06/07.12.1944 No. 429 Squadron Halifax III MZ463 AL-J F/O. James M. Prentice
Date: 6/7th December 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: No. 429 Squadron (RCAF)
Type: Halifax III
Base: RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire
Pilot: F/O. James Millar Prentice J/17637 RCAF Age 26. Missing
Fl/Eng: Fl/Lt. Harold Douglas O’Neil J/22026 RCAF Age 22. Missing
Nav: P/O. Edwin Spencer Charles Clark C/89632 RCAF Age 21. Missing
Air/Bmr: F/O. Thomas Abercromby Wilson J/25025 RCAF Age 25. Missing
W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Stephen Lawrence Norejko J/89232 RCAF Age 24. Missing
Air/Gnr: 1st Lt. Floyd Mangum McRoberts 0-886295 USAAF Age 26. Missing
Air/Gnr: P/O. William Edward Heaton Barty 187752 RAFVR Age 29. Missing
W/O.2. James Coulter Copeland J/92259 RCAF Age 21. Missing
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off from RAF Leeming at 16:19hrs. Lost without a trace.
The six RCAF members of crew, along with P/O. Barty are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, while Lt, McRoberts USAAF is named on his country’s memorial to its airmen with no known graves.
Six of the crew had been involved in a dramatic ditching incident while operating against Boulogne in September. (see below for further details) Apart from Fl/Lt. O’Neil RCAF who was flying his first sortie, all were about two-thirds of the way through their tour.
Memorial to the RAF Leeming crews (courtesy Richard Flagg)
F/O. James Millar Prentice. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 248. Further information: Foster son of Marshal and Jessie Prentice and husband of Agnes Marion Prentice of Kenora, Ontario. Attended Western Technical School, where he is remembered on the roll of honour.
Fl/Lt. Harold Douglas O’Neil. Runnymede Memorial Panel 244. Born Calgary, Alberta, 1922, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Harold O'Neil of Hamilton, Ontario. Enlisted early in the war, commissioned and served a tour in Coastal Command in Newfoundland on anti-submarine patrol before being posted to Bomber Command in the UK.
P/O. Edwin Spencer Charles Clarke. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 249. Son of Spencer and Vera Clark of Westmount, Quebec, Canada.
F/O. Thomas Abercromby Wilson. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 248. Son of Thomas and Margaret Wilson of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
P/O. Stephen Lawrence Norejko. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 252. Son of Adam and Julia (nee Kuczynski) of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
1st Lt. Floyd Mangum McRoberts - born 18 October, 1918, Ft. Worth, Texas. Son of Joseph Smith and Nora, née Rosinbaum, McRoberts. Ex RCAF air gunner - KIA, on detached service, 429 Sqn. His brother, 2nd Lt. Jack S. McRoberts, born 4 June 1921, was killed 14 May 1944 with the US Army.
P/O. William Edward Heaton Barty. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 210. Born Thanet, Kent, age 29. Son of William James and Lydia Frances, nee Hubbard, Barty. Enlisted Cardington ca. March 1943. Commissioned Pilot Officer 26 October 1944. Gazetted 26 December 1944.Also commemorated on the War Memorial at Sutton-at-Hone. Born Isle of Thanet, Kent, England. Served with Kent Police prior to service.
W/O.2 James Coulter Copeland. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 249. Son of James C and Elizabeth (née Carson) Coulter and brother of Mary and Thomas Donald. Copeland. of Dundalk, Ontario, Canada.
His brother ”Don” Copeland RCAF was to lose his life in 434 Squadron on 11th March 1945 on an operation to Essen. (details also on this website)
Extract from Dundalk Herald, Thursday December 14th 1944:
“Known as “Jim” to family and friends. Joined the RCAF in 1943 and took a refresher course at the University of Toronto, later training at Malton, Ontario and Macdonald, Manitoba, receiving his wings as air gunner at the end of August 1943 before embarking for overseas. Jim is known to have completed his first tour of ops (he had 20 to his credit by November 5th), his family and friends were devastated to hear that he had been reported missing. He was to have been best man at his brother “Don’s” wedding to Vivienne Tomkins on December 12th consequently another of Dons crew, Flight Lieutenant George Rowe took his place.
In an incredible narrow escape a few weeks earlier on September 17th, after an operation to Boulogne, his Halifax III MZ900 AL-K was hit by flak, damaging both starboard engines.
The aircraft was unable to maintain height and the pilot ditched the aircraft into the sea off the French coast.
F/O. Lanin in MZ303 AL-R witnessed the crash and remained overhead until a ASR Walrus escorted by two Spitfires arrived on the scene at 10:19 - all the crew were picked up just three hours later, with just one crew member, Fl/Sgt. Copeland, receiving slight injuries.
The flight engineer from that crew, Fl/Sgt. Frederick Platt was killed later on the 1st November 1944 after trying to save his aircraft whilst parked at RAF Spilsby. A 207 Squadron Lancaster I PD290 EM-N swung out of control during take off, colliding with a 429 Squadron Halifax III MZ424 AL-Z. During the inferno that followed another two from 429 Squadron's aircraft were destroyed: MZ880 AL-H, NP954 AL-T. Fl/Sgt. Frederick Platt who witnessed this, ran to his aircraft MZ824 AL-G to try and save it. Started one engine, this swinging the aircraft round, before they could rectify the action, an explosion occurred and blew in the front of the Halifax. He died on the way to RAF Hospital, Rauceby.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. With thanks to Barry Smith (Copeland genealogy). Further photographs and detailed crew information sent in by David Champion - March 2016.