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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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158 squadron badge
24/25.05.1944 No. 158 Squadron Halifax III LV918 NP-O Fl/Lt. Ralph Reavill

Operation: Aachen

Date: 24/25th May 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: No. 158 Squadron

Type: Halifax III

Serial: LV918

Code: NP-O

Base: RAF Lissett, Yorkshire.

Location: Thought to be in the vicinity of the target area.

Pilot: Fl/Lt. "Rev" Ralph Reavill 122816 RAFVR Age 27. Killed (1) 

Fl/Eng: Fl/Lt. Cedric Charles Fox DFM. 146839 RAFVR Age ? Killed (2)

Nav: F/O. "Wally" Walter James Rogers 144769 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Bmr: F/O. Joseph Edward Hounam DFM. 149468 RAFVR PoW Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria (3)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Robert Edward Hardwick 1325790 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Frank Albert Spriggs 1625363 RAFVR PoW No. 56. Camp Stalag Luft Bankau-Kreulberg

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Donald A. Stewart R/176832 RCAF PoW No. 57. Camp Stalag Luft Bankau-Kreulberg

REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off from RAF Lissett, Yorkshire at 22:55 hrs together with over 440 aircraft to bomb the railway yards at Aachen - an important target as they were the main route between France and Germany.

Above F/O. Walter James Rogers (courtesy Dave Tooley)

The aircraft crossed the enemy coast at 19,000 ft, as our bombing height was to be 15,000 ft we commenced our descent. When we were about 30 minutes from the target F/O. Rogers informed the pilot that they would be over the target some five minutes before our scheduled bomb time and so advised him to make a dog leg to the target - this they did but they still arrived two minutes before the rest of the bomber stream. As they were starting their bombing run one of the crew noticed sparks coming from the starboard inner engine, then a tremendous belch of flames - the aircraft then went into a dive. 


The pilot, Fl/Lt Reavill announced with no signs of panic - you had better get out chaps, I can’t hold her and unable to jettison the bombs! The aircraft blew up throwing some of the crew out. (This information courtesy of Oliver Clutton-Brock, Ray Crompton - authors of the publication “The Long Road”)

Left: The Long Road: Trials and Tribulations of Airmen Prisoners from Bankau to Berlin, June 1944-May 1945 - Published by Grub Street 2013. ISBN No: 978-1909166202

Reports from Aachen state that the targets were hit, one being very badly damaged, however because of the unusually large formation for this type of target many bombs fell in the villages with 14,880 people bombed out of their homes. 259 people on the ground were killed with 120 seriously injured.

Bomber Command suffered badly from this raid. 29 aircraft were lost, 147 crew members killed, 56 taken PoW with 6 more evading capture. 158 Squadron alone lost 5 aircraft:

Halifax III LW118 NP-A Flown by P/O. M.V. Lawrence who was taken PoW with all other 6 crew members.
Halifax III LW118 NP-X Flown by F/O. Charles C. Price, killed with all 6 other crew.
Halifax III LW653 NP-T Flown by 25 year old Fl/Sgt. John S.M. Clarke, killed with all 6 other crew. 
Halifax III LW720 NP-W Flown by 22 year old Fl/Sgt. John M. Roberts, killed with 3 other crew, 4 taken PoW.
No details and no claims from Luftwaffe night fighters for Halifax LV918, but lost over the target area.

The BBC People's War Archives printed this back in November 2003. Mr John Horton sent it in to us with the hope that relatives of F/O. Joseph Edward Hounam DFM will make contact as he is researching the period he spent with 10 Squadron. If you know anything further we would appreciate contact and we will forward details on to John.

This story was taken from a journal that my father-in-law kept - he is still alive at 93 but can't remember which unit he belonged to. He was a bomb aimer in a halifax bomber and on the night of 24th May 1944 he was shot down over Aachen. We don't have all of his journal, as it was lost when he was taken hostage during the Suez crisis.

The night in question was his 39th trip - 15th in his second tour. The pilot was "rev" and "wally" the navigator. (note: now identified  within this page)

"That night had been ideal for a bombing run, he had checked over his bomb switch panel, set up his bomb light and was all set to release his load as soon as the PFF marker flares appeared in line with the graticale, when the plane was hit. One wing was on fire and there was no hope of putting it out. 

The command was given to get parachutes ready and jettison the load. With the load gone they baled out.

The following explosion blew the plane apart propelling jock far enough to allow him to open his parachute. When he landed, he was in an already burnt out building and was able to "enjoy" the next 5-10 minutes of a night bombing raid.

He tried to make his way in a westerly direction towards holland. He found a railway line but to his consternation target indicator flares started to drop and he deduced that the railway he had crossed was probably part of the nights pickings for butch harris's boys.

He spent the next 30 hours travelling and hiding, living on the chocolate from his pandoro and the occasional yeast tablet. There was a small compass in the escape kit but it wasn't functioning properly and by the time he had used his last purifying pellet he reckoned he must be in Holland.

He found himself on the edge of a village and thinking he was safe walked through the streets. He was soon the centre of attention and ended up at the police station, a small affair but it seemed like quite an event to receive a PoW.

