03/04th September 1939 107 Squadron Blenheim IV N6240 Sgt. Prince
Operation: Wilhelmshaven Germany
Date: 03/04th September 1939 (Sunday/Monday)
Unit: No. 107 Squadron (motto: Nous y serons - 'We shall be there')
Type: Blenheim IV
Base: RAF Wattisham, Suffolk
Location: Wilhelmshaven harbour
Pilot: Sgt. Albert Stanley Prince 580195 RAF Age 27. Seriously injured
Obs: Sgt. George Franklin Booth 561012 RAF Age 29. PoW No. 154 Camp Stalag Kopernikus (357)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: AC1 Laurence Joseph Slattery 548555 RAF Age? PoW No. 84 Camp Stalag Kopernikus (357)
REASON FOR LOSS:
The outbreak of war and one of the first of many casualties suffered by Bomber Command!
Taking off from RAF Wattisham at 16:00 hrs to attack shipping in the harbour at Wilhelmshaven, Germany. 5 Blenheims failed to find the targets, the remaining 10 attacked at low level on the battleship Admiral Scheer and on the cruiser Emden.
They were met with very heavy anti-aircraft fire from the ships. Some 4 aircraft from 107 Squadron were lost, the others:
Blenheim IV N6184 Flown by 26 year old, Fl/Lt. William Frank Barton 34213 RAF from Ferring, Sussex, England. Killed with the other two crew members.
Blenheim IV N6189 Flown by 21 year old, F/O. Herbert Brian Lightoller 37884 RAFVR from Twickenham, Middlesex, England. Killed with the other two crew members.
Blenheim IV N6189 Flown by 23 year old, P/O. William Joseph Murphy 39748 RAF from Co. Cork, Irish Republic. Killed with the other two crew members.
After being hit by flak the pilot was forced to ditch. The Germans quickly picked up all three crew members.
Sgt. Booth from Stanhope Drive, Horsforth suffered a broken foot, AC1. Slattery from Tipperary, Ireland suffered a dislocated jaw after hitting the gunsight on impact. P/O. Prince was seriously injured and died later in the hospital where they were all treated.
The first aircrew allied prisoners of the war,Sgt. Booth and AC1. Slattery were initially held at Itzerhoe prison near hamburg where conditions were described as 'almost perfect' and they were fairly free to wander about within the grounds. they were treated and fed well. After a short time they were ten moved to Spangenberg Castle near Kassel. (later designated as Oflag 9/A/H. Finally moved to Kopernikus where the spent the rest of the war. On release they had both gained the rank of Warrant Officer.
The Admiral Scheer was hit by at least 4 bombs - but they failed to explode, the Emden was damaged, suffering some casualties when one Blenheim crashed on it after it is thought, to have also been hit by flak.
Not All Glory, written by Victor F. Gammon. Available from Amazon here. ISBN-13: 978-1854093370. 330 pages detailing true accounts of RAF airman taken prisoner of war in Europe.
An extract shown here on Sgt. George Booth:
PART 1 1939-1940 FLYING START
'The sudden clearing of haze startled Sergeant Prince’s Blenheim crew. There, ahead and below, at anchor at Wilhelmshaven, four German warships with flak guns blazing were covering the air around the attacking aircraft with black smoke puffs of exploding shells. Where lines of tracer criss-crossed the sky Sergeant Booth, the navigator, saw a Blenheim explode in a flash of boiling flame. Anti-aircraft fire was concentrated on the 110 Squadron aircraft which had left four minutes before Prince’s 107 Squadron flight. All chances of surprise were now lost.
Within hours of the declaration of war on 3 September, the passenger ship SS Athenia had been sunk by a U-boat. The War Cabinet feltthat a warlike gesture was needed so an attack on the German Fleet was planned. Poor weather prevented action that day but now, the 4th, 15 Blenheims had been sent.
Booth peered forward from his navigator’s table as Prince called, ‘Going in’. Prince dived to near sea level. Aircraftsman Second Class (AC2) Slattery’s machine guns blasting from the dorsal turret added to the roaring din as Prince levelled the Blenheim, the airscrews almost churning the water. Booth’s nervous joke about remustering to the submarine service from the RAF was stifled in his throat as the Blenheim bounced like a skimming stone on the sea surface, shot forward over the waves and suddenly slapped down on to the water, stopping dead. Booth was thrown forward as the sea gushed in through the smashed bottom panels and stove-in nose perspex. The cacophony of screaming engines and chattering guns had ceased but the quiet slopping as the fuselage filled with sea water was as menacing. Booth had to move fast. Throwing open the top hatch he leapt out on to the port wing shouting, ‘Princey, Princey, get a move on’. Booth steadied himself, looking back to help, but Prince remained in his seat, strangely still and silent.
A sudden lurch of the flooding Blenheim threw Booth into the sea. He had subconsciously rid himself of his flying boots and inflated hisMae West life jacket. Now he was floating in the comparative peace of a quiet and misty sea. He felt no pain; he was just cold, wet and miserable.
Then men were calling to each other, the language was unfamiliar but the meaning clear: he had been seen. Minutes later he was hauled over the gunnels to lie squelching in the bottom of a rowing boat. Regaining his breath, Booth’s first thoughts were for Prince and Slattery. His rescuers told him that both men had been picked up but were seriously hurt.
Transferred to a pilot pinnace Booth found that he could only stand on the toes of his left foot. In a far corner another figure lay huddled motionless on the deck. ‘Is that you Princey?’ he called. There was an indistinct, almost inaudible reply, but George Booth knew that accent, it was Larry Slattery. Slattery’s jaw had been fractured in several places and his nose had been almost severed when his face smashed into his turret gun. He could hardly speak but Booth was relieved, Larry was alive.
Bandages seemed to be holding Slattery’s head together. Booth reckoned they had been applied with maximum enthusiasm and minimum experience, but despite his injuries Slattery’s Irish courage and sense of humour surfaced later as the two men lay on bunks in a cabin. Slattery muttered, his brogue muffled by the bandages, ‘I think I shall be a lot better looking when I get over this’. Booth was sure that Slattery would have been smiling beneath the swathing dressings.
Sergeant A.S. Prince’s name was added to the ‘Missing’ on the first casualty list issued in Britain but he was already dead, as were all the 11 other ranks, NCOs and three officers listed as ‘Missing’. For Booth and Slattery, the first RAF prisoners-of-war, it was the beginning of long years of what seemed an interminable wait for victory in Europe and their freedom'.
Sgt. Albert Stanley Prince. Becklingen War Cemetery. Grave 23.B.13. Son of Harold Braithwaite Prince and Eliza Prince. Husband of Winifred Mary Prince, of Chester, England. Born on the 22nd November 1911 at Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Married on the 21st November 1936 at Chester. Family moved to England after WW1. The first Canadian serving with Bomber Command to be killed during World War II.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', ‘Bomber Command Database’, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries (Updated 2014 version), 'Paradie Archive', photo of Sgt. Prince courtesy Nanton Lancaster Society, other sources as quoted below: