18.12.1939 No. 9 Squadron Wellington 1A N2983 WS-? Sgt. Ramshaw
Operation: Reconnaissance, Wilhemlshaven, North Sea
Date: 18th December 1939 (Monday)
Unit: No. 9 Squadron
Type: Wellington 1A
Base: RAF Honington, Suffolk
Location: Nr. Cromer Knoll, North Sea
Pilot: Sgt. John Richardson (Jack) Ramshaw 562599 RAF Age ? Injured (1)
2nd Pilot: Sgt. Robert (Bob) Hewitt 521236 RAF Age ? Injured (2)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: LAC. D. J. Connolly 531023 RAF Age ? Injured (3)
Air/Gnr: LAC. Walter Lilley 538024 RAF Age 21. Killed
Air/Gnr: AC1. Charles Ronald (Ronnie) Driver DFM. 626752 RAF Age ? Injured (4)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Wellington N2983 took off at 09:00hrs with eight other 9 Squadron Wellingtons from RAF Honington to carry out a reconnaissance in the Schilling/Jade Road and Wilhelmshaven to attack any battleships or cruisers.
No. 9 Squadron Wellingtons flew in formation with 9 aircraft from both No. 149 Squadron and No. 37 Squadron. The formation were attacked South of Wilhelmshaven at 12:30hrs by approx. 30/40 enemy aircraft and the attack continued until reaching Wilhelmshaven when heavy anti-aircraft fire was encountered from both shore based batteries and Navel craft. No suitable enemy battleships or cruisers were seen. After leaving the Wilhelmshaven area the aircraft were followed for some 70/80 miles to the German coast by the enemy fighters.
A total of 12 aircraft were shot down on this reconnaissance mission. Situated on the island of Wangerooge the Germans had been tracking the bomber force for many miles using the experimental early warning Freya radar system and this information was passed on to the German fighters.
Wellington N2983 which had been so badly damaged by gunfire that it crashed into the North Sea at 15:30hrs near Cromer Knoll. Four of the injured crew were picked up by trawler and one of the crew was taken to hospital in Grimsby, the three others returned to RAF Honington, Suffolk and one of the crew had been killed in action.
Wilhelmshaven November 1938 (courtesy of IWM)
Of the remaining No. 9 Squadron aircraft - Wellington N2964 and N2981 managed to land at their home base at 16.00hrs. Wellington N2873 was so badly damaged it was forced to land at RAF Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire at 17.30hrs two of the crew having been wounded and Wellington N2871 was forced to land at RAF Northcoates Fitties at 17.30hrs again due to the extensive damage to the aircraft. The total loss for No. 9 Squadron from this one mission was 24 killed and four injured. No. 9 Squadron losses - (N2939) (N2872) (N2940) (N2941)
Honington 5th May 1940. Captain H. H. Balfour, M.C, MP Under-Secretary of State for Air visits the station. Sgt Hewitt Wellington N2983 and LAC. O'Neill DFM of Wellington N2981 both survived the mission to Wilhelmshaven and are being inspected by Captain Balfour. (courtesy of Kate Tame from the private collection of her father)
(1) Sgt. John Richardson (Jack) Ramshaw was bruised and shocked and returned to RAF Honington, Suffolk. Later awarded the DFM as per Flight Global February 29th 1940. Wing Commander John Richardson (Jack) Ramshaw retired from the RAF on the 27th December 1966
(2) Sgt. Robert (Bob) Hewitt had a bullet wound to his right arm and was taken to RAF Hospital, Cranwell. Sgt. Robert (Bob) Hewitt lost his life when (Wellington IA L7787) crashed on the 13/14th June 1940 while on a operation to Pont-de-L'Arche, France. He is buried in Dorsay Churchyard, France
(3) LAC. D. J. Connolly was bruised and shocked and returned to RAF Honington, Suffolk. Mentioned in Dispatches as per Flight Global February 29th 1940
(4) AC1. Charles Ronald (Ronnie) Driver. DFM. returned to RAF Honington, Suffolk. On the 26th December 1939 His Majesty the King on the recommendation of the Commander in Chief has made the Immediate award of the Distinguished Flying Medal to 626752 AC.1. Driver C. R. of No. 9 Squadron. The London Gazette - 16th January 1940. "Awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal. 626742 Aircraftman 1st Class, Charles Ronald Driver. Aircraftman Driver was the front gunner in an aircraft engaged in operations over an enemy naval base in December 1939. Although the aircraft was subjected to very heavy fire he remained at his post until both the front guns were put out of action and the flooring shot away or in flames, which he extinguished with his hands. As by this time the petrol system had been severely damaged, he proceeded to the hand petrol pump and continued manual pumping until shortage of petrol caused the aircraft to land in the sea.
Despite these exertions, Aircraftman Driver subsequently succeeded in launching the dinghy and assisted in saving the remainder of the crew, some of whom were wounded. It is undoubtedly largely due to his alertness that the members of the crew of this aircraft were brought to safety" At the time of his award Charles Ronald Driver was 18 years old. 1943 4th November Sgt. (626742) Charles Ronald Driver DFM was promoted to Acting Pilot Officer on probation (53399) and was confirmed Pilot Officer and promoted to Flying Officer as of 30th June 1944. Charles Ronald (Ronnie) Driver died in 2011
LAC. Walter Lilley is remembered on Kippax and Ledston War Memorial (courtesy of John Readman) and on the Runnymede Memorial (courtesy of CWGC)
LAC. Walter Lilley. Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. Panel 2. Son of Albert and Mary Lilley of Kippax, Yorkshire. LAC Lilley is remembered on the Kippax and Ledston Luck War Memorial
Researched by: Kate Tame for Aircrew Remembered and for all the relatives and friends of the crew
Acknowledgements: With special thanks to Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - The Bomber Command War Diaries 1939 - 1945, UK National Achives - Air 27/125 and Air 27/131, W. R. Chorley - Bomber Command Losses 1939 - 1940 and Prewar July 1936 - September 1939, Imperial War Museum, The London Gazette Archives, Flightglobal Archives, John Readman www.geograph.org.uk