villiers Higgins was originally buried at Lutzerath, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany and reburied on 5 March 1948 at Rheinberg War Cemetery, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany:- Plot 9, Row K, Collective Grave 5-7
(8) Sgt. Henry Stanton was originally buried at Lutzerath, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany and reburied on 5 March 1948 at Rheinberg War Cemetery, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany:- Plot 9, Row K, Grave No. 2
His epitaph reads;
Into Thy hands, O Lord,
For Thy safe keeping.
Until the dawn breaks.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - March 2018
With thanks to the sources quoted below.