A motorbike and sidecar transferred him to a luftwaffe camp where he was questioned and informed that another airman had been brought in. It was the rear gunner(Don Stewart) of his crew but they endeavoured to show no signs of recognition.

They were taken a railway station, he thought near Gladbach and from there to Cologne, and an aerodrome a few miles away. Here they were given quarters in an old carpenters shed. It had been equipped with several 3 tier beds. 6 USAAF men were already there as, to jock and Don’s surprise their other gunner. They were permanently guarded here, and were taken to be interrogated by the officers in charge.

They stayed for two days before being taken to Cologne station where they journeyed south along the rhine towards Frankfurt and their final destination a Dulag Luft. They seemed to have adequate German rations and were able to view the holiday makers making the most of the fine warm weather. 

Dulag was a mile or so walk from the train - this was the last time he would see his companions. He was put in a cell with a member of the Fleet Air Arm - they held a guarded conversation until they realised they were in the same boat. There was only one paliasse (mattress) in the cell so they took turn about between it and the floor. Jock was taken for interrogation and put into solitary confinement. He spent at least 11 days there and was described by the senior intelligence officer as the most stubborn Scotsman he had met.

On the thirteenth day he was released from the cell and with a batch of about a hundred PoW’s transferred to a transit camp near Wetzler where they were each provided with a suitcase marked red cross - this was like receiving a birthday present or christmas present, for it contained many of the things they had gone without. They were able to have a shower and shave on entering the compound and accommodation was in tents. Pow kitchen staff provided food, an assortment of potatoes, tinned meat, prunes, raisin stew, biscuits, cheese, jam, coffee and the american favourite chocolate and raisin pie. 

They learned they would stay at this camp until sufficient PoW officers arrived to move them to their final destination. Seven days of rest and good food went a long way to restoring their physical state. They needed it, for their next journey was to Sagan and the camp to which they were destined".

This is where the surviving bit of the journal comes to an end.

This is very much an abbreviated version and we don't know anything about the rest of the story as Jock didn't speak about the war.

(1) Fl/Lt. Ralph Reavill was severely injured earlier in the year when the Halifax III LW581 being flown by Sq/Ldr. Weller DFC out of RAF Lissett lost a port engine during take off on an air test. The pilot throttled back the engines with the aircraft hitting the ground very hard, losing its undercarriage. Ralph Reavill, who had been in the rear gunners position, suffered a crush fracture of the skull, but recovered to go back into service. 

(2) Fl/Lt. Fox, then a Sgt. was shot down over Belgium on the 6/7th August 1942 during an operation to Duisburg whilst with 158 squadron. On a Halifax II W7750 NP-M Flown by Fl/Lt. Jeffrey Peter Meurisse Haydon AUS/402352 RAAF - 4 of the crew including the pilot, evaded capture, (Sgt Alfred Beber 1282540 RAFVR, F/O. Ivan Henry Davies AUS/400528 RAAF, 1 taken PoW, (Sgt. B.W. Shearer 1058346 RAFVR PoW No: 25660, Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf) 2 killed. (Sgt. Harold Huddless 1050628 RAFVR, Sgt. Wilfred John Gray NZ/405484 RNZAF) Sgt. Fox escaped with the assistance of the Jam/Liège Line via Spain and Gibraltar. Leaving on HMS Malaya on September 30th and arrived back in UK on October 5th 1942.

(3) F/O. Joseph Edward Hounam DFM awarded whilst with 10 Squadron as a Sgt. (1065852) - London Gazette 14th May 1943. Promoted to P/O. 21st June 1943.

Left: The memorial at Lissett, unveiled in 2009. Made from 12 mm steel, engraved with all the names of of every one lost from 158 Squadron (courtesy David Brown)

Burial details:

Some of the crew originally buried at Field 38 in the Military Cemetery, Aachen. Reinterred in March 1949 in the CWGC Cemetery at Rheinberg.

Sq/Ldr. (Posth) Ralph Reavill. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Grave 31.G.6. Son of John and Florence Margaret Reavill, of Nottingham, England. Posthumously promoted to Squadron Leader.

Fl/Lt. Cedric Charles Fox DFM. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 6.A.10. Bromley Arms, Fiskerton, Nottinghamshire, England. Next of kin details not available - can you assist?

F/O. Walter James Rogers. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 6.A.1. Born in or about 1909 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England. Son of Mrs. W.J. Rogers, 12 Northlands, Orpington, Kent. Husband of Dorothy Julia Rogers (née Tooley) of Northwood, London, England. Father to Colin Howard Walter Rogers (Later a Flight Engineer with the RAF flying the Nimrod)

Fl/Sgt. Robert Edward Hardwick. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 6.A.2. No further details currently available. Are you able to assist?

Researched for relatives of the crew with thanks for additional information to Dave Tooley, from California for detailed information and photographs on the navigator, F/O. Wally Walters. Also to John Horton for information and support. David Brown for the Memorial photograph at Lissett. Oliver Clutton-Brock and Ray Crompton. Other sources as shown below. 

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 and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), 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', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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Last Modified: 30 June 2015, 08:30